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View Gord Johns Profile
View Gord Johns Profile
2020-03-09 12:51 [p.1784]
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today on this motion before the House.
As members have heard, New Democrats are supporting this motion, which calls on the government to ensure that the House receives tabled documents when there are warnings about economic downturns or potential impacts on the fiscal framework of the government, or when it gets advice or recommendations on how to deal with them.
The timing of this motion could not be more appropriate. Today we have seen the biggest drop in the TSX since 1987, and oil prices have dropped about 30%. We are seeing the impact on Canada of concerns about COVID-19, the coronavirus that is spreading globally, and the uncertainty that it is bringing. We know, when we see oil prices plummet like this, that the result will be the loss of thousands of jobs in the energy sector. It is going to impact families and communities in Alberta and across this country, because people commute to the oil sands to work there. This is going to have an impact on those who are vulnerable right now and struggling to get by. We know that household debt is skyrocketing, that 50% of Canadians are within $200 of becoming insolvent. This will quickly have an impact on those people.
In my riding alone, 10,000 jobs are reliant on tourism. As we can imagine, people are very concerned about travel and tourism being affected by this global crisis.
I am deeply concerned about the most vulnerable, such as those who cannot afford a place to live. The government has made a commitment to house 50% of the homeless in the next 10 years. Clearly, that is not good enough. There are people who cannot afford medicine and have to make a choice between whether they will pay rent or eat or fill their prescriptions. There are people who cannot get jobs because they are missing teeth or living in chronic pain because of dental work they require, and the government still has not delivered on a plan to help these very vulnerable people, as well as everyday Canadians who are working hard to make ends meet.
We are seeing housing costs skyrocket. It is impacting people in our communities and it is impacting the business community. There are six chambers of commerce in my riding, and the number one concern of every one of those chambers is affordable housing. It is limiting growth and making it difficult for even small business owners to find places to live. The government has not delivered on these very important concerns that people have been bringing forward and that we have been relaying here to Ottawa.
We have a climate crisis. The IPCC has called on all governments across this incredible planet that we share to reduce global emissions by 40% by 2030, and the government still does not have a plan to meet that important threshold. We have 12 years to do it, but we have not seen action.
We have not built the resiliency to diversify our economy, to protect us when commodity prices crash in the way we are seeing today. Here we are, at a time when the wealthy, CEOs and big corporations get bailouts. Loblaws received $12 million in its bailout and Mastercard received $50 million. In the meantime, Mastercard is still charging small business people some of the highest merchant fees in the world. The government has proposed a 1.4% voluntary rate for interchange fees, whereas in Europe it is 0.5% and in Australia it is 0.3%. The government is constantly protecting big corporations, maintaining the CEO stock option loophole and supporting tax havens, which is an economic leakage of $26 billion a year that could pay for an affordable dental care plan for Canadians.
We know the government has maintained the same health care transfers that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives put forward, which is leading to chronic underfunding of our health care system. There is overcrowding in our hospitals. Rural communities are unable to attract doctors or invest in primary health networks, things that are absolutely critical to make our health care system more efficient and to serve Canadians.
As we see the government fail to deliver on these transfers, it really does affect the most vulnerable, especially seniors or people with compromised health. Now we have a crisis upon us. With the coronavirus fast approaching our country, our health care system is not prepared to deal with it in the way we should be able to. This is something that could have been mitigated had we not been doing corporate giveaways and helping the wealthy move their money out of this country.
We know that the Conservatives continue to cut services, so we are concerned. When we talk about an economic plan, what does that economic plan look like for maintaining services and helping those who are struggling to make ends meet? New Democrats are looking for a plan with real transition. We are talking about the health care system, and this is the government's opportunity to beef up transfers to the provinces so that we can be better prepared when a crisis like the coronavirus hits our country.
We need a pharmacare plan. New Democrats put forward the costing of our pharmacare plan and showed how it would actually save money in the end and ensure that people would not have to make those difficult choices.
We also put forward a proposal in the House for a dental care plan, which the Liberals defeated. The plan would have limited the middle-class tax break for those who earn over $90,000 so that anyone earning less than $90,000 would receive the dental care they need. What an opportunity this would have been. It would have been good for the GDP. It would have taken the pressure off the small business community that is buying private insurance for its employees and is unable to afford it. It would have ensured that there would be fewer lost days in the workplace and that employers were taking care of their number one asset, their employees. We know that these are critical opportunities for investment.
We hear a lot about the housing crisis. Yesterday, on my way to Ottawa, I was at the gas bar and ran into my good friend Thomas. Thomas has been homeless for almost a year. He has told me that there is just nowhere to live and that he is unable to get a good job. Thomas is indigenous, and the government still does not have an indigenous urban housing strategy or a rural housing strategy for indigenous people.
Everyday people in my riding who are working two or three jobs cannot find a place to live. Single parents are especially vulnerable. The government talks about its housing plan, but it is being delayed. The housing plan should be front-ended, not back-ended. New Democrats are calling on the government to speed up its investments when it comes to helping the most vulnerable.
As for clean energy, right now is the opportunity for the government to come out with an emergency package for Canadians to deal with the drop in commodity prices and invest in a future for Canadians by investing in clean energy and a climate bank, as we proposed in our campaign. The government could invest into a climate bank and into clean energy across the country, especially in areas that will be hit the hardest by the drop in oil prices.
In my riding, constituents are desperate for salmon restoration funds. The government needs to invest in the future and ensure we bring our salmon back to abundance, which is key to our economy and food security. It is also key to our ecosystem and culture. Port Alberni, which is the only deep sea port on the west coast of Vancouver Island, is looking for a floating dry dock. An investment like this would help alleviate the pressure on floating dry dock space, which is clearly needed between Oregon and Alaska. It is an opportunity to create jobs.
My colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby talked about indigenous communities that are bringing diesel into their communities. There is a community called Hesquiath that has been working with the government, but the process has been dragged out. This is the time to invest in communities like Hesquiath so they can get off diesel and operate on clean energy. These communities are waiting for these important strategic investments.
With regard to firefighting capacity, we know that firefighting season is coming upon us. We need to invest in firefighting capacity so that we can attack these issues when fires come up across our country. We need a strategic plan. There is a great company in my riding called Coulson Aviation, and the government has done some great work with it, but this is an opportunity for us to expand that work.
We need a plan right now to deal with the crisis at hand. New Democrats are calling on the government to do the right thing and come out with an emergency aid package that is going to benefit Canadians.
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