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View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2020-03-25 5:03 [p.2084]
Mr. Speaker, despite the hour, this is a very important time in the House. We are facing an unprecedented health crisis, one I never would have imagined in my lifetime. It is a global pandemic. An extreme situation such as this demands extreme measures and that is what we are talking about today.
Above all, I am pleased that the approach being taken to deal with this global crisis puts health above the economy. The economy is extremely important, but this new virus will have a devastating impact on public health and result in countless deaths if nothing is done about it. I commend the fact that we have decided to join in solidarity to get through this crisis and minimize the number of deaths by putting health ahead of the economy. The Bloc and I commend that.
Obviously it takes courage to make this decision because the consequences to the economy are severe. We can do all the analyses once this is over. Let us hope that this ends as quickly as possible. I am confident that once COVID-19 is contained and dealt with the economy will bounce back quickly. I am sure of it. Until then, let us bring in support measures, extreme measures. No one should be left behind. No one should be abandoned. No one should be forgotten.
In that regard, I applaud a number of the measures set out in this bill. We were worried about workers who did not accumulate enough hours to have access to employment insurance, but there is something for those people. Obviously, there are measures for everyone with health problems or those who have come into contact with someone who may have contracted COVID-19 or is in quarantine. These are important measures. The same is true for self-employed workers who did not register for employment insurance and who therefore do not have access to it. These people will be covered. Many such measures are being put in place.
People's biggest concerns, what we are hearing about in the media and through the calls we are getting at our offices, have to do with efficiency and timelines. People are really worried. They heard about the measures that have been announced on the news, but they were not told when or how those measures will be implemented. It is more complicated. Obviously, if a million people file a claim for employment insurance, Service Canada offices are going to be extremely busy and the phone lines will certainly be jammed. However, I think that we really have the duty to rise above partisanship and find ways of improving the process to provide more information, shorten wait times, reassure people and ensure that they get their first cheque as quickly as possible.
There are also measures for businesses. I am thinking of the lines of credit that the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada can provide. That is important. I am also thinking of the banking systems agreement. I hope that Mouvement Desjardins, Quebec's largest mortgage lender, will be included in the agreements. That is extremely important for Quebec's economy. All of these things will enable financial institutions to ensure cash flow, to make agreements with businesses and individuals who are finding it difficult to make payments in the short term. Let us hope that the six-month deferral period will be enough. If not, we can revisit that issue during the second phase of our plan.
Obviously, I am concerned about entire sectors of our economy. In the agricultural industry, our farmers are very worried. One measure was announced on Monday, but for now it does not seem to be enough to reassure the agricultural community. Everyone is anxious right now, and feeding the population is fundamental. That obviously goes hand-in-hand with health. We therefore need to ensure that our farms get through this crisis without any problems.
In that regard, it was suggested that the government enhance the agri-invest program by 5% without requiring businesses to match those funds. That would give businesses liquidity without making them go into debt. Earlier, in committee of the whole, I got the impression that the government is not going to move forward with that measure for now. I am asking the government to reconsider.
We need to think about the major sectors of the economy. I am particularly interested in Quebec's major industries. We cannot underestimate the importance of the aerospace industry. I was pleased to hear the finance minister recognize it as a strategic industry. This means that, if ever that industry is in trouble, assistance plans will be put in place, as they are for all strategic industries.
It is really important to make sure no one is left behind and to reassure the public.
We are facing an extreme crisis that is creating an extreme economic crisis. We all hope we can get through this as quickly as possible. We will have to create an array of new tools to help us with that.
We know that income support is important during an economic crisis. Businesses need support. They are having a lot of problems. We must therefore continue to innovate in order to get through this crisis as quickly as possible.
As a general rule, economists will say that every crisis is an opportunity to shape the economy of tomorrow. I hope that we will take this opportunity to transition toward a greener economy more quickly.
Our thoughts are with everyone directly or indirectly affected by the pandemic.
I hope that we in the House can set partisanship aside and work together even better than we usually do.
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