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View Pierre Poilievre Profile
CPC (ON)
View Pierre Poilievre Profile
2020-04-11 16:03 [p.2139]
Mr. Speaker, once upon a time, an angry dog chased a cat. The cat ran up to the top of a tree, and so the cat lived happily thereafter. Right? Well, wrong, because, of course, the cat had to come down the tree at some point, and the dog was still waiting there. We are kind of in the same situation, as Dr. Fisman explained, an epidemiologist from whom I borrowed the analogy. We are all safely in our homes away from the COVID dog, but at some point, we will have to come out into the world if we are going to earn a living and pay our bills. That is ultimately the problem we will be faced with in the medium term.
Today we are debating measures, for example, that are at once both too exorbitant and too inadequate. How is that possible? Well, they are too exorbitant because they will drive our deficit to at least $186 billion this year, almost four times the previous record. That is only to pay for measures that take us to the end of the summer, barely a fiscal quarter into the year. That total does not include provincial deficits or the reduction in the book value of the Canada pension plan investments, which surely will drop given that markets are down by a third since the crisis began. That is why I will be sharing my time with the member for Kelowna who will comment on some solutions to that problem. He will also bring forward concerns from Central Okanagan.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Pierre Poilievre: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, and I thank members of the House for their help, the reality is that we cannot as a nation, and no nation in fact, can go on borrowing this much this fast. We know this for a fact, because we already cannot borrow enough in international markets. The Bank of Canada has announced that it is going to print $5 billion a week, a quarter of a trillion dollars a year for almost the exclusive purpose of lending to governments. In other words, we are beginning to pay our bills with money that the Bank of Canada is literally fashioning out of thin air. This can only go on for so long as necessary, which these very legitimate measures in fact are.
At the same time, as big as these measures are, they are still not solving all of the problems. For example, there are businesses who will benefit from none of these proposals. For example, if one has a payroll of over $1 million, one cannot get the $40,000 emergency loan. If one's business is shut down by the government, it does not matter if one has access to a wage subsidy, because there is no work and, therefore, no wages to pay. In other words, one would still be paying a mortgage, property taxes and utilities, etc., but none of the $76 billion in measures for businesses will be effective whatsoever. I know of one such businessman who came here penniless as an immigrant from Italy 50 years ago and built a great business. At the beginning of March, he dropped off $800,000 worth of food that he distributes to restaurants. At the end of March, guess what happened? Those restaurants could not pay for any of the food because they were closed. In fact, much of it went bad. Well, he is not eligible for any of the benefits so far. His life savings are now gone.
No matter how much government spends, it cannot replace that. I am not saying this to disparage the measures before the House, but there is nothing that can replace the extraordinary power of our 20 million Canadian workers. There is no government program that can rain down enough money to compensate for their demobilization. There is nothing that can replace the entrepreneur that goes with heart and soul into their business every single day to employ their workers and serve their customers. No government program will ever replace any of that, and so we are still the cat on top of the tree. That is is true, and we have to hide there, because there is this dog at the bottom of the tree waiting for us when we get down, but we do need a plan to get down.
Health experts tell us that the only way to get rid of the COVID dog is to have a vaccination or a cure, but that might not happen for as long as a year and a half. I have already explained that we are going to go $186 billion into deficit simply to respond in one quarter of one year. We can do the math. This cannot go on, at least in its current state, for that length of time, and so we need an interim plan to get out of the tree safely and back to life so we can resupply our economy and produce the wealth that we continue to consume.
What is that interim plan? We can only study those places that have found ways to make it work. The exemplary cases are South Korea and Taiwan. What have they done? In South Korea they began very well-targeted testing to find out who has actually contracted the disease and, therefore, has been spreading it. Once those people are identified, they are quickly isolated and treated.
Here in Canada we have tested about 1% of the Canadian population. In six weeks that is far too slow. The good news is that an Ottawa company, Spartan Bioscience, is now signing agreements with governments at all levels, including the federal government, to the government's credit, to provide a coffee-cup-sized box that can conduct a test every half-hour. Dr. Paul Lem, the genius CEO of this company, has now signed an agreement to sell over $800,000 of these devices to the Government of Ontario. Each device can do 15 tests a day. That means that almost every single Ontarian could be tested once a day with this technology. Some employers in Taiwan, for example, are testing people as they come in every couple of days so they can quickly take people out of the work force if they are identified as having COVID-19. This kind of technology could provide us with the same nimble ability to identify the sick and take them out of circulation so they do not transmit the virus.
We can also prioritize the workers in hospitals and seniors homes, so that not just the workers, but anybody who goes into these facilities is instantly tested and given a result within 30 minutes. I know how important that is. I was tested for COVID-19. It took 12 days for the results to get back. When they did, I had a false positive. I had to call and speak to five different people at the hospital to find out whether I had contracted it. That is clearly too slow and clumsy.
There is no way we can broadly test our population unless the system speeds up. Spartan Bioscience has the technology and is deploying it rapidly with companies right across the country to help with its manufacturing. That will be absolutely necessary.
We need to slowly ramp up industries where human interaction is less frequent and where surfaces are less likely to be infected, and where anybody who comes into regular contact with others around them is regularly tested so that they do not become a host transmitter to another person.
These plans need to be in the developmental stage right now.
We also need to signal to Health Canada the need to approve treatments, testing and potentially vaccines and cures much more quickly than normal. There are far too many stories of treatments for children's cancer, for example, that are available south of the border but not here in Canada because Health Canada has been too slow. That kind of bureaucratic delay is, most times, tragic and now intolerable. We must clear the way for innovations and new solutions to hit the marketplace and deliver benefits to people so that we can tackle this urgent and unprecedented problem.
Finally, we will need a new and more competitive approach to finding a vaccine. Senior U.S. authorities testified before Congress that finding and deploying such a vaccine might take 18 months. There is no way we can wait that long; our economies would collapse and too many people would die in the meantime.
We need to break free from our traditional models of R and D and unleash the power of competition to put all of the best minds in pharmaceutical industry and science to work on solving this urgent problem. Then, and only then, can we stop this disease and free ourselves from the captivity that has ground our economies to a halt and led to so much human tragedy. That is the approach that will allow us to overcome the situation that we now find ourselves in and I, along with all members of Her Majesty's loyal opposition, under the leadership of our capable leader, offer ourselves to the government and to the nation in helping to bring about that solution.
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