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View Yves-François Blanchet Profile
Mr. Speaker, I should say that I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague from La Prairie, or else I will end up with more time.
I am a little concerned that the subject we are discussing this morning has not been treated with the seriousness it deserves. I am also a little concerned that the Liberals think it is really nice of the Bloc to collaborate but may not really be listening to us. I have seen totally unsatisfactory statements in the media about foreign workers, statements that are not even close to satisfactory.
When I was younger, I worked on a farm for years. That is how I paid my tuition. It was a different time, of course, and things have changed a lot. One thing has not changed, though. If I put myself in quarantine, as a colleague has done, I would have my own room in my house, my own bathroom, kitchen, stove and refrigerator. I would find the two weeks long, but I would have all the facilities I need. If there are 2, 3, 5 or 12 foreign workers at a farm in Quebec, there will not be 12 bathrooms, 12 kitchens, 12 fridges and 12 closed rooms. It is not true that if people stay six feet away from each other, they will be fine. It is not that simple. We are going to have to take this much more seriously.
Before community spread started, officials had been saying for a long time that travel abroad was the highest risk factor. Again, we want to bring in these workers. They are very important to the economy of Quebec and Canada and to our regions. We want them to come.
It has already been confirmed that some 2,500 people, mainly from Guatemala and Mexico, will be coming to work in Quebec. I want to reiterate for the benefit of the media and my colleagues, and it could not be clearer: These individuals will not have been tested for COVID-19 before boarding the plane, and they will not be quarantined for 14 days.
When they disembark, they will not be tested for COVID-19, and they will not be quarantined for 14 days. An organization that is not under the direction of public health or the government will put them on a bus and take them to drop-off locations that are not likely to be equipped to do it properly. This is no small matter.
Saying that everything will be okay is fine when it comes to putting pictures of rainbows in windows, but we cannot just say that everything will be okay when bringing thousands of people to the province who should be better monitored, in their own best interests. I want to emphasize that.
Imagine the risk. According to various scenarios, 30% to 70% of people in a given area will contract COVID-19. Being a foreign worker or being in Quebec or Canada does not make one immune. There is a risk that there will be cases of the virus.
We have a duty to minimize the risk of having cases of infection. The science has shown that quarantining and screening will not ensure that there are no cases, but it will reduce the likelihood. Even quarantining and screening combined is not a guarantee, but it does provide an acceptable probability. At the very least, I am sure that nice slogans are no remedy and will not prevent the spread of COVID-19. It will take concrete measures and action.
Imagine if there were a case on a farm somewhere. A foreign worker tests positive and has been in relatively close contact with others. Then two or three cases appear. The media will seize on that, of course, and fear and concern will spread faster than the disease. Public opinion will not be kind to these workers because of the general concern. Farms will end up paying the price and will be adversely affected. If the Canadian government does not take action in the meantime, it will be told that it did not do its job.
In light of all the resources that are being deployed, is it not our duty to ask what resources are necessary to prevent a proverbial flaw in the system from destroying some of the results being obtained by public health efforts? More needs to be done. Fine words will not do. We remain available to attend a video conference meeting in the very short term and work out the measures.
I want to go back to another topic briefly. This morning, I said in good faith and in all sincerity that I believe the government can easily, and should, support jobs in the oil industry to get them back to the level they were at before the crisis. This oil is being sold. People are using it. For those who think we get our oil from the moon or from Saudi Arabia, let me point out that Quebec gets its oil from western Canada and the western United States. Furthermore, we pay for it. We are not getting it for free or even getting a deal. We believe that jobs should be restored to the same level as before, but that any new project or expansion of energy production should be based on renewable energy. We believe that a lot of money would eventually have had to be invested in the renewable energy sector. However, that money has gone out much faster, for other reasons. We should take advantage of this time to invest in renewable energy. I would fully understand if the bulk of this money was used to mitigate the economic situation in Alberta, western Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador, which I realize are much harder hit than others.
Moving forward, we will have to plan to undertake an energy transition, particularly by supporting the regions of Canada that are hardest hit by this crisis, namely the oil-producing regions. I also think we should consider special programs to stimulate businesses across Quebec and Canada that are developing environmental technologies to offer alternatives to the existing system. There will be a huge global market for this, and it is the responsible thing to do. I could name 25. These are topics that we should continue to consider and debate, preferably in a virtual forum, in my opinion, only coming back here to vote.
There is something else we need to do, and it has not been talked about enough. I have not talked about it enough and I want to. Now is the time. We proposed a series of measures to help seniors, who are most vulnerable in this crisis, who suffer the most from the isolation and who may end up worst off financially at the end of this. We have already asked for increases to old age security and the guaranteed income supplement; improved access to high-speed Internet to combat isolation; lower drug prices; protections for pension plans at companies that are on the verge of crisis and risk being bought out by other companies that will not want to take on the pension plans; and full elimination of restrictions on individual retirement accounts. Right now, these plans are getting negative returns. I would ask that this series of measures be considered as soon as possible. Furthermore, these measures were developed in collaboration with the FADOQ and seniors' associations. Once again, we are making these suggestions in good faith. We hope that they will yield results, but there are still limits to our patience. We want quick, measurable and tangible results. That is what foreign workers, farms and seniors need right now.
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