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View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Lindsay Mathyssen Profile
2020-04-11 17:01 [p.2147]
Mr. Speaker, before I get started, I would just like to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
Like many members here in the House today, I am also hearing concerns and fears from constituents. Constituents are seeing businesses closing, they are being laid off and they are at home taking care of their families. They are also asking the government some serious questions. They need to know that we will quickly provide them with the help they so desperately need.
New Democrats support an increase in the wage subsidy. In fact, we have been calling for this for several weeks, but we think that it would be a wasted opportunity today to reconvene the House to deal with this issue without also dealing with the very serious gaps in the Canada emergency response benefit. I am happy that the unanimous consent motion starts to address our concerns.
I want my constituents in London to know that today, together, we can make sure that the programs and supports they need are provided. My staff and I have spoken with so many folks worried about how the government will keep them safe, housed, fed and employed. It is my responsibility to voice their concerns here in this place. My team has been working tirelessly to update our social media and connect with people via email and phone, getting them the information that we can. I am so grateful to my staff for that. My constituency office is normally busy at the best of times.
Many people are struggling to get the supports they need now and too many vulnerable people will not even qualify. There are holes in the system, and that is why New Democrats continue to advocate that the emergency benefits be made universal. Every week my office receives thousands of phone calls, emails and messages from people who need support, but the programs announced thus far, sadly, fall short of their needs.
I consistently hear from seniors and people with disabilities who are feeling the financial impact of COVID-19 through increased food cost, increased costs for the delivery of goods such as groceries and from being limited to 30 days of medications when they would normally receive 90 days. This means they need to spend three times the amount on dispensing fees, a cost that unstainable for those on a fixed income.
Many veterans organizations are scrambling, including London's Royal Canadian Air Force Association 427 Wing. This institution in London—Fanshawe is very dear to me. It not only serve veterans and provides a place for them to gather, but also is home to the Secrets of Radar and the Spirit of Flight museums. Even just the building it resides in is worth preserving as a major historical site in London. With the temporary closure due to COVID-19, it has seen a large drop in revenue. I fear that this temporary closure will not just be temporary and that we will lose this valuable place that supports so much history and so many veterans. These institutions need our help.
When it comes to COVID-19, the impact is felt by everyone, including students. While the 75% wage subsidy will keep more Canadians employed, many young Canadians are just trying to start their careers or are looking for summer jobs. With more than one million jobs lost since COVID-19 hit, many job prospects look grim. Students typically do not have savings stored away for a rainy day and many are graduating with crippling debt. With this pandemic, they have fewer opportunities to earn money to support themselves and pay back their loans. This is wrong and we need to do better. New Democrats are also calling on the federal government to permanently extend the waiver of interest charges on student loans. The government should not profit off the backs and the futures of our students. Not now and not ever.
This is a situation that no one could have predicted and prepared for, and I am sure that all members would agree with me that no one should lose their housing, which is a basic human right during this time. From a public health perspective, if Canadians are to follow directives from the health authorities to practise social distancing and self-isolation, they must have a home to quarantine in. Workers who are sick cannot feel pressured to continue working and risk infecting others for fear of losing their income and the roofs over their heads. Given the homelessness crisis that already exists in Canada, not only do we need to have measures in place to properly house everyone, we also must do everything we can to prevent an increase in the homeless population.
To protect renters, it is essential to put a nationwide moratorium on all evictions during the pandemic. As well, a temporary rent freeze period must also be imposed to protect renters from price gouging during this precarious time. My NDP colleagues and I are hearing from constituents who have just received a rent increase notice and are extremely distressed by the prospect of having to find alternative housing at this time.
Whether it is seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, students, workers or small-business owners, we see people who are looking for support but finding none. As it stands, it is estimated that 862,000 Canadians who need help will get nothing through employment insurance or the government's emergency response benefit. Every day last week, the Prime Minister and the government highlighted gaps in supports, but due to the work done here today, hopefully more Canadians will not fall through these cracks. However, the government needs to provide direct assistance to all Canadians immediately. The NDP is asking for the government to send a cheque of $2,000, with an additional $250 per child, to every Canadian immediately.
As many of my colleagues and I have mentioned in the House numerous times, 46% of Canadians are $200 or less away from financial insolvency. Many of those people live in my riding of London—Fanshawe. By providing direct assistance to them, we can make sure this crisis does not turn into a catastrophe.
For those who rely on the government programs and benefits offered, like the child care benefit, they first have to file their taxes to access this help. If they do not, they could face being cut off. This is happens when programs are means tested, and not universal. It often results in more bureaucracy, delays and people going without help. I am happy that the government announced it is moving the tax-filing deadline.
As I run a volunteer tax clinic from my constituency office, we see hundreds of people who need help to file their taxes. In my community, these tax clinics, sadly, have been closed, but we need to provide this vital service. I ask the government, on behalf of my constituents, to consider extending that deadline once again so that we can help as many people as possible to file their taxes. Simply put, a one-month extension is not enough.
Not only are people struggling, but many small businesses are facing their own crisis. I cannot imagine their heartbreak now when they have put everything into their business, the countless hours, time with family and their life savings into building their dream, and now see it in danger of disappearing. They are closing their doors but trying their hardest to keep paying their employees. With income declining and bills piling up, this situation is becoming impossible to maintain.
That is why we are happy the government listened to New Democrats, labour and business groups to strengthen this wage subsidy. We called for this before the House sat the last time, and I am grateful that some of the changes passed today would help get the supports flowing to small and medium-sized enterprises, charities, not-for-profits and non-profits. However, we need to address shortfalls in this legislation, such as removing the 30%-drop-in-revenue requirement for SMEs with fewer than 50 employees so that more of them could apply for the wage subsidy. We must also remove payroll limits on the $40,000 loan through the Canada emergency benefit account and offer $10,000 grants immediately to help a diverse group of enterprises and ensure a faster response time for businesses to receive supports.
I must say I am relieved to see the change that New Democrats pushed for, to ensure that when some local organizations pay meagre stipends to their volunteers, those people will still qualify for emergency benefit programs even if they lose their jobs.
New Democrats are ready to improve all benefits for all people and will keep working to make sure that companies cannot turn the money meant for workers into big CEO bonuses. That needs to be reflected in this legislation. There is always a worry that large corporations will use this crisis to their benefit, and that is why there is so much concern about the government's partnering with Amazon for the distribution of personal protective equipment and supplies purchased by the Canadian government. The announcement was made without consultation with postal workers, and the government's decision will put further strain on workers who are already poorly protected. Amazon uses numerous subcontractors throughout its delivery operations. Warehouse workers are also being put at risk. They are being pressured to continue working even when they get sick.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, we owe our thanks to many front-line workers. Truck drivers, food production and grocery workers, pharmacy workers, EMS workers and the health care providers who are working in our hospitals and long-term facilities are heroes. These workers must have access to personal protective equipment and their worker's rights must be respected.
Also on the front lines are social workers who are working with their clients, those struggling with a lack of social and mental health supports and who now are facing increased anxieties. Social workers are also dealing with the reality of trying to maintain social distancing at work and in shelters. Many shelters in Canada are at over capacity at the best of times. How do people maintain social distancing when they do not have their own home? How do they maintain services at friendship and drop-in centres when they are supposed to be limiting contact? This crisis has further exposed many of the gaps in our system, especially for our most vulnerable. Food banks are also in desperate need of help. We are prepared to work with the government to make sure that those supports are in place to assist people in need.
In conclusion, we must find a way to make sure that everyone in Canada can get through these unprecedented times with enough money to pay the bills, a job to go back to and a safe place to live. We need to do it as quickly as possible. Let us join together to pass this bill to put the supports in place to lift each other up. Let us commit to helping one another to see us through this and move forward to strengthen our public services and social programs for everyone.
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