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View Jagmeet Singh Profile
View Jagmeet Singh Profile
2020-04-20 12:44 [p.2172]
Madam Speaker, I want to begin by expressing our sadness as New Democrats and all Canadians. We are grieving today as a nation for the horrible loss suffered by those living in Nova Scotia. The senseless violence and loss of life is all that much more painful given the safety precautions and measures that need to be taken with COVID-19 and how these will limit loved ones from coming together to mourn in the usual way.
I want to remember RCMP Constable Constable Heidi Stevenson for her bravery and for showing courage to help and save others, and she lost her life doing so. Again, I want to send a message to people in Nova Scotia: They are not alone. We are grieving together as a nation. We are reeling from the pain of this loss.
Today, we are talking about a motion that touches on the work of Parliament. During a global pandemic, when there are so many Canadians deeply impacted by this crisis through the loss of work and the impact on business, we need to be focusing all our efforts on doing whatever we can to help Canadians.
I also want to mention that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
The focus of our work in Parliament must be on keeping families, workers and small businesses safe and on saving lives. People are still in desperate need of help. There are still far too many people falling through the cracks.
Our position remains very clear. First, we believe that instead of having complicated criteria and tests for people to apply to themselves, we should send direct financial assistance to all Canadians, both immediately and during the crisis as it goes on. Second, we should make the CERB universal. The Prime Minister should stand in Parliament and make it very clear that if any people in our country need help, they should apply for the CERB.
We also need to ensure that those who are putting themselves at risk, the essential front-line workers who are risking their lives and safety and potentially endangering their families, are acknowledged with the equipment to stay safe but also with a courage bonus to acknowledge the risk and danger they are going through. People who are working low-wage jobs need a top-up. They need additional financial support to acknowledge the risk they are putting themselves in for the benefit of all of us.
We are still hearing many examples of people who are falling through the cracks. Although we are proud of the work that we were able to do in the last emergency session, when we obtained guarantees to close the gap for so many Canadians who were not able to access the CERB, we are still hearing many stories of Canadians who are are falling through the cracks. One group in particular that has been missed by the programs offered, and one that has been ignored by the government, is students.
The reality is that the proposals the government is talking about regarding Canada summer jobs, or additional funding for summer jobs, are not going to be enough. Students no longer have an opportunity to work. There are no longer those jobs they were hoping to work at this summer. In this upcoming summer, those jobs will not be available.
To fix this problem and make sure students are not ignored and left behind, we can make some simple changes. One of those is to change the wording in the current legislation from those who have ceased working as a result of COVID-19 to those who are unable to work as a result of COVID-19. It would address the students who are falling through the cracks. Many students were hoping to work this summer, but those jobs are simply unavailable. That is why we need to make sure they are not forgotten.
I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister outlining this amendment, asking him to ensure that students are not forgotten and that we do not leave students behind. While we have not received an adequate response, we will not give up on students. We will continue to fight to make sure they receive the supports they need.
Another concern that has been raised is that people are worried about the cost of rent. While people have lost their income, they still have to pay rent, and many people are worried about losing their homes. Many families are also worried about paying their mortgages. Small businesses are also worried about paying commercial rents and mortgages. We maintain that the simplest solution is to use the powers we have at the federal level to put a pause on mortgages and then work with provincial governments for a pause on rents.
While we are encouraged that the government has said it will take some steps to help people or businesses with rents, these are just not enough. There are significant powers we have at the federal level. We need to use them.
We also need to help renters. The housing crisis was already making it hard for people to find a safe place to call home. Being in danger of losing one's home because one cannot pay the rent is even harder.
What we need to do is ensure there is more help for more people, and do it faster. Our proposal allows us to do exactly that. We are proposing having a regular, planned meeting here in Parliament in person to give us the chance to vote on legislation that needs to be changed to help more people.
Two days of virtual sessions would ensure that people who are in regions across the country are represented, and their members of Parliament could ask questions on behalf of those constituents. In Parliament, we are limited to a small number, and that is often the people who are close to Ottawa. By having a virtual session, we can ensure that those MPs who represent communities far from Ottawa still have a voice, that their voice is heard and the stories of their constituents are shared, including stories that we continue to hear about health care workers who do not have adequate personal protective equipment to stay safe.
Those who are running to danger, putting their lives at risk for our lives, do not have the equipment they need to stay healthy. In addition, we are hearing stories of health care workers who are forced to sleep in their cars because they do not want to go home and put their families at risk. This is not the way health care workers should be treated in our country. We need to do more than just thank them. We need to ensure that they have the right equipment and conditions to be safe.
Small businesses have raised concerns about waiting weeks for help and not knowing if they are going to be able to continue with their livelihoods, if they are going to be able to continue to pay their staff, or if their businesses will remain open. They are waiting for help.
We have heard stories about people worried about their parents in long-term care homes. They are going through, in some cases, deplorable conditions. It is heartbreaking to think of seniors who have worked their whole lives and sacrificed so much ending up in long-term care homes with substandard conditions. This is the result of years of neglect by Liberal and Conservative governments at both federal and provincial levels. In long-term care homes, we are witnessing the horrific consequences of this neglect.
We have heard from indigenous leaders who have shared stories about their fears and worries about keeping their communities safe. They are worried about being able to keep their communities safe with no access to basic human rights, such as clean drinking water and adequate housing.
In the last weeks, we have seen Canadians rise to a challenge that none of us imagined months ago. Again and again we have seen Canadians show how much they want to take care of one another and how much they want to make sure government holds this value of caring for one another above all else. That should be the test of what we do as government. Government should make its decisions based on whether they actually help take better care of people.
Let us not hope for things to return to normal. Instead, let us chart a course forward to a new normal, where we measure the decisions we make and the wealth of our nations by how well we take care of one another.
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