Madam Speaker, this is a very surreal time here in the House of Commons with just a few members. I had a very strange trip across the country to get here. I had the choice of taking a 16-hour red-eye trip overnight sleeping on the plane or dividing it into two days and going through airports that were empty.
The Green Party represents 1.1 million voters, so it is important I am here to represent those voters. On average, 387,000 voters voted for one MP. If we break down those numbers to other parties, we see 38,000 for the average Liberal and 50,000 for the average Conservative. I have a lot of people to speak for, so I am here to speak for those who voted Green.
We need to respect the directives of the health authorities, and we need to respect our health care workers and our front-line workers who are risking their lives to fight this pandemic. We have been working with the Liberal government behind the scenes, not playing politics during this pandemic but contacting ministers and parliamentary secretaries and bringing forward issues.
We have seen some of these programs come forward, and we have put forward ideas about how they need to change and where they are missing the mark. We have seen those changes come, sometimes not as quickly as we would like and sometimes not all that we want, but we are working together. We are all in this together.
Grocery store workers, front-line health care workers and nursing home workers all do essential work that cannot be done remotely. In addition to that, none of these workers has to go through two or three airports to get to work like I did. Corporations all over the world, including some of the biggest in the world, are working remotely. Classrooms are holding meetings on Zoom and teachers are able to give their students a chance to speak and interact. We should be able to work remotely, as well.
MPs who have limited access to the Internet could work remotely from a hotel or motel close to where they live and cut down on their travel across the country. We would save some money as well. MPs have worked effectively to this point to provide oversight, yet some of the members of the House are trying to instill fear and create a problem that does not exist.
We have a way to hold the government to account, and all one needs to do is watch the videos of the finance committee meetings to see that.
This pandemic has laid bare many of the problems we have in this country. I have spoken about the conditions in a seniors home in my own community, the Nanaimo Seniors Village. Thankfully, that operation was taken over by the Vancouver Island Health Authority, so it was able to fix the problem before the pandemic happened.
That seniors home was flipped multiple times by private operators. Every time that happened the workers were laid off, the union was decertified and then the workers were rehired at lower pay for part-time jobs with no benefits. Those workers had to go to work at multiple care homes. We are seeing this situation play out in different places across the country, and what has now happened is that those workers are spreading COVID-19 from one seniors home to another, creating a tragedy that was completely avoidable.
Students are falling between the cracks, students who did not have work and were hoping to work this summer. Students who are graduating and had jobs lined up are not eligible for any programs. Seniors and people with disabilities are facing higher costs due to COVID-19 and are not receiving the help they need.
Micro-businesses and new businesses are falling between the cracks. A microbrewery in my community started up in November. It does not meet the $20,000 payroll requirement for last year, but it paid $13,000 in payroll in December, it paid $13,000 in January and it paid $13,000 in February. These people are going to lose their life savings and hard work, all of their commitment, because there is nothing to help them.
I have a constituent in my riding who is a senior who has worked her entire life. Last year she was off for eight months due to an operation. She got back to work in January but does not qualify for the CERB because she did not make $5,000 last year, even though she earned more than $5,000 every other year of her life and paid taxes. Now she needs support but there is nothing there for her.
We have a solution to that. What we are seeing is the glaring inequality in our communities. We have a crisis of homelessness in my community and in communities across the country. A guaranteed liveable income is a way that would help to make sure that no Canadian ever falls below a standard of living that gives them a place to live, good nutritious food to eat and quality of life.
We could do an emergency guaranteed liveable income and send a cheque to every Canadian and use it like reverse billing where those who do not need it return it. In the end, next year in tax season those who did not need it and did not return it would be taxed back on it. That would mean that we do not miss these people. I can give a long list of people who have been missed by these programs. We need to get our economy up and running again, and we need to do it safely.
We should be looking at the example of Taiwan. My brother lives and works in Taiwan. It was in the top 10 countries affected by COVID-19 in February. It had the first presumptive case the same day that Canada did in January. When people saw the virus starting in Wuhan, Taiwan ramped up production in their factories. They used the military to help ramp up production of PPE in their factories. They stockpiled personal protective equipment.
My brother missed two weeks of teaching at school. His wife missed no work at all, so two weeks after the winter break the students all went back to school with masks on. My brother teaches class with a mask on. He goes to the pharmacy every week and he gets three masks. That is his ration. Taiwan banned hoarding and made it so that people who were price gouging would face seven years in jail or a $700,000 fine. They took it seriously. Taiwan is now 106th on the list of countries affected by COVID-19. It has had 422 cases and six deaths. Canada is number 13. We have 36,000 cases and 1,600 deaths.
There will certainly be time, at the end of this crisis, for analysis and lessons learned. The government has been humble in acknowledging that its original response was not perfect, and it solicited advice from opposition MPs to make the programs better. Many Canadian individuals and businesses are still falling between the cracks.
Now is not the time for finger pointing and partisan bickering. We need to continue to focus on flagging the groups of individuals and businesses that are not covered by the COVID-19 assistance programs and make sure they get help.
We face an even larger crisis: the climate emergency. We have all acknowledged that. Scientists and epidemiologists have warned for years that climate change will create the conditions for pandemics. Wildfire season has already begun in B.C. Flood preparations are happening around the country. We need to listen to the scientists in this case as well and take action to avert disaster.
The COVID-19 crisis has shown us that we can do that. We can all work together. We can act. Our future, and the future of our children and grandchildren, is dependent on our action.
We have also seen that funding in health care is very important. We need to make sure that our health care system is robust, and that our infrastructure for health care is robust. It is important.
There are many lessons we can learn from this difficult situation. Right now, those are lessons that we should not forget as we navigate our way through this crisis and hold fast to the belief that we can emerge from it better together. Together we can do this.