Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to inform you that I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
Today I want to also begin by sharing my deepest sympathies and condolences with the families, friends and loved ones of RCMP constable Heidi Stevenson and her fellow Nova Scotians who lost their lives this past weekend. This is a tragedy, and I am truly devastated by that act of meaningless violence. So, too, am I devastated by and mourn the loss of the 1,647 Canadians to date who have lost their lives to COVID-19.
I am so proud that many of our neighbours, co-workers, friends and families are doing what they can to ensure that this virus is contained to the best of their ability. Every day, people in my riding of London—Fanshawe contact me and tell me what they have lost because of COVID. They have lost their livelihoods, their jobs, their freedom, their time with loved ones and their family businesses, and from us, their members of Parliament, they expect and deserve leadership.
I was in this House during the last two sittings, and I was so honoured to do that work, because we were here and we were putting forward emergency legislation that was meant to help millions of Canadians impacted by COVID-19. Although it is not entirely what I and my NDP colleagues know would fully help as many people as we should, we passed the CERB and the wage subsidy benefits. I was proud, because New Democrats pushed hard to make these benefits available to more Canadians.
Is it enough? Simply put, no. The CERB should be universal. We have said that many times and will continue to say it until it is. All parents should also receive an additional $250 per child per month, and we also need to address all the holes and cracks that people are falling through, people who are living on a fixed income, seniors and persons with disabilities who find their grocery bills and prescription drug dispensing fees soaring. The government has decided that those people have received enough and that it does not need to provide additional assistance. Interestingly, my constituents disagree.
New Democrats will continue to push for a truly universal income security program, which would allow the government to immediately issue payments to Canadians who filed their taxes last year without the need for time-consuming application processes. The government could take the time it needs to then design a way to reclaim those payments through the tax system from people who did not need them. The approach the government has selected requires a lot of upfront administration at a time when every day matters.
Daily, I hear from my constituents about how they are not eligible for help. The government has left them behind, and they are turning to me for assistance. What am I supposed to tell someone who is $50 short of the $5,000 CERB criterion? It was literally $50.
I also hear from countless business owners who cannot meet the minimum payroll requirements for the wage subsidy. What should I tell people who have put everything they have into their business venture and see it slipping away because the government will not help them as well, because it has put a limit on those supports?
I am proud to stand in this House to fight for people in London—Fanshawe and across the country for a meaningful outcome. I am relieved to see that our plan for the one in-person sitting and the two additional virtual question sessions was passed today. The back-and-forth style of questions and answers has worked well, and I think it has brought a lot of answers for Canadians. It is really important that MPs from across Canada be able to bring their concerns and questions to their constituents from the government. We need to continue to bring the stories of Canadians who need help, however, because there are too many holes in the system.
Many seniors, persons with disabilities, people living on fixed incomes, veterans, students, small business owners and employees and their family members all continue to reach out to me in my office. They are facing increased costs for food and medications. They are unable to pay their rent. They are literally sitting at their dining room tables, looking at bills and expenses and trying to figure out which ones they can pay this month. That is a reality for people in my riding and across this country. It is our duty to help them.
So many Canadians are sacrificing so much by staying at home, keeping their businesses closed or still going to work, ensuring that our supply chains are maintained and that our food, prescriptions and basic needs are available, that our garbage is collected, that our airports, train stations and methods of transportation are open, that our emergency services are available and our hospital and long-term care facilities stay open and are fully staffed. We must work responsibly to keep this virus from spreading. We need to abide by public health recommendations. We need to physically distance. We can do this together.
We can do it better. We have to do it better, and we can do it together.