Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
I may be a bit more brief than some of my more eloquent colleagues, but I still wanted to add my two cents to conclude this important debate.
I would like add my voice to those of my colleagues who said that they have been working harder since the beginning of the crisis, and I, too, would like to thank my assistants: Ruth, Sandra, Maxime and Arnaud. Like me, they are listening to the people of Shefford.
This is already my fourth visit to Parliament since the beginning of the crisis. I came here mainly to debate improving seniors' purchasing power, but I was also able to support my colleagues who came to talk about additional targeted help for sectors that are still greatly in need of assistance, including the agricultural industry, which is so important in my riding; research; science; and tourism, which is at the heart of Shefford. In short, I think I managed to convey my requests to the government. However, if the government was unable to keep its word, that is a sad reality for our democracy.
I will therefore address three concerns in my short speech today. I will talk about seniors, women and others who have been forgotten in this pandemic.
While everyone else is talking about lifting restrictions and a very gradual return to normal, the situation remains tragic for many seniors who are still dying in conditions unworthy of a developed nation. The stories we have heard from people working in long-term care centres are shocking and appalling. I feel I have to say it again: The government should have done more for seniors who are isolated at home. The government should have extended measures to help seniors and used the crisis to keep its election promise to increase old age security benefits and enhance the guaranteed income supplement.
It is true that measures were implemented for seniors, but at the eleventh hour. The financial assistance that we asked for many times finally arrived. It was needed, but it fell short and too many questions remain unanswered. The old age security pension and the guaranteed income supplement were increased, but only temporarily. Seniors' needs, however, are not temporary. Far too many seniors have lived in inexcusably precarious conditions since before the COVID-19 crisis. What is more, the cost of groceries, medications and housing continues to increase. Many people are receiving the $2,000 Canada emergency response benefit. However, in some municipalities and larger cities, this is not even enough for adequate housing. I am giving a nod to my friend Denis Trudel, as I am taking up this fight with him. It is a problem in my riding of Shefford.
While the government clearly indicated that the increase is only temporary, we do not yet know exactly when it will start, when it will end and under what conditions it will be extended. This is all important information that a responsible government should have provided a long time ago.
All these unknowns are sources of additional stress that our seniors really do not need right now, and things that the government could easily avoid. It was, however, a very legitimate condition for work to continue, especially since the Liberals had committed to this in a motion.
The current assistance is not only imperfect, but also insufficient. Despite our repeated requests, the government's inaction on the health transfers file is damaging and will continue to be damaging. The situation has become sadly ironic. Quebec was supposed to receive money from the federal government that would have allowed it to take better care of its seniors before the pandemic. Increasing health transfers is a unanimous request made by Quebec and the provinces.
Internet access is another thing the Bloc Québécois has been calling for since long before COVID-19. This is even more important now, and it just might be enough to make the government want to follow our advice quicker.
First, if the Internet had been deemed an essential service when the Bloc raised this concern, that would have allowed seniors to break the isolation they feel in normal times, but even more so these days. The Internet is necessary for the small things in life, such as staying in touch with loved ones, the new trend of tele-parenting. The Internet has also allowed some to say their final goodbyes via video call, while many people are dying these days without being able to say goodbye to their loved ones.
There is also the whole issue of the closure of Service Canada offices, which happened back home in Granby, leaving several people to fend for themselves when they have to navigate the different measures being offered. Illiteracy, connectivity problems and lack of money to gain access to technological tools are just a few examples of the problems people without help are facing.
This crisis is exposing our collective failures by disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable; in fact, that might just be the nature of crises. I hope that, like me, you will think about the living conditions of our seniors, but we must also talk about other inequalities.
During this pandemic, we realize that it is much harder for people with a low income to protect their health by physical distancing and self-isolation.
I will now talk about the different, perhaps more subtle, but equally worrisome situations that women are in.
The structural disadvantages in our workplaces mean that women are more likely to work in essential services, putting their health at risk to ensure our survival. For example, I am talking about orderlies, nurses, and I want to give a shout-out to my colleague Louise, nursing assistants and doctors. Women are more likely to be employed part time and are more vulnerable to the crisis. Many of them are refugees. My colleague Christine Normandin moved a motion about this.
Women are more likely than men to be unemployed in recent—