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View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
View Louise Chabot Profile
2020-05-26 18:50 [p.2477]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my esteemed Conservative colleague for sharing his time with a Bloc member. Everything will be all right.
I would like to look back in time, because there was a time when things were done right. March 13 was our last day in the House. After that, the country was put on hold. This break turned our lives upside down, our personal lives, our collective lives and our lives as members of Parliament, as parliamentarians. However, we were able to adjust.
I heard my colleague from La Prairie say that solidarity was one of the greatest strengths we showed during this time. I agree with him on that. What is more, we hope that we will be able to continue to work in solidarity after the crisis.
We also had the opportunity to talk about things that we needed to do. One of the things that we had to do was to allow for an exception regarding our role in the House. The Bloc Québécois helped with that. We had to give the House exceptional powers. I would like to remind my colleagues that, from an economic perspective, the current crisis is as significant as the Second World War. That is no small thing.
I thank the member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert for his kind words about my previous career as a nurse.
With respect to health, we are dealing with a virus that we do not yet fully understand. That is why public health officials are asking the public to be cautious about reopening. We must keep this in mind, because it would be irresponsible not to do so.
That said, the government has brought in emergency measures. The Canada emergency response benefit had its problems at first, but then it became inclusive. The Canada emergency response benefit was intended primarily to address a flaw in the social safety net, a flaw in the employment insurance system. We realized that the EI system could not provide for the eight million workers who lost their jobs.
There is also the Canada emergency student benefit. We called for it because some students had fallen through the cracks. This benefit is more recent. The Bloc Québécois demanded that these support measures, which benefit workers and students alike, come with work incentives. We saw this coming.
I also want to point out that, on April 29, if I remember correctly, we were promised that we could keep doing our work as usual. That promise was broken.
The emergency wage subsidy started out at 10%, but we worked hard to push it to 75% and to make the rules more flexible so that more businesses could get it. We need to keep people employed for a strong recovery.
We never thought that the scope of the benefit would be expanded. When you eat your Smarties, you usually eat the red ones last. In this case, the Reds are eating first.
I find it disappointing and even indecent that wage subsidies meant to help businesses will be propping up partisan salaries.
At this point, I find it deplorable that no solutions have been found. People can no longer put their lives on hold and remain in lockdown. People need to “open up”.
Besides, our society is already doing it. It has begun in every province, and I would even say it was happening during the crisis, because we had Zoom.
Incidentally, Zoom is the first thing I would like to get away from.
Chambers of commerce and the municipalities had to respond to the crisis. Right away we saw people mobilizing to come up with solutions to address gaps and trying to think ahead, because everyone knew this situation would not last forever and one day the recovery would begin.
That is where we are in the House. If we want to think about the “now” and the “after”, we must take back our power to legislate. I will give some examples. One of my colleagues talked about this earlier, but I want to talk about the environment.
If we can envision a green, sustainable recovery, we also have to consider—and I will talk about workers because that has been my field all my life—how this transition can also be done for the workers. This is crucial, and it will require legislation.
The Canada emergency response benefit will end. Our federal employment insurance program as we know it will not be able to respond to everyone when the CERB ends because it leaves behind primarily women, who are most likely to hold atypical and part-time jobs and who are therefore excluded, because workers in the seasonal industry are currently in the EI spring gap when pilot projects were ending on May 20 but for which there is still no answer, and so forth.
We are talking about sick leave. If there is one measure that people needed before and we could put in place it is special sickness benefits, which are only 15 weeks and should increase to 52 weeks.
For that we need a Parliament that legislates. We are going to need permanent, lasting and predictable measures if we want to avoid another wave, another pandemic. Some are already saying that there is going to be another wave in the fall. We hope not. There also may not be one, but we have to be able to prevent it. We cannot do that just by asking questions, by wondering what works and what does not and how we might react.
I want to talk about what is happening with businesses. We are seeing more and more bankruptcies. More and more businesses will not be able to survive and are filing for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.
What happens to the pension plans, to workers' nest eggs? On top of losing their jobs and earning wages well below the value of their work, they are at risk of losing their nest eggs if we do not protect pension funds.
There are many things we should have been debating, but instead, the Prime Minister decided to be opportunistic by touting the 10 days of sick leave—which we certainly support—knowing full well that this requires amendments to each of the provinces' laws. It is impossible to impose this, and he was bound to get agreement.
This makes me angry, not because this is not an important issue, but because it does not fit in with what we should have been doing today in the House. We should be deciding that we can and must resume work in Parliament because we have a duty to implement long-lasting, sustainable and predictable legislative measures. We cannot take a piecemeal approach.
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