Mr. Speaker, it is perhaps very fitting that we are meeting here on this day, Holy Saturday, the day between the sadness of Good Friday, the day Christ suffered and died for our sins, and Easter Sunday, the day he rose and conquered death, for we are clearly in the middle of great hardship and suffering, but we have every reason to look ahead with hope and toward the end of the health crisis we are currently facing. Our hope is founded on the ingenuity and resilience of humanity and strengthened by the examples of previous threats that we have all overcome.
The past month has tested Canadians. We have been told to stay at home, away from family and friends. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, religious gatherings have looked different this year. We have relied on Skype or FaceTime to stay connected instead of family dinners, church services or weekend gatherings.
Stores and restaurants have been told to close their doors. As a result, almost six million Canadians have lost their jobs, and the businesses that are still open are worried about how they are going to hang on.
Despite all our efforts, more than 22,000 Canadians have fallen ill and, unfortunately, more than 600 have died. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones.
Over the coming days and weeks, our actions will be more important than ever. Now that the government has presented its projections, we know what to expect. We must continue to follow public health guidelines and we must work together as a country.
On behalf of the official opposition, I want to acknowledge all of the Canadians who are going above and beyond during these unprecedented times.
To the nurses, doctors, truck drivers, grocery store workers, cleaners, pharmacists, farmers and other essential workers, we give our thanks.
To the parents juggling school work and their own jobs, we give our thanks. I have always had respect for the teachers who have influenced my life, but after spending the last few weeks trying to keep my children up to date with their studies, I have a new-found respect and admiration for what they do each and every day of the school year.
To the churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, gurdwaras, food banks, shelters and other organizations helping Canadians during these difficult times, we also give our thanks.
To the public servants working hard each and every day to make sure that Canadians get the help they urgently need, we give our thanks.
Canadians have big questions about what is going on. Our economy is at a standstill, and although the government has announced some programs, Canadians still do not have the money in hand. We have a $184-billion deficit. It will take years of discipline to get Canada's economy back on its feet.
The government presented some new documents to the Standing Committee on Health that also paint a worrisome picture.
As one reporter put it, “[t]he documents...show a government persistently downplaying the threat of coronavirus until it was too late.”
Other countries, such as South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, ramped up testing and secured medical equipment early on, which allowed them to flatten the curve quickly, preventing their economies from being completely shut down. We were told for weeks that the risk of COVID-19 to Canadians was low. We now ask why that risk assessment seemed to change overnight. Why did the government wait so long to impose travel restrictions? Why were travellers not originally screened? Why do we have a critical shortage of medical supplies? Why is it taking the government so long to sign contracts with companies that are offering to retool their facilities to provide much-needed medical equipment? Why are other countries further ahead of us when it comes to testing and tracing? These are some of the questions that Canadians have, and they deserve answers.
While we know that mistakes have been made in the past, Conservatives are focused on looking to the future, on how best to get Canada through this crisis, keep our citizens healthy and get our economy back on track.
The Prime Minister has said that we need to prepare for a second and perhaps a third wave. Canadians want to know how this government is preparing to get ahead of those waves.
This is why the Conservatives are calling for the opportunity to regularly ask questions of the Prime Minister and ministers in the House of Commons on all aspects of the government's response to COVID-19. We also want to hold weekly parliamentary committee meetings, during which members will be able to move motions, call witnesses and question ministers and senior government officials.
We cannot wait for this pandemic to be over to hold the government to account. Parliament has a vital role right now. We will get better results for Canadians through debate, discussion and regular questions from the opposition.
Today's emergency legislation is a good example of this.
When the government first announced a 10% wage subsidy, Conservatives and small business owners across this country raised concerns. Other countries were offering far more. It was clear that 10% was just not going to cut it, so we pushed for a significant increase. A few days later, the wage subsidy was raised to 75%.
Credit unions were not originally allowed to deliver the $40,000 emergency interest-free loans. This left many business owners who use credit unions, especially those in rural locations, in the lurch, making it harder for them to get the support they needed. We called on the government to make changes, and now credit unions can deliver these loans as well.
The need to show a 30% revenue decrease to qualify for the wage subsidy meant that too many new and seasonal businesses did not qualify. We raised this concern, and now there is more flexibility. This week, we rolled up our sleeves and worked with the government to ensure that businesses have the certainty they need to keep their employees on the payroll.
The Conservatives have been part of team Canada since day one, offering constructive solutions to improve the government's response to this pandemic.
However, we know that there is still more work to do.
Conservatives have proposed meaningful solutions, such as rebating the GST to small businesses that have collected it in the last year, to provide a much-needed cash injection. We have also suggested using loss of earnings, subscriptions or orders as a way to ensure that more businesses qualify for this wage subsidy, and we have put forward ideas to help our energy and charitable sectors, such as increasing the charitable donation tax credit.
We want the government to start implementing a solution to ensure that no Canadian is left behind. That is what team Canada is about.
We are optimistic that the government will listen to the ideas we are putting forward for the benefit of all Canadians. That will be truly a team Canada approach.