Madam Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to respond to the Liberal government's Speech from the Throne.
I would like to begin by quoting Edmond Rostand, who would have this to say about it: That's too brief, young man! The throne speech is silent on quite a few subjects, especially subjects of interest to Quebeckers. In fact, the word “Quebec” does not appear even once. That is a singular omission on the part of a minority government that would have done well to pay more attention to Quebec's needs and interests in the throne speech. Unfortunately, it did not. The speech is long on rhetoric, hot air, good intentions and lip service but short on details, clarity and firm commitments in several areas, except where it suits the Liberals.
For years, the Liberals have been promising money for the national housing strategy and the fight against homelessness. Unfortunately, people on the ground know that the federal government provides precious few resources and refuses to make the kind of concrete commitments that allow projects to move forward and housing co-ops and affordable and low-income housing to get built. The housing issue is of vital importance to many Canadians and Quebeckers because it is many families' biggest expense. Right now, people are struggling to find adequate housing. The Liberals have said a lot of nice things about housing over the past few years but, sadly, have done very little.
In Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, one-third of households spend more than 30% of their income on housing. In my riding, one in three families is literally at or below the poverty line. We all know that, as a rule, people should expect to spend 30% of their income on housing.
There is currently just one social housing project, unfortunately, and this project will soon come to an end. There is no plan for what comes next. How is that possible? The government has been going on for four years about how housing is a priority and how we need to build affordable and social housing. Nothing ever happens, because the federal government bickers with the Quebec government over which government should put its flag and logo on the project.
The NDP thinks that real action is needed to ensure access to affordable housing. The Liberals need to stop bickering with the Quebec government and transfer the funds. The Quebec government would then be able to implement the AccèsLogis program, through which projects could actually help people. I am sick of the bickering between Ottawa and Quebec at the expense of the poorest families, individuals and workers in my riding and across Quebec. The budget will soon be tabled, so now is the time to free up the money. This is urgent. We need this.
Also, I am not sure where the member for Winnipeg North has been for the past 25 years. He said we have been talking about pharmacare for the past four years, but I would remind him that it was in the Liberal platform of 1997. It was also part of the discussion when medicare was first introduced in this country in the 1960s. That was just a little refresher for my colleague from Winnipeg North. The Liberals are still talking about pharmacare, but we need to see whether there will ever be more than just consultations and reports. Are they ever going to actually implement anything?
Canada is the only country in the world that has a universal public health care system without a universal public pharmacare system to go with it. This is an anomaly. This means that Canadians and Quebeckers pay some of the highest prices for prescription drugs. This is slightly less problematic in Quebec, since we have a hybrid regime that is administered by the Quebec government. However, it also poses significant problems for many people who sometimes have to make really tough choices, like paying for their medication or paying for their groceries. When people do not take all their medication as prescribed, it can cause illnesses to progress more rapidly and force people back to work too soon. It can lead to other health problems and additional costs for the health care system.
The NDP believes it is high time that the Canada Health Act included a principle emphasizing the importance of a complete, free and universal pharmacare program and indicating that this is one of our society's values because we want to take care of people. That is not the case right now and people are suffering because of it. This issue is a priority for the NDP.
Many large groups in Quebec are calling for such a program because they understand the difference it could make in people's lives. Quebec's three major unions, the FTQ, the CSN and the CSQ, are calling for this program, as are many civil society groups, such as the Union des consommateurs du Québec. They are saying that it would make a difference in people's lives if we had a universal public pharmacare program managed by the provinces and the Government of Quebec, obviously.
Last year, I met with people who are directly affected by the lack of such a principle or federal program, for example, retail workers and unionized workers at Métro, Provigo and Loblaws. They work part time for a modest wage and have to contribute to their employer's drug plan. In Quebec, this supplemental health care coverage is not optional; it is mandatory. People cannot choose to opt for the public plan. They are required to contribute to the private plan. Those contributions cost many workers up to 25% of their income.
I met a young worker, about 25, who told me that for every month he works, his first week's salary goes entirely toward the drug plan offered by his employer. Public universal pharmacare would considerably change the life of someone like that. It would simplify collective bargaining for many groups. For that individual, it would mean a 25% increase in pay. That is not nothing. Not only would that worker's drug costs be covered, but his take-home pay would also get him much further ahead.
For all these reasons, we are telling the Liberal government that it is time to take action. According to the Hoskins report released a few months ago, this is a good thing that has been studied at length, and our society needs it. We at the NDP are saying that it is time to move forward and take this seriously, and we will be here to support the government if it comes up with something public and universal.
The other thing we wanted to see in the Speech from the Throne is dental care coverage. That would be another tangible way to help people in their lives.
We have a medicare system—thanks to the NDP, by the way—that is highly appreciated but that is not comprehensive because some parts of the body are not covered. That is rather bizarre. It is as though we collectively decided that our heart and arms would be insured, but that our eyes and teeth would not. There is no logic to it. Having to pay a dentist to provide care and ensure good dental hygiene also represents a considerable cost for many people.
Dental coverage would make a big difference in people's lives at a cost almost equivalent to the amount of the tax cut that the Liberal government has announced—a tax cut that will again benefit the wealthiest in our society.
They could have used that money, which amounts to a little less than one billion, or about $800 or $850 million, to provide dental care to all Quebeckers and Canadians. We, the New Democrats, would not make the same choices the Liberal government did.
We hope the government will be able to implement public pharmacare and dental care. We also hope the government will increase the federal contribution for early childhood care. Quebec needs 42,000 more ECE spots, in publicly funded day cares. We hope the federal government will be willing to give Quebec's ECE system a boost, so that families can get their children into affordable day care.
I only have a minute left, which is not enough time to talk about the climate emergency and the fact that this government is once again saying one thing and doing the opposite. We in the NDP condemn the decision to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. This decision completely flies in the face of the federal government's pledges to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
We are eager to see how the government reacts to the new Frontier oil sands project. If the government is serious about setting more ambitious targets for 2030, I hope that it will take measures that are consistent and logical with that goal, which is something the entire population is calling for, especially our youth.