Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak in support of the Speech from the Throne. The Speech from the Throne lays the foundation of our government's direction and goals, and how we will work to achieve them.
Before I begin, I want to recognize the hard work the front-line workers in my riding of Richmond Hill have continued to provide throughout the pandemic. Grocery store clerks, health care workers, law enforcement officers, first responders and small business owners are some of the many who have been the backbone of our community at this time. I want to thank them for their services.
In this time of need, members of our community have also been coming together to ensure they are not alone in the fight to flatten the curve. I have seen communities in Richmond Hill organize food drives, create handmade masks for local centres or donate their time and money to local organizations that serve our most vulnerable. It is my honour to represent the people of Richmond Hill and to continue to advocate for them.
This speech was created with everyday Canadians like the residents of Richmond Hill, in mind: Canadians who are working to support their families, who have local businesses, who give back to the community and who rely on the government to provide them with public services that empower them and their families.
Through the four major pillars of our speech, we told Canadians that their voices and advocacy had been heard, and that their opinions, indeed, matter. The four pillars are fighting the pandemic, supporting Canadian businesses, addressing the gaps in our social systems and standing up for who we are as Canadians. These will guide our government to best support the people of Canada and create a stronger, more resilient country.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that when people are suffering, the onus is on the government to ensure that they remain stable and are equipped to fight this virus. From the outset of COVID-19, our government has had a plan to tackle the challenges brought on by the crisis.
Our first step was to ensure that Canadians and Canadian businesses were protected. This was why we introduced the Canada emergency response benefit. Our response ensured Canadians did not have to worry about putting food on the table or paying bills by providing direct support to them. The CERB was a temporary program that helped close to nine million Canadians through a very difficult time.
We ensured that businesses could keep their employees on the payroll by introducing the Canada emergency wage subsidy. The wage subsidy protected over 3.5 million jobs and preserved our nation's small businesses.
We also took further action by creating the made in Canada initiative, which invested in domestic PPE manufacturers and provided support to Canadian scientists researching and developing a vaccine. By investing in Canadians, we will fight the virus. As the throne speech highlighted, that support will continue. The Canada emergency wage subsidy will be extended until next summer so that businesses like Benson Lock in Richmond Hill can continue to keep workers employed.
Many Canadians in Richmond Hill benefited from the CERB, and the improved employment insurance program will continue to support them during this time. For those who do not qualify for EI, the Canada recovery benefit will help get them back on their feet.
To recover our economy, we must invest in our vulnerable industries. I have heard first-hand from those in the travel and hospitality industries, which have been hit the hardest. By expanding the Canada emergency business account to help businesses with fixed costs, and improving the business credit availability program, we are providing direct support to most vulnerable industries.
We are also investing in communities. The safe start agreement allocated $19 billion to municipalities to start their economies. Richmond Hill received $4 million to address associated start-up costs and protect the community. This funding for my riding ensured that safety measures were in place and public services could be maintained. It also enabled the municipal government to prepare for what is now the second wave of the virus.
As we prepare our municipalities, it is also imperative that we consider the long-term impact of the initiative and how it affects our environment. Climate action is a key component of our government's mandate. After consulting with climate activists and organizations in my riding, including Neighbours for the Planet, BlueDot and Drawdown, I understand the urgency of a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. The government will create millions of jobs for Canadians by retrofitting homes to save energy costs for families and by supporting investment in renewable energy and clean technology solutions.
We will also invest in our cities to deliver on fast public transit. As the representative of a thriving suburban community, my constituents rely on convenient and affordable transit options to go to work. We will transform the way we power our communities through the clean power fund and become a world leader in clean technology.
As we work to protect our planet, we must also do the same to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. That is why addressing the gaps in our social security system is a key priority for this government. Our nation's seniors have worked hard to build this country, and we owe it to them to provide the best long-term care. By working with the provinces and territories to create a new national standard for long-term care, we will allow our seniors to receive the best support possible.
We will also increase old age security once a senior turns 75, and boost the Canada pension plan survivor benefit.
These initiatives will benefit many seniors' organizations and long-term care centres in my riding. Seniors program organizations in Richmond Hill, such as Community and Home Assistance to Seniors, CHATS, and The Mariann Home are able to provide quality support and care to Richmond Hill seniors.
Next I would like to acknowledge another aspect of the speech that resonated with my riding and me. I have had the chance to work with organizations within Richmond Hill that address homelessness in our community, and the commitment to eliminate chronic homelessness in Canada is of great importance. The government's historic national housing strategy will increase investments in rapid housing in the short term, and will partner with not-for-profits and co-ops to find the best solution. The government will work with organizations like 360° Kids in my riding, which provides support to homeless youth in the York region.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. On the subject of mental health, our government understands that the mental health crisis in our country has reached a tipping point and it is urgent that we invest in community programs. As the chair of the parliamentary mental health caucus, I have worked with various stakeholders to advocate for more investments and resources in mental health research and support for those struggling. We will invest in people like Kathy Mochnacki from Home on the Hill Supportive Housing, whose organization provides resources for individuals with mental illness.
I am so glad to see a commitment to increasing intersectional wellness resources so more people can receive the support they need. I believe that supporting and recognizing the diversity of those in our community is crucial to uniting us as Canadians.
The last point I would like to mention is our government's plan to combat racism. The pandemic has exaggerated and highlighted what many of us already know: there is still much work to be done in the fight against systemic racism. I represent a riding that is incredibly diverse. Of the population of Richmond Hill, 60% identify as a visible minority and 57.4% are immigrants. The need for a comprehensive strategy to address racism is long overdue, and this government has proved that it will do that by continuing to fight hatred and discrimination, as well as by economically empowering disadvantaged communities so we can all succeed. The recently announced Black entrepreneurship loan fund, as well as initiatives aimed at strengthening indigenous communities, show that this government is committed to addressing systemic discrimination and empowering all Canadians.
As members can tell, this plan is ambitious, but it is necessary to protect and support Canadians. The benefits outweigh the costs, and keeping Canadians on their feet is the most important goal of our government. To quote the speech:
It is no small task to build a stronger, more resilient country. It will take hard work.
The hard work is what this government is prepared to do. I hope we can gain the support of all members on this goal and work together to build back our great country.