Mr. Speaker, from the onset of COVID-19, the government has done everything in its power to combat the virus and mitigate its harm, using every tool available to safeguard the health and livelihood of Canadians, particularly for Canada’s most vulnerable. It definitely appeals to me that protecting health is the best economic strategy in a global health crisis like this pandemic. In fact, more than $8 of every $10 spent in Canada to fight the virus has been spent by the federal government.
Let me be clear. By no means has this been a solo effort. In the summer, we announced support for the provinces and territories as part of our $19.9-billion safe restart package. An additional $2 billion is being made available to provinces and territories through the safe return to class fund to protect the health of students and staff. We are also working with cities and indigenous communities to ensure Canadians have the support they need and to help stop the spread of the virus in vulnerable communities. This has truly been, and we have said this many times, a team Canada effort.
Over the last year, I have held 30 community consultations and town halls in my riding of Whitby. Those have been mostly virtual but a few were in person before the pandemic hit. People in Whitby are engaged and I know the measures contained in the fall economic statement would help people across my community.
The recently tabled fall economic statement outlines the Government of Canada’s actions to date and proposed new measures to support Canadians through this crisis and lays the groundwork for rebuilding Canada’s economy through a robust, inclusive and sustainable recovery.
For example, we moved quickly in the spring to introduce robust economic programs like the Canada emergency response benefit, the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency business account to help people, businesses and organizations of all sizes survive this pandemic. These important programs helped thousands of people and businesses across Whitby and the Durham region. As has been said, we will do whatever it takes to protect Canadians and their livelihoods as we move forward. Through targeted and flexible support measures, we will continue to provide economic certainty to Canadians and businesses through this turbulent and uncertain time.
We have also assembled a comprehensive, world-leading portfolio of vaccines, investing more than $1 billion in vaccine agreements to secure a domestic supply of up to 429 million doses.
Once the virus is under control and our economy is ready for new growth, our government will deploy an ambitious three-year stimulus package to jump-start our recovery through an investment of between $70 billion and $100 billion. This is comparable to other nations, investing approximately 3% to 4% of GDP.
The fall economic statement puts a down payment on this growth plan and sets the path for an inclusive recovery that is equitable, sustainable and would create good jobs for all Canadians.
This pandemic has laid bare and in many cases deepened significantly the inequalities Canadians face, especially in the workforce. Simply put, inequality makes our economy less resilient, less sustainable and less fair, which is why a robust and complete recovery must leave no one behind.
For example, the government is committed to ensuring that this growth plan addresses the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on women. We have announced the creation of a task force of diverse experts to help our government develop an action plan for women in the economy, a plan that would help more women get back into the workforce and ensure a feminist, intersectional response to this pandemic and our recovery. This is evidenced by applying a gender-based analysis to every measure in the fall economic statement, which I am very proud to see. This action plan would help advance gender equality and address inequities faced by vulnerable women, including indigenous, Black and racialized women. It would strengthen our economy as a whole and benefit all Canadians.
The government will also begin work on transformative initiatives, such as a Canada-wide early learning and child care system, in partnership with provinces, territories and indigenous peoples. Investing in accessible, high-quality, affordable and inclusive child care would not only be good for families, but also makes good economic sense. It would give children a good start in life and would give parents, especially mothers, the support they need to support their participation in our country’s workforce and provide for their families.
It is also important to recognize that young people continue to suffer disproportionate economic impacts from COVID-19, and we must therefore ensure that the pandemic does not derail their future. That is why we are proposing to build on the employment, job skills development and educational supports provided to youth and students over the summer by introducing additional measures that would ease the financial burden on students and provide more opportunities for young people to gain work experience. This would include new proposed investments of $447.5 million in the Canada summer jobs program next year to support up to 120,000 job placements in 2021-2022, and $575.3 million over the next two years toward the youth employment and skills strategy to provide approximately 45,300 job placements for young people.
In Whitby alone, which is my riding, over 300 positions were funded through the Canada summer jobs program, providing valuable skills to young people in our community and helping to strengthen our local economy. This work is critical, and I think it is definitely going to make a difference in our recovery and in increasing economic participation by young people.
The legislation before us also proposes to eliminate interest repayment of the federal portion of the Canada student loans and the Canada apprentice loans for 2021-2022. This would help ease the financial burden of student debt for up to 1.4 million Canadians.
The fall economic statement also reiterates our government’s commitment to fight systemic racism and discrimination in all its forms, a painful lived reality for Black Canadians, racialized Canadians and indigenous people. We will do this through clear and meaningful proposed investments in a number of key areas. For example, we will launch a pilot program for open bidding opportunities that will expand economic opportunity for Black-owned and operated businesses, building off the successful procurement strategy for aboriginal business.
Committing to diversifying government procurement, as outlined in the procurement minister’s new mandate letter, is a critical step toward ensuring all Canadians can participate in government procurement and a clear step toward empowering marginalized communities. Additionally, the government will help ensure representation at the highest levels of and throughout the public service by creating a centre on diversity in the federal public service to help accelerate progress on diversity and inclusion and by modernizing equity legislation to be truly inclusive.
We will aim to empower communities by supporting community-led initiatives to combat racism and promote multiculturalism by expanding the government’s community support, multiculturalism, and anti-racism initiatives program and its anti-racism action program, and through proposed investments to protect communities at risk of hate-motivated crimes. As well, we remain committed to rooting out and addressing systemic racism in our justice system by supporting the use of impact of race and culture assessments by judges and by helping to decrease the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples and Black Canadians in the criminal justice system through community justice centre pilot projects in British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario.
The fall economic statement also charts a path forward on building a net-zero future. To quote the fall economic statement:
We need to invest in meaningful climate action. Failure to do so will only increase the costs and the risks of climate change to all Canadians. COVID-19 has reminded us all of the importance of early, sustained action to address systemic risks that threaten our daily lives.
With critical investments, the government is doing just that. This includes $2.6 billion for home energy retrofits, $226.4 million for new electric vehicle infrastructure, $3.16 billion in nature preservation and a plan to plant 2 billion trees, and $98.4 million to help the agricultural sector fight climate change as well.
In conclusion, through these and other important initiatives and investments, as outlined in the fall economic statement, our government will continue to tackle the challenges and barriers that constrain Canadians.
Building a sustainable, resilient and fair economy is critical to our success in coming out of this crisis, and Bill C-14 helps to chart a path forward on this important work.