Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here speaking today in the 44th Parliament. It is wonderful to be here from my riding of Saint John—Rothesay.
Before I start, I certainly want to acknowledge my wonderful constituents, the people of Saint John—Rothesay, who voted me in for a third term. I want to thank my campaign team of Warren Coombs, Kevin Collins, Maghnus Ryan, Jody Wheaton, Leah Logan and, last but not least, the rock of my office, Jeanette Arsenault, who worked so hard to have me re-elected.
I want to thank everybody who campaigned in my riding, including the Leader of the Opposition. He was in my riding not only once, but twice. I thank him for coming. It certainly was great to see him there as well.
We all remember those days in March 2020. We did not know what was going to happen to any of us, our ridings or our country. We were sent home. I believe I was sent home on March 13, not knowing if it was going to be for a week, a month, et cetera. We all know what we faced as a government and as a country, and how we had to stand up against a once-in-a-generation pandemic.
I was worried. I was worried for my riding. I was worried for the small businesses and my constituents. We went to bat as a government. We went to bat and delivered programs that helped Canadians. Whether it was the CERB, the CEBA, the wage subsidy, rent support, business loans or the like, we were there for Canadians.
I listened today to members across the House literally insinuating that our programs were too generous, that we gave too much to Canadians, that the programs benefited too many people. Let me say this: If they were to have sat in my office, they would have had to take the calls from my constituents, small businesses, and the tourism and hospitality sectors, which we will get to in a minute, that needed our support. Yes, I agree with my friend and colleague from Kings—Hants that the Conservatives have said that we did too much, and the next day they said that we spent too much, and that our programs benefited one thing, but did not target another.
We were literally delivering programs. We were writing the book and turning the pages before the ink was dry. I am proud of what we did. I am proud that our government delivered and supported Canadians. Sure, the Conservatives can laugh across the House about us offering support for Canadians. That is fine. They can laugh about that, but I am proud. I am proud that we were there for small businesses and constituents when they needed us the most.
Yes, all of us, on both sides of the aisle, have faced tough times over the last 20 months. It has not been easy for anybody. Across the country, many businesses have had to close, some temporarily, others permanently. The majority experienced reduced revenues even when they were open. In my riding of Saint John—Rothesay, and across the country, this has translated into many people losing their jobs or having their hours reduced. That is why, when the crisis hit, we rolled out a wide range of programs.
We faced one of the greatest economic challenges this country has faced since the Great Depression. I have been here since 2015. I know my friends across the House paint themselves as the fiscal experts, the ones who know about the economy and economics. Before 2015, the former government oversaw one of the greatest economic downturns since the Great Depression.
The government from across the aisle ran deficit after deficit after deficit. We all know what happened in 2014-15 when, with a little juggling of the books, selling of some stocks and pulling back of benefits, it showed a balanced budget for once, so we take no lessons from its members with respect to balancing anything. We take no lessons from them with respect to their economic stewardship.
We believe in investing in Canadians. We believe in a government that invests in projects like the wonderful infrastructure projects in my riding of Saint John—Rothesay, such as Port Saint John and other projects. That is not wasteful spending. It is investing. We are not going to grow the economy through regressive policies, trickle down economics or cutbacks. It simply does not work.
We were here as a government to continue to invest. Canada's COVID-19 economic response included job protections, liquidity and income support through the suite of recovery benefits. These programs have been key in bridging Canadians and businesses through tough times and stabilizing the economy. These programs meant people could stay home if they needed to be safe.
After the initial creation of the Canada emergency response benefit, which supported over eight million Canadians for the duration of its availability, the government transitioned the support to a suite of new temporary benefits for individuals: the CRB, or as we know it, the Canada recovery benefit; the Canada caregiver benefit; and the Canada recovery sickness benefit.
It was a pivot. These new temporary benefits provided income support to millions of Canadians. We heard across the House that it was too much, that we were helping people too much. No, we supported people in their time of need, and Canadians will not forget that.
We need to transition again, so I want to talk about new programs that will be and should be our last pivot to fight COVID and be there for Canadians. I want to talk about the Canada worker lockdown benefit. This proposed new measure was first announced on October 21 and is part of the legislation we are debating today.
To ensure workers continue to have support and that no one is left behind, this benefit would provide $300 a week in income support to eligible workers, should they be unable to work due to a regional lockdown, until May 7, 2022, with retroactive application to October 24, 2021, if required.
It would continue to offer support to those who still need it, in case the pandemic requires further public health lockdowns in any part of the country, including workers who are both eligible and ineligible for employment insurance. The benefit would apply in any region of the country that has been designated by the government for the duration of the lockdown. Temporary lockdowns may still be necessary to continue our fight against COVID, and we need to be there for Canadians.
I am proud to stand here with my government, which has had the backs of Canadians since March of 2020. It is easy to cherry-pick and criticize that we should have done this or we could have done that, but in the end, from the calls that come into my constituency office of Saint John—Rothesay, I can tell the House that Canadians are proud of what we did and are appreciative of what we did as a government. They know rhetoric versus actually getting things done. We got things done for Canadians, and I am proud to be there for them.