Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm glad you're back. I almost missed you. I'm happy to see you again today.
I will start by commending the work of the essential services workers in my riding, who do a fantastic job and who have to go to work, sometimes even despite the incentives to stay home, such as the CERB. I think they are very brave people who have their priorities straight.
Before I start my speech I would like to make a brief aside.
Several people in my riding have called my office for information on the CERB. One of them was a gentleman who was working under the table. He thought it was totally unfair that people who do not declare their income do not have access to the CERB. I lectured him a bit by telling him that when he goes to the hospital and uses public services, our taxes pay for those services.
I find it rather ironic that earlier, in response to some questions, I heard members opposite say that we were going to allow companies registered in tax havens to benefit from the measures the government is implementing. Let's just say that this is a tad inconsistent with the lecture I gave this citizen who works illegally. I would even say that this encourages people to work under the table. In any event, there is someone better placed than me, my colleague from Joliette, who will be able to explain it to you later.
This time last year, if I had told anyone that we were about to have one of the worst health crises in Canada, probably no one would have believed me. That's what a crisis is like. As long as it is just a possibility, we pay no attention to it. We are living through this actual, real crisis, which some people predicted by talking about a possible SARS pandemic. They had already given us an indication of how this could develop.
I am thinking of what we did a little earlier when we marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands. When we're in a crisis or a war, sometimes we tell ourselves, “never again”. We want to make sure it never happens again.
I will use this as a starting point to discuss what role science might play in this crisis. I am my party's critic for science and innovation.
Let's just say that we, as public policy-makers, have a moral obligation. We must ensure that the current crisis never happens again. The direct consequences of this crisis are very problematic. We only have to think of our seniors who, as my colleague said earlier, are being left to cope on their own because we need to implement health measures. How are we going to resolve this situation? Health care funding will certainly be part of the solution. I will come back to that.
I would like to come back to the approach my party has taken since the beginning of this Parliament.
The Bloc Québécois has committed to co-operate with the government. This has earned us some successes, especially in the aluminum file. However, I feel that we need to revitalize this approach of co-operation. To help solve this crisis, our party could make a contribution, as it did for the implementation of the CERB, by putting forward its ideas.
I would like to brainstorm with you and share a few points with the government about a strategy to recover from the crisis.
A crisis occurs in two waves. During this first wave we are experiencing, the government acted in reactive mode, in other words, it responded by putting out fires. That is what it did in part by introducing the CERB and the Emergency Wage Subsidy. It had to deal with the most urgent situations. In the second wave of the crisis—and this is where things will get interesting for us—we will instead rely on an analytical or prospective mode, to use big words. In short, we will try to “understand”, “prevent” and “anticipate”, and we will propose concrete, feasible solutions.
To that end, we cannot avoid engaging in a serious reflection on research, since it is effectively through research that we can manage to control something like the current pandemic.
I therefore see two major approaches to overcoming the crisis. We will have to develop mechanisms that will help us control infectious diseases, but there is also another interesting approach that goes hand in hand with economic recovery. What will we learn from the crisis? Maybe something as abstract as climate change can become more real to us. As part of the economic recovery, we will have to use our scientific resources to find ways to prevent future uncontrollable crises, such as global warming.
There are then these two major aspects, but I am still a bit concerned because, earlier, our friends in the Conservative Party talked about the public debt as a way out of the crisis. I am well aware that public debt rises in times of crisis, but the federal government should not go back to its old ways of cutting transfers to the provinces. That is what led to the fiscal imbalance, which has resulted in chronic underfunding of health care. We are now suffering the consequences of this in Quebec. This underfunding has led to inadequate services in some seniors' centres. We will have to pay particular attention to this. It is true that we do not have unlimited resources and that we must ensure that public finances are sound, but we must not go back to a fiscal imbalance and the underfunding of health care.
There is another important issue to consider as we work to exit from the crisis. I fear that the government will decide to invest massively, as it has already done to some degree, in oil and gas. The oil sands are no longer a profitable source of energy. It would therefore be an obvious mistake, in my opinion, to want to save the oil sands as a way out of the crisis, when there are other very attractive economic sectors. I am thinking in particular of the forestry industry, which is very promising. It would be a good strategy to invest in the forestry industry as we emerge from the crisis. We should think about wood construction and forest biomass utilization. These are very promising sectors that are not unique to Quebec. They can also stimulate the economy in British Columbia. There is a whole area of research focusing on the forestry industry to help make the energy transition a little smoother. If the government decides to go in that direction, we will certainly work with it. There is then that possibility for bringing the economy out of the crisis.
I have one minute left and I haven't gotten to the main point of my presentation yet. We also have an opportunity when it comes to health care. Today, I told the Minister of Health about a Quebec initiative involving a biobank that would work in the sequencing of the COVID-19 virus. I hope that the government is also prepared to support this initiative, which is already backed by the Government of Quebec.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that we are prepared to work with the federal government if it commits to harmonizing the recovery from the crisis with the fight against climate change, which is not consistent with cuts to health care. If that is the case, the Bloc Québécois will be there to help.