Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Once again I want to thank my friend and colleague Mr. Long, from Saint John, who really has become a regular member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
Thanks very much, Mr. Long, for your help in the past few weeks.
We very much miss Mr. Turnbull and hope he'll be back with us soon.
As we all know, our friend Mr. Gerretsen can't be with us because he's in the House.
Getting back to the motion we're debating today and the amendment Mr. Turnbull introduced some time ago. I've been very clear about my position on this from the start. I think we're actually ready to begin drafting the report on this study. I'm going to recap what we've heard to date from the many witnesses who've appeared as part of this study.
I've prepared a brief list. We heard from Kathy Brock, Prof. Hugo Cyr, Duane Bratt and Minister Pablo Rodriguez, who spent a great deal of time with us discussing the prorogation. We also heard from expert Allen Sutherland, Barbara Messamore, Prof. Philippe Lagassé, Lori Turnbull, Ian Brodie and members of the Privy Council.
So many witnesses have appeared. I genuinely think we're ready to draft the report.
Having said that, I'll be flexible. I really want to reflect on this today and share my thoughts about why we should consider the amendment proposed by our friend and colleague Mr. Turnbull. Those of us who know him can say he's attempting a mediation because he wants to come up with wording we can all agree on. He makes some good points and I want to share my thoughts on the subject.
We should absolutely invite the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and the Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Youth to appear before the committee. There are probably many questions we could ask them about the situation to ascertain their views. We could also ask them for their thoughts on the prorogation and why it occurred. After all, the government believes that its ministers are responsible, effective and transparent, that they set a high bar for openness and that they answer questions asked by members of the committees.
Although I'm speaking directly to Mr. Turnbull's motion, I want to make clear once again that there's nothing more important than addressing the global crisis caused by COVID‑19. As I mentioned when we were debating Ms. Vecchio's motion, I'm hearing nothing about prorogation in my riding right now. However, people are extremely concerned about rising COVID‑19 case numbers and this global health crisis that has affected us all.
While we discuss politics, we have to acknowledge that millions of people around the world have contracted COVID‑19, and Canada hasn't been spared. Many lives have been lost and we really must recognize that this crisis has caused suffering around the world. We can see exactly what's happening in many provinces that have recently been harder hit. I consider myself lucky because there are 158 active cases here in New Brunswick today. We're a small province, so that's definitely troubling, but we're managing the situation well compared to other regions. However, we have to be vigilant because the situation can change quickly. So many lives have been lost as a result of this crisis. When we look at the number of deaths, we also have to acknowledge that they aren't just figures; they represent our grandparents, our immediate families, our neighbours and so many others.
My heart goes out to those who have lost family members, friends and people close to them. I honour all the healthcare workers for their dedication and sacrifice and all the other essential workers who have made it possible for life to go on.
Those workers put the interests of their neighbours, their community and their country ahead of their own needs, and they do it every day. In addition to thanking them for their heroic efforts in combating the COVID‑19 pandemic, every one of us will strive to slow the spread of this virus. Since the COVID‑19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health crisis—especially now that we're seeing the consequences of the third wave—that has shaken the foundation of our economic, political and social security, it should our main focus and that of this committee.
However, as regards the amendment before us and my thoughts on the matter, let me explain why I think we should reinvite our Deputy Prime Minister. She is a remarkable woman, and I'm sure she played a key role in the prorogation discussions that took place between the Prime Minister and members of the cabinet. I believe she could tell us what they were thinking and their reason for deciding to prorogue Parliament. I think we already have the information we need, but if committee members want to hear more, I'm sure the Minister of Finance would be the right person to tell us more and answer our questions.
Our government understood from the start of the pandemic that COVID‑19 was truly disrupting all our lives. Who would have thought last year that we'd still be working on Zoom? I bet everyone of us thought at the time that we'd all be back in Ottawa sitting together in the committees as one big family. In the end, we're still isolating at home. Office buildings are empty, streets are quiet, and schools in many places are closed.
We in Acadie really can't complain because we're starting to resume our routines and lives. However, cases are increasing for my colleagues from Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, and they're facing a truly serious third wave. We have to continue following public health guidelines and encouraging people to get vaccinated, since that's what will help us get through this crisis.
However, I must say I'm very proud of Canadians and our communities. People have really adapted. Our government had to strike a balance between health and the economy. In some public debates, people said we had to choose between health and the economy in responding to the pandemic. But that's a false choice, as the Minister of Finance has said on numerous occasions. We have to understand that health and the economy are joined at the hip. As we often say, health and the economy go together.
We promised to be there for Canadians during the pandemic until order was restored in society. That's a promise that we made and will keep. Our government had a number of general objectives: to protect the health and safety of Canadians, to provide them with the economic support they needed to self-isolate at home in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus and, lastly, to protect their jobs and livelihoods.
We asked Canadians to do some extraordinary things, to stay at home, because we wanted to prevent the virus from spreading. Most Canadians have listened to us. We have to be there to help them and to support them through these incredibly trying times.
We shut down the borders to protect the health and safety of Canadians. We provided the provinces and territories with $19 billion in funding under the safe restart agreement. We purchased personal protective equipment and screening test kits and pre-ordered and delivered vaccines, and we're still delivering them.
The most important things we can do to slow the spread of COVID‑19 are to vaccinate, test, conduct contact tracing and self-isolate. I think testing and contact tracing were the magic bullet in Atlantic Canada. They really were our key to identifying and isolating infected individuals.
Our provinces are definitely smaller, but I believe those screening efforts are part of the magic solution that has protected Atlantic Canada. Our government purchased vaccine doses and tests and provided contact tracing.
I also think that, if we invited Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, she could explain to the the committee the government's thinking on the prorogation and its purpose and describe those discussions to us.
The most extensive vaccination campaign in the country's history is under way here in Canada. According to Canada's top vaccine coordinator, we should have access to enough COVID‑19 vaccine by the end of June to give every Canadian a first dose. Mr. Fortin frequently tells us we're on track to take delivery of at least 44 million doses of vaccine by the end of June and should have more than 100 million doses of various vaccines by late September.
Consequently, with vaccines being deployed, there's light at the end of the tunnel. Once again, we can't put all our eggs in one basket. We're eager to get the vaccines, but we also have to keep following public health guidelines, since vaccines alone won't get us through this crisis. We have to keep following those guidelines.
When we needed help from the men and women of our armed forces in the spring, they came in and took care of our seniors. My friend and colleague Mr. Lauzon spoke passionately about the work they did and the services they have provided to Canadians during the crisis.
The long-term care homes were hit hard by the first wave of COVID‑19, and more than 70% of COVID deaths occurred among persons over 80 years of age, approximately twice the average for the other developed countries. It was truly tragic to witness the damage this pandemic caused initially and unfortunately once again during the second wave.
I'm thinking of the many long-term care homes in my community of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe. The seniors who died weren't just numbers. Seniors are people we know. I regularly visit long-term care homes every year as a member of Parliament. The people there love to chat and hear what we're doing and what our policies are. They want to know if and when pensions will be increased. We often dance with them. They aren't just numbers; they're our friends, our neighbours. I miss them and they miss me; we all want to gather again soon and spend some time together.
We owe everything to our seniors, who have helped build this country, including safe and dignified care. I realize we're here to discuss the budget that was announced yesterday, but I was very pleased to learn that $3 billion will be invested to assist long-term care homes because we acknowledge that those institutions need more help.
The lives lost in long-term care homes are the greatest tragedy of this pandemic. Many of us have expressed our concerns on numerous occasions. We must make every effort to ensure that our seniors receive necessary services and attention. Although long-term care is a provincial and territorial jurisdiction, our government will take every possible measure to support seniors in cooperation with the provinces and territories. Our government will work with Parliament to amend the Criminal Code to penalize specifically those whose neglect of the seniors under their care would put those seniors at risk.
Our government will also cooperate with the provinces and territories in establishing new national long-term care standards to ensure that seniors receive the best possible care. I won't repeat the comments made by my colleague Mr. Lauzon, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Seniors, since he's given us a very good recap of everything that has to be done to correct the situation.
Once again we must emphasize that the creation of national standards for care facilities is a necessity. We have to introduce additional measures to assist people, and, I would say, not just to provide them with long-term care, but also to assist them in living at home as long as possible.
I know our seniors here in New Brunswick tell us that if they had a choice whether to live at home longer or to move into a seniors' residence, they would prefer to stay at home. I'm sure that situation isn't unique to New Brunswick, that it's the same across Canada. In New Brunswick, we conducted a pilot project with the province's assistance two years ago to establish programs enabling seniors to stay at home as long as possible. We could invite Minister Freeland to come and tell us about their options in that regard. This is clearly a valid option if we want to protect our seniors in this manner.
Some significant measures were outlined in the Speech from the Throne, which was delivered following the prorogation and extensive consultations. I'm sure a lot of my colleagues held many consultation sessions, as I did, in our communities during the prorogation period. People told us about their priorities, particularly during a global pandemic. The priorities outlined in the 2019 Speech from the Throne were similar to those in place during the pandemic, although there were also some differences. Priorities changed. The prorogation period helped us self-evaluate and assess the government's priorities. I think it might be a good idea to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister on where we stand in implementing those priorities.
Seniors are an integral part of all our communities, and we must do everything in our power to protect their health, rights and well-being. We must value their experience, knowledge and talents, and we must address the challenges they face in society.
To preserve jobs and livelihoods, the government put strong measures in place to protect businesses and workers. I think Ms. Freeland could tell us what she thinks of those measures if we invited her to appear before the committee.
We had to take those strong measures because the virus could only be slowed down and stopped by limiting social contacts, which meant restricting economic activity. That meant shutting down workplaces and limiting the number of persons served in restaurants. As we can see now, contacts need to be limited further to address the pandemic as a result of the third wave now under way in many provinces.
It also meant isolating people at home after work, if they were sick or if their children were sick. It would simply have been unfair to ask businesses to shut down and workers to stay at home without compensating them for lost income.
Less than a week after our country shut down, the government announced a recovery plan including $27 billion in emergency assistance for workers and businesses and $55 billion for tax payment deferrals. We provided billions of dollars to assist businesses in obtaining [Technical difficulty—Editor] and keeping workers on their payrolls, while enhancing federal benefits and support programs for individuals who had lost their jobs.
I'm sure you remember very clearly the daily calls and conversations we had with officials in the departments responsible. As a parliamentarian, I was pleased to see all the political parties working hard together to develop the best possible programs. At first, the programs obviously weren't perfect. We didn't have all the answers, but together we modified those programs to meet Canadians' needs. Once again, Ms. Freeland could tell us what she thinks of them if we invited her to come and speak to us.
The funds released would help Canadians pay their rent and buy groceries and assist businesses in continuing to pay their employees and suppliers.
I did a quick search yesterday, focusing solely on New Brunswick, to see what spending or investment is being provided here, just to give you an idea.
If you look at the Canada emergency business account, as of April 15 of this year, 11,870 loans had been made to businesses for a total value of $626 million.
For the Canada emergency rent subsidy, as of February 24, 1,364 tenants in New Brunswick, representing 10,282 employees, received total funding of $11.59 million. That's a really impressive number.
As for the Canada emergency rent subsidy and lockdown support, as of February 14, we had received 3,210 applications, which were approved for total subsidies amounting to $7.4 million.