Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank my colleague, Mr. Kent.
Maybe, Mr. Kent, the delay in translation didn't allow you to really see the link I'm trying to draw, but there is a very important link here, because if you look at our amendment, it's about, as you said, hearing from the Deputy Prime Minister and hearing from the diversity minister about COVID.
If you look at the initial motion by my colleague Ms. Vecchio, which is really about the reasons we had to prorogue, this is all linked together, so maybe you'll allow me to continue. Maybe I'll do it in English for a little way and then I'll come back, because I want Mr. Kent to really see the link as I try to draw that link clearly.
COVID is the issue and prorogation is a reason why.... I'll go into that afterwards, but this announcement was on an investment from the federal government that we're doing in all provinces, not just Nova Scotia. I'd like to say it's just Nova Scotia, but that wouldn't go well with you, Mr. Kent, and I could understand that. This is a federal government announcement, part of the $2 billion for education, to try to create space—outdoor classrooms. Again, as I was saying, we need to pivot now. This challenge, this crisis, is allowing us to better understand the gaps.
I'm a former teacher, Mr. Kent, and in my profession, we've been talking for probably 30 years—I'll be honest with you—about how important it is to teach outdoors and to have students actively participating and learning in the outdoor space, and here we are, finally. We've done something. It has been minimal to now, but here, finally, we officially are creating spaces and parks, or benches or seating areas, areas in which to play and learn at the same time. The announcement was a contribution of $5.6 million to help us through COVID in education, Mr. Kent, as you can understand. The province is coming in with, I believe, $1.6 million as well. So that's $7.2 million.
What's so important about the announcement is that, for one thing, we were able to do it in person, which COVID has stopped. In Ontario, it would be a dream, maybe, to get that done, but we were able to do it and keep our distance and wear our masks. Elbows were the closest way of touching, I guess. There were no handshakes, as you can understand.
It was so important. Because of this COVID challenge, this will create official space for every elementary school in the province of Nova Scotia. This is what I said to the people in the audience. For every elementary school in the province of Nova Scotia, they will have outdoor learning spaces, which they will choose with the school advisory councils and the school boards, to ensure that learning outside will be an integral part of learning in general.
That is extremely important. When we talk about young people, I want to stress that what we're seeing in this challenge, this crisis, is that there are more young people in Ontario and Quebec who seem to be experiencing COVID-19 challenges, more challenges than we have seen in the past. This is something that we really have to think about, because we saw a big gap in long-term care in terms of how we need to deal with that as politicians, as representatives of the people.
This thing about parties—Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green—is not what it's about. This is a team Canada approach. We need to do the right thing, and to do that, we need to have our Deputy Prime Minister share with us some of the key things that we have done, that we are doing and that we need to do. That's extremely important by itself.
Now that I got that announcement by, I want to talk about prorogation, because that is actually the motion that Ms. Vecchio brought to the table, which is important. It is very important.
I'll be very honest with you. When the Prime Minister announced that we were going to prorogue Parliament, I stopped for a second and thought, “Why would we do that? Is it the right thing to do? Is it what Canadians would want us to do?”
I thought about that and the answer was very clear right away. I can tell you all that it doesn't matter which party and it doesn't matter which stripe, I would have agreed with any prime minister that prorogation was an absolute necessity.
I don't think anyone listening today would disagree with that. I know some of my colleagues might want to punch holes in that argument, but think, really think about what prorogation means. It means to restart, reset, refocus. Yes.
I guess the only other reason that might be as important would be a war. We had no choice.
As I have said before, I'm an educator by trade. All of us in all our professions, and I know, Ms. Petitpas Taylor in her work prior to being elected, at one point or another would have had to contribute to strategic planning, to setting an agenda, to setting a vision, to setting the steps that are necessary to achieve the outcomes we're looking for. We would have done consultations with all stakeholders to set that plan. I like to call it the map. Who's responsible for those achievements?
Well, my friends, we had no choice, because we as a country, prior to this prorogation, prior to this pandemic, prior to this challenge, were on the road of great success in a short period of time.
My friends, what I mean by that is in the four and a half or five years prior to COVID....
I still remember, as we all do, many of us, from different parties. I think, Ms. Vecchio, you might have been there, and Mr. Kent might have been there at the airport in the waiting lounge. We were going home on March 13. I thought we would be back in a month. We all thought we would be back in a month. We didn't realize the challenges that lay ahead. We just didn't foresee. Who could have foreseen at that time?
That's why we had to reset. We knew that we would have to have another look at the priorities we had laid out following the 2019 election. We would have to make sure that we were not trying to continue the great economy we had prior to March 13. You all know that Canadians had hired, and over one million new jobs had been created by Canadians. You all know that we had the lowest unemployment rate in the history, and they say in 40 years but there were no statistics prior to that. The economy was steaming ahead. We had lifted over 900,000 Canadians out of poverty. Those are major numbers.
The success was clear and we were on that track. It was a very positive track. Then we were faced with a cement wall, a crisis never experienced before. I say that but I have to share with you a very important story that is directly linked, Mr. Kent, to this very important discussion.
I'm from Nova Scotia, as you know, but I'm also from Cape Breton, which is an island off the mainland. You all know that, I think. What you may not know is that I'm actually from an island off the island of Cape Breton. It's a very small island
called Isle Madame. Mr. Therrien may visit my island one day. Some members of the Standing Committee on Official Languages had a chance to spend a few days there during the committee's trip.
I mention Isle Madame, which Mr. Therrien will soon be visiting, because a Samson family monument was erected in Lévis, Quebec, to celebrate Canada's 100th anniversary.
I want to speak to you about something very important.
In 1918, my friends, we were faced with a major pandemic. Millions and millions of people lost their lives. What I want to share with you—because this is similar, there are a lot of similarities—is that the island I'm from, Isle Madame, was actually the island hardest hit by the 1918 pandemic, per capita, in Canada. As I told you before, of course, we only had 6,000 people on the island. Now we're down to 4,000 and some.
Mr. Therrien, 99% of them are Acadians. The remaining 1% became Acadian indirectly, being anglophones from Newfoundland who married islanders. They were ship's captains and fishermen.
As you know, the Acadians were farmers before the expulsion. Then we became fishermen because we weren't allowed to return to our fertile lands in the valley. We were sent to live near the sea instead because we were considered poor at the time. We weren't allowed to communicate, but we were allowed to fish. Remember, and Ms. Petitpas Taylor and others can confirm this, lobster was considered a poor man's meal at the time.
Today, it's probably the richest meal on the table, or close to it, and guess what? The land is next to the ocean and the water is probably the richest as well, so the tables have turned.
We experienced challenges then. In those days, there were 10, 15 or 20 people in a family. I've seen families from that generation who lost 50% of their kids to the 1918 pandemic. This is serious.
They had their community and they had their family but government was not as present as it is today. That's why the struggle was even worse. Today, we have been able to support individuals and families.
Let me get back to prorogation, because that's what this motion is really about, and I don't want Mr. Kent to tell me that I am not linking this yo prorogation, because it is crucial. Again, there's no question it was a need that any government should have and would have done—I know that—and we did it because we had to.
You know, I had to do a little bit of homework, because I wanted to see the government prior to our government. I wanted to check what the government of our friend Mr. Harper did. Some of you may have been in that government, but most of you were not. Did he prorogue Parliament? Let's look at the importance that lies in prorogation. Well, I found out that, in 2008, the Harper government asked the Governor General to prorogue Parliament. You ask why. Well, let me share that with you.
It actually happened shortly before, not after, not during—you guessed it—a vote of confidence that would have defeated the Conservative government, the minority government. It would have probably been a coalition between the Liberals and the NDP at the time, supported, I might add—for Monsieur Therrien, it's important—by the Bloc at the time. He prorogued. Now, I have to weigh that with proroguing in a pandemic, one of the biggest challenges in the world, the 2020 pandemic: prorogue to set a new agenda or prorogue to hide from a vote of confidence. I think this one would win.
Let's go to 2009. Let's go to the next year because—you guessed it—there was another prorogation. The government of the day, the Harper government, said, “We're faced with an economic challenge. We know there was a recession in 2008. We know that. We're not going to deny that because we're team Canada here; we're working together.” The Harper government decided to prorogue to consult with Canadians, with the business community, to see if maybe we should do some adjustments, some resetting, some refocusing of our priorities. Well, that's better; that's much better, I have to say. Between 2008 and 2009, this one is better. It's still not as difficult and challenging as when you don't really, truly know what's coming at you, when it's directly linked to health, but, hey, the economy is up there. It's not as high as the one that we did in 2020, but it has more merit. I know that Mrs. del Vecchio will be pleased to know that this one is much better. I can understand the prorogation there.
Now I'll go to 2013, if you'll allow me. Yes, you guessed it again: the Conservatives, the Harper government, decided to prorogue again. Let's look now, because I want to go back to the question of Mrs. del Vecchio.
Am I pronouncing del Vecchio right? I want to make sure. She's a good colleague of mine.