Madam Speaker, it is a real honour to rise on behalf of the people of Barrie—Innisfil to speak in reply to the throne speech.
Before I begin, I would very much like to thank all first responders, not just in Barrie—Innisfil but right across those country, those who have been on the front line, health care workers. As a former firefighter in 2003, I recall the SARS crisis and the anxiety that was felt by myself and others who I worked with in the paramedic and police services in dealing with that crisis. That anxiety was heightened by the fact that we did not know if we would get the virus and take it home.
I really appreciate the first responders and front-line health care workers. They deserve our greatest respect.
I also want to thank the administration staff in the House. I know Gaétan is keeping all our desks clean so we do not take the virus back to our ridings.
Six weeks ago, the government prorogued Parliament. At the time, we were at the height of a scandal that was becoming more emboldened as new information became available. The Prime Minister said that the reason why he would prorogue Parliament was to come up with a bold and ambitious new course for the country. I would suggest that the ambition was on the part of the Prime Minister to save his political skin at that time.
Members will recall that the government was becoming more embroiled in the scandal. More information was becoming available. There were more indictments of individuals who were involved. Therefore, the Prime Minister and the government simply decided to prorogue Parliament so they could make it go away. It is not going away.
Let us look at the Prime Minister's bold and ambitious plan. If any of us looked back to the 2015 election platform of the Liberal Party, “Real Change”, we would see that much of what was promised back then was recycled or rehashed in this throne speech. Many of us will recall that at the beginning of the current government, in 2015, Liberals were big on “deliverology”, but we have seen very little in that regard, except for this rehashing and recycling of promises.
At the beginning of this crisis, all of us were working together in a team Canada approach. I said this the other night when I spoke to Bill C-4. Many MPs were on the front lines. We became the front line voice of the government, because in many cases Service Canada offices were closing. People were calling our offices because they were anxious. The level of anxiety was heightened as a result of the fear, the unknown and the uncertainty of what was going to happen next.
All of us worked together. Many programs that were announced initially became woefully inadequate, and were found to be that. The Canada emergency wage subsidy, for example, started off at 10%. If it was not for the opposition, all opposition parties, and I am sure the government heard about it as well from business, then that wage subsidy would not have been brought up to the level it was.
There were problems with the CERB. People were falling through the gaps. Maternity benefits is an example of where people were falling through the gaps on CERB. It was the same with the CEBA, the Canada emergency business account. A lot of businesses did not qualify for that benefit.
We all parliamentarians worked together to ensure that these programs were in place. Of course, they were meant to be temporary.
Now as we enter into a new wave of COVID-19, clearly we as parliamentarians and the government need to be there to help Canadians. However, we need to be there in recovery as well, not so much as an issue of dependence on the government but to create a recovery plan. What I fail to see in the throne speech is that recovery plan.
What does recovery look like?
We have to ensure the government gets out of the way of recovery and allow the power of the free market, allow the power of Canadian businesses, the people they employ and the products they produce to do that. It comes in every sector of our economy.
The other thing we did not see in the throne speech was any sense of investor confidence in those sectors of our economy that have been decimated as a result of government policy, legislation and regulation.
Clearly the natural resources sector has been impacted has been impacted as a result of the government. We hear many stories of Alberta being on its knees as a result of the legislation, Bill C-69 and Bill C-48, regulation and taxation policies that have been imposed on the sector. We want to ensure we move from dependance to recovery, and there was very little in the throne speech that spoke to this.
With respect to recovery, the other area we really need to focus on is the issue of rapid testing. I find it curious that just yesterday the government approved a rapid test for which an application had been filed with Health Canada just 24 hours before. It is amazing how rapidly the government and Health Canada will move when there is a tremendous amount of anxiety on the part of Canadians who are standing in line for COVID-19 testing. The fact is that rapid testing has been around in other countries. Twelve countries around the world have approved rapid testing, many of them our allies. We have trade pacts and trade agreements with them. Many rapid tests have been put in front of Health Canada, so why the delay? Why the delay that further causes problems for Canadian families that have to wait in line for testing and then for the results?
Rapid testing is going to become critical for us in out recovery. I was glad to see the rapid test approved, but the government needs to do more to ensure that it is there.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said that the longer the spending plan goes on it will become unsustainable: $343 billion in deficits, approaching $1.2 trillion in debt. That is on the expenditure side of the ledger. We will need to ensure that we create revenue to pay for these types of programs. We have to allow the power, as I said earlier, of the Canadian economy to do that through less legislation, less regulation, fewer policies, less taxation and create investor confidence that will provide us with the revenue we need to pay for those programs.
October 1 is a troubling day for many businesses, small and medium-sized enterprises. Rents are due today, yet the commercial emergency rent assistance program that business owners have relied on, though not many of them because it is a deeply flawed program, will cause those business owners problems.
The last thing I want to talk about are veterans. In its boldness and ambitiousness, the one thing that was neglected in the throne speech were veterans. Not one word of veteran was in the throne speech. Earlier this week, we heard from the Parliamentary Budget Officer about case loads approaching 50,000 that had to be adjudicated and they had yet to be processed. That means 50,000 veterans and their families are living with additional anxiety. I would hope the government would announce a plan to help fix that.
Two years ago the NDP suggested a plan to help alleviate some of those backlogs, and we supported it. The government needs to ensure that is fixed. As shadow minister for Veterans Affairs, I will do everything I can to hold the government to account to have those backlogs fixed.