Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Vaughan—Woodbridge.
I join the debate today with a certain amount of disappointment that the official opposition is choosing to use today's motion, not to discuss the issues that matter to Canadians during this pandemic but instead to continue a partisan and unnecessary attack on the government. Those members could be using today's debate to promote an issue that would have a real impact on Canadians, but instead they have chosen an unfortunate and confrontational approach that is out of touch with the needs of Canadians.
Unlike the Conservative Party, our government remains focused on the issues that are affecting Canadians across the country, irrespective of their political leanings, just as we have since the beginning of this pandemic. We hope that in the future we will see more of the collaborative approach from opposition parties to adopting and improving measures that will have a clear benefit for Canadians, similar to what we as a Parliament were able to accomplish early during the pandemic.
Canadians today are facing a second wave of COVID-19 and that leaves people worrying about their jobs, the safety of their families and friends, and even just their day-to-day lives. Responding to those needs should be the focus for us as Parliamentarians to support them in their time of need. To that end, I would like to take my time today to look at some of the measures our government introduced to ensure the safety and continued prosperity of Canadians.
When the pandemic first came to Canadian shores, our government worked tirelessly to ensure that Canadians trapped abroad were able to return to the country. I wonder if members recall what those early days and weeks were like, when citizens in my riding of Châteauguay—Lacolle, and I know across the country, had been travelling across various parts of the world.
In our case, a group of school children were in Honduras when the pandemic hit. Lockdowns were happening and countries were closing their borders. We had to work urgently to get those young people back as well as many other travellers. I heard members of other parties say how much they appreciated the work of Global Affairs, the public servants, extra staff and call centres in getting Canadians back safely.
We worked with airlines and foreign governments to find ways to get Canadians home from far-flung regions around the world. It was a challenging and difficult process, but we were able to get the job done with the support of commercial airlines and partners.
In doing so, we had to ensure the safety of Canadians at home and required that those entering Canada had to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return. In the early days of this pandemic, people were wondering if that was necessary. It absolutely was. Today, it is a matter of course. It is well accepted by Canadians in the interest of public health. This policy remains important to this day as we attempt to flatten the curve of the second wave.
Along those same lines, we have continued to follow the best guidance of our doctors and scientists to protect Canadians, and I emphasize that fact. This is not a political or partisan point of view. This meant making some difficult choices along with our provincial and territorial partners, choices that would make it difficult for many Canadians to earn a living, making it a struggle to pay for their groceries, rent and everyday needs through no fault of their own. I say these were choices, but in a sense they were the right things to do.
Having made the difficult but clearly necessary decisions to protect Canadians, we had to implement quick, agile policy to support those who would be most affected.
Knowing full well that the health of Canadians was at stake, our government had to find innovative ways to help all those who were affected. In March, we introduced the Canada emergency response benefit, the CERB. This was unprecedented.
As I said, earlier, Canadians needed to replace the income they had lost through no fault of their own. Through this benefit, Canadians who lost their source of income because of the pandemic were able to receive up to $2,000 per month. I know that people in my riding really appreciated that. It meant that ordinary Canadians were able to maintain their purchasing power and keep the economy running at a basic minimum level.
Never before has the government reacted so quickly by implementing this type of program to guarantee that all Canadians received the help that they so desperately needed.
The CERB was essential for those who had lost their jobs, those who had to self-isolate and those who had to care for someone with COVID-19. Every day, my riding office received calls and emails from people who were affected not only by the loss of their job, but also by having to keep their children at home or by the illness itself. This financial support was critical.
We also recognized that the pandemic was having a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups in our society. We announced several measures to help the most vulnerable Canadians cope with the health and socio-economic effects of the pandemic, measures such as support for people experiencing homelessness and for women and children facing violence.
Kids Help Phone experienced a dramatic surge in demand, so we increased our support for that organization. We invested millions of dollars in food banks and other organizations to improve access to food for Canadians in need. In Châteauguay, Saint-Rémi and Mercier in my riding, people were very grateful for that. All these investments gave community organizations the support they needed to provide essential services to vulnerable and needy Canadians.
Together with the provinces and territories, we also announced up to $3 billion to top up the wages of low-income essential workers. These people kept going to work every morning to make sure their neighbours, neighbourhoods and communities could get everything they needed. They showed up for work every day despite the risks associated with COVID-19, and Canadians were able to count on them.
I could speak for another 10 minutes about all the programs we have brought in, but I would just like to mention a few. The Canada emergency wage subsidy was created to allow businesses to retain their employees. The deferral of GST payments essentially amounted to an interest-free short-term loan. We also made close to $25 billion available to banking institutions to provide loans to small businesses in need. Finally, we launched a loan guarantee program for SMEs.
We announced early plans to support Canadian businesses as they scaled up production and retooled their manufacturing to develop made-in-Canada products that would fight against COVID-19. I would like to congratulate all those businesses for the good work they did right from the beginning, including those in my riding of Châteauguay—Lacolle, where farmers, manufacturers and transport companies stepped up the challenge.
The Conservatives are clearly deciding to put themselves before Canadians. This is a cheap political move. This motion is intended to paralyze the government and I do not agree with it at all.