Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Etobicoke Centre.
Today I rise to speak on the Speech from the Throne. I first want to acknowledge all of those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and all of the families, parents, friends and communities that lost loved ones. For those who have recovered, like my good friend from Brampton West, I am so glad for them, but unfortunately so many families lost people to this virus.
It is precisely that loss and the seriousness of this virus that made the Speech from the Throne so important. We needed a reset. This is a crisis that generations have never seen before. Legislators need to be at the forefront, sorting out measures to ensure that Canadians are safe and healthy, and to ensure that post-COVID we will rebound to have a greater economy than we saw pre-COVID, with nearly a million new jobs created. That is precisely where we want to get back to. However, the health and safety of Canadians is paramount, and that is why the Speech from the Throne was so important in addressing a lot of these concerns.
In particular, the long-term care community in my home riding of Pickering—Uxbridge was hit hard. I think that, in Orchard Villa alone, there were 78 deaths. Nearly a third of the population in that long-term care home passed away. It was an extreme tragedy. In Uxbridge, Reachview Village lost 14 members of the community. These are our most vulnerable seniors, and my heart goes out to the families and staff members at the homes who are working hard every day to keep the community safe.
COVID-19 has demonstrated that there are gaps in long-term care homes, and I am extremely grateful to the Canadian Armed Forces members who went into Orchard Villa in my riding to provide help and support. Frankly, the report that they released was welcome news to many of the families. It was, in fact, just one week prior to that report being released that I was on a Zoom or Facebook call with family members who were describing the scenes in the long-term care home and what the residents were going through, but nobody was listening.
The families were frustrated because they could not go in to support their family members, and nobody was paying attention. Everybody was saying there were problems with PPE and with separating those who were infected from those who were not, that staff were going into wings that were COVID-free and then going into wings where people had COVID, and there was no reaction. When the Canadian Armed Forces released that report, those families were able to be heard. All of their concerns were now at the forefront, and we talked about them.
When the Speech from the Throne was delivered, my colleagues and I who worked on this file, and family members of residents in particular, were thrilled to see the acknowledgement of the need for national standards for long-term care homes. These are desperately needed. They were probably needed pre-COVID, but COVID really highlighted some of the gaps that needed to be addressed. National standards are a way to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again and that, no matter where one lives in this country, our most vulnerable seniors are going to have a standard of care.
The other thing in the Speech from the Throne, with regard to long-term care homes, was the acknowledgement and direction to change the Criminal Code to penalize any individual who neglects our seniors. We read some horrific stories in the Canadian Armed Forces report. In particular, in the home in my riding, we heard that PPE was under lock and key and critical tools were locked away in the basement. These might have prevented deaths had they been accessible to staff and those working hard for the community.
Therefore, that additional Criminal Code change would be incredibly important, moving forward, to hold those accountable who are essentially responsible for some of our most vulnerable Canadians. I think it was the Prime Minister who said that we as a country, we as a society, must really think about the fact that we had to send in soldiers to care for our seniors. That is something that I certainly have reflected on a lot. I hope everybody in this House and around the country thinks about it as we move forward with national standards.
The next area in the Speech from the Throne that I think was important and has resonated with many, certainly for me and my community, were the impacts on women during this crisis. It was predominantly women who took time off work to care for loved ones when they were sick. It was women who often took time off, when schools closed, to care for young children. It was interesting to see a lot of my friends who were trying to work from home with kids in the background. It certainly has proven the need for child care. Reliable child care across this country is incredibly important.
I come from the GTA outside of Toronto and child care is incredibly expensive if people can even find it. This acknowledgement of a national child care program is something that we absolutely needed pre-COVID, but COVID once again has highlighted the need for child care and the need to ensure that women are not adversely affected by the changes in the economy, because it is often women who are the caregivers. We still have so much work to be done in terms of equal pay and ensuring that women are integrated into the economy fairly, so any sort of setback is now just hindering our progress in terms of ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work.
To address this issue, the other thing that was important was the action plan for women in the economy. We need to fully understand what the impacts would be, short term as well as long term, for ensuring that women get back into the economy as they were pre-COVID, and women should be into the economy even more. The statistic we had previously was that if women's participation in the workforce were at the same level as men's, it would mean an equivalent to something like 3% in GDP growth. That is the type of economic building we want in this country.
There was a lot in the Speech from the Throne, but another area that is particularly important is support for students. Students were adversely affected because the summer is often when they work to pay for their rent or their college or university. Students are among the people who did not have jobs and they still have to go back to school and still have student debt. Therefore, the supports that we will provide to students to ensure that they do not graduate with enormous debt and they do have jobs on the other side are going to be good, not only for students but also for the economy.
Another piece is our universal broadband fund. My riding is semi-rural, but urban. It is right next door to Toronto, and yet we do not have adequate broadband. This is something that, again, pre-COVID was an issue but during COVID when kids were home learning from school virtually or people were working from home, connectivity was a major issue and something that I am glad we are accelerating our commitments on.
I want to acknowledge that the wage subsidy as well as CERB really helped support my community. Businesses would have closed without those supports. I know that we are going to be there to continue to help Canadians as we move forward.
In addition, the best way to help the economy is by dealing with this health crisis. On the other side, I know Canadians know that Liberals on this side of the House are going to be there to support them. We are going to be there to make sure they are healthy and safe. We are going to be there to build our economy back to pre-COVID and better, because we believe that investing in Canadians is the best way to grow the economy.