That the House: (a) acknowledge the extraordinary work of health care workers (including doctors, nurses and orderlies) during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with seniors but also with the general public; (b) recognize the courage and sacrifices required from them and their families in order to be on the front lines; (c) highlight the work of Quebec and the provinces in responding to the health crisis and note the direct impact on their respective budgets; and (d) call on the government to significantly and sustainably increase Canada health transfers before the end of 2020 in order to support the efforts of the governments of Quebec and the provinces, health care workers and the public.
Mr. Speaker, there are not many coincidences in life. It is no coincidence that our motion focuses primarily on the compassion that we should have not only for those who have contracted COVID-19, but also for front-line workers who, day after day, including during the holiday season, continue to give their all and expose themselves to the virus without regard for the risk to their own health.
Yesterday, the Liberal government presented its economic statement. It is also no coincidence that the Liberal government presented an economic update while telling us that the big spoonful of cod liver oil has to be taken right now. We need to open wide while the Liberals stuff $380 billion in deficit down our throats. They are telling us not to worry about it because we will never have to pay it back.
Usually, when someone makes that kind of promise and says right off the bat that nobody will ever have to pay, it is because they think something will absolve them from that debt. In this government's case, that is because it will no longer be in power. This government is creating the debt, and that might be justified in some ways but less justified in others considering how it went about doing things. The government expects others to do the hard work. Imagine shovelling snow just by pushing it forward. The snow will pile up and get heavier and harder to move. It will take forever, but other people will be wielding the shovel.
The government is laying this deficit on us now. In the spring, once vaccine distribution has begun, people will forget that they are getting it six or 12 weeks after everyone else. They will be a little less afraid. The government is laying the deficit on people while they are afraid so they will think it is justified.
In the spring, when budget time rolls around, there will be gifts galore, my friends. It will be nuts. Christmas will not come on December 25. It will come at the end of March. They will be throwing money around all over the place.
Obviously this is a prelude to an election. Everyone is saying so. I have to say, the whole thing makes me laugh. If the government thinks that trampling on provincial responsibilities, showing contempt for Quebec's values and language, and not giving Quebeckers and seniors in Quebec the means they need to protect their health, is the way to develop an election platform, then I have news for them. They are developing our platform. We are going to denounce all of this. We will offer another solution and will always preserve Quebec's powers in health.
Earlier I was telling a journalist that if he and I urgently needed $10 and we each had $5, I would give him my $5 if the issue was his responsibility. That would protect our combined investment since it would be his expertise.
A federal government that does not administer hospitals, does not manage nurses or doctors or is not the one that hires the orderlies does not have expertise managing the health care system. It is not only keeping its $5, but also the other party's $5. We are supposed to think that is normal. It is using people's fears for political gain.
It can never be said enough in this economic statement. There is something purely human in this.
We have been in a pandemic since March. The people who are the most vulnerable and most at risk in terms of health, the ones who are most likely to die if exposed to the coronavirus, are seniors. The people whose purchasing power has not increased—apart from those who have written telling us that they had a 61¢ increase in taxable income; how insulting—those whose purchasing power has been reduced the most because food costs more, getting around is more complicated and they have to rely on delivery, are once again seniors. The people who suffer the most from isolation are seniors. Adolescents are not the only ones experiencing distress and mental health problems that emerge in adulthood. Seniors also have mental health problems.
Where is the additional financial support for seniors in the economic statement?
There was no money for seniors. That is not nothing. Actually, it is nothing.
The government says it is prepared to spend $1 billion out of about $380 billion on top of the upcoming recovery costs. We expect that will happen during the election campaign. The government is offering up $1 billion out of the $380 billion, provided that the provinces, the doomed Gaulish chieftains of health care, surrender their power to Prime Minister Caesar, acknowledging that he is now in command of health care. Astérix might not like that, but here is the gist: The provinces are being asked to surrender their powers over health care in exchange for a cheque. It makes no sense, but that is the plan.
I have heard people say that this economic statement was about heart, not about numbers. I do not believe that. If the government were doing this out of the goodness of its heart, it would be looking after the most vulnerable and most fragile. The government would not be doing this petty political wheeling and dealing by withholding resources that are vital to our health care system and to the basic quality of life of our seniors, who will be spending Christmas alone in their rocking chairs watching TV. Have they no shame? This is very serious.
Let's briefly talk about health. We heard that, on December 5, there would be a meeting between the Prime Minister of Canada, the Premier of Quebec and the provincial and territorial premiers to talk about health transfers. We thought that the Deputy Prime Minister would help the Prime Minister come up with better ideas. We are seeing almost the opposite. The Prime Minister announced that he was arriving empty-handed and would be talking about all kinds of other things. To ensure that he would not be hounded after the meeting, he postponed it until the end of the session in Ottawa. That is really convenient. The opposition parties will therefore not have the opportunity to question the government about the fact that he went empty-handed to a meeting with the premiers, in an attempt to keep part of the money they are owed. He is using a serious crisis and people's misfortune to centralize political power and to set the stage for an election where Canada will be pitted against Quebec. They will be put in their place. This has worked before and it could work again. We are here and it may also not work.
The government should have been talking about the economic recovery. Yesterday's economic update puts that topic off until later because the government was announcing the bad news about the deficit, even though we all basically knew what was coming in that regard. The government is telling people not to worry because interest rates are low and now is the time to put everything on credit. The federal government is taking the credit cards of Quebec and the provinces, heading to Costco and filling its cart. The Liberals are building an election platform with money belonging to Quebec and the provinces.
When it gets closer to election time, the government will table a budget announcing all sorts of measures—so many measures, in fact, it will defy reason. Unfortunately, things do not work like that.
The economic recovery could involve many things. I will talk about three of them. Members will not be surprised to hear me talk about help for seniors again because, in the regions of Quebec, and I assume it is the same in the regions of Canada, seniors spend their money on a daily basis, so much so that many of them do not have enough money right now. All of that money would be quickly injected into the regions' economies, thus contributing to the rapid recovery of the economy when this pandemic is over. If the Liberals are unable to help seniors out of the goodness of their hearts, then they should do it because it makes financial sense. That is money that will be invested in the recovery.
Even the money that we are calling for for the health care systems in Quebec and the provinces is money invested in the economic recovery because those services need to be provided. If Quebec does not get the $200 million that the federal government should be giving the provinces, then it will have to find that money somewhere else.
The $200 million that Quebec will have to take from somewhere else to put into the health care system will not be used by Premier Legault or Minister Fitzgibbon to stimulate the Quebec economy, to support Quebec businesses or to help Quebec businesses get through this catastrophic crisis.
Health transfers therefore represent money that needs to flow so that Quebec can contribute to its own economic recovery.
Of course, there is the recovery in the traditional sense of the word. We will inject large amounts of money to stimulate economic activity. The basic principle remains unchanged: Every employed person represents one less expense and additional tax revenue for the government. In hockey that would be a four-point gain.
We need to get people back to work in hospitality, arts, tourism, the industrial sector, all public services and food services. This will mean a lot of people all returning to work at the same time, and it will take planning to make that happen. It is simple: If people do not know the details of the government's economic stimulus package, they cannot prepare for it. However, the government appears to want to keep those details to itself so that sometime in March it can deliver a budget that illustrates how wonderful and generous the government is to businesses.
We will be just starting to come out of COVID-19, since the most vulnerable and the most at risk of dying will have been vaccinated, front-line workers will have been vaccinated, and a big chunk of the work will have been done—later than in the U.S., Germany, the U.K. and India, but it will be done by then. The government will then come along with a bunch of good news that will open an electoral window but, in the meantime, businesses do not know what to plan for.
The government says it contributed by committing $25 billion in funding, but of that $25 billion, $15 billion is for the wage subsidy, which will make the NDP and the Green Party happy. The remaining $10 billion is for other measures, some of which are very good, such as the support for the electric vehicle purchasing program or the energy efficient retrofits. All these measures are interesting, but this $10 billion out of a total of $400 billion makes us realize that the bulk of the economic update is not going to the recovery.
In addition to the sincere compassion we feel every day for our seniors and those who are sick, we fear that the government is laying the groundwork for an election on Quebec's dime. I repeat. If the federal government's plan is to trample on Quebec's jurisdictions, trample on seniors' interests and quality of life, and trample on Quebeckers' values and language, then it is quite likely that Quebeckers will not like its plan very much. It is quite likely that we will come back here with as many or possibly more MPs to address all this.