Mr. Speaker, I am so proud to stand here and represent the amazing people in Elgin—Middlesex—London.
Like many other members, I would like to start by talking about my incredible staff who have helped so many people through this pandemic. I send a special thanks to Cathy, Jill, Jena, Charli, Kim and Scott who have really kept my feet to the ground in ensuring the people of Elgin—Middlesex—London are served during this pandemic. I would like to send them my absolute thanks, and thanks on behalf of all 116,000 constituents as well.
Today we have talked a lot about the role of a parliamentarian. I know, like others, some of us have come with a background of what a constituency office looks like. In the last two months, I have been a constituency assistant. I went back to a role I did for 11 years. I was a receptionist, I was whatever they needed me to do.
As a member of Parliament, we have two very distinct roles. One role is to serve our constituents and do what they need. We attend important events or have meetings with our mayors and stakeholders and we ensure their voices are heard in Parliament. Part of that role at the constituency office is also being the liaison with departments such as the Canada Revenue Agency, immigration or Service Canada. We have many roles.
My greatest role is to be the voice of Elgin—Middlesex—London in Parliament. That is why it is very important that Parliament resumes. Following this vote tonight, we know we will be back in our ridings doing work, but once again, limited to the work we can do.
I would also like to thank my husband. This morning Mike was installing proper protocol in my office so we can serve our constituents, starting June 1. I thank my husband for putting up Plexiglas, which is very important. Serving our constituents has to be safe.
Through this pandemic, I have listened to people talk about social versus capitalist, all of those ideas, whether one is NDP, Conservative, Liberal or Green.
I want to read a post from earlier today. This is from a friend of mine, Cindy Watters-Carroll. She is not part of the 1%. She is a single mom with two grown boys. Her son A.J. is a tattoo artist, and I would like to thank him for doing my tattoo on mental health. He is a wonderful man.
Both Cindy and A.J. are in businesses that cannot reopen. This is what she sent me earlier, “I fear for small business owners, even with the slow return to our businesses, how do we survive the economic massacre that will follow for years? Yes the government is helping albeit not enough, but what happens after they allow small businesses to reopen at only half capacity? they will not help financially then, we small business owners will struggle as the economy and everyone else struggles. Canada is in debt and not just a little debt, so as we move forward over the next year(s) the help for small businesses will be gone. The cost off PPE and extreme cleaning procedures is very expensive and adds to our overhead, all while we take in even less income from working at half capacity and take in less income from those that now choose only to shop on line.”
These are the kinds of challenges we are beginning to see.
Back at the beginning of January, my husband and many of his colleagues started businesses. He started a massage therapy business. Out of his graduating class, many of those people rented spaces and started their businesses. For two months, many of these graduates were up and running businesses.
This group, until just a couple weeks ago, was not able to get any support from the government. They had worked for two months. Very few had reached that line of $5,000, because they had been in school for 22 months. I took it upon myself, on behalf of the graduating class, to write a letter, saying that this was a missing group. What is really important is that I do not know if they spoke to any other members of Parliament, but they spoke to me and I wanted to ensure their voices were heard. I sent that letter here along with many other letters from constituents in which they expressed their concerns.
That is what Parliament is here for. It is not just about answering the questions. it is about what do we do to find solutions. I do not think the government recognizes that there are 338 parliamentarians, all with incredible backgrounds and skills. Whether they were lawyers, doctors, real estate agents or anything else, we all have something to offer, not just the people sitting at the cabinet table.
Those are concerns I have as we talk about why it is great that we are getting more opportunities to ask more questions. However, I am not just about questions. I also think I am part of the solution, and that is something that I am really hoping the government will understand.
Prior to this pandemic, we spoke to agricultural producers. We know there were issues in the dairy sector, beef and pork specifically if producers are trying to ship their goods to China, and in my area, grains and oilseeds, which is very large. People could be beekeepers or working in many of the other sectors that are a part of the agricultural sector that is one of the backbones of Elgin—Middlesex—London. They had all of these concerns going into the pandemic. They had issues with their grain being stopped at blockades. All of these things were happening and the government did not do a lot about them. As we moved forward, the pandemic hit. Not only did producers have the first barrier of not being able to get their goods to market, they also had the other barrier of COVID-19. Now they have two strikes against them.
We talk about small businesses. I have heard many people talk about the decades of hard work by Canadians to feed their families and to provide jobs for their employees. Today, we have talked a lot about access to the programs for these businesses. I am sure that all 338 of us in the House of Commons heard about some of the eligibility requirements that just truly took so many of these small businesses out of the loop.
There are issues with personal bank accounts versus business bank accounts. I probably had at least 20 to 25 different business owners contact me specifically about that.
Of course, there is the payroll issue. When people are operating a small business, they may not pay themselves out of the payroll. I was a small business owner, and I can promise that making sure my employees were paid first was my priority, as it is for many small business owners. Not only is it embarrassing when they cannot give their employees a cheque to cash, but they know that the business is not going to survive and they hope there will be a job for the employees to come back to.
We can also look now at the commercial rent program put out just yesterday. There have been questions in the House about it. Many of us have been working on this file, recognizing that there is a huge gap. Tenants have been calling me asking me to please call their landlords and explain this program to them. There are many landlords who do not want to get involved with it. The fact is there is a 25% loss to landlords as well, so getting them to buy in can be difficult. We recognize there are changes being made to this program, specifically to the mortgages, but at the end of the day we know who is going to be hurt. It is going to be small business owners, all of the employees in that area and the communities that risk losing these incredible assets, whether it is a business that works in tourism or shops or art galleries. All of these places right now are at risk. These issues are once again a huge concern. This is not about capitalists versus small businesses, or about making certain types of income. All people, whether old or young, rich or poor, are being impacted in a different way.
I just want to give a couple of thoughts specifically on the CERB program. We recognized in the HUMA committee that the government did not do a gender-based analysis of this. I wonder, too, if the Liberals did that with the wage subsidy program or with the business assistance program for the operating costs.
Finally, I want to finish on a couple of things. Why is Parliament really important? Just a few minutes ago, I read that we are looking at Huawei. If there are not people in this place to hold the government to account, will the Liberals be allowing businesses like Huawei to set up? If we are off in our ridings working, how are we going to be sure that the Prime Minister is not making backroom deals with Huawei? Those are things that are really important and that Canadians are concerned about.
This is about our critical infrastructure that needs to be updated, and we know that. We know that because we are talking here today on why we cannot connect Parliament with the rest of Canada. I talked about the fact that I could not even have a staff meeting. I know that my friend from Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, whom I am sharing my time with, was dropped from our first call when we were doing this Parliament.
There is a lot of work to be done.
The COVID pandemic is occurring and we need to deal with it, but the world has not stopped. Human trafficking has not stopped. Businesses have not stopped. We have to realize that we have to work alongside this and take these proper precautions. I wish the government would change its mind and resume Parliament as necessary because there is a lot of work to be done, but, unfortunately, we will continue to be on hold.