Madam Speaker, I want to start by framing the response to COVID-19. In the response by the Liberal government so far, what we have seen is that at every step of the way is that it has tried to do the minimum possible. The Liberals have tried to do the least possible, and at every step of the way we have pushed and fought and demanded more for people. That has been our experience throughout COVID-19. We have been demanding, fighting and pushing the government to deliver more for people.
When we look at every step, whether initially when the government proposed EI as being good enough to help Canadians, we said no, it was not going to cover all Canadians who needed help and so we fought and pushed to get the CERB. Initially, the Liberals were going to give $1,000 to Canadians, and we had to fight them on that. We had to demand, we had to negotiate and push hard to get $2,000 for Canadians. The Liberals were just not going to do it, but only the minimum possible, and we had to fight every step of the way.
The Liberals were willing to cut off people in July. They were going to cut off people from CERB without any help in place for the millions of Canadians who could not go back to work. We were willing to go to the brink to make sure that CERB was extended for Canadians in need.
Now, we have a bill in front of us that outlines some supports. Again, these are supports that we had to fight for throughout the pandemic.
From the beginning of the pandemic, Canadians living with disabilities were completely ignored. Some of the most desperate people living in some of the direst conditions were completely ignored by the Liberal government. We had to fight and to say that Canadians living with disabilities needed help and needed it now. We forced the government to promise to deliver that help. Two months later, there was still no help. Finally, today, we are seeing some legislation that would bring in some help for Canadians living with disabilities, but it is not going to cover everyone. That is a problem, and we are going to continue to fight to make sure there is help for everyone, for all Canadians living with disabilities.
We also fought to improve the wage subsidy. We knew that businesses needed some help and that we needed to connect workers to those businesses, and so we fought for some improvements to the wage subsidy program that would help workers and get people back to work. We are proud of that work.
Every step of the way, the Liberal government wanted to do the minimum possible to help people. That is why we pushed the government to increase the assistance it was offering to Canadians.
As for the bill tabled by the government, we were the ones who pushed it to support people with disabilities. We are proud to have achieved this result.
Again, however, the Liberal government is not helping everyone who has a disability. We will continue to fight for them and stick up for them, to ensure there is help for every person living with a disability.
We also pushed the government to make sure the wage subsidy would cover more businesses. We wanted to ensure that more people had access to this program and that everyone had access to work.
However, this is not enough. There is still so much more that needs to be done. We have seen again and again a theme emerging from the Liberal government, one in which there are lots of empty words and a lack of concrete action. Therefore, again Canadians are faced with the reality that at the end of August, CERB will be discontinued. For millions of Canadians who have no work to return to, this is a scary situation. They are worried and afraid.
That is why we are calling on the government to put in place a permanent change to EI. EI does not serve all Canadians; it only helps about 40% of Canadians. We need to make sure that EI is modified so that everyone who needs help gets that help. That is what we are going to fight for.
CERB will be discontinued at the end of August. When that happens, many people will be in a precarious position. They have no idea what lies ahead. That is why we need to improve EI to make sure that everyone who needs it can access that support.
In addition, if we look at the impact of COVID-19, it has been felt most by women. Women have borne the brunt of COVID-19. We see that in some really shocking numbers. Right now the participation of women in the work force is the lowest it has been in 30 years. This is a chilling statistic and something that creates great worry and fear for all of us.
What we need to do is to make sure that if COVID-19 has disproportionately affected women, we have a solution that recognizes that women have been the most impacted. That is why we are saying there can be no recovery from COVID-19 without child care. There can be no recovery without addressing the inequalities impacting women.
Not only do we need child care in place, but we are also seeing the impact of COVID-19 on schools. Education has to be considered a human right. Of course, there are jurisdictional issues, but the federal government has to step up and bring dollars to the table, funding to the table, to ensure there is adequate, affordable child care, as well as access to schools and education for everyone in this country.
It is not enough to say that the Liberal government is a feminist government or that the Prime Minister is a feminist prime minister, if women have been impacted most by COVID-19 and there is not a specific response to address that. If not, then those words are empty. We need a clear plan to address the lack of child care and the difficulties faced by schools. The federal government has to step up with funding to support both of those things.
It is obvious that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected women. We need a response that addresses the fact that women have borne the brunt of this pandemic. What we have seen so far is that the participation of women in the workforce is the lowest it has been in 30 years. That is unacceptable. That is why we need to provide funding and support to the provinces to ensure that everyone has access to child care. Child care is vital for getting through this crisis. It is absolutely essential. That is exactly what we are going to do. We are going to force this government to keep its promises so that everyone has access to child care.
Now I want to turn our attention to the current scandal that we are facing. In the middle of COVID-19, the government is mired in another scandal, this time involving WE.
I want to make one thing really clear. The government claims that it was trying to help students. I want to set that aside and make it really clear that this was never about helping students. This was about bailing out close friends of the Liberal government and close friends of the Prime Minister. If the government really wants to help out students, there are many existing programs it could immediately improve. It could immediately use existing programs like the Canada summer jobs program. It could immediately help students' access to universities by reducing their tuition or increasing grants or by reducing their debt.
There are so many things that the government could do if it really wanted to help students right now. It is a farce for the government to claim it is about helping students. It is clearly a billion-dollar bailout of close friends of the Liberal government and close friends of the Prime Minister. That is what the scandal is about; it is not about helping students.
I challenge the government: If it really wants to help students, it has a billion dollars it could put toward students right now. Put it toward reducing debt; put it toward reducing tuition fees; put it toward student programs or the summer jobs program. Do that.
The reality is that the government is not about helping students. The government did not want to help students; it wanted to bail out its friends.
The WE Charity scandal was not about the Liberals helping students. It was about the Liberals trying to help the close friends of the government and the Prime Minister.
We talked about empty gestures and a lack of action on COVID-19. In this crisis, we have talked about some of the help that Canadians need right now. We talked about the fact that the government made a choice to give a $1 billion bailout to close friends, but chose to make Canadians living with disabilities wait. The government made a choice to make Canadians who rely on the CERB to wait until the last moment before we forced them to extend it, but the government jumped so quickly to help its friends out with a $1 billion bailout.
These are the choices the government has made. It continues to choose again and again to quickly help out its friends, but to make people wait for help. That is the reality of this crisis. In the beginning of the crisis, the government jumped to help banks with billions of dollars, but again—