Madam Speaker, COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives, and we have heard it said many times before, but I have not had a chance to deliver a speech in this place since the pandemic began. While this is certainly not ideal, here we are, and I feel the need to speak for my constituents and have it on the record.
This pandemic has not only had an economic cost, but has also had a human cost, and not just in loss of life. My heart goes out to all those who have suffered a loss, and also to families who have been separated by borders and quarantine measures. I have heard from so many of my constituents who were and are still stranded abroad, desperately trying to get home to see their families. I have worked very hard to reunite families when possible. This has been a stressful time for everyone, and not being able to be with loved ones only makes the situation worse. I had to self-isolate from my family, which was very difficult to do, and so I sympathize and empathize with everyone going through this.
The emotional toll this has taken will need to be evaluated for years to come. The impact on the immigration department and its response times will also need to be addressed. The backlog we are facing is unprecedented.
Now, I know we are here to debate Bill C-20, but I would be remiss if I did not thank my constituents for their efforts during this truly difficult time. We had charities and businesses step up to provide for our community in the hardest of times. Meals were made and distributed, hand sanitizer and masks were delivered, and front-line workers have been exceptional. I am so proud of how we came together.
I also feel the need to express my thoughts for those who were directly impacted by the hail storm that ravished my riding on June 13. Many homes, vehicles and properties were damaged, causing further stress to those who were impacted. I would like to thank my provincial and municipal counterparts for all they are doing for emergency relief for my constituents. I will continue to work with all levels of government on this.
On Bill C-20, while I support getting help to Canadians who are struggling, I would be doing a disservice to my constituents if I did not pause and reflect on the timing of this. I have been very vocal in my displeasure that the House has been suspended. While I am pleased that the House is sitting today, it is certainly convenient timing. I have had constituents contact me who have been very concerned about the behaviour of members of the government in recent weeks as it relates to the WE Charity. It is unconscionable, to me, that this has happened. It is terribly concerning. I am pleased that the Ethics Commissioner is conducting an investigation, which is the third investigation of this Prime Minister.
I have been watching the finance committee and ethics committee, although I will say that I have been left wanting, given the quality of responses from this government. Even the simple questions cannot be answered. Now, we have seen charities come out and say publicly that that they had been afraid to comment on WE in the past, given its ties to this government. There is a charity in my riding that reached out. It is ready to contribute and has all the necessary structures in place to do so. It is asking when it will hear back on this failed program, which brings us to today.
Parliament has been shut down since March, and this week, the government has decided that it is time to sit again, which is very convenient timing. What I can tell members is that, despite the government's best efforts to divert attention away from the WE scandal, Conservatives will continue to scrutinize its actions and hold it to account since it has proven that it cannot be trusted with taxpayers' money or to make ethical decisions.
As we have heard debated today, Bill C-20 would extend and expand the eligibility criteria for the wage subsidy, implement a one-time $600 payment for persons with disabilities and extend or suspend certain legislated and judicial timelines. We in the official opposition have been proposing solutions to fix the wage subsidy program since April. It is now the middle of July, and instead of implementing our changes to help businesses and workers, the government is making things worse by overcomplicating it. We know that the original subsidy that was announced left businesses falling through the cracks, which meant that the program saw less than one-quarter uptake. I have had businesses in my riding contact me indicating that they do not qualify, and we have raised examples with the government, but no action has been taken.
This new wage subsidy we are speaking about today is unnecessarily complex, with rules and regulations that will trap businesses in paperwork and accounting fees, making it harder for them to get the help they need, the help they needed back in April.
When we make a policy on the fly without listening to proposals, it proves the government is lacking a plan to help Canadians to get back to work and restart our economy. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has either been wrong or slow to act. This failure has cost Canadians.
The Liberals were slow to close borders, which left people stranded who were trying to determine whether they should return. They were wrong on PPE and did not replace the medical supplies sent abroad in February. They were slow to enhance airport screening, allowing the virus to spread from passengers returning to Canada. They were slow to roll out programs for those who were struggling. They were wrong not to include gender-based analysis, which could have helped fix their programs to keep Canadians, especially women, from falling through the cracks. The Liberals were wrong to leave small businesses behind, forcing many to close permanently. We know that small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. The Liberals were wrong to raise taxes, in the form of the carbon tax, when Canadians were already struggling to make ends meet. They were wrong to abandon the oil and gas sector, promising help within hours or days, but offering nothing, which was felt very strongly by those in my community. They were wrong not to fully fund the Auditor General's office so constituents could see how their tax dollars were being spent. They were wrong to shut down Parliament, refusing to let MPs do their job and provide crucial oversight.
I am hopeful that the government will listen to our suggestions. Part of our proposal is to implement the back-to-work bonus. Our plan is to make the Canada emergency response benefit more flexible and generous so that workers can earn higher wages as businesses begin to open. Under our plan, Canadians who lost their jobs through no fault of their own during the pandemic would continue to receive their full $2,000 from CERB. In addition, as businesses reopen, workers who make between $1,000 and $5,000 per month would qualify for the back-to-work bonus. This CERB top-up would be gradually phased out by 50 cents for every dollar earned over $1,000.
As I stated earlier, I support help for those who are struggling. A one-time payment, as proposed in Bill C-20, is a result of our efforts in the opposition to better serve those with disabilities. We were prepared and offered to recall Parliament to debate this measure. Sadly, that did not occur, which further delayed this payment. My hope is that those who qualify and apply for the disability tax credit, as proposed in Bill C-20, will be able to access it in a timely manner.
The judicial aspects of the proposed legislation does not address how court backlogs, particularly those in the criminal justice system, will be resolved. The rights of victims and their families must be central as we move forward. The government must ensure that victims see justice in a timely manner. It is fundamental.
Finally, since the pandemic began, the official opposition have been putting forward constructive solutions to help Canadians. Our goal has been, and continues to be, to help get workers and local businesses back on their feet as quickly as possible. We know that our economic recovery will be driven by Canadians' hard work, innovation and good spirits. We know that to be competitive, we need to unleash the power of the private sector to help Canadians get back to work.
We need to support small businesses. We need lower taxes. We need to cut the red tape and make Canada an attractive place to do business once again. This is how we approach constructive solutions. We will continue to fight to get Canadians the help they need and will continue to call on the government to put forward a transparent plan to guide Canada's recovery. Canadians deserve no less.