Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to the Speech from the Throne.
At a time when the world is beset by an insidious virus and our government is building the foundations of a response that is strong, bold and responsible, I would like to start by thanking all those who have been on the front lines during the pandemic and who are still working hard as we speak to save the lives of the most vulnerable Canadians.
This message is especially important to me, because many of my constituents are front-line workers, and quite a few of them are members of my own community. I honour them for their courage, their sense of duty and their compassion. I am thinking in particular of those working behind the scenes, who get up every morning and jump back into the fray, and who sometimes end up paying the price. My thoughts go out to all the Canadians who are hurting after recently losing a loved one. On behalf of our government, I want to extend our deepest condolences to these people and to their friends and families.
I salute all the people of the riding of Bourassa, which I have the great privilege of representing here in the House of Commons of Canada. Like us, they are fighting this pandemic. I would also like to thank community organizations, countless volunteers, the business community and of course elected officials for their efforts. We must continue to be vigilant and follow the guidelines.
I hardly need to remind anyone that our reality has changed. We have gone through some tough months, and now the second wave is upon us.
Let me paint a picture of the current situation. COVID-19 has killed more than 9,000 Canadians. South of the border, it has taken the lives of more than 200,000 people. Around the world, the death toll will soon surpass one million. Almost nine million Canadians have lost their jobs in the last few months. Some are back at work, but millions of Canadians are still out of a job.
Some groups of people are particularly vulnerable. The pandemic has hit racialized people very hard. It has hit parents and mothers, who are often torn between their families and careers; young people who have lost their jobs and are worried about their future; our elderly fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles, who know they are more vulnerable and sometimes live in fear and isolation; and the precarious, low-income workers we depended on in grocery stores, care homes and the service sector in general.
We have all been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and over the past few months, our government has been there for Canadians. The Canada emergency response benefit and the Canada emergency student benefit were brought in to quickly help Canadians who had lost their jobs. As we announced recently, those benefits will be gradually transitioned to the EI program in order to help the economic recovery. The Canada recovery sickness benefit will be available to Canadians who are unable to work because they are sick or must self-isolate due to COVID-19. Those last two measures should be implemented in the next few weeks.
We have also helped businesses get through this crisis. Our government's goal is to prevent layoffs, encourage businesses to re-hire their employees and create new jobs. That is why we created the Canada emergency wage subsidy and why we have been improving it as we go along; it must meet the needs of businesses.
Lastly, our government has been there to support agriculture, agri-food, culture, heritage and sports, tourism and many other sectors. Moreover, we have also been there for the provinces during this crisis, providing support in various ways. Our government worked to ensure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment while bolstering the development of domestic production capacity. We also developed the COVID Alert app, which is now available and offers one more tool for curbing the pandemic.
I want to take this opportunity to invite residents of Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan to download the app and use it. Everyone can contribute. We invite the other provinces to follow suit.
We have secured access to candidate vaccines and therapeutics and are funding their development here in Canada.
At the request of certain provinces, the Canadian Armed Forces were deployed to long-term care facilities to help regain control of the situation.
Under the $19-billion Safe Restart Agreement between the federal government and the provinces, we are contributing to all their efforts from supporting the capacity of our health care systems to the procurement of personal protective equipment.
The federal government has also invested $2 billion in the safe return to class fund. By all accounts, our government has not hesitated to be there for Canadians, businesses, and the provinces and territories, to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians.
Nonetheless, this is not over. We still have a lot to do. Our government is proposing four priorities.
The first, obviously, is to protect the health of Canadians. We must continue to ramp up testing and contact tracing across the country. Canadians must be able to access testing quickly. To that end, our government will establish a testing assistance response team to quickly meet urgent needs, including in remote and isolated communities. We will also continue our efforts to ensure that Canadians can get the protective equipment they need. We will keep Canadians safe, and we will create jobs in the process.
We will be there to financially support businesses that will have to close their doors to curb transmission on the advice of public health authorities.
We will continue to work on securing a vaccine and the therapeutics we need. In the long run, that is how we are going to get through this pandemic.
The second part of our government's plan is to continue to support Canadians and businesses. We will continue with what is working well. The Canada emergency wage subsidy will be extended until next summer. We will continue to work with business to ensure that this subsidy meets their needs.
We will continue the Canada emergency business account, the business credit availability program and further targeted assistance measures for industries, such as travel and tourism, hospitality, and cultural industries like the performing arts.
For young people, we will significantly scale up the youth employment and skills strategy, to provide more paid work experiences next summer for young Canadians.
We also believe that Canadians must work together to eliminate the remaining barriers between provinces to full, free internal trade.
Our objective is to create one million jobs to restore employment to pre-pandemic levels. We will increase investments in infrastructure and in the social sector. We will provide assistance to help workers skill up and return to work. We will implement measures to encourage employers to hire and retain workers.
The pandemic has hit women especially hard. That is why our government will put forward an action plan for women in the economy to help more women get back into the workforce.
Our government is drawing on Quebec's approach to make a significant, sustained, long-term investment in creating a Canada-wide early learning and child care system. We will also support parents and families by subsidizing before- and after-school program costs.
We will also identify new ways to tax extreme wealth inequality, such as by limiting stock option deductions and cracking down on tax avoidance by digital giants.
Third, we need to think about the future now, in order to build back even better. COVID-19 has exposed a number of vulnerabilities within our societies. What has happened to our seniors is one of the tragedies of the past few months. We will work with the provinces and territories and do everything we can to support seniors. First, we will amend the Criminal Code to explicitly penalize those who neglect or endanger any seniors under their care. We will set new national standards for long-term care. We will take action to help people continue to live in their own homes. We will look at various ways we can help personal support workers.
We also remain committed to increasing old age security. We will do whatever it takes to ensure that our seniors are safe and live with respect and dignity.
Canadians living with disabilities have also suffered. To rebuild and improve our social safety net, we will create a new benefit specifically for people with disabilities. We will begin setting the foundation for a universal pharmacare program, focusing first on rare diseases. We will work with the provinces and territories willing to move forward without delay.
To build back better, we are investing in public transit, energy efficient retrofits, clean energy and affordable housing. We are also making major investments in rural broadband service, as the past several months have shown how important it is for Canadians to have Internet access. We will accelerate the ambitions of the universal broadband fund to ensure that all Canadians, no matter where they live, have access to high-speed Internet.
Our government will ensure that those in Canada’s supply-managed sectors receive full and fair compensation for recent trade agreements.
Climate change will be central to our building back plan, which seeks to create a million jobs across the country. We plan to exceed Canada's 2030 climate goal and legislate Canada's goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. To that end, we will launch a new fund to attract investments in making zero-emissions products and cut the corporate tax rate in half for these companies to create jobs and make Canada a world leader in clean technology.
The fourth priority for all our government's actions is to defend Canadian values and ensure that our efforts benefit everyone. It is important to acknowledge that the situation of French is unique. Defending the rights of francophone minorities outside Quebec and anglophone minorities in Quebec are a priority for our government.
Furthermore, there is clearly more to be done on reconciliation and the fight against systemic racism, and we acknowledge that.
First, we will accelerate work on the national action plan in response to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls' calls for justice and implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. We will work with first nations, Inuit and Métis Nation partners to develop distinctions-based indigenous health legislation and a distinctions-based mental health and wellness strategy.
Finally, we will actively continue our efforts to close the infrastructure gap in indigenous communities. We will also introduce legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples before the end of the year.
Systemic racism is a lived reality for many Canadians, and I can attest to that. Our government will combat systemic racism. We will work hard to take action on online hate, go further on economic empowerment for specific communities and increase diversity on procurement. We will build a government approach around better collection of disaggregated data. We will increase representation in hiring and appointments, and in leadership development within the public service. We will take new steps to support the artistic and economic contributions of Black Canadian culture and heritage.
That is not all. We will introduce legislation to address the systemic inequities in the criminal justice system. We will enhance civilian oversight of our law enforcement agencies, including the RCMP. We will modernize training for police and law enforcement.
I am proud that our government announced in today's throne speech that it will ensure the health and safety of Canadians during the global pandemic. We will be here to keep Canadians healthy, protect their jobs and keep them safe. Yes, I am proud of our government. We will always be here to help our seniors, our young people, our families, and the most vulnerable members of society get through these tough times.
Therefore I move, seconded by the hon. member for Davenport, that the following address be presented to Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada:
To Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.
May it please Your Excellency:
We, Her Majesty's most loyal and dutiful subjects, the House of Commons of Canada, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Excellency for the gracious speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.