Mr. Speaker, as the very proud member of Parliament for Davenport, it is an absolute honour for me to rise in this chamber today to second the motion of my colleague, the member for Bourassa, regarding the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne.
As members of Parliament, we are gathered at a time of great uncertainty and anxiety. We are living in a world that is gripped by the greatest public health care crisis of our lifetimes. It is a global pandemic that has changed history, and our country has not been immune to the consequences.
When it began, Canadians were justifiably worried about their own health and the health of the people they love. They were anxious about the economic fallout, whether they would keep their jobs and how they would pay the bills if that happened. Just a few months ago, months that somehow seem like years ago now, everyone knew that the spring of 2020 would be one they would never forget, but no one knew when the COVID-19 pandemic would finally end.
Of course, it has not ended, and we must all come to terms with the fact that this crisis is not over. There are more challenges for all of us to endure, and there is an ever-present need for us to continue to work together. Canadians have shown that when faced with a crisis, they can rise to the challenges that face them. I believe that they have done that this year, and I am confident that they will continue to do that together, united as one people.
As Canadians have done done their part, so must we as parliamentarians. The people we all represent need their governments and their parliamentarians from all political parties to also rise to the occasion. They need their political representatives to lead.
Today, our government has come forward with a Speech from the Throne that does just that. We have before us a road map that provides leadership. There is leadership on how to fight the pandemic and save lives. There is leadership to support Canadian workers and businesses, and there is more leadership to build back our country's economy, strengthen the middle class and invest in critical infrastructure such as public transit and rural broadband. There are many critical social services on which Canadians urgently need action from their governments: child care, long-term care for seniors, pharmacare and affordable housing. We are providing action and leadership in each of these areas.
The throne speech also provides leadership to strengthen our core identity as a tolerant nation, with a commitment to fighting discrimination, standing up for gender equality and continuing on the road to reconciliation with indigenous people. Of course, we are also providing leadership on what we all know to be the critical challenge of our time: climate change.
This is a comprehensive and bold throne speech, fit for the times in which we live. There are many highlights in the speech, but I will do my best to draw members' attention to them in the limited time that I have.
Of course, our first priority is and will continue to be to protect Canadians from COVID-19. It has been our goal from the start to work relentlessly and non-stop with governments across the country at all levels and with all Canadians to beat this virus.
I am glad to say that Canadians have done their part. They have understood the need to stay at home. They know about and practise social distancing when they are not at home. They know the value of wearing a mask to help prevent COVID-19, and know, if they have it, to help prevent spreading it to others by staying at home.
Over the past several months, personal protective equipment, or PPE, has been shipped across the country and many members of our Canadian Forces were in long-term care homes to help our seniors. Throughout it all, Canadians have looked after each other in each of our communities from coast to coast to coast, and we are committed to continuing to look after each other.
In the first wave of the pandemic, testing for the virus and contact tracing were ramped up across the country. However, as we have seen far too much in too many news sources across the country just this week with all the many outbreaks, there is an enormous need for us to do even more.
Our federal government will help the provinces increase their ability to test Canadians so that the long waiting lines now occurring can be reduced. As well, we are pursuing every technology possible for faster tests. We have heard loud and clear, not only from the opposition but from Canadians, that everybody is looking for rapid tests to be approved. As soon as they are approved by Health Canada for safe use in this country, our government is committed to doing everything we can to see them deployed as quickly as possible.
Throughout this pandemic, our local public health authorities have been on the front lines, providing expert and authoritative advice and action. They have the best view on what is happening locally. As we move forward to prevent local outbreaks from becoming larger, it might be necessary for communities to enact short-term closure orders. If that happens, our government will provide targeted financial help directly to local businesses. We have already invested $19 billion in a safe restart agreement with the provinces and territories to help support areas such as health care and purchasing PPE. Just recently, we announced a further $2 billion to help with the reopening of schools, to help keep our students, their teachers and everybody who works within the school system safe.
However, as the throne speech notes, in the long run, the best way to end this pandemic is with a safe and effective vaccine. As such, our government has already secured access to potential vaccines. We continue to look at all the options and are devising a plan to distribute a vaccine once it is ready.
In addition to protecting the health of Canadians, we are committed to protecting their livelihoods. As we all know, this pandemic has hit the Canadian economy hard. Almost overnight, many Canadians found themselves out of work. Our government responded boldly and quickly with programs such as the Canada emergency response benefit, known as the CERB, and the Canada emergency wage subsidy, known as the CEWS.
As we move forward, there is so much more work to do because Canadians need jobs they can rely on. To make that happen, we will launch a campaign to create over one million jobs, restoring employment to levels prior to COVID-19. We will use a number of different tools to accomplish this, including direct investments in the social sector and in infrastructure, skills training for workers and incentives for employers to hire and retrain workers.
We will also extend the Canada emergency wage subsidy right through to next summer. As members know, the wage subsidy has been an absolute lifeline for businesses across this country and our economy. We are committed to working with businesses and labour in the months ahead to ensure that this program continues to meet the evolving needs of Canadians.
In addition to this, we will assist businesses by expanding the Canada emergency business account, which is our loan program, to help small businesses with their fixed costs. As well, we know there needs to be further support for hard-hit industries, such as travel and tourism, hospitality, and cultural industries like the performing arts.
I believe the Canada emergency response benefit has helped many Canadians at exactly the time they needed to pay their bills, but as the throne speech points out, with the economic restart now under way, CERB recipients should instead be supported by the employment insurance system. Therefore, for people who would not traditionally qualify for EI, we will create the transitional Canada recovery benefit. In the coming months, the EI system will become the sole way to distribute employment benefits, including for Canadians who traditionally have not been able to qualify for EI in the past, such as gig workers and short-term contract workers.
We have seen very clearly that the economic impact of this crisis has been particularly hard on low-income women. Many women have worked bravely on the front lines or have shouldered the responsibility of unpaid care work at home.
We cannot let this pandemic roll back the clock on women's participation in the workforce. As such, we will create an action plan for women in the economy to help more women get back into the workforce.
This pandemic has further exposed a critical truth that many of us have long known: Canada needs more accessible and affordable high-quality child care. Our government recognizes this, and we are committed to making a significant, long-term sustained investment to create a Canada-wide early learning and child care system. This will be a game changer, not only in terms of maximizing participation of Canadians in the workforce, but also for growth in our economy.
As we make these investments, our government's approach will be guided by values of fiscal sustainability and prudence. Our plan for stimulus and recovery will be responsible, and in the longer term we will focus on strengthening the middle class and generating economic growth. We will also look for ways to generate revenue by taxing extreme wealth inequity. That includes limiting the stock option deduction for wealthy individuals at large, established corporations, and dealing with corporate tax avoidance by digital corporate giants.
As we look back at the lessons we have learned in the last six months, one is that we sadly let down our seniors in long-term care homes where too many died from COVID-19. Our elders deserve to be safe and to live in dignity. The tragedy of recent months cannot be repeated. Long-term care falls under provincial and territorial jurisdiction, but our federal government intends to take action.
We will work with Parliament on Criminal Code amendments to explicitly penalize those who neglect seniors under their care. We will also work with the provinces and territories to set new national standards for long-term care. We need to take better care of our seniors, and these two measures will go a long way toward helping us to do so.
This unprecedented pandemic has also disproportionately affected Canadians with disabilities. We will bring forward a number of measures to support our disabled community, including introducing a disability inclusion plan that will include a new Canadian disability benefit modelled after the guaranteed income supplement for seniors. We will also introduce a robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities and a better process to determine eligibility for government disability programs and benefits.
There has been another pandemic under way across Canada. It has been around for a number of years, but it has accelerated during COVID. It is the opioid crisis, which has been ravaging our communities and creating a public health care crisis. We will continue to take action to address this crisis.
We will also continue to increase access to an area that has been under-invested in for too many years: the area of mental health. We will increase access to mental health resources in our country.
Finally, we strongly believe that it is the right time to ramp up our efforts to ensure that Canadians get the pharmaceutical medicines they need. Our government continues to be committed to a national, universal pharmacare program and we will take action to make sure that this happens. This means working with the provinces and territories, being willing to move forward without delay, and establishing a national formulary to keep drug prices low.
Canadians have a right to live in safe communities. Our government has banned assault-style firearms. We will continue to implement our promises in this area. We will give municipalities the ability to further restrict or ban handguns, and we will strengthen measures to stop guns from illegally entering Canada.
We must also work to ensure the safety of women in our communities. As part of that, we will accelerate investments in shelters and transition housing, and move forward with a national action plan on gender-based violence. In recent years the federal government has stepped up to take action on affordable housing.
Already, we have helped more than a million Canadians get a safe and affordable place to call home. Now we will add to our national housing strategy from 2017 by increasing investments in rapid housing and partnering with non-profits and co-ops.
I am also very proud of our commitment to eliminate chronic homelessness in Canada. This, to me, is one of the most ambitious and aggressive targets ever made around affordable housing by a national government.
As we look to the future, we must not take our eye off the immense challenge that faces us, our children and our grandchildren: climate change. We must continue to take action now to confront this threat to our planet. We do this to protect our way of life and to create new jobs.
The Speech from the Throne is clear. Our government will bring forward a plan to exceed Canada's 2030 climate goal and we will legislate Canada's goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. As part of this plan, we will create new jobs retrofitting homes and buildings. We will invest in reducing the impact of climate-related disasters. We will make zero-emissions vehicles more affordable and put more charging stations across the country.
I want to point out that the throne speech highlights the fact that we believe that Canada cannot reach net zero without the expertise of Canadians in the energy sector. This means Canadians living in provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador. Our government is committed to supporting the natural resource and energy sectors as they transform and transition to a net-zero future, a transformation that will create good, stable jobs.
We also recognize that farmers, foresters and ranchers are key partners in this fight against climate change. As we move forward, our government is steadfast in its resolve. We will continue our policy of putting a price on pollution, while also putting that money back into the pockets of Canadians.
As we press ahead with these policies, we will always remember the values that define us as Canadians. That means everything from welcoming immigrants with kindness to celebrating the contributions of those in the LGBTQ2 communities and embracing our two official languages.
We must never forget that much more needs to be done to work with indigenous peoples. We will do that on many fronts, from responding to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to making more investments in clean drinking water. We will introduce legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples before the end of this year.
In recent months, many in our country have called for action to finally address the systemic racism experienced by indigenous people and Black and racialized Canadians. Our government is pledging to take action. We will also move to prevent online hate, further the economic empowerment of certain communities and increase hiring in the public service. Moreover, we will take action in the policing and justice systems. We will introduce legislation to address the systemic inequities in all phases of the criminal justice system, from sentencing to rehabilitation. We will modernize training for police and law enforcement, including standards on the use of force, and we will reform the RCMP with a shift toward community-led policing.
These are just some of the highlights of the throne speech. They reflect a government that is intent on working hard for Canadians as they face the challenges of the pandemic that has changed history this year. Our government is realistic about the gravity of these challenges, but we are confident that Canadians can emerge from these unsettling times stronger and even more united about what draws us together. Our government has a plan to put us on that road to recovery. I would ask all members of the House to support our plan.