Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to address the House today in response to the Speech from the Throne.
I would like to begin by saluting my constituents in the riding of Hochelaga who have been through a tough couple of months during this unprecedented crisis. The people of Hochelaga have been—and continue to be—resilient, united and involved. I am proud to represent them in the House.
Yesterday our government presented a plan to build a stronger, more resilient Canada guided by the following principles: fighting the pandemic, supporting people and businesses, building back better, and standing up for who we are.
The first principle is the most important of all: saving lives. That is why we need to invest in the capacity of our health care systems right across the country. We must work with the provinces and territories to increase the capacity and speed of testing by looking at new technologies and tools to ensure they are safe and accessible. We must ensure that all Canadians have access to a vaccine as soon as possible, no matter where in Canada they live.
We also provided personal protective equipment and sent the Canadian Armed Forces into long-term care facilities. In Hochelaga, three of these facilities received key support from the military, and we are extremely grateful to them.
Thousands of workers across the country answered the call put out to Canadian manufacturers to produce personal protective equipment. In my riding, Coop Couturières Pop provided hospitals and organizations in Montreal East and the citizens of Hochelaga with thousands of face masks, as did PapaMasque.
I would also like to recognize the research work of the Montreal Heart Institute and the work done by the health and social services centre, the CIUSSS, in Montreal East, one of the epicentres of the pandemic in this country.
With the start of the second wave, we need to remain vigilant, increase our testing capacity, continue physical distancing and wear a mask to protect our more vulnerable populations, our loved ones and our colleagues so that we all remain healthy. Like many of you, I am looking forward to seeing my loved ones, like my brother, who is in a long-term care facility. I have not seen him since March. I am anxious to hold my two-month-old nephew, whom I have not yet met because of the pandemic.
The second foundation of our plan is to support people and businesses in the coming months, as we have been doing since the beginning of the crisis. Our government’s responsibility was to ensure a social and economic safety net for Canadians. That is what we did. The Canada emergency response benefit helped 9 million people to keep a roof over their heads, as well as food on their table, and to stay home to take care of their families. Now, we must support those who would traditionally not qualify for EI and put in place the Canada recovery benefit.
The Canada emergency wage subsidy helped more than 3 million people remain in or return to the job market. Now, in response to the economic impact, our government is working to create more than a million jobs. To this end, the Canada emergency wage subsidy will be extended until next summer, which is excellent news. For months now, many entrepreneurs have been taking advantage of the subsidy, including the Bellon Prestige Group, Lantic, La Vie en Rose and Restaurant Cabotins, as have essential organizations such as the Fondation des aveugles du Québec, Centre communautaire Hochelaga and Pavillon d'éducation communautaire. They were all able to continue their activities thanks to the CEWS.
Businesses play a key role in our economy. The government is going to extend both the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency business account. This program has helped many businesses in Hochelaga, including FMR Costumes, which got a helping hand to get through this crisis.
The business credit availability program will be improved, and we will bring in additional financial measures for the hardest-hit sectors, such as the travel, tourism and cultural industries.
Women have been severely affected by this pandemic, as they have had to take care of children while working at home, have been exposed to increased risks as health care workers, or have faced an increased risk of domestic violence compounded by the lockdown. This pandemic has had psychological, economic and physical impacts on women, and especially single mothers. Nevertheless, we women have worked too hard to earn our place in the workforce. We cannot take a step backwards.
That is why the government will create an action plan for women in the economy to help more women get back into the work force. The implementation of child care services will also help in this regard. Learning from Quebec's child care model, we will invest in child care and draw on the innovative measures developed in Quebec. The economic recovery must be feminist.
The vitality of our culture, our creators and our arts community is essential. We will take action to ensure that digital giants' revenue is shared more fairly, because it is more important than ever that we require them to contribute to the creation, production and distribution of Canadian, Quebec and francophone content. The cultural organizations in my riding, such as Théâtre Denise-Pelletier and Les Foutoukours, as well as hundreds of artists and creators, are waiting for government support and for a real contribution from digital giants.
The third foundation is to create a stronger, more resilient Canada by supporting strong economic growth and building safe communities for everyone, including the most vulnerable.
Seniors were particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and that is why we are committed to increasing old age security and the Canada pension plan survivor's benefit. The government must help Canadians like Mrs. St-Arnaud, a 97-year-old Hochelaga resident who recently thanked me for the $500 cheque she had received. She said that the money was really helping people get by.
To support Canadians with disabilities, we will bring forward a disability inclusion plan with a new benefit and an employment strategy aimed directly at Canadians like Michel, a blind man in my riding who has been job searching for months, and Mrs. Auger, who is in a wheelchair and is having a hard time making ends meet.
We will also work with communities to invest in all types of infrastructure, including public transit, clean energy and affordable housing. I am very pleased that the federal government and the Quebec government have reached an agreement in principle on housing investments. This is excellent news for Quebeckers and for the people of Hochelaga, who will benefit from investments in affordable housing.
Homelessness is an especially serious issue in my riding. Right now, Notre-Dame Street hosts the largest homeless encampment in Montreal. The residents are all worried about the coming winter. It is essential that we all work together to make sure that everyone has a roof over their heads.
I would like to highlight the recently announced $1-billion rapid housing initiative to create new affordable housing, as well as the funding for temporary emergency shelters for the homeless at the Hochelaga YMCA as part of “Reaching Home: Canada's Homelessness Strategy”.
When it comes to climate change, we all need to realize that it is happening now. We will introduce legislation to help us reach our goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 by helping to deliver more transit and active transit options. Transit infrastructure is a cornerstone of development in eastern Montreal. It is essential for the people of Hochelaga and for its economic recovery. Our government has already announced $1.3 billion for the long-awaited blue line. Our government has also committed to creating more green space in urban centres. More than 25 million sites are available in eastern Montreal, including Hochelaga.
The last foundation is to continue to stand up for who we are, to stand up for our official languages and francophone minorities outside Quebec. For the first time, a federal government is recognizing that French is in the minority in Canada and that French is losing ground in Quebec. We must take action and commit to strengthening the Official Languages Act, taking into consideration the unique reality of French.
We know that addressing systemic racism requires progress and reforms to be made throughout the policing and justice systems. It is time for things to change.
Finally, immigration remains a driver of Canada’s economic growth. Canada must become a destination for talent and jobs.
I would like to highlight the extraordinary efforts of our guardian angels. We have announced measures to grant them permanent residency.
We have presented a Speech from the Throne that sets out and shows what we intend to do for Quebeckers and Canadians. We are in the throes of an unprecedented crisis that has turned all our lives upside down, and we will continue to address it. We must remain vigilant, united and committed in the face of this pandemic.