Madam Speaker, for the last six months we have faced a global challenge that for many of us is the worst we have ever seen in our lifetime. However, one thing we can say with a lot of confidence is that Canadians can be proud of how they have come together. We have seen examples, in communities in every part of Canada, of Canadians coming together to take care of their neighbours. We have shown that in hard times we take care of each other.
The pandemic has also shown us that when government does not act, there is a cost to neglect and a cost to inaction. Many of the lives lost in this pandemic were in long-term care homes. It is shameful to think that our seniors, elders and loved ones, the people who helped build this country and sacrificed so much, could not retire and live their lives in dignity and respect. They bore the brunt of COVID-19, and that has scarred our country.
We all deserve to know that our parents and grandparents are safe. We were shocked and appalled to see that the military had to be called in to care for our seniors in long-term care homes.
The army had to be sent in to our long-term care homes. Conditions were so bad that soldiers felt obligated to write a report on the many deficiencies.
There is no question that there needs to be more funding for long-term care homes to care for our seniors. However, there is a problem. If that funding goes to for-profit, long-term care homes, then it will end up in the pockets of shareholders and it will not end up caring for seniors.
While the Bloc talks about transfers as the only path forward, if profit remains in long-term care and the federal government transfers money into long-term care, would it not be irresponsible for that money to end up in shareholders' pockets, instead of caring for seniors? I will say it again: Profit has no place in our health care system and it has absolutely no place in caring for our seniors.
What COVID-19, this pandemic, has exposed is that our health care system has some serious gaps. It makes no sense that the quality of care received in this country depends on whether one has a job with benefits in order to be able to afford dental care or medication coverage. That makes no sense.
We know the Liberals now talk in the throne speech about accelerating pharmacare. They are not going to break any speed records. The Liberals have been promising pharmacare for decades. Simply putting in the word “accelerate” gives no confidence to the families that cannot find the means to buy the medication they need to stay healthy. This gives them no confidence. This gives them no sense of relief. People need to be able to get their medication without a credit card, but with their health card. People need to get it with their health cards and that is what we believe in.
Over the last several months, we have seen millions of Canadians lose their jobs. We have seen millions of Canadians who cannot go back to work. Through no fault of their own, COVID-19 has stopped their ability to work because there are no jobs left in many areas, such as tourism, hospitality and the service sector.
The Conservatives want these folks to just have nothing, no supports or help, when it is clear they cannot get back to work. The Conservatives would rather these folks just fend for themselves and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. When one does not have a job to go back to, that is not good enough. It will not cut it. When someone is sitting at a kitchen table and has no job to go back to, that is when we take care of each other. Maybe the Conservatives do not believe that, but the New Democrats believe Canadians need to take care of each other when we are down and out, and that is what we are going to continue to fight for.
I want to remind folks that at the beginning of this pandemic, we were in this chamber and we knew that the pandemic was going to hit. We stood up time and again in this chamber and asked the Liberal government, and the Prime Minister directly, what the plan was to help workers who would lose their jobs. The response at the time was that they would waive some of the week's requirements so that people could apply for EI faster. I came back and said this was not good enough. The New Democrats said that EI only covers 40% of workers; the vast majority will be left behind. We fought and pushed, and we finally got the Liberals to agree to a program that helps all Canadians.
However, then they wanted to exclude people. We fought for a CERB that is universal. We got the CERB, but then they wanted to exclude people. The Liberal government's approach was designing a plan that excludes the people who do not need help, instead of trying to design a plan that does not leave the people who need help the most behind. That is the difference. Our focus has always been on getting help to people who need it and getting it to them as quickly as possible.
New Democrats fought and made a difference for Canadians throughout this pandemic. When the Prime Minister left out students, we fought for them and got them help. When the Prime Minister and the Liberal government forgot about and left out seniors, we fought for seniors and got them help. When the Liberal government left out people living with disabilities, we fought for them. When the government completely forgot and refused to provide paid sick leave, we fought for it and we are very hopeful we are close to achieving that now. Every time the Liberal government threatened to cut help to people, we fought back and told them not to cut help to people.
Even recently, the government was going to cut the help that families receive, families who cannot go back to work, by $400. Instead of the $2,000 that people are just getting by on, the Liberals were going to cut it to $1,600. We fought back and were able to maintain the $2,000. We fought for a wage subsidy that would ensure that workers would be able to stay at their jobs.
I want Canadians to know that we will keep fighting for them every step of the way.
The NDP has been fighting to help everyone in need. When the Prime Minister failed students, seniors, people with disabilities and workers, we fought for them. We fought for a wage subsidy so that people could keep their jobs and businesses could stay open. Every time he threatened to cut off the assistance people needed, we fought back.
We are now seeing numbers increasing. We are up against a second wave of the pandemic, and a lot of people are worried about potential shutdowns. If, in order to keep us safe, shutdowns happen again, it could mean more job losses. In the context of a second wave and the fear of a potential lockdown, people need to know that there will be help for them when and if they cannot work. Despite knowing this, and despite the government having shut down Parliament for almost two months, we still do not have a clear plan in place to make sure that we have a permanent safety net to support people when they need help.
Our employment insurance should have always been designed in a way that it covered all workers. That is what we are going to continue to fight for. This is not just temporary. We need an employment insurance program. We need safety nets to help all Canadians at any time they need help.
The Conservatives and others believe that to help people get back to work we have to make them desperate to go back to work. People want to work. People find dignity in work. If we make it safe to return and give people paid sick leave so they know they can take the time off they need to get well instead of going to work sick, people will work.
One of the best ways we can create jobs is to make investments that will help build a more sustainable economy, help create local jobs and help to fight the climate crisis. That is a New Democratic vision of how we can invest in an economy that works for everyone.
One of the most important things we can do with respect to investments, which I will continue to ask the Liberal government to do, is to invest in housing. We know this is a massive crisis in the country. Canadians cannot find a place to live. People could not find a place to live before the pandemic and now during the pandemic, this crisis has only become worse. We need to build housing.
The Liberals continue to make announcements about building housing, but the announcements do not make people better off. They do not give people a roof over their head. We need to see the dollars flowing for affordable housing. We know that if we build affordable housing that has a low carbon footprint, we not only help create jobs locally and ensure people have a place to call home, but it also helps fight the climate crisis.
Retrofitting homes is something we have campaigned on before, something we have long called for, and this could be a way for us to have a just recovery. If we, as a country, decided to invest in retrofitting all buildings and homes, we could lower the cost of heating and cooling them, which would make life more affordable. We could create jobs locally in communities across the country. We could do our part to fight the climate crisis. That is a vision of how we could move forward.
Many of our colleagues have raised this concern when we have talked about housing. They have talked about the impacted communities across our country, people from all walks of life who cannot find housing. We have to highlight our indigenous communities in particular, urban and on reserve, and our northern communities. These are some of the hardest hit communities that have seen the least investment in housing and whose situation right now is so critical. These are people who cannot find a place to live. There is overcrowding and that means the lives of people are being impacted. It hurts their health. We have to do better.
When it comes to housing, the Liberal government and previous Conservative governments have failed indigenous people. Here is an opportunity to turn that around. Let us make the right investments now and lift people up. Let us build quality housing across our country, particularly recognizing the historic injustice faced by indigenous people. Let us build housing for indigenous people in the north, Let us support leaders who have solutions for their communities. They need an ally and partner. Let Ottawa be a partner to support the building of affordable housing.
While we are dealing with this pandemic crisis, we still face a number of crises. Despite the fact that we are really focused on COVID-19, as we should be, there are still other crises surrounding us. One of the most prevalent, the most pressing is the climate crisis.
We see climate fires in B.C. They have made the air quality in the Lower Mainland, in my riding of Burnaby South and in surrounding cities in Vancouver and Surrey, so bad that it is among the worst of all major cities in the world. People were faced with the dilemma of opening windows for better ventilation or closing windows because the air coming in made it hard for people to breathe. This is COVID-19 and the climate crisis meeting each other at the same moment. While we fight COVID-19 crisis, we cannot forget the climate crisis.
What has been the Prime Minister's response to the climate crisis? He bought a pipeline. His government has not yet reduced emissions. It has not taken any concrete action to meaningfully reduce emissions nor meet any of the targets. It is meaningless to set targets just to miss them. What is the point of setting a target if no accountability is in place to ensure we actually meet those targets?
We know that for a lot of families one of the biggest concerns in this pandemic is their children. They are worried about their kids. They are worried about them being safe. If we want a recovery, if we want to be able to invest in our economy in a way that people can return to work, then we need to invest in child care. There can be no recovery without child care, particularly given the fact that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted women.
People have referred to the recession and the loss of jobs as a “she-cession”, and the fact that we need a focused “she-covery”. It has to be a recovery that acknowledges the gendered impact of COVID-19, and that means investing massively in child care. It does not mean another empty promise.
Those who were kids the last time the Liberals promised child care have now grown up and are having kids of their own, and there is still no child care. There have been consecutive Liberal governments, majority Liberal governments, that have had the opportunity to do this time and time again. To show members the cynicism of the Liberals, they will cry out and say that they had one chance to make it, and try and blame it on someone else, despite the countless majorities that they have had. Despite the fact that they just recently had a majority government, they will try to blame others. It is the height of Liberal cynicism.
The reality is that people do not want to hear this government blaming others. If the Liberals are in power, it is their responsibility to get it done. Families want to know that they can count on affordable, quality child care that is universally accessible across the country. That is what we need.
Quebec has felt the impact of the Liberal and Conservative cuts to health transfers. During this pandemic, we saw how these cuts created a long-term care system in which many private facilities are cutting corners to make a profit. Hundreds of seniors have died as a result.
Women have borne the brunt of this pandemic. Desperate people are struggling to make ends meet while the rich get richer. Small businesses are shutting down while the Amazons and Facebooks of the world are making record profits. This needs to change, and it needs to change now.
Now is not the time for jurisdictional squabbling. It is time to work together to fix these problems once and for all. While people are dying, the Bloc Québécois is going on about petty squabbles and choosing not to work together to solve problems.
If the Prime Minister's Liberals are willing to stop putting their friends and the ultra-rich first, we are willing to work with them to rebuild a better, fully public health care system in which the government pays its fair share and Quebeckers have access to fully public pharmacare; to create a society in which safe, affordable housing is available to all; to create a future in which young people have employment and career prospects that are just as bright as their parents had; and to have a federal government that tackles the climate crisis with a will to win, instead of buying pipelines and subsidizing big oil.
That is the NDP's fairer and more egalitarian vision.
I will wrap up by saying that we have a lot of priorities in front of us, a lot of problems in front of us, but one of the things I want to make clear is that, in the recovery and rebuild, once we get past this pandemic and past the second wave, it cannot be working-class families, small businesses and everyday people who pay the price of the recovery. It has to be the wealthiest, those who have profited off of this pandemic, those at the very top, who pay for the recovery. That is what New Democrats are going to fight for.
The Liberals are afraid to say the words. The throne speech says the Liberals will “tax extreme wealth inequality”. I do not know how one taxes inequality, but I certainly know that we can tax wealth. New Democrats are committed to making sure that the wealthiest pay their share, that there is a wealth tax, that we ask those who have fortunes of over $20 million to pay their fair share, that we end offshore tax havens, and that we make sure the recovery is paid for by those who have profited and those who have the means to do so. That is what New Democrats believe in.