Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be here today.
This is the second time this week for me. I unfortunately do not always bring good news, and my comments about Bill C-4 are no exception.
We have an important decision to make this week. We need to take time to talk about how we ended up here, which did not happen overnight. It took the government, Canadians and us a long time to get here.
I want to review the decisions the government made, talk about what happened in the world before and during March and April, and talk about how we got to this point.
On January 28, the World Health Organization described the risk of transmission to be very high in China and very high at a global level of the virus, which was of course on the horizon.
On January 30, the Minister of Health said that it would be virtually impossible to prevent the virus from arriving in Canada, but did not take any steps to prepare at that time.
Between January 22 and February 18, 58,000 travellers arrived in Canada from high-risk areas and only 68 were pulled aside for further assessment by a quarantine officer. There again we see that the government had an opportunity to do so much, an opportunity which it passed on, leading us to where we are today.
By February 17, the national lab had only run 461 tests, and on March 10, public health officials advised policy makers that COVID risks were low in Canada and that mandatory quarantines for returning travellers would be too difficult to enforce.
Before I go on, I have to go back to February, because who can forget what happened in February when the government sent 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment back to China?
Perhaps it did not think that we might need that equipment in the future. The government did not think ahead, and that is very clear right now.
Of course, on March 13, the Prime Minister went into isolation. On March 13, the U.S. declared a national emergency. On March 16, finally, Canada closed its borders, and on March 20, we finally closed our borders with our good friend, the United States. However, on April 9, the Prime Minister warned that it could be over a year until life returns to normal.
We can see that the government had much notice and time to prepare from so many perspectives, from a health perspective, a public safety perspective, and an economic and fiscal responsibility perspective, but it did not. That is the reason we are going into the chamber again to vote in support or not of the legislation of the government, which has been so incredibly irresponsible.
As an official opposition that loves and supports Canadians and that loves and supports our fellow citizens, we did what we had to do. We supported the legislation to give all of the incredible supports to Canadians across the country. I will say that some supports did work better than others.
As the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities during the spring, I saw different studies in terms of evaluating the supports that were given. Unfortunately, though, there were no long-term economic solutions to maintain financial security for Canadians. I will get more into that.
In addition, we did not look at providing any long-term solutions to any groups, such as non-profit organizations, beyond the pandemic, so everything was very short-sighted. That does not matter anyway now, because any useful work that was conducted has become null due to the prorogation of Parliament. Of course, who can forget the WE scandal, where the government was more concerned with doling out contracts to its friends than with providing supports to the Canadians who needed them?
I will also add my two pieces as the outgoing vice-chair of HUMA. I think the government did a terrible job of protecting our seniors in long-term care facilities across this country. I am so happy our official opposition has a fantastic new shadow minister for seniors, the member of Parliament for Battlefords—Lloydminster, who I know will fight for seniors.
I will also say I am very excited to see the previous speaker, the new shadow minister for families, children and social development, who I know will take on the battle to get Canadians out of this cycle of perpetual poverty, which is what we are seeing with the extension of the bill today. Again, as good Canadians and as good stewards of the health, safety and well-being, particularly the economic well-being, of Canadians, we will certainly consider doing what we have to do to support Canadians. However, we were put in this place by the government and its absolute irresponsibility.
What keeps me up at night is the economic recovery of this nation. I could go on and on about the economic recovery of this nation because as we speak, Canada's debt is over $1 trillion. Our deficit for the 2020-21 fiscal year is $380 billion. It is absolutely unthinkable and unbelievable, but here we are.
On July 8, a Global News article said, “The flood of federal spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis will see the deficit soar to $343 billion this year, as officials warn the economy might never go back to normal.” Well, would we not like a deficit of $343 billion instead of the $380 billion that we have now.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer, speaking of the federal government, stated, “It's without a doubt that we cannot afford deficits of over $300 billion for more than just a few years. And when I say a few years, I really mean a year or two. Beyond that it would become unsustainable.” We are easily reaching the state of this being unsustainable, and beyond.
In addition, the Parliamentary Budget Officer added, “So if the government has plans for additional spending, it will clearly have to make difficult choices and either raise taxes or reduce other areas of spending. Because it's clear that we cannot afford to have deficits of that magnitude for even the medium term.”
Unfortunately, this is the poor planning of the Liberal government, the Prime Minister and all of his officers. They had several occasions prior to the pandemic to put us in a better fiscal position and to put Canadians in a better position to respond to this pandemic. Then the pandemic hit. Conservatives, who care about Canada and our economy, made the decision to support Canadians in their time of need and in this time of relief.
Again, it is the poor planning of the government in the present and moving into the future that behooved us to show up in the House again and vote for additional supports, supports, which I might add, that will cost north of $50 billion, and possibly as much as $60 billion. This is on the backs of Canadians, on the backs of my son and all the other Canadian children.
I was very proud to take on an economic recovery task force in my riding of Calgary Midnapore. I was very happy to do that, but it feels sometimes that it is an absolute futility because the Prime Minister stated on September 1 to the CBC, “We shouldn't be moving forward with an ambitious, bold vision to help Canadians and build a better future without ensuring that we have the support of Parliament.”
The start of the throne speech stated, “For over 150 years, Parliamentarians have worked together to chart Canada's path forward. Today, Canadians expect you to do the same.” The Liberals only care to work with as many parliamentarians as they have to to advance their own agenda. If they managed to dangle a carrot in front of 24 NDP MPs, they have ignored 160 other parliamentarians who also represent Canadians. Canadians deserve help, but more importantly, they deserve a plan for an economically sustainable recovery.