Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Abbotsford.
I am here today to speak to Bill C-2.
Since this morning, we have heard a lot of talk about the part of the bill that concerns the changes to the CERB, now known as the Canada recovery benefit, which provides assistance for self-employed workers and for those who are not eligible for employment insurance and, importantly, who cannot go back to work. There is also the Canada recovery sickness benefit for workers who are sick or who have to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19. Finally, there is the Canada recovery caregiving benefit for people who have to stay at home to take care of children or a sick person because of COVID-19.
Everyone agrees that someone who gets COVID-19 needs help. We do not need to hear the Liberals' fake crying to understand that. Some of my family and friends needed the CERB because they were no longer working. That is okay. It helped them to get by.
However, we would need more time to talk about other aspects of Bill C-2, aspects and details that we never seem to hear about. The bill introduces financial measures worth up to $17 billion out of a total of $50 billion or $60 billion.
There will be no debate, even though we suggested meeting this past weekend. Last week, my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent proposed that we meet on Sunday in committee of the whole to have a debate, put questions to the ministers and look closely at this bill. We know we need to act quickly, and we could have met over the weekend. People often say that this is like being in wartime. In wartime, the work goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without stopping. This is urgent, but not urgent enough to work on a Sunday. It was even more urgent this morning, and the government decided to limit the debate.
When I walk around Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, Quebec, or elsewhere in Canada, people ask me if the government is going to control its spending.
This is not about helping Canadians who are in need because of COVID-19. It is about having controls in place, ways of making sure that the money is not being handed out willy-nilly on things that should have been examined more closely.
The Prime Minister shut down Parliament for six weeks. As everyone knows, he did this because he did not want any more talk about WE Charity. He locked the doors so that he would not have to hear about it. I have to say that he seems to have succeeded, since it is no longer getting covered in the media. The problem is still there, but that is a matter for another debate.
The members are back now, and the House of Commons is back to normal. We can now ask questions, and committees will resume soon. We need answers, because the money that the government is spending belongs to Canadian taxpayers.
The important thing is to keep things in perspective. Indeed, it is important to know the difference between what is given out to help with COVID-19 and money that is shamelessly sent out left and right to make friends happy.
I would like to talk about what happened last week. At the last second, the government shut down the vaccine committee. Some of the people who were on the committee have ties with private companies. Once again, we saw cronyism in action for financial gain. The most important thing now is to defeat COVID-19 and come out of it at the lowest possible cost.
It is the opposition members' job to ask questions, but we are being muzzled.
We do not want a repeat of what happened with the Canada emergency student benefits. The Prime Minister said that we needed to help young people. Most young people received more money staying at home doing nothing or playing on their Xbox than working at Tim Hortons, at a restaurant or at a local business and yet there is a severe labour shortage. The number of complaints I received about that this summer is crazy. People asked me what was up with this awful CESB. Instead of helping in the time of COVID-19, the government hurt economic development. That was the exact opposite of what to do.
The Conservatives even said so this summer before the CESB came into effect. We said that it would cause problems. The government did not want to listen to us and said that we just wanted to prevent people from getting money. That is not our style. That was their narrative, their bleeding hearts. We want to help, we have compassion, but we know how to count. We want to provide measured help. That is the difference.
I remind members that there was a lot of fraud. This was mentioned by people who spoke before me. A lot of people are taking advantage of the system. We knew that this would happen, since the government did not create any safeguards.
I got a call from a police officer in Longueuil this summer. He could not give me his name, but he told me that there were 45 envelopes with CERB cheques addressed to residents of a building that is home to people on welfare who were technically not supposed to have applied. These people had not stopped working because of COVID-19 but they had still applied. The officer asked me what he should do with these envelopes. This is just an example, but there are plenty more if anyone wants them. Some screening measures were needed.
I would like to come back to the part of Bill C-2 that talks only about the different benefit programs, and not about any safeguards. I will highlight a few examples from the bill that raise some questions.
First, there is the issue of PPE procurement. There is some $2.7 billion allocated for PPE, but it is not clear who it is for or how it works. These are the kinds of questions people want answers to.
The bill also states that $116 million will be allocated to “Virtual Care and Mental Health Tools for Canadians”. What does that mean? Can someone tell us?
The bill also mentions “Personal Support Worker Training and Other Measures to Address Labour Shortages in Long-Term...Care”. Does that not fall under provincial jurisdiction? Is it not being taken care of by Quebec's CHSLDs and other facilities? We are talking about $13 million. What does that mean? Compared to $353 billion, $13 million does not seem like very much. I am trying to understand but millions add up to billions.
A total of $262 million is allocated to “Youth Employment and Skills Development Programs”. That is a quarter of a billion dollars. Where is that money going?
The bill also refers to “Additional Support for Canadians Experiencing Homelessness”. We certainly want to help the homeless, but can we know what that $237 million is for and where it is going?
Vancouverites are familiar with Granville Island. A total of $6 million is allocated to a “Granville Island Emergency Relief Fund”. What is happening on Granville Island that it needs $6 million under Bill C-2? We do not know.
As a final example, I will bring up “Support for The Federal Bridge Corporation Limited”. What does help with COVID-19 have to do with granting $1 million to the Federal Bridge Corporation?
I can provide many more examples like these. I have two full pages. There are $7 billion worth. Amounts are allocated, and we do not really know why. These are major budget items, but we are not allowed to talk about them. The Liberals are forcing us to talk only about benefits and about helping people. As I said earlier, we understand that. However, we are talking about billions of dollars for things that deserve an answer, and we will not get those answers because time is of the essence.
The reason time is of the essence is that Parliament was shut down for a month and a half because the Prime Minister would rather not hear about his problems. Now we have several billion dollars in spending before us. This is what Canadians are fed up with, not the government's COVID-19 assistance for Canadians in need or for entrepreneurs. They are fed up with us not really knowing where all this money is going.
When this is all over, when all is said and done and we have spent, say $500 billion or more, it will be hard to figure out how many hundreds of billions of dollars were spent willy-nilly in ways that could have been pared down or avoided because they had nothing to do with protecting people during the COVID-19 pandemic. That is the big question. We do not have an answer, and we will not be getting one anytime soon because everything is urgent and the government is being sloppy.