Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I want to acknowledge my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby and the passion he brought to the House on behalf of the disabled community. For my constituents in Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, I will repeat those basic points.
The fact is that the House came together and made a commitment so many months ago for persons with disabilities, but we still have yet to see any money flow, and here we are almost in October. We have essentially left the most disadvantaged and marginalized members of our society to the very last. I agree with my colleague that it is very shameful, and I want to thank him sincerely for the passion he brought to the House to illustrate that point.
I have been listening to this debate throughout the day and it has been very interesting to hear various members of Parliament from all parties relate the stories from their ridings. That has served to establish a kind of bond among us. Yes, we have our political differences, but the stories from our individual ridings are largely the same. There have been the same struggles and uncertainty and I want to convey that in the House. For the people of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, it has been a very rough number of months. The very least we can do as parliamentarians is recognize the acute phase of the crisis and the tremendous amount of uncertainty. We owe it to our constituents to rise to the occasion, to meet the needs out there with programs and services that will ensure Canadians know we have their backs.
I have to also outline my incredible disappointment in the way today's debate is happening. Yes, of course, I am going to be supporting the legislation. After all, it is a result of a compromise, where the NDP proposed some very important measures. Those measures being incorporated in the legislation are going to make things fundamentally better for Canadians. However, I have to decry the fact that this debate now has to be rushed at the eleventh hour. I believe my colleague used the word “precipice”. We are now at the precipice, because this debate is happening under the looming end of the Canada emergency response benefit, and this was totally unnecessary.
We had an agreement with the government to have several sittings over the summer months. We demonstrated an ability among oppositions members and the government to bring back the full House of Commons when emergencies warranted it. We were expecting business to go along as usual under that same rubric. Unfortunately, when August 18 rolled around, many of us learned, with extreme shock and surprise, that the Prime Minister had taken it upon himself to prorogue Parliament until Wednesday last week. It thereby shut down all the work that was being done at committee. It shut down any ability of the House to come back and deal with emergency legislation. It forced us into the situation we find ourselves today, where, because of the constraints of time, we are having to rush this legislation through.
I am very sympathetic to the concerns of my Conservative colleagues. I was here in the last Parliament and know what it is like to face so-called guillotine motions and operate under the constraints of time allocation. In the previous Parliament, that was employed many times. However, I find myself having to go along because of the simple constraints. So many Canadians families operated through August and into early September with that uncertainty, uncertainty of what would happen when the emergency response benefit ran out, because during that time there was no follow-up program.
Yes, there was some vague announcement from the Government of Canada about using the employment insurance system and so on, but we as parliamentarians, on the opposition benches at least, knew there would need to be a legislative change to implement that. A press release is one thing, but bringing back the House to go through the legislation to ensure it will do what it purports to do is another.
I have to decry the fact that prorogation was employed in such a way. The going narrative was that it was for a parliamentary reset. Give me a break. The throne speech we witnessed last week was not a reset; it was a rehash. It was a trip down memory lane of failed Liberal promises. There was nothing new or inspiring in it. We have promises that go all the way back to 1997 that are still ongoing. I am sorry, I do not buy the argument that it was a parliamentary reset.
I also have to express some disappointment in my Conservative colleagues. I am sympathetic to their arguments of wanting to have more time, but what did I witness this morning? I witnessed a concurrence motion being brought forward on the floor of the House of Commons to discuss the conduct of a Liberal MP who is no longer a member in the House.
We wasted an entire morning debating a completely useless motion, in my view. None of my constituents care about a former Liberal MP and his ethics violations. We can do that any other time, but to do it at the eleventh hour when so many Canadian families are living under this uncertainty is unforgivable. We wasted an entire morning when we could have had more members of Parliament expressing their views on this.
That being said, we have an opportunity here to finally under these constraints come together and bring forward some program changes that will make lives better. They are going to give that certainty finally.
I came to Ottawa to make Parliament work. That has always been my goal during the five years I have had the honour and privilege of serving as a member of Parliament. This Parliament is certainly a lot more different than the previous one. We were operating under a majority government at that time. This time, the Canadian people sent us a message in 2019 that they wanted to see us work together. By and large, I have been pretty proud with how that has worked out during the time of the pandemic, today notwithstanding, and the circumstances we operate under.
When we look at this legislation, as New Democrats, and we are a small but mighty caucus, we were able to use our leverage. We are not here to prop up the Liberals. We are here to do our jobs. At times over the last number of weeks, I have seen both the Liberals and the Conservatives unhappy with us. Any time New Democrats make the Liberals and Conservatives uncomfortable, it tells me we are doing our job properly.
The very fact that we managed to bump up the benefit from the Liberals' proposed $1,600 a month to $2,000 is a significant thing, and we should be proud of that. Four hundred dollars in a month's time is a lot of money. It is the difference between getting groceries or being able to fill up one's car. We felt, because we are now about to enter a second wave, that we needed to give people financial certainty, especially those people who have not yet been able to see their businesses reopen or do not have jobs yet to go back to. We needed to give them the certainty the government was still there to provide that important backstop.
As well, there is paid sick leave. This is a huge victory. It does not go as far as we would like, but at least it is an acknowledgement that it is important to have. We do not want to have a system where workers are having to make that choice between their health and their source of income. We do not want workers who are sick or think they may feel they have COVID going to work, potentially shutting that business down and spreading it around to the population. This is a time when we have to remain vigilant and be on our guard against that.
I wish I had more time to talk about this. My final message for the good people of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford is that this is a demonstration of us coming together. Yes, it is under the eleventh hour, but we have come together and we have secured some benefits that are going to measurably make their lives better and hopefully give them a little peace of mind in the weeks and months ahead.