Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to address the House for the first time from my riding of Mount Royal. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Malpeque.
I am very pleased to speak today in support of the legislation before us, which would help Canadians and businesses as they face challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic has evolved, it has become clear that while everyone is affected by the crisis, not everyone is affected equally. While millions of Canadians have returned to work, we are aware that individuals in certain sectors continue to need the government's support because they do not have a job to go back to. While we know that Canada will make it through this crisis, we also know that the months ahead will continue to be challenging.
Simply put, this bill proposes to create three new temporary recovery benefits to help Canadians who are still unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. It also proposes to change the Canada Labour Code to ensure that workers can access these benefits. As our government outlined in the throne speech, our plan is to follow a steady course and continue to support Canadians through this pandemic for so long as it is necessary.
I would like to use my time today to outline what the Government of Canada has been doing to support Canadians during this unprecedented situation and how that has led us to the legislation that is before us today.
Last March, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada took a number of extraordinary but necessary measures to protect and support Canadian workers and businesses during the crisis. To help them get through this extremely difficult period, the government created the Canada emergency response benefit and the Canada emergency wage subsidy.
These measures, among many others, were introduced to help workers who were impacted by COVID-19 to provide for themselves and their families, as well as to help businesses keep their employees on the payroll. Additionally, they made sure that employees in federally regulated workplaces would be able to take time off work to deal with situations related to COVID-19, such as school closures and the need to self-isolate.
The government introduced a new leave under the Canada Labour Code. The leave, related to COVID-19, came into effect in March and was designed to complement the CERB. The CERB provided income support and the leave provided federally regulated employees with access to job-protected time away from work.
We also took steps to make it easier to access certain existing types of leave by waiving medical certificate requirements, easing the burden on health care systems and helping to ensure that every employee who was sick or needed to provide care for a loved one was able to stay home. Also, we took action to protect the jobs of employees in the federally regulated private sector. We provided employers with more time to recall employees who had been temporarily laid off due to the pandemic. These measures have helped protect the jobs of employees who would have otherwise been automatically terminated due to the length of the layoff.
We also temporarily extended the eligible wages period of the wage earner protection program by up to six months. This extension will ensure that any delays in insolvency proceedings as a result of the pandemic do not negatively impact workers' eligibility for the program.
As our Prime Minister has said, this government will continue to take a whole-of-government approach to respond to COVID-19. In other words, it is a team Canada effort. To protect the health and safety of Canadians, and to support workers and businesses, communication with the provinces, territories and our stakeholders has been essential.
Throughout this pandemic, we have heard from union representatives and employers in many sectors, including aviation, trucking, rail transportation, banking, telecommunications, broadcasting and courier services, to name just a few. These representatives collectively represent almost one million federally regulated workers and thousands of other employers across the country.
We also met many times with our provincial and territorial counterparts to share information, best practices and available resources with them. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Quebec's minister of labour, employment and social solidarity, as I had the pleasure of speaking with him several times in March.
One thing is certain: We all have a common objective, and that is to ensure that workplaces are safe, that workers are protected and that businesses and the Canadian economy are as strong as they can be.
As Canada's economy continues to adapt to the COVID-19 era, the health and safety of workers remains our government's top priority. That is why we are implementing measures to ensure that employers and employees have the resources they need to return to work safely and responsibly.
All employees in Canada have the same three fundamental rights: the right to know about the hazards present in their workplaces, the right to participate in decisions regarding their health and safety at work, and the right to refuse work that they have a reasonable cause to believe is dangerous to themselves. These rights, the responsibilities of employers and the structures created to support them, such as workplace health and safety committees, form the basis of internal responsibility systems in workplaces.
Today, I would like to reiterate the importance of employers taking the necessary steps to ensure that their health and safety committees or representatives are actively developing plans for a safe return to the workplace, and that these plans are widely shared with employees. Employers are also responsible for providing any training that may be required to ensure a safe return to the workplace. Strong and clear communication is crucial to ensuring that all employees have the information they need to work safely.
During the pandemic, we worked with stakeholders. We reminded them that an adaptable plan for preventing risk, ensuring full participation of health and safety committees or representatives in all decisions relating to health and safety, and using technology to communicate effectively with employees is crucial.
For federally regulated workplaces, these rights and requirements are set out in part II of the Canada Labour Code and its regulations.
We understand how important it is to ensure workplaces have the support and guidance they need during this challenging time. That is why I was so pleased that our Minister of Labour announced the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, or CCOHS, would receive $2.5 million over two years to continue its extraordinary work. This funding is part of a coordinated effort by federal, provincial and territorial governments, public health authorities and the CCOHS to make sure businesses have all the necessary tools and resources to protect their employees.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have put Canadians first. We provided the support they needed to make ends meet while staying safe and healthy, and that is exactly what we are going to keep on doing through the next phase of the recovery. The CERB was an important and necessary temporary response to support Canadians who had to stop working due to the pandemic.
To safely restart the economy, Canada must continue to ensure that workers do not return to work if they have COVID-19 or are showing symptoms. That is why, to encourage workers to comply with public health measures when they are sick or need to self-isolate due to COVID-19, our government is proposing the Canada recovery sickness benefit.
With this bill, Canadians would continue to get the support they need through a proposed suite of three new benefits: the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit. The legislation also proposes amendments to the Canada Labour Code so that federally regulated employees can access both the CRSB and the CRCB without fear of losing their jobs.
The proposed changes to the code would modify the existing leave related to COVID-19 to extend its availability beyond the previously set repeal date of October 1, 2020 and align it with the two new benefits. These temporary measures would help Canadians overcome the many challenges they are facing while encouraging people to safely return to work.
We are not out of the woods yet. We need to be ready. We need to make sure Canadians are protected for as long as this pandemic lasts. We also have to protect our economy and keep it strong. A strong economy depends on the safety and security of our workers.
In my view, in the same way as the CEWS, the CERB and programs like CECRA released during the beginning of the pandemic helped to protect so many businesses and people in my riding, the legislation before us will help us all get through the next phase of the crisis while we protect the economy. That is why I encourage all hon. members to support this legislation.