Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver East.
I am delighted to be able to join today. I am delighted to be able to virtually participate in our discussion on Bill C-4. I have enjoyed listening to all the members speak and I do miss being able to be in the House, but there is some benefit because it is a little bit earlier in the day in Alberta where I am at the moment.
I am going to talk about Bill C-4 and I am also going to take a moment to talk about what COVID-19 means in Alberta and how Bill C-4 will help in Alberta. I was certainly moved by the words we heard from the member for Calgary Nose Hill and I would like to add to that, if I may.
I first want to say that Bill C-4 is a good first step. I am so proud that because of what the NDP fought for, including the paid sick leave and for supports for Canadians who cannot return to work, Canadians, Albertans, Edmontonians, people in Edmonton Strathcona, will not be as anxious about they will deal with the second wave of COVID-19 we know is coming.
People will worry about their health and safety, and the health and safety of their family, but they do not need to worry about their bills or how they are going afford to meet their needs. Extending the supports until summer and keeping the support at $2,000 a month means that people impacted by this pandemic can pay their rent and can put food on their tables in the coming months.
Paid sick leave means that Canadians who are sick or Canadians whose children are sick, can stay home and do the right thing to protect themselves and our communities without worrying about losing income.
I would like to congratulate the government on listening to the NDP and recognizing that Canadians need sick leave during a global pandemic. Of course, Canadians need sick leave at all times, but we will keep fighting for that. Canadians also need to know that they will have adequate support until they go back to work.
We know that this bill would provide help to millions of Canadians and I am proud of that. I appreciate the collaborative way that some, certainly not all, parliamentarians have worked to help Canadians during this pandemic. I am particularly proud of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party and the members who have been fighting for Canadians since the very beginning of this pandemic. We are ensuring help for people out of work through no fault of their own, seniors, students and recent graduates, small businesses and people living with disabilities, all those who were forgotten by the Liberals in their initial plans. I am proud that we were able to improve on almost every single proposal by the government and I am proud to say we will continue to fight for Canadians and we do not think that our job is done.
I do want to focus on Alberta for a moment. Even before the pandemic was declared six months ago, Edmonton had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Our economy was in free fall. The provincial government had done cuts that were leading to layoffs. The post-secondary institutions we needed for innovation and diversification were dealing with deep cuts to support. Women were facing higher levels of violence than in other regions of the country. We were also already facing a homelessness crisis.
I recall standing in the House and asking what the government's plan was to support Alberta workers facing a decimated oil and gas sector and the desperate need for us to help to diversify the Alberta economy. I pleaded with the government then to create a plan and solution to the economic crisis that is gripping my province. A plan for an economy that will support Alberta now and into the future. That was in February. I stood up in the House and said those things in February and then COVID-19 hit and that has made it worse.
While some provinces are beginning to see a recovery, in Alberta, we are not. In my riding of Edmonton Strathcona, CERB has been a lifeline for tens of thousands of constituents and constituents need the support to keep their homes, to pay their rent, and to put food on the table for their families.
I have personally spoken to hundreds of Albertans who have used CERB to survive. I am not sure if members heard in the news today, but not a single one of those people I spoke to used that benefit for Cheezies, cartoons or drugs. I am appalled that a Conservative in my province thinks that 1,062,640 Albertans did not need the support they received during this unprecedented global health pandemic.
I live in Edmonton Strathcona, the heart of the creative sector. It is where we have the fringe festival, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, theatres and restaurants that work with those theatres. Those artists, musicians, venue operators and restaurant owners were all so worried about what would happen and how they would survive at the end of CERB. I am so pleased that I can offer them support with the CRB.
I have spoken to small business owners, to parents and to recent graduates struggling with debt and a lack of income. I have spoken to people with disabilities who are desperate to know when they will be supported. I cannot say it enough that people in Alberta are dealing with the triple blow of an economic catastrophe, a provincial government that has implemented a cruel regime of cuts and layoffs, and a global pandemic unlike anything we have ever seen. Those people in Alberta need the support that the bill would provide, but it is not enough for Alberta. Albertans will need all of us, all parties, to fight for them in the coming years ahead.
We know that the supports in Bill C-4 are good, but they do not go far enough. If it was not apparent before COVID-19, we know that so many people in Canada, so many people in Edmonton Strathcona, have precarious employment. They rely on part-time work and gig work. They are contract workers or self-employed, and they are not covered by EI benefits. It is critical to recognize that the EI system is inadequate for our needs with or without a pandemic. We need to make these temporary emergency fixes permanent, because all workers need to be protected, not just some.
We know that at the beginning of the pandemic my NDP colleagues and I pushed for an emergency basic income that would have gotten support out to everyone who needed it. Instead, the government relied on the EI system. We asked for something that would go out to everyone, but we did not get that. What we got instead was a system that was based on exclusions. Dozens of students did not qualify for CERB. Expectant mothers lost their EI benefits. People living with disabilities facing enormous challenges were left out. What we have to do now is to make sure that those people are not left out going forward.
I am pleased that the government is extending emergency support beyond basic EI into the summer. I am pleased that the government has adopted our recommendation not to cut the benefit to Canadians from $2,000 a month. I am happy to see the Canadian recovery child care benefit and the Canadian recovery sickness benefit, but I have concerns. These things have to become permanent. Sick leave has to become permanent. Things like child care cannot be limited to children who are under 12 years old. I am the mother of a 12-year-old child. If that child has COVID or is ill, I cannot leave them at home. We need to do better. We need to look at what is in Bill C-4, recognize the value in it and improve it.
I am happy to support Bill C-4 for what it does for Canadians, but there is so much more we must do. We must extend the moratorium on student loan payments. We must provide support for students and graduates who cannot find work. We have to ensure that there is accessible, reliable, universal child care. We need to make sure that our seniors are protected in long-term care centres that are not driven by profit, but rather have national standards that protect all seniors. We need to invest in our public health care system with things like pharmacare, mental health care and dental care.
We must identify the people who are left behind, and we cannot let them fall through the cracks again.