Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to join in this debate tonight. We have heard all through the night from members of Parliament about the issues around the impact of the pandemic and what it is like for their constituents, for the people in their community. The impact has been significant. There is no question.
It is no less significant in my community of Vancouver East. Right from the get-go, when the pandemic was on the horizon, New Democrats got up on the floor to call on the government to act. Members will recall that the government's response was that it was going to waive the 10-day waiting period for EI. That was the extent of what the government was going to do.
New Democrats said that was absolutely unacceptable, because some 60% of Canadians do not qualify for EI. Through all of that process and driving the issue, New Democrats would have ideally liked to see a universal direct payment or a livable basic income. The government resisted that, and it came in with the CERB program.
The CERB program is an important program, but let us be honest with ourselves. Even the Liberal members know this. The CERB program excluded a lot of people. As soon as the government announced that program, we had to fight like crazy to drive the issue, to bring forward the voices of the people who were left out and to say that we could not leave them behind.
The Liberals left seniors behind. They left people with disabilities behind. They left students behind. They left self-employed individuals behind. They left so many people behind, part-time workers, migrant workers, and on and on the list went. New Democrats went at it like there was no tomorrow to drive home the message that we had to do better, that it was our obligation to do better.
We did get there. The government slowly, bit by bit, fixed some of those programs. Even with that, there are still people who did not get the support they should have gotten. Here is one example, and I raised this directly with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. Single parents who are reliant on child support, as a result of COVID-19, lost that income. The Canadian government did not see that as income and, therefore, they did not qualify for CERB. I raised that directly with the minister, who indicated that she understood that she had to be there and that the government had to be there to support women. However, to this day, that has not been fixed.
That has been the pattern of the Liberal government to date, quite frankly, and it has been the NDP's job to consistently go after the government to do better. Bill C-4 is exactly just that, because we went after the government to do better.
I know some people will say that the NDP is in bed with the Liberals. Let us be clear about that. We are not in bed with anyone, with the exception of Canadians who need help. Our job is to make sure that we deliver support to them at this most critical time, a time when we are faced with a pandemic.
The government decided to prorogue the House and it was a shameful act, to be honest. It left people in the lurch in the middle of a pandemic and wondering what was going to happen to them. Before the government left, it said it was going to end the CERB program, but it was going to come in with another measure that reduced the amount of support. It was going to reduce the amount from $2,000 a month to $1,600, leaving so many people behind.
New Democrats never gave up. Our leader, the member for Burnaby South, and our critic, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, just went after it relentlessly, saying that we needed to do better and demanded better. The result is Bill C-4. We actually got the government to change the program, to move towards what it needed to be, which was to provide $2,000 a month in support for people in need, for all the people who were left out. This is why we have Bill C-4 before us today.
Right from the get-go, New Democrats have said there is something wrong with our labour standards, in the sense that somehow people who fall ill are not eligible for paid sick leave. What is wrong with this picture? It was particularly evident in the middle of the pandemic when this occurred.
The government was not really going to move on that. It was the New Democrats who continually drove that issue to where we are today, with the changes we see before us in Bill C-4, so that people could get the sick leave they need.
All of that said, these measures are a patchwork approach. That is the reality of what we have today, and it is better than nothing, but the government claims that it wants to build back better. It should give some meaning to those words and make these programs permanent. We should not have to fight this every single time we are in a situation where we do not know what the future may hold. People should not have to worry about their future. People should be treated with the kind of respect and dignity that we all deserve. That is what the New Democrats will continue to fight for.
I think this highlights a very clear issue for us with respect to what needs to be done. My very good colleague, the member from Winnipeg, put forward a guaranteed livable income motion. We should be debating that. We should be talking about how to implement that to make sure that nobody gets left behind.
The government talked about the great work it is doing with respect to housing. I listened intently to the throne speech and was looking to hear from the government about real, concrete action to deliver housing to people in the middle of a pandemic. Just before the throne speech the government announced 3,000 housing units. It was a rapid housing response, it said. Let us put this in context. From a homelessness count that was recently done, we know there are over 2,000 homeless people in Vancouver alone. Three thousand units are not going to do it.
My colleague, the member for Nunavut, just took a tour of her region, and it makes my heart weep to hear the testimony she shared with me and my colleagues about what she saw, about the experiences of people who are homeless and living in “mouldy boxes”. These are houses so infested with mould that it is making them sick. People are losing their children because they do not have proper, safe, adequate, affordable housing. Families are breaking up. She called it the modern-day colonization. That is the reality. What is wrong with this picture when we have this situation today and the government brags about 3,000 units as though that is the solution?
Today I say it is not good enough. This is a start, and the New Democrats are doing their level best to drive forward this issue with the government. We have to do more than just talk. It is incumbent on all of us as elected members in the House to do that job, not to play games, not for partisan politics and not to point fingers. At the end of the day, we must ask what we are delivering to the people who elected us to represent them.
For those in Vancouver East and all the people in my community, people in the Strathcona encampment who are homeless today, people struggling with the opioid crisis, seniors who need standardized national long-term care support and people and families who need support from the Canadian government, we need to be a real partner at the table. We need to deliver, not just talk. It is enough already. This is a heads-up to all Liberal members to stop patting themselves on the back. They should ask themselves what they are going to do today to do better.