Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening in support of Bill C-4, an act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19.
This is a very important bill. It will allow us to build on the measures already set out in Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan so we can protect Canadians during the next wave of the pandemic and, more importantly, continue to support them as the economy reopens.
A number of my colleagues have already spoken eloquently about the new measures this bill proposes, such as the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit. I will also talk about them in a few minutes, but I would first like to talk about the importance of passing Bill C-4 quickly. Time is running out.
As we know, the legislation we are debating here today would, among other things, extend the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act to the end of this year. It is a very long title for a very important act that is otherwise set to expire. As hon. members may recall, it was enacted in March as part of Bill C-13, adopted by the House. It allows the government to spend the money needed to protect Canadians and address the public health crisis of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a cornerstone of Canada's COVID-19 economic response plan, a plan that has been critical to supporting Canadians and Canadian businesses.
I know I have spoken about this many times, but I cannot understate the extent to which Canadians have relied on our economic response to get them through these extraordinary times. Through this plan, our government has delivered on programs, such as the Canada emergency response benefit, that have helped millions of Canadians. The CERB has ensured that millions of Canadians have not had to make impossible choices between putting food on their tables and paying their bills when they have lost their jobs or seen their incomes reduced as a result of the pandemic.
The CERB has helped nearly nine million Canadians since March.
Given how many Canadians lost their jobs this year, it quickly became apparent that many of them would need financial support until they could get back to work. However, the existing income support programs were not designed to deal with a crisis of this magnitude. That is why we created the Canada emergency response benefit, or CERB, and made sure that many Canadians would be eligible, for instance by allowing workers to earn up to $1,000 per month while still receiving the CERB.
The Canada emergency response benefit has been a key program, supporting millions of Canadians unable to work because of COVID-19. It has had a tangible impact on the quality of life of millions of families from coast to coast to coast, in every constituency in this country, and that is thanks to the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act. The Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act also paves the way to support businesses across this country, especially our small businesses.
Canadians have worked their whole lives to establish businesses that serve their communities and provide good local jobs. Small businesses not only are the backbone of our economy, but define our neighbourhoods. They give our main streets their character, owners become community leaders and they become the places we rely on to connect to one another.
The list goes on. It is largely thanks to the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act that we are able to help Canadians, support our businesses, and protect everyone's health and safety. However, there is still more work to be done. The increase in COVID-19 cases across the country and the arrival of the second wave clearly show that we are still grappling with the pandemic. We must not let our guard down. We must continue to protect the Canadians who need us most. We must continue to support them, but first we must give ourselves the means to do so, and we must do it now. When Parliament passed the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act in March, the date of repeal was set for September 30, 2020. This means that the act will expire tomorrow, but COVID-19 will not expire. We must extend the act. We owe it to Canadians.
The limited extension of this act would allow the government to continue to do a lot of the things we have been doing to support Canadians and businesses that are most in need. For example, this act would allow the government to keep buying the necessary personal protective equipment to help essential workers. It would also crucially continue support for the public health, social and economic response in indigenous communities. We understand that indigenous communities are vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19, which is why we acted quickly to provide nearly a billion dollars to support public health and community-led responses in these communities.
Extending the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act to December 31 would ensure that there are no needless interruptions to several programs, especially since a second wave of the pandemic is imminent and has already hit some regions. The extension would enable the government to continue to support the provinces and territories and improve the capacity of our health care system. Take, for example, the federal government's investment in testing and contact tracing. We are talking about a legislative framework that has been essential to our assistance plan.
Extending the act would also enable the government to help small businesses and maintain support measures for farmers, food companies and food supply chains. It would ensure that there is no interruption to the final payments under existing programs, such as the CERB, while we begin to transition to the new assistance programs.
We are now six months into the worst health and economic crisis in Canadian history. COVID-19 has affected all aspects of Canadians' lives, from their health to their livelihoods. We will overcome this pandemic, but this will require the work of every order of government, every community and every one of us. For our part, we will support people and businesses through this crisis as long as it lasts. Let me be absolutely clear with the House and with all Canadians: We will do whatever it takes to get through this pandemic.
We are trusting science to lead the fight until a safe, effective vaccine becomes available. Until then, we must remain vigilant and use the tools available to us, such as testing, treatment and physical distancing. The government will continue to be there for Canadians, just as Canadians are there for each other. We will do whatever is necessary.
Canadians are counting on their government to be there for them when they need it. We know that too many are still unable to work because of COVID-19, including many women, many newcomers to Canada and many people who are self-employed. As we have said previously, and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion said earlier this evening, we will continue to support these vulnerable Canadians. Those who have been receiving CERB will be supported by the employment insurance system. Let me be clear on something: We will not let down those who do not qualify for EI.
Bill C-4 would ensure that the workers impacted by COVID-19 have the support they need by creating three new transitional benefits to ensure that Canadians can continue to support their families and make ends meet.
First, under the Canada recovery benefit, $500 per week for up to 26 weeks could be available to those individuals not working due to the pandemic and who do not qualify for EI, including the self-employed. This would also be available to those individuals working reduced hours who have lost 50% or more of their income due to the pandemic.
Second, the Canada recovery sickness benefit would provide $500 per week for up to two weeks to workers who are unable to work for at least 50% of the time they would have otherwise worked, either because they contracted COVID-19, think they might have it or because they isolated because of the virus.
Third, the Canada recovery caregiving benefit would be available to those who cannot work because they are caring for a close relative or because their child cannot go to school or day care because of the pandemic. These Canadians could receive $500 per week for up to 26 weeks.
These transitional benefits are proposed as part of the government's plan to support Canadians, as we work to build a stronger, more resilient economy. All three would be available for one year. We know this crisis will not pass this week or next.
This pandemic is the worst public health crisis Canada has ever encountered. Canadians of all ages everywhere in the country have been hit hard. Millions of Canadians lost their jobs or had their hours cut along with their income. Job losses may be the most obvious effect of the global economic shock we have all had to withstand, but the shock also highlighted a whole range of quality-of-life issues, such as mental health, family violence and social ties.
We firmly believe that policy development must be guided by prosperity and quality of life for all Canadians. That is what will help us build a stronger, more resilient country, and that is what guides us as we develop the pandemic recovery plan.
This is not the time for austerity. As Canadians continue to weather the consequences of the pandemic, we must maintain certain assistance program and launch others. Bill C-4 will enable us to round out many of the existing measures. It will also help us make our COVID-19 economic response plan more effective. In the medium and long terms, we will also have to recover from the pandemic by building a stronger and more resilient Canada.
Canada entered this crisis in the best fiscal position of its peers. For the past six months, the government has been using that fiscal firepower so Canadians, businesses and our entire economy have the support needed to weather the storm. The same firepower can also help us to overcome this crisis and build back as a stronger, more resilient country.
It is critical to ensure that the Canadians who need it the most continue to receive the support they need. It will help to ensure that Canadians and the businesses where they work continue to receive the support they need.
I will end by saying this. Our government's first priority is addressing this pandemic and ensuring Canadians are healthy and safe. We are getting them the help they need today, while finding solutions which will improve their quality of life over the months and years to come.
Our government's priority is to fight this pandemic and make sure Canadians stay healthy and safe. We will give them the help they need now, and we will come up with solutions to improve their quality of life in the months and years to come.
The measures contained in this bill would help us to do exactly that. I urge every member of the House to do the same.