Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.
I am extremely pleased to be here tonight to debate Bill C-4 on behalf of the people of Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.
Before I begin, I would like to address a somewhat sensitive subject. I think that my colleagues were shocked and saddened by the same news as I was today. An indigenous woman died from an overdose of morphine administered by nursing staff in a Joliette hospital who did not listen to her when she said she was allergic to the drug. Staff were uttering racist and violent remarks as she lay dying, a horrible death.
Apart from Bill C-4 and the government's response to COVID-19, I think that it is going to take a lot more than a prorogation. The government can no longer hide behind that tactic to infringe on other jurisdictions. It is also going to take a lot more than a law instituting a national day for truth and reconciliation with indigenous people to fight systemic racism in Canada.
Now I am going to talk about Bill C-4. Earlier today, I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons insinuate that the reason opposition parties wanted to prolong the debate was probably that they did not understand what it was about.
I can assure all members that we know exactly what this is about. We know it so well that we have already noticed the problems with this bill and want to fix them now, not when it is too late or when most individuals will already be involved in the program.
I would note that hundreds, if not thousands, of people have called their MPs to say that they did not think they were entitled to the CERB but that it was so easy to get that it must have been fine. Now many of them no longer have enough cash to pay that money back.
Those people could have stopped collecting the CERB at some point during the crisis when it was time to go back to work and do their bit to restart the economy. Unfortunately for our businesses, the lack of incentives to work meant that people were making more just staying home than they would have made going back to work.
This is the type of flaw that we must take the time to shed light on today in Bill C-4 even though the government wants to speed up the process. We owe at least that much to the people who elected us.
I will take this opportunity to make suggestions to the government to ensure the well-being of the people in my riding and those in Quebec and Canada. The Bloc Québécois presented its recovery plan yesterday and I invite the Liberals to read it carefully and use it as a guide because it reflects the needs and demands of the people of Quebec.
I am from Amqui, a small town in the Matapédia region in eastern Quebec. I am deeply attached to my region and the success and survival of all the regions in Quebec. I am sure that the economic future of Quebec lies in these regions and only Quebeckers should decide how to use public funds.
The role of Canada, as long as we are part of it, is limited to the authority it is given under the Constitution. We talk about this Constitution a lot, probably because of the very centralizing Speech from the Throne that was delivered last week. What does the Constitution say? It says that the federal government must transfer to Quebec money to which it is entitled according to its areas of jurisdiction.
Since Ottawa is going to continue to pump huge amounts of money into the programs set out in Bill C-4, it is imperative that this be done properly. Yes, we need to support those most in need, those who have lost their jobs or have to stay home because of COVID-19. However, before it can start talking about creating thousands of new jobs, the federal government must ensure that existing jobs are protected. We need to support businesses that are struggling to stay afloat after the first wave.
One such business that comes to mind is Marmen, in Matane, a leader in the development of wind power in Quebec. This company is an expert in its field and is doing the Lower St. Lawrence region proud. Yesterday Marmen had the difficult task of announcing that it will have to lay off 55 employees on November 22 and another 100 or so the following week. When we hear news like that, we really need to hear the government say it will take the bull by the horns and make investments to support not only our people, but also our expertise.
We need a government that will once and for all stop investing directly in western Canada's fossil fuel industry through subsidies and tax breaks. We need a government that will invest in the energy transition instead, in wind power, forestry, innovative technologies and research and development. That is also what we need to hear. We also want to hear the government stand up for sectors that have been falling through the cracks since the crisis began.
I am thinking in particular of travel agencies, which have been hard-hit from the beginning of the crisis. Ms. Labrecque is the owner of a travel agency in Maria, in the Gaspé, which is in my riding. Unfortunately, she thinks that she will not be able to keep her doors open for more than a few weeks for lack of funds. One of the problems is that she does not qualify for the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance program and her business is considered to be a risk. Given that the travel industry is paralyzed, she no longer has access to credit.
For some businesses in Quebec regions, the summer of 2020 set records for visitors, but not for those agencies trying to survive on only 3% to 4% of their usual revenue. More than 200 agencies in Quebec have already closed their doors permanently. From the beginning, the Bloc Québécois has criticized the commercial rent assistance program as being ineffective and a poorly designed program that has failed miserably.
Bill C-4 is unfortunately not enough to help the travel industry. It is a dying industry. The Bloc Québécois proposed a refundable tax credit of 50% of recognized fixed costs. I am very interested to hear what the government has to say about that.
I now want to talk about seniors, a topic that is very close to my heart. I am fortunate in that my four favourite seniors are still living. I want to take this opportunity today to acknowledge Noëlla, Florent, Lorraine and Jean-Marc, from the bottom of my heart. No matter how old I am or how old they are, I will always call them grand-maman, grand-papa, mamie and papi. I am fortunate in that they are in good health.
It is difficult for me to restrict contact with them during the pandemic, but it is even harder for them and for all seniors in Quebec and Canada. They have been isolated for months, without support from the federal government, aside from a single, paltry cheque. It was a pittance.
Seniors have been hit hard by the crisis, as has their physical and mental health. We need to help them by immediately and permanently increasing the old age security pension, starting at age 65. Yes, I said age 65 and not 75. The guaranteed income supplement is in urgent need of being adjusted so that no one is penalized. We are calling for the federal government's health transfers to be increased to 35%, without any conditions. We will be repeating this many times.
The tragedy that struck long-term care facilities and seniors' residences in Quebec during the pandemic is the result of many years of underfunding, particularly on the part of the federal government. The situation in many facilities in Quebec is still difficult.
To date, over 5,800 people have died in Quebec. Of those, 4,000 died in long-term care facilities and 976 died in private seniors' residences. Those numbers are growing every day. We must not kid ourselves. The storm is not over yet.
I would like to take a brief moment to talk about the health care workers who care for seniors. Personal support workers and registered practical nurses work under extremely difficult conditions and they deserve our respect and admiration.
Canada needs people like Ahmed Aouad who works in a seniors' residence in Mont-Joli in my riding. This man does vitally important work, particularly in the current context. For months, he has had to work seven days a week because of a labour shortage. Mr. Aouad is seriously considering leaving Quebec but it is not because he does not like his work, his home or his new country. On the contrary, he would like to live in the Lower St. Lawrence area. The reason he is considering leaving is that his wife lives in Morocco and it is practically impossible for her to come join him in Canada. The situation in Morocco is troubling, not only because of COVID-19, but also because of the political situation. All steps taken with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to help her come to Canada faster have been blocked indefinitely. I would have liked to send more time talking to this man, but I am sure I will have the opportunity to do so soon.
In closing, I want to point out that the government could have prorogued Parliament for 24 hours but decided to prorogue for five weeks. As a result, we are being asked to rush Bill C-4 through without hearing from witnesses, even though that would have enabled us to identify and correct problems in the bill. That all happened because the Prime Minister wanted to sweep the WE scandal under the rug. Although we wanted to do whatever it took to serve our constituents' best interests, we deplore the government's approach. The government introduced Bill C-4 at the last second and is now asking us to pass it without conducting a thorough analysis because there is not enough time.