Mr. Speaker, indeed, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-4, an act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19.
Although I did start out to speak to Bill C-2, which has the same name, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-4. I certainly agree with the ruling the Speaker just made. It is an improved bill and better addresses the needs of citizens affected by COVID-19 either directly or indirectly.
The bill, or at least some of the issues and policy flowing out of the bill, shows that this place, the Parliament of Canada, can work well for Canadians through discussions, compromise and a willingness to accept the fact that not any one party has a lock on good ideas or good policy approaches.
While this bill looks forward, I do believe it is important to take a moment to recognize how far we have come since this place basically closed down in March, when we were sent home to try to operate Parliament in a different way. A lot of programs have come out to help people and businesses weather as best they can the financial and health difficulties caused by the pandemic.
Regardless of political stripe, I believe we have to say the government acted quickly. It introduced programs that made a huge difference for the economy, for families and for businesses. It did so quickly. In terms of CERB. I do not think we would have thought it possible that the public service and the government could actually come up with a program that could handle 10,000 applications a minute. That is a pretty phenomenal feat, and I think we should be proud of that.
I went through them today and by my count there are slightly over 100 programs that have been introduced. Liquidity has been provided to the lending institutions, coordinated planning has been established with the provinces and territories, and programs have been flowing out of the Government of Canada based on discussions with the premiers, and in fact with all parties in this House. Roughly $19 of every $20 have come from the federal coffers. Some of my colleagues on the former finance committee will talk a lot about the deficit. However, it is a fact that the federal government is better positioned to carry some of that debt rather than transferring it to individuals, businesses or indeed the provinces, because our rates are preferred, and we certainly hope they stay that way.
Programs were introduced, subject to change, which is unusual. They were not introduced with a hard line that they were going to be the bottom line come hell or high water. They were introduced subject to change, recognizing there were going to be problems and changes that needed to be made. They were improved with the input of members from all parties. I doubt the public knows, but all of us in this House know that members had the opportunity to participate in daily conference calls with senior members from several departments across the Government of Canada.
Through those calls, we had the opportunity to question and discuss, and programs were improved with input accepted from all members. Members could give their input based on how they saw the programs working on the ground, whether it was CERB or any other program. They could give that input from whatever region of the country they reside in.
We must acknowledge members of the public service for participating in program development, in working long hours and participating in those conference calls night after night after night. They would explain programs and answer questions. They would sometimes take criticism. They would accept changes and make recommendations to the various ministries as a result.
We were not always successful in the issues we put forward. I know both the member for Edmonton Centre and I put forward in those nightly calls that CEBA needed to be changed to allow personal bank accounts to be considered. That still has not changed. I am still demanding that the government change that so the people with personal bank accounts and not business accounts can qualify for the CEBA or the RRRF. That needs to be done.
Members from all parties have raised that point. It should not be a program where the banks get the benefit. It has to be a program where people get the benefit. I am disappointed in how I see the banks living up to their obligations in the pandemic at the moment, because they have been provided billions of dollars of liquidity. Many of us in this House agree that change needs to be made.
I sincerely want to thank all members of the public service for their efforts under trying circumstances. They are under the pressure of a health crisis, working from home and working under completely different circumstances than they are used to.
All the programs made a difference. I can certainly say in my riding and across the country the big ones were CERB, the wage subsidies and CEBA. However, now it is time for future extensions and future improvements. That is what we have in Bill C-4. As my colleague before me mentioned, there are three main areas in this bill, three new benefits.
The first is the Canada recovery benefit, which will provide $500 per week for up to 26 weeks for workers who meet the eligible criteria. In other words, they do not qualify for employment insurance, are not employed or have a reduction of at least 50% in employment or self-employment earnings and are available and looking for work. That is important. I do not mind admitting that one of the concerns I have with CERB is I hear from too many businesses that they cannot find workers. There has to be balance here. We need to be there for people who cannot find work, but people also have to be willing to work if work is available. The changes made under employment insurance make it necessary for people to be going out there and striving to gain work.
The second major area in this bill is the Canada recovery sickness benefit. That will provide the same amount of money I mentioned in the first program. This is for workers who are unable to work at least 50% of their normal work because they contracted COVID-19, have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatment or have contracted another sickness that would make them more susceptible to COVID-19.
The third area is the Canada recovery caregiving benefit which will also provide $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household for eligible workers who are unable to work at least 50% of their normal work and need to take unpaid leave to care for a child under the age of 12 due to school or day care closure, or a family member who requires supervised care and is unable to attend a day program.
There are changes. What I tried to outline is that a lot has happened since the COVID-19 pandemic hit this country. All parties can take some credit for those programs.
The government moved rapidly and with this bill today we see how we are recognizing some of the lessons learned from the programs we have put out there and that there needs to be other changes made. I do not have time to go into the employment insurance changes, but they are good as well. We need to debate them further and continue on improving them until we see the end of this pandemic.