Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from Brampton East this morning.
It is great to see the Speaker and all of our colleagues, despite this being in a virtual setting. It is the world we are living in right now.
Today I have the privilege of speaking to Bill C-14. For those sitting at home, this means the implementation of commitments that were made by our government in the fall economic statement. What I hope to do with my time here today is talk about those commitments and how they relate to what I have heard in my constituency of Kings—Hants and in Nova Scotia, and talk a bit about where I see the future in terms of our economic recovery.
I will first talk about support announced in the fall economic statement that is part of this bill. There are $1,200 to help support children under six years old in households that are making under $120,000 a year. I cannot say how much I have heard on the doorsteps in my riding of Kings—Hants about the power and benefit of the Canada child benefit and what it has meant for low- and medium-income households to have a little extra money at the end of the month to buy healthy groceries and make sure their dependants have opportunities in recreation, arts and different activities.
In Kings—Hants alone, though I do not have the exact number, I believe the program means that $15 million or $16 million a month go to my riding. My hon. predecessor, Scott Brison, talked about what this program meant for the people in Kings—Hants and, indeed, across the country. Every member of Parliament in this House could speak about the importance of what this program means. It is a temporary measure. It is $1,200 for 2021, recognizing the fact that families are going through challenges right now and we need to be there for them as a government. It is certainly something I applaud as a parliamentarian, and I expect that all members of the House can speak about the benefit of what this represents.
I turned 30 not too long ago. I am one of the youngest members in the House and the youngest in the governing party, and I am not too far removed from my days in university. I was fortunate to attend Saint Mary's University in Halifax and Dalhousie for a law degree, and I can say that the cost of education is a challenge for many individuals. I still hold student debt. We need to make sure we are helping to protect those students, in particular, who are most vulnerable. Right now, as I understand it, as part of this bill, 1.4 million Canadian students will not have interest accrue on their student loans during this time. That is extremely important. We know that we need to support our next generation of young workers and leaders in our country, and I certainly applaud the government in this direction.
I want to talk about long-term health care. In my part of the country, in Nova Scotia, we have seen the challenges in Northwood. There were 51 deaths in long-term care in Northwood. We have seen challenges across the country, in Quebec and Ontario in particular. I have heard from constituents in my riding who reached out to me to say that we need to do more on long-term care, that the federal government needs to be willing to help step up and support, and that is exactly what we announced in the fall economic statement.
We have dedicated over $500 million to help support the provinces and territories in battling COVID and making sure measures are in place. We know there are probably longer-term conversations that need to happen around long-term care, but this is a meaningful step in the right direction. We recall that during the height of the pandemic, when premiers and provincial governments called upon the Canadian Armed Forces to intervene and help support, we were there to make sure that happened.
Through the safe restart program, $19 billion went to the provinces and municipal governments to help support them through some of the most challenging times in the pandemic. This is another demonstration of the work this government has been doing to support the provinces and territories, particularly in an area that is extremely important, which of course is long-term care.
There are also $133 million allocated in Bill C-14 for virtual care. As chair of the rural caucus, I know that for some of our most rural and remote communities having access to care may not allow for a direct relationship. We may in some cases need to be able to access tools and technologies, very similar to the way we are running a national Parliament right now on a Zoom call. We can make sure that telemedicine and telehealth options are available. Given the pandemic, this is extremely important as an interim measure, but in the days ahead it is going to be even more important moving forward.
The final piece I want to talk about in the key points I wanted to highlight in this bill is a change under the ability for business owners to access the rent subsidy. Before Christmas, the Minister of Finance, through I think Bill C-9, announced changes on the wage subsidy to help support businesses and simplify support for rent for businesses. This was extremely important in my community of Kings—Hants.
I live in an area called East Hants about half an hour outside of Halifax. Although Nova Scotia has been spared and we have worked collectively to avoid some of the case counts we have seen across the country, there was a rise in cases just before Christmas that required significant shutdowns, particularly for restaurants and hospitality organizations. This was something they were able to take advantage of. The provision under this act allows them to access the benefit before rent is actually due, which is extremely important because we know cash flow for businesses is challenging, particularly in the hospitality and restaurant sectors.
I have had the chance to listen in on this debate, which was happening yesterday, and will continue today and I believe tomorrow as well. I want to point something out. I have heard members of the opposition talk about the debt. As someone who considers himself a business Liberal and who certainly appreciates that we have to be fiscally prudent, I recognize that is not a bad direction, but it is hypocrisy.
There are members in this House who, in one sense, talk about the debt, which is a valid concern and we have to be mindful about managing that in the days ahead, but then in the other sense, they say this government has not done enough. In one breath they say we have taken on too much debt and are concerned about it, and then in the next breath they talk about all the measures the government should have taken further.
I would like to ask my Conservative colleagues across the way which it is. Is it that they are concerned about the debt and we should not have taken as much on, or is it that we need to do even more for our businesses? Most Canadians at home are going to recognize that talking out both sides of their mouths is hypocrisy.
I want to finish by talking about where we are going. Yesterday, the member for Carleton talked about the concern with rising debt levels. I agree with him that we need a strong economic strategy on the other side. We have a budget that will be forthcoming, I suspect, in the next couple of months. Our government is focused on ways to drive economic recovery. We have talked about providing up $70 billion to $100 billion of temporary economic stimulus.
The Minister of Finance has been quite clear, both in this House and outside, that her focus will be on those temporary measures. We have to be mindful of adding large structural spending that is not sustainable over the long term. I applaud her in that regard. Our government is going to have a strong plan to be able to bounce back and manage the debt load by growing our economy. That is traditionally how all countries of the world have been able to do this: growing their economy to be able to make the proportion of the debt to their economy go down and down. That was certainly the case before the pandemic, as we had the lowest unemployment in 40 years and a lowering debt-to-GDP ratio.
I want to put on the record some things I think are going to be important in the days ahead. The first is child care. This is not just an idea of social programming anymore, this is beneficial. Economists and business leaders around the world are talking about the importance of child care to help support parents getting back into the workplace. That is certainly something we need to see in the days ahead.
The second is agriculture. As the chair of the rural caucus, the agriculture industry in Canada is extremely important to me. It represents over $130 billion to our GDP and we are poised to be able to grow even further. I hope to see in the days ahead our government leveraging that industry for success.
I will finish with a few others such as natural resources, particularly our forest industry. I look to British Columbia around mass timber and the success it is having in being able to drive innovative practices and sustainable business practices for our forestry sector. On the Atlantic and the Pacific in our coastal communities, small craft harbours is an extremely important program to help support our fishing community.
The final point is on regulatory reform and modernization. We are talking a lot about spending, which is important. We are following other OECD countries. We also have to look at ways to leverage the private sector to be able to let it grow and create jobs, and so we have to be creative in the days ahead as well.