Mr. Speaker, it is important to remind everyone in the House that the health measures are important.
I want to start by humbly thanking the people of my riding of Joliette for putting their faith in me once again. I also thank all the volunteers and campaigners who pitched in during this election campaign. I am truly honoured to speak on behalf of the people I represent in Joliette.
I will be talking about Bill C‑2, regarding the economic impacts of the pandemic.
As members know, the pandemic caused a huge economic downturn, a recession. Some sectors had to be shut down to comply with health measures, and these closures dealt a blow to the economy.
Over the past century, economics has shown us that the least bad solution during these periods is for the government to step in with income support measures. We had measures such as the Canada emergency response benefit, the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the Canada emergency rent subsidy. These measures obviously need to be specific and well targeted if they are to be effective. This is why the Bloc Québécois was generally in favour of them. The Bloc is in favour of effective spending and against waste.
We now seem to be emerging from the pandemic-induced economic crisis, and that is encouraging. The latest statistics released by the government show that for period 21, there were just over 300,000 applications for the wage subsidy, which is about 10 times fewer than there were a few periods ago. We appear to be on the right track.
However, we all know that some economic sectors, businesses and workers have been hit harder by the pandemic. Some sectors will need more time to get back to the way things were before the pandemic. We think it is important to bring in effective programs to help these sectors overcome the pandemic. We believe in that, because we want to be able to count on the women and men who work in these sectors after the pandemic, once the new normal sets in. In the meantime, however, we have to be prepared to work together for the common good.
In one of our first encounters after her appointment during the last Parliament, I pointed out to the Minister of Finance the importance of targeted measures and predictability. Unlike in previous years, when this was rarely the case, these two components are included in Bill C‑2.
The two measures proposed in the bill will apply until May 2022, with the possibility of being extended until July. That provides some important predictability and, for the first time, specific sectors are targeted. This all seems great, and we applaud it.
Right now, the government is telling the House that action is urgently needed. The last period has ended, and the bill must be passed to avoid an interruption in subsidies. Therefore, we must hurry up, so much so that the government wants to invoke closure.
I would like to remind the House that the Liberal Party and its government are the ones responsible for this urgent situation. Did the public really want a general election? It seems that they did not, but the government was hoping to win a majority. Voters said no. Moreover, it took the government two months to recall the House. During that time, we could have been studying Bill C‑2 and taking the time to ensure that it adequately meets people's needs and the needs of our economic sectors. We did not get that time, because the government preferred to delay opening the new Parliament and resuming the work of the House.
Now the government is saying that action is urgently needed. That is obvious. It reminds me of a student who has two weeks to study or do their assignment, but who waits until the day before the deadline or the exam and realizes they must get going. Yes, it is urgent, but the student should have started earlier.
The government could stand to learn that lesson. It needs to take responsibility. If Bill C‑2 passes second reading, and the Bloc Québécois will soon be sharing our concerns about that possibility, we believe it will be extremely important to take the time to study the provisions properly in committee.
The bill sets out percentages for sectors such as tourism and culture. There are some more targeted and more accommodating proposals. There are measures for other sectors in general. The bill requires a business to have lost 40% or 50% of its revenue before being eligible for assistance. Are these percentages carefully targeted? For the Canada emergency wage subsidy, people will receive a specific percentage. Is that percentage appropriate?
All of this must be studied in committee. We need senior officials to explain the reasoning behind these percentages and share their figures and information. We can then decide whether the policy proposed in this bill is appropriately targeted. We need to do the work. We will have to hear from different groups and sectors in society about whether the measure is good and whether they have any amendments to suggest.
When the House passed economic aid bills under a gag order, the government had to come back to the House a month or two later to say that it was wrong, that it had made mistakes and that it had cut corners. Why? It is because those bills were all passed at the last minute, without taking a step back and without taking the time to study the bills and improve them. Sometimes, when we try to move too fast, it slows us and everyone else down.
At the beginning of the pandemic, it was important to act quickly, so there may have been flaws in the legislation. However, the government could have quickly done better by targeting the measures more carefully and by taking more time to examine the issue, rather than proroguing Parliament or, more recently, calling an election and taking two months before coming back to the House.
I would like to remind members that the wording of Bill C‑2, as it now stands, gives the Minister of Finance a lot of discretion. If certain sectors need to be added during the designated assistance period, she would have the power to do so, just as she could change the percentages if needed. Our hope is that, if this bill is passed, the government will use that discretion to support industries properly and respond to needs quickly.
One group is conspicuously absent from this bill: self-employed workers. Yes, there is the rent subsidy, but there is essentially nothing else in the bill. The people I have in mind are self-employed workers in the cultural sector. Supporting them is extremely important, but there is nothing in the bill as it stands. That is an issue I have with the principle of the bill. Why were these workers left out? That is a huge problem.
The government has hinted that there will be a program a few months from now, but how are these self-employed workers supposed to make it through until then with no income? This is very troubling.
Members may recall that, a few years ago, technicians and salaried employees in Quebec's cultural sector were asked to switch to self-employment to better meet the industry's needs. That is what they did, so now we need to help and support the sector. There are lots of self-employed workers in the economy, but the government is not giving them anything in this bill. That is a problem.
This sector is made up of people, women and men who need support. We must help them overcome the effects of the pandemic, which they are still grappling with. We have not forgotten them, and this oversight forces us to question our support for the very principle of this bill.
That was an overview of our thoughts on the bill. Once I have answered members' questions, the House will hear a wonderful speech from my colleague from Terrebonne.