Mr. Speaker, with the rising threat of the omicron variant, it is absolutely crucial that Bill C-2 pass in order to bring in the supports that Canadian businesses and workers need.
What we have learned over the past 12 months is that the most important and effective economic policy is one that protects the health of Canadians.
I would like to remind the Conservatives and the NDP, who voted against the bill, that we are still in a pandemic, and our entrepreneurs and workers continue to face significant challenges. This is certainly not the time to let them down.
In these troubling times of rapidly increasing cases of the omicron variant, the federal government is ready to act, and we have the resources to do so.
In the economic and fiscal update presented earlier this week, our government announced the following investments: $2 billion to procure COVID-19 therapeutics and treatments that will save lives and help prevent hospitalizations, $1.7 billion to procure rapid testing supplies in order to identify infections earlier and break the chain of transmission, and $7.3 billion to procure vaccine boosters.
We are facing a serious threat, but we are prepared. Responding to this threat is obviously going to be the federal government's top priority.
Let us take a step back for a moment. When the pandemic hit us, our government rapidly rolled out a full range of effective, broad-based programs to support Canadians through our country’s greatest economic shock since the Great Depression. These actions were necessary and unprecedented in our lifetime.
A mere weeks after the start of the COVID-19 health crisis in Canada, we moved to introduce the emergency recovery benefit to ensure the Canadians who lost their jobs could keep food on the table and a roof over their head. We also introduced the emergency wage subsidy to help our businesses, particularly our small businesses, but also to help our workers and those working for our small businesses.
These supports have been absolutely critical, both for our economy and for our health. As the IMF recently said, “Government budget support measures during the COVID-19 pandemic have saved lives and jobs.”
It is therefore not a coincidence that we, here in Canada, have the second lowest COVID death rate out the G7. It is also no coincidence that we have the second strongest job recovery in the G7. This is a direct result of the resilience of Canadians, but it is also a demonstration of the impact a federal government can have when it puts people first.
Conservative members in this House seem to take a different view, choosing instead to demonize those Canadians that needed support during the depth of the pandemic. For example, the Conservative finance critic said yesterday that CERB recipients were fraudsters stuffing their pockets.
We are talking about a program that helped nearly nine million Canadians and was a literal lifeline for so many. We are talking about vulnerable seniors. We are talking about workers who lost their jobs and needed to put food on the kitchen table. These are our neighbours, our fellow Canadians. They should not be vilified.
I stand behind the supports we put in place. I also stand behind the decision to end the CERB once the economy reopened and jobs were again available. We can, and we have, made the right decisions at the right time in order to support those in need and support economic growth.
From coast to coast to coast, our programs have been a lifeline for workers and businesses. They have helped protect millions of jobs and helped hundreds of thousands of Canadian businesses get through the worst days of the pandemic.
However, let us be clear. These emergency measures were always meant to be temporary and to help us get through the crisis. Fortunately, we are in a new phase and it is very different from the darkest chapters of our fight against COVID‑19. Not only have we recovered 106% of the jobs lost during COVID‑19, but our economy is bouncing back exceptionally well. In the last quarter, the growth rate was 5.4%, which is twice as high as expected.
We also have the most effective and successful vaccination campaign in the world. Indeed, 64 million doses have already been administered and more than 80% of Canadians aged five and up have received two doses of the vaccine.
We have concluded agreements to receive millions of additional doses to ensure that all Canadians have access to the third dose of the vaccine.
Thanks to one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world, most businesses here in Canada have safely reopened and our country's employment is now back to well above pre-pandemic levels. However, we know there are still workers and businesses whose livelihoods are being affected as a result of public health measures. That is why it is important to pivot our supports to more targeted measures that will provide help where it is needed most, and continue to create jobs and growth while prudently managing government spending.
Some may wonder how we can tell that we have reached this turning point in Canada's economic recovery from the COVID recession. Allow me to highlight several markers of our government's successful economic response plan that has brought us to where we are today.
Last year, in the Speech from the Throne, our government promised to create one million jobs, a goal we achieved in September of this year when Canada recovered all of the jobs lost at the worst point of the recession. There have been three million jobs recovered since the spring of 2020, a very impressive number. Our plan is working. We have now surpassed our target and have, in fact, recovered 106% of the jobs lost at the peak of the pandemic, significantly outpacing the United States, where just 83% of lost jobs have been recovered thus far.
By delivering significant fiscal policy support to the economy and avoiding the harmful austerity policies proposed by the Conservatives after the 2008 recession, our Liberal government has supported a much more rapid and resilient recovery. In fact, our economy is now back to pre-pandemic outputs many months earlier than in the 2008 recession, even though the COVID recession was four times deeper and more significant.
However, as welcome as these economic markers and signs of recovery are, our government recognizes that not all sectors of the economy are there yet. Some of the necessary health and safety measures that continue to save lives continue to be restrictive for our businesses and for certain sectors of the economy, and with the threat of omicron looming, we need to continue to provide support where and when it is needed. What this means for our government is that we are entering what I truly hope and believe will be the final pivot in delivering the support needed to ensure a robust, inclusive and strong recovery for our country.
The service industry continues to stimulate the recovery, but the progress made in the retail sector has been erased in part by the losses in other sectors, including the accommodation and food services sector.
As the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance indicated earlier, many of the business support programs ended in October with the reopening of our economy. However, we know that the work is not over. The federal government must continue to be there to support Canadians. That is exactly what we are doing with Bill C‑2, which is before us today. We are moving on from broad, sweeping support, which was appropriate at the height of the crisis, to more targeted measures that will provide help where it is still needed.
This includes extending the Canada recovery hiring program until May 2022, which would help us finish the fight against COVID and continue to ensure that lost jobs are recovered as quickly as possible. For eligible employers with current revenue losses above 10%, our government would provide a subsidy rate of 50% to enable employers to hire the staff they need to grow. In addition, our government is proposing to deliver targeted support to businesses that are still facing significant pandemic-related challenges.
As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance, I am particularly concerned with the struggles still faced by the tourism industry and those who depend on it. Let us not sugar-coat it: The industry has gone through an absolutely devastating 21 months. Tourism revenues decreased by almost 50% between 2019 and 2020, going from $104 billion to just $53 billion, while jobs directly attributable to tourism decreased by 41%. Those numbers are shocking. We must acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of workers in the tourism industry have lost their jobs, and that although many industries have seen strong and sustained recovery, the tourism sector is still struggling to recover its losses.
We must recognize the very difficult situation they face, and that is why we are moving forward in Bill C-2 with a new targeted tourism and hospitality recovery program. This new support program would provide wage and rent subsidies to tourism and hospitality businesses still facing serious pandemic-related challenges. Eligible applicants include hotels, travel agents, airports and other businesses directly related to tourism. However, we recognize that many more businesses rely indirectly on tourism. After all, about 10% of all jobs in Canada are dependent directly or indirectly on tourism. That is why we have expanded the list of eligible recipients to include restaurants, parks, sports facilities, theatres, festivals and more.
I know that this help is absolutely critical. I have spoken to hundreds of independent restaurant and tourism operators, and I have heard first-hand the distress and angst they have at the prospect of closing their businesses, often their life's work. Local businesses, like a favourite neighbourhood restaurant, are what make our communities and main streets home. We cannot leave them behind. That is why we have brought forward Bill C-2 and why it is so urgent that it pass.
To help these businesses that are still facing significant difficulties, our government is proposing to provide support through three new programs for businesses still grappling with major pandemic-related challenges.
The first is the tourism and hospitality recovery program, which would provide support to, for example, hotels, tour operators, travel agencies and restaurants with wage and rent subsidies of up to 75%.
The second is the hardest-hit business recovery program, which would provide support to other businesses that have faced deep losses, with wage and rent subsidies of up to 50%.
The third is the local lockdown program, which would provide businesses that face temporary new local lockdowns up to the maximum amount available through the wage and rent subsidy programs.
Finally, to ensure that workers who must isolate due to illness or must stay home to take care of a family member can continue to receive financial support, we are extending the recovery sickness benefit and the recovery caregiving benefit.
These measures are essential for our economy and to protect Canadians' health. They should be supported by all parties in the House.
As my time draws to a close in this debate on Bill C-2, let me take this opportunity to address Canadians before we leave for the holidays. I would ask them to book their appointments for a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The booster shot is incredibly important. As a mother to a young child, I will also take this opportunity to address Canadian parents from right across the country and encourage them to get their children vaccinated as well.
Let us do everything we can to help the provinces and territories avoid putting in place further lockdown measures. Let us do everything possible to avoid overwhelming our health care system and our hospitals. Let us do everything possible to keep each other safe and healthy.
As this may be my last opportunity to speak before the holidays, I wish you, Mr. Speaker, my colleagues and all Canadians a very happy holiday period, a safe holiday season and a healthy 2022.