Madam Speaker, I am joining members today from sunny Saskatoon, and it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-14.
It not not news to anyone in Canada that we have been in an unprecedented situation in 2020 and 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the way Canadians live their lives, run their households and businesses, manage their finances, pursue their education and so much more. As a result, millions of Canadians are out of work, and many businesses have been forced to either limit their services or shut their doors altogether. Some, unfortunately, will never have the opportunity to reopen.
In Saskatchewan, we lost more than 8,000 jobs from November to December 2020, which is just one month, and we have seen a decrease of over 27,000 jobs from December 2019 to December 2020. We need to be sure that we are responding in a way that supports Canadian families, workers and, of course, our businesses.
Early on in the pandemic, as members know, we saw programs such as the Canada emergency response benefit and the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which were targeted at helping out-of-work Canadians pay their bills and struggling businesses to keep their employees working. However, there were, from the outset, some inherent flaws in these programs. For example, the wage subsidy was originally too small and the response benefit ignored many workers and students. With the opposition's input and pressure on the government, some of these problems were remedied. The wage subsidy was increased to 75%, for example.
However, some major flaws remain in the lack of programs and supports for certain sectors. At the heritage committee, we heard about the problems from artists, festivals, local and national sports organizations, museums, newspapers and other institutions that are crucial to our communities in Canada.
Between February and July of 2020, the GDP in the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors fell by more than 50% compared with the GDP of all Canadian industries, which fell by about 5% to 6% over the same period. Employment in these sectors also fell by over 50% compared with approximately 20% for total employment. These groups told us of the lack of funding available for them and their organizations, and that the money the government kept announcing was not trickling down to them in a meaningful way. They feared having to close their doors for good.
Even when the pandemic is in our rearview mirror, whenever that will be, it will not simply be business as usual. It will take a long time for businesses and organizations in these sectors to rebuild their consumer base and build up means and financial reserves to support production and staff at pre-COVID levels. These flaws are not just creating short-term problems; they are ensuring long-term ones.
When we look to other industries to see where the Canadian economy is taking a hit, we come to the cancellation out west of the Keystone XL pipeline. When the new President of the United States announced that he was cancelling the permits that had been granted by the previous administration, it was a major blow to the industry and the western Canadian economy, which was already struggling. The reality is that we need to get as many people in every part of Canada and every sector back to work as quickly as possible, and the Keystone XL project needs to do just that.
Unfortunately, much like he did when the Obama administration first blocked the Keystone XL expansion, the Prime Minister seems perfectly content to roll over and allow the Americans to simply scrap it without much contest. The loss of this project, and the many others the Prime Minister himself has either cancelled or regulated into oblivion, is only going to make the recovery that much harder, particularly here in western Canada.
We also need to consider the importance of procuring and distributing vaccines in the road to rebuilding our economy and helping Canadians get back to work. There is no recovery without widespread vaccination.
This brings me to a question that I hear from constituents every day: When is that going to happen? The truth is that we do not have a clear answer from the government. As much as the government loves to proclaim its success in procuring vaccines, we are falling behind our allies. The United States, Israel, the United Kingdom and other countries around the world are still well ahead of Canada in vaccinating their populations.
My office receives calls from care homes and seniors residences and from individuals who are at high risk or immunocompromised. When is it going to be their turn? It is a good question. Businesses are wondering when they are going to be able to reopen properly, without fear of being shut down again.
Canadians hear the stories about people being vaccinated in other countries with clear timelines and they are frustrated by the snail’s pace that our federal government is travelling at. The provinces have been clear: They do not have enough vaccines and cannot meet the demand. Sunday, in the province of Saskatchewan, only 88 people were vaccinated. This is a province of nearly 1.2 million people and only 88 people were vaccinated.
As a consequence, the lockdowns and closures are going to last much longer. The pressure on individual and family finances, the difficulties facing businesses on the brink and the strain on Canadians’ mental health are going to last, unfortunately, much longer.
From the public numbers and news reports, it is clear that Canada is falling further and further behind. Last week, we did not receive a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Premiers and other world leaders were actively on the phone with Pfizer over this issue, but the Prime Minister could not be bothered until he was pressured by the public and the opposition. That is not the leadership we need today in this country.
I want to highlight the importance of looking ahead and planning for life after the pandemic.
Canada now has a deficit that far exceeds anything we have ever seen in our lives. The national debt is at record level. We have lost thousands of jobs, and far too many businesses have been forced to close.
We know that the economy we see post-pandemic will have some significant differences from the one we knew pre-pandemic. We need to be prepared.
We also know that the recovery is going to take time. I spoke with Tourism Saskatoon. It believes the recovery will not take months, but years. I talked to the new CEO and she admitted to me last week that maybe the tourism industry in this province and in Canada can look ahead to 2024. In the news today, it was reported in Saskatoon that a number of downtown hotels are on the verge of closing for good. This is not good.
We need a plan in place that will provide economic stability and give Canadian businesses, big and small, the tools they need to grow and re-establish themselves. We also need to have plans to encourage new businesses. We need a plan that recognizes the realities facing our country while respecting the need to reduce the deficit and provide stable and responsible economic management.
Unfortunately, as I think Canadians have become all too used to, the government does not seem to have a plan. There is no clear path forward. Rather, the Prime Minister is governing by the seat of his pants. His only plan is to call an election whenever it is most to his advantage, which may be this spring.