Madam Speaker, I rise today to discuss the state of our economy and Bill C-14, an act to implement certain provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament back in November.
Over the past year, many Canadians have faced a complete lack of certainty about their livelihoods as a result of COVID. To use a metaphor I recently heard: When it comes to COVID, we are all in this storm together, but some have yachts, others have life rafts, and some are just trying to keep their heads above water before they drown. While the Liberal cabinet members are on their yachts looking after their good friends who also have yachts, such as WE and the SNC-Lavalin group, many of my constituents are barely keeping their heads above water or are losing their businesses.
While programs such as the Canada emergency response benefit, the Canada emergency wage subsidy, the Canada emergency rent subsidy and other programs have been welcome, and Conservatives have supported them, there are still businesses and people falling through the cracks and drowning, like a young couple in my riding who have a fitness centre. They phoned me here about three weeks ago and were asking if there were any programs available to them. I went through the list, just as I did earlier, and they said that they had applied for them and were able to get about $2,000 from CERB, because with the full closures, partial closures and partial openings, they were not able to get much money. As well, with the rent control, they also only got about $600. During our conversation, they also said that because they cannot be financially viable, they were going to have to close their business. On top of this, now they also owe about $3,600 in debt, because they have to pay out their lease on the building before they can close.
This kinds of things are a big problem for our country. Together, as Canada, we face a lack of certainty in our economic outlook. We see nothing but endless lockdowns and failure after failure when it comes to vaccine procurement. The future looks bleak. Canadians need certainty back in their lives as soon as possible. Canada has the worst unemployment rate in the G7, and the last time I checked, we were 58th in the world in terms of vaccinations per capita.
The other day, my colleague from Carleton pointed out that for years the Prime Minister has been touting how low the unemployment rate is, saying it is the most important indicator, yet now Canada has the highest unemployment rate in the G7, so now it is not the best way of measuring how we are doing. It is funny how that works and that the most important statistics are always the ones that make the Liberals look best.
When I was growing up, we always talked about how many billion dollars our national debt was. When that grew too high, we started talking about debt-to-GDP ratio. Now that is growing too high and we do not even want to talk about that either. It is funny how the numbers and discussions keep changing to make the Liberals look better than what is really happening.
The government's snubbing of Alberta and its natural resources industry predates COVID, but the pandemic has made the bad economic situation worse. When the Prime Minister could be giving the green light to big natural resource projects, his government, as always, is going with its favourite job-killing strategy: death by delay. Across Alberta, hundreds of natural resource workers are wondering where to turn.
A year and a half ago, Teck made the application for the Frontier mine, and they managed to meet all of the Liberals' regulations. It was surprising that five months and three weeks later, the Liberals had still not made a decision as to whether the mine should go through. Yes, they will spout that Teck pulled out of the project, but we have to wonder why a company that spent years and millions of dollars developing the plan pulled out of the project in the last week. I assume they were probably scared that more restrictions were going to be put on than they could actually manage anymore, even though they were going to address how they would be carbon neutral by 2050.
COVID has been tough on families, especially those with young children, and that is why it is good to see in this legislation that the government would be restoring support for families after slashing the previous Conservative government's Canada child benefit program.
On our path to reopening the economy, we need to be incentivizing people to get back to work. A constituent of mine works reception at a small physiotherapy clinic. Under normal conditions, the clinic operates 40 hours per week, and appointments are fully booked. Because of COVID and people not making bookings unless essential, the clinic is now only getting 15 hours of bookings per week. The problem here is that if employees work more than 15 hours but less than 40 hours, they are worse off than they were before. If they work anything above 15 hours, they are no longer eligible for the CERB, and if they work anything less than 40 hours, they are making less than they would through the CERB.
People in all industries across the country are facing this issue. As we try to reopen the economy, we need to make sure that under no circumstances are we incentivizing Canadians to work less.
Most people I have talked to who are out of work want to get back to work. There is pride that comes with earning a paycheque, and those out of work right now are missing that, further contributing to mental health issues.
I was called by one of my friends, who is a young mother and a single parent. She started a business last year cleaning homes. Because she did not make $5,000, she was not eligible to collect the CERB. It was devastating to hear her crying on the phone, asking how she is going to pay her bills and feed her young daughter. This is the problem we have been facing.
We know that one of the industry's hardest hit by the pandemic has been the tourism industry. As a member of the transport committee and the member of Parliament for Yellowhead, having Jasper and Jasper National Park in my riding and many tourism operators across the constituency, I have heard first-hand the struggles of the industry. Small tourism-related businesses have taken out loans that will take a decade or more to pay off, and they expect to go even further into debt before things start to get better. The HASCAP program is a band-aid solution for a complex problem.
Airlines are also in a precarious situation. They have been promised federal assistance, but there is still nothing, a year into this pandemic.
The entire tourism industry needs some kind of plan and soon. These businesses and airlines cannot operate indefinitely while incurring losses.
This legislation is a scary sign of the times. A year and a half ago, when I was elected, I would never have imagined that I would be standing in Parliament today discussing legislation to expand Canada's borrowing capacity to just over $1.8 trillion by 2024. That is a staggering number. When people ask me why I am a Conservative, the simple answer is that I believe in good stewardship of tax dollars. With every dollar the government spends, we must remember that it comes off of Canadians' paycheques. When we are $1 trillion in debt, $1 million here and $1 million there might not matter to the Liberals, but to the average Canadian it is a lot of money we are taxing them on. Every dollar we spend must be respected and assessed for value.
Canadians have been hard hit by COVID over the last year, and the economic implications of the pandemic will be long-lasting. Spending is not good enough. We need a comprehensive recovery strategy and targeted investments to help get Canadians back to work.
As I mentioned earlier, many small businesses are suffering and need financial assistance now. Without this assistance, many other small businesses will go bankrupt through no fault of their own. It will simply be because of COVID. That is why it is very challenging to represent people with small businesses in the tourism sector. Without financial assistance, they definitely will be closing. This may not seem that important to the Liberals, but the point is that they are important to our economy. Without the small business sector, we definitely will be in financial trouble in the future. We need to look after it.