That, given that,
(i) COVID-19 restrictions have had serious economic and mental health impacts on Canadians,
(ii) COVID-19 restrictions have been advised by the federal government, including specifically by the Prime Minister on three separate occasions in November of 2020, as temporary measures to alleviate pressure on the public healthcare system,
(iii) public health tools, such as rapid tests, shared data on how COVID-19 spreads and vaccines, have not been positioned as permanent solutions to replace COVID-19 restrictions by the federal government, including in areas of federal competency like air travel and border restrictions,
(iv) the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom have both released public plans for economic reopening, while Canadian officials have not yet given Canadians clarity on when regular economic and social life will be able to resume,
the House call on the government to table within 20 calendar days, following the adoption of this motion, a clear data-driven plan to support safely, gradually and permanently lifting COVID-19 restrictions.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton Centre.
Before I start, I want to tell Lynne Walker that this one is dedicated to her.
Yesterday in the House of Commons, I asked the health minister what I thought was a very simple, non-partisan question. I asked when fully vaccinated seniors could give their grandchildren a hug. The answer we got back from the health minister, a year into the pandemic, could be summarized like this: She does not know, is not sure she wants to tell us, and believes it is a provincial jurisdiction, but she will give the provinces advice.
That is not what Canadians want to hear. I think that answer encapsulates best the need for this motion.
We are a year into COVID‑19, and enough is enough. A year ago, Canadians from coast to coast pulled together to say we had to shut down the economy and undertake these restrictions in order to buy time for public health experts, all of us here in this place, provincial governments and municipal leaders to figure out what COVID‑19 was, how it spreads and who was most vulnerable, and to develop tools to permanently combat it, like therapeutics, rapid tests and vaccines. A year into the pandemic, those tools now exist. The problem is that in Canada, we have not had clear guidance from our health officials on the circumstances under which widespread mass lockdowns can safely end. That is a huge problem.
Those who are watching today need to understand that no level of government in Canada has issued any advice on what fully vaccinated people can do. The only thing the federal government has said to date, when asked, is that vaccinated people still have to go into controversial quarantine hotels. The federal government has to at least tell people what the plan is to develop benchmarks on how these tools are going to bring freedom, prosperity and normalcy back to the lives of Canadians. Today, we are calling on every member of this House to support the federal government in developing a plan within 20 days on the benchmarks by which these tools can be used in order to let life get back to normal.
We all acknowledge that it is important to combat the spread of COVID‑19, important to protect people from serious illness, important to prevent death. We have been doing that for the last year, all of us in this place. What is missing now is hope for the future. Canadians have no idea when lockdowns are going to end, and that has to stop.
Why does that have to stop? It is not just me asking for this. We have Unifor asking for “a national recovery plan to include adapting border restrictions to safely reopen borders”. There is the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. The Tourism Industry Association of Canada has stated, “The news of COVID vaccine distribution gives us reason for cautious optimism”, but said that we need to plan for the recovery of Canada's tourism industry now. The Fitness Industry Council of Canada is asking for a plan. Mayors are asking for plans. Everybody is asking for a plan. It is not just stakeholders who are saying this; it is also medical experts who are saying, “We can't just live in a bubble and have a life of no risk. Everything we do has consequences.” We need a better path forward that uses these tools to protect Canadians' health while also ensuring that life gets back to normal.
These are stories from the CBC.
The federal government has to deliver this. Probably the most critical thing the federal government could do right now is deliver a plan with benchmarks on how lockdowns can be gradually, permanently and safely lifted.
We do not have that. How can businesses plan to reopen if they do not know the circumstances under which they are going to do that? Can we imagine being a restaurant owner right now, when every day it says in the news that we might lock down again, or we might not?
Public Health officials have not even been clear on the data showing where transmission is occurring and whether we are applying these tools to the most vulnerable places. A lot of Canadians are saying that it seems like a lot of reactive measures and a lot of guesswork.
Canadians have pulled together and Canadians have sacrificed a lot, but the federal government has to stop asking Canadians to sacrifice normal life. It has to stop asking people to sacrifice hugs, their mental health, their safety at home. It has to stop asking people to sacrifice those things, and it has to start giving them a plan for hope: “This is how we are going to reopen. These are the benchmarks. This is what we are using and this is how we are doing it.”
Other countries around the world are already doing this. This week Iceland has said that if people are vaccinated, there is no quarantine for them, and they can just come on in. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has issued a reopening plan with benchmarks. Under the Biden administration in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC have issued guidelines on what vaccinated persons can do. They have set an aspirational target of July 4, Independence Day in the U.S., and Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that the United States is going to have a normal Independence Day.
Why can we not have that here in Canada? Why can we not have nice things too? I want to re-emphasize that the federal government has not told Canadians what they can and cannot do if they have received a vaccine. It has not told airlines any sort of plan for safe border reopening. This cannot be a taboo topic anymore. The federal government is spending billions of dollars on lockdown restriction measures, so it has a responsibility.
All of the Liberals who stand up to talk to this motion today are going to say that it is not the federal government's job, that it is the job pf the provincial governments. There is a big problem with that. We are in an emergency crisis situation, and it is the federal government's job to lead because it is spending billions of dollars, money that we do not have, to support continued lockdown restrictions with no plan to end them. To refute their talking points, that is problem number one.
Number two, Prime Minister has come out many times and asked for lockdown restrictions that are within provincial jurisdiction. On November 24, the Prime Minister said that the federal government is working with the provinces so that they can impose restrictions. He said that again on November 10 in a CTV article, and again in the Canadian Press on November 13. Those are just a few quotes from him that I pulled.
Yesterday in the House of Commons, to that question that I referenced around hugs, the health minister said that the federal government is working with provinces and territories to develop guidance, with support from the federal government, on restrictions. The Liberals cannot suck and blow. They cannot say that it is politically convenient for them, ahead of a potential election that no one but the Liberals want, to offload this responsibility to the provincial governments.
To the bureaucrats who are watching this speech, if bureaucrats in Health Canada are advising the minister that it is not her job to provide guidance, why are we paying your salaries? If the health minister is not asking her department, with its thousands of bureaucrats, for guidance on this, why are we paying your salaries?
We need hope. We are not saying that we should just willy-nilly do anything. What we are saying is that the federal government has to start issuing direction to the airlines, to hospitality and tourism, to retail, to marginalized communities, to women who are having domestic violence issues. We need this plan. It should be a no-brainer.
The motion we have in front of the House of Commons today is asking for a data-driven plan. This is what the ask is. It is that the House “call on the government to table within 20 calendar days, following the adoption of this motion, a clear data-driven plan to support safely, gradually and permanently lifting COVID-19 restrictions.”
I said I was dedicating this to my friend Lynne. Her husband passed away. She did not even get to see him when he went in for his heart attack. People should not have to say goodbye to their loved ones over FaceTime.
The federal government needs a plan. Every person in this House and every Canadian should support this motion.