Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening to speak to the concurrence motion for the first report of the Standing Committee on Finance, entitled “Investing in Tomorrow: Canadian Priorities for Economic Growth and Recovery”. There is a lot in the 378-page report that I am sure the minister did not have a chance to look or did not even look at.
For the sake of time, I would like to focus my speech this evening on a few key priorities that affect my riding. However, first, I want to speak to something our colleague, the member for Kingston and the Islands spoke about, and that is mental health.
The House unanimously supported a motion I put forward 143 days ago to bring a simple three-digit national suicide prevention hotline to our country. It has been 143 days. Let us put that in perspective. We know by the statistics that 11 Canadians take their own lives every 24 hours and another 275 attempt to take their lives every 24 hours. To do the simple math, 143 days equates to 1,573 people who have lost their lives and another 39,325 who have attempted to take their lives. Let that sink in for a moment. While my Liberal friends can sit there and talk about $1 billion, which is not a small number, in supports that this budget included, we need to be better and we need to do better. It is incumbent upon all 338 members of the House to do better for Canadians when it comes to mental health. There is no health without mental health. I will leave members with that.
I would like to talk about recommendation 55, support for tourism and culture; recommendation 63, support for municipal assets; recommendation 72, support for rural Canadian infrastructure; and recommendation 74, support for high-speed Internet in rural Canada.
Recommendation 55 talks about the chance to support local, cultural, tourism and hospitality sectors. I have stood in the House and spoke about how COVID has impacted companies such as Central Display and C+ Rodeos ranch in my riding. I have talked about how areas in my community, such as Williams Lake, Quesnel, Vanderhoof and Prince George, depend so dearly on their events, like the Williams Lake Stampede, the greatest show on dirt; Billy Barker Days; the BC Northern Exhibition; or the the Vanderhoof International Airshow. These communities are struggling. However, what we have seen in this budget is really not a lot of support for these companies.
I spoke about how Roy and Earl Call ran the C+ Rodeos ranch for over 25 years. They are the tops in the rodeo business in terms of rodeo stock. They are among the top 10 in Canada. When those companies have to downsize, it means animals lose their lives. Regardless of whether a show is going on or not, those animals need to be fed. If no dollars are coming in to support and feed those animals, sadly, they have to be euthanized. We know that this has gone on right across our country. That rodeo stock is bred specifically for high performance; they are athletes. If no shows are going on, then something needs to be done.
I talked about Central Display, a company that puts on conventions and conferences all across northern British Columbia. It has been struggling to make ends meet. I talked about all types of organizations, such as Barkerville, a historic site in our country. It is struggling to makes ends meet.
This budget falls short with respect to our national post-pandemic needs in so many ways. If members do not believe me, let us talk about all the premiers and mayors who have spoken out about it from coast to coast to coast. It seems like our Liberal colleagues believe that once COVID is done, it is just a flip of a switch and everything will be all right. Sadly, we know we are going to face a mental health crisis like never before.
We know that over 200,000 businesses have had to close their doors. That is millions of Canadians who are out of work. We know that as we sit today one in six businesses is considering closing its doors.
I want to talk about support for municipal infrastructure: roads, roads, roads. If members follow my Twitter feed, they will see that over 200 roads in my riding are compromised by landslides and washouts or are impassible altogether. I want to talk about the Quesnel-Hydraulic Road, where in April 2020 a 400-metre section was washed out. This forced the residents of that area to ride or drive and travel on a mountain pass logging road, one that should not be intended for passenger vehicles, for over a year. Emergency crews will not go on it. Ambulance and fire support will not go on it. School districts will not send their school buses on that road.
If Canadians who are listening want to see images of what that road looks like and some of the other damage that is going on, they can go to my Twitter feed. They will see that on my social media. Those are real-time photos, and there is more coming. We have been raising these issues with the infrastructure minister, as well as the transportation minister, since 2017. We knew there were going to be challenges with the 2017 wildfires and the root structures that are missing.
Another thing I want to talk about is connectivity. This budget announces a billion dollars toward getting Canadians connected. Then there is $4 billion for getting businesses online. Is that not backwards? Should we not be doing everything we can to get Canadians connected?
Madam Speaker, you of all people will know the challenges that MPs from coast to coast to coast face with our connectivity issues every day. We were just having a storm up here in Prince George and I was worried that I would not be able to make my speech because in a blink, just like that, we can get booted off because of our connectivity issues. We have to do everything in our power so that all Canadians, regardless of where they are, are connected and have access to the Internet. That makes sense post-pandemic, that we have telehealth, that Canadians can connect with their friends and family better, that we are putting a concerted effort and getting businesses and rural and remote communities connected.
There are lessons that we should have learned over COVID, but sadly what we have seen in this budget is that the Liberals just want to pay off their friends and create a further divide between urban and rural. That is sad.
I believe it was one of our NDP colleagues who said that the budget is always an important document and it is always an important week when the budget comes out because this really is our keystone document as we move forward. We have just had two years of no budget and we have gone through perhaps the worst year in our country's history, and then we see a budget like this. There are a lot of great recommendations in this report. Sadly, what we have seen with this budget is that this is not a budget; rather, it is a pre-election platform. When the election is called, when the writ is dropped, I suggest that the word “budget” will be taken out and the word “platform” will be submitted.