Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-30, which would implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 19, 2021.
At the outset, it bears recognizing that budget 2021 is unlike most budgets tabled in the House throughout Canada’s short but storied history. Much has been written about the length of the budget, and, yes, it is the longest budget in our history. It is also the first federal budget in Canadian history to be tabled by a woman finance minister, a glass ceiling long overdue for shattering, and it does come with over two years past since the previous budget, budget 2019.
Budget 2021 is truly one of a kind, one might say unprecedented, much like these last two years have been, as Canadians persevere through the worst global pandemic health crisis in recent memory. This unique budget responds to these unique times, the serious challenges created and exacerbated by COVID-19. It lays the foundation for a more prosperous future, a more inclusive future, a greener future and a future that we can be proud to pass on to our kids and grandkids, knowing that we seized the moment and emerged from this dark period in our history with a bold vision for a better Canada and the courage to act on it.
While it is prudent for the government to begin charting our path out of this pandemic, that is not to say that it is yet behind us, far from it. In fact, today, here in Nova Scotia, we are under lockdown. Our schools and shops have moved online, and strict gathering restrictions are in effect; this, as the third wave and its more dangerous, more contagious variants are hammering Nova Scotia with its highest daily case rates of COVID-19 since the start of this pandemic. It is a reminder to all of us how quickly things can change, even with leadership that listens to and respects the expert advice of public health officials.
Not long ago, Nova Scotia was the envy of Canada, with low cases and no community transmission. All it took was one thoughtless group of interprovincial travellers and, just like that, COVID-19 began to spread across our province like wildfire.
We are in a race. It is variants versus vaccines.
That is why on the morning of my birthday, as soon as I became eligible, I signed up for the first vaccine I could, the AstraZeneca. Yesterday, I got my first jab at Boyd’s Pharmasave, a new pharmacy in north end Halifax, opened by Greg Richard and celebrated for its inclusive approach to pharmacy, particularly for the LGBTQ2+ people. I thank Greg.
Getting vaccinated and defeating COVID-19 are the first steps to the economic recovery outlined in this budget. The sooner everyone is vaccinated; the sooner life returns to something more like normal, the sooner we are safe, the sooner we can hug our loved ones, the sooner our businesses can open up again and the sooner we can all go back to work.
As our vaccine rollout continues on schedule, putting Canada consistently in the top three of the G20 for vaccines administered by population, budget 2021 would extend our substantial and effective COVID-19 financial aid programs to Canadians and to the businesses at which they work and upon which they rely.
A year ago, when COVID-19 ground Canada to a sudden halt, the impact on our daily lives and our local economies was immediate. Our government sprang into action. From day one, we promised we would be there for Canadians, and that is exactly what we have done.
Here are the numbers to prove it: nine million Canadians received the Canada emergency response benefit, putting food on the table for out-of-work families; $2 billion for businesses and non-profits through the emergency rent subsidy; 4.4 million Canadian jobs protected through the emergency wage subsidy; and $8 out of every $10 in financial aid to Canadians through this pandemic has come via our federal government.
We promised we would be there for Canadians for as long as it takes, and this budget keeps that promise.
First, the budget will extend flexible access to EI benefits for one more year until the fall of 2022. These changes have made it easier for Canadians to qualify for higher benefits sooner. Next, we will be extending the Canada recovery benefit until September 25 to cover Canadians who do not qualify EI, like self-employed and gig workers. The budget also includes new measures for low-income workers, a significant $8.9-billion investment to expand the Canada workers benefit for one million Canadians, lifting one hundred thousand people out of poverty. Other parties have talked about it, but we are the ones doing it. This budget will introduce a $15-an-hour federal minimal wage.
For businesses being asked to lockdown to help stop the spread, like those in my riding today, the budget will extend the Canada emergency rent subsidy to the end of September. For businesses that have seen a drop in revenue because of COVID-19, the budget will also extend the Canada emergency wage subsidy to the end of September. We are going further, introducing a brand new program we are calling the Canada hiring benefit. For businesses experiencing a decline in revenues, this subsidy will make it easier for businesses to hire back laid-off workers or to bring on new ones.
All told, these investments are our plan to support Canadians in regaining the one million jobs lost to the pandemic. We have done it before, and we will do it again.
The pandemic has exposed an urgent need for national action on child care. From the day our finance minister assumed that office, she has made it clear that fighting the so-called “she-cession” is a priority of our feminist government. We cannot allow the legacy of this pandemic to be the scaling back of all the hard-fought advances that women have made in workforce.
That is why budget 2021 makes a generational investment to build a Canada-wide early learning and child care system. Our plan aims to slash fees for parents with children in regulated child care by half on average by 2022, with the goal of reaching $10 per day child care on average by 2026. This is a necessary investment, one that is a long time coming. While other parties have talked about doing it, we are the ones actually doing it, putting $30 billion on the table to finally get this done for Canadian families.
I come to the House from a long career in city planning in the public, private and academic sectors, including in my hometown of Halifax, the riding I am now honoured to represent as a member of Parliament. That career showed me first-hand and up close how vitally important housing was to a community. Without access to housing that is safe, secure, dignified and at a price people can afford, every other goal a person has in life becomes secondary.
I made the jump into politics in 2015, and became the first city planner elected to this place, because I believed the federal government needed to do more to support the communities Canadians called home, to help undo the decade of neglect by the previous government when it came to community investment, including in affordable housing.
We spared no time getting to work, and today Canadians have a federal government that is finally making the necessary investments in housing. The national housing strategy, released in 2017, has already delivered $25 billion in housing projects, and remains on track to reach $70 billion by 2027-28.
At home in Halifax, as our population rapidly grows, so does the need for more affordable housing. I recently announced the new Canada-Nova Scotia targeted housing benefit, which provides $200 a month to qualifying, low-income, vulnerable individuals to help pay for housing.
To help increase housing supply, our federal government has made major investments in Halifax so far this year, including $8.6 million under the rapid housing initiative to create 52 units in Halifax via three projects in partnership with the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, the North End Community Health Centre and Adsum for Women and Children.
Because of the success of the rapid housing initiative which, as its title suggests, invests in projects that can create affordable housing quickly, budget 2021 proposes a $1.5 billion top-up to this program. This funding will create up to 4,500 permanent, affordable homes on top of the 4,700 we already have built under this initiative, all within 12 months.
This budget recognizes that building an equitable Canada requires targeted investments that support marginalized communities. To continue down the path of reconciliation, this budget invests $18 billion in indigenous communities, including another $6 billion for infrastructure and $2.2 billion to end the tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls once and for all.
To fight systemic racism and empower under-represented communities, the budget makes a number of substantial investments, including $200 million toward the Black-led philanthropic endowment fund to support Black-led charities and organizations serving youth; new funding to combat hate and racism during COVID-19, particularly against Asian Canadians; and enhancing the communities at risk security infrastructure program to protect communities at risk of hate-motivated crimes.
For our seniors, we are building on our progress made; 25% fewer seniors live in poverty than when we took office in 2015. Budget 2021 goes even further by increasing old age security by 10% for seniors aged 75 and older. Today, our investments in senior benefits are over double our expenditure in the Canada child benefit. By 2026, our investments in seniors will surpass the total expenditure of the Canada health transfer and equalization payments combined.
This is a historic budget. Certainly, its size makes it difficult to speak to all the important investments it proposes. In short, this is the budget that will lead Canada out of the pandemic, chart our economic recovery and build a brighter tomorrow. I hope all members in the House will join me in voting in favour.