Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to the budget implementation bill.
Before I do that, I would just like to say thank you to some people. Undoubtedly, one of the problems with a minority Parliament is that we never quite know when that election might come. Whether the rumours are true or not, two years is certainly, by conventional wisdom, on par with the standard length of a minority Parliament, so I will take this opportunity to give thanks to some people.
I have been coming to this House for 75 sitting days in a row. I have been in the House almost every single hour, every single minute. I just referenced my own participation and attendance in the House, which I think I am allowed to do.
I could not have done this work without the incredible work of the folks back in my offices. We all know we have these incredible teams of people who work behind the scenes. In particular, in Ottawa, I have Kaitlin and Kelly, who have been working to help me prepare for here.
Then, of course, because I have been here so much, I have not been able to be back in my riding or working on a lot of that constituency work. I have three incredible women in my Kingston office, Ann, Nicole and Jennifer, who have been handling that case work and working with the government to help people through these difficult times.
I just want to give a huge thank you to them for being so supportive in the functions and for being an incredible team that really knows how to come together.
I also would like to say thank you to you, Mr. Speaker. When you first announced you would not be running again, I said something briefly, but I have really enjoyed you as Deputy Speaker. I hope that means something coming from the riding that also produced the longest serving Speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken. We certainly have a keen eye for a good Speaker.
You have undoubtedly done such a good job in your role as Deputy Speaker throughout the years. Whenever you are in the chair, I have admired your patience with us, even at times when we seem to be at each other's throats. Thank you for that.
Getting toward my discussion on the budget, I would like to talk about the first responders out there who have literally been fighting this pandemic on the front lines for the last 15 to 16 months. We come to this place and we fight, argue, debate and create policy with the hopes that it impacts those on the front lines and makes a genuine difference in the work they do. At the end of the day, they are the ones we need to be looking out for, making sure they have the right tools to fight and do the incredible work they do.
A lot of those frontline workers are probably not even all that keenly interested in what is going on in this place, but nonetheless we have an incredible obligation to make sure they have what they need to do the job they are doing on our behalf.
To that end, I know it has come up in this debate from a couple of different members, I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to members of the House with respect to something that happened in this House yesterday. Hopefully we could learn from the experience.
I learned very early on in my political career, back in municipal politics in Kingston, that it is fair game to be fighting and disagreeing with other politicians. We are elected. We choose to be put in this position. We choose to come forward, voice our opinions and engage in those debates and that dialogue. However, staff do not. What we witnessed here yesterday was something that, quite frankly, has not happened in this Parliament, in this institution, for more than 100 years.
We dragged a public civil servant to the bar of the House of Commons, to Parliament, to receive a scolding from the Speaker. I am appealing to members because of my desire to try to have them recognize that that is not proper conduct toward a public servant. If there is disagreement or concern over the manner in which a government or a particular minister is acting, it would be entirely appropriate to engage in holding them accountable, and if they wanted to, to pull that minister before the bar, if they could do that, and to exercise the same kind of decision or scolding on them.
I just do not think it is right to bring a public servant, especially the lead of the Public Health Agency of Canada while we are in the middle of a global pandemic, to be used as a political tool, as we saw yesterday. It is just not appropriate and, in fact, it has very rarely ever happened. Never has a public servant come before the bar. The last time a private citizen did was in 1913.
For all the differences we have in this place, I really hope we can learn something from yesterday and commit to never doing that again. Politicians are here to be the ones who are in the line of fire, not our public servants, who are doing the incredible work on behalf of Canadians. I will note that my understanding is that that particular public servant has been in executive positions in public health for the last 17 years, which spans multiple governments of different parties.
I did obviously want to speak to the budget implementation act, and I am very proud to be supportive of this. I am very proud not just of the government, but also of this Parliament, for the way it acted 15 or 16 months ago to get supports to Canadians, quite often through unanimous consent motions. We were passing motions in this House to immediately trigger sending money to Canadians who needed it. It was not just because Canadians needed the money, although that is incredibly important, but also because we were encouraging people to stay home.
In the beginning of this pandemic, the objective was to get people to stay home. We did not want people to go out because we did not want them to become infected and for the pandemic to spread. We saw our public service working through the direction of Parliament to send money out in record speeds. When we think about what it did in four short weeks back in March of 2020, it is truly remarkable. I am indeed proud of all members of this Parliament for working together.
I know different parties had different ideas about how much the wage subsidy should be, and I think we ended up with better proposals and better policies as a result of those deliberations and discussions. I am very relieved to see this budget, and it looks like it will be supported and that it will pass, so we can continue those supports through to the end of this pandemic.
We see the light at the end of the tunnel. We can see what is coming, and we can see we are going to be, fingers crossed, in a much better position in the coming weeks and months in terms of relaxing restrictions throughout the country. We can see Canadians will be getting back to life like it was before the pandemic.
I think knowing the government and Parliament were there for them genuinely means a lot to Canadians because, when it was necessary to provide the supports, the government, and indeed Parliament, had their backs. It is extremely rewarding for me personally to see that we were able to do that.
I also think there is a great opportunity here. I will choose my words carefully, because when our Minister of Finance said that there was a political opportunity she was pounced on and her words were taken out of context. At the heart of this, there is an opportunity in all of this to look at the way in which Canadians are supported, where we can do better and where we can make corrections. For example, long-term care homes and developing national standards on long-term care homes is something we can do better in.
This pandemic has provided us with an opportunity to say that we failed many seniors in long-term care homes and must do better. It is a provincial jurisdiction, and I certainly do not want to reopen the debate with the Bloc Québécois about who is responsible for what. I totally accept provinces are responsible for long-term care, but the federal government could play a leadership role in defining how we can develop some long-term care standards, just like we do with our national building code, as one example.
We can also look at this as an opportunity to say we need to invest in our economy now if we want to come roaring out of this and ask ourselves where the best place is to invest right now. If we look throughout the world, we see new technologies developing.
There is an opportunity here for the government to determine if it should continue to invest just in traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges or also look at some of these new technologies. We could help businesses develop them so these technologies and new opportunities can continue to spin off for years and decades to come.
Therefore, I think it is entirely appropriate to look at where we can position ourselves in the global economy in the years to come and use that as a strategy for where to invest money now. It is incredibly indicative of the government to take that approach and quite frankly for any government would take that approach.
I find it concerning and unfortunate that the words of the Minister of Finance were taken out of context when she said that there is a political opportunity to look at child care. The opposition clipped half of her sentence, because what she was really saying is there is a political opportunity to look at the way we are approaching child care.
I am very happy to see the budget announcement on child care. I will start off by saying we probably owe to the Province of Quebec for the desire and need to move toward more affordable child care. Quite frankly, it has done an incredible job of showing what child care supports can mean to individual families and some of the burden it relieves.
It has recognized that, in 2021, it is not only the responsibility of parents to raise children, but also that of our collective society. That is where child care comes in, and why I think we are better off as Canadians because of Quebec's experience with child care.
Not only has Quebec seen an increase in people in the workforce as a result of its incredibly good child care program, it has particularly seen more women in the workforce, which is incredibly important because, more often than not, it is women who end up staying at home with the children. By using child care opportunities to help subsidize those costs, Quebec has seen more women enter the workforce, which has contributed to more economic activity, which means more income taxes paid. It has also contributed to more women pursuing the entrepreneurial desires they may have held back on because they chose to or were expected to stay at home with children.
Therefore, I look at this child care plan in the budget as not only a support for families, but also as an economic opportunity to unleash into the marketplace and the labour force those people who want to work, but for one reason or another, based on their family situation and young children, have chosen not to participate. That would result in more people working and paying taxes.
This would also result in having more entrepreneurs and people running family businesses, generating income and creating ideas, which would be better for our entire society and indeed all Canadians. Therefore, as the government strives to provide more supports with respect to child care, I hope it takes a long, hard look at the incredibly efficient model Quebec has produced and how it has changed the labour force, according to the statistics that have come out.
I will also touch briefly on seniors and the OAS. I know that has been coming up a lot. In particular, there has been a lot of criticism about how the increase should be for every senior over the age of 65, which is a really good talking point. It sells well and delivers well when the Bloc and NDP members continually bring it up. However, the reality of the situation is that, the longer seniors are in retirement, the more of their savings they go through and the less they have as they get older. This is not the case for every senior, but it is the case for low-income seniors in particular.
The government had a choice here. It could either increase the amount for everybody or increase it even more for those aged 75 and over. Of course, in response to that, we are asked why we did not increase it for everybody. Well, there are limitations. There are budgetary limitations and decisions that have to be made from time to time with respect to how much money to spend. I think the government is trying to balance the objective of having meaningful supports with the genuine need for them.
I do not hold the NDP and the Bloc entirely in distain, for lack of a better expression, for using that argument. I think it is a very effective political argument, so I can appreciate why they are doing it, but I think it is important to recognize why the current approach is the right one.
Finally, I want to talk about the debt incurred as a result of the pandemic, because I know that has been coming up a lot. The reality of the situation is that if we had told any member of the House two years ago that the debt would be over a trillion dollars, they would have probably laughed and said nothing. When I think back to the first majority Parliament session that I was a part of, I remember that people were harping about an extra $10 billion being spent or said the deficit was supposed to be $10 billion and it ended up being $20 billion.
We are now talking about hundreds of billions of dollars. It is over a trillion dollars. Indeed it is a lot of money, but the choices were quite clear: Do we invest in Canadians so that we can come out of this in a much better position, or do we leave people on their own? It is not a Liberal, Conservative or NDP thing. Every member agreed on it. Every member voted in favour of it, and we had unanimous consent motions to spend the money because members knew it had to be done.
As I indicated in a question for the member for New Westminster—Burnaby earlier, this was acceptable because every country did the same thing. Every country took on incredible amounts of debt. If Canada had been the only country that took on this kind of debt, it would have been detrimental to a lot of our policies. It would have sent companies running out of the country. It would have done a whole bunch of other things that could have been seen as extremely negative.
The reality is that all of the ally countries that we interact with in the marketplace through commerce and our various trading relationships did the exact same thing. We are going through this together with our partner nations. Also, we had an incredible debt-to-GDP ratio going into the pandemic, and if we expect to come out of the COVID recession with relatively similar economic activity, we will have to invest. I genuinely believe that everybody agrees with that. I think that is why everybody, at the end of the day, supported the measures. They recognized that it was important.
I believe that because of the measures we took and because of the spending that was authorized by the House, we will be in a better place when we come out of the pandemic in a few months. Our economy will come roaring back and we will see the debt-to-GDP ratios return to what they were before. We will also see unemployment return to some of the historic lows that we previously had. Why? It is because when we went through this, we did it in the right way. It cost a lot of money, there is no doubt about that, but we did it in conjunction with our global partners and did it in the responsible way according to the vast majority of economists.
I hope that after my run of 75 consecutive sitting days, this will not be my last opportunity to speak. However, I know I have had my fair share of time over the last 75 days, so if it is, I am entirely content with that. I look forward to questions.