Along with Jagmeet Singh and the rest of the NDP caucus, I am proud to have seen our hard work yield vital improvements to the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
We have used our ability to collaborate with the Liberals in a minority government situation to advocate for getting support to those Canadians in need as quickly as possible.
This has resulted in important improvements to programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, and the Canada Emergency Student Benefit.
While there’s still more work to be done and too many individuals, families, and small businesses are still without the support they need, I am proud of the work that the NDP has done in getting significant improvements beyond what the Liberals originally proposed.
We will continue to press for a response to COVID-19 that centres on ordinary Canadians, rather than the wealthy and corporate interests, and makes sure that we rebuild a more resilient, sustainable, and fair Canada.
Like many Canadians, I have been working from home since the House of Commons adjourned on March 13.
Canadians can be justifiably proud that our democracy has continued to function well during this crisis. Between in-person sittings in the House of Commons with reduced numbers and virtual sessions that allow MPs even more time to question cabinet than during a normal session, we have been able to continue the work of Parliament during this pandemic.
New Democrats have stuck to the goal of making sure help gets to those who most need it without anyone falling through the cracks due to narrow qualifying criteria or other barriers. This approach has yielded some very meaningful successes.
When the Liberals proposed two different emergency benefits with separate applications and qualifications, and only offering a benefit of $1,000 a month, we knew that this would not have been enough help for working Canadians.
New Democrats used the power we have in a minority parliament to get the government to agree to a single benefit, the Canada Emergency Benefit, set at $2,000 a month.
Although we have supported the CERB and were glad to see it increased, the NDP has continued to press the Liberal Government to address the large number of Canadians they have left in crisis, including those who work in the informal economy, as contract and gig workers, or are students, all excluded from of this benefit.
We have strongly urged the government to expand the CERB to make it a direct payment to all Canadians. This would have reduced delay and ensure that no one falls through the cracks while those who did not need the support would pay it back at the next tax season.
When it comes to help for small business, many are excluded from the Canada Emergency Business Account loans on technicalities and many other businesses will fail before any money flows.
The Liberals’ commercial rent relief program is proving a massive failure as landlords without mortgages are excluded and participation for all other landlords is voluntary, leaving small businesses still unable to pay the rent.
New Democrats have called on the Liberal government to exclude companies who use tax havens to avoid paying Canadians taxes from getting bailed out during this crisis. Other countries including Denmark, Poland, and France have done so, but the Liberals have refused. Both individuals and small businesses who have failed to pay taxes are excluded from help, so why not the corporate tax evaders?
Here on the Island we know that the tourism sector is in severe crisis with the prospect of losing this summer’s season almost entirely. Most small businesses in the tourism and recreation sector depend on the summer season to make it through the lean winter months. Without any tourism business this summer, we risk permanent loss of many of those businesses and jobs.
The Liberals have been promising a specific package tailored to the needs of the tourism sector, but time is running out. New Democrats are continuing to fight for effective aid for small businesses and a rescue package focused on tourism and recreation. These are important sustainable jobs that will help secure our common future.
As we look forward to recovery, New Democrats will be there to make sure our goal is not just to get back to normal but to rebuild a better Canada that will be more resilient in the face of future challenges including climate change, more sustainable, and more fair. That’s the goal you can count on the NDP team to work toward until we get the job done.
Randall Garrison is the MP Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.