Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, I rise to speak briefly about Bill C-14, A second Act respecting certain provisions in response to COVID-19.
My words will be the voice of our leader Senator Cordy. Out of courtesy to the former Government Representative and now a non-affiliated senator, Senator Harder, I plan to cede the rest of my allotted time to him.
Before I echo the words of my leader, I would like to say that we in the progressive senators group are a small but feisty group of senators. We are strong believers in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and of building a new relationship with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Our motto comes from the Algonquin language Mamidosewin which can mean a meeting place or walking together towards a common goal. In this case, we can use Mamidosewin to work collaboratively during this pandemic for the good of all Canadians.
I will now share the words of Senator Cordy:
Honourable senators, the bill before us today is a much-needed lifeline to employers during an unprecedented time of economic turmoil in this country.
As government COVID-19 response measures remain in place to help contain the virus, Canadian businesses are really feeling the pinch. We have heard that today. Revenues are greatly reduced and in many cases there is little or no revenue. As a result, we are seeing a staggering number of Canadians who are now unemployed. Canada’s jobless rate has soared. In March, it was 7.8% and growing.
The federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit went online this week for Canadians who lost their jobs as a direct result of COVID-19. They are reporting that 3.8 million applications for the CERB program have been made since it launched on Monday, and that Service Canada has processed just over 5.6 million EI claims retroactive to March 15.
Canadian workers and Canadian businesses urgently need their government’s help to get them through this time. I applaud the government’s response efforts, particularly the CERB and the application process that was launched this week. By all accounts, it has been a success. The ease of accessibility to the benefit and the speed at which applicants received the payment in their bank account must be praised.
Now we all have to deal with businesses and give them the tools to stem the tide of job losses and retain staff. I am hopeful that the wage subsidy provided through this legislation will help achieve this.
Unfortunately there will be businesses and organizations that may fall through the cracks of the wage subsidy program. Questions remain how organizations such as charities, not-for-profit and religious organizations or newer businesses will be eligible for this benefit.
The bill before us will help a vast number of Canadian businesses now, but the government must continue to find ways to reach all those organizations that are not served by this legislation.
Honourable senators, as we continue to navigate these difficult and unprecedented times, I want to acknowledge all our health care workers and health care leaders across the country who face new challenges each and every day. I thank them for their dedication and adaptability as new information is regularly presented to them. I also want to thank them for helping to keep us safe and for stepping in to be with our loved ones when they’re most frightened and we’re unable to hold them close.
I want to commend those on the front lines in our grocery stores and pharmacies, at our ports and on our roads keeping supply chains going and those delivering services to our homes such as heating oil and propane. We appreciate the long hours and energy you have put forth while potentially placing yourselves in harm’s way.
Thank you to all our artists and creatives who have come up with initiatives to keep us engaged and entertained to help make endless hours at home bearable.
A big thank you to educators who are finding new ways to reach their students and ensuring they’re continuing to learn at home in virtual classrooms and online activities.
Finally to all Canadians who are staying home and social distancing in order to minimize the spread, your efforts cannot be overstated. To all those who have shown incredible kindness in reaching out and checking in on neighbours, family and friends, I encourage you to continue to do so. While we call it social distancing, perhaps the more appropriate term would be physical distancing. We are by nature social creatures. It is crucial in times like this that we keep mental well-being a top priority, which includes regular contact with cherished loved ones and extending a kind word to those who find themselves alone and vulnerable.
Honourable senators, in conclusion, I again want to say that I fully support the legislation before us today. Canadian businesses and employees are in dire need of the assistance provided through this bill. The sooner the financial support is in the hands of Canadian businesses the better.
To all Canadians watching or listening today and to my colleagues in the Senate, stay safe, stay healthy and please, as Premier McNeil of Nova Scotia says, “. . . stay the blazes home.”
The words of Senator Cordy. Thank you.