IN THE HOUSE Speech in response to the government's economic snapshot

Speech

Mr. Peter Julian (New Westminster—Burnaby, NDP): Madam Chair, any Canadian who wants to know what the attendance figure is can look in the House of Commons website and they will see the respective parties and which party, which will remain nameless, had only 40% attendance during the course of the last month. The member who just spoke could perhaps defend that record at some point.

J'ai le plaisir d'aborder la mise à jour économique.

Comme le chef du NPD, j'aimerais mentionner que nous ne pouvons pas affirmer que la stratégie mise en place inclut tout le monde puisqu'aucune mesure ne vise à aider les personnes handicapées à surmonter la pandémie. Près de 750 milliards de dollars ont été investis pour aider les banquiers, mais aucun fonds n'a été déployé pour l'ensemble des personnes handicapées alors que 3 millions de Canadiens vivent avec un handicap sévère. Il faut modifier cette mesure. Le gouvernement doit agir.

Je sais que le chef du NPD et l'ensemble de son caucus continuent de travailler sur ce dossier. Nous devons offrir un soutien à toutes les personnes handicapées au pays.

I will not repeat the very eloquent words of the leader of the NDP in terms of talking about this economic snapshot and the reality of the government's not addressing the revenue side in any way which allows us to make the investments that will help people. He said it very eloquently. I think his words stand. What I would like to talk about is what a moment we are in at this time in this place in this country. The finance minister just stood in the House and just said that, all hands-on deck, we are all in this together. Given the many neglected groups that we have been raising in the House, it is very clear that is not the case yet; and it is not the case that Canada is responding the way it should to this pandemic.

To understand what we need to do now and what we need to do moving forward, we can look at the historical precedents of the great generation in the Second World War. In the 1920s, we had, as we do today, incredible inequalities, a concentration of wealth that has not been repeated until now. In 1929, it reached its zenith. Today, as we know because the Parliamentary Budget Officer has told us, 1% of Canadians now possess as much wealth as 80% of Canadians. That was the case in 1929 and that was one of the reasons why we had the Great Depression, the collapse of our economy. Then, Canadians joined the fight against fascism and Canadians went overseas. Many left their lives. Many did not survive. Two members of my family are on the cenotaph in New Westminster in front of the city hall. So many other families across this nation sacrificed.

At that time, that generation said that they were in a watershed moment, they did not want to go back to the old normal, the normal of inequalities, the great economic meltdown that they saw; that they wanted to build a better society. I am not pretending that the great generation was perfect. Of course, they did not deal with the reality of colonialism and reconciliation with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. They did not address systemic racism. They did not address those realities, and the devastation is still felt today. Despite the fact that that generation was not perfect, the people did have a vision, and that vision was based on public investments and making sure that, as far as possible, nobody was left behind, that we would build with public investment a better country and they set to work.

In my home in New Westminster, the house that my family and I reside in, built in 1948, was part of the 300,000 affordable housing units that were built across the length and breadth of our country after the Second World War by the people of that great society who decided that they were not going to return to the old normal; that they were going to build a better society, a more equitable and fair society. They built affordable housing. They built the network of hospitals and health care centres.

As we know, that great generation following the Second World War also, under the leadership of Tommy Douglas in a minority Parliament much like this one, put in place our universal health care system that stands today as a pillar of one of the things that Canadians are most proud of.

New Democrats built the system of education, college, university and high schools. They built highways and public transit. We ensured that there were water systems in many places. We neglected first nations communities, there is no doubt, but there is a desire to build a new normal that was better than the old normal.

We are facing that same watershed moment today. As the leader of the NDP, the member for Burnaby South, has said so eloquently in this House, we have to build a better normal, a new normal. We have to be inspired by the great generation and how it responded to the Second World War.

What does that mean when we talk about a new normal? It means no longer accepting the idea that we are not going to, in a very real sense, end colonialism and put in place true, meaningful and lasting reconciliation with first nations and Métis people. It means that we must fight. The member for Burnaby South is the foremost leader in the House of Commons on this issue. We must fight and eliminate systemic racism in all our institutions and in our society.

We must be inspired by the great generation in terms of public investments, ensuring that nobody is left behind, whether we are talking people with disabilities, first nations communities or single-parent families. We need to make those public investments so that our new normal is different and much better than the old normal.

There are sobering statistics of the last few decades after the great generation had finished its work. Subsequent governments, and I criticize equally Liberals and Conservatives in this regard, cut into pieces all that had been built following the Second World War. They cut into pieces that public financing. They cut into pieces what was a fair tax system, where everybody, rich or poor, paid their fair share of taxes and profitable corporations were not able to take their money offshore, but, rather, invested it in public investments here.

That was cut into pieces in subsequent decades and now we have this watershed moment of great sacrifice that we are seeing from our front-line health care workers and first responders, putting their lives on the line every day. We have seen the devastation in our long-term care facilities. We have seen how people have stepped up, but we have also seen the horrible results and consequences of the thousands of lives lost in Canada. The lives lost must stand for something and that means we need to step up during the pandemic to make sure that nobody is left behind.

As the member for Burnaby South said eloquently just a few minutes ago, that starts with people with disabilities who have received no supports during this pandemic and it means coming out in the rebuilding phase, that we have to build that new normal much better than the old, one that addresses the needs of everybody in this country, one that ensures meaningful national reconciliation with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, that eliminates the systemic racism that we have seen afflict our country, like so many others, and to make sure that we put in place all of the investments that need to be put into place for the recovery, things like child care, access to post-secondary education and the kind of job creation that comes with moving to a clean-energy economy, which the member for Burnaby South has also spoken very eloquently to.

We have a new normal to establish and the NDP caucus is ready to work with all members of Parliament so that coming out of this pandemic, we have a much better country than going in.

Context: Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian: Madam Chair, I do not disagree with the member, but we have repeatedly raised issues in this House that have received the support of all members of Parliament. With respect to people with disabilities, it has now been three months since a motion passed unanimously through this House calling on the government to move immediately, without delay, to put supports in place for all people with disabilities in this country. We are now three months later. Those Canadians with disabilities are struggling to put food on the table, to keep a roof over their head and have received no supports at all, despite the collaboration of every single member of Parliament. The government needs to act. We know it can act quickly. When the banks came and did not consult Parliament, $750 billion, which is three-quarters of a trillion dollars, was handed out without batting an eye. It is time now for the government to act.

Context: Questions and Comments
Mr. Peter Julian: Madam Chair, as the member knows, I came out of the oil and gas industry as a former refinery worker at the Shellburn refinery in British Columbia. It is now closed, as are so many refineries, because we basically gutted the manufacturing and transformation part of that sector. Therefore, I am a strong advocate for clean energy and believe in getting energy workers back to work in the energy sector.

When we look at climate change, there is no doubt that the climate emergency is already costing us $5 billion a year in terms of economic costs. That is only going to accelerate and will go to $50 billion over the next two decades, so we have to act now. That means providing supports for that transition to clean energy.

The member also cites a transition in CERB. As he is well aware, we have been pushing for transitional measures within the wage subsidy so it is open to all businesses and non-profits. We have not seen action from the government yet on that, but that is our priority for the moment.