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Senator Plett on Bill C-15: Canada hasn’t always been bad at handling pandemics, but Trudeau’s Government has failed us already

May 1, 2020 (Ottawa, ON) - The Honourable Don Plett, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, issued the following statement:

Honourable senators, before I begin my speech on the bill, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the unspeakable tragedy that unfolded earlier this month in Nova Scotia.

The nation was horrified as the extent of the killer’s violent rampage across the province became apparent. Twenty-two victims over 16 crime scenes. It was an utterly senseless act of violence. These people were mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbours. They were loved and they will be missed.

On behalf of the Senate Conservative caucus, I would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends who are grieving. Our words will never restore what has been stolen, but in them, we hope you will feel our embrace and know that you are not alone. We hold you in our hearts and in our prayers during this unspeakable loss.

I would also like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the RCMP and other first responders who did their jobs in the most dire of circumstances. I cannot imagine the horror that these brave men and women faced as they trailed this killer, looking for somebody that looked just like they did and finding more victims left in his path of destruction across this beautiful province. Your courage in the face of danger and your compassion in the midst of heartless destruction give us strength to believe that the good in this world is greater than the evil. Thank you for your selfless service.

I would also like to take a moment to offer our condolences to the family and friends of the six members of the Canadian Armed Forces who were lost in Wednesday’s helicopter crash off the coast of Greece. We just found out a few minutes ago that this is now a recovery project. This is an unbelievable tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with all who were impacted.

Today, colleagues, I’m also thinking of all those Canadians who have lost their lives due to this pandemic and want to ensure all victims’ families that our thoughts and prayers are with you as well. We know how devastating it is to lose a loved one, but not to be with them in their final moments is so much worse.

Last, colleagues, I would like to take a moment to wish my premier, Brian Pallister, well as he mourns the loss of his beloved sister, even while he is in the very throes of dealing with this pandemic.

Colleagues, it is always an honour to stand here and one that I never take lightly. But in these extremely challenging times, I find myself asking God to give us wisdom now more than ever. However, it is the mandate of the official opposition in the House of Commons and the Senate to make sure that we keep the government’s feet to the fire at all times and point out any discrepancies and any flaws that we find in legislation.

As former Liberal prime minister, the Honourable Jean Chrétien, always said, the word “opposition” means “to oppose.” This pandemic itself is a great challenge, but the truth of the matter is how the pandemic is being handled by Parliament. This can either soften the blow or sharper its edge. Today I stand here with a great deal of concern about how the government is handling this crisis, that this has sharpened its edge for many.

We have been called back to this chamber to consider Bill C-15, An Act respecting Canada emergency student benefits (coronavirus disease 2019). This is the government’s third piece of legislation, as Senator Woo just pointed out, in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I must say that I find this to be an unusual way of dealing with what the government itself has called an “emergency.” We are six weeks into the virtual shutdown of our economy and the government is still meandering along, taking a piecemeal approach to the crisis by dribbling out patchwork measures that leave gaping holes.

They call it an emergency, but they don’t act like it is one. The Prime Minister himself has been snugly holed up in his cottage for weeks, while front-line workers put their health, lives and families at risk in order to protect our most vulnerable.

Every morning, colleagues, people across the country leave the safety of their homes to ensure that Canadians can continue to be supplied with essential tools and services. They include supermarkets, grocery stores, gas stations, laundromats, postal services, funeral services, financial services, telecommunications, transportation, agriculture, health care, social services, the list goes on and on. But for weeks, while Canadians were courageously showing up for work every day, our Prime Minister took a pass and stayed home.

Political leaders around the world have been working from their offices. Even British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to his office after being in a hospital for a week. Why was Canada’s Prime Minister at home for so long? He says we are in an emergency but he doesn’t act like it. Colleagues, this pandemic is an emergency, but it is an emergency handled so badly by this government that the human cost and the economic costs are already much higher than necessary.

You might think I’m being unfair or maybe I’m just trying to score political points, but I assure you that I am doing neither. This government may not be responsible for the global pandemic — and indeed they are not responsible for the global pandemic — but they are absolutely responsible for the fact that they could see it coming down the road and did nothing to steer us out of its path.

We don’t have time to go through the entire timeline. That would be a good job for national inquiry at a later date. But let me point out a couple of things. First, this government badly mishandled its preparation prior to the pandemic.

In 2014, the Public Health Agency of Canada established guidelines for dealing with the Ebola virus. This included designating 28 Ebola hospitals across the country, pre-positioning the necessary supplies, establishing procedures for transporting Ebola patients to those hospitals and proactively assessing the needs of the provinces and territories in order to either provide support from the public, from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Emergency Strategic Stockpile or facilitate bulk purchasing.

Five Ebola virus disease Rapid Response Teams were established, each consisted of seven subject matter experts, including a team lead, a field epidemiologist, an infection control expert, a biosafety expert, a laboratory expert, a communicator and a logistics expert. These teams were ready to be deployed upon request, to work with provincial, territorial and local health authorities. They would assist with providing public health surge capacity, additional resources and complementary expertise to prevent any further spread of the disease.

All of this was put in place before a single case of Ebola had been detected in Canada. How could we have been so well prepared in 2014 and so ill-prepared now? But it didn’t stop there. The Public Health Agency also had the foresight to establish Ebola quarantine measures for international arrivals. They said:

All travellers coming into Canada with a travel history from the outbreak regions will need to be monitored for up to 21 days. Quarantine Officers will require these travellers to report to a local public health authority in Canada and will provide travellers with instructions on how to report and an information kit. The kit includes a thermometer to check their temperature twice daily for up to 21 days.

These, colleagues, were not suggestions for self-isolation. This was not a mere pamphlet. Travellers were required to take action and monitored to ensure that they did so. If travellers showed up at the border with symptoms, the guidance went even further:

Travellers. . . who are presenting symptoms will be immediately isolated, and sent to a hospital for a medical examination. The Quarantine Officer will coordinate patient transfers with provincial and local public health authorities.

The hospital would then determine what further measures are required.

If travellers did not have symptoms but may have come in contact with someone who did, they were given an information package, ordered to report to a public health authority immediately and required to self-isolate for 21 days.

If travellers were considered low risk and had no known exposure to the Ebola virus, they were also given an information package, ordered to report to a public health authority within 24 hours and monitored every day for 21 days. They were required to check their temperature twice daily and report any symptoms they developed.

Remember, colleagues, this was in 2014. Without wanting to get on to my political stand, does anyone recall who was in government in 2014?

Six years later, we had a new prime minister. On January 25, as the coronavirus was spreading like wildfire around the world, our Health Minister, Patty Hajdu, assured Canadians that the government was taking all necessary precautions with international travellers by putting messages on arrival screens in the airports, placing an additional health screening questionnaire on electronic kiosks used by international travellers and handing out a brochure.

I wish I was joking, colleagues.

There was no effective screening, no quarantining of international travellers, even if they were flying from Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the outbreak. Instead, we were told that the virus does not respect borders.

This is strange, because as far as back as 2003, the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health was warning that:

Human migration has been a key means for infectious disease transmission throughout recorded history. However, the volume, speed, and reach of travel today have accelerated the spread of infectious diseases.

The report continued:

SARS has illustrated that we are constantly a short flight away from serious epidemics.

This, colleagues, is from a public document. It was not some briefing note buried under 17 years of dust and government inaction only to be unearthed through an access-to-information request. It was in plain sight, and I have no doubt that the Prime Minister and Health Minister were aware of its contents.

Yet, on February 17, almost a month after COVID-19 had arrived in Canada via an international flight, our Health Minister stood up and insisted that the closing of the borders was “not effective at all.”

A few weeks later, on March 5, when asked if Canada would take steps similar to Australia and require international arrivals to self-isolate for two weeks, the Prime Minister repeated that our open borders were the right approach. He said the following:

We recognize there are countries that make different decisions. The decisions we make are based on the best recommendations of the World Health Organization and the tremendous health experts who work within Canada and around the world. . . . We know that keeping Canadians safe needs to be done in the right way and we’re going to keep doing things that actually keep Canadians safe.

“Doing things that actually keep Canadians safe.” I have some difficulty with that comment. I suspect the families of the more than 3,000 Canadians who have passed away due to this pandemic might feel the same.

But what is most troubling about all of this is that the government not only ignored the advice given to previous governments but it ignored the advice given to its own. In August 2018, the Public Health Agency of Canada released a publication entitled Canadian Pandemic Influenza Preparedness: Planning Guidance for the Health Sector.

It contained the following observation:

The federal government is responsible for:

. . . exercising powers under the Quarantine Act to protect public health by taking comprehensive measures to help prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases in Canada. Such measures may include, but are not limited to, the screening, examining and detaining of arriving and departing international travellers, conveyances. . . and their goods and cargo.

So, on the one hand, this government was told in 2018 that it was responsible to do whatever was necessary to slam the door on a potential pandemic, and yet, as late as March 11, Minister Hajdu was still scolding Canadians that a virus does not know borders.

If this inconsistency doesn’t bother you, you should know that it does bother a great deal of Canadians.

It’s interesting that this line didn’t originate with Minister Hajdu, though. It was first voiced by the director of the World Health Organization on February 27, 2020. It didn’t take Canadians long to notice that this parroting of WHO lines wasn’t an isolated incident. Much of what was coming from the government was an echo of the WHO.

In fact, when asked about this at the Parliamentary Health Committee on January 29, Dr. Theresa Tam said:

Right now, let’s say, WHO does not recommend travel bans, and any measures that a country is to take must not be out of proportion to the risk and must not inappropriately impact travel and trade. We are a signatory to the international health regulations and we’ll be called to account if we do anything different.

This suggested that, in no uncertain terms, Canada should follow the directions of the World Health Organization, even at the expense of the lives and the well-being of Canadians. Incredible, colleagues.

And yet, this policy was in direct conflict with the government’s own guidance in its 2018 Canadian Pandemic Influenza Preparedness publication, which stated the following:

As pandemic viruses emerge, countries face different risks at different times and should therefore rely on their own risk assessments, informed by the global phases, to guide their actions. The uncoupling of national actions from global phases is necessary since the global risk assessment, by definition, will not represent the situation in each country.

In other words, colleagues, Canada should have been paying attention to what was happening around the world and then made its own decisions according to what was best for Canada, not the WHO.

The suggestion that we had to be in lockstep with the WHO was directly contradictory to Canada’s own health policy and has led to significant harm to Canadians. It is one of the many failures of this government in its management of the coronavirus pandemic.

If you are going to steer your country straight into the face of an oncoming crisis, the least you could do is prepare for it. But the Liberal government could not be bothered.

Instead, they not only ignored two decades of advice regarding international travel, quarantines and mandatory screening, they also cut funding for pandemic preparedness, destroyed millions of masks and other medical equipment and did not bother to replace them.

As the pandemic was breaking out globally in February, they added insult to injury by shipping 16,000 kilograms of personal protective equipment to China that had been set aside to protect the lives of Canadians.

Global News reported yesterday that this shipment was sent even though senior Canadian bureaucrats had been alerted in January that China was hoarding personal protective equipment and ended up importing more than 2 billion safety masks. This created a critical shortage of PPE around the world and right here at home.

When hospitals and care homes had to later scramble to find supplies, our government told us everything was fine. China was going to send us a fresh supply. Sure enough, true to their word, China sent us two empty plane loads and then a shipment of a million defective masks.

You can’t help but wonder how long it will take this Prime Minister to realize that the communist government of China is not Canada’s friend.

Colleagues, for a government that claims to be led by science, the Liberals couldn’t have gotten it more wrong. They could see the pandemic coming down the road toward us and they did nothing to adjust our course. I have said it before and I will say it again: While the virus walked, flew and drove across our borders, this government was asleep at the wheel.

Regrettably, the government’s incompetence did not end there. Not only did they mishandle the preparation prior to the pandemic, but they are now leaving a swath of unnecessary damage as they bungle their response to it.

Instead of taking clear, consistent and transparent decisions, the Prime Minister has established a troubling pattern of announcing programs before he knows how they are going to work, followed by furious backtracking. He then consistently changes the eligibility criteria, causing additional anxiety for Canadians who are trying their best to cope with a situation that is already extremely stressful.

Almost every day the government has a new announcement. But when you get on the daily technical briefing call at 4:30 in the afternoon, departmental officials struggle to answer questions about how the program will be delivered.

Many of us have been on the calls, and you know this to be a fact. After CERB was announced, public service employees were thrown out front to address questions they had no answers to. They had to keep saying “the policy is under development and we’ll get back to you on that.”

This, colleagues, is not the fault of the public service employees. They are doing an incredible job under the circumstances. It’s like they’ve been tasked with building a plane that the government has already launched into flight. I think any successes that can be pointed to are undoubtedly due to our incredible public sector employees who have responded to this crisis admirably. I cannot say the same about this government.

Pick any one of the programs they have launched and you’ll find the same thing. Either they are hastily cobbled together and full of holes or they are riddled with variables that are intentionally left to be determined by regulation at some later date.

You don’t have to go far to see this. Just take a look at the bill before us today. It is full of wild cards which can be determined by regulation, including who can receive the benefit — Senator Carignan already alluded to this — how much they can earn and still be eligible for the benefit, what income makes them ineligible for the benefit, how long can they receive the benefit and even the amount of the benefit.

I understand the need for some flexibility, but this seems excessive. There is no doubt that our students need help. That is not the question. We will, as Senator Carignan has said, later today pass this bill. We will not stand in the way of this bill being passed.

The question is this: Why does this government insist on drafting legislation that gives itself sweeping powers without adequate oversight by Parliament?

I must admit, as bad as the draft of this bill was, it came nowhere near the draft version of Bill C-13. Before being amended, the bill proposed to give the government extensive power to tax and spend without parliamentary approval until December 31, 2021.

If they had succeeded in ramming that through, they may as well have prorogued Parliament for a year and a half after that because we wouldn’t be needed. Only a government that has a level of admiration for China’s basic dictatorship would think of a thing like that.

Colleagues, without fail, you hear the same concern every day on the technical briefing calls: The programs are not working. Too many people are falling through the cracks. This, colleagues, is true.

Take the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. The economy has now been shut down for six weeks, and it was only four days ago that businesses were able to apply for this program. The government has been warned over and over that it is taking too long to get assistance out to businesses, but it seems to fall on deaf ears.

After they announced the shutdown without having a plan in place, businesses didn’t know what to do. Many concerned employers felt they had no option but to lay off their employees so that they would at least be eligible to claim EI benefits.

Then the government suddenly did an about-face and announced that they were going to implement a 10% wage subsidy. Two weeks later, after we told them repeatedly that was not going to be sufficient, they announced the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which would cover 75% of wages.

Colleagues, you will recall me asking the Minister of Finance, Minister Morneau, during our Committee of the Whole about that and he said, no, they were not going to do that.

Obviously that was better, but what about the people already laid off? What about the one million people who already applied for EI? What about employers’ salaries? What happens if they are paid by dividends instead of a salary? What about front-line health workers who work multiple part-time jobs? What about, what about, what about?

Some of these questions still aren’t answered.

Then there is the Canada Emergency Business Account. That’s where the government will loan up to $40,000 to businesses. The problem is it’s only available to some businesses, those with at least $20,000 in payroll.

This is a problem. Newer family-run businesses typically have no payroll because family members do all the work without a salary so they can pay off debt and build up the business instead.

What about the sole proprietorships? Sorry, you don’t qualify.

What about business owners who pay themselves by dividends? Sorry, you don’t qualify.

What if you’re a sole proprietor with one employee that earned less than $20,000 last year? Sorry, they don’t qualify.

What if you launched your business late last year and although you have a number of employees, the total payroll didn’t reach $20,000? Sorry, we can’t help you.

The program is supposed to be a safety net, but it has holes so big that you could fly a government plane loaded with PPE headed to China right through it.

But that’s not the only hole. Under the government’s criteria, small businesses must have a pre-existing business account to qualify for CEBA. This is problematic because sole proprietors typically use personal chequing accounts rather than a business account. Governments should not be punishing business owners because they have the wrong type of bank account or because they put their revenues into the company instead of paying themselves or because they have fought through the COVID-19 lockdown to keep serving customers and employing workers.

No matter which program you look at, it’s the same thing, hastily cobbled together and full of holes. Consider the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program. It was rolled out with great fanfare after business owners had been pleading for help from the government for over a month. But it didn’t take long to realize that it was also full of holes, and that for many business owners, it was going to be too little, too late.

For starters, a business has to be able to show that they have had a 70% decline in revenue. Any business that has not lost that amount gets nothing, including those whose revenues have fallen by 50% or 60% while they struggled to stay open during COVID-19.

This means that to get rental assistance, some businesses will need to shut down completely in order to drop their revenue by 70%. How does that help anyone? It’s a design flaw that will force some businesses that have remained open to close or grind their operations to a halt in order to qualify.

But even if you have had a 70% drop in income, business owners still cannot apply for the assistance. It’s entirely dependent on whether their landlord wants to make use of the program or not. For many businesses, their second rent payment since the beginning of the shutdown is due today, and they have no idea whether they will be able to access the rent assistance or not.

But it’s not just the business owners that are trying to figure out this program; the landlords are as well. The program requires landlords to reduce their rent by 25% for April, May and June. And in Ontario, they have to agree to forego any profit during that period. Furthermore, if your commercial property is not mortgaged, it’s unclear if you even qualify for the program. Those landlords are being asked to contact CMHC to discuss the possibility of other options.

In a word, it’s a mess. Of course, you won’t hear that from the government. All we get from them is fanfare and hoopla. But whenever you scratch the surface, you find a different story.

Take agriculture, for example. Agriculture is taking a huge hit right now. What has the government done? Well, two things: First of all, they reneged on a promise to put off the implementation of Bill C-4, the act to implement the agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States.

If you recall, this legislation was fast-tracked in this Senate because the government felt the legislation had to receive Royal Assent prior to the adjournment of the House of Commons and the Senate due to COVID-19 global pandemic.

Conservatives agreed — we all agreed — to move forward on this legislation based on one important condition: that the new deal come into force only after August 1, 2020. This date marks the beginning of the dairy calendar year. Had this date been respected, it would have allowed the dairy industry to save about $100 million.

Seven weeks ago, this government looked us straight in the eye and said they would not ratify this deal early. Then, on April 3, Minister Freeland went back on her promise, and the treaty will now come into force on July 1; $100 million that would have remained in the Canadian economy and strengthened the economic resilience of our dairy farmers, flushed down the drain. Don’t forget; this is in addition to $330 million in perpetual annual losses to the industry as a result of the CUSMA agreement.

At a time when the nation is reeling under the impact of the economic shutdown, the Trudeau government decided that they wouldn’t keep their promise and wouldn’t stand up to protect Canada’s dairy industry.

You don’t have to take my word for it, colleagues. Let me quote to you from the Dairy Farmers of Canada press release:

The Dairy Farmers of Canada and the Dairy Processors Association of Canada confirm today that, not only were parliamentarians misled by the Trudeau Government, but they too were misled on the date of implementation of Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). As such, they echo the concerns expressed by the Honourable Don Plett, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, who indicated he had a commitment from the government on the date.

The dairy sector had secured the support of parliamentarians to have the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement . . . come into force in conjunction with the beginning of the dairy year (August 1, 2020). This would have allowed the sector a full 12-months of exports per the negotiated concession for year-one threshold limit on key dairy products, before being constrained by the significant reduction conceded in year two of the agreement. As part of CUSMA, Canada not only transferred to the US part of our domestic dairy production, but it also agreed to self imposed limits on exports of key dairy products.

“Our government was first out of the gate to give notice to the other parties that it was ready to implement CUSMA. The dairy sector was informed at the last minute and judging by the reaction from the opposition parties, we weren’t alone in this being a complete surprise,” said Jacques Lefebvre, CEO of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Colleagues, this is a serious breach trust that I find outrageous and we should all find outrageous.

The Prime Minister has been preaching, from Rideau Cottage hideaway, that all of us need to take a Team Canada approach, and then he stabs the dairy industry in the back. It’s unbelievable.

It is regrettable that although the Prime Minister likes to talk about a Team Canada approach, he doesn’t actually walk the walk. At a time like this, all parties should be at the table offering their ideas and input, rather than wrestling with the Prime Minister just to get him to show up at Parliament and show up for Question Period.

If he needs some ideas on how this works, I suggest he reach out to Premier Legault in Quebec or to Premier Higgs in New Brunswick. Premier Legault is meeting twice a week to consult with the leaders of the three opposition parties. Premier Higgs struck a special cabinet committee on COVID-19 and included all three leaders of the opposition parties in its membership.

Our Prime Minister, when he meets with the opposition leaders, he clearly leaves out the Leader of the Official Opposition.

Why is that such a difficult thing for the Prime Minister? Canadians are all pulling together to defeat this virus, and it is beyond me why the Prime Minister insists on being partisan and exclusionary during this critical time.

I must say I find this government’s attitude quite disturbing.

The second thing this government has done to help agriculture with the impact of the coronavirus might surprise you. Last month, they made a big show of announcing that they were increasing the lending capacity of the Farm Credit Corporation by an additional $5 billion.

What they did not say was that this program wasn’t going to cost the government a nickel. In fact, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the government will extract an additional $96 million out of the agriculture industry through it. In other words, the government’s assistance to agriculture so far has cost the industry close to $200 million.

That’s the kind of help our farmers could do without. For producers who are being choked by supply chain issues, declining revenue and uncertain markets, the government is just tightening the rope a little further.

They don’t seem to understand what farmers need. They don’t seem to understand what businesses need. They don’t seem to understand what Canadians need.

Just look at the track record: Every piece of legislation they introduce to address the coronavirus crisis disincentivizes people from working, even if there is a critical need for essential services.

The rent assistance encourages business owners to cut their business back to hit the 70% loss-of-income target. The CERB program makes it more attractive for people to stay home and collect a cheque, rather than take a paying job that is as an essential service. The legislation before us today did nothing to encourage students to work when work is available, until the Conservatives insisted on it.

Colleagues, I am not criticizing our students. We have thousands of students who want to work, without question. We have students who are afraid to go back to work, without question. But programs that encourage people to stay home rather than work does not help our economy.

There are businesses across the country that would jump at the chance to hire a student, yet instead of figuring out how to connect students with jobs and get valuable job experience along with a paycheque, the government comes up with a program focused only on putting cheques in the mail. Is that valuable? Yes, but it is also short-sighted.

So Conservatives insisted on several changes to the legislation, including requiring the government to connect all applicants to the Canada Job Bank and provide them with job availability information before applying. Measures like this should be automatic, not something the opposition has to push for. Jobs are valuable, not just because they provide an income but because they keep the economy running, provide untold spinoff benefits and provide students with invaluable work experience. We recognize that, in much of the country, unemployment rates are extremely high due to the pandemic and a great many jobs are simply not available.

Canadians, including students, need real help right now. But no government program should be a government program that encourages Canadians not to go to work. We need to be clear that, wherever possible, the government needs to provide students with employment opportunities and not just government aid. That is why the Conservatives proposed that the government create a program to match students and youth employment with jobs in the agriculture and agri-food sector, including fish and seafood.

Like the Canada Summer Jobs program, this program would cover the minimum wage of a new student or youth employee. This wage could then be supplemented by an additional stipend paid by the employer. Businesses looking to augment their existing workforce this year would have an opportunity to apply immediately. Employers would be required to ensure that proper workplace safety measures are in place to protect all employees.

Many agriculture, fish and seafood businesses rely on the Temporary Foreign Worker or Seasonal Agriculture Worker Programs. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year, these vital sectors are facing significant labour shortages. While local labour can fill some of the gaps without support, Canadian producers and processors from coast to coast will struggle to maintain essential food supply chains.

The question I have is: Why isn’t this just instinctive for the Liberals? Why are they happier to leave people idle even when work is available and needed? Do they not understand how the economy works? Do they not realize that there are employers and businesses who desperately need workers, even in the midst of the pandemic? Why are we subsidizing temporary foreign workers while at the same time encouraging our own students to stay home so that they can get a cheque from the government? This makes no sense.

Colleagues, the government’s mismanagement during this crisis is concerning. They have done what few people could have imagined; they have taken an extremely difficult situation and made it even worse. Rather than softening the blow, they have sharpened its edge through inadequate preparation and a patchwork of poorly planned responses. Not only has this raised the level of anxiety and stress for Canadians, but it leaves us wondering where things go next.

After steering us straight into the path of the pandemic and fumbling their way through it, how are Canadians supposed to have any confidence in this government or, indeed, parliamentarians, that they can now steer us out of it?

Colleagues, the COVID-19 pandemic will soon be added to the history books, along with other very difficult times, such as the Great Depression. There is no question that historians will review the government’s handling of this crisis with a very thorough and critical eye. At this point, it does not look like the judgment will be very rosy, but for the sake of all Canadians, I hope this changes soon.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer is now telling us that the deficit is going to be $252 billion. I think that bears repeating. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is telling us that the deficit this year is going to be $252 billion. And we are not finished yet. We are hearing that the government is going to come forward with another package to help large businesses and industry, which will probably be the biggest package we have seen yet during this pandemic. As we have always feared, colleagues, the cure seems to be far worse than the disease.

Senator Plett's Third Reading speech on Bill C-15 is also available here.


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