In My Opinion: Federal government to extend Canada Recovery Benefit program for those impacted by COVID-19 restrictions

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is the Liberal MP for Beaches-East York.

By NATHANIEL ERSKINE-SMITH

As our federal government continues to be seized with the pandemic response, we’ve also taken steps forward on many other important issues, including climate action, gun control, criminal justice reform, and reconciliation.

As health restrictions continue, we will extend the Canada Recovery Benefit by 12 weeks, and adjust CERB repayment rules to ensure greater fairness. I’m also working to claw back wage subsidy funds from companies that weren’t in real need (like Bell) and direct them to both individuals and businesses that are in continued need.

After great frustration with vaccine supply chain issues, deliveries appear to be back on track. Over 400,000 doses were delivered last week, millions more are on the way, and there should be enough supply by June for almost all adult Canadians.

At the Industry Committee, we’re working on domestic manufacturing capacity, to ensure we are better prepared in the medium and long-term.

We also need to take preventative measures to reduce pandemic risk, and that includes strong climate action.

Our updated plan doubles down on smart and fair pollution pricing, we’ve established permanent public transit funding for cities, and we can expect the coming budget to emphasize green stimulus spending, including building retrofits. Our new climate accountability law incorporates a net zero commitment from my own past legislation.

Importantly for our community, the government has tabled new gun control legislation that meets most of our platform commitments, including empowering cities to ban handguns. Still, as someone who represents so many deeply impacted by the Danforth Shooting, it’s hard not to express disappointment that Bill C-21 doesn’t go further, and I’ve already begun to work with colleagues and the Danforth Families for Safe Communities to improve the bill.

The Justice Minister thankfully tabled a much stronger bill to address the disproportionate overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous people in our prisons. Bill C-22 repeals ineffective mandatory minimum penalties, gives judges better restorative justice tools, and establishes new rules for police and prosecutors to treat drug use as a health and social issue. The drug reform measures borrow heavily from my own legislation, which I introduced to push for stronger action in response to the opioid crisis. Bill C-22 is already subject to attack from Conservatives, but it has been endorsed by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

To further reconciliation, we’re legislating UNDRIP, and we’ve committed new and significant funding to guarantee sustainable water systems on First Nations reserves. By March, we expect under 30 long-term advisories to remain, down from 159 when we took office, with water projects well underway where needed.

On a personal note, I’ve raised my voice to recognize China’s human rights abuses against the Uyghurs as a genocide, I’m working with Jann Arden to strengthen animal welfare laws, I’m leading the review of new privacy legislation (built on much of my previous parliamentary work), and I’m very much focused on questions of fairness, including a one-time tax on extreme wealth to help pay for our national recovery.

While there continue to be opportunities for cooperation, some bright lines have begun to form between our plans and the Conservatives, including strong opposition against our climate action, against our commitment to national standards for long-term care, and against our evidence-based justice reform.

There won’t be an election until it’s safe to conduct one, but know I plan to run again whenever that might be. I want to protect the progress that we’ve made as a government, but I also believe I’ve helped to shape that progress, and I hope to have that same opportunity going forward.

Thanks, as always, for your continued support.

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is the MP for Beaches-East York.


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