The government must save essential ground transportation companies from bankruptcy

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP): Mr. Speaker, the speech was for him a while ago because he began it before question period began. I want to pause to say how very nice it is to see all of us friends gathered together even if only by Zoom.

I was taken by the hon. member’s comments on the impacts of the Spanish flu and how long those impacts stayed with society. On a personal point, my namesake, Elizabeth Evans Stephens, was a victim of the Spanish flu and I can say that the intergenerational impacts of losing a young mother not only affected by grandmother, but my mother. This is a pandemic, the likes of which we have not seen for generations, and its effects will be intergenerational.

My very strong support for the hon. member’s speech is to his points on the banking industry, with its extraordinary levels of profits, over $30 billion in profits through the pandemic, and yet this very industry is leaning on small business. In my area, Wilson’s bus lines is at risk of going under because the government programs that are on offer do not really meet their needs. Bus companies and other companies across Canada are at risk because these banks that have been raking in profits and have had government help seem to think they are not Canadian. They do not think they are part of our national effort to save businesses and jobs.

I wonder if my hon. colleague has any comments on what the government should be doing to ensure that the banks do not push good, essential companies like Wilson’s bus lines into bankruptcy.

Peter Julian (New Westminster—Burnaby)
2021-01-25 15:53 [p.3430]

Mr. Speaker, this is what is inconceivable to me. There was $750 billion given in liquidity support to the Canadian banking industry without any conditions whatsoever. We saw credit unions stepping up and lowering their interest rates to zero. We saw credit unions stepping up and providing in some cases what was required around suspending the payment of mortgages and not imposing penalties. The banking industry did not have any conditions at all imposed, and the result has been windfall profits of $30 billion and real pressure on businesses like Wilson’s and others across the country.
We need to take the best practices of other countries. Other countries said that if they were providing supports, there were going to be conditions. The Canadian government stepped up within days of the pandemic hitting, and its first thought was to help the banking industry. Three-quarters of $1 trillion later, the banking industry is reaping massive profits and so many Canadians and small businesses are struggling.

Of course, with COVID, we know that the implications and the consequences will last for more than a decade. For lower-income families, the reality is the fall economic statement talks about cutbacks starting in the next fiscal year. There will be dramatic cutbacks over the next 13 months. We need the government to rethink its approach and we are willing to work with it—