“Baby steps back to normalcy” is one way to describe Alberta mid May 2020. This week marked the first steps in the first stage of re-opening the economy. Golf courses and some medical offices have been operating for up to two weeks now and while the doors to retail consumerism weren’t ”kicked wide open” this week, there is optimism in the air. As this note is arriving in your inbox, many city malls and other retail outlets are slowly unlocking their doors but opening of restaurants and hair salons is on hold for 10 days. I trust Albertans will adhere to health safety measures as we move through stage one and the province can move onto stage two over the next month.
The federal government finally made an announcement this week that should bring some relief to Alberta’s beleaguered energy sector. The Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) was announced to provide bridge financing to Canada’s largest employers. Details remain sketchy and there are a number of conditions attached to this program however both the Alberta Government and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers welcomed the announcement. Details can be found here.
The federal government also announced some long-awaited assistance to seniors this week. Seniors who qualify for Old Age Security will receive a one-time payment of $300 and those who also qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement will get an extra $200. These supports will cost the Treasury $2.5 billion and will apply to 6.7 million Canadians. Eligible seniors will not have to apply for this benefit, however the government could not say how soon cheques will be issued.
During this pandemic I have received numerous emails from those living on fixed incomes, primarily from investments that have been negatively impacted by stock market declines. The government has indicated it will not become involved in assisting those who have experienced a decline in income due to losses in their portfolio. I will continue to advocate however for a further reduction in mandatory RRIF withdrawals and tax free temporary RRSP withdrawals.
The Canada Emergency Student Benefit program began accepting applications via the Canada Revenue Agency today. Click here for more information on this program and how to apply.
I have received a number of emails in recent days asking “what are Conservative MPs doing to stand up for Albertans and why aren’t we hearing more questions from our MP? When will the Conservatives get a new leader? Why don’t Conservatives force a non-confidence vote and get rid of this Prime Minister?” I could go on but I think you get the point.
The federal Conservative Party finds itself today in an almost no-win situation. When Andrew Scheer announced he was stepping down in December many saw this as an opportunity to reinvigorate the party and prepare for the next election with a wounded Liberal minority government.
Then along came the pandemic. With many constituents isolated at home, daily newspapers, television newscasts and radio talk shows have become the source of information for many.
The media has become little more than a promotional tool for the government. Even though the House of Commons met twice virtually and one day in person in committee this week, including a total of seven hours of Question Period, there are hardly any mentions of debates or questions raised on mainstream media. On the other hand, in one half hour Global newscast, the Prime Minister appeared three times. While the opposition has been holding press conferences and media availabilities on a variety of matters almost daily, pointing out challenges with our current response and proposing alternative solutions, the media knows that Scheer is on his way out so they pay little attention to anything we say.
On almost any given day as many as 4 or 5 House of Commons committees meet virtually where ministers are questioned in even more depth. That is in addition to the two or three dozen questions posed during Parliamentary Question Period. None of this is covered by the mainstream media. If you would like to review some of the questioning of ministers it can be found by going to Hansard here.
The Prime Minister’s approval rating, outside of Alberta and Saskatchewan, has risen dramatically to more than 50%. In a time of crisis, the public is often comforted in knowing that they are being taken care of, regardless of the cost. The Prime Minister has tapped into those feelings by giving away hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars that we simply do not have.
During this time Conservative MPs have been working hard to scrutinize legislation and propose common-sense changes. Our work has included stopping the government from passing a bill (which other parties were prepared to accept) that would have given cabinet unlimited spending powers until 2021. The Official Opposition originally called on the government to implement a 75% wage subsidy for employers, a suggestion which was eventually accepted by the government. The government also launched other assistance programs without a lot of thought, such as, the emergency wage subsidy (CERB) and student assistance, only to make significant changes suggested by the opposition. Again, Conservative efforts are ignored by the media but I can assure you we will continue to advance the many good ideas constituents have raised in order to make programs more comprehensive.
Conservative MPs have been using the many social media platforms to inform Canadians of their efforts but I recognize not everyone is on Twitter. Constituents should have received in their mailbox this week a mailout from me with information on Covid-19 and I commit to sending additional information via mail in the coming weeks. These updates are also posted on my website www.RonLiepertMP.ca and on Facebook.
The pandemic also suspended the conservative leadership campaign which took away any hope we had of getting re-charged for the summer. Instead of shaking hands with constituents at events like the Stampede, MPs across the country are at home, responding to constituents by email and participating in the virtual Parliament. This simply is the situation that exists and until this passes we must accept it.
I include this information simply to assure you that we are doing everything we can during these unprecedented times. If you have specific suggestions of other things you’d like to see us do, considering the situation above, I welcome them.
With respect to proposing a non-confidence motion and forcing an election, it is important to know that the House of Commons must be in session in order for a non-confidence motion to be introduced. Parliament currently is only sitting in committee therefore there is no opportunity to propose a vote of non-confidence. Even if the House was in session the government only needs the support of either the BQ or the NDP to vote down such a motion.
I know it can be frustrating at times watching the political situation unfold in this country but I can only ask constituents to be patient. Hopefully in the not too distant future we will be in more normal circumstances and our efforts will be more obvious. In the meantime, have a safe, restful long weekend.