I wanted to take some time to express my appreciation for everything all of you have been doing to support each other and protect public health during this time.
This pandemic has been taking a toll on all Canadians. Workers have lost their jobs, and entrepreneurs are struggling to keep businesses afloat to ensure their employees have jobs to come back to. Parents have been left without childcare, and students have been asked to leave school and transition to online learning (with all the challenges that entails). My heart is also with those who are ill, as well as those who are awaiting diagnoses or caring for sick family members.
I am very grateful for our healthcare workers and first responders who are on the frontlines of this crisis, as well as to the farmers, truck drivers, grocery and drug store workers, and other workers who are ensuring Canadians don’t go hungry or without essential services.
Many Canadians have also been taking proactive steps to help slow the spread of the virus, by isolating themselves, avoiding unnecessary travel, and (if possible) working from home. As much as possible, we should be emulating their example.
My office staff have been working remotely to help flatten the curve, but are still working around-the-clock to support constituents. If you need assistance, please don’t hesitate to call us for help.
The government has introduced various financial measures to support Canadians during this time, including the Emergency Response Benefit for individuals who have lost their incomes, as well as wage subsidies and loan programs for businesses. The specifics of these programs (including support levels and eligibility requirements) may change over time, so I encourage constituents to visit the Finance Department's official COVID-19 Economic Response Plan website for complete and up-to-date information.
While I am grateful that all parties were able to work together to pass these emergency measures, I am also very aware that more needs to be done. There are gaps in eligibility that may prevent Canadians who are struggling from getting the help they need, and I am also worried that some of the business supports will not be rolled out quickly enough to help businesses stay afloat. There are also areas of ambiguity that need to be clarified.
Our Conservative Opposition is working constructively with the government to improve Canada’s economic response, and we’ve suggested several measures that would benefit Canadians. To provide businesses with some much-needed funds, we are encouraging the government to refund GST remittances paid over the past six months. We also believe that the CERB eligibility rules need to be amended to allow Canadians working reduced hours to receive some support.
If you have any suggestions for how the government can better help Canadians, please get in touch with my office.
I am also closely monitoring the public health situation in the riding. I have been keeping in contact with Health Canada to keep them informed of potential public health risks and aware of the capacity of our health system to handle this crisis.
There have now been several confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Kenora riding. Now more than ever, I urge everyone to follow the recommendations of public health officials by practicing social distancing, washing hands frequently, and avoiding non-essential trips in the community.
I’ve been hearing from many constituents who are worried about out-of-riding vacationers visiting cottages in the Kenora region, which places a strain on our resources and risks spreading the virus into communities who have not yet been exposed. That’s why I’ve been calling for cottagers from outside the riding to remain in their home communities until this crisis has been resolved.
I took no pleasure in issuing that recommendation, as countless businesses in the riding are sustained by tourism, but public health needs to be our top priority at this time. Canadians from across the country visit the Kenora region every year, and I know our communities look forward to welcoming them back when this is all over.
I know that these are difficult times for everyone, but I am confident that if we all work together and follow public health advice, we will be able to recover quickly.
Eric Melillo, M.P.