As 2020 comes to a close, we have reason to hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will begin to improve with the rollout of some initial doses of vaccine, but in the meantime we must redouble our efforts to reduce transmission and follow public health guidelines to keep ourselves, our loved ones, frontline workers, and the most vulnerable safe. We must not let down our guard this close to the finish line, and I encourage you all to be safe and stop the spread of COVID-19 by following all public health orders and guidelines.
I write this hours after the first British Columbian was vaccinated for COVID-19 on Dec. 15. This was the result of the incredible labour and dedication of researchers and scientists who have put in outstanding work to ensure that a safe and effective vaccine could reach the public in record time. As frontline workers are first to be vaccinated, this is also an opportunity to reflect on their sacrifices and redouble our commitment to ensuring that they have the wages and support that they deserve to do the important work they do in our communities.
This year, along with Jagmeet Singh and the NDP team, I am proud to have fought hard for significant improvements to federal government initiatives providing vital support during this pandemic.
The NDP was successful in obtaining the following for Canadians since March:
CERB at $2,000 instead of a $1,000 EI benefit
Increases to OAS and GIS
Two weeks paid sick leave
Canada Emergency Student Benefit
75 per cent wage subsidy
$2 billion for schools and daycare centres
Interest relief on student loans
The pandemic is far from over, and the NDP is continuing to work hard to ensure that ordinary Canadians can come out on the other side of this in one piece. We are pushing for a wealth tax and pandemic profits tax, as we believe it is unconscionable that the wealthiest among us and large corporations have turned unprecedented profits while far too many Canadians have lost their livelihoods and continue to struggle.
We know how important pharmacare is, especially as many Canadians have now lost the stable employment they relied on for extended health coverage, and we are pressing the Liberal government to bring in a comprehensive, universal, national pharmacare program.
In order to ensure that no one is left behind while we recover from this pandemic and the economic fallout, the NDP is also proposing the first steps towards a guaranteed livable income by creating a new national income support program that would lift all people with disabilities out of poverty. We will continue to fight for those Canadians who have been forgotten — including Canadians with disabilities, seniors, students and far too many others.
It is an honour to serve the people of Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, and I extend my gratitude to you all for the dedication, solidarity, and resilience that you have shown in the face of incredible challenges. I will continue to be inspired by this spirit, as I work hard to advocate for the improvements and legislation that Canadians need in 2021.
Randall Garrison is the member of Parliament for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke.