Busy Day in Parliament for Kenora MP Eric Melillo

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Canada's House of Commons will move to a new location over the next ten years as renovations to the Centre Block of Parliament are underway.
Canada's House of Commons

Eric Melillo was in the House of Commons on Wednesday, advocating for support for students and seasonal businesses; Melillo also presented a petition for improved rural internet

Ottawa – Kenora riding MP Eric Melillo was in the House of Commons on Wednesday, standing up for students, seasonal tourism operators, and businesses in Northern Ontario.

MP Melillo participated in the debate on the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, which would provide support for students who are unable to find work as a result of COVID-19.

Melillo delivered a ten-minute speech out in favour of the Benefit, arguing that the government needs to support students who find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own as a result of this crisis, while empowering as many students as possible to fill available jobs.

“Conservatives know that no government benefit can replace the experience of having a job,” Melillo stated. “Simply put, we believe that everyone who is able to work should do so. But we also recognize that, in some areas, there are simply no jobs to be had.”

Melillo noted that many students are finishing up their school years and “attempting to enter the workforce just as many businesses are laying people off or closing their doors entirely.” Some of the biggest job-creators in the Kenora riding, he added, are tourism operators who may not be able to open this summer.

Melillo said he was surprised that students facing unemployment were initially excluded from CERB eligibility, and that he and his Conservative colleagues spent weeks pressuring the government to provide support for students.

Melillo also noted that the Conservative Opposition successfully fought for several amendments that improved the CESB bill, including a requirement that students who apply for the CESB be connected with the Job Bank at the same time. “This will ensure that available jobs are filled first, and that students don’t miss out on potential job opportunities,” Melillo stated, calling the amendment, “a win-win for students looking for work and employers who are looking for staff.”

The government also agreed to the Conservatives’s recommendations to include a sunset clause in the legislation and to provide a parliamentary review of its impact. “This is basic due diligence,” Melillo said.

Melillo also touted the Conservatives’s proposed plan to connect students looking for work with jobs in the agriculture and agri-food sectors, noting that many agricultural producers in Canada are experiencing labour shortages due to the unavailability of temporary foreign workers. He said this program would be “a great opportunity” for students to gain work experience and earn income while helping stabilize our food supply, and urged the government to make it a reality.

Programs to connect unemployed students with jobs are essential, he argued, as the majority of students want and need to work over the summer.

“No student or new grad wants to have a months-long gap in their resume where they could have been gaining valuable work experience,” he stressed. “I know I would not have wanted that, and I may not be standing here today if that were the case.”

Melillo acknowledged that there will inevitably be students who cannot find work, “as a result of this worldwide pandemic,” which is why he supports the spirit of the Canada Emergency Student Benefit.

“With the addition of our reasonable proposals, this Benefit will ensure that students get the support that they need while not missing out on employment opportunities,” he concluded.

Earlier in the afternoon, Melillo questioned the government about challenges facing rural businesses during the COVID-19 crisis, including insufficient internet access; lack of support for the tourism industry; the inability of many seasonal businesses to access time-limited programs like the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy; and the need for flexibility for start-ups and small companies who don’t qualify for government loans.

He also asked the government if there is a plan to promote Canadian tourism after the public health crisis is resolved.

Melillo started the day by presenting a petition calling on the government to improve internet access in rural and remote regions of Canada.

Lack of reliable internet in remote regions, “has made things increasingly difficult as our society and our economy becomes more and more virtual,” Melillo said in his introduction. “This has become ever more apparent for those who are now attempting to work or take classes or access services from home during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Sponsored by Melillo last year, the petition was signed by 920 Canadians.

Melillo says that today’s in-person sitting of Parliament was incredibly productive. “I was happy to be back in Ottawa to stand up for students and businessowners,” he stated.