Mr. Speaker, greetings to all the members here today.
Before I begin, I would like to offer my condolences to the families of the many people who have been killed this weekend in Nova Scotia. This senseless violence has shocked all of us and has caused deep pain. To the families and friends of those who were killed, our thoughts are with them. To the people of Nova Scotia and all those in this country who are grieving, we are with them on this horrible day.
I want to express my most sincere condolences to family and friends of the victims of the absolutely senseless act that took place in Nova Scotia. Our hearts go out to them.
The horrible and incomprehensible tragedy that occurred in Nova Scotia comes on top of the coronavirus tragedy that all Canadians and people around the world are going through. The pandemic is a unique situation that is affecting everyone no matter where they live, especially older people, especially our seniors, who have devoted their lives to building the society we live in today. We owe them so much. This is a difficult situation for them, for their friends and for their family members.
This is also a very difficult situation for those who have lost a loved one. I know that first-hand because I lost a very close friend two days ago. It is hard not being able to say goodbye to our loved ones, not being able to hug them before they go, not being with our loved ones, friends and family. As horrible and difficult as the crisis we are going through is, that makes it even worse.
I have spoken long enough about the motion. I would now like to hear what my colleagues have to say about it. In my opinion, this motion strikes a balance between letting Parliament play the fundamental role that all members of the House hold dear and respecting the public health guidelines. It also enables us to do what we are telling the public to do, and that is to self-isolate as much as possible and limit travel.
I would like to thank the members of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP for supporting the motion. I would also like to recognize the Green Party's support for virtual sittings. The government, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP have come to an agreement. We continue to reach out to the Conservative Party so that we can unite and work together.
We all agree that there is not a second to lose on partisanship, particularly today, in light of the dual crises affecting our nation, namely what happened in Nova Scotia and what continues to happen every day.
Once again, I am reaching out to my Conservative colleagues and asking them to join in the consensus reached between the government, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP. Together, we can continue to enable Parliament to play its absolutely fundamental role, while abiding by the guidelines issued by Health Canada and taking into account the health and safety of those in the House and all those who are there for us outside the House.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my remarks today by expressing my heartfelt condolences on behalf of my entire caucus and our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Constable Heidi Stevenson and all those who lost their lives in the senseless attack over the weekend in Nova Scotia. As more and more details come out as to the scale of the tragedy, I know it is weighing heavily upon all Canadians at this time, and all members of Parliament. To those members of Parliament from Nova Scotia, I would particularly like to convey, through them to their constituents, our solidarity with them. I know the whole country is grieving with them for their loss as well. We are also praying for a speedy recovery for the RCMP officer who was injured in the line of duty. Each one of the victims leaves behind heartbroken family, friends and a community reeling from such an unthinkable act.
I wish to extend my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Constable Heidi Stevenson and all those who lost their lives in this senseless attack in Nova Scotia on the weekend. I also wish a speedy recovery to the RCMP officer who was injured in the line of duty. Every victim leaves behind a family, friends and a community torn apart by this outrageous act.
It is made all the more difficult because in this time, comfort will have to be offered at a distance, but as we, as a nation, mourn with those who mourn, I hope that the affected families and communities know that right across Canada we hold them closely in our hearts.
These are difficult times. There has been far too much sadness and grief in our nation over the last month. Over 1,600 Canadians have now died from COVID-19, and more than 36,000 Canadians have fallen sick. Canadians' lives and livelihoods literally depend on the government getting the response to this pandemic right. Given what is at stake, Conservatives would like to see more than the one accountability session per week that the other parties appear to have agreed to.
We also believe that virtual accountability sessions should be designed in the all-party forum that is already working on this issue.
The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs held its first meeting last week, and it should be allowed to carry out the job it has been assigned. If the NDP and the Bloc have agreed with the Liberals to limit accountability, they will have to explain themselves to Canadians in the coming weeks.
Conservatives believe in oversight and accountability. Millions of Canadians are going to work every single day to help their neighbours get through this pandemic. Parliamentarians should be doing the same thing. Right here on Parliament Hill, construction workers are continuing to renovate Centre Block, a project that is expected to take at least 10 years. If they can safely renovate the building that houses our Parliament, then surely we can do our duty to uphold the bedrock of our democracy.
That is the issue: democracy. Canadians have the right to be represented by their government. Their concerns must be heard and their questions must be answered.
There have been so many questions raised throughout this pandemic, and Conservatives have been asking those questions. We have not always gotten answers, but we are going to continue to press for them. The need for these accountability sessions is made evident day after day.
Why can the not tell Canadians when new ventilators will arrive? It was in this chamber, on March 12, when I asked the what the government was doing to obtain new ventilators. She said at that time that the government was leading a national procurement strategy. Thirty days later, the , in this chamber, said that the first ventilators would be weeks away. That is unacceptable.
Why were millions of masks and protective equipment destroyed and not replaced? Why are government programs changing every single day? These are the kinds of questions that Canadians have, and they deserve answers from their government, because vulnerable Canadians do not have another month to wait around for help.
Canadians' lives and livelihoods literally depend on the government getting its response to this pandemic right.
The continues to warn that this process will be long and arduous, but so far that has not just meant dealing with this pandemic but also the decision-making process. We owe it to Canadians to work our absolute hardest to get this right.
Since this crisis first began to take shape, it has been the opposition that has often been leading the way on the useful, practical actions that have been taken to protect Canadians. We called for tighter restrictions on travel and at the border. We called for the wage subsidy to be raised from 10% to 75%. We called for seasonal workers and those with limited incomes to qualify for the emergency response benefit. The said that he wanted a team Canada approach, and we have given him one, putting forward constructive solutions every day to help Canadians affected by this crisis.
Meanwhile, the and his ministers have chosen to try to do this on their own, and the result is that virtually every day they are having to make changes to their policies. If we were working these policies out together, each side playing to its strength, every region of this country represented as it is supposed to be, the government would get things right the first time around more often.
The Conservative caucus is determined to do the job we were elected to do: represent the voices of Canadians from coast to coast to keep Canadians as healthy and safe as possible. We are here because we know that Canadians are depending on us, and in this Conservative caucus we will not stop working.
The said that the government continues to reach out a hand of co-operation. I assure him that the same is true for the opposition.
The government House leader said that this is not about partisanship. I will remind him that it was his leader, his , who yesterday told something to Canadians that he knew was not true. He said that today there would be 338 MPs. I invite members to look around. We have done exactly what we told Canadians we would do: We would be here in a responsible manner, respecting public health guidelines while still representing Canadians.
For the to try to conjure up fears when he knew that was never going to be the case not only was disingenuous, but it undermines his credibility. At a time when Canadians are looking to him to be open and forthright and he does things like that, it shakes the confidence that Canadians have that he is being truthful on other matters. It was a shameful example of partisanship yesterday.
I have heard so many comments from members that, to me, indicate they are allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. It is clear that there are going to be challenges for in-person sittings. We could have spent the last two weeks talking about how best to deal with that, how best to limit the impact in the House of Commons and how best to ensure that representations from each caucus would be allowed to participate.
The default position is for Parliament to sit, and it is incumbent upon the government to explain why it should not in a time of crisis. We have already seen examples of the government using this crisis to its advantage. Do members remember the first time we were called here? I know the hon. does, because we were both here until very early in the morning. When we were told to come to Ottawa to pass legislation to help get benefits into the hands of Canadians, the current government wrote itself massive new powers, giving itself broad powers, ignoring the role of Parliament in terms of taxation and spending. It was because Conservatives refused to go along with that that we were able to protect our democratic institutions.
The second time we came here, we were given a bill and we were told that it had to be passed by the end of the day on that Saturday. We rolled up our sleeves.
Other parties such as the Bloc Québécois gave the government carte blanche by stating that they would support the bill. However, our team did its job last week. We identified weaknesses in the government's bill, and our efforts improved it. Although the other parties do not want to do their job, we are ready to do the work that Canadians have asked us to do.
On behalf of the millions of Canadians whom we represent here, I move:
That the motion be amended, in paragraph (h),
(a) by replacing subparagraphs (iv) and (v) with the following: “(iv) during the period the House stands adjourned pursuant to this order, the committee shall meet in the chamber at noon every Tuesday and Wednesday, provided that the committee shall not meet on a day referred to in Standing Order 28(1),”;
(b) by deleting, in subparagraph (x), the words “or a Thursday”;
(c) by deleting, in subparagraph (xi), the words “and Thursdays”; and
(d) by replacing subparagraph (xviii) with the following: “(xviii) following the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs pursuant to its order of reference of Saturday, April 11, 2020, if that committee recommends the implementation of virtual sittings and if the Clerk of the House indicates that they are technologically feasible, the House leaders of all four recognized parties may indicate to the Speaker that there is an agreement among the parties to hold one additional meeting of the committee each week by videoconference, notwithstanding subparagraph (iv), with members participating by videoconference, and the Speaker shall give effect to that agreement;”.
Madam Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with the most hon. member for .
We must take time to reflect on the other tragedy being faced by the people of Nova Scotia today. I find it hard to imagine what this senseless trail of violence, played out over some 120 kilometres, is like. This violence, no matter the reason, cannot be justified, and we must focus our minds on understanding how such things could happen and how we can prevent them. Our thoughts and hearts are with the people of Nova Scotia.
We have spent the past few days and hours, and taken up a lot of media time, discussing how we would meet here today, and in many respects, it was a lot of dithering. I sincerely doubt that Canadians and Quebeckers are interested in seeing a bunch of parliamentarians talking to other parliamentarians about parliamentary matters to figure out how to fix them as parliamentarians. Even I am not very interested in that. However, now that we are here, we have a job to do and there are some things we need to address.
Heaven knows that such issues as who will talk the most or the least, who will ask three additional questions on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon, or whether the House should sit two and a half days instead of two days do have the appearance of being partisan, even if they are not meant to be.
I could have said that I am not really enthusiastic about that and that I do not have much respect for anyone who claims that the Bloc Québécois does not speak on behalf of its constituents. It is almost funny, and I am becoming more familiar with Saskatchewan's sense of humour. People have already expressed their opinions and, at some point, they will have the opportunity to do so again and to choose the person who will best represent them. When that day comes, we will see the impact of this type of rather useless talk.
I have spoken in the media about “tataouinage”. In English Canada, there has been a whole debate about what that word means. The people we represent all know what it means, and perhaps it will be added to dictionaries one day. It means to dilly-dally.
At some point in time we have to move on from this sort of approach. The Conservatives want to negotiate and go on TV. I understand that they need to grow their voter base, but they should not be doing so at the expense of those who are suffering. They are saying that Parliament is an essential service. However, I would like them to name something that is more essential to a lot of people than their health, and banks. I imagine that a typical Conservative would think that banks are essential, and I would like them to find one bank that does not offer virtual banking services.
We are capable of working virtually and sitting remotely, knowing that the Standing Orders require us to be physically present to vote. We will live with that requirement. We could have said that we will come only to vote, but every time would have been “ReFeLeMeLe”, another tricky expression to translate, this one from the group Rock et Belles Oreilles, meaning do it again. Every time, we would have to address the nature of the negotiations, the need for our vote, the fact that we do not agree or that we will claim to disagree, but vote in favour anyway. I would prefer that we focus on bringing in rules for a virtual Parliament, a transition that is bound to happen sooner or later.
I especially want us to focus on our seniors. I have been asking about this for two weeks now. I do not expect the government to acknowledge that the hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly has made demands and that they all need to be met.
The examples we have seen so far show that it worked fairly well. The government has talked to almost everybody, and there is a general sense of urgency and necessity.
I do not want to be the kind of person who takes credit for everything good, but the Bloc Québécois contributed to the wage subsidy, the addition of fixed costs, the recognition of social economy enterprises, and the changes made for growing businesses.
Sadly, when we ask questions about seniors, we do not hear a peep in response. In a pandemic, there is no group more vulnerable than the elderly, especially in terms of health. When it comes to seniors, the numbers do not just speak for themselves; they positively shriek.
Seniors are also more vulnerable economically. That is why we have put forward a number of demands. These demands are not perfect, but we can talk them over. We can study them, adjust them and lay them out. We can do a lot of things. The only thing we cannot do is nothing. We need to do something for seniors.
Since we are gathered here in the House, I will take this opportunity to strongly emphasize the importance of addressing the issues facing seniors.
Our requests have to do with old age security benefits, the guaranteed income supplement, drug prices and Internet access. This has all been clearly explained, and I am confident that the government has been listening.
Allow me to provide some numbers. All told, the government has freed up $250 billion in cash in the context of this crisis, including roughly $107 billion in direct spending. Increasing old age security benefits by $110 a month for seniors in Canada and Quebec for a three-month period would cost $1 billion. That is 250 times less than what has already been committed for so many people, and seniors are the most vulnerable. How has this not already been done?
The Liberals could have returned our phone call to at least talk about it. The last time we did this, we were given a briefing. In a briefing, someone tells us what has already been decided, and we have no say in the matter. We would like to be more involved when it comes to seniors.
Last week I did a very friendly comparison with the oil and gas industry. I do not think Alberta oil workers should have to suffer more than workers in any other industry. They are employees who are working for a business.
I am okay with the way things were, meaning that employees would have their jobs back. I am not saying that I am not somewhat uneasy, but I am sure that my colleague from is keeping an eye on the situation.
At first glance, investing in cleaning up orphan wells is not a bad idea. Are we subsidizing businesses that should have shouldered their share of the responsibility? Maybe, but at least it is something.
I worry about what happens down the road. We cannot allow this to become a Trojan horse used to pour money into the oil and gas industry. Are our seniors not just as important as oil and gas? That is a question that springs to mind, but the answer is pretty obvious.
I want to raise two other cases that I would like us to discuss.
Most students are not eligible for the Canada emergency response benefit. There are probably several people among us who studied for quite some time. We will recall that having financial anxiety as a student is no joke.
Those young people are experiencing economic anxiety, but there is nothing specifically for them. I do not want the federal government to intervene in areas under provincial jurisdiction, but I do want to see students in Quebec and elsewhere get back the money their parents paid. A measure could be implemented for that. The Canada emergency response benefit should handle it. I will come back to that.
As I said, knowledge and science will enable us to overcome this crisis. We need to recognize what research has to offer. We also need to provide additional support for research.
I will conclude by paraphrasing Jean Gabin. We think we know everything, but the next day we discover that we do not. Basically, any time we think we know something and think we have found a solution to something, that is not necessarily the case.
The crisis is not over, and I hope we will all work together and, more importantly, in good faith.
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the leader of the Bloc Québécois for sharing his time with me. Before going any further, I too would like to offer my condolences to the people of Nova Scotia.
As the Bloc Québécois critic for seniors, I want to say what a privilege it is to be here in the House today. We are meeting in exceptional and dramatic circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming Quebec and wreaking havoc in retirement homes and long-term care centres, known as CHSLDs in Quebec. We have learned that 99% of the deceased in Quebec were over 60 years old and half of them had been living in CHSLDs.
This disease is particularly devastating among people whose health is already fragile, but this situation is exposing a problem that has been plaguing us for some time now, namely, how precarious the living conditions of our seniors are. Many seniors have died alone, and sometimes their loved ones are not even notified.
Children and grandchildren, for whom those relationships are so important, go to see their dad, their mom, their grandpa or grandma through the window in their place of residence. All they can do is shout “I love you” and “take care of yourself” from beneath their balconies, if they are lucky.
There are horror stories, and even though it may be difficult, we cannot make generalizations and blame staff who are exhausted and overwhelmed by the situation. From the bottom of my heart, I want to commend and thank all of the health care and support staff who are helping our seniors in spite of the suffering and fear, which the people they care for also feel. If there have indeed been cases of neglect, then the guilty parties should be made an example of.
The prosperous society that will enable us to get through this crisis was built by seniors, many of whom will likely not make it through themselves. It would be shameful for us to abandon them, as parliamentarians and legislators, but also as citizens and human beings.
Improving the living conditions for our seniors should have been a priority long before this crisis. I have been fighting for improvements for a long time. Before my election I was a project manager, promoting awareness of elder abuse and bullying. I worked with people who provided home care and the community organizations that provide services to seniors. Nevertheless, I have heard my share of horror stories.
As our leader has already been saying for a few days now, the Bloc Québécois has always fought for seniors' rights. When I was a political aide from 2007 to 2011, which is quite some time ago now, the Bloc Québécois already had a reputation for standing up for seniors. Recently, we made several proposals. Had they been implemented in time, things likely would have been a lot different. We spoke about them during the election, in fact.
When I first arrived in the House, I had the opportunity to ask the a question about increasing the old age pension starting at age 65 rather than at age 75 to avoid creating two classes of seniors. She even told me that that was a good question. Anticipating and preventing rather than reacting once the harm has been done is an essential approach for a government. That is why seniors should not be divided into two classes.
The government should have called on that strength of the Bloc Québécois, but the situation is now too urgent to talk about what the government should have done. We need to take action immediately. In order to ensure that the health of our seniors is never compromised for financial reasons, we suggest that the old age pension be increased by $110 a month and that the guaranteed income supplement, the GIS, be enhanced. As the Bloc Québécois leader so clearly pointed out, that is just a drop in the bucket compared to all of the investments being made. It would cost $1 billion. However, it is still difficult to understand why the government would want to limit that increase to seniors aged 75 and over. As I have said time and time again, seniors need that help as of the age of 65.
Seniors are going into debt. Their debt load has nearly doubled in the past 20 years. The percentage of seniors with substantial debts has risen from 27% to 42%. Many seniors have to continue working to make ends meet. The percentage of seniors reporting that they have worked nearly doubled between 1995 and 2015. That increase is largely the result of seasonal work or part-time work.
In 2015, one in five Canadians aged 65 or older, so nearly 1.1 million seniors, reported having worked at some point that year. That is the highest proportion recorded since the 1981 census. Employment income was the main source of income for 43.8% of seniors who worked in 2015, which is an increase compared to 40.4% recorded in 2005 and 38.8% recorded in 1995. Many factors can contribute to financial distress among seniors, including grief, separation, illness, inadequate private pension plans and the increased cost of living. More than 200,000 seniors are living in poverty in Canada and every month they wonder whether they will have to choose between paying the rent, buying groceries or getting their medication. This should never happen.
The Bloc Québécois's proposals would enable seniors to maintain some degree of buying power and continue to drive the economy, an economy that those generations helped build. These are stabilizing measures because we need to see seniors not as a liability, but as a driving force.
There was a lot of concern when they were left out of the Canada emergency response benefit, the CERB. Still, we commend the government for showing humility and modifying the criteria to help them by excluding old age benefits from their income and enabling people working part-time to access the emergency benefit.
I should also mention the gap between seniors living in urban centres and those living in rural areas. The latter are more likely to keep working. Thanks to public pension plans, the poverty rate for those over 65 is 6.7% compared to 14% for people aged 55 to 64.
This crisis also shows that deeming the Internet an essential service could have helped seniors feel less isolated, especially these days. For some seniors, a video call was the only way to say goodbye to their loved ones. Health care needs to be enhanced yet again and then we will keep talking about the Canada health transfer. The government needs to enhance the employment insurance benefit period for caregivers and provide a tax credit for setting up intergenerational homes. We will have other opportunities to share new ideas to improve the situation for our seniors. The importance of these measures seems clear today and shows that the Bloc was right.
As for pension funds, our seniors' financial situation is compounded by the drop in value of pension plans. Entire life savings have dwindled in a month. Let us hope that this situation is temporary and that the value of retirement investments will go back up. We suggest suspending the withdrawal requirement from pension plans that are currently posting a negative rate of return. Increasing the guaranteed income supplement will help seniors until the economy recovers.
There is another proposal that we were working on before the crisis and that we are still working on now that is proving to be very relevant today, and that is the designation of private pension plans as preferred creditors in the event of bankruptcy. Since the beginning of this Parliament, the Bloc Québécois has always been constructive and collaborative and we hope to continue in that vein. Our seniors need solutions that address their problems. It is our duty to propose solutions and the Bloc Québécois is prepared to do so immediately.
In closing, I have heard, from FADOQ in particular, that our party does not treat seniors as though they were already dead, but rather as living, breathing human beings who are able to contribute to society. It is said that seniors are knowledge keepers. We should also remember that they are not just part of the past; after the crisis they will be part of the future, and we are going to need them.
Madam Speaker, I want to begin by expressing our sadness as New Democrats and all Canadians. We are grieving today as a nation for the horrible loss suffered by those living in Nova Scotia. The senseless violence and loss of life is all that much more painful given the safety precautions and measures that need to be taken with COVID-19 and how these will limit loved ones from coming together to mourn in the usual way.
I want to remember RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson for her bravery and for showing courage to help and save others, and she lost her life doing so. Again, I want to send a message to people in Nova Scotia: They are not alone. We are grieving together as a nation. We are reeling from the pain of this loss.
Today, we are talking about a motion that touches on the work of Parliament. During a global pandemic, when there are so many Canadians deeply impacted by this crisis through the loss of work and the impact on business, we need to be focusing all our efforts on doing whatever we can to help Canadians.
I also want to mention that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
The focus of our work in Parliament must be on keeping families, workers and small businesses safe and on saving lives. People are still in desperate need of help. There are still far too many people falling through the cracks.
Our position remains very clear. First, we believe that instead of having complicated criteria and tests for people to apply to themselves, we should send direct financial assistance to all Canadians, both immediately and during the crisis as it goes on. Second, we should make the CERB universal. The should stand in Parliament and make it very clear that if any people in our country need help, they should apply for the CERB.
We also need to ensure that those who are putting themselves at risk, the essential front-line workers who are risking their lives and safety and potentially endangering their families, are acknowledged with the equipment to stay safe but also with a courage bonus to acknowledge the risk and danger they are going through. People who are working low-wage jobs need a top-up. They need additional financial support to acknowledge the risk they are putting themselves in for the benefit of all of us.
We are still hearing many examples of people who are falling through the cracks. Although we are proud of the work that we were able to do in the last emergency session, when we obtained guarantees to close the gap for so many Canadians who were not able to access the CERB, we are still hearing many stories of Canadians who are falling through the cracks. One group in particular that has been missed by the programs offered, and one that has been ignored by the government, is students.
The reality is that the proposals the government is talking about regarding Canada summer jobs, or additional funding for summer jobs, are not going to be enough. Students no longer have an opportunity to work. There are no longer those jobs they were hoping to work at this summer. In this upcoming summer, those jobs will not be available.
To fix this problem and make sure students are not ignored and left behind, we can make some simple changes. One of those is to change the wording in the current legislation from those who have ceased working as a result of COVID-19 to those who are unable to work as a result of COVID-19. It would address the students who are falling through the cracks. Many students were hoping to work this summer, but those jobs are simply unavailable. That is why we need to make sure they are not forgotten.
I wrote a letter to the outlining this amendment, asking him to ensure that students are not forgotten and that we do not leave students behind. While we have not received an adequate response, we will not give up on students. We will continue to fight to make sure they receive the supports they need.
Another concern that has been raised is that people are worried about the cost of rent. While people have lost their income, they still have to pay rent, and many people are worried about losing their homes. Many families are also worried about paying their mortgages. Small businesses are also worried about paying commercial rents and mortgages. We maintain that the simplest solution is to use the powers we have at the federal level to put a pause on mortgages and then work with provincial governments for a pause on rents.
While we are encouraged that the government has said it will take some steps to help people or businesses with rents, these are just not enough. There are significant powers we have at the federal level. We need to use them.
We also need to help renters. The housing crisis was already making it hard for people to find a safe place to call home. Being in danger of losing one's home because one cannot pay the rent is even harder.
What we need to do is ensure there is more help for more people, and do it faster. Our proposal allows us to do exactly that. We are proposing having a regular, planned meeting here in Parliament in person to give us the chance to vote on legislation that needs to be changed to help more people.
Two days of virtual sessions would ensure that people who are in regions across the country are represented, and their members of Parliament could ask questions on behalf of those constituents. In Parliament, we are limited to a small number, and that is often the people who are close to Ottawa. By having a virtual session, we can ensure that those MPs who represent communities far from Ottawa still have a voice, that their voice is heard and the stories of their constituents are shared, including stories that we continue to hear about health care workers who do not have adequate personal protective equipment to stay safe.
Those who are running to danger, putting their lives at risk for our lives, do not have the equipment they need to stay healthy. In addition, we are hearing stories of health care workers who are forced to sleep in their cars because they do not want to go home and put their families at risk. This is not the way health care workers should be treated in our country. We need to do more than just thank them. We need to ensure that they have the right equipment and conditions to be safe.
Small businesses have raised concerns about waiting weeks for help and not knowing if they are going to be able to continue with their livelihoods, if they are going to be able to continue to pay their staff, or if their businesses will remain open. They are waiting for help.
We have heard stories about people worried about their parents in long-term care homes. They are going through, in some cases, deplorable conditions. It is heartbreaking to think of seniors who have worked their whole lives and sacrificed so much ending up in long-term care homes with substandard conditions. This is the result of years of neglect by Liberal and Conservative governments at both federal and provincial levels. In long-term care homes, we are witnessing the horrific consequences of this neglect.
We have heard from indigenous leaders who have shared stories about their fears and worries about keeping their communities safe. They are worried about being able to keep their communities safe with no access to basic human rights, such as clean drinking water and adequate housing.
In the last weeks, we have seen Canadians rise to a challenge that none of us imagined months ago. Again and again we have seen Canadians show how much they want to take care of one another and how much they want to make sure government holds this value of caring for one another above all else. That should be the test of what we do as government. Government should make its decisions based on whether they actually help take better care of people.
Let us not hope for things to return to normal. Instead, let us chart a course forward to a new normal, where we measure the decisions we make and the wealth of our nations by how well we take care of one another.
Madam Speaker, as all parliamentarians here in the House have done, I would like to dedicate the first part of my speech to the victims of the appalling shooting that took place in Nova Scotia today and to their families. We are already going through difficult times as a community and a society. I cannot begin to imagine how dreadful this must be right now for that Nova Scotia community. In particular, my thoughts go out to RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson, who lost her life to this unthinkable tragedy. I believe we will all have to collectively reflect on many issues, be it mental health or access to firearms.
Similarly, speaking of condolences, I would like to highlight the work of the first care attendant in Quebec to die from COVID-19, namely Victoria Salvan, who worked at the Grace Dart CHSLD in Montreal. After 25 years of loyal service and constant dedication to her patients, generously giving them much of her time, she tragically passed away this weekend as a result of this horrible pandemic.
I want to acknowledge the tremendous work of some of her colleagues. They are anxious and scared. It is understandable. On the weekend, I heard one of her colleagues say that she has decided to isolate herself from her children and no longer see them for as long as she continues to work with seniors at this long-term care home. She is not the only one to make that sacrifice. I think it is a major sacrifice that needs to be acknowledged.
I again urge the government to take every necessary measure to provide them with the best medical protective equipment and ensure their health and safety. I also want to acknowledge the recent work of union representatives, the local union president Jonathan Deschamps and union representative Alexandre Prégent.
That being said, I want to say a few words on the motion before us here in Parliament. It is an interesting motion. As I was saying before, it is a reminder of how our democracy works, the role of a Parliament and the role of MPs and parliamentarians in general. Obviously, our role is to find solutions and make proposals, but is also to keep the government accountable. Sometimes the government makes bad decisions, or no decisions, or the decisions it makes need to be changed and improved. The role of the 338 people in this room, although we are not 338 today, is to push the government to make the best possible decisions for our society and our community.
These are extraordinary times we are living in. I find that the proposal on the table is entirely reasonable and in line with the public health guidelines that we are all being asked to heed. I think that as parliamentarians and elected members we must lead by example and tell our constituents that the situation is serious and we must do everything we can to try to minimize the repercussions, while tens of thousands of people are already infected and hundreds of people have sadly died of this virus.
Getting together several times a week, even in limited numbers, is not necessarily the best idea. We represent Canadians in 10 provinces, certain territories and remote regions. By coming here and forcing House of Commons staff to put themselves at risk, given that they have to provide services while we are here, we are increasing the possibility of contagion and infection in our own homes, in our ridings and in our communities when we go home. We need to strike a balance between adhering to public health guidelines and enabling MPs to represent their constituents and ask questions, because some things need to be improved promptly.
The Liberal government suggested holding one in-person sitting and one virtual sitting per week. The NDP felt that a single 90-minute virtual sitting would not be enough, because it would only allow enough time for 18 MPs, not including those who are in Ottawa, to question the government every week. That did not seem like much to us. We countered by proposing a second 90-minute virtual sitting, which would bring up to 36 the number of MPs who would get to question the ministers and each week without having to be in Ottawa. Our proposal was accepted by the Liberal Party, and I think the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party also agreed.
The Conservative Party says its chief concern is to ensure that MPs can do their job and ask questions at least three times a week. However, the motion before us would do just that. It allows us to hold one in-person sitting and two virtual sittings to ask questions. We know that four parliamentary committees are currently meeting. They are using technology to question witnesses by video conference. I think we could just move forward and strike that balance between the need to protect ourselves and our constituents and the need to hold the government accountable.
Since we are talking about accountability, I want to address some things that are going on right now and that we, including the NDP leader, have mentioned. Students have been largely forgotten, since those who did not earn $5,000 over the past 12 months are not eligible for the CERB. Thousands of people are living with a lot of anxiety and are not getting any help. We are putting pressure on the government to find a solution.
If the government had accepted the NDP's proposal to make the benefit universal from the get-go, students would have been covered, as would seniors. We must all ask this government questions and put pressure on it to find a solution.
People are writing to our offices because they are impatient, anxious and stressed. They do not know how they will manage to pay their rent and bills. I have two stories to share. The first is from a couple of students at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières. They told me that they had research contracts at the university that covered their rent, but these contracts had been suspended. Since they do not earn $5,000 a year, they told me that they were not eligible for the emergency assistance. They asked me if they could expect anything in the future.
I hope that asking questions of this government will eventually enable me to tell them that something is coming. That is our job as parliamentarians. I think we can all do our jobs virtually, by video conference or online.
The other example is a woman named Camille, a student in the psychoeducation program at the University of Montreal. She receives loans and bursaries for the school year, but she has not accumulated enough hours of work to qualify for EI. She had some animation contracts lined up outside of her academic activities, but they were all cancelled because of the pandemic. Since her income was under $5,000, considering her loans and bursaries, she is not getting anything. She planned to work as a day camp counsellor this summer, but she still does not know whether this will pan out. She also does not qualify for any social assistance because of her loans and bursaries. In her message, she said she was afraid of being told not to worry and that she would not be overlooked, when she is in fact being overlooked. She said she wants something concrete, that she is scared, sad and disappointed. She has always done everything she could to get by and ensure a brighter future, she said.
There are hundreds if not thousands of people like Camille who are knocking on our doors. They want us to take action and come up with real solutions. Yes, we need to pressure the government to help these people. That is our job as parliamentarians. However, we also need to set an example and not come together here in the House in large numbers several times per week.
I would now like to talk about another problem. The biggest food bank in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie cannot access the federal assistance program for food banks because it got a very modest donation from the United Way. There are some inconsistencies in the programs that have been implemented, and some improvements need to be made.
I understand that mistakes are being made because everyone is trying to work quickly. This is the type of situation where, as an opposition MP, I want to be able to ask questions, but I do not want to compromise the safety of my constituents by doing so.
Mr. Speaker, like other members, I will begin by echoing the comments by the member for , the leader of Her Majesty's official opposition, that our prayers and thoughts are with the victims of the shooting over the weekend. It reminds members how precious life is and how short time is on this earth of ours.
I have been tasked by my caucus to speak on their behalf during this period of questioning and to make sure that I reflect their thoughts and comments on what we are all hearing from our constituents back home, both on matters of policy involving the different subsidy programs that are meant to offset some of the costs related to the shutdowns and for our constituents who are hurting because they cannot work or be with their family members because they have been asked to self-isolate.
For many weeks I have been dealing with constituents who have been trying to be repatriated to Canada, especially from Peru. I want to make sure I thank the for his work on the file and making sure these many Canadians were repatriated. It was a difficult task to accomplish.
Before I move on to some of the caucus commentary I have heard over the last little while, I will mention virtual Parliaments. I need to address that, as the chairman of one of the larger caucuses in this chamber that includes our senators. I can tell the House what a virtual Parliament is going to look like and what the defects and deficiencies will be of trying to host a meeting with over 150 people in it, including the very few staff members who are permitted by our caucus to join us on these calls.
There is a seniors lodge in my riding that has been affected by the spread of COVID-19, the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre. I want to make sure I give my thanks to the staff and tell the seniors in that facility that our thoughts are with them during this time.
Many seniors have passed away in that facility, but there is one I would like to mention, 93-year-old Keith Earl van Vliet, who tested positive for COVID-19. He recovered just today, so I want to make sure I mention him. I mention it too because he comes from a long line of Loyalists who crossed the border many centuries ago into Canada. Van Vliet is not a typical Québécois name, but his family members were Loyalist Quebeckers for a very long time and then moved out west. They are very proud of their background. They are anglophone Loyalists who decided to speak French. He comes from a long line of them, so I wanted to make sure I mentioned them and the fact that the patriarch of that family has recovered.
At 3 p.m. every day, residents in my riding go to this home. While maintaining physical distancing, they cheer the residents on from outside the home just to bolster their morale. They held a monster truck rally on Friday outside the home and on Saturday some friendly dinosaurs showed up as well. I wanted to be sure I mentioned them. It is appreciated by the residents and the operator of the facility, and also by the staff members who have been affected.
It is said that being the chair of the Conservative caucus in this chamber is like wearing a crown of thorns. I will confirm that in fact it is; it is not an easy thing to do. It is unprecedented what this country is going through, this viral pandemic. There have been many in the past, and this Parliament has continued to meet through difficult times, including through world wars, great depressions, very severe recessions as well as pandemics.
In this chamber we are duty bound. We all ran for public office with the expectation that we would be required at times to make difficult decisions to be away from our families and to ask more of our staff members than sometimes they would like to give in the first place. I know I have depended on staff members in my office to make sure that our caucus can continue to meet virtually, but it is not the same thing as meeting in person. It is absolutely not the same thing.
Every single government program announced thus far has been amended at some point, either by press conference in the morning by the or during the technical briefings. We are always informed after the fact, whether it is regarding CEBA, CEWS or CERB, programs that many of our constituents across the country are taking advantage of.
A great deal of those changes were brought forward by opposition parties, by both this caucus and others, and not to criticize but to improve and make it better, make it actually work for the people we are hearing from. I have double the volume of phone calls in my office on a regular basis. I have about triple the emails now on a regular basis. In many of these cases, if it was easy, they would simply call Service Canada if they could actually get through. If it was easy, they would go online and log on to their MyCRA account. However, every single case is either unique, falling through the cracks, or is a hardship case that is unusual. It is something Canadians expect their members of Parliament to resolve and bring up in the House, which has been called the “cathedral of democracy” by many current, outgoing and past members. Perhaps in this time, that description is more ephemeral and people may think about those as nice words, but democracy is an essential service, and our democracy functions here.
I was looking at what other countries have been doing. Japan, Italy, France, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Finland and the European Union parliaments are meeting on a limited basis. We were accused on this side of wanting to have 338 members of Parliament here. We can see that that is absolutely not the case. We are sitting respectfully at a distance from each other. We have listened to the direction given to us by the public health agencies.
I was speaking with the speaker of the Alberta legislature, which is meeting three times a week. Of course, a reduced number of members are showing up in that chamber, but they still hold question period and still have a Q and A back and forth. In fact, the premier and the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition in Alberta had a one-hour back-and-forth debate between each other on what was going on in Alberta and how Alberta was dealing with it. There are many legislatures in our country that continue to meet, and so can we.
Our proposals were made in good faith. We were always going to return on this date. That was the original agreement. We have done it before. On March 13, when this chamber met, we agreed to return on April 20. We have returned twice already to pass important legislation that the government wanted to see passed. Now, members will excuse us in not being entirely trusting of the government's wishes when it tables legislation that is far in excess of what was discussed between House leaders and then shared with caucus members. We have a certain expectation that good faith negotiations will continue, and we did. Our intention all along was to do right by our constituents and on the issues we were hearing about.
I come from a western province, but there are many areas right across this country that we hear from in our caucus calls. There are issues for our farmers, ranchers, small business owners and golfing club owners. It is a very difficult time for all types of businesses, and now the government will get to discover how business owners organize themselves in order to make a living.
I was speaking with one of the small business owners in my riding, a franchisee of the OPA! of Greece restaurants. I think it is timely since it is the Orthodox holiday now. This gentleman, Raj Chahal, who is obviously not Greek, owns these restaurants. He lost 60% of his staff, and not solely related to COVID-19, but to the government's CERB program whose generosity means that his employees are choosing to stay home. Now, he has worked it out with some of them who wish to come to work so he can continue to serve people. There are other people who are delivering our food to our doors with Uber Eats, DoorDash and other options. I think everybody is taking advantage of this right now. They are essential, just like democracy is essential.
Before I continue, I would like to thank the interpreters in this chamber who are doing, no doubt, incredible work. I want to thank the clerks, security guards and the people who do IT security for us. Some of these people would be in this building regardless of whether or not we were sitting.
Turning to virtual parliaments, we host virtual caucus meetings every Wednesday, as usual, and more as needed. That is the tradition. Our caucus meetings have interpretation services.
Our caucus meetings have interpretation services. The members of my caucus wanted me to be their chair. We are a bilingual country, and I want to make sure that we can do our job in the House of Commons in both official languages.
However, I cannot do this alone; I depend on the House interpreters. Every Wednesday, I ask them to come to Parliament Hill. In fact, their director just informed me that interpreters are required to work on site, whether in the House or committee rooms. We have caucus meetings every Wednesday and we consequently have interpretation services. I ask my staff and computer services personnel to come to the Hill in order to help us do our job. We certainly follow social and physical distancing instructions, but certain House personnel will need to be here, whether we are sitting in the Chamber in person or virtually.
I chair a Conservative caucus of 150 people, including 121 members, over 20 senators and a few staffers who were authorized by our caucus to sit in during our calls. Holding these meetings is no easy task. Just look at how the virtual meetings of the Standing Committee on Health and the Standing Committee on Finance are unfolding; they have encountered some major problems.
It is not easy to raise a point of order in a virtual committee meeting. Aside from the issue of interpretation into English or French, there are multiple buttons that need to be clicked so that members can be heard by their colleagues. I am not just thinking of unilingual francophone MPs, but also unilingual anglophone MPs. I sometimes end up interpreting for my members, which slows down our meetings, meaning that a meeting that should take an hour or two can stretch out to four or five. No one wants to spend four or five hours on a call. I see the nodding in agreement.
In a virtual Parliament consisting of 338 MPs located across the country, either at home or in their constituency offices, we will have problems with time zones and calls being dropped. Some MPs will not be able to connect, while others will not be able to understand what is being said. These problems are already cropping up during our own caucus meetings, even with MPs located in Canada's big cities, who sometimes struggle to hear their colleagues. There are so many things that can go wrong during a virtual meeting and cause a total breakdown, yet I still hear the saying that we are basically going to ignore the work done by the procedure and House affairs committee and move directly to a virtual Parliament.
Sometimes an MP wants to ask the Clerk a question. How can we do this in a virtual Parliament without interrupting debate in the House? It took me almost four years to learn enough about all the House procedures to be able to defend my rights as an MP and the privileges of my constituents. How are members supposed to do that in a virtual Parliament?
In a virtual chamber, nothing stops government ministers or other members from having those around them give answers and help them. We expect a certain amount of preparation by every single minister in the House to bring us the answers to what we are asking. We are not trying to fulfill our personal curiosities. We are trying to get answers on behalf of our constituents. Constituents are asking us why certain government programs ignore their businesses. They ask, “If I am a sole proprietor, why am I ignored in this program?”
I had a call in my office, one I still intend to return, regarding RDSPs. There is nobody manning those phone banks right now. They are completely shut down, but people have to file. They have to call to make sure that all the transactions are done, but there is nobody picking up those phones right now.
We are not asking for the impossible. I thank the staff who are here making it possible for our democracy to work and for members of Parliament to be here. We are being responsible in how we do our work, and we are being responsible in how we address public health concerns. We could have negotiated, perhaps, a month-long stay for MPs so those who come to Ottawa can stay here and not travel back to their constituencies.
This is the important place where we get answers from the government, stuff that cannot be done on Twitter or Facebook, where different people are exchanging ideas. A lot of our political debates now happen there, but there are things that can only be done in this chamber and can only be done on behalf of our constituents when we rise in the House.
It is an honour and a privilege for us to be selected by the residents in our ridings to come here and do that work for them. That is their expectation. In fact, while sitting here I have received several text messages and emails from constituents in my riding saying they expected me to be here. I hear a member opposite saying no, but I have them. Their expectation was that I would come here and speak on their behalf. I am also conscious that I have to speak on behalf of the other members of my caucus who are not here to speak on behalf of their constituents and their issues with many government programs.
Many of us build relationships with ministers and try our hardest to make sure we bring individual cases to a minister's attention when a person has fallen through all the cracks. We have passed into legislation broad policy measures that the government has proposed. We have expedited them. In fact, the reason we are having this debate today is that we have expedited the motion. We said they did not need to give us a notice and that we would debate it right away and deal with the measures therein. We accept the fact that we find ourselves in an unusual situation, but our house leaders could not reach an agreed-upon consensus ahead of time.
Our caucus is very active. It wants to be heard. It wants an opportunity to test the knowledge and be able to challenge individual ministers to make sure they are not affected by groupthink.
In the United Kingdom, the Conservative government house leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg, mentioned that he welcomed that they continued sitting. Now they are going to have virtual Parliament sittings, which is something we might want to look at. They are bringing screens into the chamber. Physically, ministers and the Prime Minister will still be expected to be there.
I do not know how that would work in this chamber, and I do not know how that would work IT-wise or how many people would be required to make it happen, but Jacob Rees-Mogg mentioned that he wanted to avoid groupthink among his own ministers and within his own party. That is what we are trying to get at. We are trying to make sure that government decisions and policy mechanisms being used to address certain industrial sectors and all the job losses we are seeing are improved. This is about our constituents who are losing their jobs and being left behind by various government programs. This is about landlords, both residential and commercial, who are being left behind and have no measures.
I am going to switch to French to ensure that everyone understands. We are a bilingual country. We are supposed to work in both official languages in the House and when we do all parliamentary and committee work.
I want the government and you, Mr. Speaker, to defend our rights and privileges, not just on our behalf but also for future members, so that we are able to work in both official languages, move motions and amendments, and conduct all parliamentary business in accordance with the wishes of our constituents. That is very important.
As I mentioned, I chair a virtual meeting of a caucus of almost 150 people every week. It is not easy to ensure that 150 people can follow the agenda, ask questions and make comments to contribute to the work of Parliament. I believe that it will be an enormous challenge. The government says that we are immediately moving to virtual sittings without giving the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs the opportunity to decide how this should work or if it should work in this way.
In conclusion, I want to point out that we are here to work on behalf of our constituents. This is not about advancing our political careers or doing polling. We are here to ensure that all government policies and programs truly help the people who need it most during this pandemic, during which the government has forced the majority of private sector businesses to shut down.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity to address the House.
Madam Speaker, I am very glad to be in the House of Commons in this limited-capacity Parliament, considering that we are facing a crisis caused by COVID-19. We are in the process of developing procedures. We realize that this is the first time that the Canadian government is confronted with this type of situation. Us Conservatives understand the situation and are working with the government to ensure that Canadians and businesses have the tools they need to get through this crisis.
I was there this morning when the moved his motion, the purpose of which is to muzzle parliamentarians, plain and simple. The motion asks us to be here once per week. To ask that question is to answer it.
The has decided to limit question period. Every day, this Prime Minister takes questions from journalists, whose job it is to report the news. Our job as parliamentarians is to ask questions in order to improve the situation. I am not saying that the government has only made wrong decisions over the course of this extraordinary situation. I am able to acknowledge that it had no frame of reference in the matter. The government had to act, readjust and I would even say improvise. What I am saying is not negative.
The thing is, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit is a combination of two programs: the support program for victims of COVID-19 and the assistance program. There is support and assistance. In short, they combined two programs together and created the CERB. That is fine, because some changes were made. We made suggestions in that and many other cases.
I have a list, which is not exhaustive, of some of the things our party proposed. The Conservative Party, the official opposition in the House of Commons, advanced measures and programs that the government put in place. We are being accused of being difficult and unco-operative.
Let us look at the facts. Our suggestions have helped volunteer firefighters meet the needs of their municipalities in this crisis without their CERB being reduced. It is a matter of public safety. The government listened to us and changed course. That is our job as the opposition.
This morning, the government House leader, with support from his Bloc friends, said that it was irresponsible to be here in the House of Commons to do our job and work together on finding the tools that will enable Canadians and businesses to receive support in this exceptional situation.
Let us look at what is happening on both sides of the House. We are respecting social distancing rules. If we did not want to co-operate, the opposition benches would be full. That is not what we did. We co-operated. Our leader is negotiating. He had originally proposed four meetings per week. The two other opposition parties, the independents and the government all rejected that proposal, so we proposed three days, and we are still being called the bad guys.
The Conservative Party is responsible, and parliamentarians are important. Defending democracy is fundamental to parliamentarians. Of course, the Bloc Québécois is reducing Canadian parliamentary procedure to a simple expression: “tataouinage”, or “dilly-dallying” in English. The Bloc Québécois leader put on quite a show this morning as he described the term. Everyone knows his background and where he comes from, which certainly shone through this morning when he was talking about dilly-dallying. That said, the Bloc is another problem altogether.
For our part, we are here to work together. We want to help, but we want to ask questions. What is the incentive for this minority government—yes, I said “minority government”—to stay away from the House in order to limit the opportunities available to the opposition to challenge it? Is it because the government does not feel comfortable?
Canadians elected a minority government. As a parliamentarian, as an elected official, my interpretation of the word “minority” is that there are doubts about the government's effectiveness and the confidence people have in it. The people have agreed to give it power, but they also want a strong opposition that will protect the public purse and remind the government exactly what our citizens expect. In my case, it is the citizens of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, but I am speaking on behalf of all members, on both this side of the House as well as the other side, that is, the government.
Our job is to report the concerns of our constituents, and we need to be able to do that here in the Parliament of Canada, where the future is determined and where we implement programs that will improve the lives of Canadians.
It really bothers me when the Conservatives take the blame in news reports and are accused of being the bad guys. That is completely untrue and I would like that to be set right. These are facts. No one can contradict what I just said. We are willing to work together, but that does not mean that we are in bed with the Liberal Party. We are not the Bloc Québécois. We are the Conservative Party of Canada. We want to protect the Canadian federation. As a Quebecker, I am happy to be part of Canada because Canada is currently helping Quebec. I thank the government for its collaboration.
That is what the Canadian federation is for. The principle behind it is that sometimes we need something and sometimes we give something. I am proud to rise today in the House of Commons as a Quebec MP to say thank you to our Canada for being there to help us. Now, however, we want Canada to do a better job of helping us, and what we want to do is give the government the opportunity to hear what we have to say. It is clear that it will be harder for the government to do that if we only meet once a week.
We are proud that the 338 MPs' constituency offices are much like Service Canada offices. People are worried and confused. As I was saying earlier, that is because the situation is brand new to us. We are at war with a microbe, a virus. That is why people are a little lost. Even the government is lost.
I want to emphasize that the government is only responding because the opposition is forcing it to think. However, we do not deserve all the credit, because the government is probably also working to make things better. I am also thinking of public service employees, who we know are under a lot of pressure, and I thank them for what they are doing under these unusual circumstances.
This morning, I heard the Green Party, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois say that it is alarming to see members from Quebec coming here to the House of Commons to sit in this reduced Parliament. However, I want to remind the House that construction sites are reopening today, that mechanics have been back in their garages changing winter tires since last Wednesday, and, better yet, that garden centres are open again. Canadians are adapting and practising social distancing. They are complying with guidelines. They are resilient.
I am very proud to represent the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. They are resilient, proud, and supportive of one another, and they follow public health instructions.
I have visited organizations that help those who cannot go to the grocery store. In my role as an MP, I personally delivered food baskets. I went to pick up orders at the grocery stores and delivered them to residents of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. We support one another and we can be proud of that. I now invite the government to let us work together to strengthen its programs so they meet the needs of Canadians and entrepreneurs.
We have also been talking about a virtual Parliament. We are in a new building. I have had the opportunity to travel abroad. In many parliaments, the desks have integrated monitors and members can vote electronically. We are not there yet.
Mr. Speaker, our leader asked you directly if we have the technology needed to hold a virtual Parliament while respecting the rights of all parliamentarians. What was your answer? As far as I know, we are not yet ready.
As our leader said, when we receive confirmation that it can be done efficiently and with respect for parliamentarians' rights, we will reopen the discussion. In the meantime, we are asking the government to let us meet every day. First, there were going to be four sittings, then three sittings. Perhaps we could agree on two and a half sittings.
We are acting in good faith and we are working in the best interests of Canadians. We also want to get our businesses up and running again and give them the means, when possible, to kick-start the economy and once more create prosperity in Canada.