(a) pursuant to subsection 62(1) of the Emergencies Act, a special joint committee of the Senate and the House of Commons be appointed to review the exercise of powers and the performance of duties and functions pursuant to the declaration of emergency that was in effect from Monday, February 14, 2022, to Wednesday, February 23, 2022, including the provisions as specified in subsections 62(5) and (6) of the act;
(b) the committee be composed of four members of the Senate and seven members of the House of Commons, including three members of the House of Commons from the governing party, two members of the House of Commons from the official opposition, one member from the Bloc Québécois and one member from the New Democratic Party, with three Chairs of which the two House Co-Chairs shall be from the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party and the Senate Co-Chair shall be determined by the Senate;
(c) in addition to the Co-Chairs, the committee shall elect two vice-chairs from the House, of whom the first vice-chair shall be from the governing party and the second vice-chair shall be from the official opposition party;
(d) the House of Commons members be named by their respective whip by depositing with the Clerk of the House the list of their members to serve on the committee no later than the day following the adoption of this motion;
(e) the quorum of the committee be seven members whenever a vote, resolution or other decision is taken, so long as both Houses and one member of the governing party in the House, one from the opposition in the House and one member of the Senate are represented, and that the Joint Chairs be authorized to hold meetings, to receive evidence and authorize the printing thereof, whenever five members are present, so long as both Houses and one member of the governing party in the House, one member from the opposition in the House and one member of the Senate are represented;
(f) changes to the membership of the committee, on the part of the House of Commons, be effective immediately after notification by the relevant whip has been filed with the Clerk of the House;
(g) membership substitutions, on the part of the House of Commons, be permitted, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2) and may be filed with the clerk of the committee by email, provided that substitutes take the oath of secrecy pursuant to paragraph (h) of this order before participating in proceedings;
(h) pursuant to subsection 62(3) of the act, every member and person employed in the work of the committee, which includes personnel who, in supporting the committee's work or a committee member’s work, have access to the committee's proceedings or documents, shall take the oath of secrecy set out in the schedule of the act;
(i) every meeting of the committee held to consider an order or regulation referred to it pursuant to subsection 61(2) of the act shall be held in camera pursuant to subsection 62(4) of the act, and that the evidence and documents received by the committee related to these meetings shall not be made public;
(j) Co-Chairs shall have the ability to fully participate, including to move motions and to vote on all items before the committee, and any vote resulting in a tie vote shall mean that the item is negatived;
(k) all documents deposited pursuant to the act shall be referred to the committee, and documents referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights since February 16, 2022, in accordance with this act be instead referred to this special joint committee;
(l) until the committee ceases to exist or Thursday, June 23, 2022, whichever is earlier,
(i) where applicable, the provisions contained in paragraph (r) of the order adopted on Thursday, November 25, 2021, except for those listed in subparagraphs (r)(iii), (iv) and (vi), shall apply to the committee, and the committee shall hold meetings in person only should this be necessary to consider any matter referred to it pursuant to subsection 61(2) of the act,
(ii) members, senators, and departmental and parliamentary officials appearing as witnesses before the committee may do so in person, as may any witness appearing with respect to any matter referred to it pursuant to subsection 61(2) of the act,
(iii) when more than one motion is proposed for the election of the House vice-chairs, any motion received after the initial one shall be taken as a notice of motion and such motions shall be put to the committee seriatim until one is adopted;
(m) the committee have the power to:
(i) sit during sittings and adjournments of the House,
(ii) report from time to time, including pursuant to the provisions included in subsection 62(6) of the act, to send for persons, papers and records, and to print such papers and evidence as may be ordered by the committee,
(iii) retain the services of expert, professional, technical and clerical staff, including legal counsel,
(iv) appoint, from among its members such subcommittees as may be deemed appropriate and to delegate to such subcommittees, all or any of its powers, except the power to report to the Senate and House of Commons,
(v) authorize video and audio broadcasting of any or all of its public proceedings and that they be made available to the public via the Parliament of Canada's websites; and
That a message be sent to the Senate requesting that House to unite with this House for the above purpose and to select, if the Senate deems advisable, members to act on the proposed special joint committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is good to rise again to speak to this matter.
I will start by talking about the incredible importance of parliamentary oversight, particularly when we are using something as extraordinary as the Emergencies Act, which was written in 1988 and has never been used in this country. We have lived through a period of the utilization of this act for the first time. When we are talking about establishing a parliamentary review to take a look at how that act was used, it is important that we move quickly. I appreciate the discussions we have been having with other parties, but we are at a bit of an impasse, which leads us to where we are right now in the House.
I think it is important for the context of this motion to talk about the events that led up to the enacting of the act, the period of time that the act was in place, how its powers were used and what the act then demands after the provisions of the act are completed.
For a period of three weeks, all of us who came here to Ottawa witnessed something that was without precedent in Canadian history. The streets of Ottawa were gripped not by a protest but by an occupation that seemed to have no end. Many of us have had an opportunity to go and talk to residents who lived in the red zone or with businesses that were shut down and affected by what happened there. It was totally and utterly unacceptable.
When I came into Ottawa to be back in this place on the Sunday night at the very beginning of this protest, I had seen something on television, but I never really had any sense of the full character of what was going on until I came and saw the streets blocked and talked to folks who owned businesses. Despite having gone through incredible difficulty over 10, 20 or 30 years, they said this was the hardest thing they had ever endured. There were residents who were afraid to leave their homes. Those who did were witnessing harassment, defecation, urination and just a complete upheaval of their day-to-day normal lives.
If that was not enough, we saw homeless shelters attacked. We saw the desecration of national monuments. We saw swastikas and Confederate flags being flown. This continued ad infinitum: honking horns, disruptions of people's ability to sleep, a complete terrorizing of the local population. What then began to happen was that it spread elsewhere to blockades that blocked critical border crossings, meaning that hundreds of millions of dollars in lost trade were now affecting businesses across the country with further actions being contemplated.
There is no doubt that everyone suffered in this pandemic, some far more than others. For every human on this planet, we are forever going to be united in the collective trauma of having lived through a global pandemic. For me, I am an incredibly social person. I love to be out in the world. It is how I get my energy, being with friends and family. Like everybody else, being cut off from that was exceptionally painful. However, many of the people in the red zone in Ottawa certainly suffered a great deal more than I did over those two years: people who were frontline health care workers and people who lost loved ones. Thank God I did not. I think one of the things the folks who came in protesting forgot was that the lives they were shutting down and the people they were terrorizing had gone through something really hard too.
That takes me to one of the things that was desecrated, which was the memorial to Terry Fox. It makes me reflect upon the nature of freedom generally. Terry Fox was somebody who was diagnosed with, at that time, terminal cancer. He was going to die, and he had a choice about what he was going to do with the days left to him, what he was going to do with the freedom that he had while he still drew breath in this world. Terry Fox made the decision not to be angry, not to shake a fist, not to scream about the injustice of his condition, but to ask the question of how he could lift others from suffering, how he could use his suffering and his pain as a vehicle so that others may not suffer and so that others may not feel pain.
As he raced across the country, he captured the imagination of all of us, appealing to our greatest nature. When we suffer greatly our instinct often is to turn to anger and malice, but there is a deeper part of us that connects to something that I think is more spiritual, that calls for us instead to use our suffering as a way to stop the suffering of others.
I have to reflect that I am sure the people who came here protesting were suffering. I am sure they had gone through very hard things as many across this country have gone through many hard things, but did they think about the people who were around them, the businesses that were suffering, the people who have been toiling on the front lines of this pandemic, the people who were as desperate as they were for a return to normalcy? I do not think they did. Certainly their actions did not indicate that they did.
That is the thing that bothers me the most about, and I understand that we see this very differently, the disposition of the official opposition on this matter. Cheering on this type of behaviour, this type of lawlessness, this lack of regard for the suffering of others or lack of kinship with trying to lift others out of pain instead of demanding that their pain be heard and felt beyond all other pain regardless of how much more pain it caused, was concerning.
There have been many times when I have seen protests and have sympathized with many of the points that the protesters were making, but then I see the way the protests are being handled or conducted, or I see some of the imagery that some of the people in that crowd have. We have to make a decision not to go among, even when there is a large group of people that we support, when there is lawlessness or affiliation with causes that we disagree with. Some of those choices have been really hard for me because some of those causes that I saw I believed in and I wanted to be among those people.
However, when I saw a flag flown or an image of something that I disagreed with, I understood that my presence there would be confusing. Sometimes some of my colleagues made the other decision to go out among those people where photographs were taken and the Conservative Party pointed out, “What do you stand for? There is somebody in that crowd who stands for this, do they stand for that?” They were attacked on that basis. I had to reflect that it was a fair criticism.
We are at a tenuous time in this country. We are at a tenuous time in this world. We see the events unfolding in Ukraine and we realize that our enemy is not the people at whom I am staring across, as much as we may have vociferous debate and differences. Our enemy is those who would seek to undermine our institutions and throw out our very democracy. There is no doubt that there was sedition in the groups outside. There were those who sought to topple a democratically elected government and replace it with I do not know what.
I do know that the folks who came here and occupied the city for three weeks did not talk a lot about the fact that an election had happened just months ago, where the issues that they were demanding be taken action on had been decided in that very election with the vast majority of parties supporting the measures to fight the pandemic based on science.
I take no joy in not being able to go out to a concert. I take no joy in not being able to go to some of my favourite places with some of my favourite people. We looked at that and said that we had to do it to protect our neighbours, to protect those we loved. We had to make those sacrifices.
It is disappointing to me when I hear the member for talking about standing with what is going on outside and keeping the momentum going, the of the Conservatives saying that she does not think we should be asking them to go home, the member for saying it is a show of patriotic passion, or the member for saying what she saw were patriotic, flag-waving Canadians and that it was like Canada Day times a thousand. We have a problem. We have to step back and really consider what we foment. There is in our dialogue the need to look at science and hard decisions and come together, but to support this kind of lawlessness is totally unacceptable.
The Emergencies Act had to be brought to bear to deal with this situation and create a restoration of order, and in its being brought to bear in this unprecedented situation there were three pillars. One was to restore peace and order so that people could resume their normal lives and so that their freedoms were not impugned. Second was that it be done correctly, that it be geographically targeted and that it be used with the minimum amount of invasiveness as possible to achieve its results. Third was that it be time-limited.
We are now seeing a return to normalcy. We are seeing the blockades are over. We are seeing life in Ottawa feeling normal again and people being able to work and live in their communities in a way they were accustomed to. Now that it is over, the act requires two things of us. One is that an inquiry be set up within 60 days to independently verify the use of the act and its appropriateness, and the other is that a joint committee of MPs and senators be established to independently take a look at the actions of the government in the use of this act.
There are two things, then, that would seem like important principles to me in establishing a committee of this nature. One is that given that it is, in fact, the government itself that established the act, I concur the government should not, itself, chair the committee. That is a supposition I support. Secondarily, given the actions of the official opposition and its support and cheerleading for the illegal activities that occurred outside this building and blockades across the country, it would be equally inappropriate for the official opposition to act as a chair in reviewing the matters that occurred. Instead, what I think is a fair and reasonable proposal is that the chairmanship be shared by the two other opposition parties, one that did not support the use of the act and one that did, and as this is a joint committee of both the House and the Senate, that the Senate be given the opportunity to appoint one of its members.
In this instance, the committee that we have suggested would actually dial back government representation. We have proposed three Liberal members, two Conservative MPs and one Conservative senator, so that is actually three Conservatives who would sit from their caucus. We have also proposed one member from the Bloc, one from the NDP and one from each of the recognized groups in the Senate. I will just say that the Conservative proposal to only have one senator is completely inappropriate to the other chamber.
We have to understand, in 1988 when the act was written, the intention of a joint committee of the House was that there would be appropriate representation from both Houses. In 1988 there was a Senate based on parties. The Senate has now moved to a different place, and we know as legislators that the spirit of an act is the most important thing we must focus on, so ensuring there is one representative from each is fair and balanced. The Conservative proposal to only have five members, of which two would be Conservative, one would be Bloc, one would be NDP and one would be Liberal, and for it to be chaired by a Conservative MP and co-chaired by a Conservative senator is not appropriate.
It is essential as we move forward and look at this chapter of history that parliamentary review be done and that this committee be both balanced and impartial in its deliberations. I think what we have put forward demonstrates exactly those principles, and I would say it is time we get to work on that committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am really looking forward to discussing this situation.
Before I begin, I would certainly like to express my concern for the people of Ukraine and the current situation they are going through. All of us are watching very closely. We see the government acting and we are, as Conservatives and as Her Majesty's loyal opposition, in support of many of the government's actions. I note we will be engaged in a take-note debate. Through unanimous consent, we just recently extended the take-note debate to allow more speakers to discuss this current situation.
On Saturday, there was a rally held in Barrie. There were roughly 150 concerned citizens, many of them born in Ukraine. They are Canadians of Ukrainian heritage. They expressed their concern about what was going on, particularly the illegal actions of Vladimir Putin. Yesterday, along with members of the government and the opposition, I attended the rally down at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square. I do not know how big the crowd was; some estimated it at about 10,000 people. It was quite something. Everyone was united with the brave people of Ukraine. Our thoughts are with them. In the days and weeks ahead, I am sure we will see more significant action on the part of western nations and our allies. I look forward to being able to support those actions.
The sad reality is that we are dealing with a government motion today when we should be dealing with and discussing many of the issues that are happening currently in Ukraine.
We are here because we as Conservatives, and I know Canadians, are looking for some sense of trust in government. We are certainly looking for trust. In the invocation of the Emergencies Act, the government took upon itself extraordinary powers to deal with a situation. We can argue about whether those powers were needed or whether the emergency declaration in the province of Ontario or the emergency declaration in the city of Ottawa were sufficient in dealing with the situation, or whether these extraordinary actions the government took were able to deal with the situation.
There was likely a lot of planning that went on before the invocation of the act on that Monday, February 14, so we really need to restore some level of trust in government through this committee. As the government gave itself extraordinary powers, it is incumbent upon us as members of Parliament to provide extraordinary scrutiny of the government, and not just of the decisions that led up to invoking the Emergencies Act but also of the actions the government took, which I think is what was envisioned in the act as it was crafted in 1988 and approved by this body.
What reasons were there for what the government did? The government spoke about sedition, which is a strong term, and other factors. It is incumbent upon the committee to find out whether the government's actions were justified and whether they met the threshold for declaring an emergency. This is a matter of trust in government. It is important that we as members of the opposition, and all other parties, make sure that we provide that trust to Canadians for the sake of our public institutions.
I was listening intently as the government was speaking earlier, and he talked about the actions of members of Parliament. Frankly, and I say this with all due respect to the government House leader, the government does not get to judge the actions of others as they relate to establishing a parliamentary committee.
All of us in this place have taken an oath to ensure that we act in the best interests of Canadians, and this committee and the establishment of this committee should be no different than that of any other committee. In fact, I would say it is somewhat similar to what we see in other committees, particularly oversight committees, where members of the opposition are actually the chairs, as in the ethics committees, the government operations committees and the public accounts committee. Those are all oversight committees of Parliament. They have been long established. It should stand to reason that there should be a member of Her Majesty's official opposition as a chair of that committee. It is designed to provide extraordinary oversight.
We can argue all we want about the protests. The protests are gone. Conservatives obviously believe in peaceful protests. For several weeks we were asking the protesters to go home because their voices had been heard. What we saw in Ottawa and across the country, whether it was at border crossings or at other demonstrations, even in my own community of Barrie—Innisfil, was a manifestation of years of frustration, anger and anxiety with dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our job as members of Parliament is to listen to our constituents and to Canadians, make sure that we understand their concerns and deal with those concerns. That is not just precluded to those we agree with. It includes people we do not agree with. I get lots of calls and emails in my office, as we all do, of varying opinions, ideologies and political ideals, but that does not mean we discount that. We have to listen to everybody. That is our job.
Listening those who came to Ottawa was important, to hear their voices and their anxiety, to hear the frustration they were feeling. Last week, I was returning phone calls and emails and that same level of anger and frustration, over what we have been dealing with over the last two years, was being relayed to me while I was sitting in my constituency office. There were some people who were upset about the Emergencies Act being invoked. There were other people who were happy about the Emergencies Act being invoked.
All of them felt the same way, that we need to understand what led up to the Emergencies Act invocation, what evidence was used and what decisions the government made in invoking the Emergencies Act. Was it political? Was it to protect the because he had been seen as not acting on this? Was it actually to suppress the seditionist forces that the government is speaking about, that the just mentioned?
We have to get to the bottom of it. The only way that we can do that is to make sure that we have a committee that is reflective of the proportionality of parliamentarians in this place, not casting or judging what each member of Parliament is going to preclude on that committee, but basing our decision and our recommendations to Canadians and our findings to Canadians based on what we are hearing, what evidence is being provided by the government and other institutions, like law enforcement. I do not think that is an unreasonable request.
What led up to the circumstances that have brought us to now dealing with two hours of debate, and I suspect several hours of further debate on another day, when we should be getting down to the work of the committee? As the said, and as prescribed in the act, there is a requirement for us, once the revocation order is made, to study the issue. That is really where we have tried to go on the formation of the committee, to find some sort of consensus. Then there will be an inquiry within 60 days. What led us to this point where the government has to drop the hammer of presenting a motion to Parliament to determine the establishment and composition of this committee?
In our first discussions with the , Conservatives actually proposed that the scrutiny of regulations committee look into this action by the government. We felt, at the time, that it was purpose built, and if we look at the mandate of the scrutiny of regulations committee, a lot of what we are working on and intending on finding in relation to the government's action is there. It is actually mandated within the scrutiny of regulations committee.
It is a joint committee of Parliament, with members from the Senate and the House of Commons. It has 16 members on it. It is chaired by a Conservative member of Parliament on the House side and by a senator on the Senate side. I do not think that, at this point, the scrutiny of regulations committee has met to constitute and formulate a chair because of COVID.
We felt that was a reasonable proposal because the government had initially proposed, as the said, the medical assistance in dying committee, which became an ad hoc committee of Parliament. It had two co-chairs, not three as is currently proposed in this motion. We felt that was going to be a reasonable solution to this, a joint Senate and House committee that is purpose built and purpose driven for what this committee will be charged to do.
We presented that. It was on Thursday before the vote, and then the Monday of the vote, the came to me and said that he had spoken to the third and fourth opposition parties and they had come up with a solution to the committee. There was no opportunity for me, as opposition House leader, to work or reflect on this. That is what led to this motion being proposed today.
Members can imagine what I thought when I saw the composition of this committee. I looked and saw three co-chairs. There is not a parliamentary standing committee today that exists, even in the scrutiny of regulations committee, that has three co-chairs on it. This is proposing a co-chair of the third and fourth parties of the opposition, plus one from the Senate side as well. To us, that was a non-starter, despite the fact that the had already spoken to the other opposition parties about this.
The challenge was that we were not going to agree with this, so we were effectively at a stalemate. What we thought was a reasonable proposal on this committee was rejected by the government, an already existing committee, for this new ad hoc committee. As the said, he did not trust the opposition parties, members of the opposition, to have good judgment on this committee. I think that is an absolutely ridiculous and absurd assertion.
Failing any further agreement, we find ourselves in the position that we are in today, which is what I believe to be an absolutely absurd proposal of three co-chairs for this committee, one each from the third and fourth parties and a member of the Senate, and providing for two Conservative MPs, neither of whom are to be chairs.
I take members back to my earlier statement when I said the oversight committees of Parliament, those standing committees, are always chaired by an opposition party. There is a reason for that. It is because they are designed to provide oversight. This committee is designed to provide oversight on the government. If the government is convinced that its actions both leading up to the invocation of the Emergencies Act and its actions subsequent to the invocation of the Emergencies Act is justified and defensible, then it should have no problem being held to the account that is required.
The government should have no problem justifying to this committee, whether it is led by an opposition chair or not, and providing that information. The committee should have no problem, without prejudice, doing its work to hold the government to account and restore that trust in government that Canadians expect.
As I mentioned earlier, part of the challenge is understanding how we got here and this manifestation of anger. There are a lot of Canadians right now who are upset. They are upset after two years of lockdowns and two years of restrictions. They see other G7 countries opening up. In fact, just today, the U.S. Congress announced that there would be no more mask mandates. Other countries are limiting their restrictions and eliminating the mandates, yet here in Canada, as provinces are lifting some of those mandates and restrictions, we are still seeing this level of control with regard to the federal government that is causing a lot of anxiety and a lot of confusion among Canadians.
It was just a couple of weeks ago that we proposed, with the support of our Bloc colleagues, for the government to establish a plan by February 28 to move away from the restrictions and mandates so that we can provide Canadians with some sense that we were going to get back to normalcy in the country, yet the Liberals and their coalition partners in the NDP voted against that motion. They voted against the plan, despite the fact that their own chief public health official had talked about living with COVID, that this was going to be a normal occurrence and that we had to start thinking about living with COVID. That was all we were asking for.
We did it while people were protesting here and in other parts of the country, so think of the message that was sent to Canadians who are desperate to get back to some sense of normalcy, to spend more time with their family in the United States and to not have to worry about some of the mandates and restrictions vis-à-vis flying and other things.
We are at a 90% vaccination rate at this point, which is greater than some of the other G7 countries around the world. They are the ones that are limiting their mandates and reducing them and getting rid of them, yet here we are, still locked down. That anger is being manifested in what we saw with these protests.
Instead of providing Canadians a bit of hope, they just beat them down again and fed into that anger and that anxiety. All we were trying to do was provide a little hope. Give us a plan, an exit strategy or something that we can go back to Canadians with and say that by this date, this will happen and by this date, that will happen.
I know the government's talking point on this is that they follow science and evidence-based decision-making. I would suggest that they do that only when it agrees with their ideology. This is not about science any more. This is about political science. It is about the , his party and the NPD holding on, for some reason, to this complete control over Canadians. It has to stop.
This started a long time ago. This did not just start now. As I said, this manifested itself, this anger and this anxiety, months and months ago, when, in May, the made a statement that he did not believe in mandatory vaccination, that this is not the kind of country we are in and that we do not do that in Canada.
Then, all of a sudden, a day before the election, the stands up and says that we are going to have mandatory vaccination, creating a wedge issue during the election, an election that nobody wanted, that cost $660 million and was at the height of Afghanistan falling and western Canada burning.
There were lots of things that were happening around the world, but it was the 's intention to call an election and use the issue of mandatory vaccinations, despite the fact that at the time there might have been 75% or 80% of Canadians being vaccinated, as a wedge issue to further divide Canadians.
We saw, through the course of the election, the of the country referring to Canadians who were not vaccinated as misogynists and extremists. He asked whether we had to tolerate these people. It is no wonder people became pissed off—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
I apologize for that, Mr. Speaker. It is no wonder people were angered when the of the country referred to his own countrymen, his people, in those terms because he does not agree with them and they do not agree with him. It is not prime ministerial, and it really has affected a lot of people in more ways than perhaps the Prime Minister thinks.
The challenge right now is that the anxiety and the anger are persisting, and are still manifesting themselves. The situation we find ourselves in is with respect to the level of trust. We are looking into our public institutions and making sure that they are functioning in a way that gives confidence to Canadians and that our democracy is functioning in a way that gives confidence to Canadians, because we have seen over the course of the last six years a pattern of systemic overreach by the government.
I can cite this pattern. Whether it is the banking information of 500,000 Canadians that was being looked into by Stats Canada, the ethics breaches, the WE Charity scandal, the cellphone and mobility-data tracking of millions of Canadians, this pattern has shown itself to be an overreach. This is in addition to the contempt that the Liberals have shown with respect to the Winnipeg lab documents, with the Speaker making a ruling and the government not allowing that information. This is the erosion of confidence that makes it even more important for this committee to provide the confidence that Canadians need in order not just to get to the bottom of the invocation of the act, but also to make sure that the actions of the government were justified and met the threshold of the imposition of this act so that we can provide that for Canadians.
The other thing I would like to address is the other pattern we have seen, particularly in this Parliament. It is inexplicable to me how an opposition party can be in lockstep with the government. I am speaking specifically about the New Democratic Party. It is in lockstep with the government in everything it does. We mentioned during the emergency debate that the foundations of that party were in being the working people's party. To see the New Democrats act in lockstep with the government on everything, even in the support of the invocation of the Emergencies Act, was quite frankly upsetting to many people.
We saw the , last week, imply that a lack of support for the invocation of the act meant that it was going to be a confidence vote. In fact, I stood up just before the vote and I asked the government about that. He said we should just get on with the vote. Convention around this place dictates that the government advise Parliament and the Speaker that a vote is in fact a confidence vote.
However, the Prime Minister and the government not only browbeat the NDP and put its members into fear that we were going to call an election, which we all know the NDP does not want at this point, but the Liberals also browbeat many of their backbenchers, including two of the more vocal backbenchers: the member for and the member for . They said last week that they did not agree with the invocation of the act and it did not meet the threshold that the government had purported, yet they were told that if they did not support it the was going to call an election. Can members imagine the Prime Minister threatening his own backbench and threatening the NDP into supporting the invocation of the act, if they did not support something that he wanted and that we do not know was justified, which is the purpose of this committee.
Of course, by coincidence or not, two days later we saw the revocation of the act. All of a sudden, everything was fine in the land, so let us revoke the order. The obviously tried to justify this. As I said at the start, I believe this was done for political reasons, unless I see evidence otherwise, to justify the many criticisms the Prime Minister was receiving as a result of inaction on this.
It was not surprising to me when the NDP supported the Liberals on this and continue to support them, as I suspect, on this motion as well. Why would they not? They would be getting a chair of a committee. Why would they not want to support the government on this? It is extraordinary, because it is not the third or fourth party that gets the chair of a committee. It is the official opposition that gets the chair of an oversight committee, not the third or fourth party. This would be breaking from convention, and this is why we have a problem.
The other thing we proposed, and I know that this has been publicized and the has spoken about this, is that the way the act was written in 1988 prescribed that members of a recognized party with 12 members or more would form the committee. I brought this up in our initial House leaders meeting. This would mean the Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP and the Bloc, as well as a recognized party in the Senate, which would mean the Conservative Party. That is what is prescribed in the act and is in the spirit of the act, as well.
After we went back and forth, and this absurd proposal we are dealing with today came to me, it was my position that I would default back to the act. It is not my fault, nor is it the fault of our colleagues or of any of the opposition parties, that the government has not amended the Emergencies Act to reflect the current composition of the Senate. That is the government's problem. It has not done that to this point, and now the Liberals are saying they have to have those senators there, but it is not prescribed in the act.
When we did not agree to this absurd proposal of the committee structure we are dealing with today, we said that we could go back to what the act says. It is not my fault the created the Senate in the manner in which he did, but has not done anything to reflect not just this act, but other acts that would need to be amended. If the government wants to reflect better what the current composition of the Senate is, it can certainly do that.
In fact, over the weekend there was a story in the National Post that suggested the government was working on this, but then it called an election. The Liberals were working on it, but then they called an election. B.C. was burning, and they called an election. Afghanistan was falling, and they called an election. There were lots of consequences to the calling an election 18 months after the last one for his own vanity.
There are several other points that can be made on this, but the main one I want to make is about establishing this trust in government. A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in the ethics committee. We had the Ethics Commissioner there, and I asked him about his perception of the level of trust in government. His response was that there had been a significant decline in the level of trust in government not just recently or with recent occurrences, but also over the course of the last six years since the Liberal government had taken over. Certainly in polling we have seen this.
For me, this is a matter of principle. It is not a matter of politics. I am not looking at playing partisan political games. I am not looking at trying to undermine the work of the committee. We have already established committees in Parliament that are purpose-built for this type of scrutiny and oversight. On the Conservative side, I do not think it is unreasonable to ask that we maintain a structure similar to what we have instead of this ad hoc committee that the government is proposing. I think it is not an unreasonable request for us to do that.
I just want to reiterate the threshold of what constitutes a national emergency and why this is important. It is defined in the act as:
an urgent and critical situation of a temporary nature that
(a) seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians and is of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it, or
(b) seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada, and that cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.
There is a strong argument to be made. I know that many people have weighed in on this. We had a fulsome weekend of debate about whether that threshold was in fact met. This is what the committee is going to be charged with. Was it for a political reason that the government invoked this act, to deal with the criticism of the when all of the other emergency powers were already in place, both provincially and municipally? What has been prescribed in legislation were incredible powers given to ministers of the Crown to deal with these types of situations. We saw situations in Emerson, Manitoba, and at the Ambassador Bridge. In Coutts, Alberta, police defused the situation. It was the same with Emerson and the Ambassador Bridge. Could those powers, which had already been enacted and given through regulatory and legislative authority to the ministers of the Crown, have been sufficient without pulling this nuclear option of the Emergencies Act?
That is what this committee is going to be charged with. We have to make sure the oversight and scrutiny that this committee will provide, and the subsequent inquiry that will follow, do exactly that. This is a matter of trust, and it is up to the government to defend its actions. It is up to the government to justify its actions.
It is up to opposition members, all of us in this place, to use the powers that we are given to provide this extraordinary scrutiny and oversight on the government so that Canadians can have confidence in their ability to understand what just happened, what happened during the crisis, and whether the government in fact did overreach or extend beyond what it needed to during the crisis. There is no doubt that the people of Ottawa dealt with a lot. There is no question about it, but we have to make sure that the spirit the Emergencies Act intended, and the thresholds the Emergencies Act calls for, were met. It is up to the government to justify that.
In conclusion, I will move the following amendment. I move, seconded by the member for :
That the motion be amended:
(a) in paragraph (b), by replacing the words “with three Chairs of which the two House Co-Chairs shall be from the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party and the Senate Co-Chair shall be determined by the Senate;” with the words “with two Chairs of which one House Co-Chair shall be from the Liberal Party and the Senate Co-Chair shall be from the Conservative Party”;
(b) in paragraph (1)(iii), by adding, after the words “election of the”, the words “Co-Chairs and”.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for .
Today, we are being asked to speak to a motion aimed at creating a joint parliamentary review committee of the House of Commons and the Senate to meet our obligations under subsection 62(1) of the Emergencies Act. There appears to be a consensus on the need for such a committee, and the broad terms of its composition and mandate are defined in the act. Under the circumstances, I am tempted to say that the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of the motion and to thank the government for its good intentions.
However, I understand that my colleagues in the other parties intend to debate the issue in order to justify their vision of who should appointed to the committee and who should or should not serve as chair and vice-chair. To be frank, as long as the proportion of members of each party in the House is reflected in the composition of the committee, this is not really an issue for the Bloc Québécois.
I will say, however, that the Bloc Québécois is extremely interested in how the committee will carry out its mandate, and that we believe that this exercise is crucial.
We live in a world that is constantly and rapidly changing. These last few years, the news has kept us tense, concerned and worried about the way our leaders were responding. Whether we are talking about the pandemic or, more recently, the war that just started in Ukraine, governments in every country have had to react and offer the people they govern a reasonable and effective position and response in line with their values and interests.
Unfortunately, one crisis often led to another, to which governments also had to respond. Some governments are criticized for being too soft, others for being intransigent, and still others for their lack of boldness and imagination. Although most of this criticism is constructive, it can get aggressive at times and can even degenerate into social disruption, which then leads to its own crisis that also requires a response.
One thing is certain. The modern era has its share of unusual challenges that will force us to find unusual solutions. This means going off the beaten path, but each step will require vigilance and prudence.
For the purposes of this debate, although it is obviously a concern, let us set aside the war in Ukraine for a moment and focus on the mandate of the committee we are creating. We must look at the protests that some people justified by saying they were the direct result of the measures taken by the authorities in response to the health crisis facing the entire world, namely the COVID-19 pandemic.
The crisis caused by the pandemic forced the authorities to impose health measures with which not everyone complied. That is obviously normal. Some people wanted to express their disagreement in our streets, in front of public buildings, and that is also obviously normal. It is a legitimate exercise of the rights and freedoms recognized by all our governments, in both Quebec and the rest of Canada.
Unfortunately, some people took advantage of the situation to organize unacceptable and sometimes even dangerous protests that had to be contained. That is when the federal government decided to invoke the Emergencies Act in response to the protests caused by the health measures, which had themselves been adopted in response to the pandemic.
Was it necessary, appropriate or useful? That is what we have to decide. This soul-searching is unavoidable and essential, because we cannot forget that the Emergencies Act is the heavy artillery of the federal government's legislative arsenal. This is the act that would give us the power to implement the measures needed to respond to an international crisis or a state of war. Think about it.
The global COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine were not enough of a concern for our government to invoke the Emergencies Act, but the protests in recent weeks were.
The committee should therefore review the exercise of powers pursuant to the proclamation of emergency measures on February 14, which was confirmed by the House on the evening of Monday, February 21, before being revoked less than 48 hours later on Wednesday, February 23.
What happened to this major proclamation? How did we use the tools it provided us? Did we abuse those tools? Did we leave any of them unused?
What can we say today about the results it delivered? Was the proclamation useful or not? Is it possible that it was actually detrimental to the interests of the government and its citizens?
This is a rare and extremely important mandate, as rare and important as a proclamation of emergency measures should be. We must therefore conduct a thorough and exhaustive analysis.
We owe it to our fellow Quebeckers and Canadians. We owe it to future generations, since, even though we hope it will not happen, there will very probably be other crises that could give rise to such a declaration in the near or distant future, such as disasters, states of emergency, international crises, even war. Future leaders will undoubtedly look to past precedents. What conclusions will they draw? What will we inspire them to do?
That is for us to decide today. It goes without saying that the committee will have to work with all due seriousness and diligence. The Bloc Québécois hopes that the work will begin immediately and that all of the resources needed for the committee to carry out its important mission will be made available without delay.
It will have to hear from witnesses. Will it face obstructions like the ones we experienced last year?
The committee will also need access to all of the relevant documents, legal opinions, and minutes of cabinet discussions and meetings. Will government officials co-operate?
These questions are of more concern to me than who sits on the committee. I am eager to hear the answers. With all due respect, dear colleagues, I encourage us to work effectively and collaboratively.
Now, let us get to work.
Mr. Speaker, we are talking here about the creation of a joint committee, which is important because it is the next logical step to the Emergencies Act, an exceptional measure. I am using the 's words to make sure that people are not saying that the member for La Prairie is exaggerating again.
When the Prime Minister said that he was invoking the act, he said that it was the ultimate tool and the last resort, so much so that this law's predecessor, the War Measures Act, was used only three times in Canadian history. The Emergencies Act has not been used since it was created in 1988. It needs to remain an exceptional measure.
I welcome the creation of the joint committee to examine what was done before the act was invoked. We need to conduct a review and find out what happened beforehand in order to determine whether the use of this ultimate tool was justified. Obviously, we are in favour of this exercise. It is mandatory, but we still want to say that we think it is an excellent idea.
If the committee is to look back at what happened, it must absolutely examine the crisis as a whole and explore what questions need to be asked as a result of those events. The first point I want to make is that even before the truckers arrived in Ottawa, they made it clear that they planned to protest in front of Parliament. Some of them left Vancouver in their 53-foot-long trucks, and they did not get here over night. Let us just say that if they were clean shaven when they left, they looked more like ZZ Top when they arrived. I do not know how many days it took, and yet people here were surprised and wondered what they were going to do.
Why did it take so long to figure out how to let them protest here but without actually taking over and occupying the city? There had to be a way. Quebec City managed to do it, and it could very well have been done here, too.
During the first two weeks, we hardly saw the government, and the Prime Minister was pretty much absent. First he added fuel to the fire, but then said it was up to the police to resolve the matter. It will be important to paint an accurate picture of the government's actions. Was the government's inaction as bad as it seemed? Some questions need to be asked.
People can be like ducks. They can appear calm and still on the surface while paddling like mad under the water. Was that the case here? Was the government paddling like mad or did it do nothing? It is important to look at what actually happened.
Did the government use every tool at its disposal before using this last resort? Did it reach out to the various police forces? Did it offer any assistance? When the chief of the Ottawa Police Service said he needed help from the federal government, was that request acted upon? What was done?
If the committee is to do a decent job, it must answer those questions and look at what measures were actually taken. I could go on and on because we have so many questions.
The Emergencies Act was invoked on February 14, but the government did nothing with it until five days later. I wonder why. When it finally took action, did it use the legal tools available? Could authorities have done what they did on that weekend without using the Emergencies Act? In other words, was it necessary? We do not know and we wonder.
The following Monday, after the people left, we arrived here and were told that it was awful, and that we absolutely needed to continue using the legislation. The Conservative Party and the Bloc Québécois wondered, and rightly so, what we were fighting against, and who we were intervening against with this legislation. There was no one left outside.
They tried hard to convince us. They twisted themselves into a knot. At one point they said that the situation is unacceptable and we absolutely must keep enforcing this legislation. The Liberals and the NDP wanted everyone to know that this was essential.
However, on the Wednesday, 42 hours later, the government announced that it no longer needed to invoke the act after all. It was like a balloon at a porcupine party; 42 hours later, the whole thing was suddenly over and the act was no longer needed.
That makes no sense. Can we find out what happened? On Monday evening, the government was saying that it absolutely had to intervene, even though we could not see why. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, since you were there, playing close attention and thinking the speeches were good. You were probably a bit surprised when the government, which was pushing to still invoke the act on Monday evening, decided it was no longer necessary by Wednesday.
For these reasons, it is extremely important to have a special joint committee to figure out what, exactly, happened, whether the invocation was worthwhile and, if this situation were to happen again, how the government could be more effective.
The Bloc Québécois's approach was simple. We wanted it to happen fast, we wanted to come to an agreement quickly and we wanted a neutral chair. Because all of the parties' positions were clear, we wanted a neutral chair that reflected the views both in favour and against.
This, therefore, made a single chair impossible, unless that person had a personality disorder. We then needed two co-chairs, one person in favour and one against, or two in favour and two against. That is what the Bloc Québécois was calling for. Above all, the Bloc Québécois was looking for a consensus.
Earlier, my colleague from the NDP said that his party's position was shared by two of the three other recognized parties in the House. I disagree. The Bloc Québécois was against it. Based on what my colleague, the official opposition house leader, said, he would not be okay with it either. I am not great at math, but one plus one equals two. There was more than one party against it. The Bloc Québécois was also against it because we wanted a consensus, but for that to happen, the chair would have to be neutral.
The Liberal motion proposes that the co-chairs be one NDP member, thus in favour, one Bloc member, thus against, and one independent senator, a Liberal, and thus in favour. If I have calculated correctly that makes two co-chairs in favour and one against. That is not impartial, and it is not what we are looking for. The Conservatives' amendment proposes that there be two co-chairs consisting of a Conservative senator, thus against, and a Liberal MP, thus in favour. We like that better.
We have seen the parties argue about who will serve as co-chairs. I can say that the Bloc Québécois has always sought consensus, and I am convinced that all leaders of the other parties will agree on that. That was and continues to be our position.
We must get to work quickly, and do so in the most intelligent way possible. There was a crisis and the government used a tool that we believe was disproportionate. We are asking to be convinced. It may be that behind closed doors the government will pull a rabbit out of a hat, which will convince us that its decision was not that crazy. It is possible, and that is all we want to find out.
That is why we are here. The Bloc Québécois will fully co-operate in order to get to the bottom of what happened and to ensure that this act will never be used again unless it is truly warranted.
Mr. Speaker, I unfortunately have only five minutes. Like my other colleagues who have risen in the House today, I want to say that our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people. As we all know very well, the bombing has resumed, and it is getting more intense.
In the name of all parliamentarians in the Parliament of Canada and the democratic life we have in Canada, I want to say that our thoughts are with the parents taking to underground shelters to protect their children from missiles, air strikes and artillery fire.
Our thoughts are of course with the citizens and soldiers confronting the Russian tanks bearing down on them. They are demonstrating great courage and making huge sacrifices to preserve their democracy.
I'll start today like so many other colleagues have. I know I speak for all members of Parliament here when I say that our thoughts are profoundly with the people of Ukraine, where currently parents are protecting their children in underground fallout shelters and bomb shelters as the bombs have started up again. It is even more serious than what we saw yesterday. Our thoughts are with the civilians and soldiers who are standing up to Russian tanks as we speak. These are citizens standing up in defence of their democracy, and it is something all of us feel profoundly. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine at this very moment.
Since I only have a few minutes, I would like to address the motion that is before the House. This motion is to put in place an oversight committee to ensure that we get an appropriate parliamentary review of the Emergencies Act. I know that all member of Parliament believe this is fundamentally important. I think there have been a lot of discussions over the past week and a half, and the motion that has been introduced is something we support.
We believe profoundly that we need to get to the bottom of this and need to get answers for the people of Ottawa, Windsor and other communities that saw their jobs taken away in a moment by the blockades and the occupation. We know the people of Ottawa suffered egregiously during the occupation. Seniors and people with disabilities were unable to get essential services. We know that a wide variety of families were subjected to harm to their hearing because of the loud noise of the industrial horns going 24 hours a day, and to harm because of toxic diesel fumes. As members know, for three weeks Ottawa was the most polluted city in the entire country. That comes with health risks that will continue to be felt for months if not years to come. There was vandalism, assaults and general lawlessness. All of us who were here over that three-week period, particularly on weekends, saw first-hand that there was simply no longer rule of law in this community. All of those things need to be responded to by this oversight committee.
What the government is putting forward is something that has been discussed and negotiated. As I mentioned earlier, three parties of the House of Commons agreed to it and one party refused, which is their right. However, with unanimous consent, we could have been moving forward tomorrow morning with this oversight committee, and I regret that there is no consensus to do that.
We also have a fair provision for our parties. The Conservative Party would have the strongest representation. When we consider both the Senate side and the House of Commons side, the Conservative Party would be represented more than any other party on this committee. The government party would have significant representation, but the Bloc, the NDP, the Progressive Senate Group and the Independent Senators Group would all be represented as well. There was a serious attempt to have good representation from all parties and a serious attempt to have co-chairs who represent both sides of the debate around the Emergencies Act.
I believe the government and the opposition parties that are in agreement with this principle want to move ahead quickly. We could have moved ahead tomorrow morning if we had seen agreement from the fourth party in the House of Commons. We would have been able to move ahead immediately. I suggest to all members that we need to move rapidly on oversight, and we need to move rapidly to put in place this parliamentary review committee.