The House resumed from June 22 consideration of the motion.
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to continue on this very important debate, although unfortunately under different circumstances than we had last night. Obviously the government, by invoking closure on this motion, is really looking to limit any further debate on this and censor members of Parliament, who have been elected to this place. There are millions of voices on this side and 119 members, yet in just a couple of hours of debate, we are going to determine the continuation of a hybrid Parliament into the fall.
Just to recap what I said last night, there are no other legislatures in this country, provincial or territorial, or around the world, not even the mother Parliament in Great Britain, that have a hybrid system. They all have in-person sittings at this point. In fact, the mother Parliament went back to in-person sittings last July.
We would be the only outlier, not just within the Commonwealth, but globally, in using a hybrid system. Why are we at this point? The government House leader and his partner in the NDP, with their coalition agreement, have decided this is the direction we are going in the absence of any science, evidence or form of decision-making we should be taking. They are just arbitrarily and unilaterally deciding this is the direction we are going to go.
I have heard the argument from both of them that somehow, as I said earlier, there is this southern hemisphere variant coming in. The doctor government House leader and the doctor in the NDP suggest that somehow they know more than public health officials. Here is a news flash: Public health officials in governments across this country have eliminated mandates. They have eliminated mask mandates, and they have also returned to normal within their legislatures.
Why are we an outlier? Perhaps the most world-renowned epidemiologists, virologists and immunologists, the doctor in government House leader and the doctor in the NDP, have figured out that we are different in this place than those in the rest of the country.
It comes down to one simple thing. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many in our caucus, they have complete contempt for this place as an institution. They have complete contempt for Parliament. They see it as a nuisance. They see it as something that gets in the way of their ideological agenda.
Certainly, the government has proven over time that it has shown contempt for Parliament. There have been various motions that have been presented. I remember the start of the pandemic. One of the first orders of business coming into the pandemic was the proposal of a piece of legislation by the government that would have given it entire spending powers and taxing powers until January, 2022. Members can think of the consequences of that.
The government was effectively going to seize control of this place to make the opposition parties, and the millions of people who elected members of Parliament to represent them in this place, irrelevant at that point. It was going to seize complete control of Parliament, giving itself complete taxing and spending powers. If it had not been for the opposition, for the voices of millions of Canadians and the media at that time calling into question the government's motives, we might have been in a situation where it would have seized entire control of this place.
This is how little respect the Liberals have for Parliament. This is how little respect they have for our democratic institutions, and there were other cases as well.
Members will recall Motion No. 6 in the last Parliament. The government tried again to seize the operational control of this place, making the opposition irrelevant. Motion No. 11 was another one where we effectively had Conservatives debating Conservatives in extended evening sessions. The government did not even participate. The Liberals say it was to extend debate, but how can it be about extending debate, when they were not even participating in the process at all? Then of course, there is Motion No. 19, with which the Liberals would once again seize control of where this place will be in September and how it will operate.
Just a couple of weeks ago I sent a letter to the and the other House leaders, a letter the Speaker received as well, with what I thought were very reasonable and practical solutions on how this place can get back to some sense of normalcy. If we are not signalling from this place to Canadians that we are getting back to normal, then what type of message are we sending?
One of the reasonable and practical solutions that I proposed was to look at this in August or September. If some southern hemisphere variant is going to be here, as the and his partner in the NDP are suggesting, then why not revisit this in August and September? We have proven over the last couple of years that we have the tools, that we can flip the switch if we need to.
The government's argument is that we need certainty. Well, there is certainty. There is certainty in the land right now, because we are seeing the lifting of public health guidelines, masking mandates, vaccine mandates. I do not know what evidence or science the Liberals are looking at, but it is certainly nothing that they are sharing with us, our colleagues in the Bloc or any other parties so that we can make an informed decision. It is just an arbitrary method to completely seize control of this place, as is the pattern they have shown in the past.
As I said, it is really diminishing the value of our democratic institutions. This is a government, quite frankly, that does not want an opposition; it wants an audience.
The has shown his contempt for this place. He has shown his contempt for institutions and he has shown contempt for the opposition parties. There is no greater example of that than some of the scandals that have gone on, including the current scandal, with the lines of differentiation be damned between the executive branch and the government and our institutions that are supposed to function independently of government and the executive branch.
The government has proven time and time again that it is going to interfere in the institutions that Canadians hold so dear. We are seeing a diminishment in those institutions and we are certainly seeing a decline in our democracy.
As I said last night, even the pundits are suggesting that it is time to get back to normal here. Even the pundits are saying that this is done, that this is over. We need to return to normal to signal to the rest of Canadians that we are returning to normal, and if that is not the signal from this place, then what signal are we sending? We cannot live in perpetual fear. We cannot live in a state where the government is inciting this fear among its citizens. Let us look at where we are in September and make a decision then.
This week we could have been dealing with many other issues. I am going to suggest that this is a country in chaos right now, when we see what is happening with inflation and the affordability crisis that is facing Canadians, when we look at the passport situation and the fiasco that is going on there, when we look at other factors, not the least of which is what we are hearing out of Nova Scotia about the government, the 's Office and the 's office interfering with an active investigation, not to mention the scandals that have gone on in the past. We could have been dealing with many issues other than the speculative issue that the and his buddy in the NDP predict may happen. We could have been dealing with and seized with these issues. We could have been providing solutions so that we can help Canadians who are facing this affordability crisis right now.
I would suggest the Conservatives have done that many times in the past. Over the course of the last several months, we have proposed solutions like lowering taxes, lowering gas taxes and getting rid of the carbon tax to make life more affordable for Canadians, and every single time, those proposals have been rejected by the government. We have proven time and time again that we want to find solutions and work to help Canadians, but in that time that the government has rejected our proposals since the coalition agreement between the NDP and the Liberals has taken effect, the NDP voted 95% of the time with the Liberals to reject those proposals.
This is a party that used to stand up for working families. The NDP used to stand up for principles. There were members in the party who actually had a moral compass system. They had values, and they stood up for what was right or wrong. Now they are standing up every single time with these Liberals, and they do that because of promises. This is a government that cannot deliver even the most basic services in this country, yet the NDP signed a deal with this government that proposes to bring about dental care and pharmacare. Now, let us think about that. The government cannot even deliver the most basic services, yet the NDP is depending on it to implement complicated systems. Boy, have they been sold a bill of goods.
As well, they have sold their values and their morals, the things they used to stand for in this place. They used to stand up for what was right and against what was wrong. They have sold those values on a wing and a prayer.
I have news for the NDP members. If this government cannot even deliver basic services to Canadians, how can it be expected to deliver on its promises in this deal as a coalition government? Canadians will be waiting a long time for that.
However, in the meantime, what we see from the NDP in question period is gross. The NDP is asking this government questions on accountability issues, yet supporting the government on every aspect of what it is doing at least 95% of the time. It is actually gross to see. The NDP could have followed the people before them, like Tom Mulcair, who used to stand on values and principles in this place and who used to actually act like an opposition, and others like Jack Layton and Tommy Douglas, who fought for working Canadians. Where has that NDP gone?
I will make a prediction right now that the NDP is heading into an abyss of irrelevance because of this deal that it made with the Liberal government that it continues to prop up. The NDP will continue to prop up the government on all of the issues of corruption, on all of the issues of cronyism, on all of the issues of political interference, on not fulfilling its promises and on not living up to what it promised Canadians, not the least of which was electoral reform. That should have been a signal to this government.
He does not like what I am saying, so he—
Madam Speaker, it is very relevant. It is not lost on me that every time any member on this side—and even in the Bloc Québécois, for that matter—starts saying things that the member does not like, he jumps up on a point of order just to disrupt the interaction. That is too bad. If he does not like what I have to say, too bad.
I want to focus as well on a couple of other things that are critical in this debate on whether we return to a hybrid system in the fall.
What is not being taken into account, and I know Madam Speaker is fully aware of this, is that there have been increases in injuries within the interpretation bureau. We have received numerous reports over the last several years that there has been a ninefold increase in injuries among those people who work so hard to ensure that we have world-class interpretation in this place, and when I say “world-class”, I mean it is unlike any other around the world.
We are seeing increased workplace injuries. We have been told that those workplace injuries are going to continue as long as we continue with a hybrid system here in the House and at committee. Why the government and the NDP are proposing to jeopardize the health and safety of our interpretation bureau is beyond me, especially since the warning signs and signals have been sent.
We are seeing a diminishing pool of interpreters, for which these workplace injuries are not the least reason. That puts the bilingualism component of our Parliament at risk for all of us, especially those who are francophone in this place and those who listen in who are francophone, and calls into question the future of bilingualism and the ability of interpreters to relay what is going on to francophone Canadians. I think that needs to be strongly considered as we consider moving into this hybrid Parliament format.
It is no surprise to the House that we want to signal to Canadians that we are getting back to some sense of normalcy, but there is no reason, no science, no evidence and no rationale as to why we are dealing with this in the waning hours of this session of Parliament, all because the government House leader and the NDP House leader do not want to return to normal. That is the only alternative. They want to continue the decline in the relevance of this institution by allowing ministers and members to not be here. It is sad.
I wear this bracelet around my wrist. It says, “Lest we forget”. I have said this before in this place, because I often think about the lives that have been lost and the families that have been decimated by war. Those who have defended our country in faraway lands to allow us all the privilege to sit in our symbol of democracy did not fight so we can sit on Zoom. They did not fight so ministers can hide from accountability. They did not fight to see a decline in our democracy. They fought to strengthen our democracy and to ensure that it was sustainable for years to come, but what the government is proposing is limiting and diminishing our democratic institution.
I know the government is going to argue otherwise, but we have seen it. We have seen a lack of accountability and transparency. We have seen the government hide using these tools. We saw it with Bill . We saw the chaos that ensued at committee when the chair was sitting in her living room trying to manage and deal with a complicated and substantive bill with hundreds of amendments.
It is done. It is over. Its time has come. It served a purpose at the time, but it serves a purpose no longer when no other legislatures in this country, provincial or territorial, or around the world, are using a hybrid system. It is done. It is over.
In the time I have left, I move, seconded by the hon. member for , that the motion be amended:
(a) in paragraph (i) by deleting all the words after the words “motion is adopted” and substituting the following: “or adopted on division, provided that precedence shall be given to a request for a recorded division followed by an indication the motion is adopted on division”;
(b) in paragraph (p) (i) by adding after the word “videoconference” the following: “provided that members participating remotely be in Canada”, (ii) by adding after the words “resources for meetings shall be” the following: “subject to the provisions of paragraph (j) of the order adopted on Monday, May 16, 2022”, (iii) by adding after subparagraph (vi) the following: “(vii) any proceedings before a committee in relation to a motion to exercise the committee's power to send for persons, papers and records shall, if not previously disposed of, be interrupted upon the earlier of the completion of four hours of consideration or one sitting week after the motion was first moved, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the motion shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment”; and
(c) in paragraph (q) (i) by deleting all the words in subparagraph (ii) and substituting the following: “members participating remotely shall be in Canada and shall be counted for the purpose of quorum”, (ii) by adding after subparagraph (v) the following: “(vi) any proceedings before the committee in relation to a motion to exercise the committee's power to send for persons, papers and records shall, if not previously disposed of, be interrupted upon the earlier of the completion of four hours of consideration or one sitting week after the motion was first moved, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the motion shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate and amendment”.
Madam Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
Once again, we are debating a motion aimed at extending hybrid parliamentary proceedings. Let me make one thing clear: Hybrid Parliament is not a cure-all. There are a number of problems with the format. It was supposed to be temporary, and I hope that is still the intention.
First, there are the interpretation problems. On several occasions, the interpretation has stopped working or interpreters have fallen ill for various reasons. This format is extremely demanding on our human resources. We must be aware of that.
Second, there is the matter of accountability. The government is hiding behind a two-dimensional format. It is always easier for ministers to hide their incompetence behind a screen than in person. It is a little less embarrassing. That is one of the reasons the Liberal Party likes the hybrid format so much. It is a way of dodging accountability. As we know, this government does not like Parliament. It does not like to talk or negotiate. It would rather impose its own law.
This was a minority government. Thanks to the NDP, it became a majority government and, thanks to the , it is now an authoritarian government. There are no more negotiations, but the extension of the hybrid Parliament is something that should be negotiated by common agreement or consensus. We are changing the way Parliament operates. That is a big deal. I am not wrong in saying that it has changed.
Democracy requires that ministers and members be present. That way, we can do more parliamentary work and discuss current files and future committees. We can do that when we are here in person. This is a government that likes to run away. Considering all of the disasters Quebeckers and Canadians are going through because of this government, the reason is obvious. This government is just plain incompetent.
The day before yesterday, June 21, we ran into problems with the hybrid format. That shows just how fragile it is. The Bloc Québécois wanted to be able to continue to do our parliamentary work during the pandemic, but we would have liked to have more of a discussion about extending the hybrid Parliament, instead of having it imposed on us like the government is doing today. It was not urgent.
Lastly, we hope, and in fact we know, that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs will be looking at the extension of the hybrid Parliament to determine what will happen next. They should be able to see that it is not going too well. There are a number of problems.
What do the other parties think?
As I mentioned, the Liberals do not want anything to do with Parliament. They do not want to hold discussions, so they like the idea of continuing in hybrid format. The government's position is as follows: less time in Parliament and more virtual answers, which is far easier. If the Liberals had their way, Parliament would stay hybrid until the end of time.
Why are we talking about a hybrid Parliament?
We are talking about it because of the pandemic, and yet, when we ask the New Democrats why they want a hybrid Parliament, they do not even mention the pandemic. They talk about improving work-life balance and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The NDP government—because, yes, the NDP is now part of the government—agreed to the Bay du Nord project and to increased subsidies for the Trans Mountain pipeline, and now the NDP members come along and tell us that we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
As the said, the truth is that the New Democrats want to stay home because they live far away, and flying hurts their ears. That is their position. They like to participate, but from a distance.
The reality is that elected members of Parliament are accountable. We have responsibilities and obligations towards our constituents. Sitting in Parliament is the primary responsibility. Hiding behind a screen will not make us work any better. No one here believes that, but that is the position the NDP government has taken.
The Bloc Québécois believes that the virtual mode should not be the norm, it should be the exception in a context of COVID-19. People should be able to participate virtually if they have the virus or if they have been in contact with someone who does. Virtual mode should be used only in those cases. There are several members we have barely seen for two years. Why is that? Do they have eternal COVID? Did they dive into a little pool full of COVID? Did they make friends with two viruses and start going around with them all the time? That is the reality. I will not name any names, but we know who they are and, above all, we know which party does this.
If we want to make this about work-life balance, if we want to use less gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, then it will be up to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to discuss it and to decide if we will have a permanent hybrid Parliament.
With respect to the NDP members' thinking, the pandemic is not the real reason for this. They want a permanent hybrid Parliament, and we do not agree with that.
Why are we talking about this on June 23? We have been co-operating with the government for more than two weeks so that we could rise for the summer today. Remember, Parliament voted to recognize the Quebec nation. Saint-Jean-Baptiste festivities are taking place today and tomorrow, and we do not understand why we are being forced to sit when this almost never happens. I think it has happened four times in the last 40 years.
We asked the leader of the government to postpone this discussion until the fall for three reasons. First, that is how it has been done since forever. The start of the session is when we determine how the House will operate. Second, there is no rush, because we are going back to our respective ridings. Finally, it would allow us to gather more information.
The Liberals said earlier that we are in a pandemic and we do not know what the future holds. All the more reason to wait and gather information for three months, in order to make more informed decisions, but they are talking about extending the hybrid Parliament for a year. Would we still need a year or six months? Perhaps by September, we would have had more answers, and more intelligent ones, to our questions. The Liberals clearly do not care much about intelligent answers. Just look at the passport situation.
We therefore suggested that we postpone the discussion until the fall because we have some problems with the hybrid Parliament model. As I said earlier, we view this model as an impediment to democracy and do not think it should be the norm. I am repeating this, because it is important. The hybrid model must be an exception.
Looking back, there is one point I want to bring up. I know that the member for enjoys making lists of who votes and who does not vote. He is not concerned about his own party, but no matter. When Bloc Québécois members were not in the House, it was usually because, with few exceptions, they had caught COVID‑19 or had been in close contact with someone who had it. We always viewed hybrid Parliament as an exception. We are trying to set an example. We believe in walking the talk. The government's recognition of the Quebec nation cannot be all talk. It needs to take action. Once again, the government has failed to walk the talk.
For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois will vote against the motion.
Mr. Speaker, today, June 23, and tomorrow, Quebeckers will gather to celebrate. I invite everyone to proudly celebrate our national holiday. The large celebrations in Quebec City and Montreal will be held tonight.
In my riding, we will be celebrating this evening in Joliette, Saint-Charles-Borromée, Notre-Dame-des-Prairies, Rawdon, Crabtree, Saint-Michel-des-Saints and Sainte-Marcelline.
After two years of the pandemic, this national holiday is a very good occasion to get back to proudly celebrating together our love for Quebec and for our national language.
The 188th celebration will bring people together and inspire them. This year's theme is “One Language, a Thousand Accents”, which refers to the immense richness that our beautiful language contributes to Quebec culture and identity. Quebec society is vibrant, innovative and open to the future. We want our nation to develop in French. In that regard, I want to quote Michel Tremblay from today's edition of the Journal de Montréal:
I looked for a new argument to warn against the danger to the French language in Quebec. It seemed to me that everything had already been said and repeated. Then I remembered the last verses of Émile Nelligan's Vaisseau d’or: What has my heart become, thus set adrift at sea? Alas, that ship has sunk in an abyss of dreams! We must not let the French language sink in an abyss of dreams; we must make it flourish, we must make it prevail.
I would also like to take a moment to quote Gilles Vigneault, who was also published in the Journal de Montréal:
Language is like a country, both nomadic and sedentary!
Words, like its inhabitants, travel around the world.
If you recognize them, if these are your words,
They are your passport; this is your country!
Everyone's country is a strange thing
That sleeps through the long winter, like a rose in the garden, only to wake up in the spring, after I'd nearly forgotten about it
Creating a garden that is both numerous and singular
It is, simultaneously: house, garden, ship,
The ocean, the fountain and the tree and the paper.
No sooner had these words come off the pen
Than I heard the wind. A tacking sail
Is inviting me to prepare for a long journey...
What do words offer to the entire planet,
In space and time, where borders don't matter...
Should we leave at night or at daybreak?
The smallest window becomes a mirror in the dead of night
And reflects back to me the words I need to know myself.
At dawn...we have to believe someone is waiting for us, somewhere. Lutetia, Athens, Rome...are they part of my history?
The word LANGUAGE, immense and deep territory, will tell me where I come from, where I'm going...so I'm off!
Before I quoted those two giants, a few moments ago I said “we will be celebrating” in my riding. However, I probably cannot include myself in that “we”, because we here in the House are likely to be sitting late again tonight.
The thing is, in Quebec, local, national and federal elected representatives usually attend the celebrations. It is a perfect opportunity to meet the people we represent. I will not be able to do that this year. We will not be able to do it after two years of a pandemic. We asked the government to wrap things up earlier this afternoon by adopting the Friday schedule, but it refused. The had zero interest in accommodating our request. Why? Because we have to debate this motion.
The government wants to extend the hybrid Parliament by a year. It seems to think this is a pressing issue that we cannot just discuss when we come back at the end of the summer. This government and its leader stubbornly opted to prevent Quebec members from celebrating our national holiday with our constituents. That speaks volumes about the Liberals' respect for Quebec. That is how Canada recognizes the Quebec nation. We will remember this.
Throughout the spring, the government has been ramping up the number of gag orders to get bills passed quickly. The House did not have to sit late tonight. However, the government and its leader do not care about my nation. I think it is best to describe this government with bird names, which is about all it deserves: mockingbird, cuckoo, woodcock, dodo, cuckold, chicken, tufted tit-tyrant, little bustard, horned screamer, smew, turkey and vulture. I will stop there, even though it is deserving of more.
Their insensitivity is not unrelated to the fact that this session has been marked by a clash of values between the federal government and Quebec, as well as by the ineptitude of a Liberal party that is struggling to keep the government functioning at the most basic level. The has made it official: He intends to attack Quebec's Bill 21 on state secularism, as well as Quebec's Bill 96 on the protection of French.
He introduced a bill on official languages that does not protect French in Quebec but instead protects the right to anglicize federal workplaces. He condoned reducing the political weight of the Quebec nation in the Parliament of Canada.
This government embodies the clash between the values of Canada and Quebec on every issue. We in the Bloc Québécois will continue our work, which is now more essential than ever, to defend and promote Quebec's interests.
This session made it clear just how incompetent the federal government is. If governing means looking ahead, the passport crisis paints a picture of a worn-out government caucus that is struggling to provide even basic services to Quebeckers.
The number of Liberal ministers who have been in the hot seat at the end of this session because of embarrassing mistakes is worrisome. This government is incapable of being proactive. It would rather make grand gestures in front of the camera than ensure the sound day-to day management of the country's affairs.
What is more, the Liberals seem to have knowingly lied to Quebeckers and Canadians about the greenhouse gas reduction targets and invoking the Emergencies Act at the request of police.
We asked for more powers for Quebec in the area of immigration from an unwilling government.
We noted the resistance of federal parties to state secularism when we proposed abolishing the prayer in the House.
We raised the debate about ideological criteria being imposed on funding for scientific research, which the government refused to consider.
The Bloc Québécois voiced the concerns of Quebeckers on gun violence, in particular by introducing Bill to create a list of criminal organizations when faced with a federal government that has a lax approach to gun trafficking and organized crime.
We also advocated for the environment in a Canadian Parliament that, in the midst of the climate crisis, supports the Bay du Nord oil project.
We also continued to fight for increased funding for health care and the abolition of two classes of seniors by increasing old age security for people aged 65 and over.
If the Liberals wanted to convince Quebeckers that they have everything to gain by looking after all their public matters themselves, they would not go about it any other way. They used the artificial majority they gained with the NDP's support to oppose Quebec. Quebeckers have taken note. We will remember.