Mr. Speaker, like my colleagues before me, I am going to take a few minutes to thank and recognize some people, since this is the first time I rise in the House for any length of time.
First, I would like to thank the people of Saint-Jean for placing their trust in me. I will work hard to live up to their expectations. I also thank them for allowing me to come home after a short period of exile in Montreal. I thank them for this unexpected opportunity they have given me.
I would also like to thank the Bloc Québécois supporters in my riding, who helped me run an election campaign that favourably compared to, and was even a little bit better than, the campaigns of the other candidates, despite limited resources.
I would like to thank my friends and especially my family who, oddly enough, discovered a passion for politics this year and began to follow the polls and various projections as closely as the hockey stats.
Finally, I would like to thank the polling officials and clerks in Saint-Jean who worked very diligently and quickly so that my election as a Quebec MP was the first to be announced.
That is all I have for acknowledgements.
My colleagues have already delved into the substance of the issue before us, so I would like to focus on the form, on the actual creation of a special committee.
There seems to be a consensus in the House right now about the importance of maintaining healthy diplomatic relations with major international players, such as China in this case. Members also seem to agree that this is a complex issue because it touches on both diplomatic and trade relations, which are inextricably linked.
We all agree on those things, and I think it is important to take the size of this particular trading partner into account along with the substance and weight of the economic issues involved. Everyone agrees that the repercussions are affecting our constituents directly. My western colleagues talked about canola producers, and my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot discussed the challenges facing pork producers. We all agree that this is an important issue.
Bearing all that in mind, what is the role of a committee?
Being new to the House, I took it upon myself to open the big green book, which is such a weighty yet essential tome. I am talking about Bosc and Gagnon, the 2017 edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice. I consulted it simply to refresh my memory regarding the relevance and purpose of committees. The authors remind us that committees allow us to dig deeper into complex matters and expand our knowledge of these issues.
In contrast to oral question period in the House, which is sometimes more of a question period than an answer period, committee meetings allow members to gather more information, particularly by calling in outside experts and stakeholders. Committees also make recommendations. Committee work helps the House plan for the future and perform better, while oral question period is more of an exercise in complaining about what has been done in the past.
Creating a special committee to study a particular issue, as opposed to referring it to a standing committee, sends different messages. In this case, the House would be creating the special committee and giving it a mandate, instead of allowing a standing committee to decide whether to study an issue. As has been mentioned already, a standing committee could decide that the issue in question does not fall under its mandate and punt it over to other standing committees. We would avoid this by creating a special committee.
Winston Churchill supposedly said that a camel is a horse designed by committee. If we do not create the special committee, I worry that we might end up with no design and no committee.
We would have no answer, and no committee would be mandated by the House to work on the complex file of the China-Canada relationship.
One of the arguments we are hearing through the grapevine against creating a special committee on the Canada-China relationship is that creating such a committee might jeopardize the safety of the hostages being detained in China. There are two issues with that argument.
First, subscribing to that argument undermines the legitimacy of the House. We would be muzzling ourselves for fear of external reprisals. We would be avoiding doing committee work for fear of what another country might think. Taking this argument to its absurd conclusion, would we have to completely stop talking about the Canada-China relationship during question period? Would we have to stop standing committees from choosing to study the matter? Would we have to stop talking about it now? The argument that we should fear the scrutiny and judgment of the country under discussion does not hold water.
Rejecting the creation of a special committee would also send the wrong message to two entities, the first being China. Creating a special committee would be a good opportunity to create the first positive consensus in the House, which is one thing Canadians have asked for, given that they elected a minority government. Creating a special committee would send China the message that we want to find a healthier way of practising diplomacy.
Creating a special committee would send a positive message to the public, our constituents and our voters. In this case, we would be sending a message mainly to our farmers, because it would clearly show them that we do not want this to happen again in the future. By creating a special committee, we would be saying that we want to address the issue of diplomatic relations in order to strengthen and improve our procedures for all the businesses we depend on. We would be showing that we want to move forward.
It seems to me that this is a particularly interesting opportunity to work as a team, to improve ourselves and to properly fulfill our role as parliamentarians.