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View Christine Normandin Profile
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-02-28 12:35 [p.1753]
Madam Speaker, I would like to set the tone for my speech by reading two quotes.
The first is something that the Prime Minister said on October 23, 2019, just after the election. He said, “Canadians have sent a clear message that they want their parliamentarians to work together, and I am committed to doing that”.
The second quote is a response the hon. member for Honoré-Mercier, the government House leader, gave to a statement in the House on December 6, 2019. He said, “...the government is under scrutiny. Well, all parliamentarians are under scrutiny by Canadians. On October 21, Canadians sent us a very clear message. They want us to work together and try to move forward together on matters of common interest.”
The Liberals have a minority government, and I think that they are losing sight of the fact that the term “political opponent” does not mean exactly the same thing as it does in a majority context. In a minority situation, today's opponents may be tomorrow's allies. From this perspective, I believe that the government did not really understand the message sent by Canadians. Canadians were saying that the government needs to work with us because progress will only be made if the entire House works together.
Opposition members, in contrast, truly understand the importance of working together and collaborating, as we have seen on opposition days. I would like to go over a few of the topics we have addressed on opposition days since this Parliament began, which was not that long ago. The House began its work in early December. Several things have emerged from opposition days.
On the first opposition day, the goal was to create a special committee on Canada-China Relations. The Conservatives' motion reminded us that it is important to review the government's conduct to ensure that the diplomatic crises we have experienced in recent months and years, some involving China, do not happen again.
That opposition day reminded the government that it is on notice, that the opposition will make sure the government conducts itself impeccably, that the House is accountable to the people and that all the government's actions must be transparent. We reminded the government that we are keeping a close eye on it, that we are ready to intervene and that we will make sure Canada has good diplomatic relations. That probably would not have happened if the government had a majority.
The second opposition day motion to be voted on called for an audit of the government's investing in Canada plan. It had come to parliamentarians' attention that the Parliamentary Budget Officer posted that budget 2018 provided an incomplete account of the changes to the government's $186.7-billion infrastructure spending plan.
Parliamentarians seized upon the opportunity provided by a Conservative proposal that would give the Parliamentary Budget Officer more powers, authorize him to immediately conduct an audit of spending under the government's investing in Canada plan and ask him to report to the House. Again, in this context, the opposition took a watchdog role, keeping an eye on what is happening in the House. The opposition fully understood its importance, and, above all, it understood the importance of collaboration, because the opposition voted as a bloc—no pun intended.
On the third opposition day, we debated a motion to instruct the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to conduct hearings into the death of Marylène Levesque. Parliamentarians studied the question on a Conservative opposition day. The Conservatives highlighted the importance of reviewing certain procedures, including the provision of training to Parole Board officers.
As we mentioned then, although the Bloc did not fully agree with the proposed wording, it supported the motion nonetheless. The opposition used a full day of debate to clarify the nuances and important subtleties. Bloc members explained why it was important to support the Conservative motion, even though it was not perfect.
A full day of debate allowed us to leave no stone unturned so that everyone, both in the House and in our ridings when we return to speak with our constituents, clearly understood what was at play with that proposal.
The last proposal I want to talk about is the one from the Bloc Québécois; I would really be remiss if I let it go unmentioned. It dealt with the issue of special employment insurance sickness benefits. The opposition day served to shed light not only on an important issue, an issue of compassion that affects people in every riding, but also on the unfairness that exists between workers who are laid off when a business closes and those who stop working because of a serious illness. Together with the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP called on the government to increase the benefit period to 50 weeks to ensure fairness between the different categories of workers. Again, it was an opposition day that produced results and allowed the parties to collaborate well together.
Unfortunately, while the decision to set the Conservatives' opposition day for a Friday was clearly intended to punish that party first and foremost, the government does not seem to realize that it punishes the entire population. It deprives them of their right to share ideas from all walks of life, ideas that advance our society and days that give everyone the opportunity to understand the issues of the day.
On the other hand, it is never too late to do the right thing; I think this is what we must keep in mind this week. We saw this with the rail blockade crisis. It seems that the government has finally implemented what the Bloc has been proposing from day one, from the very beginning of the crisis. Apparently, we might finally be approaching a way out of this crisis. Similarly, I would suggest to the government that, once again, it is not too late to do the right thing.
At the beginning of the parliamentary session, there seemed to be a real desire to work together, to advance issues collaboratively. However, it feels like things are going sideways. Once again, it is not too late to change course, to get things back on track and make sure that parliamentarians work together.
If people are already having a hard time getting along, just a few months into this Parliament, and if people already have bad attitudes when we have just barely started our work, then I cannot even imagine what the future holds if we do not fix this situation.
We are being told that more opposition days would mean losing some time to debate other key issues. However, if we do not fix things right now, and if we get caught up in never-ending procedural arguments in the long term, then I fear that we will lose even more days of work. If we are arguing amongst ourselves, starting with little shots at each other and moving up to an eye for an eye, then will all end up blind. That is not what we want.
This is why the Bloc Québécois commends the Conservatives for moving this motion, which I believe is a levelheaded response to a slap in their face. This motion sends a message by creating the least amount of collateral damage possible. This motion serves as a reminder to the government that, although it has acknowledged it in the past, it does not seem to understand that it is a minority government.
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