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View Joël Godin Profile
Madam Speaker, I am very glad to be in the House of Commons in this limited-capacity Parliament, considering that we are facing a crisis caused by COVID-19. We are in the process of developing procedures. We realize that this is the first time that the Canadian government is confronted with this type of situation. Us Conservatives understand the situation and are working with the government to ensure that Canadians and businesses have the tools they need to get through this crisis.
I was there this morning when the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons moved his motion, the purpose of which is to muzzle parliamentarians, plain and simple. The motion asks us to be here once per week. To ask that question is to answer it.
The Prime Minister has decided to limit question period. Every day, this Prime Minister takes questions from journalists, whose job it is to report the news. Our job as parliamentarians is to ask questions in order to improve the situation. I am not saying that the government has only made wrong decisions over the course of this extraordinary situation. I am able to acknowledge that it had no frame of reference in the matter. The government had to act, readjust and I would even say improvise. What I am saying is not negative.
The thing is, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit is a combination of two programs: the support program for victims of COVID-19 and the assistance program. There is support and assistance. In short, they combined two programs together and created the CERB. That is fine, because some changes were made. We made suggestions in that and many other cases.
I have a list, which is not exhaustive, of some of the things our party proposed. The Conservative Party, the official opposition in the House of Commons, advanced measures and programs that the government put in place. We are being accused of being difficult and uncooperative.
Let us look at the facts. Our suggestions have helped volunteer firefighters meet the needs of their municipalities in this crisis without their CERB being reduced. It is a matter of public safety. The government listened to us and changed course. That is our job as the opposition.
This morning, the government House leader, with support from his Bloc friends, said that it was irresponsible to be here in the House of Commons to do our job and work together on finding the tools that will enable Canadians and businesses to receive support in this exceptional situation.
Let us look at what is happening on both sides of the House. We are respecting social distancing rules. If we did not want to co-operate, the opposition benches would be full. That is not what we did. We co-operated. Our leader is negotiating. He had originally proposed four meetings per week. The two other opposition parties, the independents and the government all rejected that proposal. So, we proposed three days, and we are still being called the bad guys.
The Conservative Party is responsible, and parliamentarians are important. Defending democracy is fundamental to parliamentarians. Of course, the Bloc Québécois is reducing Canadian parliamentary procedure to a simple expression: “tataouinage”, or dilly-dallying in English. The Bloc Québécois leader put on quite a show this morning as he described the term. Everyone knows his background and where he comes from, which certainly shone through this morning when he was talking about dilly-dallying. That said, the Bloc is another problem altogether.
For our part, we are here to work together. We want to help, but we want to ask questions. What is the incentive for this minority government—yes, I said “minority government”—to stay away from the House in order to limit the opportunities available to the opposition to challenge it? Is it because the government does not feel comfortable?
Canadians elected a minority government. As a parliamentarian, as an elected official, my interpretation of the word “minority” is that there are doubts about the government's effectiveness and the confidence people have in it. The people have agreed to give it power, but they also want a strong opposition that will protect the public purse and remind the government exactly what our citizens expect. In my case, it is the citizens of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, but I am speaking on behalf of all members, on both this side of the House as well as the other side, that is, the government.
Our job is to report the concerns of our constituents, and we need to be able to do that here in the Parliament of Canada, where the future is determined and where we implement programs that will improve the lives of Canadians.
It really bothers me when the Conservatives take the blame in news reports and are accused of being the bad guys. That is completely untrue and I would like that to be set right. These are facts. No one can contradict what I just said. We are willing to work together, but that does not mean that we are in bed with the Liberal Party. We are not the Bloc Québécois. We are the Conservative Party of Canada. We want to protect the Canadian federation. As a Quebecker, I am happy to be part of Canada because Canada is currently helping Quebec. I thank the government for its collaboration.
That is what the Canadian federation is for. The principle behind it is that sometimes we need something and sometimes we give something. I am proud to rise today in the House of Commons as a Quebec MP to say thank you to our Canada for being there to help us. Now, however, we want Canada to do a better job of helping us, and what we want to do is give the government the opportunity to hear what we have to say. It is clear that it will be harder for the government to do that if we only meet once a week.
We are proud that the 338 MPs' constituency offices are much like Service Canada offices. People are worried and confused. As I was saying earlier, that is because the situation is brand new to us. We are at war with a microbe, a virus. That is why people are a little lost. Even the government is lost.
I want to emphasize that the government is only responding because the opposition is forcing it to think. However, we do not deserve all the credit, because the government is probably also working to make things better. I am also thinking of public service employees, who we know are under a lot of pressure, and I thank them for what they are doing under these unusual circumstances.
This morning, I heard the Green Party, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois say that it is alarming to see members from Quebec coming here to the House of Commons to sit in this reduced Parliament. However, I want to remind the House that construction sites are reopening today, that mechanics have been back in their garages changing winter tires since last Wednesday, and, better yet, that garden centres are open again. Canadians are adapting and practising social distancing. They are complying with guidelines. They are resilient.
I am very proud to represent the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. They are resilient, proud, and supportive of one another, and they follow public health instructions.
I have visited organizations that help those who cannot go to the grocery store. In my role as an MP, I personally delivered food baskets. I went to pick up orders at the grocery stores and delivered them to residents of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. We support one another and and we can be proud of that. I now invite the government to let us work together to strengthen its programs so they meet the needs of Canadians and entrepreneurs.
We have also been talking about a virtual Parliament. We are in a new building. I have had the opportunity to travel abroad. In many parliaments, the desks have integrated monitors and members can vote electronically. We are not there yet.
Mr. Speaker, our leader asked you directly if we have the technology needed to hold a virtual Parliament while respecting the rights of all parliamentarians. What was your answer? As far as I know, we are not yet ready.
As our leader said, when we receive confirmation that it can be done efficiently and with respect for parliamentarians' rights, we will reopen the discussion. In the meantime, we are asking the government to let us meet every day. First, there were going to be four sittings, then three sittings. Perhaps we could agree on two and a half sittings.
We are acting in good faith and we are working in the best interests of Canadians. We also want to get our businesses up and running again and give them the means, when possible, to kick-start the economy and once more create prosperity in Canada.
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