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View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-05-26 17:04 [p.2462]
Mr. Speaker, a few moments ago, I rose in the House to express the fact that I was extremely concerned about what was going on.
My colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue, with whom I am sharing my time, will certainly have the opportunity to express his own views on the matter, but I had the opportunity to say how uneasy I felt about what we are seeing right now.
What I find deeply disturbing is that, while claiming that co-operation between the parties has yielded extremely positive results so far, the government insists on ending negotiations, on ending this co-operation that, in its own words, has been so fruitful up to now.
As proof of that, earlier, a Liberal member asked a Conservative member what they were proposing. That is all they have been doing for the past two days, proposing things. This has been a fruitless discussion, because the government has decided that, no matter what we might say here in the House, that is how it is going to be.
Why has the government decided that this is how things would go? It is because it negotiated an agreement with the NDP behind closed doors. The government prefers to reach agreements in secret rather than reaching a compromise here, in front of everyone, where Canadians and Quebeckers can listen to us. I imagine that they have listened a little over the past few hours, and I imagine that they were a little disappointed to hear us having discussions without reaching any sort of compromise.
I do not believe that it would have been so difficult to find a compromise. I will explain. The government was really intent on having a hybrid Parliament based on the highly laudable principle that all 338 members of the House must be able to participate in its work. No matter their age, no matter where they live in Canada, they must be able to participate in this work.
I think we should applaud the government's desire to allow all parliamentarians to participate in the work of the House. The problem is that they decided to use the objective of having a virtual Parliament to change how the work is done. Not content with establishing a hybrid Parliament, they decided to mothball Parliament. That is what I find extremely troubling.
I believe my colleague from Manicouagan has very thoughtfully explained what we see as problematic. We are being told we will get more time to ask questions, which I am trying to reconcile with the fact that we will be getting 90 minutes a day for four days. When I compare that to five days of parliamentary work from 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., I simply cannot figure out how that works out to more time. I have never been good at math, but something tells me this works out to less time at the end of the day.
I am perplexed as to why there are parliamentarians in the House, whether Liberal or NDP, who think it is a good idea to muzzle parliamentarians during all this time when we could be not only asking questions but also passing legislation.
What is absolutely mind-boggling to see is that this government, which was elected with a very full agenda, now seems to no longer want to legislate. It is as though the Liberal Party has run out of ideas. Conversely, they may have decided that it is much too cumbersome to have to come before Parliament to pass legislation, when it is so easy, with the extraordinary powers they have given themselves, to just step outside the cottage and announce all sorts of measures that then become reality. Why go through this necessary evil of a Parliament when they can do everything directly from the Prime Minister’s residence? All they have to do is step outside every morning at 11 a.m. to make a little announcement. Everything has been decided behind closed doors, without consulting the provinces, as we saw, for example, in the purpose behind this secret—now no longer a secret—agreement between the government and the New Democrats. They reached a deal saying that it would be a good idea to give workers sick leave.
Of course it is a good idea. It is an idea that we welcome and support. The problem is that this is not the right Parliament to do that. Once again, our Liberal and NDP friends have decided to trample on the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. They are always interfering in the affairs of Quebec and the provinces. After reaching a backroom deal with the New Democrats and without consulting the provinces, the Prime Minister came out one morning at 11 a.m. and announced a sick leave program for workers. He said in the same breath that because he lacks the constitutional jurisdiction over that, he needed to reach an agreement with the provinces first. That is putting the cart before the horse. It seems to me that they should have first talked to the provinces, agreed on the terms and then made the announcement.
Instead, the government exploited this very important and crucial issue of sick leave for workers in order to mothball Parliament. The government took advantage of this very important issue to muzzle members. I do not understand why opposition members agreed to do away with their speaking time in the House. Sure, we can ask more questions. That is great, but we will not be passing legislation. Our main duty as parliamentarians is to legislate. We have a duty to oversee government activities, sure, but we also have a legislative function. Is there anyone here who remembers that one of our functions is to legislate? We are no longer doing that. We are operating through orders in council. Cabinet meets, decides what could work, and then it is implemented.
It is simply disappointing to see that the government would rather negotiate behind closed doors than out in the open where everyone can see what is going on. The government is saying that we have not yet agreed on how members will be allowed to vote. We need to send that to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and have the committee think about how members could vote. It has been proven that necessity is the mother of invention. In the beginning, when we talked about a virtual Parliament, everyone was wondering how we would do it. When we spoke about a hybrid Parliament, everyone was wondering how we would do that. It did not take much to make those things happen. We made it work. I think that we could have just as easily come up with a mechanism that would allow members to vote. There was simply a lack of will to do so. The government preferred to muzzle Parliament. In my opinion, these are not exactly the glory days of Canada's parliamentary system.
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