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View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-06-17 15:52 [p.2497]
Madam Chair, I am very happy and honoured that the leader of the Bloc Québécois and hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly agreed to share his time with me. It is almost too great an honour, but, given that this is an opportunity to continue what I passionately started this afternoon, I will certainly not turn it down.
Like the leader of the Bloc Québécois, I pointed out yesterday that the government offered $14 billion to Quebec and the provinces to cover some of the expenses incurred as a result of the current pandemic. Beyond the obvious fact that this amount is hugely inadequate, there is also another issue: The $14 billion come with certain conditions.
Quebec and the provinces have rejected these conditions, and as a result, the money is not being paid. The funds were to be used to purchase masks, among other things. Meanwhile, the pandemic continues, and the masks have not been purchased because the federal government insists on imposing conditions. It does not manage any hospitals, long-term care facilities, child care networks or public transportation networks, but it claims to know all about them.
When we asked that the government provide money without strings attached, a genius across the aisle said we were asking for a blank cheque. It so happens that our friends across the aisle know all about blank cheques. Despite having a minority government, for weeks now the Liberals have been asking Parliament to give them blank cheques.
At first, realizing that we needed to help people, we decided to work in a spirit of collaboration to help our fellow citizens who have been sorely affected by the pandemic. We collaborated, because we believed that was our role, as parliamentarians.
Some people think that, because we are the opposition, we always have to oppose the government. Like my colleagues from Beloeil—Chambly and La Prairie, I once sat in an assembly where almost 80% of bills were passed unanimously. Contrary to what the government House leader says, the opposition is not only there to oppose and squabble. On the contrary, we have collaborated from the very beginning. However, when those with whom we have been collaborating do not keep their word and prefer to use the powers we gave them to do pretty much anything they want, regardless of the commitments they made to us, we are less inclined to keep on collaborating.
We did not close the door. Last week we proposed that we suspend the sitting so that the party leaders could agree on how to proceed with passing the bill to grant more money for people with disabilities. It was the Liberal Party that said no. The Liberals did not want to have to negotiate. They are acting as if they were a majority government that can demand blank cheques and they do not care about anyone else. If we do not give them a blank cheque, that is it. There is no negotiation.
In the end, all kinds of people, and especially people with disabilities, should have been getting more money, but they are not getting it. We ended up in this situation because the Liberal Party decided not to allow leaders to negotiate and because it shut down Parliament.
Since Parliament is not sitting, aside from the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic, we cannot pass legislation. The government cannot introduce a bill because Parliament has been shut down. That, right there, is the truth.
Today, the government is asking for yet another blank cheque. This time, the cheque is for the supplementary estimates, so that the government can continue its weeks-long spending spree. The way the process works is that we initially have to give the government permission to spend some funds before we finish considering the votes, so that government operations can continue.
Canada is not like the United States, where people get laid off for stretches of time until the budget is agreed upon.
That would be how the process works normally, but we are not proceeding normally. The debate on the supply bill, which we have to vote on, is happening under highly extraordinary circumstances.
As the Bloc Québécois leader said moments ago, the government seems to have once again negotiated support so that it can keep spending like it wants to and so the Prime Minister can keep putting on a show in front of his cottage every day without worrying about Parliament. He was given the power to spend, so he takes the money, talks it over with his ministers—
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