Orwell said, Mr. Chair, that if freedom of speech means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. Obviously, government members on this committee do not want to hear what I have to say, but I still have the right to say it. Regulators do not want to hear what Canadians have to say. They still have the right to say it.
If we have to stand alone as Conservatives in this fight for freedom of expression, so we will do. We will stand for the right of people to say what they like and express themselves freely without interference and coercion by the state. That is why we're here with such contention today. It's why we have fought so hard on the floor of the House of Commons and why we have committed, very proudly, to be the only party that will repeal Bill C-10 and restore free speech online for all Canadians.
Numerous senior ministers, including the Prime Minister, have said they see COVID as an opportunity for them to expand the power and scope of the state—to make people like them more powerful. That is why they have attempted to take over large parts of the economy, massively increase government spending, limit freedom of choice for parents in how they raise their kids, and now censor what people say online.
If members of the government think we're going to sit by and allow that to happen, then they've ignored 800 years of parliamentary history, where commoners have routinely stood up to defend their freedom through the system of Parliament that we have inherited through so many generations.
I am not surprised to hear that the Liberals want the federal government to have more power and that federal officials should control people's speech. However, I am surprised to learn that the Bloc Québécois, which claims to want to separate itself from Canada, and therefore from the authority of the Canadian state, is supporting a bill giving federal officials the power to control the speech and words of Quebeckers. The Bloc Québécois should be called the centralizing Bloc, since it now wants to give the federal government in Ottawa the power to control what Quebeckers say. How is this consistent with the independence of the Quebec nation?
We, the Conservatives, are the only party standing up for the freedom of expression of Quebeckers. Apparently, we are the only party that understands that people's speech, people's words are not under federal or provincial jurisdiction, but under individual jurisdiction. Everyone has the freedom to express themselves without interference from the state. We believe that all Quebeckers should be able to decide what to say, when to say it and how to say it.
I am shocked that a sovereignist party would give the Canadian state the power to control the way Quebeckers express themselves. It is ironic. Most Quebeckers would be really surprised to hear that this party, supposedly the Bloc Québécois, is in favour of giving the federal government much more power on this issue.
We, the Conservatives, are proud to defend the autonomy of Quebeckers. Everyone is free to say what they want and to choose how they express themselves on the Internet and elsewhere. Although the Conservatives seem to be the only ones willing to protect these freedoms, I am proud that we do. At the same time, I must admit that it is disappointing and surprising that no other party is willing to do the same.
From what I can see, the Bloc Québécois and the Liberals are listening to the lobbyists, the officials and the politicians in Ottawa, who simply want to protect their interests by excluding people and controlling content. The Liberals and the Bloc are attacking Quebec artists. Those artists will have the opportunity to choose the only party that supports freedom of expression, the Conservative Party.
Such is the nature of the debate we are having. However, there is still time. The Bloc Québécois may still have the opportunity to see that Quebeckers do not want the federal government to decide for them, and to understand that everyone, including Quebeckers, must have the freedom to express themselves.
That's really the choice. All of the other parties want to give more power to bureaucrats, lobbyists and politicians, and one party wants to give power back to the people. That's the Conservative Party. We're standing up all by ourselves to defend the principle that people should be able to express themselves even if the government and the political establishment close to the government disagree. Quite frankly, I'm proud that we're taking this principled stand, that we are speaking our mind and defending the millions of Canadians who are going to be voiceless if this bill passes.
What we've seen from the other parties is a desire to massively increase the power of the state at the expense of the people. When the state becomes more powerful, the people become weaker and smaller. That, of course, is the goal, the purpose of this bill and so many other power grabs that we have witnessed over the last year.
Remember, when this pandemic began, the first thing the Prime Minister did was try to pass a law empowering him to raise any tax to any level for any reason, without even holding a vote, for two years. He wanted to have that power locked in until the year 2022, the ability to just raise any tax with an executive order. That has never been done in our parliamentary system. The basic principle of no taxation without representation means that the government can't tax what Parliament doesn't approve. He tried to take that power away and impose higher taxes on the Canadian people.
Instead, we fought back, and to the credit of the Canadian people who joined us in the backlash, he backed down. We hope that he will back down again before this censorship bill becomes law. As you all know, there has been a massive outcry against this bill. You've heard it. Your leader has heard it. Unfortunately, here's the problem: Instead of recognizing the opposition, this Prime Minister has been threatened by it. He said the last thing we need is more dissent and debate in this country, because then people won't agree with him. Therefore, he needs to pass a law to shut them down, silence their voices and prevent them from speaking up in the future. That is exactly what this bill does.
The bill needs to be repealed in its entirety, every single word of it. Not only that, it's interesting that my original suspicions about this bill were fulfilled. I said on the floor of the House of Commons last year, before the bill got much notice, that it would lead to Internet censorship. However, the government had put in a proposed section saying that user-generated content would be excluded, user-generated content being the material that everyday Canadians post online. They were able to use that as a fig leaf to cover up their true censorship intentions, but then the fig leaf dropped about a month and a half ago when the government, with the backing of other opposition parties, removed that one protection that was supposed to let everyday Canadians continue to post what they wanted online.
They just eliminated that altogether, even though the department's own charter analysis had shown that the bill relied on that protection in order to keep the bill constitutionally viable. They said, “Don't worry, this bill won't touch freedom of speech—it's got this one key exclusion.” Then they took that exclusion out, and here we are with a bill that will control online content and allow government to dictate what people see and say online.
We're going to continue to fight this bill right through all the stages in our efforts to defeat it. I think the Prime Minister is in a mad rush to get it through so that he can have it in place and locked in before the next election. Perhaps he thinks that some of the censorship elements in the bill will help him to win the election, will help suppress criticism of him while he's on the campaign trail so that nobody can expose the corruption of his government, the mismanagement of the pandemic and his horrendous failures at the early stages of the outbreak. All of these things can be suppressed by preventing what people say online.
Then we'll be stuck, of course, with the model of a very small group of liberals in the press gallery dictating the narrative and campaigning for the Prime Minister, without Canadians having the release valve to speak out and spread information and thoughts of their own online. That is, I think, the model that the Prime Minister feels most comfortable with: where you have 30 or 40 liberal press gallery types who go around spreading his message and attacking his enemies and no one is allowed to speak up to the contrary because there's a government regulation to prevent their voices being heard.
I think a lot of liberals have been bewildered by this new social media environment that they can't control. For so long, of course, they had such an iron grip on the discourse, when a small oligopoly of media enterprises could dominate political press coverage. In that environment, liberals thrive, because a small group of elites tells everyone else what to think, and those who dissent are left in the wilderness. They want to bring back that model—a model that is threatened by open free speech and the free expression and circulation of ideas.
You can't maintain a small oligopoly of media voices when everyday people are able to compete in a free market. Trudeau needs to abolish the free market of ideas and bring back a small group of media sycophants and give them the exclusive ability to dominate the discourse. Then, when he gets back to that position, no one will be able to contradict him or the overall party line.
Rest assured that we as Conservatives will fight back against this, and in the end, we will win. We will win this debate. We will overturn this bill. Whether we do it before the election or after, this bill will be defeated and freedom of speech will be restored.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.