Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to rise in the House of Commons today to participate in this debate. The opportunity to debate, to stand and be counted in this chamber is a privilege, and it is the same privilege that those in the 42 Parliaments before us have had.
Now, in the 43rd Parliament, it is difficult to imagine that there are elected members of Parliament who are ready to pass on that privilege, but here we are today. In the midst of a pandemic, the government has put forward a motion that limits the role of Parliament. While this proposal is an improvement, of course, to the first one, it still falls far short of a full Parliament. It is shameful that some would devalue our democracy during a crisis.
Canadians have stepped up during this pandemic. They have followed the guidelines of our health authorities and have taken precautions. Our front-line health care workers have risked their health and safety to care for others. Essential workers have made adjustments to provide necessary services and goods to Canadians. All Canadians have faced disruptions and unforeseen challenges. The social, economic and health impacts of COVID-19 are widespread and, while the impact on each person may vary, not a single person is immune.
As Canadians across the country face these challenges head-on, they need to know that their government is also stepping up. They need to know that their government is committed to getting the best results for Canadians, and they need to know that their government is working to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. Right now, we are navigating the immediate fallout of this health crisis, but we still do not know what the long-term impacts will be.
The quality of governmental leadership will largely dictate the long-term impacts of this crisis. Good leadership is accountable, yet before us is essentially a permission slip from the Prime Minister asking to be less accountable. By limiting the role of Parliament, the Prime Minister is telling Canadians that he would like an audience and not an opposition. The government would like Parliament to govern without scrutiny, without debate and without opposition, but that is not how our democracy works.
Canada is a representative democracy. Three hundred and thirty-eight members of Parliament are elected across this country, each of us representing tens of thousands of constituents. Each of us is sent to Parliament with a mandate from those who have elected us. Each of us has the responsibility to represent all electors in our ridings.
If there are members of Parliament who think that in a time of crisis their responsibility to their constituents is any less, I must question why they chose to put their names on the ballot. In times of crisis, our responsibility to our constituents is even greater. As a member of Her Majesty's loyal opposition, it is my duty to hold the government to account. It is my duty to seek answers for constituents, and it is my duty to stand up for their interests and make them known.
As a Saskatchewan member of Parliament, I will make note that western Canada is notably absent from the cabinet table, and the government benches altogether. Last fall, western Canada rejected the failed policies of this Liberal government. They rejected the Prime Minister's attacks on their livelihoods and their communities. In our democracy, that is their right.
The Prime Minister, however, does not have a licence to shut down their voices by governing without opposition parties. In fact, the principal economic drivers in my riding of Battlefords—Lloydminster have been largely left out of the government's response to COVID-19. They have been left out despite the national importance of both of these economic drivers.
First, the Prime Minister has failed to step up to support Canada's oil and gas sector, a sector that will be critical for a speedy economic recovery for western Canada and, frankly, for Canada as a whole. Aside from paying lip service to the industry, the Prime Minister has failed to follow through with meaningful support. As hours, days and months go by, there is an emptiness to his words. Given the Prime Minister's history of attacking the oil and gas sector and his admitted goal of phasing it out, it is difficult not to view this as anything but a death-by-delay tactic.
The other sector that has been left by the wayside in the government's COVID-19 response is agriculture. Hard-working farm families across this country are facing a crisis of their own. In the past year, they have already been confronted with hardship after hardship beyond their control, and COVID-19 is yet another devastating blow. Our farmers are faced with rising operational costs, a disrupted service industry, labour shortages and reduced capacity at processing plants. Our farmers and producers have already sounded the alarm.
To maintain a steady supply of affordable and healthy food, we have to ensure our vital first link in the food supply chain. We do know that the Canadian Federation of Agriculture had asked the government for an emergency fund, but instead of responding to the specific COVID-19 challenges that our farmers are facing, the Liberals reannounced already-budgeted funding. To make matters worse, while our farmers are trying to face the challenges brought on by COVID-19, the government hiked the carbon tax, reaching into their pockets for more money at a time when they could afford it the least.
The disregard for these two sectors of national importance underscores the absolute necessity for Parliament. The government must be accountable for its actions and also its inaction. It is essential that as individual members of Parliament we have the opportunity to raise the issues that are important to and affect our constituents. We are their voice in the democratic process.
We have seen repeatedly during the COVID-19 special committee meetings the government dodge and deflect questions asked by opposition members that it, frankly, does not want to answer. It has shut down questions it does not want asked and justifies it by stating they are outside the scope of the debate of this committee. I would argue that the impact of COVID-19 is so far-reaching that there is not much beyond its scope. This pattern of avoidance certainly does not invoke confidence that much will change without Parliament fully sitting.
It is not up to the government of the day to decide how it will be held accountable for its governing. When it comes to fiscal responsibility and accountability, the Prime Minister and the finance minister seem equally disinterested.