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View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, it is perhaps very fitting that we are meeting here on this day, Holy Saturday, the day between the sadness of Good Friday, the day Christ suffered and died for our sins, and Easter Sunday, the day he rose and conquered death, for we are clearly in the middle of great hardship and suffering, but we have every reason to look ahead with hope and toward the end of the health crisis we are currently facing. Our hope is founded on the ingenuity and resilience of humanity and strengthened by the examples of previous threats that we have all overcome.
The past month has tested Canadians. We have been told to stay at home, away from family and friends. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, religious gatherings have looked different this year. We have relied on Skype or FaceTime to stay connected instead of family dinners, church services or weekend gatherings.
Stores and restaurants have been told to close their doors. As a result, almost six million Canadians have lost their jobs, and the businesses that are still open are worried about how they are going to hang on.
Despite all our efforts, more than 22,000 Canadians have fallen ill and, unfortunately, more than 600 have died. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones.
Over the coming days and weeks, our actions will be more important than ever. Now that the government has presented its projections, we know what to expect. We must continue to follow public health guidelines and we must work together as a country.
On behalf of the official opposition, I want to acknowledge all of the Canadians who are going above and beyond during these unprecedented times.
To the nurses, doctors, truck drivers, grocery store workers, cleaners, pharmacists, farmers and other essential workers, we give our thanks.
To the parents juggling school work and their own jobs, we give our thanks. I have always had respect for the teachers who have influenced my life, but after spending the last few weeks trying to keep my children up to date with their studies, I have a new-found respect and admiration for what they do each and every day of the school year.
To the churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, gurdwaras, food banks, shelters and other organizations helping Canadians during these difficult times, we also give our thanks.
To the public servants working hard each and every day to make sure that Canadians get the help they urgently need, we give our thanks.
Canadians have big questions about what is going on. Our economy is at a standstill, and although the government has announced some programs, Canadians still do not have the money in hand. We have a $184-billion deficit. It will take years of discipline to get Canada's economy back on its feet.
The government presented some new documents to the Standing Committee on Health that also paint a worrisome picture.
As one reporter put it, “[t]he documents...show a government persistently downplaying the threat of coronavirus until it was too late.”
Other countries, such as South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, ramped up testing and secured medical equipment early on, which allowed them to flatten the curve quickly, preventing their economies from being completely shut down. We were told for weeks that the risk of COVID-19 to Canadians was low. We now ask why that risk assessment seemed to change overnight. Why did the government wait so long to impose travel restrictions? Why were travellers not originally screened? Why do we have a critical shortage of medical supplies? Why is it taking the government so long to sign contracts with companies that are offering to retool their facilities to provide much-needed medical equipment? Why are other countries further ahead of us when it comes to testing and tracing? These are some of the questions that Canadians have, and they deserve answers.
While we know that mistakes have been made in the past, Conservatives are focused on looking to the future, on how best to get Canada through this crisis, keep our citizens healthy and get our economy back on track.
The Prime Minister has said that we need to prepare for a second and perhaps a third wave. Canadians want to know how this government is preparing to get ahead of those waves.
This is why the Conservatives are calling for the opportunity to regularly ask questions of the Prime Minister and ministers in the House of Commons on all aspects of the government's response to COVID-19. We also want to hold weekly parliamentary committee meetings, during which members will be able to move motions, call witnesses and question ministers and senior government officials.
We cannot wait for this pandemic to be over to hold the government to account. Parliament has a vital role right now. We will get better results for Canadians through debate, discussion and regular questions from the opposition.
Today's emergency legislation is a good example of this.
When the government first announced a 10% wage subsidy, Conservatives and small business owners across this country raised concerns. Other countries were offering far more. It was clear that 10% was just not going to cut it, so we pushed for a significant increase. A few days later, the wage subsidy was raised to 75%.
Credit unions were not originally allowed to deliver the $40,000 emergency interest-free loans. This left many business owners who use credit unions, especially those in rural locations, in the lurch, making it harder for them to get the support they needed. We called on the government to make changes, and now credit unions can deliver these loans as well.
The need to show a 30% revenue decrease to qualify for the wage subsidy meant that too many new and seasonal businesses did not qualify. We raised this concern, and now there is more flexibility. This week, we rolled up our sleeves and worked with the government to ensure that businesses have the certainty they need to keep their employees on the payroll.
The Conservatives have been part of team Canada since day one, offering constructive solutions to improve the government's response to this pandemic.
However, we know that there is still more work to do.
Conservatives have proposed meaningful solutions, such as rebating the GST to small businesses that have collected it in the last year, to provide a much-needed cash injection. We have also suggested using loss of earnings, subscriptions or orders as a way to ensure that more businesses qualify for this wage subsidy, and we have put forward ideas to help our energy and charitable sectors, such as increasing the charitable donation tax credit.
We want the government to start implementing a solution to ensure that no Canadian is left behind. That is what team Canada is about.
We are optimistic that the government will listen to the ideas we are putting forward for the benefit of all Canadians. That will be truly a team Canada approach.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, that was the weakest response to a national crisis in Canadian history. I listened to the Prime Minister's word salad just now and at least two key things were missing: a clear denunciation that the actions of these radical activists are illegal and some kind of an action plan that would put an end to the illegal blockades and get our economy back on track. The Prime Minister's statement was a complete abdication of responsibility and of leadership.
We are at an important time in our country's history, a time when we have to decide who and what our country stands for. Will we be a country of “yes”, where big national projects can get built and our country can grow and develop, or will we be a country of “no”, where a few loud voices can shut down development and prosperity for all?
Will our country be one of the rule of the law, or will our country be one of the rule of the mob? Will we let our entire economy be held hostage by a small group trampling the legal system that has governed our country for more than 150 years?
Let me be clear. Standing between our country and prosperity is a small group of radical activists, many of whom have little to no connection to first nations communities. They are a bunch of radical activists who will not rest until our oil and gas industry is entirely shut down. They may have the luxury of not having to go to work every day, and they may have the luxury of not facing repercussions for skipping class, but they are blockading our ports, railways, borders, roads and highways, and they are appropriating an indigenous agenda, which they are willfully misrepresenting.
The Prime Minister's elevation of these protestors to the same level as the thousands of men and women in first nations communities across our country who have been trying in good faith to right the wrongs of Canadian history is a disservice to the spirit of reconciliation.
The Prime Minister has emboldened and encouraged this kind of behaviour by cancelling other big projects based on political considerations instead of science and facts.
The reality is that a vast majority of members of the Wet'suwet'en people support the Coastal GasLink project. Every single elected band council on the Coastal GasLink route supports this project. Even the majority of hereditary chiefs support this project. The vast majority of first nations community members themselves support this project because it will create jobs and it will create opportunities. It will lead to investments in their communities and, in the end, it will help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
This is a fantastic opportunity for the Wet'suwet'en people, so why are these radical activists opposing this project? For them this is just a warm-up act. It is a warm-up act for what they consider to be the next fights against Trans Mountain and against Teck Frontier. In the end their goal is to shut down our entire energy industry.
It is important to remember who the victims of this have been and who have been victimized by Liberal inaction. They are the farmers who cannot get their grain to market. They are the small business owners who cannot get their shipments in time. They are the homeowners who may face trouble getting their home heating fuel for the winter. They are the workers facing layoffs. The ultimate victims are the Wet'suwet'en members themselves who are looking for prosperity for their children.
Conservatives have been calling for common sense and appropriate recommendations to end these illegal blockades. We have called on the Liberal government to enforce the rule of law. What we were expecting today was some sort of an announcement about a plan that would put an end to these illegal blockades. Instead, today we heard literally nothing.
Everyone has the right to say their piece, regardless of whether we agree or disagree, but nobody, and I mean nobody, has the right to hold our economy hostage.
The blockades across our country are illegal and it is time the government stepped in and did something about that. On this side of the House, we stand with the farmers. On this side of the House, we stand with commuters. On this side of the House, we stand with workers facing layoffs. We stand with everyday, hard-working Canadians. Most importantly, on this side of the House, we stand in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en people.
We stand in solidarity with the elected councillors of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation. We stand in solidarity with the majority of hereditary chiefs from the Wet'suwet'en First Nation who recognize that these types of projects and investments are the only way to lift first nation Canadians out of poverty, give them hope and opportunity, and give the next generation of indigenous Canadians the same quality of life that everyone else in this country enjoys.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Speaker, like the Prime Minister, I too wish this was a speech that none of us had to deliver today.
On January 8, 176 passengers and 57 Canadians boarded Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 in Tehran. They were flying to Kyiv, where 138 of them were set to transfer and fly to Canada. They never made it to Kyiv. Mere minutes after takeoff, the plane was gunned down by the Iranian regime with two surface-to-air missiles 30 seconds apart.
Those 176 innocent passengers and 57 Canadians lost their lives. They were mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, friends, students, colleagues. Their lives were cut short far too soon by an act of cruelty.
Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, it was heartwarming here at home to watch our country come together during this trying time. Countless Canadians braved the winter cold to attend vigils across the country and pay their respects. On display was a range of emotions: anger, sadness, fear and despair. We stood together and were there for each other. That is who we are as Canadians.
However, the work of Canadians cannot end and we cannot forget what happened on January 8. Here in the House of Commons and across this great country, we must continue to fight for justice for the families and the loved ones of those who lost their lives. We must continue to demand accountability from those responsible within the Iranian regime.
It was the Iranian regime, and the Iranian regime alone, that was responsible for this horrific crime.
We in the Conservative caucus have called on the government to take a few reasonable and measured actions in response to this atrocity.
First, the government must explain why it has not yet adopted a parliamentary motion to list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or the IRGC, as a terrorist organization. The IRGC's fingerprints have been all over some of the worst terrorist attacks in the Middle East over the past few decades.
Second, the government should be prepared to impose Magnitsky sanctions on Iran if it does not fully and immediately co-operate with international investigations. There have already been several worrying signals that the Iranian regime may not fully be co-operating.
Finally, the government must deliver compensation from the Iranian regime to the families of victims and do its best to repatriate all Canadian remains.
I would be remiss if I did not briefly address the outpouring of support Canadians have received from the Iranian people. Immediately following media reports of the plane being shot down, the people of Iran flooded the streets to fight for accountability, justice, democracy, freedom and human rights.
The regime in Tehran is murderous and corrupt, so participating in those demonstrations put those people's lives at risk, but the protestors stood with us.
We as Canadians must stand with them as they fight for real and lasting change and the same freedoms and rights we as Canadians hold dear.
One hundred and seventy-six people and 57 Canadians lost their lives. They left this world far too soon. Their friends and families woke up to the realization that they would never see their loved ones again. All of us, myself included, look forward to working with our colleagues as we continue to fight for the justice and closure these 57 families deserve.
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