Madam Speaker, there is a proverb that says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. I am starting from the assumption that our Conservative friends had good intentions in moving today's motion. Nevertheless, we need to realize that the last thing we need today is a tone that leads to confrontation. I think what we need instead is a tone that leads to collaboration, discussion and negotiation.
We absolutely cannot subscribe to the Manichaean view on display in the Conservatives' motion, implying that there are good guys on one side and bad guys on the other. Who are we to determine or judge that sort of thing? I think we do not have all the information to make that kind of call.
I sense some sordid partisan motives behind today's motion, and I do not like it. We really do not need that kind of motive in a situation like this one. On the contrary, we need to work in a spirit of collaboration, as I was saying earlier. That is the only way to arrive at a peaceful solution to the conflict that is happening right now.
On the other hand, we cannot condone the current lack of leadership on the part of the Prime Minister and his government. The government is needlessly letting the situation drag on and, as the saying goes, “the longer we wait, the worse things will get”.
On Tuesday, we were treated to the Prime Minister's mollifying words when he delivered a statement filled with platitudes. There again, I would say that the perfect is the enemy of the good. This speech was filled with platitudes and we saw how effective it was. In fact, it was so persuasive that instead of convincing the protesters to end the blockades it resulted in new ones being erected yesterday, whether it was out west or, as pointed out by the leader of the Bloc, on the line linking Mont-Saint-Hilaire to Montreal. Stations in his riding and mine were closed.
In Saint-Basile-le-Grand and Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, users of public transit were surprised to find out that they were also being taken hostage by this conflict even though on Tuesday the Prime Minister had called for it to end. Suddenly, they could no longer use public transit. What is happening is of great concern.
I have to say that the Prime Minister's many tearful displays of contrition over the past few years, while entirely justified, do not bring us any closer to reconciliation. To achieve true reconciliation, the government needs to make good on the lip service it has been paying for many years now.
In 1982, in the aftermath of the iniquitous repatriation of the Constitution at Quebec's expense, the current Prime Minister's father entered into constitutional negotiations with first nations. Those constitutional negotiations were never concluded, and now here we are today. What we are experiencing today is the result not only of the government dragging its feet since the 1980s, but also the totally unacceptable treatment our first nations have endured for centuries.
It is time to stop paying lip service and actually walk the talk. In that regard, it is important to note, as the leader of the Bloc Québécois pointed out a few minutes ago, that our party is the only one that has put forward any concrete proposals for dealing with the crisis.
These are solutions that go beyond lip service and do not require forceful interventions that could potentially make the situation much worse. I urge the government to stop seeing the members opposite as a monolithic group who are all of the same mind, since that is not the case, and to be receptive to the proposals that have been made so far. I think there are still some people on the Liberal government side who have not yet realized that they are a minority government and that we have to work together and take the best ideas from all sides. The Bloc Québécois has proposed some concrete ideas. The Bloc leader referred to those a few minutes ago. I urge the government to take action.
It is important to recognize that the government's procrastination is forcing the provinces and Quebec to act in the federal government's place, and they will end up getting the blame for the actions they take. We have even heard ministers, including the Minister of Transport, suggest as much. This shows a lack of leadership and a lack of courage from the Liberal government.
The Quebec National Assembly adopted a motion on February 18. I want to read it out.
THAT the National Assembly reaffirm its adherence to the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
THAT, accordingly, it invite the governments of Québec [and] Canada to maintain egalitarian nation-to-nation relations with the indigenous peoples of Québec and Canada....
The next part is important to our Conservative friends.
THAT it acknowledge that the current conflict, which stems from the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, is having an undesirable impact on railway network users and on the economy [of Quebec];
THAT the National Assembly call for a negotiated, peaceful political solution to the current crisis, in order to prevent violence.
The consequences are so dire for the Quebec economy, the Canadian economy and mass transit users that Quebec's premier was forced to seek an injunction and consider the possibility of intervening. What is the federal government waiting for?
The federal government claims to want to avoid the kinds of crises we have seen in the past, but its procrastination is leading us straight into a potential crisis. What is it waiting for?
I would appeal to that desire for social peace and urge the protesters at the blockades to consider that their protests and actions have gotten society to pay attention to their demands and hopes for next steps. I hope that this will lead us to sit down and finally negotiate with first nations.
That said, the protesters must realize that if they continue, the us-versus-them mentality will persist. That mentality certainly does nothing to foster understanding, negotiation and co-operation.
If everyone is serious about negotiating a solution, then actions need to be taken by all sides.
That is what we expect from a government, even a minority one.