Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my 20 minutes with my very honourable and esteemed colleague and friend, the hon. member for Montarville.
I want to take this opportunity to try to sum up the situation because it is not really clear. The news reports are all over the place and contradictory. Nevertheless, it is important for everyone to be on the same page to find solutions.
I would also mention that the idea of leadership has been getting a lot of attention lately. Leadership is mostly a question of attitude. Again, I saw a few ministers attend the meeting with the Prime Minister. One minister said that the government wanted to have a dialogue, because it did not want to not have a dialogue. I was deeply moved by that profound statement. Another minister said that the government was going to move quickly and I saw the Prime Minister come in basically saying that he was coming in.
I want to remind members that there have been other major crises in the past that have affected Quebeckers and Canadians. I will speak about three of them. In 1998 we had an ice storm. Quebec's premier, Lucien Bouchard, delivered an update about the situation every day in the late afternoon. I can still picture it. It was an act of leadership intended to maintain public confidence in light of the magnitude of the problems.
Then there was the terrible Lac-Mégantic disaster, when the then Quebec premier, Ms. Marois, did essentially the same thing. I was the environment minister at the time and that is what we did. We provided people with the most up-to-date information on what was happening. My esteemed colleague was also involved on the public safety side.
Just last year flooding affected many Quebeckers. The Quebec government and the premier provided a detailed daily update about what was happening. This morning, the Prime Minister blew in, took off his toque and then disappeared. I believe that we are all in need of clearer and stronger leadership.
Another aspect of the motion is problematic. The motion claims that the majority of the Wet’suwet’en people, and in some cases all or at least most people in the nation, support the gas pipeline. I do not know where that number is coming from. I do not know where that claim is coming from. I do not know how that was calculated. That nation controls its own institutions. What is more, some sources say that there are five hereditary chiefs, others say there are nine and still others say there are 13. It is a bit vague, but that is their prerogative. Would the Conservatives say that the Prime Minister of Canada cannot govern because he got fewer votes than they did? No. They may not like it, but they recognize that Canada has its institutions, as we should recognize that the Wet’suwet’en nation has its own institutions. Who are we to interpret that to make it fit our political agenda?
Our job must be to first recognize this nation and its institutions. We need to ask the nation to choose one or more representatives who are prepared to meet with us, and we must do the same in order to open a discussion. That is how we must manage this supposedly nation-to-nation relationship, without ever losing sight of the fundamental objective, which is the immediate lifting of all blockades throughout the country. That is what we must do.
We can accomplish that through a series of actions that will show Quebec and Canadian businesses and workers that the government is doing something.
The Premier of Quebec said this morning that he was looking into alternatives to rail and transport trucks. Something is getting done in Quebec. Quebec says its options are limited and that its only recourse for putting an end to the crisis would be to request police intervention, although that would not be its first choice. I think that sounds reasonable and proactive, unlike what I am seeing here in Ottawa, at least in some cases. I am starting to see some movement.
I also want to point out that an indigenous blockade on indigenous territory is one thing. A blockade organized by indigenous people on non-indigenous territory is something else. A blockade set up for fun by college students on Montreal's south shore is a third thing. The third thing is unacceptable. The third thing is obstructing rail traffic on Montreal's south shore.
I have something to say to my constituents. There are two train stations, one in McMasterville and one in Mont-Saint-Hilaire, where traffic has been blocked because people who are not indigenous thought it would be fun to get in on the action. I thought of the people who blocked the Jacques Cartier Bridge not so long ago. I felt the situation was serious and needed to be resolved in a serious way, with the right people at the table, to avoid another college strike.
One possible solution would be daily reports. Everyone seems a little confused about the RCMP. Does the RCMP take orders from the government or not? When it suits the government, the government says that the RCMP is independent and it cannot be told what to do or not to do. The RCMP said that it would move its command centre. The government cannot not boast about that move because the RCMP is independent. It was faster and smarter than the government. If this helps meet the demands of the Wet'suwet'en, that is a positive first step. I remind members that not too long ago the RCMP had snipers pointed at Wet'suwet'en protesters. That is certainly not how to defuse tension. This is positive.
There have been other demands, but I think that we need to take initiative and do something so that we are not simply responding to demands. It could be never-ending. The second step would be to create a forum for important, fundamental, serious, sustainable and credible discussions to convince them that something will happen if they sit down at the table. This second gesture would be significant.
The third step is a sensitive subject in a Parliament that, with few exceptions, is decidedly pro-oil. I suggest suspending work on the project temporarily as a way of extending an olive branch, because I personally believe that work on infrastructure designed to increase the amount of fossil fuel we transport and consume is bad in general. My suggestion to temporarily suspend construction is a compromise, one that the Wet'suwet'en nation itself may not be making. Let's temporarily suspend the work.
That is not within federal jurisdiction, but I would imagine the Prime Minister of Canada, who thinks he is the boss of the provinces, could pick up the phone, call the Premier of British Columbia, and tell him to ask the company to put the work on hold for a bit.
Taken together, these three steps—creating a forum for discussion, withdrawing the RCMP and temporarily suspending work on the project—will probably, but not definitely, be enough to remove the blockades and get the right people to the table. Once that happens, we can resume relatively normal economic activity throughout Canada and Quebec and engage in serious discussions. Without serious discussions, the same thing will just keep happening again and again.
I think solutions are within reach. They have to be implemented in good faith with clear leadership that can build consensus in Parliament. We need to show first nations that we are serious, committed and credible, and that although we will not give in, we are acting in good faith. The government needs to keep its election promises and prove those things are true.