Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to start with a few comments.
In yesterday's news release, the government recognized that Bill C‑208 has been law since it received royal assent. As I said this morning, I have no doubt that yesterday's news release had to do with the fact that the committee was recalled for a special meeting today. Again, hats off to us.
My concerns stem from the questions I asked Mr. McGowan last time. In yesterday's news release, the government stated that Bill C‑208 had become law and that the law was the law, but the government also indicated that it would bring forward new legislation to amend the bill. Since the bill was studied for 527 days, I'm wondering why the government did not propose the amendments during the usual examination process. Five hundred and twenty-seven days is a long time.
What's more, as has been mentioned, this isn't the first time Parliament has considered a bill like this. A few years ago, Liberal member Emmanuel Dubourg proposed similar legislation, as did the NDP's Guy Caron, not to mention my fellow Bloc Québécois member Xavier Barsalou‑Duval. Mr. Maguire's version was the one that finally took and got passed by Parliament.
Although the bill received royal assent, the government did not recognize it as law, just as the government did not recognize the authority of the House of Commons. Threats were made, and the Standing Committee on Finance decided to hold an emergency meeting. That was when the government finally acknowledged the application date of the bill, while indicating that it would bring forward amendments. Why were those amendments not brought forward during the legislative process, which lasted 527 days?
I asked the witnesses who were called before the committee whether the government had instructed them to draft amendments. I recall quite clearly that Mr. McGowan, among others, told the committee members that it was rather complicated, that numerous loopholes existed and that they needed to be closed. I then asked whether the Department of Finance had prepared, at the government's behest, amendments that could have been brought forward, voted on and adopted during that 527‑day period.
Now, Mr. McGowan, Mr. Jovanovic and Ms. Aitken are saying that it is a matter of cabinet confidence and that they can't answer the question. My guess is that, if the amendments aren't ready yet, they will be soon, since the government announced that a bill containing the amendments was on the way.
The government could be accused of being asleep at the wheel, because it dragged its feet and did not do what it should have—instruct the department to draft the amendments and bring them forward. On the committee and in the House, we were all able to work together harmoniously. I have no doubt that, had we studied the amendments, the level of co‑operation would have been high and the process would have been fruitful, but that was not the case. That makes me wonder what happened. Here's my theory.
I think that, back in the spring, the government was considering calling an election, not caring too much about Bill C‑208—figuring it would die on the Order Paper. An election was coming, anyhow. When the third wave of the pandemic hit, the Liberals realized that they couldn't do as they had planned; they would lose face if they called an election in the spring. Subsequently, the bill received royal assent, which was seen as collateral damage in the government's little game of cards. The Liberals weren't expecting it.
Now that the bill has received royal assent, they are saying 527 days was not enough time. They want to recognize the changes, but announced that they were going to bring forward new legislation to do what they should have done when the time was right. The level of ineptitude is astounding, and I have a real problem with that.
Those are my comments. I have no questions.