Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
Today in the House, we are debating the motion moved by the Conservative Party, which is calling on the government to do a number of things, including introducing in the next federal budget a number of measures to support workers in the highly impacted hospitality, tourism and charitable sectors; providing repayable loans to airlines with certain conditions; and improving support programs for small and medium businesses to prevent bankruptcies.
The Bloc Québécois has looked at the motion and, generally speaking, finds that what is being proposed is rather interesting and positive. However, we did not find it particularly ambitious, but it is difficult to be against apple pie. We might even say that the Conservatives are working with and helping the Liberals.
The Conservatives are asking for certain measures to be included in the next budget. We have heard that the government is not in a hurry to table a budget. They have not tabled one in two years and the Liberals do not seem to be in a hurry, which is something we have not seen in 50 years.
Canada is the only G7 country that has yet to table a budget. The Liberals think that they can do whatever they want. They seem to think that they are accountable to no one and that they do not need to share their plans. They prefer to have carte blanche and announce flawed programs at the last minute that need to be adopted quickly every time, which we find problematic. We are pushed to ram through flawed programs and then come back to Parliament to vote on something else. It never ends.
Why not propose real programs, a real budget and a real process for analyzing things and asking questions? The Liberals always do things willy-nilly. We would do things differently, but the Liberals seem to like this approach since they keep using it.
The Liberals have also forgotten that they are a minority government. Quebeckers should beware because if the Liberals are acting this way when they have a minority, imagine what they would be like with a majority. It would be unbelievable.
Let us come back to the Conservatives' motion. One of the things that interests me in particular as transport critic is support for the airline industry. I think it is good that the official opposition party's motion calls for such support.
I repeat: The Liberals have forgotten that they are a minority government and act as though they have a majority. Today the Conservatives moved a motion that I am sure will have full support from everyone. The Conservatives are becoming increasingly less ambitious here in Ottawa, especially with respect to the airline industry. The Conservatives are calling for this industry to receive assistance, and we agree, as, I believe, do all of the parties.
Parliament has shown a willingness to provide similar assistance to the airline industry, but the problem is that the government twiddles its thumbs and does not follow through. This pandemic has been going on for almost a year, and the government has yet to do anything for this sector. We are one of the only G7 countries that has not helped its airline industry because our government is twiddling its thumbs.
We also agree with the conditions set out in the motion. However, the Conservatives do not seem to have tried very hard, as it once again looks as though they just copied what the Liberals said.
In November, the government finally announced more or less the same thing as what the Conservatives are asking for. In other words, it said that it might, in fact, provide support for the aerospace industry, but such support would be conditional on ticket refunds and the potential return of Air Canada or at least some other airlines to the regions. What we are seeing in the Conservative motion is basically the same thing. I will have an opportunity to talk more about the return of national airlines, such as Air Canada, to the regions later.
For now, let us talk about the announcement the government made last November. In November, we had been in the midst of the pandemic for eight months. We had been badgering the Liberals in committee and in the House of Commons for eight months. We tabled a petition signed by 33,000 people. We also introduced Bill C-249 to refund cancelled air service. Eight months had gone by, but Ottawa still had not done anything. The transport minister at the time, who has since been transferred because I think the Liberals had had enough of having him there, finally conceded and announced that he might do something, that it had come to that.
Here we are, March 9, and nothing has happened yet. We were already at wit's end in November. We thought they had finally gotten the message and that the whole issue would be resolved in a week or two, especially since they had already given some indication of where they were headed and what they wanted to do.
However, nothing happened in December. In January, they said it was in the pipeline, but still nothing happened. Nothing happened in February either. Now it is March, and we were treated to a big reveal last week. The Liberals set up a leak to let us know that Air Canada has finally agreed to refund tickets in exchange for government assistance. It is not a done deal yet, though. Today is March 9, and the pandemic has been with us for a year, but all we are entitled to is leaks. That is unbelievable.
This government does not appear to have any backbone whatsoever. Over the past year, it could have brought in the rules, conditions, programs and proposed assistance and insisted on refunds as quickly as possible. Instead, we are dealing with a government that is paralyzed and incapable of doing what needs to be done. The government should not have to beg Air Canada to do the right thing and obey the law. Refunding passengers is neither a favour nor optional; it is an obligation.
Instead of taking action, the government decided to leak information. Consumers are fed up; they have been waiting for a year. Airlines have been getting an interest-free loan for the past year on the backs of consumers, who paid money for services that were never delivered. Meanwhile, consumers have had to pay the balance on the credit cards used to purchase those trips. Anyone who decided not to pay their balance in full will pay dearly for it, a lot more than the airlines, because balances climb quickly when the interest rate is 20% per month, and that is tough on budgets. Meanwhile, the government remains paralyzed and is basically doing nothing.
Beyond air fare refunds, we have our own set of conditions for helping the airlines, including some that are in the Conservatives' motion, namely, introducing restrictions on executive compensation, imposing a ban on paying dividends or share buybacks, prohibiting outsourcing and layoffs, and maintaining contracts with local businesses and workers. We have to stop laying off people here at home and sending our jobs offshore. We must also stop the recall of travel agent commissions. We believe these are basic conditions.
We do, however, have a problem with the last item. It does not make sense for Air Canada to abandon the regional connections. Air Canada has eliminated 30 destinations across the country, completely abandoning our regional carriers who had continued doing their job. When Air Canada was there, we know that it regularly did incredible things, temporarily dropping its prices before—