Mr. Speaker, I thank all my colleagues for their openness. I will therefore be sharing my time with the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.
As I rise in the House today, I cannot help but feel disappointed. All that, for this? The Liberals tabled a white paper in February 2021 that clearly stated in black and white that the Treasury Board was to become the central agency responsible for implementing the Official Languages Act, as I pointed out in my question earlier. A few months later, in June 2021, the official languages minister at the time, currently the Minister of Foreign Affairs, introduced Bill C-32. An election was called two months later. What a coincidence. A lot of time was wasted, and we had to start over at square one.
The new Minister of Official Languages introduced her bill, C-13, in March 2022. We were told that the bill solved all the problems and that it had to be passed as quickly as possible. The Liberals begged the opposition parties to co-operate and expedite the bill. It was referred to the Standing Committee on Official Languages, where we heard from witnesses so we could do our work effectively. All of a sudden, the Liberals moved a motion to cut off debate. We had to move so quickly that we wasted eight meetings discussing this problem that had been caused by the Liberals at committee.
They are talking out of both sides of their mouths. They want us to move quickly, but they muzzled us for eight meetings. The opposition parties worked together to take the time needed. We reached out to the Liberals several times to try to get them to listen to reason. They wanted four meetings and we wanted twelve, so we split the difference and decided on eight. I think that is a good compromise. It shows that the opposition parties were acting in good faith. As for the Liberals, that is another story.
The Conservative Party takes bilingualism in Canada very seriously. We worked hard in committee, as I mentioned. We took the time to listen to stakeholders across the country. We worked to respond to their concerns. I am talking about stakeholders like the Fédération des communautés francophone et acadienne du Canada, the Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones, the Commissioner of Official Languages and many others. These people live with the reality of being a linguistic minority every day. The Liberals would have everyone living in these official language minority communities, particularly in New Brunswick, believe that they are responding to their demands.
I want to tell everyone living in those official language minority communities—whether it is in New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories or British Columbia—not to worry, because the Conservative Party of Canada is there for them and always will be.
In committee, we received a pile of amendments from all parties. About 10 amendments were tabled by the NDP; the Bloc proposed over 80, and we tabled about 60.
It comes as no surprise that the Liberals were ready. They had written a white paper, then introduced Bill C-32, followed by Bill C-13. They must have refined their bill, at least I hope so. However, they filed about 50 amendments, which is pretty interesting. In addition to the 50 amendments, it was clear that there was some dissension within the Liberal caucus. Among those 50 amendments, there were duplicates, which means that two Liberal members had tabled the same amendments. This goes to show how much time they are wasting. Are they even talking within their party? Are they talking to the anglophone members from Quebec? It is a mess. Then they want us to move quickly. They say this issue is so important. This is just one example of Liberal incompetence and inconsistency.
Again this week in the House, the Liberals proposed amendments that could and should have been put forward in committee—but no, they are holding up the process. They claim that it needs to move quickly, but they are holding up the process. Worse, to hear the Liberals talk about official languages, the decline of the French language and the need to protect both official languages, it all seems to be so important to them. However, there was a vote at report stage yesterday, and the Deputy Prime Minister, whom we have been looking for in all the committees, and even in the House of Commons, did not even vote, even though we have a virtual application to do just that. The Minister of Justice, who is a Quebecker and is affected by this legislation, did not even vote. Worse yet, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Quebec lieutenant, who is the main party involved and has responsibilities under this bill, did not even vote. Official languages and the decline of the French language are so very important to them—we had another clear demonstration of that yesterday.
This government's lack of interest and disengagement is obvious again today. What day is it? It is Friday, the day when members have the least amount of time to speak. Who is in charge of the agenda? The Liberals are. Who chose to do this on a Friday? The Liberals did. What does that mean? It means that they do not want to hear about this, that they want to sweep it under the rug. That is obvious, because there is bickering within the Liberal caucus. This is just more smoke and mirrors, to create the illusion that the Liberals care about official languages.
Let us talk about the stakeholders. We met several, but I want to talk about two in particular. The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, or FCFA, which represents 2.8 million French-speaking Canadians outside Quebec, was calling for six amendments. It was not a huge or unreasonable request. How many of those amendments were fully adopted? Not one was adopted. Good job, Liberals. The Conservative Party agrees with those recommendations and brought forward amendments along those lines. Unfortunately, the NDP-Liberal coalition ignored the FCFA. It did the same thing to the Commissioner of Official Languages. The Liberals and the NDP did not listen.
The bill moved a step forward, but at a snail's pace. It is not that important, then. It was just one step forward. I think I would walk a long, long way for our official languages, but this bill, sadly, goes no farther than a single step. As parliamentarians, this was our chance to take concrete action to reverse the very real decline of French in Canada, and even in Quebec. It is deplorable that official language minority community stakeholders are not being listened to and get nothing but empty words.
I am concerned about the future of Canada as a country bilingual in English and French. We must remember that we have a Governor General who is bilingual but does not speak French. When we talk about bilingualism in Canada, we are referring to the two official languages, the two founding languages.
I was born a francophone in Canada, and my children speak French. I hope that my grandchildren will be able to speak French, here, in Canada. I am proud to be Canadian. I am proud to be a Quebecker. I am proud to represent the people of Portneuf—Jacques‑Cartier. I will fight tooth and nail for francophones in Quebec and across Canada. My ancestors fought that fight and I will continue fighting it. I am proud of our bilingual Canada, and I am not alone: More than 80% of Canadians value their bilingualism.
I want to remind members of one thing. The Official Languages Act was introduced in 1969 and modernized in 1988. Who did that? The Conservatives. The Harper government was the first to recognize the Quebec nation in a united Canada. He understood Quebec and its unique linguistic reality, and he recognized that it was important for the country.
Quebec has the largest pool of francophones in North America, and it must have the tools it needs to preserve its language and culture, which, by extension, will help francophone communities across Canada.
Our leader, the member for Carleton also values the French language. He is educating his children in French and he speaks both official languages here in the House. He understands the challenges and is making an effort to protect and promote both of Canada's official languages.
In closing, I would again like to reassure the official language minority communities. Unlike the Liberals, we have heard them very clearly and we will call for a single central agency and an enumeration of rights holders. We heard them.
It is truly important to the Conservative Party of Canada that Canada remain an English-French bilingual country, and it will focus on reversing the decline of French and protecting both official languages.