Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I rise to speak since you were elected Speaker. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you and wish you a long reign.
I want to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois, the adult in the room, is opposed to Bill C-278. The summary of this bill reads as follows:
This enactment amends the Financial Administration Act to provide that the Treasury Board may not require as a condition of employment in the federal public administration that a person receive a vaccine against COVID-19. It also amends the Canada Labour Code to provide that regulations may not be made that require, as a term or condition of employment in or in connection with the operation of a federal work, undertaking or business, that a person receive a vaccine against COVID-19.
In addition, the enactment amends the Aeronautics Act, the Railway Safety Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 to provide that no regulation, order or other instrument made under any of those Acts to prevent the introduction or spread of COVID-19 may prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting a person from boarding an aircraft, a train or a vessel solely on the ground that they have not received a vaccine against that disease.
What can I say about this bill? First, we will begin with a short step back in time. Back in the day, Bill C‑285 required reasonable accommodation for people who refused to get vaccinated and wanted to use various means of transportation like trains, planes or ships. It also prohibited employers from retaliating against people's health decisions. The bill stated that a person who lost their job for refusing treatments such as a vaccine could not be denied employment insurance. This was understood to be the COVID‑19 vaccine.
Bill C‑278 essentially does the same thing, but this time it prohibits restrictions related to vaccination status specifically for COVID-19. Bill C‑285, on the other hand, targeted all types of medical treatment. What disturbs us about this bill are the reasons that led to it. Still, I would rather speak to the House about the reasons why we think it makes no sense.
We consider that the restrictions, such as the vaccine mandate for international travel, were justified. They were temporary and necessary in the context of COVID‑19. Although some measures seemed unreasonable, for example, the vaccine mandate for all federal public servants, even those who do not come in contact with the public, these measures were up for debate during the 2021 election campaign and were upheld by the courts.
The Bloc Québécois also refuses to buy the conspiracy theories the member for Niagara West is selling. The many statements this member has previously made on vaccines, as well as the nature of the petitions he has sponsored, make it difficult to see his initiative and this bill as anything other than the umpteenth attempt to discredit vaccines. This is what we are talking about when we talk about the reasons that motivated the member to bring in this bill.
Let us not forget that the restrictions specific to COVID-19 and the borders have all been lifted since October 1, 2022. As for the vaccine mandate for federal employees, it was dropped on June 20, 2022. What is more, this bill seems to be aligned with several anti-vax petitions that contained many false statements based on dubious sources. Nevertheless, the member sponsored these petitions.
The Bloc Québécois will not be fooled. It knows that the bill's intention is to curry favour with the base of the member's party by spreading misinformation. COVID‑19 was not a conspiracy; it was a tragedy. The different waves of COVID‑19 in Quebec and Canada cost close to 18,000 lives back home in Quebec, over 50,000 in Canada and close to 6.5 million worldwide. This is no dream; it is reality. However, we see here that the Conservatives' sympathies do not lie with the victims, the health workers or all our young people who made sacrifices to protect our seniors. Neither do its sympathies lie with my friend Annie, an immunocompromised kidney transplant patient who risks death simply by getting COVID‑19. The Conservatives' sympathies lie with pandemic deniers.
The Conservatives have chosen to forget all of that by voting against the principle of Bill S‑209, which calls for the designation of March 11 as pandemic observance day.
Not only do they not wish to acknowledge the tragedy, they are now proposing that we deny that vaccines saved many lives and enabled us to emerge from the pandemic. They can be the ones to tell those who lost a family member to COVID-19, those who were separated from their loved ones for a long time, or those who suffer from long COVID and are still affected by the virus, that this pandemic is nothing but a conspiracy, a hoax. They can be the ones to ask the guardian angels who have propped up our hospital system all this time whether COVID-19 is a sham, an invention.
Misinformation is a growing problem in our society, and it is very alarming. Misinformation has become an illness amongst the Conservatives. We need only look at the falsehoods they are spreading about the carbon tax, pretending that it applies to Quebec because it suits them to say it does.
It is preposterous to claim to be the party that will form the next government by spreading falsehoods. We can argue about a lot of things, and people can be more right leaning or left leaning. The Conservatives can even shamelessly criticize the current government's decisions on the pretext that it is too left-wing. However, they cannot lie to people just to gain power, although that is exactly what the Conservative Party is determined to do. It is unfortunate for democracy, for the people, and for the trust and honesty that we must honour in this place.
I invite the Conservative Party to reconsider the methods it uses to gain power. People are not naive. The shift towards lies and misinformation is dangerous. Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois is elevating the debate and bringing some lucidity and maturity to the conversation. The Bloc Québécois is responsible and will vote against this bill because, from the beginning, the Bloc has always supported bills that make sense and opposed those that do not.
By refusing to recognize the value of COVID‑19 vaccines, the Conservatives are once again denying science. If this bill passed, our entire society could someday have to sacrifice its very safety and security to the anti-vax beliefs of a small group of people who are still in denial. That would be completely unacceptable. We have to ask ourselves if individual freedom ends where collective freedom begins.
The Conservative Party needs to go redo its homework, because I am sure that the people who supported it up until now will be put off when they see the party's true colours. It is a party of lies that need to be debunked right now.