All colleagues would think they're going to get a different outcome.
I'll start by reading what the Prime Minister said:
We are proroguing Parliament to bring it back on exactly the same week it was supposed to come back anyway and force a confidence vote. We are taking a moment to recognize that the throne speech we delivered eight months ago had no mention of COVID-19; had no conception of the reality we find ourselves in right now. We need to reset the approach of this government for a recovery to build back better. And those are big important decisions, and we need to present that to Parliament and gain the confidence of Parliament to move forward on this ambitious plan. The prorogation we are doing right now is about gaining or testing the confidence of the House....
I think all of us didn't expect, and how could any of us expect, what we have faced since March 2020. The curveball we were thrown as parliamentarians, as MPs, as a government, and as an opposition, was unprecedented, obviously. We talk about a generation, a once-in-a-hundred-years event that hit all of us. The fact that we felt, the Prime Minister felt, that we needed to step back, regroup, strategize, and come up with new plans and priorities....
I know we say we needed to do that, and obviously, we did need to do that. Canadians agreed that this is what was needed to be done. I respect very much that the other parties don't agree with that. They don't think that was needed to be done.
I will now come to the motion, and I won't read it. The motion wants to study the government's reasons for prorogation. I spent some time last night actually pulling that back out again. It's getting a little wrinkly, and I should make a new copy.
All Canadians, parliamentarians, government officials and departments were getting kicked in the gut and had our feet taken out from under us by this, hopefully, once-in-a-generation pandemic. No one knew what they were dealing with. The fact is we had to do what we did.
The motion wants to study the government's reasons for prorogation. The Prime Minister clearly gave his reasons. You may not agree with the reasons, and that's fair. The opposition has a role to play in our government. The government doesn't work without a great opposition. The motion was to study the government's reasons, and we went through paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g) and (h).
I apologize for saying this again, but it wasn't just the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister who knew. It was Bill Morneau, Katie Telford, the Kielburgers, the Perelmuters, with memoranda, emails, text messages and documents.
You can take a few steps back and ask Canadians, in particular, why did we prorogue? I always talk about how I do a little survey just to gauge if I'm way off or if my line of thinking is right, because sometimes you get so close.... You know the old saying about how you get so close you can't see the forest for the trees. Prorogation—and I pulled this up—“in politics is the action of proroguing, or ending, an assembly, especially a parliament, or the discontinuance of meetings for a given period of time, without a dissolution of parliament.”
I asked people, first off, if they knew what prorogation was. It's taken me about a month and a half now to actually say “prorogation” correctly. I still kind of stumble a little bit. I asked people today, and last night, if they knew what prorogation was. I had two out of maybe 20 who even knew what it was, but then I explained to the other 18 what it was for. To be fair, this wasn't to avoid our government falling or anything like that. I asked if they felt it was necessary for us to reset, given the curveball that we were thrown with respect to COVID-19. It was certainly not an accurate poll, but basically 100% of them agreed that, yes, we did need to reset.
What troubles me with respect to the motion and then MP Turnbull's amendment—I want to make sure I stay on topic here with respect to the amendment—is I felt that.... I know that when you make motions you will make sure you cast as wide a net as possible. I wasn't there, but we would have done that, too, when we were in opposition. I get that, but there was a lot in there. I think that maybe at some point there may be a “Yeah, okay, we did throw everything but the kitchen sink in there. We wanted to make sure we had all that covered, everything” as I read from (a) to (h), but then MP Turnbull's amendment to the motion was what I deemed a compromise.
Yes, straight up, the Prime Minister is not on it, but I'm still having a really hard time understanding what anybody on this committee won't get from Minister Freeland, who chaired the committee. I fail to understand what you're not going to get from Minister Freeland that you would get from the Prime Minister. I don't understand that. You may say, “Well, we will probably get the same thing, but it's not the Prime Minister; it's Minister Freeland. We want that time with the Prime Minister sitting before this committee instead of Minister Freeland.”
I have been accused of sometimes not being as buttoned down as a lot of other MPs with respect to procedures, policies, motions and things like that. That's not my strength. My strength is just a passion for representing my riding and for connecting with people here.
I always use the words, “I want to keep it real.” I want all of us on this committee, as I've said before, to prorogue themselves for a bit and step back and say that we want the clip or the photo of the Prime Minister testifying before this committee, knowing.... Of course, I respect everybody on the committee very much, but we all know—all of us—that we won't get anything different from the Prime Minister than what he has already said. We all know that—every one of us. As I look around at some of these boxes, every one of us knows that.
We may have the ability to say, after it happens, “Oh look. He didn't give us what we wanted, and the Prime Minister said exactly what he said prior.” Well, yes, that's fair, because he has already said it. He is not going to say—and I'm probably stepping over my speech here a bit, but I am obviously not speaking for the Prime Minister—anything that is different from what he has already said, because those are the reasons why he prorogued.
To me, I feel it's important for the committee to re-evaluate what's important here. MP Blaikie has every right, of course, to call the Prime Minister. I know that MP Blaikie is an honourable man and extremely intelligent, and he knows the ways of these committees. I have a lot of respect for MP Blaikie. I sat on a committee with him and I was wowed by his knowledge, insight, thoughtful comments and questions. I know that MP Blaikie also knows—I know he knows—there's not going to be anything different with the Prime Minister being called before this committee—no way. Come on. He knows that. I know he does.
We're trying to find a way forward. To be perfectly frank, I haven't really started my real speech. This is kind of a preamble, if you will. I don't have a book. What do they call that? A prologue.... I don't really read books. I have trouble reading books, to be honest, unless there are pictures in them. It's my ADHD. I can actually read a chapter of a book and be done with the chapter of the book and say, “What did I just read?” I learn visually and through talking things out and watching things. I have a lot of trouble reading.
Look, I believe there is a way forward here. I believe that MP Turnbull's amendment.... As a lot of you know, I love to talk, but it's hard to talk about the same things. I certainly don't want to tell MP Turnbull what a great MP he is, because I already told him that at the last meeting or the prior meeting, but he is a great MP. I know that he is extremely passionate about what he does and what he brings. I know that this amendment.... I apologize for the scribbles. You can see at every meeting I do a few extra doodles, except when MP Turnbull speaks, because I listen to every word he says. It's so thought provoking.
I believe his amendment is something that, for the Conservative Party, the NDP and the Bloc with MP Normandin, is a fair compromise. MP Turnbull's amendment moves us forward. Maybe when we move on to the next study or what have you, my days at PROC will quickly come to an end, but I want to see PROC be what PROC should be and doing great work.
As I said to you before, I've subbed in many committees. Obviously, I've spent a ton of time in HUMA. When we're first elected, we get our little checklist of what committees we'd like to be on. I remember looking at the list and asking what all those things stood for? What does HUMA stand for and what does PROC stand for? Of course, everything has a shortened name. I checked off HUMA and I was on ethics. Actually, MP Calkins is there somewhere.
Blaine, I don't know what you're holding. Is that an Arctic char? What's in that picture? Maybe he's not there, but anyway, his picture is there.
MP Calkins chaired ethics. I was on the ethics committee. I think back, and there was me, Nate Erskine-Smith and Joël Lightbound. Maybe sitting beside Nate rubbed off on me a bit.
What I'm getting to with respect to ethics is that we got a lot of great work done. We did. We did a lot of great work. Our chair, MP Calkins, did a great job as chair. We collaborated, we compromised and we got some good stuff done.
Certainly my committee in HUMA, chaired by Brian May, who I got to know very well, got some good stuff done. He was a great chair. Now in HUMA, chaired by Sean Casey, again there's lots of collaboration, lots of working together, and we got some good stuff done.
If you want the pecking order of senior committees and committees that people are on, PROC is right up at the top. The work that PROC does is fundamental to the workings of Parliament, but not right now, no. We're stuck. We're in a stalemate. We're not moving, not moving forward.
Canadians aren't engaged with this. They're not concerned about this. It's not that they don't care. Look, it's not that they don't care about the workings of Parliament and committees and all that stuff, but they're not seized with this at all.
We all reference at times “for those Canadians who are watching,” and “those Canadians who are tuned in to this right now”. I always wonder how many people are actually tuned in to this and this is a big part of their daily lives.
It hearkens me back to a previous life. It was always an enigma to me. I was involved with a major junior hockey team—I think you all know that—and we had radio broadcasts. Anyway, it was a negotiation. The broadcaster was putting the price up to carry the games. We dug in. We really dug in to how many people were listening to our games on the road and at home, and to how much it would cost for an ad, and all those things. We dug in, and we were actually shocked as to how few people listened to us on the radio. I won't give you the number, but we were like, that's it?
Where I'm going with that, Madam Chair—and thanks for giving me a little latitude on that—is here we are in PROC. I know we are addressing Canadians and we're talking to Canadians, but how many people do we really think are tuned in to this and listening with bated breath to every word that Wayne Long is going to say, or MP Duncan, MP Turnbull, MP Normandin, MP Kent, MP Calkins and MP Amos, what have you? Do you think they're all tuned in with their little notepads, taking notes and saying, “Look at these guys go. Look at them go on this. Look at them going back and forth. They're filibustering, and they're doing this and that”? No, they're not. I can tell you straight up that they're not. That's a cold reality for everybody. They are not. They're not seized with this. Let me say it again, Canadians aren't seized with this.
Sure, as MP Blaikie has said, we have a right to study. In terms of MP Vecchio's motion, of course, we have a right to study—how is it actually worded again— “the government's reasons for the prorogation of Parliament in August 2020”. Okay, that's fair. We have a right to study it. So let's dig in and study why they prorogued, when the Prime Minister has already said why he has prorogued. Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez, I believe—I'm not even looking at my notes—has testified and given reasons for prorogation. Officials have said why.
What Canadians are seized with is the uncertainty that this pandemic has brought into their daily lives. I had no idea when I signed up to be a member of Parliament in 2015...and then, obviously, I was lucky enough and fortunate enough to serve for four great years, where we did wonderful things as a government and as a Parliament. I was fortunate enough to run again in 2019 and win my seat, the only red dot in the southern part of New Brunswick. I wear that as a sense of pride. We have some work to do, obviously, but when you draw that line across the province, it's all blue, except for little old me down here in this little red dot. Again, I wear that with a sense of pride.
What I'm getting at is that none of us knew that we all would be faced with something that was to change our lives forever. It's not to say that we're all never going to be good again, or we're not going to heal, and we're not going to move forward and recover, but we will never be the same. I don't say that like it's devastatingly bad—I don't mean it like that—but we have all changed in a certain way our thoughts, our outlook on things and our outlook on the future.
Look, I love going to school classes to talk to students—love it, can't get enough of it—from, honestly, kindergarten right up to grade 12. I used to go in before this pandemic, and we would talk about Parliament, governments, world order and so on and so forth. I always used to say—and always still say—to the students, “Look, one bit of advice is, don't ever think that history is done changing.” Yes, from the Second World War until now, we've had flare-ups, but relatively stable world order. Don't think that just because from the late 1940s until now that it is always going to be the same and that things will never change.
Change will happen. Change will come when we least expect it. Boy oh boy, when we ran in 2019, all of us with our beliefs and our passions and our ideologies, what have you, none of us were prepared for what came at us in 2020, none of us. Give or take when we saw cases of COVID-19, the coronavirus, start in—I apologize, I'm going to be off here—probably November or December, and then we came back, and we were back up in Ottawa at the end of January, fresh off our elections, and we didn't know what was hitting us. We didn't know what was coming. Then some cases came to North America and Canada. Then it got closer and closer to home. Then we got more and more concerned. I can remember talking to my wife, Denise. Denise was here in Saint John and I was in Ottawa, and she asked what was happening, and more importantly, what was going to happen.