Madam Speaker, I rise today at a time when millions of Canadians are struggling. Instead of discussing ways to help those Canadians, we are quibbling because the Conservatives want to create a partisan committee for political gain.
We have been transparent from day one. We provided the requested documents and key witnesses testified. We have collaborated throughout the entire process.
Last Sunday, 48 hours ago, we shared with opposition members a reasonable proposal for a serious committee to study all expenses related to COVID-19. One thing is clear to us all: The ball is now in their court.
Does the opposition realize that we are in the second wave of this COVID pandemic? Does it understand what is happening? More than 9,000 Canadians have lost their lives to this terrible virus. For the families and friends of these thousands of people, the impacts of this pandemic will stay with them forever. For those who have lost loved ones, 2020 will be remembered as an especially painful year, and we mourn their loss.
There is nothing in the motion put forward by the official opposition that we are debating, because they are forcing us to debate it today, that acknowledges this harsh reality. There is nothing. Conservatives are not talking about what Canadians are facing. It is pure politics.
It will be one year tomorrow, actually, since Canadians made their decision in an election about what they wanted in Ottawa. They elected a minority Parliament. They wanted MPs to collaborate and work together. They grew tired of political games and wanted MPs from all parties to work together on things that matter, the things that are important to Canadians. This became even more important when the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year. Beyond the tragic impact on the health of Canadians, the economic consequences of the pandemic have been devastating for Canadians. Millions have lost their jobs.
People in their own communities need the government and this Parliament, as it is not only the responsibility of the government but of all parliamentarians, to stay focused and provide the supports they need. I can say that this is what we are doing on this side of the House.
Today we are seeing that the Conservatives do not care about that. They have shown that they do not care about it. They have turned their backs on Canadians. They do not care about working together to find solutions to the many challenges in this crisis. The only thing they care about, as they have shown today, is political games. The motion has absolutely nothing to do with asking serious questions on government policy in the middle of the pandemic. It is a self-serving political game. The Liberals have made it very clear that we will oppose it.
While the opposition is engaging in extreme partisanship and keeps making completely unfounded allegations, the government's job is to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, particularly the most vulnerable.
I am thinking here of the most disadvantaged members of our society, of those who have trouble making ends meet and of women, who often have to juggle many family responsibilities. That is not to mention young families and seniors, who have had it particularly rough in recent months.
In such circumstances, and as Canada goes through an unprecedented crisis, we must work together. It is our duty as a responsible government, but it is also the responsibility of each opposition member.
We must work together, particularly during this pandemic. That has been our government's approach throughout the pandemic and that has not and will not change. Our hand will always be outstretched. We are always ready to work with the opposition parties. That is not just talk. In recent months, we have made Parliament work by working with the opposition parties to implement practical measures to help Canadians. Since I am sure my colleagues are itching to hear what those are, I will take this opportunity to mention a few of them.
In March, we introduced the Canada emergency response benefit. This benefit helped Canadians in need to pay rent, put food on the table and clothe their children. We created this benefit together with the opposition parties; it was a lifeline we put together quickly to help those who really needed it. We were able to help millions of Canadians who lost their jobs, who were quarantined or who were taking care of someone with COVID-19. Our actions also helped working parents who had to stay home without pay to care for their children.
Now that the workers who lost their jobs are transitioning to employment insurance, the government has implemented other measures to help all Canadians, to help those who need it.
For people who need a helping hand, we created the Canada recovery benefit and the Canada recovery sickness benefit. Each of these was created because we found a way to work together. A minority government needs the support of at least one opposition party, and we have always managed to get it. At times, we have even gotten everyone's support. The last time we held a vote, all parties voted in favour of the government's proposed measures.
Let us not forget that, with the support of the House, we created a wage subsidy program to help businesses keep their employees on the payroll despite reduced demand for their products and services.
Also, and I am sure this will interest our opposition colleagues, we created the Canada emergency business account to provide interest-free loans to help businesses pay the rent and cover other major costs since the pandemic started.
Those are just a few examples of the measures the government has introduced to help Canadians get through these very trying pandemic times.
I am going to say this because I want to be very clear: We were able to do all that because we worked with the opposition parties. As a minority government, we needed the support of one party or another, or several parties, and managed to get it for the well-being, health and safety of Canadians.
The repercussions, whether economic, environmental or social, continue to evolve. The repercussions of this pandemic are far from over. All of this presents a huge challenge for the government, as well as for the opposition parties, which have a duty, under a social pact they entered into with their constituents, to work responsibly in the House. They have the same duty as the government.
What we are discussing here today is extremely important and serious. So much needs to be done. We have learned a lot about what works to protect the health and safety of Canadians and what we can do to help them get through this pandemic together. That is why the throne speech, which was eagerly read by all members of the House, outlined a number of measures to help Canadians as part of a very ambitious plan.
I would like to list a few of the priorities set out in the Speech from the Throne, especially those that address the pandemic. I am certain that the government's efforts, especially those made as a result of the throne speech, are of interest to my colleague. For example, the government will help the provinces increase testing capacity, continue to quickly ship PPE across the country, provide these tools to all provinces, work with the provinces and continue our direct financial support for businesses that need this help.
Men and women established these businesses. I have the greatest respect for these builders who are going through very tough times. We are there for them and the Speech from the Throne clearly sets out what we want to do.
We could have been debating all that and the number of things directly related to the pandemic and the government's ability to meet Canadians' needs during this pandemic. No, today we are debating an ultra-partisan motion, courtesy of our Conservative friends, a motion deemed to be irresponsible by many. That is definitely what the government thinks of it, and it is not alone.
Today's motion by the Conservatives would establish a special committee with the clear purpose, and only one purpose, of paralyzing the government. That is it. That is the only purpose, and they know that. The Conservatives are having fun and laughing about how they are going to jam up the government and how they are going to paralyze the government. That is what the Conservatives are trying to do in the middle of a pandemic. That is exactly what they are trying to do in the middle of this pandemic.
It is not a serious attempt to do serious work. It is a political inquisition. That is all it is. That is it. That is all. That is what it is. We will have none of it.
The motive is obvious. The Conservatives are trying to create scandals where there are none. They are trying to smear the reputations of good people. It has nothing to do with asking responsible questions about government policy in the middle of a pandemic. There are all those questions they could ask about the efforts of the government and how we could help Canadians. No, the Conservatives are too busy with partisan politics and trying to create this committee. They are very busy.
Earlier this week I made a reasonable proposal to the other parliamentary leaders to try to break the impasse we are in. We propose creating a committee to review all COVID-19-related spending. That would allow hon. members to put politics aside and work seriously for all Canadians. Why not?
It is a responsible and reasonable proposal. It is serious work. In that committee, hon. members from all parties would scrutinize the COVID-19-related programs, as any serious committee would do. Some hon. members prefer to use committees to give themselves outrageous powers that exceed all the limits of power granted to committees to lead their inquisition, which they have been salivating over from day one.
A committee like the one we are proposing would allow the opposition to share their comments and suggestions on the programs we have put in place. We have had some hits and misses. We can debate and discuss those. This would allow the government to make changes to existing programs. We can always improve what we are doing and the opposition can contribute to improving the programs that help all Canadians. We are totally open to discussing this in that committee. We are open to listening to their suggestions, as we have been doing from the start and will continue to do.
The work of the special committee that the government is proposing would clearly demonstrate to Canadians that the government and opposition parties are working together in a constructive and effective way. I think it is a fair proposition. I think we can work together in that committee, but I have a feeling that they will not support it because it is not partisan enough. It is too responsible. I think Canadians would like to see members of Parliament working together in a committee to see how we can improve things. Personally, I think our proposal is the best path forward for this Parliament: not for the government, not for the opposition but for Parliament.
I said today that if the Conservatives' proposals pass, it will raise serious questions about whether the House continues to have confidence in the government. This is extremely serious. The words that I chose were not written lightly in the letter I sent to my colleagues. It was important for everyone from all parties to understand that there could be significant political consequences if their ultra-partisan, irresponsible motion passed. It is a serious moment for the House, and this morning I had the opportunity to be even more clear. The government considers this motion to be a matter of confidence. It is a confidence vote. The truth is simple. Members of Parliament cannot establish a new committee with sweeping powers to investigate government corruption and at the same time claim they still have confidence in the government. It is one or the other.
We all know that, and I hope we can find a solution to all work together for the benefit of all Canadians.