Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating the people of Mégantic—L'Érable on their extraordinary resilience in response to the situation we have been dealing with since March.
Quebec has to pull back in several regions, once again closing bars and restaurants, suspending cultural and sports activities, and strictly enforcing rules in schools because of a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases. Clearly, we are not done sacrificing and will have to cope with this virus much longer than we would have liked.
As we kick off Mental Illness Awareness Week, we must keep in mind that every decision made by Parliament, by the government, by all levels of government and by public health authorities will impact not only the fight against COVID-19 but also the economy and the well-being or loss thereof of people across the country.
The virus did not make bullying or racism go away. It exacerbated domestic violence, and loneliness has become an even heavier burden for the most vulnerable members of society to bear. Our masks must not prevent us from speaking up and sharing our problems. Our ears and our hearts must remain open to those who need to be listened to and heard.
I would now like to come back to the subject we are discussing today. The Liberal government's throne speech was followed, that same evening, by a free national advertisement for the Liberal Prime Minister. I would remind members that the throne speech was needed because of the Prime Minister's decision to prorogue Parliament in the midst of a pandemic. At a time when millions of Canadians are depending on their elected officials to make sure they are safe, from a health and economic standpoint, the Prime Minister deliberately chose to shut down Parliament and put us in a position where we could no longer act quickly.
The throne speech was supposed to refocus the government's efforts on helping Canadians deal with and recover from the COVID-19 crisis, or at least that is what the Prime Minister, his ministers and Liberal members claimed. In the end, we got an interminable speech read by the Governor General that basically reiterated the unkept promises of the Liberals under the direction of the Prime Minister. As everyone knows, the Prime Minister does not like to share the stage, so he thought it would be a good idea to make all the media outlets give him some free air time. That gave him a few minutes to summarize the long list of Liberal failures and unkept promises while clearly demonstrating that he had no plan to get the country through the pandemic and that he had learned absolutely nothing from the first wave of COVID-19.
Everyone knew the deal: The prorogation of Parliament, the Speech from the Throne and the PM's televised speech later that evening had but one objective, and it was not to help Canadians. I will paraphrase a journalist from La Presse who, like us, saw right through the Liberals' smoke and mirrors. He basically said that what the Prime Minister presented was more like a preview of his election platform than a Speech from the Throne.
The best was yet to come in that article. He went on to talk about how, in the middle of the speech he thought to himself, “quick, someone snap your fingers, he's trying to hypnotize us. We are going to forget how we got here. The Prime Minister prorogued Parliament last month to put an end to the inquiries into the WE Charity scandal. That is what led to the Speech from the Throne.”
Feedback on the throne speech from across the country was not any more flattering. I would like to share some reactions. “It was a disappointing speech that offered no reassurance.” “[The Prime Minister] lives on another planet. He needs to go.” “The Speech from the Throne can be summed up in three words: spending, interference, arrogance. Nothing new from this government”. “I'm very worried. All of this spending shows that [the Prime Minister] has never made a budget in his life.” Many similar comments can be found in the media and on social media.
Parliament was prorogued by a Prime Minister who promised never to prorogue Parliament to avoid scrutiny. I remind members that he made this promise himself. All of this came just as thousands of redacted documents were being handed over to the opposition. The throne speech enabled the government to sweep the finance minister's resignation under the rug. The throne speech did nothing to address the problems with the work-sharing program for businesses in Mégantic—L'Érable. It did not address the extremely long waiting periods for citizens dealing with immigration issues.
He offered nothing to small businesses, which were left out of the assistance measures even though they are integral to the very vitality of our regions. He did not allow Canadians to have access to rapid tests, which would have helped my region and countless others escape such an aggressive second wave. This Speech from the Throne was a purely partisan exercise to protect just one person: the Prime Minister himself.
However, I am known to be an optimist. I always try to see the good in everything. I told myself that surely something good would come out of the Speech from the Throne. My colleagues may find it hard to believe, but I found something positive, very positive even. What did I find in the Speech from the Throne that was so good?
You seem skeptical, Mr. Speaker. I will end the suspense. The only positive thing about the Speech from the Throne was the response in reply by the new leader of the official opposition, the hon. member for Durham. What a great reply worthy of a head of state.
Allow me to thank him for the trust he placed in me by giving me the role of Treasury Board critic. I am proud to serve on his team in the official opposition, the team of the government in waiting.
The Conservative leader's reply to the Speech from the Throne laid bare the major difference between the leaders of the two main parties in Canada. One is there to be served by Canadians. The other is there to serve Canadians. Although that may not seem like a big difference, in the context of the current crisis, it is vitally important.
The Leader of the Opposition has shown that putting Canadians, all Canadians, at the centre of a future Conservative government is the only thing to do. I look forward to Quebeckers and Canadians getting to know him for who he is: a hard worker, born in Montreal, a navigator in the Canadian Armed Forces, a lawyer and a father. His career path is like that of many of us who were not born with a silver spoon in our mouths.
I will quote part of the opposition leader's speech.
Who is going to make sure Canada is better prepared next time? Who is going to make sure that Canada learns the lessons from the first wave and fixes the gaps and some of the problems that have put our citizens at risk? Who is going to make sure that working Canadian families stop getting left behind by the government?
Who? Let me continue.
We are a government in waiting, and we do not accept the poor response and the lack of lessons learned by the current government in a time of crisis. Canadians will also get to know that I have tried to spend my entire life standing up for this country. I was not born with a sense of entitlement to lead the country, but I have worked hard for my entire life to serve Canada and its people, to earn the chance to lead. That is what we need in public life when we face a national unity crisis, a pandemic, economic rebuilding and uncertainty on the global stage: someone who will fight to ensure that no Canadian family gets left behind; someone who understands the importance of service and community.
That is an attitude befitting a future prime minister. That is what we need in a time of crisis: a leader who understands the importance of work, who loves his country, and who will always place his country's interests above his own.
His agenda for Quebec is clear. I clearly remember his promise to Quebec during the party leadership race: He will not interfere in Quebec's internal affairs and, under his leadership, the Conservative Party will be more open than ever before. He said, “As long as I am your leader, Quebec nationalists, like Conservatives from all walks of life, will be welcome in our party.”
Unlike the current Prime Minister, whose words are rarely followed by action except when it comes to shutting down ethics inquiries, the Conservative leader walks the talk.
The hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent was appointed opposition House leader. He is the first Quebecker to hold this position in the Conservative Party of Canada. The Conservative leader's inner circle is made up of many Quebeckers, including the former member for Beauport—Limoilou, who I look forward to seeing again with us here in the House.
Our new leader's first meeting with a provincial premier was with Quebec Premier, François Legault. During that meeting, he was very clear about his intention to increase health care funding to the provinces in a stable, predictable and unconditional manner, as a matter of respect.
The leader of the Conservative Party and the official opposition is a leader who worked hard to get where he is and who will deliver on his commitments, unlike the leader of the Liberal Party.
In closing, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to take these few minutes to introduce our leader to Quebeckers because, unlike the Bloc Québécois, which will never be able to keep its promises and will always be an armchair quarterback, we will be able to keep our promises and get to the bottom of things.
It is time we had something besides an armchair critic. It is time we had a real player on the ice, someone like a Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux or Phillip Danault. We want a party leader who can score goals, not someone who is going to watch from the sidelines.