Madam Speaker, it is an honour to enter into the debate on the throne speech and to express some very serious concerns I have with it.
The throne speech, at least in English, was nearly 7,000 words, with many catchphrases and talking points but very little substance.
I would like to address two themes. The first is why the government felt that it was even necessary to have a throne speech. Second, I would like to point out some specific challenges I have with the throne speech itself.
Regarding the prorogation of Parliament, I find it incredibly disturbing that the government felt it should shut down Parliament, and not just with the prorogation. The last eight months were bad enough, but in the middle of several concurrent investigations into the Prime Minister's conduct, Parliament was shut down. It shut down committees, members of Parliament and Canadians, truly. There is one place in the country that allows all the voices of Canadians to be heard, and that is within the hallowed walls of this chamber. The Prime Minister, in an extraordinary abuse of executive authority, used a legitimate parliamentary mechanism to shut down investigations into his own conduct, and that is shameful.
Unfortunately, but not surprising, after several months of denial and flip-flopping, when the government finally figured out, I think on March 13, that the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic was actually serious and it changed course and we saw the first bill for some emergency relief measures brought forward, even though members of my party had brought up concerns about why there were no increased measures at airports or other actions being taken to ensure Canada would be better prepared to deal with the threat of this global pandemic. However, instead of it being simply about emergency relief, it was about an incredible abuse of executive power. We saw an attempted power grab, unlike anything I have seen in the country's history. The government wanted unlimited spending authority for more than a year and a half. In what democracy would that ever be deemed acceptable to even propose let alone justify it in the midst of a global pandemic? When Canadians deserved and needed help, the government looked out for nothing other than its own power. It is unbelievable.
For members opposite who are curious about some of the aspects of parliamentary procedure and who say we need this to be a legislative reset, I asked a question of one of the members from the Liberal Party here just a few minutes ago. He somehow suggested that the six weeks was necessary to ensure the Liberals could consult with Canadians on the throne speech. It is interesting that he mentioned a few examples about how he did town halls and whatnot. He also suggested other members were not talking to their constituents, which is insulting. I was asked to respond, but since I did not have a chance during the questions and comments I will respond now.
It is unbelievable and speaks to the Liberal elitist mentality to suggest that somehow their prorogation allowed them to have an inside track on influencing the future of the country in a minority Parliament. They should well know that it is this place that allows all voices to be heard, not simply Liberal Party voices. The Conservatives received more votes in the last election than the Liberals. The Liberals had a significantly reduced mandate after the last election, yet it seems they have refused to accept the will of the Canadian people when it comes to their place in Parliament and the fact that Parliament is truly an essential service.
My last point on the concerns around why we have a throne speech today is that the government seems to play quick and fast with all aspects of how it does business, such as manufacturing urgency with the passing of Bill C-2.
We could have been debating this for weeks. It could have been passed weeks ahead of the deadline, yet the government waited until the eleventh hour and showed up at a press conference. Then the Liberal House leader tweeted out that this was a confidence motion, that it must be passed or we could go to an election and Canadians would suffer as a result. It was circumstances manufactured by the government. That is typical Liberal elitism.
I digress in that regard and will move on to some of the serious concerns I have with the throne speech. I summed it up simply to my constituents when they asked me to describe in a sentence or two my feelings on it. I said that it was vague, expensive and Ottawa knows best.
On the vague aspect of it, there were few concrete measures. The Liberals talked about their four pillars of a recovery. They have a lot of catchphrases and slogans. If there was an award for catchphrases and slogans, the government would get it. It seems to be copying from various campaigns, even other election campaigns from other democracies around the world. It throws in these catchphrases and hopes that people will somehow believe they will get the job done. On this side of the House, we know that is not the case.
It is unfortunate that most of the aspects of the throne speech are simply recycled Liberal promises. I point to one example, which is its promise to plant two billion trees. It promised this in the last election, yet in the year that has passed, it has planted zero trees. However, we have an oil sands company that has planted millions. This speaks to the bigger context of the throne speech. Many promises were recycled. The Liberals seem to think that making these grand promises and having no plan for delivery somehow serves the best interests of Canadians, and that is simply not the case.
That is one of many examples. What could have been an opportunity to see many specific concrete paths forward for our country, we saw very few. This is unfortunate. It was a huge missed opportunity.
Further, it seemed to be a vanity project for the Prime Minister. He prorogued Parliament for six weeks and had the Governor General read a throne speech, a significant aspect of our parliamentary tradition that takes the focus off the politics of the country and allows our head of state to outline an agenda. However, that was not good enough for the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister had to have his face on television to continue his sorry trend of cottage chronicles, to have a televised address that simply repeated things.
I have much more to say, some of which I have addressed in other speeches, like the unity crisis. The fact is that we are six months into a fiscal year. I know many people who work in the Jim Flaherty building down the street, named after the former Conservative finance minister. There are incredibly intelligent and capable finance people in the department, yet the Minister of Finance said yesterday that it would not be prudent to estimate what the deficit would be. I know many of the people in the Finance Department have a good idea. I suspect it has more to do with the fact that Liberals are scared of what Canadians will think when they find out the cost and lack of accounting associated with their spending. At a time when all Canadians know we need to support those who need it, doing so without a plan is very unfortunate.
My last point is this. The Ottawa knows best mentality is best represented on page 18 of the throne speech. In talking about a national pharmacare strategy, the Liberals use a word when they talk about working with provinces to develop a pharmacare plan, of which there is no detail. They say that they will only work with “willing” provinces and territories.
When it comes to the government, it is clear that it is only willing to work with those who are willing to fall in line with its narrow ideology and perspective on what the future of our country should look like. That is driving in wedges across our country that are harming the capacity and capability of Canadians—