Madam Speaker, it is my turn to talk about this very important issue. I have so many things to say that I wish I did not have to share my time, but I want to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Lakeland.
This is a major crisis that is currently affecting all Canadians and the indigenous people involved in this conflict, sometimes through no fault of their own and sometimes according to their own will. So many things have been said tonight that I have no choice but to correct some of them.
First, since the beginning of the evening, since the Prime Minister's speech, the party opposite has been serving up a word salad, as our leader said. The Liberal Party is not saying anything.
The Prime Minister encouraged people to be patient. We have already waited 13 days and we will be waiting even longer. We are going to be waiting until the crisis resolves itself. I have already heard the Prime Minister say that about deficits and budgets. It seems budgets balance themselves. Unfortunately, that approach does not work.
The Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations said something tonight that stood out to me. She said the following.
As we heard in the heartfelt words of the Minister of Indigenous Services, we believe we have learned from the crisis at Oka, but also Ipperwash, Caledonia and Gustafsen Lake. Last year, we said that we never wanted to see again the images of police having to use force in an indigenous community in order to keep the peace.
This government has learned nothing from past crises, all of which were the result of the government's inaction, of its inability to respond quickly, which only led to the situation deteriorating, and also to various drastic and unfortunate actions. That is just the reality. The government has learned nothing. Now it is attempting to blame its lack of understanding of the crisis and its handling of previous crises on the Conservatives' own lack of understanding, when in fact, it is the other way around.
I would like to talk about a crisis that hit Quebec in 1998. In 1998, 350 pork producers decided to blockade Highway 20. These 350 pork producers were desperate and had made certain demands. I am not talking about the demands made by the Wet'suwet'en. That is not the issue I am concerned with at the moment. What I am interested in is the government's response to that crisis. No matter how legitimate these demands may be, the crisis at hand goes far beyond the demands of this particular indigenous nation. There are people getting involved who are not at all concerned with these demands.
As I was saying, 350 pork producers had blockaded Highway 20 in 1998. The crisis lasted five days. All things considered, that is a long time. For five whole days, Highway 20 was closed to automobile traffic. How was the crisis resolved? The then premier of Quebec, Lucien Bouchard, instructed the Sûreté du Québec to let the people involved know that the blockade would be lifted, that the police would have to get involved. The very next day, the situation was resolved in an orderly and respectful fashion. No major police intervention was needed. The blockade ended. That is the reality. How can such crises be expected to be resolved without setting an expiry date? Members know just how long these kinds of discussions can last.
As long as these discussions last, there will be people who are suffering. No amount of discussions will improve the situation of those who are suffering. We will not be able to improve the situation of those who are bearing the brunt of these blockades.
I would now like to return to the Leader of the Opposition's speech today. He very eloquently expressed everyday Canadians' thoughts on the current situation. The Prime Minister's speech, on the other hand, was akin to a word salad. He had absolutely nothing to offer to resolve the situation. He simply stated that we would have to continue to wait for the crisis to resolve itself. That is an accurate summation of the Prime Minister's speech.
The Prime Minister convened the House and all its members to state that he had an important announcement to make to the nation. In the end, he delivered an utterly wishy-washy speech that was entirely devoid of substance and ultimately accomplished nothing.
In spite of the Prime Minister's speech tonight and in spite of his invitation for all parties to enter into a dialogue to find a solution, the blockades persist. The situation is the same as it was before the speech and absolutely nothing has been fixed.
It really was nothing more than a word salad designed to appease, one that drove home the point that no one has been doing a thing for 13 days, that no one has stepped in and that no one would be stepping in because, after all, no one really knows what to do. That is essentially what we have heard today from the Prime Minister.
In his speech, the Prime Minister had already suggested that he disagreed with the Conservatives' position. Then, we learned that he had invited all party leaders to a meeting, except the leader of the Conservative Party, which is unbelievable.
Our leader said today that the Prime Minister's statement was a complete abdication of responsibility and of leadership. I am in complete agreement.
Our leader added that, “standing between our country and prosperity is a small group of radical activists, many of whom have little to no connection to first nations communities.” He added that these “radical activists...will not rest until our oil and gas industry is entirely shut down.” Finally, he said that “they are blockading our ports, railways, borders, roads and highways”.
I looked at images of various blockades and I read #shutdowncanada and #nopipeline. That is the reality. What is the connection to the indigenous community's demands? Meanwhile, in my riding, people are suffering, they are going through terrible times and they just cannot cope.
I want to mention a few businesses in the riding of Beauce, which my colleague represents. Propane GRG in Sainte-Marie is running out of stock and is delivering only to essential services. It is the middle of winter, and the company has to ration its customers and deliver only 20% of what it usually delivers. The vice-president of Propane GRG, Patrice Breton, says the business is on life support until an agreement ends the blockades.
The rail blockades set up by indigenous people in Lac-Mégantic are hurting businesses in the Eastern Townships. The Tafisa plant, for example, has been unable to supply its clients since the crisis began. As a result, 350 workers have been taken hostage by this crisis because, for 13 days, the Prime Minister has not done a single thing to even attempt to resolve the crisis. For the time being, Tafisa has been able to dispose of its stock by filling wagons that are parked in a train yard between Lac-Mégantic and Montreal. The harbours are at capacity. In short, the situation is unacceptable. If it persists, the company will have to lay off staff.
I also received a message from a dairy farmer in the Lac-Mégantic region tonight. I would like to read it again. “Hey Luc. Because of the crisis with the indigenous folks and the rail blockades, our livestock will soon be going hungry. Anything you can do to shake things up and move things along would be appreciated, because the viability of our businesses is on the line. The situation is still manageable, but our stocks are dwindling, and by next week, the grain centres will be emptied out.”
The health of small farms in my riding and in many other regions of Canada is at stake, but the crisis is also having other repercussions, namely, price fluctuations. Kernel corn prices for producers have risen by $10 to $15 per tonne since the crisis started. That is the reality.
We are in the midst of a national crisis, and meanwhile, all we are hearing from the other side of the House is that we need to be patient. They say that no instructions are being given to the RCMP, but the RCMP is being told that discussions are being sought.
There has been no rhyme or reason to the Liberals' management of this crisis. We expect a lot more from a government, and a lot more from a Prime Minister.
We expect a Prime Minister who is trying to resolve a national crisis to not intentionally exclude a leader of the official opposition from official meetings to discuss this crisis.