House of Commons Hansard #26 of the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was debate.

Topics

FinanceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the clerk, the analysts, and all the other employees of the House of Commons, including our assistants who helped us prepare this report and the dissenting report that I will now talk about.

Unfortunately, we will not support the majority report. The majority report gives license to the government to continue piling up unsustainable debt, to continue blocking key private sector investments that would create opportunity and jobs for people, to continue overtaxing our workers and entrepreneurs.

As an alternative, our dissenting report provides a way forward to unleash the power of free enterprise, so anyone who works hard can achieve his or her dreams. Our proposal puts forward a “pay as you go” model, whereby any government wishing to increase spending beyond what is already budgeted would have to reduce spending by an equal amount somewhere else, thus containing the size and cost of government. We would require the government to reduce two regulations for every new regulation it institutes.

We propose also to create a trust savings vehicle so oil and gas enterprises can set aside dollars for the future decommissioning and environmental remediation of their sites, so we do not end up with thousands of untreated and un-remediated oil and gas wells in the future.

In this dissenting report, we have real proposals to get the government to live within its means, leave more in people's pockets and let them get ahead. Our purpose, again, is to unleash the incredible and unmatched power of the free enterprise system so anyone who works hard can achieve his or her dreams.

Herring FisheryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to table a petition on behalf of residents who live along the Salish Sea. The importance of the petition and the timing of it is on the eve of the opening of the herring roe fishery in the Salish Sea, and residents are deeply concerned.

The petitioners cite that the Pacific herring is the basis for the food web that supports Pacific wild salmon, killer and humpback whales cod, halibut, seabirds and other independent species on the Pacific coast. They also cite that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced that the Pacific herring population had dropped by approximately one-third, from 2016 to 2019. We know that the department recommended to the minister to cut the herring catch in the Salish Sea, from 20% to 10%, and deem it a high-risk fishery.

The petitioners call on the government to suspend the herring fishery until a whole-of-ecosystem plan is developed and to fairly compensate local fishers for any economic losses and ensure that decisions are made with the full participation of first nations and local communities.

Human Organ TraffickingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today in support of Bill S-204, combatting forced organ harvesting and trafficking.

Addiction TreatmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition today that has been brought forward by a number of concerned Canadians. Unfortunately, with the new formatting, it is not possible to see in what ridings these petitioners reside.

The petitioners call for the Government of Canada to pay attention to the experience in other countries, particularly Portugal, where incarceration of people suffering from drug and addiction problems has been ended. Instead, effective rehabilitation programs are in place to ensure that people suffering from drug dependency are able to again participate in a meaningful way in society.

The petitioners ask for the end of incarceration and a commitment to treatment programs.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

February 28th, 2020 / 12:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport had one minute left for questions and comments. We have time for a brief question.

The hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary mentioned net zero in his speech, and I thought that described the contributions he made to the debate.

We face a situation where the government is attacking the rights and privileges of parliamentarians. We have tried to stand up against that. At certain times, we have tried to extend hours. The member complains about extending hours and then he complains about reducing hours; wildly inconsistent and inaccurate comments by the member.

Would he like to take the opportunity to apologize for his speech?

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Liberal

Chris Bittle LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, what the member is talking about is the 30 hours the opposition said that members had to sit here, to be away from their families, to be away from their constituents. That is a serious matter, and to make light of it is ridiculous. Let us get to work.

I know those members do not think Friday is an important day, but we are ready to get to work and pass legislation, like the new NAFTA.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Portage—Lisgar for the speech she gave earlier.

I would like to reiterate from the outset that the government has a minority, which means quite frankly, clearly and objectively that it does not have the support of the House that it might like to have. That should be reflected in the way it works with the opposition.

I would also invite the House to revisit the mandate letter of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. The first thing he is asked to do would seem like a priority. He is asked to:

Lead the House Leadership team to bring a collaborative and effective approach to the minority Parliament, placing a priority on transparency and communicating with Canadians on the work of their Parliament.

I would like to make a few remarks about what has been asked of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. To that end, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Saint-Jean.

The first requirement in the Prime Minister's mandate letter to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is leadership. I remind members that leadership involves leading people. To lead people, you need a place, an objective and a destination. That is the first thing. Of course, a minority government's first step should be to collaborate, as was mentioned earlier.

Beyond having a place and an objective, beyond collaborating and listening, leadership involves inspiring those around you. You need to be a source of inspiration, an influence, and I would even say a model, an example. A leader is a positive person whom people trust and want to follow through the battle. Trust is also an important component of leadership.

Naturally, all of this remains an essential condition to what is referred to in the mandate letter as a collaborative approach. Collaboration cannot be done alone, of course. We collaborate with the people around us, which means opening a space or sharing a common space with others. For this to happen, you have to reach out to others. You cannot stay in your own corner of the House of Commons. You have to listen to others.

When we listen to what other people are telling us on, say, an opposition day, we can make connections. Connecting can mean taking risks, but taking those risks and listening to others is one of the only ways to build relationships with them and earn their trust. That is the only way collaboration can happen.

I am sure everyone expects me to talk about the effective approach. We want leadership, we want to collaborate, we want to be effective. Effectiveness requires respect above all, respect and walking the talk. On many occasions, I have read and heard, here in the House and elsewhere, that the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons wants to collaborate and do every single thing in his mandate letter.

Why hold an opposition day on a Friday, then? I think that shows a lack of respect and a failure to walk the talk. In no way does it support collaboration or consistency. Trust, respect, collaboration and leadership have to be consistent too. People cannot say and do something one day and the opposite the next.

There are two things that are extremely important to me as a parliamentarian who answers to her constituents. The whole issue of transparency matters to me. I want my constituents to be able to know what is going on in the House. There are multiple discourses, from the government in power and from the opposition. The government cannot muzzle the House or claim that a single version of the facts is the only one that should be heard.

This is about transparency. We need to let the whole discourse unfold, because this is a debate. It is not an affirmation or a diktat. It is a debate. This is a space for ideological diversity, a space for establishing the various measures that must be put in place. That is why it is important for the whole discourse to be heard. It is not up to the government to decide what is going to happen.

A debate is a dialectical exchange. The goal is not to see who is right and make everyone else shut up. No, that is not the goal. Dialectics involves taking one idea and a contradictory or contrasting idea in order to arrive at something different. Naturally, the goal of every member of the House is to work for their constituents and find the best compromises. Compromises are also part of a debate.

As an MP, I said that I was concerned about transparency because I believe in our obligation to be accountable. I believe that we need to be accountable and that we are responsible for the decisions we make in the House. Canadians and Quebeckers need to be aware of what is happening in the House and they must have access to all speeches. That way they can make up their own minds and take action. Ultimately, we are working for them.

Communication is important to ensure that people are aware of what is happening in the House. The debates in the House reveal the hidden side of some subjects. We want to give voters all the information they need to make up their own minds and judge for themselves what to do. That is the very essence of democracy, the conditions necessary to exercising democracy. Opposition days are extremely valuable to voters and are part of this broad definition.

I will close by simply reminding members of the mandate letter of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, which reads as follows:

Lead the House Leadership team to bring a collaborative and effective approach to the minority Parliament, placing a priority on transparency and communicating with Canadians on the work of their Parliament.

I would like to ask the government House leader two rhetorical questions to give all members something to think about. By doing this, namely holding opposition days on Friday, does he think that he is fulfilling the responsibilities he was given in his mandate letter with respect to leadership, a collaborative and effective approach, transparency and communication? I have an answer for him. In my opinion, today, it is the opposition that acted as a House leader.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency)

Madam Speaker, in the last Parliament there was a debate at committee on getting around the Standing Orders, but the Bloc was not involved in it.

I would like to provide a couple of quotes.

On March 21, a Conservative member said, with respect to an amendment that was put forward, that it, “would require that all parties agree to any changes...made to the Standing Orders. That's what's been done in the past....That's what's been done in a proper functioning way of going about this.” The person who said that was the member for Perth—Wellington.

In the same debate, an NDP member stated, “the only way to proceed on major changes to Standing Orders is through all-party agreement.”

Those cases were passionately made by those two parties during that debate, which went several months out, if I remember correctly. I wonder what the member thinks about those two parties changing their view on that.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, as I said earlier, I believe that leadership has been assumed. Naturally, the House is sovereign. I think that with an approach based on leadership, collaboration, effectiveness, transparency and communication, we can move beyond our entrenched positions. We have to be able to reach out to the other side to determine whether something can be done to help us continue improving.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member for Manicouagan's speech. She made a tremendously good argument for a better way of proceeding in this Parliament.

The member joined us here in 2015. I wonder whether she shares my view that the basic problem here is that the Liberal government and caucus have failed to understand what it means to work together with other people in a minority Parliament. The Liberals still seem to be acting as if they had a majority. They do not seem to recognize the results of the last election, and that necessity at a very basic level to work with others in this House.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. That is what I am seeing at present. I do not see a willingness to work together. That was obvious from what the government members said earlier. They practically accused the opposition of wanting to hold opposition days as a means of obstructing the work of the House.

In my view—I am trying to be very objective when I say this—that is an arrogant refusal to recognize the work of the opposition. That is not the way to behave.

Finally, no government should be arrogant, and that applies to any government. In a minority situation, the government should make sure not to show arrogance.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her comments.

I think Canadians sent us a very strong message in 2019 when they elected us to lead a minority government. They want all parties to work closely together to make life easier for Canadians.

As I am sure my colleague knows, the parliamentary calendar provides enough time for all parties to be able to debate their priorities. The priorities people talk to me about in my home region are things like NAFTA and job creation. I doubt that today's motion is the most important issue of the day for her constituents.

Once again, does my colleague not think we should be debating legislation that would improve the lives of Canadians?

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question, which has two parts. I will address both.

With regard to the fact that we already have opposition days, I will say that, indeed, opposition days do exist. However, the government also knows that these days exist and it should recognize that Fridays and Wednesdays are not good options for us. We want to debate, but we want to debate for the maximum amount of time allowed, because we have a lot of things to say.

As for the second part of my colleague's question, yes, some people in my riding may have similar needs. However, that does not prevent us from continuing to work. During the Bloc Québécois's opposition day, we proposed increasing employment insurance to 50 weeks, and every opposition member voted in favour of that motion. That addresses what my constituents want. I do not think we wasted our time standing up for people struggling with illness and hoping to improve the EI program, which, in my opinion and in the opinion of the constructive opposition, is unfair.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to set the tone for my speech by reading two quotes.

The first is something that the Prime Minister said on October 23, 2019, just after the election. He said, “Canadians have sent a clear message that they want their parliamentarians to work together, and I am committed to doing that”.

The second quote is a response the hon. member for Honoré-Mercier, the government House leader, gave to a statement in the House on December 6, 2019. He said, “...the government is under scrutiny. Well, all parliamentarians are under scrutiny by Canadians. On October 21, Canadians sent us a very clear message. They want us to work together and try to move forward together on matters of common interest.”

The Liberals have a minority government, and I think that they are losing sight of the fact that the term “political opponent” does not mean exactly the same thing as it does in a majority context. In a minority situation, today's opponents may be tomorrow's allies. From this perspective, I believe that the government did not really understand the message sent by Canadians. Canadians were saying that the government needs to work with us because progress will only be made if the entire House works together.

Opposition members, in contrast, truly understand the importance of working together and collaborating, as we have seen on opposition days. I would like to go over a few of the topics we have addressed on opposition days since this Parliament began, which was not that long ago. The House began its work in early December. Several things have emerged from opposition days.

On the first opposition day, the goal was to create a special committee on Canada-China Relations. The Conservatives' motion reminded us that it is important to review the government's conduct to ensure that the diplomatic crises we have experienced in recent months and years, some involving China, do not happen again.

That opposition day reminded the government that it is on notice, that the opposition will make sure the government conducts itself impeccably, that the House is accountable to the people and that all the government's actions must be transparent. We reminded the government that we are keeping a close eye on it, that we are ready to intervene and that we will make sure Canada has good diplomatic relations. That probably would not have happened if the government had a majority.

The second opposition day motion to be voted on called for an audit of the government's investing in Canada plan. It had come to parliamentarians' attention that the Parliamentary Budget Officer posted that budget 2018 provided an incomplete account of the changes to the government's $186.7-billion infrastructure spending plan.

Parliamentarians seized upon the opportunity provided by a Conservative proposal that would give the Parliamentary Budget Officer more powers, authorize him to immediately conduct an audit of spending under the government's investing in Canada plan and ask him to report to the House. Again, in this context, the opposition took a watchdog role, keeping an eye on what is happening in the House. The opposition fully understood its importance, and, above all, it understood the importance of collaboration, because the opposition voted as a bloc—no pun intended.

On the third opposition day, we debated a motion to instruct the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to conduct hearings into the death of Marylène Levesque. Parliamentarians studied the question on a Conservative opposition day. The Conservatives highlighted the importance of reviewing certain procedures, including the provision of training to Parole Board officers.

As we mentioned then, although the Bloc did not fully agree with the proposed wording, it supported the motion nonetheless. The opposition used a full day of debate to clarify the nuances and important subtleties. Bloc members explained why it was important to support the Conservative motion, even though it was not perfect.

A full day of debate allowed us to leave no stone unturned so that everyone, both in the House and in our ridings when we return to speak with our constituents, clearly understood what was at play with that proposal.

The last proposal I want to talk about is the one from the Bloc Québécois; I would really be remiss if I let it go unmentioned. It dealt with the issue of special employment insurance sickness benefits. The opposition day served to shed light not only on an important issue, an issue of compassion that affects people in every riding, but also on the unfairness that exists between workers who are laid off when a business closes and those who stop working because of a serious illness. Together with the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP called on the government to increase the benefit period to 50 weeks to ensure fairness between the different categories of workers. Again, it was an opposition day that produced results and allowed the parties to collaborate well together.

Unfortunately, while the decision to set the Conservatives' opposition day for a Friday was clearly intended to punish that party first and foremost, the government does not seem to realize that it punishes the entire population. It deprives them of their right to share ideas from all walks of life, ideas that advance our society and days that give everyone the opportunity to understand the issues of the day.

On the other hand, it is never too late to do the right thing; I think this is what we must keep in mind this week. We saw this with the rail blockade crisis. It seems that the government has finally implemented what the Bloc has been proposing from day one, from the very beginning of the crisis. Apparently, we might finally be approaching a way out of this crisis. Similarly, I would suggest to the government that, once again, it is not too late to do the right thing.

At the beginning of the parliamentary session, there seemed to be a real desire to work together, to advance issues collaboratively. However, it feels like things are going sideways. Once again, it is not too late to change course, to get things back on track and make sure that parliamentarians work together.

If people are already having a hard time getting along, just a few months into this Parliament, and if people already have bad attitudes when we have just barely started our work, then I cannot even imagine what the future holds if we do not fix this situation.

We are being told that more opposition days would mean losing some time to debate other key issues. However, if we do not fix things right now, and if we get caught up in never-ending procedural arguments in the long term, then I fear that we will lose even more days of work. If we are arguing amongst ourselves, starting with little shots at each other and moving up to an eye for an eye, then will all end up blind. That is not what we want.

This is why the Bloc Québécois commends the Conservatives for moving this motion, which I believe is a levelheaded response to a slap in their face. This motion sends a message by creating the least amount of collateral damage possible. This motion serves as a reminder to the government that, although it has acknowledged it in the past, it does not seem to understand that it is a minority government.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Speaker, I certainly appreciate my colleague's comment that it is a measured response. Hopefully we can move forward in a more positive way after this.

I want to point out for those who might be watching that on an opposition day, we only get four people to give short speeches. We have 121 members, and certainly the Bloc has a significant caucus, so one can imagine that when members have something important they want to talk to, they treasure these days.

I would ask the member to talk about how important it is that our colleagues have the opportunity to talk to the issues that are so important to them.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, although I spoke a little about this in my speech, I would like to reiterate the importance of opposition days. Above all, these days must provide the maximum amount of speaking time so that no aspect is overlooked.

We have to ensure that we listen to everyone's point of view. In fact, even when discussing amongst ourselves the position we will take for an opposition day, several ideas are raised that are not all consistent. Some of us see things from a different perspective. With a larger number of people speaking, we can rest assured that we will hear the full range of positions and, in some cases, the measures to be implemented.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I think communication is really important when we talk about what takes place on the floor of the House of Commons. Some might try to give the impression of punishment with regard to why this matter is before us today. That is really a false impression.

Yesterday, I stood right here and asked if we could debate the free trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico. I stood here and asked to have that debate today. Had everyone agreed, we would have been debating it today. We would not be debating the opposition day motion.

How do you figure it is punishment, given the particular comment I just provided?

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. parliamentary secretary has been here long enough to know that he is to address all questions and comments to the Chair.

The hon. member for Saint-Jean.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, parliamentary tradition dictates that opposition days do not fall on a Wednesday or a Friday. I believe my colleague is aware of that.

In that regard, we have not been given any explanation as to why the Conservative opposition day is being held today. The explanation might have been acceptable. In the context of an emergency, the Conservatives might have agreed to having their opposition day today, on Friday. That is not the case. For lack of a real and plausible explanation, the only reason I can find is that it is a punishment.

Opposition Motion—Additional Allotted DaysBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Saint-Jean for her intervention, which I enjoyed very much.

I think that over the past four years, the Liberal government has gotten in the habit of systematically muzzling and showing contempt for Parliament. Today, the Liberals are learning a lesson. They have a minority government. Not only does their party hold a minority of seats, but it did not win the popular vote in the last election.

Would my colleague agree that the government needs to come to terms with the position it is in now?