Mr. Speaker, I am also very pleased to join this debate. I want to note that within a couple of hours this will probably be the last debate we have in the House in a normal Parliament until September 21 because of the motion we are debating, which to me is quite a shame. I hope to talk about that a bit later in my speech.
I want to start by acknowledging the incredible work being done by our health care providers, the people who go to work every day, our grocery stores, which sometimes have customers who are feeling a little anxious, and the truck drivers who are having challenges finding basic things like washrooms and a place to buy their food. We all need to appreciate the amazing work they have done to keep us going for the last couple of weeks.
I also want to share my condolences with all of the families and friends who have lost someone to COVID. It breaks the hearts of everyone in the House to know that people who have lost a relative, friend or mother were not able to be with their loved one. Rather, there was someone dressed in protective gear, maybe holding a iPad with FaceTime up for those people, but they were not able to be there to hold the hand of their relative.
A lot of people have talked about their staff. I also want to do a shout-out about my staff both here in Ottawa and in my riding. What has not been discussed and what I want to talk about is what the staff have been doing. Mostly, they have had to quickly transition to an adapted work environment. Then they have had to deal with probably the biggest volume of emails, phone calls and issues they have ever faced. I will give a couple of examples.
With travellers, for example, we have had hundreds of thousands of Canadians who were all over the world. Here I will acknowledge Global Affairs and the work its public servants have done in trying to help repatriate Canadians who were stuck in many places. I certainly have staff members who were up in the middle of the night phoning India to help support people through the process they had to engage in to get into the government system.
We had individuals who did not know where their next meal was coming from. They had lost their job, did not qualify for EI and were not sure how the EI and CERB were going to work, so my staff provided those folks with guidance, especially those with disabilities or those who had lost their jobs and were concerned. Unfortunately, Service Canada was closed and could not help those folks, so the staff helped them and the businesses. Who among us has not received a call from people who have put their life savings into a business that has been shut down and they do not know if it will open again or how they will survive, causing them pain and anxiety? The programs are helpful, but as we have already stated, some of them were flawed. Some of the flaws have been fixed, but there are still flaws in some of these programs that were brought in to see folks through these difficult times. Essentially, we had a country and global environment that was really up-ended very quickly. That is very important to know.
We talk about the role of a parliamentarian. I have to say I have been very appreciative of the opportunity to be home in the riding I represent for the last two months to focus on its needs and to help deal with all of the issues that were presenting themselves. Therefore, I appreciate the fact that Parliament had not been sitting over the last two months. However, I was thinking that it is time. I knew that May 25 was coming and that typically May and June are incredibly busy in the House and thought it was time. Things have eased a bit. We were starting to talk in our office about how we would reopen and we made the adjustments we needed to make, so it was time for Parliament to sit again.
When we saw the motion that the NDP apparently bought into and the Liberals presented, it was better than what we had been doing, but we need better than that. It was time to do better than what we had done. Yes, we had been having some committee meetings, but it was not Parliament. As our House leader likes to say, it is a fake Parliament. Her point is that it is not Parliament.
The Liberals have tried to present this as something where there is going to be so much more time for members to ask questions. To be frank, I would rather have less time to ask questions, because I am not particularly impressed with the answers we get, and more time for debate, like the debate we are having today, for the tools we have as parliamentarians to actually get answers to real questions and hold the government to account. What the Liberals have proposed is basically shutting down Parliament, except for one day with very prescribed circumstances so they can spend some money, and an opportunity for us to ask lots of questions and maybe every now and then be fortunate enough to get an answer.
It will be committee and questions. There are some committees that the Liberals have agreed can sit. To me, it has been a real puzzle. I am not quite sure of the dynamics in deciding which committees can sit or not. I sit on the natural resources committee, and natural resources are going to be incredibly important for the economic recovery of our country. We had a forestry industry in crisis and Alberta had significant issues. I can understand why the government would not want the natural resources committee to meet. It does not want to be embarrassed by what might come out of that committee. A few committees are going to meet, and we are going to have lots of chances to ask questions with no answers, but we are not going to have an economic statement or a budget.
My colleague talked earlier about private members' business. What about the bill regarding transplants? There are things happening in this country that are about more than just COVID. I know we have to be predominantly focused on COVID, but we need to also focus on other areas. Just yesterday, Liberals voted against allowing the special committee on China to look at the issue around Hong Kong. Perhaps an opposition day may have had a different outcome for that particular conversation. At least it would have provided an opportunity for some significant debate.
One of the most important things parliamentarians do is scrutinize the spending of the government. We will be back June 17, when there will be a process, I would say a sham of a process, to approve the estimates. For those listening, typically the committees that understand the departments, be it national defence or indigenous services, understand the spending and those budgets. They will typically have a minister come to the committee to defend the estimates to the committee, which can make changes. That whole process has been wiped out.
Therefore, we are not able to scrutinize the spending and we are not getting an economic update. The government is going to spend $250-plus billion, taking our deficit to potentially $1 trillion, and we will not be able to talk about that in this House. As we have seen in committees in the past couple of weeks, when the Conservative finance shadow minister asks questions, there have been very unsatisfactory answers from the finance minister. Therefore, there will be no debates on that particular area.
In British Columbia, there is the Wet'suwet'en agreement. That was done in secret with the hereditary chiefs. The elected chiefs are very concerned, but we are not going to be able to talk about it.
In closing, it is a difficult time for many. I know parliamentarians across this country are working very hard for their constituents in their ridings, but it was time for them to start working hard for them here in Parliament and doing one of our fundamental tasks, which is holding the government to account. This motion is a sham. The NDP should be embarrassed to be supporting it, and the Liberals should be embarrassed that they are once again shuttering Parliament.