Mr. Speaker, I have so many things to say that I do not know where to start.
I would like to come back to the idea that the functioning of Parliament will be improved as of tomorrow, that is to say from the moment we no longer do what we normally do as parliamentarians.
Like all members of the House, I was elected because voters wanted me to work for them. We know how difficult times are for people in our ridings right now. I am from a rural riding. I am thinking of people in the tourism industry, people in the fishing industry, indigenous communities and all the small and medium-sized businesses.
There are natural resources in my riding. My region is what is called a resource region. All these large companies work with small businesses that are really struggling right now. For instance, the paper, aluminum and forestry sectors are having a very hard time.
Two ideas came to mind at the same time. I have the impression, or rather the certainty, that someone is trying to make me swallow a big fat lie. I am being told that, starting tomorrow, I will be able to do more than if I were in Parliament. What is more, I am being told that this is exactly what people are asking for, yet that is not what people are asking us to do.
We have talked a lot about people who have lost their jobs, people who are sick and families who are struggling to make ends meet because they do not know which way to turn. People have to take care of their sick loved ones or their children, all while trying to work at the same time.
I know that my colleagues are doing a tremendous amount of work in their ridings. We are being told that they have found a solution for parliamentarians. We are being told that the work we do in the House is not useful, that we have to call our constituents and that we have to set aside our work as legislators and our work in committee.
We are being told that by doing less in the House, we will be doing more in our ridings. Personally, I believe that the ideals of dignity, respect and effort, as part of our duties as elected officials, should be reflected in the work of the House. I am quite open to the idea that this work should adapt to the current situation. However, no one can say that there is no longer a legislative agenda, that not all committees can sit, and that we cannot have all the space we can in committees because of the pandemic.
Instead, we should capitalize on the situation. More than ever, we need to find ways to do our job as lawmakers in the House and in committee, while working in our ridings and dealing with the pandemic.
I feel like we are on pause. Quebec and all the provinces have also been on pause. People are going back to work and getting on with their lives. However, the signal we are sending them is that we are not fast enough, that we are not working hard enough, and that we do not have the will to do the work that we usually do.
I think that today we have shown that we are able to work together safely, since we are observing social distancing. Later today I will be going to committee and doing my job. If we are able to do that, why would we not?
All my constituents, as well as Quebeckers and Canadians, must be telling themselves the same thing: that we are asking more of them. They are being asked to go to work, to make sacrifices, and to put themselves a little more at risk. We, their representatives, should be flawless. I say flawless, but we certainly all have flaws. However, we should lead by example. Right now, the message we are sending is that we want to do less.
I can give an astonishing number of examples.
I come from a rural region. I am from eastern Quebec. I have been working with my colleagues from Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia and Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for the past few weeks to jointly serve our constituents. Although video conferencing is available, we know that when we are back home in our ridings, we do not have a place for dialogue, a place to get answers and get things done. We need to be able to get things done with the House, with colleagues, like we usually do.
I spoke about small and medium-sized businesses, tourism, fisheries and forestry. Ridings as big as mine, which, at 350,000 square kilometres, is one of the largest in Quebec and Canada, are home to many isolated communities, communities of 200 to 300 people, indigenous communities that are struggling and very vulnerable right now. The House does not necessarily deal with issues of concern to these communities, since those issues seem to be less important from a purely demographic standpoint. However, these people are entitled to the same representation as everyone else. I want us to be able to move forward, to present and talk about these realities in order to find solutions. We must remember that it took weeks before the fisheries sector got any assistance.
Coming to work in person in the House also allows us to speak to the Prime Minister and all of our colleagues, to get a specific topic out in the open and to find solutions.
We are seeing this now with tourism. I keep bringing it up, but I am thinking of all those people who rely on tourism and whom I see every day all over my riding. Some families that live off tourism are struggling to make ends meet and have no idea what is going to happen next week, next month, or even in September, when they may not have accumulated enough hours to qualify for employment insurance. I cannot imagine what kind of year these people might have. I keep hoping that something will happen for them. We need to work for these people. I want their voice to be heard, here as well as in committee.
I do not want us to have fewer opportunities to defend our people and propose solutions. That is Parliament's role.
We talked about the CERB earlier. It is an extremely important topic in Quebec as well. I have spoken to businesses that are in desperate need of workers, especially in the remote regions of Quebec. This benefit deters people from working. Our people need to work to survive. We are talking about families and individuals, but this benefit will also have an impact on the community and on our businesses if people do not go back to work.
Improvements need to be made, and I think that Parliament is still the best place to do that. The Liberals are not going to make us believe that we will be able to get more done better with less time, fewer committees, and fewer answers and discussions amongst ourselves and with our colleagues. I find that very hard, if not impossible, to believe.
Of course we need to keep working on these issues. I also raised the matter of indigenous peoples, which is a very important issue for me. The Innu and Naskapi make up 15% of the population of the riding of Manicouagan. We know that these populations are very young and still growing. I experienced this crisis, this pandemic, with them. I saw all the needs they had and still have, needs that still have not been met. Yes, millions of dollars have been provided, but these populations are fragile and vulnerable because of their isolation and their health issues. I would like to discuss their reality and their needs here in Parliament.
Yes, there is the regular business of the House and committees, and we need to make legislation. However, now there is also all the work that comes with the pandemic.
I always feel like we are lagging behind. We are lagging behind in terms of what happens next. There is nothing stopping us from thinking about the recovery, what is going to happen this fall or a second wave. We are not really talking about those things, but I believe it is our duty to anticipate them and to be ahead of the curve in terms of what is going to happen and what we can do to make sure that the impact is not as big as it was at the beginning of this crisis. We need to prepare. I say this for indigenous communities, for our businesses, for our workers and for all our communities. That is what they need. We have enough work to do, and we have the means to do it. We have more work than we would normally have. When I am told that we are going to meet once, twice or three times this summer, I do not feel that is enough. If I had to, I would come all summer long so that I could give even more to my constituents, so that I could defend them and find solutions.
For the sake of my constituents, I hope we can come up with something other than what we are seeing right now. We are being told to just go home and make calls, when there is so much to be done here. That is what the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons told us earlier. That is disappointing. In some respects, it is almost shameless given what we talked about yesterday when we learned that the two major political parties, the Liberal Party of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada, had decided to apply for the wage subsidy.
At the beginning of the crisis, I noticed that indigenous people in my riding did not have masks. SMEs in my riding are telling me that they cannot make ends meet and are going to go bankrupt. I see fishers who know that they are going out on the water at their own expense and are going into debt. I see workers who have had to leave their jobs because they have sick children. The government is not improving these programs, these subsidies. It is not trying to adjust them based on real needs. Emphasis on the word “needs”. The Liberals have brushed all that aside, while at the same time taking money from the pot, claiming they need it. The richest party in Canada decided to avail itself of that subsidy even though it had absolutely no need for it. I think that is terribly shameless coming from any party.
The government is creating subsidies, and some of the wealthy are taking advantage. Then, in the same breath, it tells us that in order to work for our constituents, whose needs are so great, we should stay home and not work in the House, since we are able to.
Where there is a will, there is a way. We can do it, and the Bloc Québécois wants to do it. I want us to continue doing our work, in all moral conscience as elected representatives. We need to be aware that what we are doing is not for our party or ourselves, but for the people we serve. In my case, that is the people of the North Shore. I want to be on duty here as much as possible so we can find solutions fast.
We have been to the moon, so I think we can find a way to vote electronically pretty quickly. There is no earthly reason the work of the House should not proceed as productively as possible. I urge all members of the House to say they want us to get back to work, and serious work at that. That is what our people need. It is what they want, and we are here for them.