Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to address the House of Commons. This time, for the first time this session, I am doing so virtually, from my home riding of Perth—Wellington.
Before I begin my remarks this afternoon, I do feel it is important to note a historic event that happened 35 years ago today. I was reminded of this event by Art Milnes of Kingston. It was on this date in 1985 that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed the first Black lieutenant governor of Ontario, the Hon. Lincoln Alexander.
Lincoln Alexander was certainly a Canadian who broke barriers at the time of his life as the first Black member of Parliament for the Conservatives and the first Black cabinet minister in Canada. Certainly his appointment 35 years ago today is equally of historic note.
We join the debate today on Motion No. 1. It is somewhat unfortunate that my first speech at length in this chamber during this session is one that is a motion of a guillotine. This motion provides exactly four hours and 30 minutes of debate on this matter, on Bill C-4. It provides for no committee study, no clause-by-clause consideration, no questions to ministers, and no opportunities for clarification on the implementation or the ramifications that this bill may have on Canadians. It provides for no witnesses, no comments from Canadians, from organizations and groups, from experts or from academics. In short, it provides for very little in terms of formal input from Canadians.
Of course, the government has noted, quite rightly, that many of the benefits that have been introduced for Canadians ended this week, but that does not excuse the opportunity that the Liberals wasted when they could have introduced legislation prior to this date. Certainly, before they prorogued on August 18, they could have tabled legislation on one of the Wednesday committee of the whole sittings that were scheduled for the weeks after they prorogued Parliament. They did not.
Even as recently as this past Friday, our new opposition House leader provided the government with the opportunity to have a Sunday sitting. We, as opposition parliamentarians, were ready, willing and able to be here on Sunday to debate this piece of legislation. We were ready to hear from the ministers and to question ministers on the implementation of this bill. We were ready, but the government was not. Rather, the government saw fit to introduce the guillotine motion and to cut off debate.
This brings me back to the importance of the opposition. My colleague from Regina—Lewvan talked about the team Canada approach. Certainly, early in this pandemic we often heard the Liberals talking about the team Canada approach, but for whatever reason, we do not hear them talking about team Canada anymore. Perhaps that is because half of team Canada is being left on the bench.
I would note that if it were not for the opposition and our pressure, there likely would not have been changes to the wage subsidy, which saw the government move it from 10% to 75%. It was good to see that the Liberals finally endorsed the back-to-work bonus that was introduced by our former leader, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, which actually provided an incentive for Canadians to transition back into the workforce.
Could one only have imagined if the government had implemented some of our ideas earlier in the pandemic, when we called for more strict quarantine measures for Canadians returning to Canada from international hot spots? We cannot improve legislation when we are being muted. It is unfortunate that the government has failed to see the important role the opposition plays in the governing of our country.
I am often reminded of a speech that was given in 1949 on the role of what was then His Majesty's Loyal Opposition. It was delivered by a then little-known member of Parliament from the riding of Lake Centre in Saskatchewan. This member, of course, went on to become better associated with the next riding he represented, that of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
John Diefenbaker said this in that important speech:
The critical question is often asked as to why the need of two sides in Parliament, one to propose and the other to oppose. The simple answer is that the experience of history has been that only a strong and fearless Opposition can assure preservation of our fundamental freedoms and of the rights of the individual against executive and bureaucratic invasions of those rights.
We are here to protect those rights of all Canadians and to speak up on their behalf.
There is no question that this pandemic has had an impact on Canadians across this country. I would dare say there is not a single Canadian who has not been affected in one way or another by the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it is families, farmers, small business owners or children.
One point that is important to highlight again and again is the fact that the government has failed on rapid testing and at-home testing. We see our international colleagues implementing these programs for quick testing so that they do not see the massive lineups or the wait times for single parents waiting with their children to get tested. The government has failed on this matter.
The government has also failed on reunifying families. I have raised the case in this House on a number of occasions, and so have my colleagues, of my constituent Sarah Campbell. Sarah has been separated from her British fiancé Jacob since February. It was bad enough for a young couple in love to have to cancel their June wedding, and I am sure many Canadians can associate with the disappointment that this would have caused, but what was truly heartbreaking was that within days of their scheduled wedding date, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and throughout her surgery and treatment, she has been separated from her fiancé.
Sarah has written over 100 letters to the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, as well as to the Prime Minister, with very little response. In fact, only yesterday, Sarah's case was raised by my colleague, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, and the Minister of Immigration did not even get my constituent's name right, despite it being in the question.
No one is calling for the borders to be reopened, but what we are calling for is some compassion, some compassion for committed long-term relationships and for adult children to be reunited. Unfortunately, Sarah and so many others like her continue to wait and are met with apathy from the Liberals across the way.
My riding, like many ridings across the country, is heavily agriculture-related, and the challenges that our farmers and farm families face are astronomical. I have talked to local farmers, farm businesses and agriculture processors about how this COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their businesses. I hear about the challenges they face in accessing programs such as CEBA loans in redressing COVID-19 through the existing business risk management programs. Farmers and families feel that they are not being heard by the Liberal government, and it is truly unfortunate. Now is the time that the government needs to come to the table with farmers and farm families and address the challenges that they have faced with the business risk management suite of programs.
As well, Perth—Wellington is home to many cultural and artistic attractions, including the Stratford Festival, Drayton Entertainment and Stratford Summer Music. These, in the tourism industry, have been hit the hardest. They are among the first to have been cancelled as a result of the pandemic and they will be among the last to emerge from the pandemic.
Arts and culture affect the whole tourism and hospitality sector as well. From speaking with local business owners who own restaurants, bed and breakfasts, motels and hotels, I know that businesses that have been around for sometimes multiple generations are now concerned about how they are going to get through not just the next six months but the next 18 months, and they are just not seeing the hope, the reassurance that we will come out of this pandemic better than they were before.
I want to end by saying how unfortunate it is that we are debating a guillotine motion here in the House rather than addressing the concerns of so many Canadians, like the restaurant owner in Stratford, the farmer just outside of Drayton, the family from Mount Forest that is not quite sure whether their job will still be there in a few weeks. Now is the time to really address the concerns of Canadians, but instead of having the opportunity to have a full discussion on the bill, a multi-billion-dollar spending bill, we are instead limited to four hours and 30 minutes.