Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleagues and especially my leader, the leader of the official opposition and member for Durham, for appointing me as the political lieutenant for Quebec. I will fulfill that role with great pleasure and passion as I stand up for Quebeckers' interests in the House.
The Prime Minister prorogued Parliament on August 18. He shut down parliamentary operations at a time when Canadians were counting on us, their MPs, to help them. On August 18, the government abandoned Canadians. Our fellow citizens needed leaders to support them and lead them toward an economic recovery, but the government was thinking only of itself and its Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics woes. The truth is that the Liberal government abandoned Canadians purely out of self-interest because it wanted to shut down Parliament's work on the WE scandal.
Meanwhile, uncertainty continued to dominate the country. A recent study showed that my region, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, was Quebec's hardest-hit region economically. The region's GDP plummeted by 6.2%, and 18,000 jobs were lost. People in my region are pinning their hopes on the GNL Québec project. Public hearings on its environmental impact started last week.
Health is top of mind for everyone in Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. People are worried. They want to know if the provinces have the resources to overcome this crisis. They want the federal government to redistribute money to the provinces, because the provinces are the ones that should be making decisions about health care. They are worried about delays in the response. They also want to know why Ottawa withheld funds while its own spending spiralled out of control. Why would the government care about Canadians' health and well-being when it is busy trying to save its own skin from another ethics scandal?
In its defence, the Liberal government claimed that it wanted to review its priorities in order to set a new direction for government. That is not at all what happened. Its new direction simply rehashes all the old Liberal policies that it has not implemented since 2015. Aside from all the smoke and mirrors, what did the Prime Minister do during the 30 days of prorogation? That is my biggest question. Clearly, he did not listen to the provinces' recommendations. All the provinces want the same thing Canadians want, which is increased federal funding for health care to the provinces, with no strings attached.
How can he hope to have a strong country if the provinces do not have the tools they need to reach their full potential? On top of this failure to listen, the Liberal government wants to interfere in provincial jurisdictions by getting involved in long-term health care. Resentment quickly spread throughout the Confederation. It only took a few minutes for the Premier of Quebec to denounce the federal Liberal government's unwarranted interference.
I understand why Quebeckers are unhappy. Dairy producers and processors are still waiting to be compensated. The Davie shipyard is still not the third partner in the national shipbuilding strategy. Our aerospace industry's status as a world leader is in jeopardy. There is nothing to reassure our forestry, steel and aluminum workers, who were asked to slow production and freeze wages. Strategic infrastructure, such as our ports and airports, is not being developed. Fortunately, the Conservative Party, under the leadership of the hon. member for Durham, is offering an alternative to defend the rights of the provinces. The autonomy of our provinces is essential to keeping our Confederation running smoothly, and that is the approach our party is offering to this great Confederation.
The Liberal government is blaming the pandemic for everything that has gone wrong lately. As we would say back home, COVID-19 is taking all the flak. This attitude is irresponsible. The government's chronic debt was not caused by COVID-19, nor were its constitutional feuds with the provinces or our economy's lack of productivity. A crisis like this one should unite us and get the opposition parties working together, but the Liberal government only wants to sow division. It imposes its political agenda without any consultation.
The government is simply using COVID-19 as a pretext to sneak in policies that will diminish the provinces' powers and, most importantly, restrict Canadians' economic freedoms.
Urgent action was needed in the spring, but the throne speech was a chance for the government to address the deeper societal problems, to better target our social safety net by helping Canadians who are struggling, instead of imposing one-size-fits-all solutions. I want to point out that a social safety net does not come free, and we will certainly not build a sustainable, autonomous system by paying for it with a credit card.
If we fully developed our natural resources, we would have the money to build a substantial social safety net. If our policies made aluminum, steel and wood the foundation of a national environmental strategy, the planet would be better off and we would have good-quality, sustainable jobs. If we worked together to improve things instead of sowing division and stunting our growth, Canada would again be a leading proponent of large-scale projects. If our tax policies incentivized people to work, we would not need this grab-bag of programs. If the government worked together with the provinces, we would not have as many constitutional clashes.
Contrary to what was said in the speech, the government's approach does not seem to have changed. Only Ottawa is all-knowing, knows best and is the best. Canada needs a leader. It is the leader's responsibility to oversee the members of his team and to engage them in the pursuit of common goals. When things go poorly, the leader accepts responsibility. He does not criticize the provinces. He does not say that he did enough. He does not criticize his public service. When things go well, a leader praises the members of his team and does not take the credit.
We repeat that the government must work with everyone to ensure the well-being of Canadians and that it must not divide us with a throne speech intended to buy votes. Attacking provincial jurisdictions divides our country. Recklessly spending money that does not belong to us divides generations.
It is very clear today that this government does not care about the provinces. However, the Prime Minister should know that the strength of our confederation lies in the strength of our provinces. If he is unable to listen to them and act as a leader and a head of state, he should ask himself whether he is in the right job.