House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was hybrid.

Topics

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think one of things that is most disturbing is that we saw the Conservatives promoting hydroxychloroquine as a medical treatment for a pandemic. Now we have the latest out of YouTube.com telling us that diabetes and heart disease are somehow spreadable when we are dealing with a pandemic.

Could the hon. member explain to the Conservatives that their anti-vax propaganda in the House is actually doing real damage to the fight that we are leading across the country, along with the medical community, to keep people safe? It is not diabetes we are worried about. It is a pandemic.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Steven MacKinnon Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have always sought to be guided by the science. What do we know? We know this is a spreadable disease. We know that this is a highly contagious disease. We know that it is an incredibly dangerous threat to our public health and, indeed, I do not think anyone is served by obscuring any of those essential facts with more extraneous facts. We have tried to be guided by that science. We have tried to be guided by those measures. Like every other organization in the world, we have taken measures to adapt our day-to-day reality to the unfortunate reality of this pandemic, and tried to terminate those measures at an appropriate time. We will continue to do that.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to intervene in today's debate. I want to start by recognizing how difficult the last 19 months have been for everyone.

It has certainly been difficult from an economic point of view, and I will be talking a little about that tomorrow in the debate on Bill C-2, and also difficult in terms of coping with the consequences of some of the public health measures that have had to be taken.

It has been difficult to be shut in our homes. It has been hard not to be able to go out and get together. I fully understand people's desire to get out and reunite with people. Indeed, I have enjoyed being able to come to this place and see some colleagues, even as I have some reservations about whether it is the appropriate thing to do and whether we are really there yet.

We know we are in the middle of a fourth wave. Depending on where we are in the country, our experiences of COVID are very different right now. There are provinces where ICUs are full and they are worried about the consequences for their medical system, and there are other provinces that are faring relatively well for the moment but are wondering what the future holds. We just heard the premier of Saskatchewan, today or yesterday, express some regret for not having implemented more strict public health measures earlier in the province's own fourth wave.

What have we done? We have followed the advice of public health officials, which is the right thing to do. I am an electrician by trade. I would not take kindly to somebody doing some research on the Internet and then coming to tell me how to wire something. I would tell them that I am a Red Seal electrician: I have the experience, and if anybody is going to correct me it would be somebody with similar training and experience, not somebody who had been investigating things on the Internet.

It has been right and good to follow the advice of public health authorities throughout the pandemic. They have told us to wear masks. They have told us to socially distance. Sometimes they have told us to stay home. They have told us to get vaccinated and that vaccination is our way through this. We are getting closer to a normal time, because more people are accepting that advice and choosing to get vaccinated. I commend them for that, and I encourage those who have not done that to do it soon.

For every person with some medical credentials out there who is a COVID denier, there are many more who accept the science. I do not believe there is any great conspiracy. Frankly, having spent six years here, I do not think the government is capable of the intelligence, discipline and coordination it would take to orchestrate a conspiracy that vast, nor do I think the so-called government-in-waiting is capable of such a thing. I find these conspiracy theories simply unbelievable.

If vaccination is part of the way for us to get back to normal, then I think it is incumbent upon us as elected officials to show leadership in that. One of the principle barriers to us being able to talk about how we conduct ourselves properly here, or to get back to some kind of normally functioning Parliament, is that the Conservative Party in particular has not been forthright about how many of its caucus members are vaccinated and how many are not.

The Conservatives say we should simply trust the system. I think we should expect more transparency from people who are elected to public office. We often hear from them about the transparency they want from the government, and about the right to demand more transparency from the government. We have to show that in the way we behave ourselves. We have a leadership obligation to get vaccinated and to show, be honest and report our own numbers. Every other caucus here has done that.

I take the Bloc's argument for an in-person Parliament to be a little different. The Bloc members are coming from a different place. They are saying that they did the right thing: They all got vaccinated, and they want to come and meet in person. I think that reasonable people can disagree about whether it is the right time to do that and whether we should have a hybrid Parliament. Their argument comes from a different place, because they have been transparent and have shown that leadership. I thank them for that, even as I disagree on the issue of whether a hybrid format should be available.

The member for Vancouver East made the point very well earlier when she talked about many of us having to get here on a plane. The fact is that if I am showing any two minor symptoms or one major symptom, I have to fill out a COVID screening on my phone to get my boarding pass.

If I have a scratchy throat and a runny nose, which happens often in Winnipeg in the winter, I either have to lie and get on the plane, doing the wrong thing, or I have to stay home. I would be glad for the opportunity to participate in Parliament from home, and do the right thing by avoiding getting on a plane when I am presenting symptoms.

I did a lot of work in the virtual Parliament. I was frustrated by some of the things that other members have raised. I was frustrated by committee meetings that were disrupted by technical difficulties. I was frustrated by problems with interpretation. I felt for and talked about and stood up for our interpreters who were facing a disproportionate amount of injury as a result of the hybrid format. All of those things are true, but I was able to get a lot of work done.

We got a benefit of $2,000 per month for people who could not go to work. We got a student benefit that would not have happened if it had not been for the interventions of the NDP. We got a sick leave program that would not have happened if it had not been for the interventions of the NDP.

It is not just what we managed to accomplish for Canadians in their time of need, but it was also some of the accountability work that we did. Some people around here may remember a guy by the name of Bill Morneau, who did the wrong thing with respect to the WE Charity scandal. It was in the virtual summer sittings and virtual committee meetings of 2020, which the NDP negotiated, that testimony came to light that brought Bill Morneau down for his wrongdoing on the WE Charity scandal. That summer, he resigned his position and ultimately left the government. If that is not accountability, I do not know what is.

The idea that there cannot be good parliamentary work in a virtual Parliament, both in terms of helping people and in terms of holding the government to account, simply is untrue. I do not accept those arguments.

As I alluded to earlier, in the lead-up to this Parliament feelers were put out to the Conservatives and the Bloc to talk about what our Parliament would look like, whether we would have a hybrid Parliament and, if so, what shape that might take. However, they chose to abstain from those discussions. We might have had a hybrid Parliament where committees met in person. That might have alleviated some of the burden on our interpreters. We might have had some kind of understanding about how many Liberals might be in the House. However, instead of being able to have a constructive conversation, the conversation was about the disorder in the Conservative caucus and whether the Conservatives were going to require their MPs to be vaccinated. They were splintering off into a bunch of subcaucuses, and we could not have the kind of real conversation that we needed to have in the lead-up to this moment, because now we are back.

Finally, Parliament has met again after the election. It took too long, but now we are here. Parliament is in session and there are things to do that are actually about the people we were elected to represent. Therefore, we should not spend all our time debating this. There was a window to talk about how we were going to do this. Some chose not to participate, so then what is the most reasonable thing to do?

The most reasonable thing to do, if parties are committed to having a hybrid Parliament in this time when the pandemic is not yet over, is to adopt the same rules that those parties once agreed to. If we were going to do something different, that would be worse from the point of view of forging a new path. This at least is what they once agreed to, so our hands are somewhat tied by the fact that they would not engage in good-faith conversations about what kind of alterations to the hybrid Parliament we might make or if there were ways that we might scale back the hybrid element in certain parts of Parliament.

I imagine this may happen again. This has a deadline, and the pandemic may not be over by June 2022. The next time we discuss this, I invite these parties to come to the table and talk about how to make Parliament work with the 21st-century tools that we have, in a way that makes sense during a pandemic.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Congratulations, Mr. Speaker. It is good to see you in that chair.

My colleague's father was here for many years and was here as the Speaker as well, I believe. I would be interested to know how this would compare with his father's day, and the struggles he had with travelling such a long distance to get to Parliament to participate and vote. We are now looking at trying to move things forward to modernize Parliament, to have some flexibility for many people throughout our Parliament session. I am sure my colleague has had many discussions with his father about the modernization of Parliament, and I would be interested to hear some additional comments on that.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is true that when I was growing up my father was often in Ottawa. That is one of the reasons why, when I ran, my own family was very aware of the challenges of the job. Those were challenges that we accepted, as they are challenges that we accept now as well.

We heard some excellent arguments for perhaps making some more permanent modifications to the House of Commons from the member for Victoria earlier, but we are talking about the pandemic. We are not out of the pandemic yet, and we are still dealing with public health matters.

The day will come when we can have another conversation about what the House of Commons looks like on a go-forward basis, and how we might be able to accommodate families in a way that makes it possible for more women to participate in this place, but for now we are still in a pandemic. That matters for how we do business, and I would like some more acknowledgement of that on all sides of the House.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Bloc

Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if my colleague agrees with me.

I have been listening, and the concern I keep hearing has to do with the safety of all members of Parliament with respect to COVID-19. Our concern, however, is holding the government accountable.

Does my colleague agree that, if the government wants a hybrid Parliament, it should make a firm, formal commitment that all ministers will be in the House for each question period, unless they have a good reason for being absent, for example, if they are abroad on government business or have a medical certificate stating that they cannot be here?

Would my colleague agree that that would make things better?

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do think that is possible, and I think that such an agreement would have been possible if the opposition parties had had a unified voice. This cannot happen if the other parties refuse to have a discussion on how a hybrid Parliament should run. Without that conversation, without a unified voice, it is difficult.

We believe that a hybrid Parliament is more important, in light of the pandemic. We support the model that we had and that the Bloc Québécois and the Conservatives supported in the previous Parliament.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to this debate for hours and my colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, perhaps made the best speech of the day. He has touched on all of the issues. One thing that has not really been a highlight in the discussion here is leadership, and what our role is to show leadership to the public to say how we can work together and support each other to beat this thing.

Can the member extrapolate and elaborate just a little bit more about the importance of that point?

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we talk a lot about leadership here and what leaders should do. It is always very important that people who are going to critique leaders show that leadership themselves.

I think that is what has been absent on the Conservative side of the House. When we talk about going back to work safely, that means people knowing what they are getting into. We cannot know that. The Conservative members talk about personal health information. I agree that people should not have to share their personal health information, but this is a public health issue. This is about something that is highly contagious. It is not like heart disease or diabetes that a person cannot catch by sitting next to somebody else who has it.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House to speak about this very important issue. Congratulations to you on your placement in the Chair. I know you will do a wonderful job.

As this is the first opportunity that I have had to speak in this Parliament, I want to thank the voters and the residents of Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock for putting their faith in me once again, for the third time electing me to be their voice in this chamber. I hope to continue to earn their vote and their support as we move forward.

As we know, no matter where we sit in the House, we do not get here alone on this journey. It takes a lot of people to help us, and I want to thank first of all my staff in the constituency and in Ottawa: Kate, Marnie, Lisa, Andrew, Jay, Paul and others who have helped ensure that the job is as easy as possible. Of course, all our staff do their best to make us look good. I also want to thank my campaign team and the volunteers who worked tirelessly to ensure that we are able to keep the seat blue. I want to thank my campaign manager, Paul Seear, my treasurer, Margaret Meyer, and her trophy househusband, Oliver Meyer, who helped out so much during the campaign. Also, on communications, we had Elizabeth Beauchamp, Jay Park, Andrew Weston, Lisa Rodd, Marnie Hoppenrath, Kate Porter, Petra Verary, Chris Mills, Janice Wood the office manager and so many others, as well as the EDA president Cheryl Battum and many more. I hope I am not missing people, and I apologize if I am.

The debate that we are here to discuss today is about returning to a hybrid Parliament, and a lot of what the debate is talking about today revolves around trust. How do we trust the Liberals? If we think back to the beginning of this pandemic, what is the first thing the government did? It tried to create absolute power for the next few years. That would have given the government the power to tax and spend wherever it wanted and not necessarily with any input from its backbench, because that was basically shut down. It was transferring the entire power into the executive branch.

Before that, we had Motion No. 6 in the 42nd Parliament. What did that do? That stripped the opposition of the very few tools it has to hold the government to account. That, of course, led to what is now infamously called “elbowgate”.

We have that issue of trust in the government. Of course we had the WE scandal during it all, where they were trying to reward their friends and punish their enemies. We have massive inflation going on right now. The cost of living is out of control for many Canadians, and it is getting worse. The plan the Liberals seem to have is to add another government program.

What programs is the government administering now that are going so well? Are veterans still waiting in line to get service? Yes. Are indigenous communities still waiting for clean water? Yes. Is there a housing crisis, such that people cannot seem to afford housing anymore? Yes. The answer of the government is, “Let's take on something else because we've just done a bang-up job.” The irony of this is that it is going to be deficit financing. Sadly, the kids going in daycare will actually be paying for their daycare; it just will not be until many years down the road.

As these problems continue to add up, the choice of the government is to go into hybrid, and we all know we had challenges during that last Parliament. We had connectivity issues and problems with ministers not knowing what questions they were going to answer, or who was going to answer. It was not a suitable alternative. While it did the job at the time, we have started to move past this.

The other issue we have when we are talking about trust is that the messaging coming from the Liberals and the NDP has been going back and forth all day. If the issue is totally around those who are unwell, who are not able to come in and who are going to use hybrid as an alternative, one can see that working. However, the messaging we are getting as the day rolls along and the truth finally comes out, is that they want it as a permanent alternative, which is absolutely unacceptable.

We all have unique challenges. We have young families or grandkids, and maybe some are trying to start a family. However, we just had an election during a pandemic, which is something the Liberals promised they would not do. It was a very expensive cabinet shuffle.

We all knew the challenges. We all knew what we were signing up for. We all signed on the dotted line, knowing that federal laws are made here in Ottawa. These debates are happening here in Ottawa and should be here in Ottawa. We all stepped forward knowing that we might be called upon to go to the nation's capital during a pandemic. Nobody put a gun to our heads. We had the opportunity to say no, but each and every one of us is one of 338 in a country of 38 million.

Before I continue, Mr. Speaker, I will let you know that I am splitting my time with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.

I also want to talk about the tourism industry. In my area, the tourism industry has been massively hurt by the pandemic. We have travel and tourism industries that are being left behind. Had Parliament been in session, a lot of the time it could have happened. We know that the programs that were introduced at the beginning of this pandemic had problems. We, as the opposition, were able to push back and the government was able to make some changes, although there were a lot of people left behind.

I will point out that the independent travel advisers need sector-specific aid. They have been left out of this. The programs that have been unveiled by the government are just not working for them, and that is why we need parliamentarians in this place, advocating for those Canadians being left behind by this pandemic. This is what we are here to do. This is what we want to do. Again, we all signed up for this. We know the job. Let us get it done.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2021 / 7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your new role, and I welcome my friend in returning to this House.

I noted some disparities in the comments the member made, so I wanted to correct two things and then pose a question.

First of all, work was not evaded and duties were not evaded either. Unprecedented supports were actually meted out during the hybrid Parliament. Second, the notion that somehow a prospect of the motion is that this would exist in perpetuity is categorically false. The motion text itself indicates that the termination date is June 2022.

The question I have for the member opposite is this: Do we not need to ensure that all constituents have their voices heard in this chamber? By virtue of the fact that a member of his own caucus has contracted COVID, is it not incumbent upon us to pass a motion like this so that member of his caucus can participate via hybrid Parliament to give voice to his very constituents?

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from my friend across the way, but that is exactly what I said in my speech. If the hybrid Parliament was being used as an alternative for those who are ill or unable to get here due to potential symptoms, I think that would be an acceptable option. However, that is not what was coming out in the speeches today.

What we heard today was the fact that members want to make hybrid Parliament permanent. While we have had sunset clauses in the past, in previous motions, this goes seven months into the future. We should be looking at it as temporary, for those unable to make it, and not for those who just do not want to come to Ottawa.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, although I am pleased to hear the position of my Conservative colleagues on the hybrid Parliament, I find that their refusal to disclose the number of members with medical exemptions is very detrimental to the current debate. It makes people afraid. Are there five, ten, fifty? Having this information would considerably enhance parliamentarians' sense of security.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would say that the government set the rules, and one is allowed in the parliamentary precinct if one is double vaccinated or if one has a medical exemption. Those medical exemptions, to my understanding, are analyzed by the House of Commons administration, and they confirm that they are valid exemptions. I trust those institutions, and I would hope that members in the House on the opposite side also have that trust in those staff members keeping us safe. I know I do.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.

NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned running in an election and knowing what we were signing up for. I ran in 2019 knowing that there is a lot of sexism in Parliament. Within a few months of being elected, one of the Conservative members asked me if I had ever considered sex work. Just because I signed up knowing this, does not mean that I do not want to make a change.

As for my question to the member, you ran under a banner where you knew not all of your colleagues were vaccinated. Is that not something you would like to change? Would you not like it if all of your colleagues were vaccinated?.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

I will take a moment to remind members that they cannot use “you”. They cannot address a member directly. It is always done through the Chair.

The hon. member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said during the campaign, I am double vaccinated. I trust vaccines, and I encourage Canadians who are not currently vaccinated to get vaccinated.

I would also say that if the true goal is to get the majority of Canadians vaccinated, we should not be politicizing this issue anymore. Two seconds into the campaign this was not an issue, but when the Prime Minister's poll numbers started to fall, it became an issue. He politicized the issue, dividing Canadians, when it did not have to be. That is shameful.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is my first speech in the 44th Parliament, so I want to start by briefly thanking my constituents and my family, and recognizing that the riding I represent is on Treaty 6 territory. I will share more about the rich history, present vitality and bright future of my riding very soon.

Today, we are addressing a very striking matter of parliamentary business. The fact that the first motion the government has put before the House, Motion No. 1, ironically is about undermining the effectiveness and functioning of Parliament itself. The Liberals' first act in this Parliament is to attack Parliament itself. Rather than moving one of the many pressing challenges facing Canadians, inflation, lack of economic growth, mental health challenges and attacks on fundamental freedoms, instead of addressing these issues, the government is starting this Parliament by moving to neuter the tools that people have put in place for making their voices heard.

We, as Conservatives, are committed to standing up for Parliament, because Parliament is the only means by which the challenges facing Canada can be effectively heard and adjudicated.

During the speech I gave at my swearing in, I committed to my constituents that I would fight to make Parliament work again. Sadly, since the beginning of this pandemic, we have seen a clear decline in the effective functioning of Parliament as a result of the wearing down of this institution by the government. This decline has had profound consequences for the people we are supposed to serve.

On May 10, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded western Europe. On the same day, Winston Churchill became prime minister. He would go on to inspire a nation and lead the free world to victory against the odds.

Our struggle against COVID-19 has been compared by many to a war, but while the Liberal government has chosen to malign, marginalize and ignore Parliament, Winston Churchill understood that in the face of a great struggle facing his country, it was right and necessary to go to Parliament, to go to Parliament to explain the steps that he was about to take and to seek its support.

On May 13, three days after ascending to the highest office in the land, in the middle of the Second World War, Churchill addressed Parliament in person and asked for its confidence. He told the House that day:

To form an administration of this scale and complexity is a serious undertaking in itself. But we are in the preliminary phase of one of the greatest battles in history... I hope that any of my friends and colleagues or former colleagues who are affected by the political reconstruction will make all allowances for any lack of ceremony with which it has been necessary to act.

I say to the House as I said to ministers who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.

Winston Churchill took three days to go to Parliament. Our Prime Minister, who was after all not a new prime minister, took over two months to summon Parliament. Moreover, in previous sessions, the Prime Minister has always sought to actively minimize the role of Parliament, proroguing to shut down important committee work investigating his own ethical scandals; expediting complex omnibus bills through draconian programming motions; preventing Parliament from sitting at all during the early phases of the pandemic; and refusing to hand over documents ordered by Parliament, in defiance of all convention and in defiance of the Speaker's clear ruling.

Make no mistake that this is a government that is trying to manage the decline of our Parliament, because Parliament seeks to constrain the government's arbitrary exercise of power.

Today, again, we have before us a motion designed to allow ministers to avoid Parliament at will. In well-functioning parliamentary democracies, ministers must take to the floor and defend themselves, extemporaneously and on their feet, from the substantive challenges of all comers.

However, the Liberal government has devised a scheme by which ministers can instead participate remotely, often from their own parliamentary offices just a short elevator ride away, and thus mute and ignore Parliament, while reading pre-crafted talking points off a screen. We cannot replace Parliament with a Zoom call and expect it to fulfill the same functions. I believe the Prime Minister understands this, but he also perceives how the decline of effective parliamentary government advances his strategic interests by reducing avenues for ministers to be effectively held accountable.

The government has noticed, correctly, that a strong, effective Parliament with members elected by all Canadians can rhetorically and procedurally constrain the exercise of power by a government elected by less than one-third of Canadians. As a result, the Liberals want less Parliament and they want Zoom calls instead.

During his remarks yesterday on this matter, the government House leader defaulted to a well-worn logical fallacy; that is, he used the exceptional case to defend a rule that would apply to all. Exceptional cases can be accommodated through exceptions, but general rules overall should be applied in response to general circumstances.

The Liberal House leader says that members who are immunocompromised should be able to make the choice to join by Zoom, but in practice we saw that during a hybrid Parliament, 100% of Liberal ministers participated remotely in order to avoid meaningful accountability.

He says that it is statistically improbable that more than one Conservative MP has a legitimate vaccine exemption. Of course, he has no idea whether the number of Conservative MPs who have vaccine exemptions is zero, one or some other number because the advice that members receive from their doctors is none of his business. However, I might suggest, in light of the failure of any Liberal minister to attend question period last spring, that it is quite statistically improbable that 100% of Liberal ministers are immunocompromised.

If individual members have to miss votes in the House, there is a well-established parliamentary convention of pairing, whereby two members of Parliament from opposite sides agree to mutually absent themselves to ensure that one member's unavoidable absence does not upset the balance of the vote. Other targeted accommodations could—

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

There is a point of order by the member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my understanding of proceedings that take place on such a motion is that debate concludes at eight o'clock and we go to the vote. If I am mistaken on that, perhaps you could explain to me the mechanism by which that is not the case.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

The rule is that once a member starts their 10 minutes, they get to finish their 10 minutes. There will be no debate after that happens.

The member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan has another four minutes.

There is a point of order by the member for Timmins—James Bay.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the members for their role. In my 18 years, I have never seen a situation where just because someone has time to speak, they are allowed to keep walking the clock out. That is not how it works. The understanding was that at eight o'clock the debate would end and we go to the vote. Is there a standing order that exempts this?

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

When there is closure, members get the opportunity to complete the time assigned to them.

I thank members for the interventions, although I heard some interesting stuff at the back that I do not appreciate a whole lot.

The member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan has four minutes to finish his debate.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a bit ironic that in the midst of a speech about declining respect for Parliament we would have such flagrant disregard for the authority of the Chair from NDP members.

As I was saying, we are also in a different position today from where we were a year and a half ago. Large public events are taking place now. People are travelling. Most workplaces are up and running. A year and a half ago, we did not fully understand the kinds of strategies that could be deployed to protect people from this virus.

However, today we have the knowledge and the tools to deploy multiple strategies at once for maximum assurance. Members can get vaccinated, wear masks and socially distance, while also taking periodic rapid tests. For greater certainty, I would be very supportive of a system that asked MPs to take regular rapid antigen tests, regardless of vaccine status.

The government should also start recommending vitamin D as another tool for combatting this virus. People generally get vitamin D through sunlight exposure, and many recent studies suggest that those with higher levels of vitamin D exposure have reduced severe outcomes from COVID-19. Increasing the awareness about this is especially important as we head into winter, when Canadians are ordinarily less likely to spend time outside.

Increasing vitamin D is not an alternative to other methods of responding to the virus but the benefits of higher vitamin D levels are increasingly evident in the scientific literature and are well established in general, regardless of the particulars of the impact on COVID-19.

No single method for managing this issue is the magic bullet on its own, but if members are deploying a broad range of strategies simultaneously, then we are certainly in a much different position than we were a year and a half ago. If this was really about the safety of a small number of immunocompromised parliamentarians, the government House leader would have proposed special accommodations, mechanisms for distancing or new testing requirements.

Ironically, we have not even heard the word “testing” from the government during this debate. It is like the government has forgotten it exists as one of the important strategies for managing our response to this virus. It is sad to see the government trying to shut down in-person Parliament when it is not even deploying all of the tools available to make it safe.

Based on the inaction of the government on many fronts, we can see clearly that this motion is not, and never was, about making Parliament safe. This motion is about making Parliament weak. It is about allowing the vast majority of ministers, who probably are not immunocompromised, to continue to read their talking points while sitting in their parliamentary offices. It is about the Prime Minister's desire to replace Parliament with a Zoom call.

I began this speech talking about Winston Churchill. Why was it important for Churchill to meaningfully engage Parliament during a national crisis? It was because he understood the role of Parliament as the deliberate assembly of the entire nation. If a nation is going to go to war together, then Parliament must be fully engaged so as to ensure that the approach taken reflects the best judgment of the nation, and so as to ensure that the nation as a whole can confront the challenge together.

When the Prime Minister speaks, he speaks for one third of Canadians, but when Parliament speaks, we speak for all Canadians. A parliamentary response to a national crisis is more likely to be effective, and a parliamentary response to a national crisis builds national unity. Winston Churchill understood this. He was able to unite and lead a national response to a national crisis because he came to Parliament.

Canadians want us to respond to the challenges they face: COVID-19, inflation, threats to our freedom. We can only respond effectively to these challenges if Parliament is working. It is not from arbitrary attachment or nostalgia that Conservatives defend tradition, rather we defend tradition because tradition is the means by which we draw on the wisdom of history to solve the practical problems of everyday people.

We defend Parliament, parliamentary democracy and parliamentary traditions not because we are concerned about our own privileges but because we understand that a great nation must have a great Parliament. No nation can succeed in the long run unless it has an effective national deliberative assembly which asks the right questions, analyzes critical issues from all angles, and which holds the powerful to account.

Canadians can count on Conservatives to stand up for Parliament at every opportunity.

Order Respecting the Business of the House and its CommitteesGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

It being 8:08 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of Government Business No. 1 now before the House.

The question is on the amendment.

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.