Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the minister for presenting her discussion paper this morning. I want to acknowledge her work on the official languages file, as well as some of the measures she is taking or says she will take. I do truly believe that she cares about protecting French and promoting our two official languages. However, the means the government uses to attest to that do nothing to prove that this is in any way a priority.
Let me take a moment to congratulate my hon. colleague for her work on this file, but, to be honest, there are a lot of words but few actions.
Consultations on modernizing the Official Languages Act have been ongoing across the country for years. It is important to remember that the Liberals have been in power for over five years. Organizations have been consulted, the Commissioner of Official Languages has made his recommendations and the Senate has looked at the issue.
To know which government one is dealing with, and what it will be able to accomplish in the future, one must look to the past. Over the past several months, examples have been piling up of the Liberal government's failures in the area of official languages. One only has to think of WE Charity, a unilingual anglophone organization, the text messages sent to Quebeckers only in English in the middle of a pandemic, the report on the Governor General Julie Payette that was submitted in English only, even though it was commissioned by the Prime Minister's Office, federal public servants who have said they feel uncomfortable speaking French at work, and the fact that the minister has not implemented any of the recommendations in the report of the Commissioner of Official Languages. Francophone universities are fighting to survive due to a lack of funding. Many surveys and studies indicate that French is on the decline in Quebec and across the country. Multiple calls by many stakeholder organizations for the Official Languages Act to be modernized have gone unheeded.
Everyone was expecting a bill to be introduced today, but instead, here in the House, we can see that the government hatched an inaction plan. It is not an action plan, but an inaction plan because there is no scope and it does not contribute in any way to addressing the problems I have raised, at least not right away. Despite the fine promises, the minister is committing only to investing to reduce the wait lists for French immersion schools for anglophone students. She is not proposing anything new to support the French-language educational institutions in minority communities that are struggling. Every school board in the country urgently needs help.
The Liberals are also rejecting the unanimous call from stakeholders to create an official languages administrative tribunal to allow minorities to better assert their rights. The Liberals continue to ignore the request of the Legault government and every member of the National Assembly of Quebec from all parties to protect French in Quebec by applying Bill 101 to federally regulated private businesses.
Instead, the government presents an electoral campaign plan and hopes that everyone will drink the Kool-Aid without saying a word. Why should francophones across the country believe the Liberals today? Are the Liberals known for keeping their promises? The answer is no.
In my view, what is even more frustrating is that the Liberals are being partisan in their handling of the official languages issue. They were supposed to introduce a modernization project last spring, but then postponed it to the fall. When the Liberals began feeling the pressure of the opposition's efforts in the fall, they postponed everything to the beginning of this year. However, the Standing Committee on Official Languages, which has Liberal members, voted in favour of introducing a bill before the holidays. Then, at the start of the new year and to everyone's surprise, the minister announced with a drum roll that a white paper rather than a bill would be tabled. This took everyone by surprise when the news was reported in print media. Unfortunately, no one and no official languages advocacy organization in Canada knew about it.
In the end, it is not even a white paper. It is just a working document with intentions and no action items. It is disappointing to see the Liberals still drawing things out and not making official languages a priority, as they should be doing. They believe that with two or three photos, some pretty words and a few flashy ideas, francophones and minority language communities in Canada will not notice.
I am truly appalled. I will reiterate that there is only one party that will make good on its commitments, and that is the Conservative Party and its leader, the next prime minister of Canada.
When we pay attention to what our leader is presenting, francophones and anglophones in minority situations all across the country will see that our proposals are clear, real, achievable and, above all, that they will be implemented in the first 100 days of a Conservative government.
At the heart of our message is the recognition that our country was built on a compromise between the two founding peoples, one francophone and one anglophone, along with the first nations. The French language is the essential component of that agreement.
It is the federal government's responsibility to ensure the vitality of francophone communities all across the country. This country was born in French and we must not forget that. A country that does not protect its founding partnership is sadly destined for failure.
As it stands, the act is based on the principle of reciprocity between the two official languages, but if we are being honest, that statement does not reflect reality. For decades, the Liberals have refused to acknowledge that French is the only language at risk in Canada. Let me be clear. The federal government must develop an asymmetrical approach that prioritizes protecting the French language.
The Conservative Party of Canada is proposing a number of practical measures.
First, the wording of the Official Languages Act must be changed to be stronger in meaning. Second, where the law remains vague is in speaking of positive measures. We believe positive measures should be described with concrete actions.
Third, the Conservatives believe that all of the implementation and enforcement powers of the law must be centralized under the Treasury Board.
Fourth, it is also time to set up an administrative tribunal that would meaningfully address complaints and improve the services offered to francophones throughout Canada. We were very surprised that the Liberals ignored that unanimous request from organizations representing francophones across the country.
Come to think of it, I can understand why the Liberals do not want their actions toward francophones to be brought before a tribunal. We need only think about what has happened in recent months with WE Charity, the texts in English and the English-only report on the Governor General. Why would the Liberals want to have to account for their actions when we see what is currently happening in Canada?
These four measures will help to modernize the Official Languages Act.
We also know that funding for our francophone schools is problematic. Our leader has pledged to support them urgently. Our teachers are front-line workers who provide a francophone education to the next generation, and they deserve stable funding. The Conservative Party is pledging to provide significant funding support for francophone post-secondary education in minority communities and to create a new funding envelope. These universities play an important role in helping francophone communities thrive, so they are eminently deserving of the federal government's attention in partnership with the provinces.
Let us remember that, the last time it was in power, the Conservative Party convinced the House of Commons to recognize the Quebec nation. We gave Quebec a seat at UNESCO. Our former prime minister, Stephen Harper, always started his speeches in French no matter where in the world he was. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney was the last prime minister to reform the Official Languages Act.
All of the big changes came about under Conservative governments. The big difference between Conservatives and Liberals is that Liberals are all talk, whereas Conservatives take action and make things happen.
What does modernizing the Official Languages Act mean?
It means a renewed spirit that prioritizes protecting French across the country. It means funding for our francophone universities in minority communities and respect for Quebec's jurisdiction, especially relating to Bill 101. That is the Conservative Party of Canada's vision for official languages.
I can confirm that we will take action very soon, as soon as we are back in power.