Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be in the House today to speak about Bill C-254, introduced by my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. At the same time, I am surprised that we are talking about it here, in the House, because Bill 101 is a Quebec provincial law.
That said, it is still commendable for wanting to ensure the federal government does not interfere in provincial jurisdiction, especially since, only a few moments ago, we heard the Liberal member try to use any means possible to divert the debate toward the modernization of the two official languages. In fact, that is another extremely important subject that the Liberal government should concentrate on to deliver the bill that we have been awaiting for many years.
Let us get back to the substance of Bill C-254. Its main purpose is essentially to ensure that the federal government does not interfere or contest Quebec's objective of protecting and promoting the French language. Indeed, as it has been so aptly said, Quebec is the only place in America where French is the primary language. Quebec is a francophone province, while New Brunswick is bilingual and the other provinces in Canada are English-speaking, as is every U.S. state.
The Government of Quebec's desire and goal to protect and promote French are commendable and legitimate because, unlike what some may think, French is in decline in Quebec. It is true that there are francophone communities across Canada and that we need to protect and help them. That is set out in the Canadian Constitution and is part of the federal government's role. Quebec, on the other hand, needs to work to promote and protect the French language and make sure that all the conditions are in place so that every individual, family and worker can live a full life in French in Quebec. I applaud my colleague's initiative in that sense.
However, I will repeat that, although we are discussing it here in the Parliament of Canada, this issue falls under provincial jurisdiction, and it is part of the Conservative Party's DNA to not interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction. That is why our leader wasted no time in telling Premier François Legault that a Conservative government will work with Quebec and help it implement administrative measures, but that there will be no challenges from us.
We support this initiative. We encourage it and commend Quebec for making such a great effort to protect and promote the French fact and to make sure that workers are able to work in French in federally regulated businesses in Quebec.
My colleague gave a very good example. If there are 10 francophones and one anglophone in a room, everyone will accommodate the anglophone. We know very well that this type of thing would not happen elsewhere.
I would like to respond to a concern the NDP will raise as a reason for not supporting such a bill. The NDP will cite fears that people in other English-speaking provinces will use it as another excuse to attack Quebec. It reminds me of childish taunts like “my dad is stronger than yours” or “whatever you do to me, I will do right back to you”. If someone jumps off a cliff, should I follow, like a sheep? I do not believe that. Why not?
First, it is because people are smart. It is natural to want to defend one's language, and people will not sink to that level. Second, it is because there is a country, Canada, that has two official languages and has a law called the Official Languages Act, and we have been waiting for years for it to be modernized.
Consultations were held by the Senate, the Standing Committee on Official Languages and the Commissioner of Official Languages. All the francophone advocacy groups in the country have been consulted and have submitted their recommendations. We all expected a bill before the holidays.
In a surprise move, our Minister of Official Languages decided to water it down and instead tabled a white paper, a consultation document. Our Liberal colleague doubled down on this earlier by trying to shift the debate, saying that we should look at this as part of the big picture of the Official Languages Act.
I disagree. Bill 101 is a provincial statute, and Quebec is responsible for promoting and protecting French. That is the essence of the bill introduced by my Bloc Québécois colleague because this is Quebec's responsibility.
For people who are into numbers, this would affect about 200,000 workers in Quebec. Nearly half of the private, federally regulated businesses in Quebec already have administrative agreements and respect Bill 101 or have made appropriate arrangements. I think Quebec wants to send a strong signal about the importance of French and is working hard to do that. We should all be very proud of that.
Our country is blessed with a francophone province, Quebec; a bilingual province, New Brunswick, with its many francophone Acadian communities; and francophone communities in Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia and Ontario. They all champion this wonderful language and are trying to make things better for people all across the country.
I invite the Liberal government to show some courage and clearly state that it supports Quebec in this initiative. Let it stop using all sorts of speeches to deflect the issue. I invite the NDP to do the same, to clearly state that it agrees with Quebec applying Bill 101 to federally regulated businesses in Quebec. I could write down what I just said and send it to the NDP so that it can make an official statement. That would solve the problem once and for all.
Then we would not be forced to debate the issue this evening because, I repeat, it is a provincial jurisdiction. We must respect the Quebec government, which was legitimately elected by its own people. Federal MPs from Quebec, whether Liberal, Bloc, NDP or Conservative, were all elected by those very same people, whose choices deserve respect.
Conservatives agree that Bill 101 should apply to federally regulated businesses. We think that the Canadian Parliament should not put up obstacles in Quebec, or any other province that wants to implement legislation in their jurisdiction. We should instead be proud of these provinces and encourage them. We should be their partner.
I urge the Liberal government and the Minister of Official Languages to introduce a binding bill on official languages that acknowledges the challenges faced by francophones living in Quebec, since these challenges are not exclusive to francophones outside of Quebec.
The Minister of Official Languages will not stop promoting the white paper she presented early this year. However, her government's budget does not allocate a single cent to help francophones in Quebec. The Liberal government claims to be proud of francophones in Quebec. It claims to be proud of having almost 40 MPs from Quebec, 10 of whom are ministers.
I am not going to get into the WE Charity scandal, in which the Liberals awarded an untendered contract to an organization that could not process French applications. I will also not get into the COVID-19 tests for foreign workers, which are being administered by a Toronto company that is unable to provide services in French in Quebec. The Minister of Labour was so proud to announce this week that this issue would be fixed as of April 28.
This pandemic has been going on for over a year. The Liberal government needs to get moving and implement its powerful Official Languages Act for all francophones across the country, and it needs to let Quebec enforce Bill 101 in federally regulated businesses. That is all we are asking for. We want it to support this bill.