Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, which he tells me is the number one riding in all of Canada. I happen to think Barrie—Innisfil is.
Let me begin by noting how profoundly disappointed I am with the results of what I thought was a reasonable request on the part of the opposition, through our opposition day motion, to ask for a plan from the government, by February 28, for coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and limiting or cancelling all of the restrictions and mandates. We are seeing a cascading effect across the country in the provinces, with premiers coming out and telling their people that by a certain date, this is going to happen. This is causing any cynic to be concerned that perhaps the Liberal government does not want to end the federal restrictions and mandates, does not want to unite Canadians and does not want to provide hope to Canadians. After two years of lives and livelihoods being lost and businesses being decimated, somehow they cannot support this, and it only speaks to the fact that the Prime Minister and Liberal Party want this to continue, for whatever reason. I am profoundly disappointed that we are at this point in this country.
I rise today to speak to the Liberals' latest attempt to run roughshod over Parliament. Today the House is considering government Motion No. 8, which sets out draconian terms by which the House would dispose of Bill C-10. The bill is laudable in that it would give the Minister of Health the ability to purchase 2.5 billion dollars' worth of COVID-19 tests, the majority of which would be rapid tests. It would also grant the minister the power to start distributing those tests on April 1 of this year.
Throughout the pandemic, the Conservative Party has consistently and persistently called for greater access to rapid tests for all Canadians. In fact, in April 2020, I was approached by a rapid test distributor and he told me that he was being bogged down at Health Canada and that the approvals process for these rapid tests was not moving as quickly as it should, despite the fact that they were approved by the U.S. FDA on an emergency-use basis and also by CE bodies in the European Union. Arguably, these blue-chip regulators are the best regulatory agencies in the world. That is not to discredit Health Canada, but it was a problem in April 2020 that I was highlighting, and I know that my colleagues were as well.
In the election, we promised to break down the bureaucratic delays that were preventing the approval of rapid tests in Canada, and at that time, tests approved for use in the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union were not approved in Canada. Why was this so, when these blue-chip regulators were already approving them? We promised to make at-home test kits readily available to all Canadians, to deploy rapid tests to the border and other points of entry and to provide provincial governments with enough tests to keep schools open. Our support for the widespread use of rapid tests has been unwavering, and our support stands today.
Despite the fact the Liberals did drag their feet in getting these essential tools into the hands of Canadians, they can count on our support for this legislation. We are not trying to stop the legislation. We are just trying to get some oversight, because we believe this bill could be strengthened and we would like to propose three common-sense amendments.
For starters, if the minister has the ability to deploy the tests sooner, we would support an amendment that would allow him to do so. That is reasonable.
Second, we would propose an amendment to require the contracts for these tests to be tabled in the House. That is another reasonable request. Let us remember why we are asking for this. These are the same Liberals who found time, at the height of a pandemic, to hand $900 million in a contract to their friends at WE charity and another $237-million sole-sourced contract to former Liberal member of Parliament Frank Baylis. I do not think it is unreasonable to expect there would be some oversight and scrutiny on these contracts. The government, and indeed these Liberals, should not enjoy the blind trust of the House. They have proven in the past that this trust needs to be questioned. As such, we should require the highest level of transparency, especially when it comes to urgent spending related to COVID-19.
Third, the Conservatives would propose an amendment that would require the minister to report on the deployment of these tests to ensure they are being used as part of a plan to ease COVID restrictions. In short, we want to ensure that this investment of taxpayer money is used to help Canadians get back to their normal lives.
I would love nothing more than to debate the merits of these amendments, but the Liberals and their coalition partners in the NDP are teaming up to ram this bill through the House. Government Motion No. 8 provides for a shortened debate at second reading and a single vote that would be applied to the remaining stages of the legislative process. If the Liberals get their way, there will be no further debate, no ministerial accountability at committee, no testimony from stakeholders and no opportunity for the opposition parties to make amendments.
The government House leader is offering the House a binary choice, and under this motion, we can either take the bill as it is or leave Canadians with fewer available COVID tests. The government House leader is trying to deny the House a third option: to support a strengthened bill by incorporating amendments from the opposition. Instead, without as much as one word of debate on the bill, the House leader has moved to pre-emptively shut down debate. This motion is a flagrant abuse of power, and the Liberals are being aided and abetted by a hapless coalition partner.
That said, I recognize the need to pass this legislation quickly through the House, and on Friday, I sent a letter to all House leaders proposing a plan to dispose of Bill C-10 by Wednesday of this week. The proposal would have provided for a debate at second reading today, an abbreviated committee study tomorrow and final passage on Wednesday. It also included an order for the Minister of Health to appear at committee and for the amendments to be proposed during the usual clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. My proposal would allow the opposition to apply appropriate scrutiny and to propose improvements to the legislation without sacrificing the government's overall timetable to turn the bill into law.
The House should also be made aware that the Senate agreed to a government motion to adjourn the other place for the entirety of this week. As a result, whether the bill passes in the House today or Wednesday, it will not be considered in the other place until next week. Any due diligence that we apply to this legislation in the House this week will do nothing to delay it from receiving royal assent.
I will now take a couple of moments to address our colleagues in the NDP.
I am calling on them to remember that they are the party of Jack Layton and Tommy Douglas. Back in the day, theirs was a party that stood for workers, for low-income Canadians and for the democratic rights of members of the House of Commons. It is not so anymore. The NDP have abandoned their first principles. Perhaps it is because they have a leader who is more interested in his own social media than he is in social policies and how they impact Canadians.
For example, the NDP openly fights against jobs for unionized pipefitters and steelworkers every time they oppose new environmentally safe pipelines. They applaud the Prime Minister every time he talks about phasing out the jobs of hard-working Canadians in the oil and gas sector. In recent days, they have refused to defend the minority rights of workers who lost their jobs to discriminatory government mandates. They support the Liberal carbon tax that disproportionately hurts the poorest in our society. They support hikes in payroll taxes that make it harder for low-wage earners to make ends meet. The list goes on.
Inside the House of Commons, they have allowed themselves to be the moderate wing of the Liberal Party, and they should be ashamed for that. The Liberals can count on the loyal support of the NDP whenever they move to ram their agenda through the House. Since 2019, when the Liberals were reduced to a minority government, the NDP has supported the shutting down of debate on 14 different occasions. It is high time that the NDP distances itself from the tired Liberal government that is demonstrably anti-working class and increasingly anti-democratic. Perhaps its members can start by standing against this undemocratic motion in the House today. In June 2019, the NDP House leader argued against the Liberal majority government when it moved to curtail debate. Back then, he said the Liberals “promised to work with the opposition parties and all members. Instead, they are imposing gag orders”.
At a time when tensions are rising in this country, let us take the opportunity to demonstrate to Canadians that their elected officials can collaborate in the national interest. We can and should stand together to get the best results for Canadians.