Madam Speaker, I wish I could say I am thankful to be debating this important legislation. However, many of us in this place have spoken about the fact that this is not necessarily a day of legislation that we are particularly happy about. In fact, I am disappointed that we are in a situation in this country where we are actually [Technical difficulty—Editor]
That said, it is incredibly important to be debating something we are seeing right outside the doors of our House of Commons. Previous members who raised questions and comments talked about how the trucks have cleared and that there is no need to be invoking the Emergencies Act. It is almost as if the members do not realize that it is because the Emergencies Act was invoked that those trucks have cleared.
The member said that when he looked out the window, he did not see those trucks. In fact, the police and the measures to clear those very streets came forward because of the legislation we are debating now.
Normally when we debate legislation in this place, we all make assumptions and discuss the intentions, or the opposition raises concerns of what might happen or what might come as a result of the legislation. We are in a unique situation today, because right outside the doors of the House of Commons we are seeing the implementation of this act in real time. There will be lots of dialogue and lots of looking into what happened and what went wrong to bring us to this place. However, anyone who suggests that the government and the Prime Minister woke up one day and just invoked this act that was never needed clearly has not been in Ottawa for the last three weeks. They must not have been watching the news for the last two days, seeing the impact of this act being implemented on the streets.
I am grateful to the police forces that have come and are moving these people back and out of this community, out of this city, because it has not been a safe place for many of our staff and for many of the business owners around Parliament in the downtown core and in the surrounding neighbourhoods. The people of Ottawa have been terrorized for three weeks. They have felt unsafe living in their own homes, in their own communities. I have seen reports and interviews with persons with disabilities who had food insecurity because they were unable to go to a grocery store or have food delivered because they lived in an area where the so-called protesters had occupied the streets. They could not access transit.
Somehow, the Conservatives were saying that there was nothing to see here. The Conservatives were too busy trying to court the votes of those very people in the streets who were wreaking havoc not just on Parliament but on Canadians who live in this city.
It is incredibly naive for the Conservatives to say that these people were just peaceful protesters. I have no doubt in my mind that there were some individuals who came here thinking it was really just about vaccine mandates or who were upset with what was happening with COVID. However, the organizers themselves had been stating their intentions for weeks prior to coming to Ottawa. Anyone suggesting that they did not know was simply not paying attention or trying to rewrite history.
The organizers who came to Ottawa, who wanted this convoy to take over the streets of Ottawa, made it very clear that they were coming to Ottawa to overthrow the democratically elected government and instead put in its place a committee of their choosing. I did not know in what world I would ever see the Conservative Party sit around and defend a group of people who planned to overturn the entire Parliament. By the way, that also meant the seats of those Conservatives who now stand up and defend these individuals, and who could discount the very votes of Canadian citizens who elected all of us to this place.
Just six months ago, there was a democratically held election, one that the Conservatives said was unnecessary. They were happy to continue with the Prime Minister in place. However, our government felt that an election was needed for the very reason of talking to Canadians to put forward a platform about how to move forward next when it comes to COVID and post-COVID. The vast majority of Canadians supported political parties that put in place strong mandates around vaccination. They did so because we all knew that the only way out of this pandemic was through vaccination.
Every step of the way, the Conservatives flip-flopped on issues pertaining to COVID. I will give some examples.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the Conservatives complained and screamed and said that we would never have vaccines in this country until 2030. Obviously that was not true. Then the Conservatives screamed and demanded that we close the borders. When borders closed and there were restrictions placed on travel, the Conservatives said to open those borders.
As we loosened restrictions and the pandemic changed, Conservative premiers such as Doug Ford produced graphics. Do members remember the blood map of the pandemic and the spread of the disease? Then Conservatives at the federal level did not know what to do because a Conservative premier was saying to close the borders while they were screaming to open the borders, so they got really confused on borders at that time.
As vaccines became more and more available to all Canadians, and we were encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, Conservatives realized that their base might not want to get vaccinated. All of a sudden, the party of limiting a woman's right to choose was now the party of “my body, my choice”. The irony was not lost on me, as a member who stood in the last session to defend the rights of women to those Conservatives who felt that legislators should determine the health care of women.
Then, Conservatives were no longer advocating for vaccinations, saying that we do not need vaccinations, that we just need rapid tests. Well then, last week, we all heard in the House the Conservatives say there was no point to tests, that we were good, and that COVID is over in their eyes. Therefore, they voted against rapid tests. I also want to point out that even the former leader and member for Durham put in vaccine mandates during his campaign for anyone travelling and in his vicinity, but felt that the rest of Canadians did not need that same level of protection.
When it comes to Conservatives and this pandemic, the last thing they have done is follow the evidence and the science. Every step of the way, they have followed the politics that they have felt would be most advantageous to themselves.
I am frustrated with COVID. I cannot imagine a Canadian or probably anyone around the world who is not frustrated with this pandemic. However, the answer to the pandemic is not to take the Conservative approach of flailing in the wind and doing whatever felt good in the moment. If that was the case, we would see significantly more people sick, significantly more people mourning the death of a family member and we would see our hospitals overrun with stress. Our health care workers who have been true heroes in this pandemic would have been stretched even further to the limits.
I want to get back to the Emergencies Act and why we are here. There is something I find most appalling as I have listened to this debate. There are very real debates that we should have about COVID policies, and where to move next. That is healthy in any democracy and I welcome those conversations.
However, we are seeing in the streets of Ottawa and in border communities across this country that somehow this debate about COVID policies has turned into whoever can yell the loudest, whoever can use the biggest trucks to block roads and whoever can intimidate and harass should dictate the policy of this government or any government. In what world does that represent democracy?
In a democracy, we can have a debate. In a democracy, members are duly elected and represent the government. We have votes. Throughout the course of this debate and last week as we were discussing the various things happening across this country, I heard multiple times, including this evening, the Prime Minister being referred to as a dictator. People are saying that we are living under a tyrannical government, an authoritarian government. It has sickened me to hear this type of language.
The irony has not been lost on me that while members sitting in this place have screamed out that the Prime Minister is a dictator, they do so from their seat in the House of Commons, which they were duly elected to hold. In what other dictatorship do we have democratically free elections? People are suggesting that they are not free, that they do not live in a democracy, and that there is not a variety of viewpoints and debate taking place.
It was also not lost on me that as members screamed and cried about dictatorship in this country, later in the evening we held votes on legislation. For example, we held one vote on measures for seniors, which my friend the Minister of Seniors brought forward. It passed unanimously. In what dictatorship do we hold debates and free votes?
The rhetoric coming from the Conservative Party is damaging. Frankly, I think there are some members who say it to get a rise out of the protesters and to get good clips because they think it will make for better fundraising or make their base happy. Other members, probably even on the Conservative side, are uncomfortable with that. I am sure they have seen the impacts of true dictatorships and authoritarian governments, and I am sure they are not thrilled by some of the rhetoric coming from their own members.
What I saw last week during question period was members of the Conservative Party rip off their masks in anger and scream at the Prime Minister that he was a dictator. Again, it is not lost on me, but they did so inside the House of Commons, which they were elected to in a democratic election. It really makes me wonder if they even understand the irony in the words they are using, if they truly understand their meaning or if they come from such a place of privilege that they have lost all sense of reality.
Many members, particularly on the Conservative side, have said that this is a peaceful protest, that these are just regular Canadians getting together and demonstrating because they disagree with the government. I fully support the right to protest in this country and the right for dissent in this country. They are a fundamental part of our democracy. If everyone agreed, that would not be a healthy democracy.
However, what I find so interesting is some of the actions by these so-called peaceful freedom fighters that the Conservatives love to defend. They have assaulted people in Ottawa for wearing masks. They have harassed employees of local businesses, so much so that businesses have had to close for three weeks. There was an attempted arson and the doors were handcuffed shut so that if a fire started, people would be burned alive inside the building. I have watched journalists being assaulted and harassed live on TV. There were 911 call centres flooded to disrupt emergency services. A bike was thrown at a police horse yesterday in an attempt to injure it. Protesters tried to take police weapons yesterday. Today protesters lit and threw gas canisters at the police. There were bomb threats at the Ottawa hospital.
I am sure I have missed some of the acts, but the federal government has to uphold law and order anywhere across this country after acts like that and after three weeks of law enforcement telling people that they have been heard, that they have made their point and to go home because what they are doing is illegal. They ignored that and continued the violence. It is unacceptable and it is time for action. I do not think the Emergencies Act should ever be used lightly. The very debate we are having today is crucial to it. The committee oversight that will come from it is also crucial. I hope we as a country are never in this position again.
However, we are here and I will go back to the point of our democracy being threatened. It has been made very clear that foreign money has been influencing the actions of this convoy.
What really stood out for me through some earlier debates is when the member for Cumberland—Colchester said that he had been among the protesters, felt perfectly safe and did not really understand what the issue was. I am the duly elected member for the people of Pickering—Uxbridge. I will read a quote from a voice mail that I received at my Hill office the other day, which is, “Listen, you fucking cunt, you fucking bitch, we're—”