Mr. Speaker, if nothing else, that speech by my colleague from Kingston and the Islands was amusing. He seemed critical of the Conservatives for not paying tribute to Tommy Douglas before he was even born.
Actually, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to my House of Commons colleagues of all stripes on both sides of the aisle who went to the trouble of participating in this weighty social debate by clearly and openly expressing their points of view.
It is a crying shame that this weighty debate is being undermined and warped by the threat of a confidence vote. That is a crying shame because it sends a message to the people that, if Parliament does not do what the Prime Minister wants it to do, it will send Canadians back to the polls. That is a terrible thing because it forces the hand of people like the member for Louis-Hébert, who would vote differently otherwise. It impairs our debate here in the House.
I would like to talk about another Liberal first minister who tried to use divisive tactics and a social crisis to score political points. I am talking about Quebec's Jean Charest, who exploited the student uprising during the “maple spring” of 2012 in an attempt to score political points.
That did not go well for him because in the next election, Quebeckers elected a Parti Québécois government, in which I had the honour to serve. We were the ones who had to deal with the consequences of the previous Liberal government's actions. The unprecedented social crisis was resolved without asking the federal government to invoke the Emergencies Act.
We did what we had to do. We decided to sit down with the students to discuss the issue of university funding and students' contribution through tuition fees. We made tough decisions, which I can confirm, as I was the Quebec minister of public security at the time. On May 8, 2013, I announced the launch of what was known as the Ménard commission. I was harshly criticized by police forces and student associations, but the last protest of the “maple spring” was held on May 8. That was one year later.
Why? It was simply because we decided to take the bull by the horns and listen to people despite the criticism. The Ménard commission looked into what could have sparked the senseless violence. The commission released a report that was quickly shelved by the next Liberal government, for good reason.
I like to think that the exemplary conduct of the Ottawa police in ending this illegal occupation of downtown streets was greatly inspired by the findings of the Ménard commission on the use of force during protests and public disturbances.
They did their job without violence and without any need for the Emergencies Act. All that needed to be done was to take the time to put measures in place to get out of the crisis. That is what we did.
Governing involves making decisions. Choosing not to make a decision is making a decision. At the beginning of this crisis, the government chose not to make a decision and that had serious consequences. I heard a Liberal member say that his government made a decision but that we just did not like it.
After letting the situation grow worse and worse for about 20 days, the government decided to invoke the Emergencies Act to deal with the situation. That was the nuclear option, so to speak. The government did not try anything else first. It is using the nuclear option to cover up the fact that it failed to take action for more than 20 days. That is shameful.
No one can tell me that the solution the government is presenting is the only solution. The government had a lot of options available to it, but it chose not to use them. It has to take the blame for that. We will not be party to the government's attempt to cover up its pitiful management of the situation so far and regain the public's favour by supporting the invocation of the Emergencies Act.
I would like to reiterate what my colleague from Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia said in the House on February 14, seven days ago. She said that it took the government 10 days to convene a trilateral table, but it forgot to invite police departments. On day 16, they ended up creating their own integrated command centre.
Contrary to what we did following the social crisis of 2012‑13, the Prime Minister never bothered to enter into communication with the occupiers of Parliament. He did not co-operate when the Government of Ontario and the City of Ottawa requested 1,800 officers to deal with the situation. He did not set up a crisis task force including all levels of government and all the police forces.
One thing that justifies our position today is that the government did not consult its partners, meaning Quebec and the provinces, before making a decision that is so heavily laden with consequences. Of the 10 provinces in this country, there are only three that support the government's action. That speaks volumes to me.
To invoke the Emergencies Act, the government must demonstrate two things.
First, it must show that there is a dangerous and urgent situation. Even if we accept, based on what the member for Kingston and the Islands just told us, that the situation could remain potentially dangerous, can we still claim this evening, a few minutes from voting time, that it is urgent? The answer is only too obvious.
Second, the government must show that it is impossible to deal with the situation under ordinary laws.
What the government did show was that it never tried using ordinary laws to deal with the situation. Can it really say after the fact that it would have been impossible to deal with it using ordinary laws? The government took great care not to apply any ordinary laws before invoking the Emergencies Act.
Two criteria must be satisfied for the government to proclaim the Emergencies Act. They were not. As such, we cannot support the act because the government did not prove it was absolutely necessary.
The Prime Minister explained that he invoked the act in case other blockades appeared. I would note that nearly all the blockades except for the Ottawa occupation were dismantled before the Emergencies Act took effect. In other words, the situation in downtown Ottawa could have been dealt with using ordinary laws had the government bothered to try. The government took great care not to, however. It said it was invoking the act in case other blockades appeared. An act should not be invoked just in case. An act should be invoked when there are reasons for it, such as having to manage a real or imminent situation, not just in case.
It would have been possible to handle the situation by coordinating the Ottawa police, the OPP and the RCMP in their enforcement of the existing laws and regulations, such as the Criminal Code, the Highway Traffic Act, City of Ottawa bylaws, for example, regarding peace and quiet for residents, but no. Instead, the government did nothing for nearly 20 days, before invoking the Emergencies Act to deal with something it could have dealt with if it had just tried. The government never did try to deal with it.
It is very clear that we will not be able to support the use of this act. I have to say that, as a Quebecker, I am even more troubled by the government's decision to invoke the Emergencies Act to deal with this situation. No matter what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House claims, the Emergencies Act is a revamped version of the War Measures Act. The government at the time tinkered with and rejigged the act to make it more acceptable and palatable. The misuse of this act, most notably in 1970, was deemed completely unacceptable in a democratic society that upholds the rule of law.
Quebec still has painful memories of the times the War Measures Act was invoked, for the First World War, the Second World War or the October crisis in 1970. This is because every time this act was used, it was against Quebec, in 1917, 1942 and 1970. This brings up all kinds of painful memories.
Beyond the very flawed justification the government is using to urge us to vote in favour of implementing this legislation, there is the somewhat despicable nature of invoking such legislation for a situation like the one that we faced.
Accordingly, there is no doubt in our minds that we on this side of the House cannot condone, cannot support, cannot vote in favour of such legislation. We cannot do it, especially since the National Assembly of Quebec unanimously voted against the application of the Emergencies Act. When we say they voted unanimously, that means with the votes from the Coalition Avenir Québec, of course, but also from the Liberal Party of Quebec, Québec Solidaire, and the Parti Québécois. The Government of Quebec opposed the application of the Emergencies Act. Six provinces joined Quebec in opposing the application of the Emergencies Act.
What does this Liberal government think is left of the collaborative federalism that it tried to sell us on a few years ago if the government is imposing a law with such serious implications as the Emergencies Act without even bothering to consult its most important partners, the Government of Quebec and the provincial governments? What is more, it is imposing it on them against their will.
The governments are telling the federal government not to invoke the act, but it is doing so anyway. Why? The reason is that it was so lax before that now it has no choice but to cover up the fact that it did nothing before and try to resolve the situation.
What we have seen happening in the streets of Ottawa over the past few hours could have easily been done sooner. The police forces could have been coordinated days ago. The government did not do that and the situation got worse.
The government could not see a way out of the situation that it chose to ignore at the start. The government claimed that it was up to the Ottawa police to handle it, when it was obvious that the protesters were not there with a message for the Ottawa City Council or the Government of Ontario. The protesters set up camp in front of the federal Parliament buildings to send a message to the federal government.
The federal government said the protest was not its concern and that it was not responsible for handling it. The protest was against the federal government, but it preferred to say it was not responsible for dealing with it. The result was this dreadful and impossible situation that led the government to invoke the Emergencies Act. However, the government's arguments do not in any way justify the use of this legislation.
I will say it again. My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I will be voting against this legislation, not proudly, because there is no reason to be proud of having to vote on this at all today, but because we feel that it is the right thing to do under the circumstances. I would also hope that the Prime Minister will reconsider his perverse idea of making this a confidence vote.