Madam Speaker, I usually say that it is a pleasure to rise and comment on a bill, but this time I am not sure it is a pleasure.
The bill seeks to amend the Financial Administration Act so that the Treasury Board can no longer impose mandatory vaccination. The bill also seeks to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Aeronautics Act, the Railway Safety Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. According to the bill, all those laws should provide that mandatory vaccination is a thing of the past and can never again be required for COVID‑19. I feel there is something missing in this bill. In the health bill, we could also prescribe a disinfectant to make sure that we do not get any germs, as Trump did in his public statements when COVID‑19 first hit and we were waiting for a vaccine. That element is missing from the bill and we could move an amendment to that effect.
This bill is just one more attempt to politicize vaccination. The hon. member for Niagara West was behind Bill C‑285, which was similar to this one. It is easy to descend into demagoguery. At the time, the hon. member compared the vaccine mandate for federal public servants to something that the totalitarian regimes of China and North Korea would do. I can say right away that the Bloc Québécois will be voting against the bill and that it refuses to play into the hands of conspiracy theorists.
I say this with all due respect, because everyone is entitled to their opinion. The hon. member's past positions on vaccines and the kinds of petitions that he has sponsored, however, make it difficult to see what he is trying to do with this bill as anything other than yet another attempt to discredit vaccines. I only have 10 minutes to speak, but if I had more time, I could go back in history and talk about the times when there were no vaccines. I could talk about infant mortality, the Spanish flu and the First World War. We have seen how much of a difference vaccination has made.
The sole purpose of this bill concerns an issue that should be off-limits to partisan games. COVID‑19 has been a tragedy, not a conspiracy. The seven waves of COVID‑19 took the lives of nearly 18,000 people in Quebec, more than 50,000 people in Canada and 6.5 million people worldwide.
The Conservatives, however, have no sympathy for the victims, for the health care workers or for our young people and all the sacrifices they made to protect our seniors. Their sympathy is for pandemic deniers. The Conservatives decided to turn their backs on it all and vote against the principle of Bill S‑209, which called for March 11 to be designated as COVID-19 pandemic observance day. Shame on them. Pandemic denialism may be part of their DNA, along with denying climate change and insisting that it is not real. Both these realities, however, are having profoundly negative societal effects in terms of health and poverty. I think these issues deserve more attention, not a sideshow.
The Conservatives not only do not want to recognize this tragedy, but they are now proposing to deny the vaccination that allowed us to save many lives and get through the pandemic. I am not absolving the Liberals, who were not entirely innocent throughout this pandemic. They also used vaccination for partisan purposes.
Let us not forget that in 2021, they called an election for no reason in the middle of the pandemic, when health measures were in force. The Liberals hammered home their message on mandatory vaccination for partisan purposes. It was a game against the Conservatives to go after a segment of the electorate. It was no more edifying than that.
That is a dangerous game, because it just diminishes a debate that should be based on knowledge and evidence, not partisan interests.
As we know, the government often improvised or delayed taking action when managing the crisis. Take, for example, border controls and the delays in procuring equipment and vaccines. We understand that it was a crisis situation and that sometimes urgent action needs to be taken. However, in the end, some major setbacks fortunately forced us to rely on getting people vaccinated very quickly. It was almost unprecedented how it was possible to create a vaccine that then helped us to significantly stabilize the situation.
France, Germany, the United States, England, the list of countries that adopted a vaccine passport for transportation is very long. We have to remember the situation we were in. Hospitals around the world were overburdened. We saw the images, not just in Canada, but in Europe. So many people died that people did not even know where to put the bodies. That was a tragedy. Vaccination finally enabled us to see a little light at the end of the tunnel. I think that goes to show that research and development and science help us move forward when we are confronted not with a minor cough but a global pandemic.
To deny that by banning vaccine mandates in labour laws and in transportation, and to say that if someone has COVID-19, it is open season and they can show up without being vaccinated and completely ignore a vaccine mandate, that is like giving up the tools we have to protect ourselves in a public health situation.
Making vaccine mandates permanent would have been going too far, much like saying that Parliament should be hybrid permanently is going too far. That is too much. We have to be able to consider the context. The Bloc Québécois has never been in favour of making vaccination mandatory, because that would be impossible. Mandatory vaccination is not possible, unless you round people up and force them to get the shot before they can leave. That would be impossible. There were, however, constraints placed on those who did not want to be vaccinated, and those constraints were warranted.
What is regrettable about the Liberals' partisanship at the time when it was made mandatory is that it did not take into account a position-by-position analysis. Were there any positions where this was not an issue? Were there any other work positions? This is true for both federal employees and those in federally regulated businesses.
Labour relations analysts and advisers were very serious in saying that employers should assess the situations in which the work was carried out by staff. That was not done either. It was done indiscriminately.
Some unions decided to go to court on behalf of their members. There was not much in the way of case law, but case law did support demanding this as a condition of employment, given the specific context we were in. With this bill, the Conservative Party wants to say that they are against this, that it does not make sense and that it should be eliminated from all our laws.
Our labour and transportation laws already do not require vaccination. Our laws say nothing about this. They will certainly not be amended to explicitly say that, in the future, there will never again be an obligation to be vaccinated.
Just think of the H1N1 flu epidemic. It was a serious flu. People were asked to be vaccinated if they wanted to travel. I had to travel, so I got vaccinated. That is life, when there are—