This week, I had the opportunity to question International Trade Minister Mary Ng during a virtual session of Parliament. My questions to her were on a number of issues related to the WTO, TPP, Canada-UK Trade as well as ask questions on Canadian beef, pork and canola exports.
For the past two and a half months, the House of Commons has been suspended and Members of Parliament have largely been working from home. During that time, Conservatives have succeeded in holding the government to account and we have put forward a number of constructive solutions to fix Liberal programs so that Canadians can get the help they need.
But virtual committee meetings are not a replacement for Parliament. Nor are the Prime Minister’s daily press conferences in front of Rideau Cottage. The government should not be allowed to hide information from Canadians or to pick and choose which questions they want to answer and when. But that’s exactly what’s been happening.
In a crisis, oversight is more important than ever. That is what Members of Parliament are supposed to do. It is part of the job. Yet when we look at what’s going on, especially in light of the fact that the Auditor General does not have enough funding to conduct the audits of government programs.
Instead of being open with Canadians, the government is shutting down questions they don’t like or don’t want to answer. That is all wrong and all of these issues underscore why Parliament must resume. No one is suggesting that all 338 Members of Parliament show up to Parliament Hill all at once.
However, the House can easily hold 50 Members of Parliaments while still respecting physical distancing. All standing and special committees must also begin to meet virtually and for committees to have their normal powers restored. This is not a partisan issue. This is about whether or not a country like Canada can have a functional Parliament during a crisis.
We must start meeting in person, with a smaller representation of MPs, so that we can move motions and properly debate government and private members legislation. Opposition parties have gotten results for Canadians in the past and we can again.
It was a Conservative Opposition Day motion that struck the Canada-China Committee and it was a Conservative motion that launched the Auditor General’s review of the Liberals’ infrastructure spending.
Sadly, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh disagrees with this premise. Yesterday, he and his NDP MPs supported a Liberal motion to suspend parliament a national crisis. Doing so ended opposition oversight of COVID-19 programs and prevented the Agriculture and Trade committees from meeting in order to work on behalf of our farmers and exporters.
Most important, the passage of the Liberal motion left Canada as the only
G-7 country without a functioning Parliament.
I think retired Vice-Admiral Mark Norman summed this situation up best when he tweeted: