Battlefords-Lloydminster MP Rosemarie Falk was in the House of Commons this week to speak out against a notion to suspend regular sittings until the fall.
Despite her opposition, Parliament voted in favour of suspending regular sittings to the fall, opting instead to continue to hold meetings of the special COVID-19 committee in the House. This "hybrid" sitting, as it is described, includes members appearing in Parliament or by vitual means.
The motion passed by a 28-23 vote with the support of the Liberals as well as the NDP and Greens. Falk joined the other Conservative MPs as well as Bloc MPs in voting against it. The number of members in the House was once again limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the vote, Falk gave lengthy remarks voicing her support for a full Parliamentary sitting.
“The opportunity to debate, to stand and be counted in this chamber is a privilege, and it is the same privilege that those in the 42 Parliaments before us have had.
“Now, in the 43rd Parliament, it is difficult to imagine that there are elected members of Parliament who are ready to pass on that privilege, but here we are today. In the midst of a pandemic, the government has put forward a motion that limits the role of Parliament. While this proposal is an improvement, of course, to the first one, it still falls far short of a full Parliament. It is shameful that some would devalue our democracy during a crisis.”
“The quality of governmental leadership will largely dictate the long-term impacts of this crisis. Good leadership is accountable, yet before us is essentially a permission slip from the Prime Minister asking to be less accountable. By limiting the role of Parliament, the Prime Minister is telling Canadians that he would like an audience and not an opposition. The government would like Parliament to govern without scrutiny, without debate and without opposition, but that is not how our democracy works.
“Canada is a representative democracy. Three hundred and thirty-eight members of Parliament are elected across this country, each of us representing tens of thousands of constituents. Each of us is sent to Parliament with a mandate from those who have elected us. Each of us has the responsibility to represent all electors in our ridings.
“If there are members of Parliament who think that in a time of crisis their responsibility to their constituents is any less, I must question why they chose to put their names on the ballot. In times of crisis, our responsibility to our constituents is even greater. As a member of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, it is my duty to hold the government to account. It is my duty to seek answers for constituents, and it is my duty to stand up for their interests and make them known.”
Falk also condemned the federal government’s response to COVID-19 in her area, saying the “principal economic drivers in my riding of Battlefords-Lloydminster have been largely left out of the government's response to COVID-19. They have been left out despite the national importance of both of these economic drivers.”
She said the Prime Minister has “failed to step up to support Canada’s oil and gas sector,” saying he “has failed to follow through with meaningful support.”
Falk also pointed to a lack of action on agriculture.
“We do know that the Canadian Federation of Agriculture had asked the government for an emergency fund, but instead of responding to the specific COVID-19 challenges that our farmers are facing, the Liberals reannounced already-budgeted funding. To make matters worse, while our farmers are trying to face the challenges brought on by COVID-19, the government hiked the carbon tax, reaching into their pockets for more money at a time when they could afford it the least.”
Falk said the “disregard for these two sectors of national importance underscores the absolute necessity for Parliament. The government must be accountable for its actions and also its inaction.”
The Battlefords-Lloydminster MP also pointed to the government having “refused to deliver a budget or even a fiscal update, or proper accounting for that matter, for their COVID-19 relief measures”, and providing no timeline for a fiscal update. She also pointed to the shortfalls of virtual meetings, saying that on her own committee “the time spent on technological issues far outweighs the time spent on the meeting itself.”
“A Parliament operating with its full authority can only better serve Canadians. This is not a partisan issue. This is a fundamental belief that Parliament is the bedrock of our democracy and that debate, oversight and transparency strengthen our democracy... We have to acknowledge that this motion would strip Parliament of some of its power. While governing in a minority setting may not be the Prime Minister's preference, it is what Canadians chose and he has the obligation to work with Parliament for the good of Canadians. Canadians expect more, and Canadians deserve more.”
Falk concluded saying “I would urge all members of this chamber to recognize Parliament as an essential service and to acknowledge that their responsibility to their constituents is crucial and their duty to uphold our democracy is paramount. A government without accountability fails our democracy and it fails Canadians. We must be focused on getting the best results for Canadians because they are counting on us. While we face a global health crisis, we cannot sacrifice the health of our democracy.”