Sturgeon River-Parkland MP Dane Lloyd, shown in this Morinville News file photo, took part in Saturday’s sitting in the House of Commons as well as Committee of the Whole.
by Stephen Dafoe
Parliament met Saturday for the first time since rising Mar. 13 to discuss, debate and pass Bill C-14, the Canada Wage Subsidy. Part of Saturday’s sitting included Committee of the Whole, the opposition’s first opportunity to directly ask questions of the government in nearly a month. Sturgeon River-Parkland Member of Parliament Dane Lloyd took part in Saturday’s sitting.
“It was a great day for democracy because it’s the first time since the House rose on Mar. 13 that the opposition parties have had an opportunity in a parliamentary forum to as pertinent questions of the government, and hold them accountable for failures of mistakes that they’ve made, or to ask them what they are doing about important files,” Lloyd said of Saturday’s sitting.
Lloyd said he had two-and-a-half minutes to ask questions, and the Liberals had the same time to reply.
“I actually think it is a far better means to hold the government accountable than question period,” Lloyd said of the experience. “I think there will be a lot of support after this to even change question period to be more like Committee of the whole.”
One of the themes of Saturday’s sitting was what did the government know, when did they know it, a,d what actions did they take concerning the early days of COVID-19 back in January and February.
“Obviously, we didn’t get the answers that we were looking for, but it was still an important opportunity to ask the questions,” Lloyd said.
PLASTICS AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY
Lloyd took his opportunity to ask questions on a variety of topics, including the government’s pre-crisis move towards a single-use plastics ban and a plan to label plastics as a toxic substance under the Environmental Protection Act.
“I know that the chemistry and plastic industry is very concerned that they’re being targeted by the government,” Lloyd said. “What we’ve learned during this crisis is just how important plastics, and particularly single-use plastics, are for the medical industry, particularly. For example, N95 masks are made of polypropylene.”
Lloyd said many of the tools and supplies used in hospitals are made of plastic, prompting his question of government as to just what their plan is.
“We know that we need to develop the ability to produce these things here in Canada, rather than depending upon the United States of China,” Lloyd said. “We’ve clearly seen that if they’re having trouble with a disease, they’re going to keep these supplies for themselves.”
Lloyd said he is concerned that the government’s plan to ban or label plastics as toxic will ultimately harm Canada’s ability to be self-sufficient with those needed items.
“I’m not sure which way the government’s going to go on it, but I definitely think it [the question] has given them some food for thought,” Lloyd said.
SUICIDE AND MENTAL HEALTH
Lloyd also expressed his concern with mental health and suicide rates in Canada during a time of social isolation and fear.
“I asked if the government was tracking the instances of mental health challenges and suicide rates, and what measures that they’re taking to help protect Canadians from suicide,” Lloyd said. “I think it was an important point to raise.”
Lloyd said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, acknowledged that Lloyd’s question was a good one, and told him that Health Canada is taking some initiatives on it. However, Lloyd said he is worried that his question was regarded as a secondary thing.
“We’re in such a rush to isolate, which is important but was anyone thinking about the mental health challenges or the domestic abuse challenges that would come from weeks if not months of enforced isolation,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd also raised concerns Saturday about Saudi Arabia and Russia’s price war. On Sunday, an agreement was reached to reduce production by almost 10 million barrels per day in May and June.
“I’m concerned about Saudi Arabia and Russia flooding the market with cheap oil and trying to drive mostly the Americans but also the Canadians out of the oil business,” Lloyd said. “I’m concerned that the government isn’t acting quick enough not necessarily to bail out the oil industry but to backstop them. We all know that some companies are going to go bankrupt. They may not have been financially resilient before this crisis. That’s just the free market, and we have to expect that. But I think there’s a number of other businesses that would not otherwise have been vulnerable but are basically under attack in a market manipulating move. I think in those cases, it is up to the government to ensure that these companies don’t go under. This is 10 per cent of our country’s GDP. I think Suncor and CNRL are great companies, but we don’t want to see a country where we’d only have two or three big oil companies running the whole show.”
Although he does not think Canada can or should save every oil company, he is concerned with the number of jobs and the tax revenue that is at stake.
“I know they are loath to do too much to help the oil industry, but I would hope at least for the sake of Alberta and Newfoundland Labrador, that they would take some action to help get the industry through the short term trouble,” Lloyd said.
The MP said he was surprised that the government said there was something coming, but is disappointed that two weeks after the government said it would be done in hours or days, nothing has been announced.
I’m hopeful that something is going to come, but time is of the essence here,” Lloyd said.
HEALTH OFFICERS AT LAND BORDERS
Lloyd also asked the government about Alberta Health officials at Canada’s land borders and was told that there is not a lot of traffic at the border presently.
The MP expressed his concern that there should be at the very least random checks done on returning travellers and those transporting goods across the border.
“My hope is that today’s questioning will spur the government to take action,” Lloyd said.