A motion tabled by the Conservatives to push the Trudeau government to come up with a plan to lift COVID-19 restrictions and reopen the economy failed to get adopted Wednesday.
A majority of MPs— 212 versus 122—voted against the motion, which urged the government to release a “clear data-driven plan to support safely, gradually, and permanently lifting COVID-19 restrictions” within 20 days after the adoption of the motion.
In calling for support for the motion in the House on Tuesday, Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner said that with a year having passed since the pandemic began, the “tools now exist” for an informed return to normalcy.
“We are a year into COVID‑19, and enough is enough,” she said.
“The problem is that in Canada, we have not had clear guidance from our health officials on the circumstances on which widespread mass lockdowns can safely end. That is a huge problem.”
Rempel Garner noted that no level of government in Canada has issued guidance on what options people have once they are fully vaccinated.
“The only thing the federal government has said to date, when asked, is that vaccinated people still have to go into controversial quarantine hotels,” she said.
“The federal government has to at least tell people what the plan is to develop benchmarks on how these tools are going to bring freedom, prosperity, and normalcy back to the lives of Canadians.”
Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux accused Rempel Garner of “providing false information.”
“Is the member trying to indicate to those who are following this debate that the federal government is responsible for lifting lockdowns or restrictions? My understanding, according to the Constitution, is that the provinces are responsible. Canada is a vast country with many regions, and it is the provinces that put in the restrictions,” he said.
“Is it the Conservative Party’s policy that Ottawa should start overriding provincial jurisdiction?”
“The federal government has full jurisdiction on the quarantine hotel debacle that has seen sexual assaults occur, so yes, that issue is its job,” Rempel Garner countered.
“After billions of dollars and thousands of bureaucrats, a year later the federal government is saying it is not its job. … Liberals will not provide any support on this or any guidance,” she added. “What we need is a plan, and every person in this place should support it.”
NDP MP Don Davies said gaining control of the transmission of the COVID-19 virus takes priority over reopening the economy.
“It cannot be the other way around. We cannot put the reopening of the economy ahead of getting control of the health issues,” Davies said.
He noted, however, that the government “should provide Canadians with a clear path forward by releasing a comprehensive plan to put this pandemic behind us and begin the process of recovery.”
Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen said what he finds “problematic” with Rempel Garner’s motion is that “there are things the federal government is responsible for, but there are also things it is not responsible for.”
“The prime minister does not have the powers, or certainly the federal government does not have the powers, for certain circumstances,” he said.
Conservative MP James Cumming pointed out that government can show its leadership at this crucial time by providing direction to the provinces and equipping them with the tools necessary to get Canadians back to work.
Cumming noted that the U.S. and UK federal governments have already released plans reopening the economy in their countries, but Canadian officials have yet to provide Canadians with any clarity on when regular economic activity and social life will be resumed.
“We need a plan to come out of COVID-19 to create jobs, get our economy back on track and allow people to earn those paychecks,” he said.
In a statement released Tuesday, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said “Canadians need a plan for hope” and to know that “things are going to get better”
“To say that the mental health of Canadians has been impacted due to the pandemic is an understatement. Over last year we have seen a dramatic rise of mental health issues, addictions, and overdoses that have become the pandemic of tears within the COVID-19 pandemic. Things must change,” O’Toole said, a point he reiterated in a press conference the same day.
“By now, Canadians should know when things are going to turn the corner and what metrics we are using to determine a plan for re-opening. We can’t keep asking Canadians to sacrifice more without being clear about when restrictions will be eased.”