Madam Speaker, this is the second opportunity I have been afforded to address this very important legislation. I want to start by commenting on when the legislation was introduced for debate earlier this morning, at which time the member for St. Catharines stood in his place and indicated that he would be happy to share his time with me.
I expected and hoped that, at least in part, there would be a general feeling that this is a substantive piece of legislation, which will have a very positive impact for Canadians. One would think that there would be support on all sides in favour of the legislation.
The member for St. Catharines, who is a little wiser than I am, pointed out in his comments that the Conservatives are filibustering, preventing legislation from passing. It was interesting that, when he pointed that out, he also referred to the fact that there are Conservative members who support the legislation and will be voting in favour of it. He then cited a specific member who indicated he would be voting in favour of the legislation.
After the member for St. Catharines spoke, I had the opportunity to speak. Based on previous experience, I also referred to the fact that the Conservatives have this natural inclination to prevent legislation from passing, even when they support it. A Conservative member across the way, speaking during Private Members' Business, made his perspective very clear in his opening comments. At the time, we were debating a private member's bill on a different issue, which is not government legislation, but he was critical of the government for not debating important issues.
I agree in the sense that the issues he referred to at the time, during Private Members' Business, were housing affordability and inflation. He may even have mentioned groceries. Within five minutes after the Conservative member sat down, we brought forward this piece of legislation, Bill C-56. If we read the title, it is about affordable housing and groceries. If we listen to what members opposite are saying, we would think they would be a little more sympathetic in terms of seeing the legislation passed.
Here is the catch: What did the very first speaker on Bill C-56, the member for Bay of Quinte, choose to do? He stood in his place, said a few words and referred to my speech, in which I referred to the efficiency argument in the legislation, which I will get back to. He referred to my saying that and said that is a very good part of the legislation. He acknowledged that. Then, toward the end of his speech, what did he do? He moved an amendment, with the real purpose of ensuring that there would be additional debate on this legislation.
Someone might ask what is wrong with a little more debate. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with it. However, people who follow not only this legislation but also many pieces of legislation that the government brings forward will know that the Conservative agenda has nothing at all to do with what is in the best interests of Canadians. For the Conservative Party of Canada today, it is all about putting roadblocks in place and the members doing whatever they can to assassinate the characters of government members and prevent legislation from passing. It is as simple as that.
That is why the Conservatives brought forward an amendment. What does the amendment actually say? It says:
...and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities be ordered to appear as witnesses for no less than two hours each....
Every member of this House is very much aware of their opinions and thoughts on the economy, inflation and housing, as the ministers themselves have commented on the issue in different forms. The purpose of the amendment is, again, just to prevent or slow down the legislation's passing.
The Conservatives have no reservations in doing this. I appreciate that it gives me another opportunity to address the legislation. I look to the member for Bay of Quinte and thank him for allowing me to express myself a little more on the legislation.
At the end of the day, some members have said they support the legislation and other members have said there is good stuff in it. There is no reason why the Conservative Party should be attempting to prevent this legislation from passing.
Let us look at what is happening around us. If we want to support Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it, and if we want to look at how we could support low-income Canadians, in terms of getting into non-profit housing or even, in this situation, purpose-built homes, there is good stuff in here. Increasing competition is a good thing. Conservatives talk about that, but their actions are very different.
We introduced the legislation this morning, with the idea of having three hours of debate; maybe the Conservatives would see the light and the advantage of helping Canadians and would allow the legislation to pass. However, that is not the case.
It is just like one of the other pieces of legislation that really surprises me: the Canada-Ukraine agreement. We are going to be debating that legislation. It is scheduled for this afternoon. What is the Conservative Party of Canada going to do to prevent that legislation from passing? Will it bring in another concurrence report?
We have even had members in the chamber accuse the Canada-Ukraine agreement of being woke legislation. They have portrayed Canada as taking advantage of Ukraine, even though the President of Ukraine came to Canada and had a ceremony with the Prime Minister to sign this agreement.
There is no one steering the Conservative Party today on policy, ideas or things that would help Canadians in a very real and tangible way. Conservatives are more concerned about bumper stickers than they are about good, sound policy. A good example of that would be in trying to figure out what the Conservative Party of Canada stands for on the issue of the environment. I said, “What is the policy on the environment?” Members across the way just heckled, “Axe the tax.” That is what I mean about bumper stickers.
The reality is that the leader of the Conservative Party and his entire group are more concerned with social media posts, which are often very misleading, if I am being kind, and the bumper stickers they could use in the next election, as opposed to being concerned with what is in the best interest of Canadians.
This legislation, Bill C-56, is good legislation. We finally have a government that is trying to address the issue of affordability and stability of grocery prices, and the Conservatives do not want the legislation to pass.
Earlier, I brought up the issue of competition and how Canadians benefit through competition, and this legislation would provide the opportunity to take away efficiency as an argument that could be made by companies to acquire other companies. The example I used earlier was grocery stores. In Canada, as I am sure members know, we have five major grocery stores: Metro, Loblaws, Sobeys, Walmart and Costco. Those are the big five. We used to have Shoppers as a separate entity until Stephen Harper and the current leader of the Conservative Party thought there was nothing wrong with Shoppers being acquired by another company. That reduced competition.
On the one hand, we hear the Conservatives talk about the benefits of competition, but on the other hand, when it comes to voting for legislation that would help with competition pass, what do they choose to do? They choose to filibuster the legislation. They do not want to pass the legislation. That is why the member for Bay of Quinte moved an amendment. It is to prevent the legislation from passing. It is so they can continue to debate endlessly. As a government, we will have to go to the New Democrats or the Bloc to negotiate bringing in time allocation to pass this legislation, or it is not going to pass.
On the one hand, the Conservative Party will be critical of the government because it wants to see more competition, yet when it was in government, it allowed Shoppers to be acquired, with no questions asked. It was an acquisition worth billions of dollars, and its members allowed it. Then, when it has come time for us to be able to deal with those kinds of acquisitions, they are now preventing the legislation from passing. Many would suggest that is somewhat hypocritical, myself included, but it does not meet their agenda.
I ask members to take a look at what the legislation actually does. It would provide a GST exemption for purpose-built homes over the next number of years. That initiative is expected to see tens of thousands of homes being built, and that would be a direct result of this legislation. As I indicated earlier, the idea is sound and it is good. The Conservative Party of Canada should support it.
We are seeing provincial governments recognizing that this initiative is good, and they are applying it to the PST too, the provincial sales tax. We have provinces of different political stripes, and we have the Liberal government, the NDP and the Bloc all supporting that initiative. On the other hand, we have the reckless Conservatives, who feel that their job is to prevent legislation of all forms from passing in the House. I would argue that it is at a great expense to Canadians.
When we think of the housing issue, it is of critical importance. I have heard about it being of critical importance from all sides of the House, but when there are initiatives, whether legislation like this, budgetary measures that support housing co-ops and organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the transfer of billions of dollars to provinces and non-profit groups to assist in subsidizing units, or the housing accelerator fund and the monies allocated for that, the consistent thing we get from the Conservative Party is that they vote against them, or they filibuster. In the meantime, Conservatives have the tenacity to suggest we are not doing enough on the housing file.
The reality is that no government in the last 60-plus years has been more proactive on the housing file than this government has been. No government has, and the numbers will clearly show—