Elizabeth May’s statement one year after the WHO declared a global pandemic

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2021-03-11 10:32 [p.4877]

Mr. Speaker, I thank all of my colleagues who are in the House and those who, like me, are participating virtually.

Today is a day of observance in memory of all those we have lost over the course of this terrible year. More than 20,000 Canadians have died so far from COVID-19.

We share the same sentiments that others have expressed this morning for each person and each family. I sincerely thank the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the Bloc Québécois and member for Beloeil—Chambly, and the leader of the NDP for their comments.

I do not want to try to throw more thoughts into the chamber this morning, other than to say that we all grieve. We grieve a very difficult year. As many members have said, for some people it was more difficult than for others. It was more difficult for our seniors in long-term care homes, for marginalized people and for indigenous communities, but it is hard to make a list without leaving someone out.

I want to think about the moments when we were at our best through this last year. In the first few months of the pandemic, we displayed virtually no partisanship. I can clearly remember that every bill that was passed up until September was passed unanimously. Particularly in those first three or four months, there were voices on the phone as we listened to updates and briefings from our civil servants, which happened daily as well as on Saturdays and Sundays.

We could not tell, when someone opened the microphone to ask a question, if that voice was a Conservative voice, a Liberal voice, a Green voice, a Bloc voice or an NDP voice. We were all saying the same things: Can we get help fast enough? Can we help people? Can we please regard the credit unions the same way we look at the commercial banks? Can we please do those things?
I want to call out to us, because while we commemorate a year of COVID-19, it is very clear it is not over. Our ability to get through this and to save lives depends on our bringing back the best of ourselves and setting aside partisan advantage. I know it is deeply baked into our DNA to try to take shots on both sides, government and opposition, but please, Canadians do not want to see us trying to gain partisan advantage as we think about an upcoming election. They want to see us work together, and that means provinces, the federal government and political parties here in Ottawa.

In looking for empirical evidence through the pandemic, which we do by looking for the science and the evidence, we see that those countries that have done particularly well through the pandemic have been marked in the media as those led by women leaders.

I want to mark one other thing, and this is not to score a political point myself but to make a point about political culture, which is that the countries that have women leaders have another thing in common: They do not use the first-past-the-post voting system. Our voting system encourages fractured politics. The system of reward and punishment for conduct goes toward rewards for doing the mean thing, rewards for finding the dog whistle, rewards for the wedge issue. Now is not the time for that. Even though we still live under first past the post, I urge us to behave and to judge our conduct as though we did not, to pretend that we really are able to say we collaborate today because we know we can collaborate tomorrow and it will not hurt us at the polls. We need, for however long this lasts, to bring out the best in ourselves, as we did at the very beginning of the pandemic when we set partisanship aside.

I love everyone individually and collectively. I really, truly do. We have to do this together. There is no other way.

We are now in a race between vaccines and variants. We have people who will be safe soon with their vaccinations and we have people who are still at risk, and in our society as a whole, we will mark best our ability to triumph over adversity when we conduct ourselves in ways that suggest there are no parties here. God bless everyone.