Thursday, January 29, 2009

Text of Bélanger's request

Ottawa-Vanier Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger requested the debate on ending the transit strike that will take place later tonight (watch for our liveblog).

Below is the text of the official request that B
élanger made in the House a few minutes after 3 p.m. yesterday:
Mr. Speaker, I am asking that you consider allowing us to hold an emergency debate in this House—today or tomorrow, at the latest—to discuss the strike in the national capital region, which began on December 10.

This is the 50th day of a strike that has paralyzed our community and had a negative impact on hundreds of thousands of our citizens. From the beginning of this strike, all members of this House representing an affected riding, no matter their political affiliation, have received hundreds of comments from individuals in truly deplorable situations: students forced to consider quitting school, seniors practically shut in because they no longer have access to public transportation and cannot go anywhere, and small businesses in our community that are suffering greatly.

We believe that it is very important for the government to be fully aware of this rather urgent situation.

The role of the government is twofold. The government has jurisdiction in this instance because this is an interprovincial service that is being offered by OC Transpo. Because it crosses into Quebec, the jurisdiction falls onto the federal government. The government has intervened in this in the sense of forcing a vote but it is important for people to know what the intentions of the government are, if any, in pursuing this matter. People need to know whether there is to be any hope from those where the jurisdiction lies.

The second important reason, which is the one I raised yesterday in the House and which the President of the Treasury Board did not even answer but referred it to a colleague, is that the government is also the employer of tens of thousands of people who are finding it extremely difficult in these circumstances. If we have a day like today, where we have a snowfall, it is almost a permanent gridlock out there and it is affecting everybody.

I believe we should address this and consider options available to the government and consider options that may be brought forward to put pressure on both parties, not taking sides here but taking the side of the population. It would be an important occasion for members of this House, who are concerned and who represent over a million people affected by this, to have the opportunity of putting to the government and for the government to respond, to figure a way out of this situation and figure a way forward for the betterment of conditions for our fellow citizens.

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