House of Commons Hansard #225 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Nuclear Tests
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, in Ottawa this summer 230 parliamentarians from 48 countries, members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, by resolution urged the French government not to hold nuclear tests.

My question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In addition to the representations he made on September 6 to the French government, is he now prepared to call for a boycott of goods made in France?

Nuclear Tests
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

André Ouellet Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Canada deplored the decisions of France and China to continue nuclear testing. However, Canada mentioned that it wanted the recently unanimously approved UN resolution to end nuclear testing by 1996 complied with by all parties that already have a nuclear strike force. We expressed our satisfaction to the Americans as well as to the French who said they intended to comply with the 1996 deadline.

Under the circumstances, I do not think that we can blame French authorities for announcing that they will comply with the 1996 objective.

Nuclear Tests
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

This brings question period to a conclusion.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

September 18th, 1995 / 3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Ung Huot, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I also draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of my brother Speaker from Alberta, the Hon. Stanley Schumacher.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Right Hon. John Diefenbaker
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to mark the anniversary of the birth of John Diefenbaker 100 years ago today.

John Diefenbaker was a predecessor in the office of Prime Minister. I know I speak for everyone in the House when I salute him on this historic day. I am also one of the lucky few in this House today who had the opportunity to know John Diefenbaker, to see him in action and to serve with him in Parliament.

John Diefenbaker was one of those rare public figures who was larger than life and who remains larger than life. He helped define an entire era in our history. Like all Prime Ministers he left a mark on his country through his accomplishments in office, but like only a very few Prime Ministers he left a mark on our national psyche just by being the way he was. His style, his voice, his very presence have all become part of our identity, part of of our mythology.

Dief loved politics. He was a career politician and he was proud of it. He considered politics and public service an honourable calling, the calling of a lifetime, and he gave it everything he had. You could love him or hate him-most Canadians fell into one of those two categories-but you could never for one second question the sincerity and the personal integrity of John Diefenbaker. You could disagree with him on an issue-which I often did on a lot of things from the Canadian flag to bilingualism-but you could never doubt his deep patriotism and love of Canada.

Of course, Dief was a populist. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was bringing the firebrand populism of the prairies into his House of Commons and into the Government of Canada. He never forgot who he was or where he came from. His connection to Main Street in Prince Albert connected him with the Main Street of every town and city in Canada and with the Canadians who lived and worked on those main streets. He was their champion. He stood up for them. He railed against the establishment, against Bay Street, against the Grits, against the socialists and of course very often against his own party. He never fudged. He never wavered. He took a side on an issue and he stood firm.

Like all populists he loved the heat of the battle, the competition, the excitement. He loved campaigning. He was truly a great campaigner, whirling into town, diving into crowds, shooting at his opponents the Grits and the socialists with his arsenal of drama and humour. Dief used to say, "I don't campaign, I just visit with the people". Nobody ever connected better with the people than John Diefenbaker.

Above all, he felt at home in the House of Commons. He liked this place and I might add that, for a young 29 year old from Shawinigan, Mr. Diefenbaker's flights of oratory in this House were quite impressive. I used to sit in the last row-my seat was at

the back over there-and listen to him, because this was quite the show as we say. His imposing presence, penetrating stare, theatrics and thunderous voice are all as clear in my mind as they were 32 years ago when I first came to this place. For me-as for millions of Canadians-John Diefenbaker will forever epitomize the essence of this place.

Patriot, populist, parliamentarian, unhyphenated Canadian: John Diefenbaker was all of those things. He left our country a far richer, more interesting place than when he entered it 100 years ago today.

During his life, he touched the lives of millions of Canadians. His legacy will continue to inspire Canadians, be debated among Canadians, always people taking different sides because that is the way Dief loved it. It will last for a long time because John Diefenbaker was a great Canadian.

Right Hon. John Diefenbaker
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Right Hon. John Diefenbaker
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Charest Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, in listening to the Prime Minister, I could not help but note the irony of his remarks and his experience in having the privilege of sitting in this House with the Right Hon. John George Diefenbaker.

He draws his comments from his own personal memory, in contrast to myself who was not yet born when Mr. Diefenbaker became Prime Minister of Canada in 1957 with a minority government.

I draw my remarks today from the collective memory of Canadians who will look back on this great man, sometimes with questions but most of the time with great admiration.

It is important to note that John G. Diefenbaker did not get elected the first time he ran. He ran for office many times before being successful.

At the outset of his life, he knew that the path he would walk would be his own and he remained true to that destiny. He became Canada's first western Prime Minister, the first Prime Minister who was neither of British nor French descent.

He brought a unique and rare style of politics to Ottawa. He took the populist firebrand politics of western Canada and made it mainstream. He came to this place with very deep convictions of what Canada represented. Most of all, he had very deep convictions in regard to our rights and our responsibilities.

In this regard, he meets one of the lasting tests of history. He has left behind a legacy that is still with us today: Canada's first Bill of Rights was the work of John Diefenbaker.

He also brought to national politics a vision of northern Canada. He was the first national leader to understand what it meant for Canadians to embrace this great, massive land, what it represented in our minds and in our imaginations in its limitless potential that he went on to describe as being something that extended from "sea to sea to the northern sea".

John Diefenbaker's passion for Canadians and Canada helped to attract people from across the country to politics. I still meet people today who say to me that I am a Diefenbaker Tory. I am sure that colleagues in the House have from time to time met those samw people.

I want to quote today one of those Canadians who was influenced by John Diefenbaker, the Right Hon. Joe Clark. He said following Mr. Diefenbaker's funeral in 1979: "In a very real sense, John Diefenbaker's life was Canada. Over eight decades he spanned our history from the ox cart on the prairies to the satellite in space. He shaped much of that history, all of it shaped him".

What we may begin to appreciate today, 16 years after his death, is his impact on the way which we view ourselves as Canadians.

John Diefenbaker helped form Canada into a country where it is possible for a man from Ontario but raised, educated and formed in the prairies to be embraced by all Canadians. He illustrated what one man can do in a country like Canada.

There is no doubt that John Diefenbaker helped shape this country into a better, broader and prouder nation than the one before.

Mr. Diefenbaker had qualities and faults, but we have to give him credit for supporting, when he was Canada's Prime Minister, efforts to reach Canadians in order to promote individual freedoms. At the time, he was criticized for not supporting the Official Languages Act, but let us not forget that it is thanks to him if bilingualism was introduced in several Canadian institutions.

And while he did not agree with some specific initiatives, he was always convinced of the importance of protecting individual rights.

There is no doubt that John Diefenbaker helped shape Canada, as I said, into a better place. As leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in 1995, I am very proud to be associated with him.

Right Hon. John Diefenbaker
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Lac-Saint-Jean
Québec

Bloc

Lucien Bouchard Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, John Diefenbaker was a passionate man. Passionate about his vision of his country, passionate in his attachment to his roots, firmly anchored in the dense and fertile soil of the Prairies.

Throughout the career of this resolute man, one would be hard-pressed to find examples of half-measures, grey areas, sidestepping and gobbledygook. He belonged to a generation that spoke and acted unequivocally. After returning from the Great War injured and with the rank of lieutenant, he suffered, a few years later, several defeats at the municipal, provincial and federal levels,

which helped him acquire his legendary determination, before coming to this House to which he was re-elected 12 times.

Cut and dried as he was, it is not surprising that opinions about him are equally passionate on both sides. His career as a people's lawyer and the rejection he was subjected to made him sensitive to the plight of the disadvantaged and the workers. For example, he opened the door to the adoption of the federal health insurance policy.

He showed the same generosity in the promulgation of the Canadian Bill of Rights. In 1961, he condemned apartheid. But francophones will also remember him as a fierce opponent of bilingualism. And who can forget his fight against the adoption of a Canadian flag?

His attachment to England was coupled with an embarrassing coolness toward our American neighbours. But above all, he constantly refused to recognize Quebecers as a founding people, even denying Quebec's distinct character. Unfortunately, we know that his ideas gained widespread acceptance and that, 32 years after his government was defeated, the present government still refuses to recognize Quebec as a nation.

Quebecers now have the ball in their court and they have to express their political will. But, no matter what people may say, nobody can accuse John Diefenbaker of backing away from a fight. He talked about the country, the language and the people that he loved so dearly.

In the upcoming debate, he would not, of course, share the opinion of Quebec sovereignists. He would certainly be a fierce adversary, but I think he would understand that others, like him, feel the need to protect their identity, their language and the right to exercise their choice as a people.

Yes, he was a great fighter. I cannot help thinking that he would enjoy very much to be living now. He certainly would have been very much involved with the debate since its beginning. I think he would certainly fight for Canada as he thought Canada was, but he would understand that many Quebecers would fight for Quebec, for what they think Quebec is.

Right Hon. John Diefenbaker
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to join with other members in paying tribute today to the memory of John Diefenbaker on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

John Diefenbaker has been described today by the Prime Minister and others as a prairie populist, as a man with his roots in the common people who sought to give expression to their hopes, fears and dreams through the medium of politics and public policy.

As a student I once attended a huge rally which he addressed in Edmonton's Jubilee Auditorium. The place was packed and there was no place left to sit except at the press tables on the platform behind where he was speaking. I took out a notebook and disguised myself as a scribe and ended up sitting about 20 feet behind him while he addressed about 5,000 people packed into a building that would hold about 3,500.

As was his custom he had a large sheaf of papers on the podium. For the first 10 minutes he simply flipped through the pages touching lightly on a subject, assessing the feedback from the audience, moving lightly to another subject, touching lightly on it and assessing the feedback from it and so forth, until he had a fix on the concerns and the hopes of that audience.

These he returned to with a vengeance, speaking directly to their concerns and hopes with an accuracy and a vigour that defied imagination. He had a peculiar ability to read an audience very quickly and to relate quickly and forcibly to the hopes and fears of his fellow Canadians.

As a prairie populist John Diefenbaker was one of a select list of characters that cuts across party lines, including F. W. G. Haultain, the last great premier of the Northwest Territories; John Bracken and Henry Wisewood of the Progressives; William Aberhart, J. S. Woodsworth and Tommy Douglas. What set John Diefenbaker apart was that he was the only prairie populist in this century to become the Prime Minister of Canada.

Like all of us he had weaknesses as well as strengths. He had detractors as well as admirers and supporters. However there was one point on which he could not be faulted and that was on his love and commitment to Canada, "one Canada" to use his favourite phrase.

On behalf of my Reform colleagues, the people of Saskatchewan and the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who either loved him or hated him but were never indifferent to him, I pay tribute to John Diefenbaker and his commitment to one Canada, on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Right Hon. John Diefenbaker
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, today, September 18, 1995, is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Right Hon. John George Diefenbaker.

Mr. Diefenbaker represented the city of Prince Albert and area in the House of Commons from 1953 until 1979 and was elected to this honourable House 13 times. He became Canada's 13th Prime Minister on June 21, 1957 and served our nation in that capacity until April 21, 1963.

On this the 100th anniversary of his birth I wish to recognize John Diefenbaker's great contribution to the citizens of Prince Albert. We remember that contribution in our community. We have the Diefenbaker Bridge, the John George Diefenbaker School, Diefenbaker House and a statue of John Diefenbaker in Memorial Square. In addition we have Prime Ministers' Park. We will not quickly forget the legacy of John Diefenbaker in our community.

I also express our gratitude to the lasting and profound legacy he left to our entire nation, including the very important Canadian bill of rights. Mr. Diefenbaker believed, as do the vast majority of Canadians, in the economic and cultural benefits expressed in a phrase that he was very fond of and used often: "The economic and cultural benefits of one Canada, united now and forever".

Right Hon. John Diefenbaker
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to join my colleagues from other parties in the House today in marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Prime Minister John George Diefenbaker.

When John George Diefenbaker was elected Prime Minister of Canada I was six years old. Mr. Diefenbaker was 62 years old and had already been in Parliament for 17 years. Yet I had the honour, however briefly, of being a colleague of his when I like him was elected to the 31st Parliament of Canada on May 22, 1979.

I remember walking into the parliamentary dining room and seeing Dief in the alcove to the left where Prime Ministers like to eat and feeling like I was now in authentic parliamentary company.

It should be repeated of John Diefenbaker often that not unlike other parliamentary legends, some of whom are still with us today such as Mr. Knowles, he loved Parliament and all that it stood for. He understood Parliament. He knew it to be a place where different ideas and different idealists clash with each other and have it out with each other. The sanitized corporate boardroom view of Parliament which we see encouraged in some quarters today was not for John Diefenbaker.

While we are talking about corporate boardrooms it is also appropriate to note that in my judgment John Diefenbaker was probably one of the last Prime Ministers of the country who served for any length of time, who was not at home in the company of the Canadian corporate elite. His politics though not socialist were populist and he was certainly more at home on Main Street than on Bay Street. That is why he was able, much to the distress of my party on occasion, to win ridings that otherwise should have been NDP.

He was progressive for his time and for his party on human rights issues, on the equality of women, on social programs, on aboriginal issues, on South Africa and on other such issues. One recalls with fondness his opposition to capital punishment, for instance. Most of all, though I concur with many of the critical analyses offered of his prime ministership, I remember Mr. Diefenbaker as a Canadian, an unhyphenated Canadian, who had a vision of Canada that far exceeded the banal images of the marketplace so commonplace in our way of speaking today.

It was a vision of an independent Canada, a Canada that did not take its orders or its agenda from Washington, a Canada that determined its own way in the world and its own way of doing things. It was this independence that George Grant lamented the loss of when he wrote a "Lament for a Nation" after the fall of the Diefenbaker government and the acceptance of nuclear weapons by the government that followed.

John Diefenbaker struck a chord in the hearts of many Canadians. It was not long after the election of 1979-three months actually-that his funeral train wound its way across the Canadian landscape. It was the last trip on the hustings for a man who loved politics, who loved Canada, who loved political life and who always said that next to the ministry he regarded politics as the highest calling.

Finally, on a personal note, my exposure to John Diefenbaker came long before my election to Parliament or the few occasions on which I had an opportunity to discuss issues with him as a young person interested in politics, because I did have that opportunity. Some members may also know that I play the pipes. As a piper I had the task of piping him into the hall at a number of events in Winnipeg over the years. I remember one in particular at the Rossmere Curling Club when I could barely make it through the crowd to the front for the crush of people reaching out to shake hands with their Chief.

Dief was fond of the phrase "in my day and generation". I am grateful that in my day and generation, however briefly, I had the opportunity to see that great Canadian in action. We should all hope when our day and generation are judged we will be able to say, however differently and however varied our ways of doing so might be, that we too served Canada with the loyalty and the love of this great country that John Diefenbaker demonstrated. May it always be said of us, as he said of himself, that though we might be on the wrong side from time to time, may we never find ourselves on the side of wrong.

Right Hon. John Diefenbaker
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I did not say at the beginning that the tributes were of course to John George Diefenbaker.

The tributes now are for Jean-Luc Pepin.