House of Commons Hansard #48 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Before question period today my hon. colleague, the Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole, made a ruling on the splitting of time and the proposal of amendments by the two members who were splitting the time, notwithstanding that both these members were the lead off speakers.

Following the Chair's decision on the amendment put forward by Mr. Bellehumeur, Mrs. Lalonde, seconded by Mr. Duceppe,

moved, and I quote: "That the amendment be amended by adding the words 'the book' between the words 'in' and ' Straight from the Heart '''.

This amendment is in order.

Before resuming debate on the business of supply, there are two motions to be put.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

May 16th, 1996 / 3:10 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your indulgence. There are two travel motions which I believe there has been unanimous agreement to put forward.

I move:

That the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Transport and one researcher be authorized to travel to Washington, D.C., Chicago and Montreal on May 21, 22, and 23 and on June 4, 5, and 6 to gather information on the creation of a binational structure for the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That 10 members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and the necessary support staff be authorized to travel to Washington, D.C. for three days between May 27, 1996 and June 5, 1996 in relation to the impact of the U.S. farm bill on Canadian agriculture

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

There are two motions here. Does the House give its unanimous consent to propose both motions at the same time?

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions agreed to.

The House resumed consideration of the motion; and of the amendment; and of the amendment to the amendment.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, continuing with my speech, I will make two final points.

The first point is that Canada has a Constitution which has evolved over 130 years. In fact many of the conventions and concepts which are incorporated in the Constitution had evolved before Canada officially became a country in 1867. A constitution is the base law on which this country and other countries around the world operate. It is incumbent upon us as a nation, as a people, to adhere to the Constitution.

As was said in the speech from the throne not that many weeks ago, the whole issue of Canada, our Constitution and our political make-up is a discussion for all Canadians. It is not for just one segment of Canada but for all Canadians no matter where they live, no matter what their ethnic background is, no matter what their language is. It is an issue for all Canadians. That is important to remember.

The second point is a personal one. It deals with the work I am undertaking in committee, a study on rural economic development. When I talk to Canadians, whether they are from British Columbia, Manitoba, the maritimes or Quebec, we share values as rural Canadians. It is not as rural Canadians from English Canada or rural Canadians from French Canada, we share values as rural Canadians. We share that special quality of life which is rural Canada whether it is in the Laurentians, the Eastern Townships or my area of Muskoka. We share important rural traditions which stretch from coast to coast to coast whether it is in Quebec, Ontario or somewhere else in Canada. Together we share our attempt to overcome those special challenges as rural Canadians.

Canada and Canadians are a nation and a people from coast to coast to coast. Although we have specific challenges to solve as Canadians we know and experience this nationhood every day. It is time for members of the Bloc Quebecois to stop their political posturing and to do their duty and take actions which are in the best interests of all constituents, people who live in Quebec and people who live in the rest of Canada.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to what the hon. member for Don Valley North said and I cannot help wondering how an Armenian man of all people can question the right of Quebecers, as a people, to self-determination.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

An hon. member

He is not Armenian.

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Chambly, QC

I am told that the hon. member is not Armenian, please forgive me.

At any rate, not so long ago, the Armenians were mentioned, and the hon. member for Saint-Denis also mentioned Macedonia, Serbia and other countries in that part of the world. It is strange how individuals from an ethnic group, members of an ethnic

minority in Canada, claim elsewhere the very thing they are denying us here. I have a great deal of trouble with that.

I would like to ask the hon. member, who nevertheless made an excellent speech and professed his faith in Canada, if he could help me understand what would be the point of having a Canada in which Quebec would be forced to stay against its will, after voting for sovereignty, all because of some legal texts, a Constitution it never signed or entered into. Do you think this makes for a healthy country? Is that healthy?

Do you think the great and beautiful country you refer to three times every half hour in this place will be able to keep projecting the same image internationally if it forces seven or eight million people to stay in your great and beautiful Canada? That is my first question.

As for the second one, I was listening earlier to the members who spoke before the hon. member for Parry Sound-Muskoka. They talked about a Canadian nation. I have a very hard time understanding how they can talk about a single nation when we have two languages and when the central part of this country does not understand its neighbours on either side, in the east and the west. They talk about a country with a single nation but two different languages. That is not easy to understand. As someone pointed out to me earlier, it is like an egg with two yolks, it does not give two chicks. Only one develops.

Please help me understand how a single nation can have two languages. Yet the concept of nation and the use of a given language are closely linked. One nation, one language, I can understand, but one nation, two, three, five languages, I cannot. The Prime Minister denied the existence of a Quebec nation. That is probably what the hon. member for Parry Sound-Muskoka was referring to.

Anyone who considers that Quebec does not exist in the first place will obviously have a problem admitting that it could leave. Could you clarify this point for me please?

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Dear colleague, I remind you that you must address the Chair.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will start by saying that what my ethnic origin might or might not be or what the ethnic origin of anyone who sits in this House might be is totally irrelevant to the debate today and at any other time. The member ought to realize that.

The member asks what kind of a nation are we and what kind of a nation will we be. We are a people and a nation that for 130 years have worked in the northern part of North America to build a strong and vibrant country. We have not done it because we are all the same, that we all look the same, that we all speak the same, that we are all the same colour. No, we have done it because we have learned the importance of partnership. We have learned the importance of working together. We have learned the importance of addressing our challenges together.

We have done what many nations in this world envy. We have succeeded in creating a country that, although it has its problems from time to time, is admired as the best nation in the world, according to the United Nations.

Members of a family are different. I am different from what my brother was. I am different from my sister. My parents are different from each other, as are my children. We do not allow those differences to divide us. We celebrate those differences. It is what makes us unique as a family. It is what makes us special. We build upon those differences so that together we are more than what we are individually. That is what we do as a family. That is what we do as Canadians and that is why we are a great nation.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Réginald Bélair Cochrane—Superior, ON

Mr. Speaker, first I want to thank the hon. member for Parry Sound-Muskoka, who just spoke, for sharing his time with me.

Today, I address this House, and the Bloc Quebecois, as a French speaking person living outside Quebec.

Canada is the most decentralized of all modern federations. During the sixties, a series of agreements between the federal and Quebec governments triggered a decentralization process, and it was not necessary to amend the Constitution. These changes have allowed Quebec to extend its jurisdiction to areas that traditionally came under federal jurisdiction. Examples of this are the selection of immigrants and the fact that Quebec is represented at the Francophonie summit as a participating government.

In a study prepared for the Bélanger-Campeau Commission, professor Edmond Orban, an expert on federalism, said that "the autonomy of Canadian provinces and their possibilities are, in fact, relatively greater than that of the German Länders and particularly the Swiss cantons".

Mr. Parizeau himself said the following when he was a Quebec minister and delivered a speech at the University of Edinburgh:

"And because rather often in Canada we tend to talk of the abusive centralized powers of Ottawa, we tend to forget that in reality, Canada is highly decentralized". This quote is from the Globe and Mail of December 9, 1977.

In light of this evolution of the Canadian federation, and in line with the changes already made, the government pledged to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the various levels of government, so as to modernize the federation and make it more respectful of the provinces' priorities and areas of jurisdiction.

Building a federation that is more receptive to the needs of its citizens and better adapted to the realities and challenges of our era is our government's goal.

The measures announced in the throne speech seek to implement the commitments made by the government to improve relations between the federal and provincial governments, including Quebec, and to truly modernize the federation.

Canadians want their country to work. They want the various levels of government to be effective and to perform their respective roles.

The federal government has already brought about important changes. It will continue to do whatever is necessary to achieve this modernization, in co-operation with the provinces and with all the people of Canada.

The government has promised, on the one hand, to undertake a retooling of the federation on four fronts, and, on the other, to limit its spending power. The plan is as follows: first, the government intends to withdraw from certain fields of activity, such as manpower training, forestry, mining, and recreation, and to transfer responsibility to local or regional authorities or to the private sector.

Second, the involvement of the federal government is no longer necessary in certain sectors. The federal government will therefore transfer management of these sectors to other levels of government or to the private sector.

I see, Mr. Speaker, that you are replacing the Speaker of the House. This is perhaps a first, having a member of the Bloc Quebecois occupy the Speaker's chair in the House of Commons.

To continue what I was saying, this is the case for part of the transportation infrastructure. Operational control of transportation systems and facilities, now a federal responsibility, will be transferred to local and private groups. Thus, we will reduce the cost, and the services provided will address Canada's real transportation needs.

Third, in a spirit of increased co-operation with the provinces and greater respect for provincial jurisdiction, the government intends to work with the provinces to find new forms of co-operation and co-management in certain fields, such as environmental management, social housing, food inspection, tourism, and freshwater fish habitat. The government will also explore the possibility of setting up a Canadian securities commission, thus ending the proliferation in that sector.

However, such initiatives will not be introduced unless a number of provinces express an interest. As well, participation is voluntary.

Fourth, the government intends to ensure greater harmonization of federal and provincial policies.

All these measures have as a goal the harmonization of federal and provincial initiatives, thus eliminating overlap. They will mean significant savings and more efficient services to the public.

No doubt the most eloquent example of the government's intention to respect provincial jurisdiction is our intention to limit the federal government's spending power in co-financed programs that come under provincial responsibility.

The federal government will not use its spending power to create new co-financed programs without the consent of the majority of the provinces. Provinces setting up and providing equivalent programs will be compensated.

This is an unprecedented initiative on the part of the federal government, which, for the first time ever, is acting on its own initiative to limit its spending power, unequivocally, and outside constitutional negotiations.

The federal budget for 1996-97 consolidates the government's initiatives and intentions in this regard. Measures proposed give effect to the government's commitment to assume its fiscal responsibilities and reduce the deficit to two per cent of the gross domestic product for 1997-98 through ongoing reduction of its expenditures.

The government is also providing long term predictable and increasing funding to the provinces for social programs under the Canada health and social transfer. What is more, the 1996 budget, like the previous one, contains no tax increase.

In addition to these measures, the budget confirms the federal government's commitment not only to spend less but to spend better. In fact, the creation of agencies like the Canada Revenue Commission is part of the federal strategy to modernize the federation and to better define the respective responsibilities of the various levels of government.

This government has made every effort to lay a solid foundation by bringing the deficit under control, avoiding tax increases, cutting red tape, and rationalizing government services to Canadians. Its priorities remain job creation, economic prosperity and stable social programs. Achieving these goals involves modernizing and reinforcing the economic and social union that brings all Canadians together.

We also firmly believe that changing the way the federation works, improving federal-provincial relations, and bringing all

Canadians closer to the decision making process will eliminate the need for another referendum on secession and the break-up of this country.

This government has resolutely embarked on a co-operation-based process of change. These are the values that will guide Canada and help it take on with confidence the challenges of the 21st century. The measures and initiatives put forward by this government will open a new chapter in federal-provincial relations by emphasizing open-mindedness and dialogue.

The process of change under way is part of an aggressive action plan put in place by the Canadian government. It clearly shows that the federal government wants to be pragmatic and that it is not the great centralizing force portrayed by the official opposition.

Canada is a success story, although we agree that our federation needs some changes. We are ready to take up the challenge, to roll up our sleeves and to get down to work, but we need the co-operation of all our Canadian partners. We sincerely hope that the Quebec government will be open-minded and agree to act as a full-fledged partner of Canada and work with our government to modernize the Canadian federation. That was what Quebecers told their provincial government on October 30.

We must continue to build this country and make it stronger. The initiatives undertaken by our government clearly show its intention to bring about changes that fulfil the aspirations of all our fellow citizens.

Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Nic Leblanc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member was a bit off the mark today. He extolled the virtues of Canada. There may be some advantages to living in Canada, but the question is whether or not Quebec has the right to decide its own future. That is what the questions I will put to him will be about.

It feels strange to hear members of this Liberal government speak today, given that they had previously recognized referendums as a means of decision making. When Quebecers lost the referendum in 1982, the federal government acknowledged the referendum result.

Same thing again with the referendum on the Charlottetown accord. Quebecers won, the federalists lost. The government's proposal was rejected and, once again, the verdict was readily accepted. The question is why does the Prime Minister keep repeating day in and day out that a referendum is nothing more than a means of public consultation and that any decision made is not final.

Strangely enough, this change in attitude coincides with a very tight vote, with 49.6 per cent of Quebecers voting for sovereignty. It took these tight results to notice all of a sudden that the government is changing the rules of the democratic game. The credibility of democracy and of our financial institutions are at stake here. That is why we are debating this very important issue today.

Why did it take two referendums before NewFoundland eventually joined the Confederation? The first results were not very high; they were closer the second time around. The decision to join the Constitution in Newfoundland was made on the basis of a very close vote-50 or 51 per cent, 50.5 per cent-in a referendum. While a 50 per cent plus one verdict is good enough to join the Confederation, it is not good enough when you want out.

I would like the hon. member to tell me why, if it takes 50 per cent of the votes plus one to join the Confederation, the same rule does not apply for leaving the Confederation. I would like to hear what he has to say on this.

Supply
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Réginald Bélair Cochrane—Superior, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer this question. The hon. member referred to the referendums held in 1982 and 1995. It is true that Quebecers spoke and that their decision was respected.

Let me go back to the 1992 Charlottetown accord. At the time, I was a member of this House, and so was the hon. member who just asked the question. Now, I wonder why Quebec rejected the Charlottetown accord, given that it included the distinct society concept, a delegation of powers-in the mining, forestry, recreation and housing sectors-, an elected Senate, and several other major changes.

After the 1995 referendum, the Prime Minister said he would hold out his hand to Quebecers. We did it by passing the resolution on the distinct society, that Bloc members rejected. One has to wonder what they want.

As for the 50 per cent plus one rule, the Prime Minister also held out his hand to Quebecers last week and this week when he told them that, should another referendum be held, there would have to be agreement on the question. The Prime Minister is talking about co-operation. I do not know whether you will accept his offer. Probably not.

Personally, I would go a little further regarding the percentage that should be required, because I really wonder if, from a legal standpoint, it is acceptable to destroy a country with a majority of just one vote.

I firmly believe that the percentage required should be higher. However, we should, in a spirit of co-operation, agree on this percentage, as well as on the question itself.