House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs now has the floor.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Richmond
B.C.

Liberal

Joe Peschisolido Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Madam Speaker, I wanted to take part in this debate on Motion No.394 put forward by the hon. member for Trois-Rivières for several reasons.

In a nutshell, this motion is to recognize Quebec as a nation. It states that, since Quebec did not sign the social union framework union of 1999, the Quebec government should therefore have, and I quote:

—the right to opt out of any federal initiative encroaching upon Quebec jurisdiction, with full financial compensation.

The hon. member's motion raises several questions I would be hard pressed to deal with in any degree of detail during the time allotted me. Still, I would like to touch on them and focus on those aspects that seem fundamental to me, that is, the concept of nation, as the Bloc Quebecois and my hon. colleague seem to understand it, the legitimate role played by the Canadian government in the social field, and the need for cooperation among partners in the Canadian federation.

First, let us agree that the Canadian social union is central to the life of the country. It refers not only to the wide variety of social programs available to Canadians from coast to coast, but also and more importantly to the underlying common values of compassion, generosity and solidarity. it is an essential and incontrovertible component of the Canadian identity.

When we look at all that has marked the building and shaping of our social union, we are struck by how this great and noble endeavour adapted to the times.

Following the constitutional amendment providing for the establishment of a national unemployment insurance program in 1940 and the passage of the appropriate legislation by the House of Commons the following year, Saskatchewan introduced a hospital insurance program in 1947, followed, two years later, by Alberta and British Columbia.

In 1957, the federal government offered to share costs with any province which introduced similar programs. In 1961, Saskatchewan innovated again, with universal healthcare. A few years later, the other provinces signed on to a program jointly funded by the federal government.

Over the course of the next few decades, other programs were introduced, which had a direct impact on the enviable quality of life enjoyed by all Canadians, including Quebeckers. By the end of 1990, the governments in our federation undertook to update Canada's social union by making it more efficient and tailored to the realities of the new century.

The motion before us does not refer to the need for closer cooperation between the countries' governments. It proposes that the House of Commons acknowledge Quebec as a nation. It is less about determining whether Quebec is a nation than it is about determining how we can work together, with all our partners in the federation, including Quebec, to improve our country and the policies in place, to better respond to the needs and aspirations of the Canadian public, including Quebeckers.

Numerous definitions can be given to the concept of nation, and we have heard a few. However, that is not the issue that Quebeckers want to see their governments spending their energy on and investing their efforts in. Quebeckers want to see their leaders work together and not get into semantics or, worse, break up a country that works well and one they have every reason to be proud of.

The motion mentions that the Government of Quebec is not a signatory to the social union framework. Allow me to describe the context in which the negotiations for this 1999 agreement were held. The negotiations took place during a first ministers' meeting that was held on December 11 and 12, 1997, at the end of which the heads of government expressed their will to work together in the many areas that were considered a priority by all the partners of the federation and by Canadians. The social union was at the heart of these discussions.

Unfortunately, the Government of Quebec at the time decided not to be a party to the federal-provincial initiative for social policies. It was not until later, in 1998, that Quebec finally tried to take part in the negotiations.

The purpose of this motion is not to find a mechanism for improving social policies. The Bloc's objectives in this House are completely different, and this motion is more than enough to remind us of that.

This motion seeks only to paint a picture of Quebec as not being well served by the Canadian federation. It neglects to mention the considerable independence the provinces have within the country. Over the years, numerous arrangements, notably of an administrative nature, were made to allow the provinces to assume their full role within our federation. Quebec was not excluded from this movement.

Both levels of government are better able to agree because they both have a real desire, a political will, to reinforce the federation for the benefit of all. This desire must, however, come from both sides and not just ours. The Quebec government has lacked this desire since September 1994. This desire to cooperate, with respect for each other's jurisdiction, appeared with the election of Jean Charest as Premier of Quebec.

Not that intergovernmental relations between Quebec and federal government will be completely harmonious. Such differences are normal in a political system such as ours. Their resolution will require constructive, fruitful discussions based on the common good. Such differences will highlight our shared desire to build a future in keeping with our expectations and dreams.

This motion illustrates two different ideas of Canada's social union. The Bloc continues to talk about the right to opt out with full financial compensation. The governments in our federation have proposed a new vision. This vision is working, and the framework agreement of February 4, 1999, has implemented it. It has led to the creation of a new model of federal-provincial cooperation, the “race for the top” model. This model will first lead governments to agree on priorities and objectives.

This model proposes a flexible approach based on cooperation, and it reinforces the ability of governments to work together to achieve shared goals. It promotes consensus-building, innovation and experimentation, with consideration for diverse needs. This model has already been put to the test, and we can all be proud of it.

I am fully convinced that Quebeckers, like other Canadians, want to join this collaborative effort, and that all of us will be better off as a result.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

I am pleased to speak today in this important debate on Motion No. 394 brought forward by the hon. member for Trois-Rivières. The motion asks:

That the House acknowledge that Quebec constitutes a nation, and accordingly, as it is not a signatory to the social union framework agreement of 1999, the said nation of Quebec has the right to opt out of any federal initiative encroaching upon Quebec jurisdictions, with full financial compensation.

I wish to speak against this motion.

Motion No. 394 has two purposes. It seeks to have Quebec recognized as a “nation” and to entrench a right for Quebec to opt out of any federal initiative, with full financial compensation.

With regard to the first goal, we believe that the Province of Quebec is not a nation in the legal sense of the word. Black's Law Dictionary defines a “nation” as:

A people, or aggregation of men, existing in the form of an organized jural society, usually inhabiting a distinct portion of the earth, speaking the same language, using the same customs, possessing historic continuity, and distinguished from other like groups by their racial origin and characteristics, and generally but not necessarily, living under the same government and sovereignty.

The Larousse dictionary defines the term “nation” as follows:

Large human community, most frequently occupying the same territory and having a certain degree of historical, linguistic, cultural and economic unity.

The flag of the city of Montreal features the emblems from the city's coat of arms first adopted in 1833. The emblems represent the city's ethnic heritage as being from France, England, Ireland and Scotland.

Few modern observers of the city of Montreal would find that its residents speak a common single language, use the same customs or possess a pure straight line historic continuity. Indeed, the Quebec government's own provincial website states in English, French and Spanish:

Québec's openness expresses a wish to go beyond exclusive reference to cultural origin and simple coexistence of diverse peoples. Québec has adopted a wider vision, one of civic relations. The individual successively or simultaneously integrates various identities, i.e. occupational, familial, ethnic and so on.

This statement is an acceptance of the fact that Montreal, the largest city in the province of Quebec, is one of the most diverse cities on Earth, and its residents, for the most part, do not consider themselves members of any singular nation but rather citizens of Canada.

Thus, being a nation is a legal matter; if Quebec is not a nation in fact and if most residents of Quebec do not consider themselves to be members of any singular nation, there is nothing we can do here that will change that reality.

With regard to the second objective of Motion No. 394, it is my understanding that, under the terms of the social union framework agreement, Quebec has the right to opt out of any federal initiative with full financial compensation. The right exists already.

I specifically looked into this point because it is virtually identical to the Canadian Alliance policy.

Article 74 of my party's policy declaration reads:

We believe that the Government of Canada must respect the vision and intent of the original Confederation agreements regarding the division of power and responsibility inherent in Canadian federalism as enshrined in our Constitution. We are committed to ending any misuse of the federal spending power that undermines that intent. We will seek appropriate provincial consent for financing any new program in a field of provincial jurisdiction, and provide full compensation for provinces choosing not to participate.

We fully support this principle but I believe the social union agreement already gives this right to Quebec even though Quebec did not sign the social union agreement. The website for the Canadian Centre for Management Development contains the following statement:

The Social Union Framework Agreement was signed on February 4, 1999, by the federal government, nine provincial governments, and the two territorial governments. Although Quebec and Nunavut are not signatory to the Agreement, the federal government has indicated that it will adhere to the provisions of the Agreement when dealing with all provincial and territorial governments, including Quebec and Nunavut.

It is therefore helpful to read those provisions to ensure that Quebec's right to opt out is in fact respected.

The right of a province to opt out is found in the fifth paragraph of the social union framework agreement.

The right to opt out is mentioned in section 5 of the social union framework agreement.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order.

The hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam is entitled to the same respect as all other members.

The hon. member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Those are the cries of a party in fear of being snowed under in the coming election.

Section 5 of the social union agreement, entitled “New Canada-wide initiatives supported by transfers to Provinces and Territories”, states:

With respect to any new Canada-wide initiatives in health care, post-secondary education, social assistance and social services that are funded through intergovernmental transfers--

That means from one level of government to the other. It goes on to state:

--whether block funded or cost-shared, the Government of Canada will:

Work collaboratively with all provincial and territorial governments to identify Canada-wide priorities and objectives

Not introduce such new initiatives without the agreement of a majority of provincial governments

Each provincial and territorial government will determine the detailed program design and mix best suited to its own needs and circumstances to meet the agreed objectives.

This is the important paragraph:

A provincial/territorial government which, because of its existing programming, does not require the total transfer to fulfill the agreed objectives would be able to reinvest any funds not required for those objectives in the same or a related priority area.

I will repeat the last part of that paragraph.

A provincial/territorial government which, because of its existing programming, does not require the total transfer to fulfill the agreed objectives would be able to reinvest any funds not required for those objectives in the same or a related priority area.

This is a paragraph of great importance to us. I am no lawyer, but I am told that this provision specifically addresses the right to opt out with full financial compensation.

The social union framework agreement contains the right of provinces to opt out with full compensation. The federal government has expressed its willingness to respect this clause in all dealings with Quebec, even though Quebec did not in fact sign the agreement. We must therefore conclude that Quebec already has the opt out right that Motion No. 394 seeks.

It seems to me then that Quebec already has the right to opt out that the hon. member for Trois-Rivières wants. This pleases us in the Canadian Alliance, because we are fully in agreement with this type of policy andr the division in our federalist system.

At the same time, however, Quebec is not a de facto nation, and nothing can be done here to change that reality.

Consequently, neither I nor my Canadian Alliance colleagues can support Motion No.394.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate. First, I want to congratulate the Bloc member for Trois-Rivières for putting the issue of federal-provincial relations on the table so we can discuss it.

We have discussed some important issues, such as the leadership of the member for LaSalle—Émard. However, it is important to see that Canada is a federation that deserves to be modernized. It has been experiencing problems for several decades.

Even if it is somewhat late in the day, what the member for Trois-Rivières is doing is bringing up, for a debate that will last about an hour, the issue of federal-provincial relations. That is the crux of the problem.

Where the government opposite is concerned, there is always presumption of guilt and not presumption of innocence. We are afraid, because we have a decade of experience with the Liberal government. Those who care about their province or territory, especially in Quebec, will automatically see the federal government as guilty. It will try to encroach upon provincial jurisdictions.

We can see that right now with regard to the very difficult decisions that the provinces have made on issues such as municipal mergers, among others, which, by the way, are a very good idea. We end up having provinces within provinces. That is the problem. Going back to the presumption of guilt, we can see that the government is thinking of municipal affairs as an election issue.

How many tens of ridings are there in Toronto alone? There may be more that in Atlantic Canada. So the government will leave aside Atlantic Canada and the fisheries issue to take care of Toronto. It will also take care of Calgary and even Montreal. That is what the government has done.

This government has even put in place a partisan committee, a Liberal committee, to study this issue. It has refused to let the House of Commons deal with it. Municipalities are a provincial jurisdiction. That must be said. The federation needs to be modernized.

The other interesting aspect of this motion concerns the issue of Quebec's place within Canada. This is important. People may say whatever they want about the Bloc Quebecois. However, the word Quebec is often mentioned by members of that party, more often than by government members. It is important to point that out.

On the issue of nation, I think there is a distinction to be made. I would humbly suggest to my hon. colleague from Trois-Rivières that it all depends on the dictionary one might be using. My colleague from the Canadian Alliance touched on this earlier.

As far as we are concerned, it is clear, we recognize that Quebec constitutes a nation. However, if I were speaking in English right now, the word “nation” would have a completely different meaning. Depending on whether we are looking in the Larousse dictionary or the Oxford , the definition might not be to the liking of the hon. member for Trois-Rivières. If we stick to the definition found in the Larousse , then we do not have any problem recognizing that Quebec constitutes a nation, quite the opposite.

I would remind my hon. colleague from Trois-Rivières that the Progressive Conservative Party recognized Quebec for what it is a long time ago.

In fact, in 1991, some of his colleagues were still members of the Progressive Conservative Party. At the time, motions were passed to recognize the right to self-determination--that was in 1991--which meant that Quebec constituted a nation--that was in 1991--and the fact that Quebec was a distinct and unique society. That occurred in 1991. It is important to point that out.

I also want to go over the background of the social union. I would remind the House that the Quebec premier at the time was a sovereignist. During the negotiations, before the final agreement was reached, he had managed, with the support of his partners, to come to a basic agreement, a framework agreement, where the right to opt out with full financial compensation was granted to everyone.

Then it was realized that, for Quebec, that right was rather an obligation. To the other provinces, it was a bargaining chip. That goes to show again that Quebec is truly a distinct society.

I am not sure that the provinces have realized yet that they missed the boat by not supporting Mr. Bouchard, who was the Quebec premier at the time.

And that has nothing to do with whether Quebec has a sovereignist government or not. The current premier, when he was in the opposition, said that he would not sign this agreement without a full right to opt out with full compensation; he is still saying that today. It has nothing to do with it.

When a government or a political party, no matter which, dilutes this position, it is a slap in the face in terms of demands—not just for Quebeckers but for all Canadians—it is arrogance. It is not love, not Amour with a capital A, it is Arrogance with a capital A.

A federation is a living and changing thing. Even though Canada has one of the oldest written constitutions, not much has changed. There have not been many constitutional amendments, but there have been agreements that have evolved.

We may remember that in the 1960s, Quebec opted out of 22 federal programs with 7 tax points. Now we are talking about opting out with tax points. It has been done in the past. It is one way of looking at the country.

Then, there was some centralization. The presumption of culpability behind the Liberal's centralization is the heart of the problem. Federalists and sovereignists alike realize that this is not working and that each side of the House has a different vision.

I was listening to my hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance and I think that he did not read the entire web site. With all due respect, he should investigate further. Neither Quebec nor any province has the right to opt out with full compensation. There is no such thing.

First, in order to take advantage of it, Quebec would have to sign it. But it did not. The provinces are so hungry for resources that, often, during negotiations, they accept certain conditions. But some provinces—including Quebec—some politicians—including the Bloc—and some Conservatives at times, rise to say it is not logical.

This system must be re-examined, and I say this with all due respect, because my position on this is clear. We are talking now about the leadership; there are now, officially or unofficially, two prime ministers. As a constitutional lawyer, I am inclined to say this is hardly legal under normal circumstances, but not to worry, the Liberals will work around it.

However, the system currently is not working. We are talking about important issues, of course, but we forget what makes a country: its units and its partners.

Canada is more than just Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Forget that. Ottawa has done wonderful things in remote regions; but it has also caused problems in my own riding.

The social role was to modernize relations, to remove the presumption of culpability behind the federal government's centralization and say to the provinces that it is now to be presumed innocent. I believe in a balanced relationship between the partners in a federation. It is a dog's breakfast. This country is failing in terms of relations between the partners. As soon as a partner becomes strong, the Liberal government tries to appease it.

That is not how the system works because a federation, a country, must also be there to help people facing difficulties and challenges.

What the member for Trois-Rivières has done is perhaps to again raise—on the eve of an election with the king from LaSalle—Émard—the issue of relations between the partners in the federation and I thank him for that. In the coming weeks and months the Progressive Conservative Party will be giving this some thought as well.

I hope all the partners here in the House of Commons will also give this some thought.

A country is more than a name on a piece of paper. It is alive and like the people who live in this country and evolve, the country must evolve too.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to debate Motion M-394 put forward by the hon. member for Trois-Rivières. The motion reads as follows:

That the House acknowledge that Quebec constitutes a nation, and accordingly, as it is not a signatory to the social union framework agreement of 1999, the said nation of Quebec has the right to opt out of any federal initiative encroaching upon Quebec jurisdictions, with full financial compensation.

The hon. member for Trois-Rivières is basically referring to the concept of distinct society. In fact, over the summer, a number of Bloc Quebecois members presented their party with a petition asking that it take action in this respect. There is growing impatience.

The NDP has always been forward thinking. At its founding convention in 1961, it adopted a policy recognizing a federal system, which alone would ensure the unified development of the two nations that came together at the beginning to form a Canadian partnership.

We must bear in mind that the Canadian Constitution specifically guarantees the national identity of French Canadians and cultural development. The NDP vowed to uphold and respect these guarantees, because the Canadian federal system must protect cultural, religious and democratic rights, promote robust and balanced growth in the country as a whole and ensure provincial self-sufficiency.

The NDP believes that social and economic planning must take place at every level of government. It therefore expects close cooperation between the governments responsible for planning coordination, administration and the development of minimum Canadian standards.

What makes our country beautiful is certainly its diversity, but it also makes it difficult to define the Canadian identity with a single word. We must take into account the variety of languages, traditions and cultures that have enriched our country and the importance of new Canadians in our social, economic and cultural landscapes.

Let us not forget that this vast Canada has a geography and social and historical character of its own. Each province and territory has its own political and social culture. Yet Canadians share values such as tolerance, compassion and the sense of collective responsibility, as reflected in social programs and national institutions like health care.

As a lady pointed out during an NDP forum on Canadian federalism:

What binds Canadians together, regardless of their background or language, it their shared experience of living in this huge northern land. Quebeckers are not alone in identifying with Gilles Vigneault's “Mon pays, c'est l'hiver”.

This vision, shared by a goodly number of Canadians, is one of belonging to one country, the country that is Canada.

It is true that Quebec has become the centre for a dynamic society, a varied, multicultural society that speaks French. In that regard, Quebec is not a province like the others.

Yet the interests of the population of Quebec are the same as those of people in the rest of Canada. They share the same concerns: universal access to health care, the environment, natural resources, a fair and equitable employment insurance system, social policies to overcome poverty, and so on.

It must be acknowledged that the federal government has already decentralized certain powers. Quebec has its own civil code, its own pension plan, control over immigration and other mechanisms allowing it to protect and promote its French culture. The same does not go for the French-language minority communities outside Quebec.

The NDP believes that an alternative solution needs to be proposed, a reasonable and balanced solution, one that we can propose to all Canadians in a spirit of constructive dialogue.

That dialogue needs to be carried out with a view to a social union that is based on the principle of co-decision.

Canada must meet the needs of its citizens. It must celebrate and encourage the geographical, linguistic and cultural diversity of our country, and reflect the values we share: cooperation, mutual responsibility, equity and justice. This must be done within the principle of co-decision.

Such an approach will make it possible to protect our Charter of Rights and Freedoms for all Canadians, to recognize and respect the Quebec people in a meaningful way, to protect French speaking minorities and to revitalize democracy.

The motion by the hon. member for Trois-Rivières refers to the social union framework agreement which Quebec had refused to sign. It is true that a debate on whether or not the social union is a good thing merely proves the weakness of the agreement entered into in 1999.

Essentially, the social union framework agreement proposed a cooperative agreement on social policy between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. It established mechanisms aimed at creating and funding social programs.

In the opinion of the NDP, it did not address the serious erosion of our national safety net, including its chronic underfunding and lack of mandatory standards. Its greatest shortcoming is that it makes no reference whatsoever to social rights.

That framework agreement makes no reference to Canada's diversity and has very few provisions dealing with the specific needs of aboriginal people or of Quebeckers. A social union requires the involvement of all the provinces.

Can we build on the work started by the first ministers and make the social union a true co-operative decision-making process driven by a commitment to the well-being of all Canadians?

That is what the NDP is wondering about. Yes, Quebec is different from the other provinces, but could we not establish a principle of co-decision that would be fair and recognize Canada's diversity?

While the principle of co-decision proposed by the NDP contains certain components of the social union framework agreement, there are also fundamental differences.

Co-decision is a process whereby governments co-operate to establish priorities with regard to social policy and to set Canada-wide standards for social programs.

The NDP believes that we must take an approach that puts the well-being of Canadians first and encourage governments to take part in creating and maintaining programs that meet these national standards.

Co-decision balances the need to establish pan-Canadian standards with the fact that programs have to be delivered according to the different needs and situations Canadians are facing in different parts of the country.

Any government can decide to opt out of a shared cost program, but the standards still need to be met.

However, a truly open social union must recognize the unique role played by Quebec within the federation.

One of the benefits of an open social union based on co-decision is that the federal government would no longer be able to use its spending power in areas of exclusive provincial or territorial jurisdiction without taking into consideration the priorities and needs of the provinces and territories, as it did with the millennium scholarship foundation.

The NDP believes that a more inclusive and cooperative decision-making process would eventually lead to a stronger federation. The development of an open social union based on co-decision would have a long term impact not only on our social policy, but also in other areas, like our environmental policy.

The NDP is in favour of Quebeckers determining their own future, but within a more open federation. Unfortunately, to this day, Canada has yet to find a significant way to recognize the situation.

French-speaking minorities should not, however, be forgotten in this debate. Francophone communities outside Quebec will also have to face great challenges in order to protect their culture. We must support the rights of the francophone minorities outside Quebec to ensure that they have access to the tools they need to protect and promote their language and their culture.

In short, the motion brought forward by the hon. member for Trois-Rivières is closely akin to my stand on this issue. However, the NDP believes that Quebec must be recognized but within a more open type of federalism. Therefore, I hope that we, as members of Parliament, can work together for the good of all Canadians.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I have listened attentively to all the remarks made by my hon. colleagues. I am pleased to begin, even though I only have a minute or two, to speak to the importance of the motion made by my hon. friend from Trois-Rivières.

I was very surprised at some of the ideas I heard, including the issue of the concept of the “nation of Quebec”. For some members of the House of Commons, this concept no longer even exists. That is yet more evidence that things have evolved.

If we recall the history of Canada, in the beginning, Canada was made up of two equal nations, two founding peoples. Moreover, I might mention in passing, the people from which I have come, the people of Quebec, had the great disadvantage at the time of union, of having budget surpluses, while the other had deficits. It was treated as normal to merge the finances, which was the beginning of the injustice.

Madam Speaker, you are indicating that I do not have time to finish my remarks. I hope I will have nine minutes left during the next hour of debate.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member has nine minutes remaining in his time when this matter comes before the House again.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Adjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Madam Speaker, I am bringing to the attention of the House an issue that I have raised repeatedly. It is the issue of raced based hiring quotas and the government's hiring practices.

I understand that the member opposite is going to respond to my question. I suspect that he has a verbiage of talking points that has been supplied to him by the Liberal government, but I would like him to drop that and listen to what I am about to say.

We can either hire people based on their merit and qualifications, or we can do racial inventories and racial profiling and hire people on that basis. In other words, we can either assure equality of opportunity, or we can legislate equality of outcome.

I am standing here today to say that legislating equality of outcome does not and cannot work. It breeds resentment and is unfair and discriminatory. If the parameter is based on race, then it is fundamentally racial discrimination. It is not possible to discriminate in favour of someone on the basis of their race without simultaneously and unfairly discriminating against someone else because of their race. To give someone else an advantage based on their racial ancestry or their skin colour means that someone else has to be discriminated against. I think it is a fundamental truth.

Furthermore, to have these policies and these racial hiring quotas that discriminate in favour of one racial group and against others is very demeaning to the group that is discriminated in favour of because it basically says that because of their racial ancestry or their skin colour they are inferior and not capable of competing on a level playing field and they need this extra advantage. I think that is insulting, demeaning and offensive. Furthermore, it is simultaneously offensive and demeaning to the people who are discriminated against based on their skin colour.

Does the member opposite not understand that? To me it is extremely simple and obvious. Let us cut to the chafe, put down the talking points and talk about this one on one.

Madam Speaker, I look at you sitting in the Chair. Did you get the position because you are a woman? I would hope not and in fact I know not. You got the position because you attained it and deservedly so.

Should we then say that the next Speaker has to be a man? I would say not necessarily so. Should men begrudge women who sit in the Speaker's chair because they attained it on their own abilities and qualifications? Heck no.

Whoever is sitting in the Speaker's chair of the House of Commons should be there because they deserved it and they earned and attained that right. We should not pre-judge, prejudice or discriminate against anyone based on gender, skin colour, ancestry, race. We should all be equal and let equality of opportunity prevail.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Adjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, I welcome the chance to respond to the hon. member's question and comments.

Canada's employment equity legislation supports hiring based on merit and I do not think any of us would dispute that. This is a practice that is used by the Public Service of Canada.

Employment equity is consistent with merit by seeking a recruitment of qualified individuals. It aims first to reinforce the merit principle by ensuring that members of groups that were under-represented in the past and continue to be under-represented now have an opportunity to compete on a level playing field.

Second, the legislation aims to correct situations of under-representation created by past practices. It is precisely because of the results of discrimination against certain groups that we must now take special measures to ensure the full participation of these groups in the workforce.

To correct situations of under-representations and to target groups that have been under-represented, we require them to self-identify themselves as members of these groups. To assist them in the self-identification process, we often include in our publications the definitions of the designated groups as those definitions appear in the Employment Equity Act.

Let me remind my hon. colleague that we on this side of the House, and I would say the vast majority of all members, recognize the conditions of disadvantage and exclusion experienced by members of visible minority groups must be corrected. We recognize and celebrate differences and embrace the different cultures that have made Canada the envy of much of the world.

The world will not look at information on a government website and characterize Canadian society in the way the hon. member suggests. Rather, the world will look at such information and understand that because of these differences and the strengths that they provide, we need a Public Service of Canada that reflects the rich diversity of Canadian society. Such a national institution will provide all Canadians with the relevant programs and sound policies that they need and deserve.

Canadians value equality in the workplace. They respect differences and recognize the need to develop a more inclusive workforce by correcting the disadvantage and discrimination that has resulted in the exclusion of so many persons in the designated groups.

By instituting positive measures to develop a more representative public service, we are providing the foundation upon which all groups can contribute to a better future and a better Canada for all of us.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Adjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Madam Speaker, first, I asked the hon. member opposite to drop the talking notes and talk to me one on one, which she obviously did not do.

Notwithstanding that, she talked about under-represented groups. If we look at the ads from the federal Government of Canada, many of them make exclusions. They say that one has to be of aboriginal descent or things like that. That makes exclusions in my view.

If we want to talk about visible minorities, I would say that Japanese or Chinese people are visible minorities. Why are they being excluded from those ads, from those job opportunities?

There is a fundamental thing. I would implore the hon. member opposite to think about this, drop the notes and answer this question. I do not know if she has children or not but she probably has loved ones in any event. Let us say they are flying on an airplane, and I ask her to drop the talking notes. I want a yes or no answer. Who does she want flying the airplane?

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Adjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Madam Speaker, I come from an area where the population is 85% Inuit, yet we are not reflected in the employment levels. Unless we had ways of providing employment equity, we would not be represented in the workforce.

I understand where the member is coming from but I really cannot agree with his point of view. We come from a country that respects everyone and wants to treat people equally. That does not mean that if we do not put in special measures to help the disadvantaged people, we will be equal.

Encroachment upon Quebec Jurisdictions
Adjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to rise again to speak about an important issue that has been part of my life in my constituency since I was on Windsor city council and now here as the member of Parliament representing Windsor West.

For several years I have been raising the issue of the Windsor border crossing and the lack of infrastructure investment, which has caused serious economic and health degradation to our community. Not only that, it has threatened southern Ontario and even the greater Ontario economy through the lack of investment.

In fact my first question in the House of Commons highlighted the inaction of the government and forced the Minister of Transport at that time to acknowledge that we had to speed up the process for a binational planning process to provide for a future means to get across the border.

The government then set about a 60 day committee that held secret meetings with selected groups. It was only after further pressure that it opened up some of those meetings to the public. It was being done behind closed doors. We forced it open after a big community struggle.

My question on May 5 specifically related to the fact that the federal government was constantly floating ideas to the public and not surprisingly, citizens became more suspicious and the well was poisoned by the policy of the Liberal government. It was simply cowardice behaviour by the government, which cannot be accepted by citizens nor the country.

My original question was for the Prime Minister as we needed leadership. The Windsor-Detroit crossing handles approximately 30% of Canadian trade between the United States and Canada alone. However it was the Minister of Transport who decided to respond to it, not the Minister of Industry. I believe he was absent at that time.

In his response he stated, “Certainly nothing will be done that does not seem to receive favour with the local residents”. Then within days the federal and provincial governments released what they called the nine point plan. The city residents looked at the plan and they liked it so much that the city council rejected it and hired David Estrin, one of Canada's premier environmental lawyers, to fight the plan. That is how much citizens accepted it.

Subsequently, the Premier of Ontario, Ernie Eves, has stated now that the plan will not be forced upon the community. He was quoted by the Windsor Star as saying, “Obviously we're not going to impose a solution. It would be foolish, ourselves and the feds, to spend $300 million worth of improvements if the city doesn't want them”.

Ironically most of the $300 million is slated to go to the private sector proponents for the border crossing locking out even the only public crossing, being the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel plaza, which is being recommended in the plan. What is happening is we have private dedicated roads for private companies to make their profits at the expense of citizens and their environmental conditions.

My question is simple. Given the weight of evidence, will the government back off and meet with local municipal leaders? Will the Ministers of Industry or Transport or the Prime Minister meet with their provincial colleagues, the city council and mayor to resolve this issue?

We have been desperately requesting leadership from the first day: no more backroom deals, no more sending flunkies down. We need the actual leaders to come to the community and work together. Too much is at stake. It is not just the health and the vibrancy of the community I represent. It is all of Ontario and Canada. We cannot keep the status quo. Will the government commit to that?