House of Commons Hansard #32 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Government response to petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government response to eight petitions.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise and present a petition on behalf of numerous families in my riding of South Surrey--White Rock--Cloverdale. The petitioners ask Parliament to amend the Canada Health Act to include, as medically necessary, therapy for children suffering from autism. They also ask Parliament to contribute to the creation of academic chairs at Canadian universities dedicated to the research and treatment of autism.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise yet again to present another petition from the citizens of Canada, citizens from Bradford, Newmarket, Aurora and Gilford in Ontario.

As with other petitions that I have presented on this subject, the petitioners wish to draw to the attention of the House that the Canadian Forces Housing Agency does provide housing for some of our military families across Canada, that many of those homes are substandard to acceptable living conditions, and they also see their rent increased yearly.

Therefore, the petitioners from these Ontario communities call upon Parliament to immediately suspend any future rent increases for accommodations provided by the Canadian Forces Housing Agency until such time as the Government of Canada makes substantive improvements to the living conditions of housing provided for our military families.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of Supply
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe that you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That at the conclusion of today's debate on the Conservative opposition motion, all questions necessary to dispose of this motion be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, November 30.

Business of Supply
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the term of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of Supply
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Harper Calgary Southwest, AB

moved:

That the House call on the government to take the appropriate measures to sell the 11,000 acres of arable land back to the families and farmers whose land was expropriated to build the Mirabel Airport.

Mr. Speaker, the issue to which we are drawing the attention of the House today will no doubt revive many bad memories for two generations of Quebeckers. It should also be of concern to all Canadians.

The savage expropriation that took place north of Montreal 25 years ago in Mirabel is not only a Quebec issue. All Canadians, especially rural Canadians, Canadian farmers, understand that a person's home or land is a sacred refuge where families grow, where livelihoods are made, where dreams are pursued and where a sense of community is developed.

This was a massive injustice, an odious boondoggle, which effects continue to this day for thousands of people. This is a story that has been understood, at least in part, for some time across the country.

I believe today we will hear from the hon. member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country who was here in the 1970s. He spoke about the injustice and the boondoggle, on a scale never before seen, taking place in Mirabel. In the 1980s the hon. member for Niagara Falls, who I believe will speak later today, spoke about the attempts of the then Mulroney Conservative government to rectify this injustice.

The fact of the matter is that in some form, 30 years later this continues without full resolution.

The Mirabel wound has never been healed, the outrage has never been repaired and the error has never been recognized.

My intention today is not to re-open the debate unnecessarily, since it is still open; quite the opposite. The goal of our motion is to ensure that the Government of Canada puts an end once and for all to a saga that dishonours our country and our government and reason of state.

On March 27, 1960, the Liberal government announced the construction of what it called one of the largest airports in the world, which would greet 10 million passengers a year.

To implement this totally unrealistic project, the Liberal government expropriated close to 100,000 acres of the best farm land in Quebec. The area is equivalent to two thirds of Montreal island.

To put it in western terms, this is an area almost the size of the city of Calgary.

One hundred thousand acres is twenty times the area currently occupied by Mirabel, an airport that is nearly always empty. The worst thing is not that this was a government mistake, all governments can make mistakes from time to time. The problem in this saga is that the government made mistake after mistake, with no consideration whatsoever for the families that have been in the area for generations.

For more than 15 years, from 1969 to 1985, a merciless battle has been waged against the Mirabel families by contemptuous public servants implementing an arrogant policy. The psychological harassment and constant war of nerves waged with such vehemence have just about brought many to their wits' end.

Since 1969, the situation of Mirabel landowners, the farmers in particular, has been difficult, unjust, humiliating and painful, dramatic, even, at times, to an extent we have trouble imagining today.

I recently visited that area and met with the leader of the remaining people who had been expropriated, Mr. Marcel Denis. I met with people who had lost their homes and their land. I can tell hon. members that for them there has been no closure to this traumatic event and no resolution to the future of their economic lives.

There is no better illustration of that arrogance than the way the people were notified that they would be pushed out of their homes. Mr. Raymond, the leader of the Mirabel expropriates, has described the first hours of the bomb that was dropped on the people of Mirabel in 1969.

This is an excerpt from La mémoire de Mirabel :

When I learned of the expropriation, I started tried to find out if it was really true or just a false rumour. Radio and newspaper reports had indicated that the new airport would be built in the Sainte-Scholastique area. Minister Marchand made the first announcement on the radio on March 27, 1969, at 2 or 3 p.m. That is how we found out.

So that is how they learned about the expropriation, on the radio. No consideration was shown them, their children, their friends, the families themselves that were going to be put out of their houses, none for the communities or local businesses. Mr. Raymond's story is worth keeping in mind as evidence of the Liberal way of doing things.

Right from that very first day up to the latest speech by the current Minister of Transport, the tone has remained strikingly similar. There was no consideration whatsoever shown to the families and citizens.

There are stories besides that of Mr. Raymond that deserve to be told, as they are indicative of the Liberal way and the inhuman nature of this undertaking. In this respect, Mr. Cardinal's case is very telling. At the time of the expropriation, Mr. Cardinal was getting on in years. He lived in the little village called Mirabel.

The federal government had planned to open up a quarry to provide the stone to make the concrete for the runways. In its wisdom, the Liberal government decided to put this quarry right in the little village of Mirabel.The people living within a one-mile radius of the quarry were forced out of their homes and had to move out very quickly, whether or not they had agreed to the amount of the expropriation. Here is his story:

In that area of the town there were around 35 homes and some 20 farms. A total of 50 or so buildings had to be abandoned to make room for the planned quarry.

Having been ordered to leave, Mr. Cardinal bought land in Saint-Eustache and had a new house built. Unfortunately for him, work on his new house was stopped by a strike and he did not have the time to finish moving his belongings.

When he finally went back to his old house to retrieve the rest of his belongings, government agents had set the house on fire and burnt it to the ground with everything that was left of his household and personal belongings still inside. Again I quote the book:

A life worth of things had stupidly disappeared. Mr. Cardinal took out his handkerchief--the house held many memories--and started crying. They climbed back into the truck and, without a word, drove back to Saint-Eustache.

Today, we know that the federal government made a mistake. Real quarries were dug two or three miles further on. The lands the expropriated owners had been forced to abandon were sold. Mr. Cardinal should never have been expropriated, let alone forced to leave his home. That is another chapter in the Liberal story of Mirabel.

There are tens and even hundreds of examples of the turpitude of the Liberal government. More recently, even the present Prime Minister's predecessor said that he would not shed a tear if Mirabel were to be closed.

These lands were never used for the airport. These people want to recover their lands. Recently, dozens of farmers, members of the 11,000 acres committee, demonstrated to express their anger in Mirabel. They even said they were ready to buy their lands back, and they should.

Mirabel was a terrible mistake. The mistake was not only to break up an area many times larger than necessary, but to victimize thousands of Quebeckers, treating them unfairly, and to deprive this airport of the tools it would have needed to develop and secure the future.

Now that the airport is entirely closed to passenger traffic and will not expand in the foreseeable future, if ever, the expropriated land owners believe that the 11,000 acres of land outside the airport perimeter should be returned to farming again.

The Minister of Transport says that it is not possible. Yet it was possible for the Conservative Mulroney government to give back about 80% of the lands to the expropriated owners. There are only 11,000 acres left to give back. This should not be too much for the Liberal government to do.

The Liberals would like this issue to go away but it will not and it will not be forgotten.

I looked at the plans of Mirabel on a recent visit there. One really has to see the map of this semi-abandoned airport to understand the scale of this scandal, this boondoggle, this mismanagement involving 97,000 acres of land.

It was not as if the Liberals were building the largest airport in the world. Sitting there half empty, Mirabel is already one of the largest airports in the world. It was as if they were building a space station, as if they were sending people to another galaxy out of that facility.

This is a mess that has been created by the Liberals. It is a mess that a previous Conservative government did in its time make some attempt to fix. It is a mess that must be fixed by the Liberals.

I urge all members, including the Trudeauist Minister of Transport, who was a member of the Trudeau government during the first phases of this saga, to support the resolution. It is not a matter of politics but rather a matter of goodwill and justice.

Supply
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech. As you undoubtedly know, I represent a riding that is close to Mirabel airport. Many of my constituents—

Supply
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

An hon. member

At the other end of the river.

Supply
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Whether or not the river unites us, it is nevertheless Mirabel's neighbouring riding that I have the honour and the privilege to represent. I must say that I totally disagree with what the hon. Leader of the Opposition said, first, at the pleasure he took over the fiasco of the Mulroney government in the 1980s. In this regard, I believe he should at least have tried to remember the difficulties of Roch Lasalle in this issue. It was a terrible mess and a scandal in the House of Commons. If the hon. member has no recollection of it, he should read the papers of that time and everything else.

I am also having trouble understanding why the hon. member wants to do absolutely the opposite of what ADM is trying to do in this matter. He has unilaterally decided, apparently, that all plans for the future and submissions regarding plans for the future of the airport are worth nothing. He has decided that the land is surplus, in his opinion, without even knowing what the airport's future holds.

He seems to be painting a picture of some other place in Canada when he says there is nothing left of Mirabel. That is not true. The hon. leader of the opposition is mistaken. I think there is still a future for Mirabel; there is a future for my constituents who have worked there, those who are still working there, and those who will work there in the future. The hon. member says he is in favour of transparency. However, the public bids have not yet been opened and he is putting the whole procedure on trial.

The ADM, the body administering this, takes a position opposite to his. How does he justify taking the position he is taking today? What does the hon. member think of all the other things going on at the airport—the Bombardier factory there, the training facility just beside it, the air cargo that goes out of there, and all the rest?

Of course, we know that the current runways are sufficient to accommodate that. What is not known right now is what the future will be and what it will require in additional space; the land is there for that purpose. If such were not the case, why would ADM not want to get rid of it tomorrow? But it does not. ADM does not agree with the hon. member opposite.

I disagree completely with him regarding the future of this facility. What he is telling us is that he is against transparency, against the procedure, against ADM. He sees no future at all for this public facility.

As for me, as an MP from the Mirabel region, because that is what I am, I disagree profoundly with him. What I am going to do is to take lots of copies of his speech and distribute them to the constituents of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, especially those who live near Hawkesbury. I will invite him to come to town to debate the issue, after the speech he has just made.

Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Harper Calgary Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, I am glad to answer this question. For us, the issue is not the process of a government agency, but justice for all citizens of this region and for farmers.

I want all Canadians to understand this situation. The former minister talks about a bunch of issues that frankly, for the most part, are irrelevant to what is before us today.

The record is this. The Liberal government expropriated 97,000 acres, of which only 5,000 is being used today and, by the way, not being used completely, as we all know. Mirabel is the Liberal white elephant of history. Some day it will be in history books for future generations. Some day when we have interplanetary travel, it may be a story in other galaxies.

The previous Conservative government in its day returned some 81,000 acres and made provision for the expansion. The expansion of Mirabel has not occurred. What is before us today? The Minister of Transport should drop his Trudeauist blinders for a minute, forget about that era, and move into the 21st century.

In the last 15 or 20 years it has become apparent that the issue at Mirabel is the survival of the existing facility. It is not the expansion of the facility. That is not going to happen any time in my lifetime. The people who owned this land and are using it want it back so they can make productive investment. Quite frankly, the issue here is simple. The member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, the former minister, and the current minister, quite frankly, should just admit they were wrong. Drop the Liberal arrogance and get on with the solution.

Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I would like to commend the leader of the Conservative Party for his chronology of what happened at Mirabel. Obviously, the member understands very well the Liberal stand on this issue as well as the human tragedy that was caused by the Liberal Party.

Therefore, I would ask him to explain how he sees the land being returned to those who were expropriated and how he would see Parliament taking a decision as soon as possible. Indeed, it is high time that justice was done for those whose land was expropriated.