House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member. I would point out that I made a statement prior to question period today explaining the decision why we were going to go a little bit over. Of course, I take these comments under advisement. Negotiations will be ongoing for the next little while.

On the same point of order. The hon. member for Kamloops.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have to reply to my hon. friend who has just spoken. I think it is well recognized in the parliamentary system that question period provides the opportunity for those in opposition to ask questions of the government. My hon. friend has many opportunities in caucus meetings and in other areas to raise questions of importance on behalf of his constituents. This is really the only opportunity that we have as opposition members.

If my hon. friend looks at the record of today he will find that for the first time that I can recall the government had far more statements than it would normally receive.

Mr. Speaker, recognize when you make your deliberations that this is the only opportunity we have on a daily basis to ask questions of the members opposite.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker I rise on a point of order.

I would request that you not permit grandstanding on supposed points of order. When the member for Sherbrooke was actually speaking to the throne speech he was totally out of order.

We would suggest that the House management committee which deals with standing orders look at these matters and respond to the House in the appropriate fashion.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Again, I will take your comments under advisement and I thank you for giving me as much room as you have thus far.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Charest Progressive Conservative Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the point I raised is an issue that is ultimately to be decided by the Speaker and not by any other House or management committee. That is my understanding of the rules and the practices in this place. I am happy to co-operate with all members in this House in assisting you in making that decision.

My point of privilege is the following. I am sorry to have to raise it on this the very first day of question period. However, I could not help but notice that as we started question period you gave the House a temporary ruling on how this place would work for question period and for the statements we make before question period. I do not want to quarrel with the content of your ruling, maybe not at this point, but I want to question the process that led to this ruling.

Let me point out that your ruling directly affects my rights and privileges and those of 12 other people in this place. I understand that neither I nor any of the other 12 members referred to in the ruling were consulted. This is my understanding unless someone else has spoken with you.

It is my understanding that you informed us as you gave us the ruling that you had spoken with the whips of the other official parties who represented a point of view.

The point I want to raise with you and the reason I feel it is critically important that we raise it at this time is that if you are going to make rulings as you are called upon to do every day concerning the rights and privileges of members of Parliament and how this place works, then it seems only fair on the principle of natural justice that all members in this place have an opportunity to be heard before such rulings are made.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I will take your comments under advisement. It would be the intention of the Chair to consult as widely as possible before taking any decisions. I will take the hon. member's comments under advisement.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege.

During the last Parliament, I recall a somewhat similar experience and I heard arguments from the government party. The Speaker told us at the time to consult with party officials and subsequently to notify the independent members who were not necessarily taking part in the negotiations. We know something about this. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that a ruling was

made at the time, that arguments were put forward by two parties which were official parties at the time and which no longer have this status, and that I for one was convinced by what they had to say.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Standing OrdersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table a reprinted copy of the standing orders of this House dated June 1993 which encompasses all the changes made to the standing orders since May 1991, as well as a revised index.

Canada Elections ActRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table two reports of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada pursuant to section 195(3) of the Canada Elections Act, chapter (e)(ii), Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985.

The first report is entitled "The 1992 Federal Referendum- Challenge Met." The second report is entitled "Towards the Thirty-Fifth General Election".

Consequently, pursuant to Standing Order 32(5), these reports are deemed to have been referred to the Standing Committee on House Management.

Interparliamentary DelegationRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. It is the report of the official Canadian delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Conference on the North-South Dialogue for Global Prosperity which was held in Ottawa from October 18 to October 22, 1993.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.


Guy Arseneault Liberal Restigouche—Chaleur, NB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour to submit the following petition.

It is my duty and honour to present this petition.

The petitioners urge the Government to recognize officially the significant services rendered by ambulance attendants and to ask the Committee on decorations and medals to authorize the striking of a medal for distinguished conduct in ambulance services. It would be given out after twenty years of good conduct and meritorious service.

I must add that this medal is given out in other services such as police, correction services, coast guard and fire. I would ask that the government consider this petition.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present two petitions.

The first is a petition signed by my constituents in Burnaby-Kingsway and residents from elsewhere in British Columbia. It notes that in October 1985 a parliamentary subcommittee on equality rights unanimously recommended that the Canadian Human Rights Act be amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in all areas of federal jurisdiction. It also notes that the government has yet to introduce a legislative amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act despite the passage of time.

Therefore the petitioners call upon Parliament to ensure that the government and Parliament act immediately to bring forward an amendment to add sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is signed by residents of Langley, British Columbia, as well as elsewhere in British Columbia and Ontario. It notes that the only relief available to two Canadians, Christine Lamont and David Spencer who have been sentenced to 28 years each in a Brazilian prison and have suffered miscarriages of justice in their judicial process, is for Canada to request expulsion in accordance with Brazilian law.

Therefore the petitioners call upon Parliament to urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs to request the Government of Brazil to expel Christine Lamont and David Spencer and return them to Canada.

Certainly I support that and I urge the government to act upon that request.

The House resumed from January 18 consideration of the motion for an address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his Speech at the opening of the session.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Lac-Saint-Jean Québec


Lucien Bouchard BlocLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, here we are at the beginning not only of a new year but also of a new Parliament, with a new government, a new official opposition elected by the people of Quebec and a new formation representing mainly Western Canada.

The government party and the third party were given clear mandates by their respective voters. I wish to congratulate both leaders for their success at the polls. To the Prime Minister in particular, I wish health, clear-mindedness and broadness of outlook in carrying out his duties in this crucial time in the history of Canada and Quebec.

The people of Quebec will soon decide their future following a debate that we all hope will be marked by a spirit of democracy. This is also a time when the adverse effects of the combined economic and political crisis are threatening to make a growing number of our fellow citizens lose hope.

I also want to pay my respects generally to all the other members elected to this House. On behalf of my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois, I can assure the Speaker, the government and all members of this House of our full co-operation in respecting decorum in this House. We will see to it, as far as we are concerned, that exchanges remain courteous though intense, rational though impassioned, orderly though vigorous.

The major change in this House is undoubtedly the massive influx of sovereigntist members from Quebec. No one can trivialize the shift represented by the decision some 2 million voters have made to send 54 members here to pave the way for Quebec's sovereignty.

The dynamics which led Quebec to this decision were such that enough members were elected to form the Official Opposition. Paradoxical as it may seem, this electoral result flows from an implacable logic.

Indeed, it was inevitable that these old walls, which too often resounded with the voices of Quebecers who were ready to approve measures rejected by the voters, such as the Charlottetown Accord and the unilateral patriation of 1982, would one day hear the speeches of members who base their party allegiance on the commitment never to accept to compromise Quebec's interests in Ottawa; members who are freed from the constraints of the old Canada-wide parties and who therefore will not be torn between their obligations as federalist parliamentarians and their loyalty to Quebec; members whose political career is motivated only by the determination to work, with their blinkers off, for Quebec's sovereignty.

Many in English Canada were surprised by the Bloc Québécois's achievement on October 25. To tell the truth, I am not surprised by that: the channels of communication from Quebec to English Canada are significantly distorted as they cross the border, so that the Quebec reality is perceived in a very confused way on the other side. That is the first justification for the presence of Quebec sovereigntists in this House.

Institutions often lag behind reality. The previous House of Commons was no exception to this rule; the stinging rejection of the Charlottetown Accord by voters in Canada and Quebec is striking proof. Today, the main architects of that accord have all disappeared from the political scene. They were the same people who showed cold indifference to the misfortune brought on by the long and difficult recession which began in the spring of 1990.

The voters have set the record straight. For the first time in contemporary history, this House which is now beginning its work reflects the very essence of Canada, its binational nature and the very different visions of the future which flow from that. Truth is never a bad advisor. As General de Gaulle said, one may well long for the days of sailing ships, but the only valid policy one can have is based on realities.

What are the realities with which this House will be faced? First of all, a really bad economic situation. To realize the full extent of it, it is not enough to look at the total picture as it is now; we must put it in the relevant chronological context.

The latest recession lasted roughly from April 1990 to April 1992, when net job losses stopped. But big business continues to lay off employees and the so-called recovery is so anemic that only economists dare to call it a recovery. Now, in early 1994, per capita GDP for all of Canada is still nearly 5 per cent less than it was in 1989. We know that per capita GDP is a more relevant indicator than total GDP, since it is affected by population growth, which is very large in Canada. Not only has Canada declined in relation to its partners but it is doing worse than before.

The employment situation does not seem any brighter, any more encouraging. By the end of 1993, the Canadian economy had regained only 60 per cent of all the jobs lost during the recession. The situation in Quebec is even more disastrous, since the recovery rate there is only 25 per cent. It must be said that for all practical purposes, Quebec had no government for much of 1993, but in that time, many young people arrived on the labour market. Just to absorb the number of net new job seekers, the Canadian economy would have to create over 200,000 jobs a year, about 45,000 of them in Quebec. The 1993

performance of 147,000 jobs in Canada, most of which are part-time, and none in Quebec, is far off the mark.

These chilling statistics hide thousands of human dramas. No one goes gladly to an employment centre for the unemployment insurance benefits to which they are entitled. Underemployment has considerable economic and social costs. It is a real collective tragedy. In this regard, it is very urgent to put people back to work, giving them real hope of recovering their dignity by regaining the right to earn their living.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the unemployment level remains at such a high level. Fortunately, the American economy is not suffering from the same problems as those of the Canadian economy. Consequently, the economic situation has at least one aspect that works for us, namely exports to the United States. But the result is that the gap between American and Canadian unemployment rates has never been so high, the difference being close to five percentage points. The recovery south of the border is much stronger than here.

Indeed, major obstacles to a strong recovery continue to exist in Canada. In the last few years, inflation has been lower here than in the United States, but our interest rates remain high.

We hear a lot about the fact that interest rates are presently at their lowest level in thirty years. The reality is that this is only true of short-term interest rates. In 1963, the bank rate set by the Bank of Canada and the preferred rate charged by banks were about the same as today. However, the rate of a 25 year mortgage was 7 per cent, and the rate of long-term Canadian bonds was 5,1 per cent, instead of the present 7.25 and 7 per cent rates that now apply to a five-year mortgage. This is where the problem lies, and it is a two-fold problem. Indeed, long-term interest rates remain too high, while the purchasing power of Canadian households has dropped significantly.

Soon we will have no choice but to take a close look at the characteristics, the evolution and the magnitude of our economic problems, and also at the hardships that they create for their primary victims, namely the one and a half million unemployed workers, and the millions of children and adults who live below the poverty level. It appears that the new government prefers not to assess the magnitude of the problem, which is not even touched upon in the Throne Speech. Moreover, the government does not realize that we are caught in a vicious circle. The fact is that there will not be a true recovery as long as the political structure remains the same. Indeed, the present political structure is the primary cause of the falling into decay of the Canadian economy.

One of the most obvious, if not spectacular, signs of this is the chronic inability of federal governments to control the budget deficit and the resulting soaring debt. It seems that this voracious monster can at will, like the Minotaur, take its toll in terms of jobs, of the minimal security of the poor, of the financial health of the federal State, and even of the future of our young people. Not only have those deficits been constant for the past 18 years, but this year's, which stands at some $43 billion, confirms that the system is totally out of order.

In order to get out of this mess, it will not be enough to blame the previous government. In any case, Canadians have already let us know what they thought of its performance. Yet, the careful observer who has not buried his head in the sand cannot fail to identify a certain element of ineffectiveness, which is inherent to the system.

Nevertheless, the government continues to pursue the ostrich's policy followed by its predecessor. By escaping from reality, it cannot put the finger on the main problem: this country is not governable, because it is stuck with a deficient and sclerotic decision-making structure.

Nothing seems to make successive governments in Ottawa come out of the cocoon in which they shelter themselves from reality, and so it is with this new government.

Yet, one only has to look at the relative performance of various other countries subject to the same international environment. This is a sure criterion, since everybody is facing the same economic problems and requirements. Therefore, the global context does not justify Canada's mediocre performance in terms of productivity since 1979, the worst of all OECD countries, nor the persistence of such a high unemployment level, nor the uncontrolled growth of the debt which, as we know, reached $500 billion yesterday. Canada is also in first place in terms of relying on foreign investors, since 40 per cent of its debt is owed to foreign interests.

Be that as it may, it is not free trade agreements, global markets, or the requirements imposed by the competitiveness of the world markets which, in the last few decades, have forced the federal government to embark upon all kinds of programs and expenditures, to encroach upon provincial jurisdictions, and to create a tentacular bureaucracy. Rather, this extravagance and this inconsistency were motivated by a triple internal concern: to give to the federal government a legitimacy snatched from the provinces; to affirm its role as a strong central government; and to neutralize the centrifugal forces of the structure. It is our political structures which are called into question when we wonder why we have become the most overgoverned country in the Western world, with 11 governments for a population of 28 million people.

We only have ourselves to blame if overlapping federal and provincial activities prevent the creation of cohesive programs and generate an outrageous amount of waste in human and financial resources That reveals a second reality as inescapable as the economic crisis, that certain inefficiencies are at the very heart of our system. These realities feed upon each other, and are a true reflection of the vicious circle which characterizes Canadian federalism. At the core of the economic crisis is a political crisis.

But for the better part of English Canada, there is no political crisis. Or, if there is one, they choose to ignore it. They have sent to Ottawa a new government with the mandate to better manage the present system without changing anything in it.

On the other hand, Quebecers not only sent a completely new team to Ottawa, but they gave their elected representatives the mandate to prepare a new order. The Bloc Quebecois was given a double mission: to manage the economic crisis and to handle the political crisis. Does the distribution of elected members in this House not prove the very existence of this second crisis? The government party only got 19 seats in Quebec, compared to 54 for the Bloc. Who do you think speaks for Quebec today?

More than 30 years ago Quebec awakened to the world and decided to catch up. The quiet revolution transformed Quebec. It did not take long before the spirit of reform in Quebec collided with the spirit of Canadian federalism in Ottawa. Thirty years ago the horns were locked. Thirty years later we are still at it, as if frozen in a time warp. We should learn from the past, and this we should have learned: The political problem with Canada is Quebec, and the problem of Quebec is Canada.

However, many Canadians refuse to acknowledge the problem which only serves to compound it. For example, the Bloc Quebecois has been on the federal scene for more than three years, but until recently we were ranked alongside the bizarre and the outer fringes.

Our aim of course is not to win popularity contests in English Canada, but we have here in a nugget the essence of the political predicament which bedevils Canada. A new political party which had led systematically in the polls in Quebec for three years was regularly dismissed as a quirk on the charts or a manifestation of a temporary leave of the senses. Hugh MacLennan's powerful novel Two Solitudes was published in 1945. Half a century later the title still mirrors the political landscape.

Some are willing to deny the obvious in order not to upset the status quo. They speak of one Canadian nation, whereas Quebec and English Canada are two different nations. Even when nobody in Quebec was contemplating sovereignty, the Canada that steered Quebecers was not of the same cloth as the Canada that seized the minds and hearts of maritimers, Ontarians or westerners. Quebecers were in the vanguard of the struggle for more Canadian autonomy under the Red Ensign and eventually for the political independence of Canada. This tends to be forgotten in certain quarters where Quebec bashing is a popular pastime.

Canada and Quebec have both changed tremendously in the last 100 years, but they are travelling on parallel tracks and remain as different today as they were yesterday. By and large they both continue to ignore the history and the culture of the other. This is no accident; language, geography and history largely account for it.

However, Quebecers do not deny that English Canada constitutes a nation in its own right with its own sense of community. Every single poll in the last few years has shown that the vast majority of the people in each of the nine provinces want to remain politically united after Quebec becomes sovereign. This small detail is conveniently neglected by all those who question the existence of an English Canada on the shaky basis of regional differences.

In France the people of the north are certainly as different, if not more so, from the people of the south as maritimers are from the people of British Columbia. But they both feel a strong attachment to France, or to Canada.

In fact, by clinging to the one nation thesis, English Canada is running the risk of undermining itself. As Kenneth McRoberts, the political scientist from York University, wrote in 1991: "In its effort to deny Quebec's distinctiveness, English Canada has been led to deny its own".

If one accepts the obvious, one must surely accept the consequences. Every nation has the right to self-government, that is to decide its own policies and future. We have no quarrel with the concept of federalism when applied to uninational states. It is a different matter when it comes to multinational states, particularly to the Canadian brand of federalism.

Canadian federalism means that the Government of Quebec is subordinate to the central government both in large and lesser matters. Within the federal regime, English Canada in fact has a veto on the future development of Quebec.

When the theme of national sovereignty is brought up in English Canada a nice paradox almost always emerges. As I will certainly refer to it in the coming months, I shall call it the paradox of English Canada. First, the tendency to consider passé the concept of national sovereignty, what with the European Community, GATT, NAFTA and so on. This is a patent misreading of the situation. Take a look at the western world. Ninety-five per cent of its population live in nation states.

The fact is that Quebec is the only nation of more than seven million people in the western world not to have attained political sovereignty. I invite members of this House to reflect upon this. As a political structure Canada is the exception rather than the rule, an exception that is not working well, to understate the case.

The particular situation of Quebec was inadvertently recognized by a member of the Canadian delegation to the final GATT negotiations in mid-December. As will be recalled, Canada was seeking to be exempted from the clause attacking subsidies by sub-national governments because, in his words: "There is only one Quebec". He was right of course.

Let us ask ourselves: Who was in the driver's seat during the European revolution of 1989-90 which saw German reunification and the accession to political sovereignty of so many nations in central and eastern Europe? Was it the supranational institutions, the EC, NATO, the Warsaw pact, or was it the different nations, each one of them seizing the chance of a lifetime?

In short, Quebecers aspire to what is considered normal in the western world.

The paradox of English Canada pops up with the second part of the discussion about national sovereignty, the part that deals with the issue of Canadian sovereignty. A large part of the free trade election of November 1988 was spent, in English Canada, on the impact of the free trade agreement on the sovereignty of Canada. Everybody agreed that this was something important that should not be tampered with. However if Canada's political sovereignty vis-à-vis the U.S.A. is valuable and must be preserved, why is it that Quebec's political sovereignty vis-à-vis Canada is depicted as irrational in the anglophone media of the land? When the preceding Prime Minister said that she preserved Canadian sovereignty during the last stage of the NAFTA negotiations, why is it that nobody rolled their eyes and derided this quaint idea of sovereignty? What mysterious alchemy transforms the quality of a concept according to the people to whom it applies or according to the year of accession to sovereignty? One must not forget that independent nations are not born. They are made.

All this does not prevent Canadians and Quebecers from having quite a few things in common: a respect for democracy, a large degree of openness to people of other cultures, and a fascination with our neighbours south of the border. And they both love their country. However, the problem is and has been for a very long time, that it is not the same country.

Make no mistake about it. We will not stop reminding the people that, in order to legitimize his power play against Quebec National Assembly in 1982, Pierre Trudeau was able to call upon the support of Quebec's Liberal members of Parliament in order to claim to speak on behalf of Quebec.

We will repeat as often as necessary that the government party no longer speaks for Quebec. You can also be sure that we will not lose sight-and will not allow anyone to lose sight-of the fact that the new Prime Minister is the very man who led the assault against Quebec, in 1981, and ignored the quasi-unanimous repudiation by the Quebec National Assembly.

The Charlottetown episode followed a similar pattern. Did we not see a block of Conservative members from Quebec, who had initially got into politics to repair the damage done by the 1982 patriation, side with the Liberals in an effort to seal the fate, once and for all, of Quebec's historical claims?

The 1992 referendum results dispelled any lingering ambiguity. The rejection of the Accord from coast to coast ended all hopes that some may still have had for a renewed federal system in Canada. You take it or leave it as it is.

The Prime Minister himself came to the same conclusion. Did he not announce shortly after coming into office that he would not even attempt such a reform?

Thus we should be able to make in the clear light of day the decision we are supposed to make by referendum in Quebec. We are left with only two choices: either we settle for the status quo that almost every federalist in Quebec since Jean Lesage has denounced or, the alternative is clear, Quebec attains full sovereignty, with full powers to assume full responsibility. The identity and roles of the players would be clarified at the same time.

There certainly seems to be a sort of poetic justice in all this. The henchman of the dastardly deed in 1982, who has since become Prime Minister, will soon have to ask the people of Quebec to turn down the sovereignty deal in favour of the constitutional one which had earned him their reprobation in the first place. And he will have to do it on his own, without the support that his mentor, Pierre Trudeau, claimed to have in Quebec. You can see why he does not want the talk Constitution, as he said.

By its presence and actions in this House, the Bloc Quebecois will be doing every Quebecer and Canadian a service, whether they like it or not, by preventing them from going back to square one. Now that the Meech and Charlottetown accords have stripped the varnish of political correctness from the Canadian federal system, revealing its obstinate fixedness, everyone is immune to promises of renewal. So much so that nobody dares make any, not even to score political points.

This imposes upon us a basic civic duty, which consists in sparing ourselves three more decades of fruitless discussion, endless attempts and lost illusions. This waste of resources, this dilution of collective hope, this misuse of our energy has been going on for too long already. All we have to show today for the

ordeal the best wills in Quebec and English Canada have suffered is bitterness, suspicion, lack of understanding and a profound collective alienation. We are about to lose the very will to face reality squarely.

More importantly, there is the waste of time. I am not only referring to that of the people who, in the excitement of the sixties, dreamed of solving our conflicts and building in Quebec and Canada societies that would be tolerant, imaginative, open to the world and concerned with social justice. I am thinking of our two nations in particular. Because time is running out for them too. While we mope around, the world is coming apart and rebuilding around us. The boat is going by and we are missing it.

Whether we like it or not, there will be a debate on our political future, and it will take place right here. The government is free to stonewall as has been the practice in this House with regard to the sovereigntist aspirations of so many Quebecers. Is it out of fear or powerlessness that they are evading subjects that put into question the old political structures of Quebec and Canada as well as their capacity to solve social and economic problems? Whether fainthearted or resigned, this total silence is irresponsible and leads to paralysis. The Bloc Québécois has been sent here precisely to break this conspiracy of silence.

We will not be afraid to point out that Quebecers are and will always be in a clear minority position within the federal system. The population ratio is three to one. We can fool ourselves and believe that we can determine the course of events despite this ever-present handicap which relegates Quebec to second-place status when interests diverge. This would imply constant tension and a superior performance on our part. In other words, utopia.

If the truth be told, the Trudeauesque utopia is not foreign to the annals of French Canadian history. For many decades, French Canadians believed that their destiny was prophetic. In many respects, Pierre Trudeau is the last missionary of French Canada.

Here again, we are confronted with a paradox. Canada needed measures to safeguard against the demographic and economic weight of the United States. Hence the creation of the Foreign Investment Review Agency and the implementation of the new energy policy. Quebec, on the other hand, did not require measures to protect itself from the demographic and economic weight of English Canada. Competence was all that was required and everything else would take care of itself. How very naive! And this was seen as reason triumphing over passion.

In reality, Quebecers want to live a normal life. They are tired of fighting for basic things that have been denied them. They are quite willing to confront the challenges of the day, but they want all of the odds to be on their side. On the one hand, they want greater economic integration and a stronger competitive position internationally, while on the other hand, they want political sovereignty in order to face Quebec's competitive partners on a level playing field.

Quebec sovereigntists advocate a modern concept of political sovereignty, one which is exercised within the framework of major economic structures and which is respectful of minorities. Under no circumstances will the 630,000 francophones outside Quebec be sacrificed. Moreover, Quebec sovereigntists were not the ones who rejected the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and NAFTA. There is a difference between withdrawing into oneself and pulling out in order to perform better in the new global economy.

The close economic integration between Quebec and Canada forces us to take a careful look at what is happening in Europe. What lessons can we draw from the European model?

Some pundits like to believe the European Community will gradually transform itself into something resembling Canadian federalism and use this as an argument against Quebec sovereignty. Thus they reveal their lack of familiarity with European developments. In fact the other way around appears much more likely. To solve the Canadian political crisis our present institutions should and I dare say will evolve along the lines of the European Community.

A few facts seem in order. The European Commission in Brussels has a budget that amounts to 1.2 per cent of the global GNP of the community. It has no fiscal powers and-such a tragedy-cannot run a deficit. The federal government in Ottawa spends 22 per cent of GNP and has the whole gamut of fiscal powers. As for deficits we all know what has happened. The commission in Brussels has no army, no police and a small bureaucracy when compared to national governments. Community decisions are in fact executed by national bureaucracies. If we exclude trade matters, national sovereignty remains the basic ingredient of the community.

For instance the 12 members could modify the structure and the workings of the EC without the commission having any say in the decision. For these countries co-operation is the master word, not subordination.

This is a far cry from the Canadian brand of federalism. Who will pretend, for example, that only the provincial governments determine the future of Canada? Who will pretend that the federal government is but a benevolent arbitrator of inter-regional conflicts? For Quebec the central government is the problem. For English Canada it is part of the solution.

The Maastricht treaty extended the process of economic integration to the field of monetary policy by setting the objective of a common currency before the end of the century, and the process of political co-operation by specifying the objective of a common thread in the fields of defence and foreign policy. These sensitive fields will remain the prerogative of the heads of state assembled in the European Council.

Hence the following question: If the European union is indeed the wave of the future as is frequently alleged in the Canadian media, why not propose this model as a solution to Canada's national problem? If Maastricht represents the embodiment of the next century, why does English Canada not propose the same kind of arrangement to Quebec? The Maastricht arrangements would be much easier to implement between Quebec and Canada than among 12 very diverse countries.

Let there be no mistake. Bloc members will not forget that their commitment to sovereignty constitutes the real reason for their presence in this House. One could say that as far as we are concerned, the pre-referendum campaign has begun. Meanwhile, we will not let the recession be dissociated from its causes.

For the time being, and until Quebecers have made their decision in a referendum, members of the Bloc will seek to safeguard the future by averting present evils to the best of their ability. These evils include unemployment, poverty, lack of budgetary restraint, undue duplication, threats to our social programs, fiscal inequity and loss of confidence in our political institutions and leaders.

All these issues have a direct impact on Quebec's interests but are equally important for the rest of Canada. Our aspirations drive us apart, but our social, economic and budgetary problems are the same.

As Premier Bob Rae would say: "We are all in the same boat".

Who can challenge the legitimacy, even for the whole at Canada, of any action the Bloc may take to limit the damage, create jobs, wrestle with the deficit and fight off attacks against our social programs? The universal character of these concerns confers a clear legitimacy on a common response to these issues. In addition, we received an electoral mandate. Our 54 seats were allocated by the principal players: the electorate. Do these seats have any less clout because they come from Quebec?

I can already hear our opponents claiming that it was only thanks to an erratic division of seats of English Canada between the Liberals and Reform members that the Bloc was able to come to the fore with the second largest number of members. However, the impact of spoilers and how this translates to the electoral map is also an expression of the will of the electorate. It was a combination of all votes, whether they were from Quebec or the rest of Canada, which made us the Official Opposition. To criticise the fact that this responsibility has now been taken over by the Bloc Quebecois shows a lack of respect for the democratic process has a whole.

We intend to take these responsibilities seriously; and we will do so loyally, correctly and with due resolve. We know that is what Quebecers expect us to do , and they would never forgive us if we deviated from this path.

In this respect, we are guided by two principles: equity and responsibility. On both counts, the speech from the throne was a complete disappointment. At a time when more than one child out of six and one family out of eight are living below the poverty line in this country, when a million and a half people are unemployed, and when more and more people in Quebec see this as proof of the failure of Canadian federalism, one would expect the new government to stage a strong and spectacular rally.

There is a general and widespread feeling of disappointment, both among the needy, breadwinners, young people and seniors, and also among business people and investors.

All were anxious to know what specific measures would be taken to put Canadians back to work. Unfortunately, the government merely served up a condensed version of its little red book. The first hundred days of this government will not go down in history.

Analyse though we may, we will find none of the answers we expected in the speech from the throne.

Is there anything in the way of projects that hold out some hope? Nothing. The talk goes on about municipal infrastructures. It may be useful, but the program falls tragically short of what it would take to jump start the economy. The government has failed to understand how important it is to give people hope. How can the unemployed take heart, how can decision makers consider investing when the government is not even aware of the seriousness of the situation? When it should have taken drastic measures such as starting work on the high-speed rail link between Windsor and Quebec City, transferring labour training programs and resources to Quebec, where all parties have been lobbying for it for a long time, when it should have set up a fund to convert military industry to civilian uses, when it should have taken so many measures, the government chose to be content with publishing yet another pamphlet filled with vague electioneering propaganda.

The government will no doubt retort that it does not have the resources to invest in economic recovery. That is tantamount to acknowledging a lack of political courage and administrative stringency. Indeed, it is possible to reduce the deficit while leaving room to manoeuvre. To do that, you have to decide once and for all to cut spending. But the will to do so is lacking. We agree as to the diagnosis, but not as to the treatment.

The Bloc Quebecois is willing to support an ambitious deficit cutting plan, but not just any one. We cannot ignore the origin of the present national debt. We cannot forget that the federal government was the first one to open wide the gates in the early 1980's, leading to this spiralling public debt. As we all know, on March 31, 1994, the net debt will reach $507 billion whereas the combined debt of all the provinces will be less than $170 billion. This explains why, a few years ago, the federal government decided to unload part of the federal deficit on the provinces.

In view of this heavy responsibility, the federal government should show the way rather than impose its will by decree. Before considering shrinking the social safety net, before passing the buck to the provinces, the federal government must first put its own house in order. It could follow two very different paths. Ridding the federal administration of its fat could be done very quickly by eliminating useless trips, contracts awarded to private interests, friends and friends of friends, extravagant spending here and abroad, and by taking into account the horror stories which have been listed, year after year, by the Auditor General in his annual report.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Lucien Bouchard Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Good resolutions, noble intentions to let parliamentarians speak do not last long, do they? They cannot even wait for the end of the first real sitting day, for the end of the speech by the Leader of the Opposition to start hurling insults.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Order. I would hope hon. members would hear each other out in the debates as much as possible.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Lucien Bouchard Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

That would require a thorough and detailed study of each and every department's internal expenses. We all know how much the bureaucracy is unwilling to curb its appetite. Restraint will have to be imposed from the outside; in other words, it will have to come from the Canadian Parliament. The government has expressed its willingness to increase the responsibilities of this House. We take them at their word. We ask that they abide by that promise in a very concrete and significant manner. A meticulous analysis of theses expenditures by a parliamentary commission representing all of us in this House would be proof of the government's good faith and would allow us to seriously inform the public as to the extent of the excessive expenses within government itself.

The whole issue of national defence will have to be rethought in the light of the new geopolitical world map. The Bloc Quebecois will closely follow the federal task force in charge of this operation. Meanwhile, however, all capital expenditures should be frozen.

This is only part of the way of life of our government. There is another aspect which was omitted in the Speech from the Throne. The federal government refuses to recognize the real scope of it, that is the duplication of federal and provincial activities. What exactly is the cost of that constant grappling between the federal and the provinces?

A curious turnaround occurred in the way even the most fervent federalists themselves analyze the operation of the present system. Until recently, they praised the government for having achieved the optimum sharing of powers between the two levels. But we cannot keep on deluding ourselves; it is quite common now for people to denounce the bureaucratic duplication and the waste it causes.

In 1991 the Canadian Treasury Board conducted a study of overlapping federal and provincial programs. The study involved 453 different federal programs in 119 Departments, Crown corporations or other federal organizations, with a total budget of $96 billion. Forty-five per cent of these programs, which account for $40 billion in expenditures, overlapped directly with provincial programs.

In other words, overlapping is the rule rather than the exception. The Bélanger-Campeau Commission concluded that if we could do away with this situation, we could save billions of dollars. According to the Quebec government itself, in the area of manpower and employment training alone, the overlapping is costing Quebec taxpayers $250 million a year. The federal and provincial structures in the field of manpower adjustment and training services include more than 50 programs and sub-programs for the same people who are thus left to wander in a maze of services.

Right now, in Quebec, we are in the incredible situation whereby 75,000 to 90,000 jobs cannot be filled due to a lack of skilled labour, when over 25,000 Quebecers are waiting to be trained.

This is at the heart of the dysfunctional federalism and the legitimacy crisis which is paralysing Canada. This administrative mess comes from the very nature of the system. However, this is also a sign of the willingness of the government to tolerate waste. Here is a real bonanza, an opportunity to save money and increase efficiency at all levels of government. But the federal government refuses because of its centralising

ideology, its veneration of the status quo or simply because of petty politics.

Another area were the government is not taking its responsibilities has to do with public probity. It is praiseworthy to talk about promoting parliamentary democracy and deferring to the moral authority of the Speaker, but when searching for ways to enhance the credibility of parliamentarians, it is too easy to make only cosmetic reforms. The Speech from the Throne fails to recognize that the first step to take to ensure an ethical public service is to institute party financing by the people. When will federal parties forego the unlimited contributions they get from large corporations? When will they finally get out from under their hold? The Bloc, for one, made the necessary sacrifices to enter this House with its hands free. Of its free will, it adopted the restrictions provided by the Quebec legislation, drawing its inspiration from one of the great democratic principles passed down to us by René Lévesque. To talk about a political code of ethics and to think openness can be achieved without reforming party financing is just smoke and mirrors.

The opportunities flowing from the generalities of the Speech from the Throne are no better in the area of equity. First, the omissions of the abbreviated red book that serves as a Speech from the Throne say a lot about the Liberal complacency where fiscal inequities are concerned.

Canadians are not all equal before the tax system. Some benefit from tax shelters that have no economic justification. Some sell smuggled cigarettes or liquor and others buy them. Several avoid paying any tax, thanks to the underground economy whose rapid expansion is a measure of the poor performance of the GST. This tax, which was supposed to bring in $16.5 billion of federal revenue in 1991, yielded only $15 billion in 1993. The government's legitimacy is still losing ground while the idea that it is OK to evade taxation is gaining ground.

Some adjustments must be made. First, illegitimate tax shelters must disappear. Second, smuggling must be eradicated. In fact, there is only one peaceful way to do this and that is to pull the carpet out from under the smugglers' feet, that is, to reduce sharply the price gap between the product sold legally and the smuggled one. It has become urgent from a social point of view to reduce taxes on tobacco because of all the repercussions due to their prohibitive level. If we do not take immediate and decisive action, the social contract will continue to be broken a little bit more every day.

Inequity breeds inequity. Not only will wealthy families be allowed to shelter huge sums of money into trusts but, in a blatant example of double standards, the government will recoup by reducing the social safety net provided to the underprivileged. Lacking the courage to cut into its wasteful spending, into federal-provincial duplication and into unjustified tax shelters, the government will prefer to make the unemployed, the people on welfare and pensioners pay. The direct victims of the crisis are about to be described as troublemakers at the very time where they most need the help they are used to expect, given the compassion and social solidarity held as true Quebec and Canadian values.

We have heard various hypotheses about what the government intends to do with the social programs and provincial transfers. In the Throne Speech, we heard about "reform", "renewal", "streamlining", "restructuring", "modernization", "redefinition" and "review". In fact, we heard all the deceitful synonyms used by governments trying to avoid the appropriate terminology, like cuts, reduction, and decrease. Any extended recession tends to increase the income gap between the people at the top of the pyramid and those at the bottom. The previous government was particularly insensitive to the seriousness of the last recession and the hardships it brought about. There is a new kind of poverty in Canada. It is unacceptable that the new budget cuts be aimed at people already severely affected by economic hardships. To work together to get out of the recession is one thing. But to do so at the expense of the people who are already suffering too much is something the Bloc Quebecois is determined to expose and fight. For us in the Bloc, social protection is something that remains inviolable.

The same goes for federal transfers to the provinces, which have been targeted in the last few years. As you know, these transfers are used to finance part of the provincial social programs. Parliament has yet to be consulted and already the government is talking about simply freezing the transfers for the next five years. Such a decision would put the blame on the provinces for the federal budget crisis, which would be a blatant non-truth. Economically, transfer freezing would result in a decrease, in constant dollars, of 3.5 percent per capita per year, for a total reduction of 18 percent over five years. But in fact, more than 60 percent of these payments are made to the poorer provinces. Quebec would become a net contributor to the federation, which would be a total aberration. And the federal government would wash its hands and seem to have a good conscience, while the provinces are left to care for the underprivileged who have been dealt another blow.

With respect to federal inequities towards Quebec, it is hardly enough to say that the Speech from the Throne was silent on that subject. It would be more appropriate to say that the government wants to bury these telling signs of the true fate of Quebec under the federal system in Canada. Not a line on that, not a word, not even a subtle reference, nothing. The government continues to ignore the official statistics, compiled here in Ottawa, which clearly show that in many areas Quebec receives a lot less than its fair share, namely in the areas of federal procurement, federal investments, agriculture, research and development, regional development, defence and so on. The media in English Canada have blamed the Bloc for putting the emphasis on those areas where Quebec is at a disadvantage and ignoring those where our province enjoys an advantage. They accuse us of painting a darker picture of the situation without reason. The presence of sovereigntists in this House is absolutely necessary

to remind people of certain true facts that have been kept in the dark.

It is very simple and one does not need a long list of statistics to understand what it is all about. In fact, one just has to look at the most recent data available, which show that Quebec receives from the federal government about the same amount it sends to Ottawa in taxes, converting of course the present deficits of the federal government in future taxes. Thanks to their deficits, the federal authorities can spend in each province more than they levy in taxes. But just wait to see the bill that the next generation will have to pay!

Some are in a hurry to point out that, as a poorer member of the federation, Quebec will receive equalization payments totalling $3.7 billion in 1993-94. But the original purpose of equalization was to bridge the gap between poorer and richer provinces, was it not? In other words, equalization should represent a real supplement for those provinces which receive it. It so happens that Quebec does not get a supplement. The equalization payments that Quebec receives are only to compensate for what the province does not get from the federal government in other areas. So Quebec has to finance its own equalization payments. In reality, equalization in Canada is a transfer from rich English-speaking provinces to poor English-speaking provinces.

For Quebec, equalization is only meagre compensation for the considerable loss of potential revenue in the form of federal spending on job creation. For instance, the equalization system does not compensate for the substantial advantage enjoyed by Ontario's economy as a result of concentrated federal spending on research and development.

This unfair division of government spending is not just some perverse result of the federal system but is part and parcel of that system.

So how does all this fit in with what we intend to do during the months to come?

First of all, there is a way to reduce the federal deficit by several billion dollars, starting with the next fiscal year, without affecting the social safety net and transfer payments to the provinces which are basically earmarked for social programs. This would have a significant impact on financial markets and thus on interest rates. A drop of one percentage point would put $8 billion annually back into the pockets of consumers and businesses and at the same time ease the servicing of federal and provincial debts. The impact would be vastly superior to that of the government's infrastructure program.

In the present context, however, it is not enough to simply reduce the deficit. Steps must also be taken to strengthen productivity, the backbone of the Canadian and Quebec economies. If interest rates continue to go down, there will be a recovery in the consumption of durable goods, including housing and cars. However, the production side will also need a boost. This would include helping more vulnerable sectors find a new niche. That is the way of the jobs of the future. Increasing research and development, an area where Canada is clearly lagging behind other Western countries, and easing the conversion of much of our military industry would be a priority as far as we are concerned. Once the economy has been nudged on its way to recovery, it will generate tax revenues that will help bring the federal deficit back to acceptable proportions. Cuts may be necessary, but cuts alone are not enough.

In concluding, I would like to repeat that unlike the government, members of the Bloc Quebecois will not evade any of the issues this Parliament will have to face. We will not tolerate the government's refusal to deal with Quebec's aspirations. Let it not be said that it was for nothing that the majority of federalists and all Quebec sovereignists struggled, each in their own way, for thirty years to give Quebec the tools to develop as a people. What Quebec started in the Sixties must be allowed to come to fruition.

After the concept of a nation was established, after mobilizing Quebec society, after the efforts of Jean Lesage, the manoeuvring of Robert Bourassa and the courage of René Lévesque, there must be more than the evasive platitudes of the Prime Minister. He should realize that the history of Quebec did not stop on a certain night in November in 1981, behind closed doors in the Château Laurier. I suggest he look at the 54 members of this party sitting here today and remember who sent us here and the mandate we were given.

Then he will realize that Quebec's future as a sovereign country is just one step ahead, a sovereign country that is Canada's neighbour and friend.

I move, seconded by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons and member for Roberval,

That the following words be added to the Address: "This House deplores the fact that Your Excellency's advisers have shown themselves to be unconcerned about matters of extreme importance, such as the placing of public finances on a sounder footing and the cutting of fat from the federal administration; lack of vision in dealing with the economy, as made evident by the inadequacy of their proposed measures for promoting employment and by their perpetuation of the existing confusion in human resource programs; are ignorant of Quebec's legitimate political aspirations; and have

presented to Parliament a program embodying an obvious willingness to dismatle the social security system and maintain an unfair tax system, thereby further undermining the financial well-being of a growing number of citizens."

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

January 19th, 1994 / 4:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec


Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, before anything else, let me congratulate you on your election last Monday which was exceptional in a way. As you know, your role is a fundamental one in our democratic institutions. Let me assure you today that my government and the members of my party will support you at all times and will try to facilitate your work in every possible way.

I would also like to congratulate the two members who moved the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, the members for Bruce-Grey and Madawaska-Victoria. Although they are new at this, they showed us how wise their constituents were in choosing them as their representatives in this House.

I have no doubt, Mr. Speaker, that they will enjoy a long and outstanding career in this House.

There is no greater honour than standing before you in this House as Prime Minister of Canada. I will do my best to make a contribution to this great work in progress we know as Canada. In fact, each of us in this House has a role to play and a responsibility in that area.

I want to salute and welcome the men and women from all parties whom Canadians elected to the House of Commons on October 25.

This session of Parliament has an unprecedented number of new members. More than two-thirds of the women and men in this House are new to Parliament. It is the biggest injection of new energy in the history of this institution. I look forward to the new spirit that will come from this fresh Parliament. Canadians are looking for members of all parties in this House to work together in a very constructive way and I am confident that we can work together on many issues of importance to the people of our constituencies and of our country as a whole.

If there are a record number of new members in the House, there are also a few well-known figures such as the Government House leader who has been part of our political scene for 31 years, I am told, and other veterans such as the members for Ottawa-Vanier and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce who have been present in this House for so long they should serve as models for many of us. I would also call upon the many new party members to consult them occasionally as they could be of service. They are familiar with this House and have made some very positive contributions throughout their successful career.

I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to the people of the constituency of Saint-Maurice, a region that knows me and understands me very well. I want my constituents to know that I will work hard for them and that I am deeply honoured to serve for the ninth time in my life as the honourable member for Saint-Maurice, a responsibility which gives me the greatest pleasure of all. I will always be very grateful for this opportunity.

The people of Saint-Maurice want the same things as their fellow Canadians across the country. They want their government and their elected representatives to begin the much-needed process of healing the country. They want them to set aside old grievances and debates and to focus on building a country that we will be proud to leave to our children.

What kind of country do the constituents of Saint-Maurice want? What kind of country do Canadians want? They want a country full of hope instead of fear, a country where each person is an equal partner and can make a contribution, rather than be a burden to society. They want a country where adults can find a decent, interesting job, a country where children can dream of a happy future. They want a country that recognizes our communities as the pillars of social stability and economic strength, a country with a dynamic economy, one which fosters the entrepreneurial spirit and which is on the cutting edge of technological progress and change.

They want a country where the government listens to them and respects them. Finally, they want a competent, honest and fair government, one that keeps its promises and helps them achieve their potential. That is what Canadians want and that is what this government will endeavour to give them.

Everything we do during this Parliament will be aimed at healing the deep wounds in our country, at restoring the bonds of trust and respect between Canadians and the government. It will be aimed at rebuilding our economic vitality to ensure that every Canadian is able to realize his or her full potential.

Canadians voted for that kind of government on October 25. Above all, Canadians voted for a government that follows through on its commitments, that keeps its word and lives up to its promises.

From the moment we took office a little more than two months ago we have been working to keep the pledges we made to the Canadian people. We have done what we said we would do.

For example, on November 4 we cancelled the $5.8 billion helicopter program, a luxury we did not need and could not afford. The same day we introduced a 23-member cabinet, the

smallest ever. We cut $10 million from the offices of ministers and we reduced the size of the Prime Minister's Office.

Last Sunday the whip introduced a program to give a good example of where this institution has decided to cut by $5 million the expenses that we have to incur as a Parliament. In the week since then we moved immediately to implement the national infrastructure program. In fact this month we will sign infrastructure agreements with every province and projects to put people back to work will get started in a matter of days and weeks.

We sought and received improvements to enable Canada to sign NAFTA. We helped to negotiate a GATT agreement that opens new horizons for increased exports abroad and increased jobs at home.

We reviewed the Pearson airport deal and cancelled it because it did not serve the interests of taxpayers.

We appointed a new Governor of the Bank of Canada.

We levelled with Canadians about the size of the deficit that we generated and about the huge debt that we will have to carry and we set up a new consultative process for the next budget.

In our first meeting with provincial premiers we began work on such issues as eliminating interprovincial trade barriers, ending duplication between levels of government and reforming the tax system, including replacing the GST.

We have done all that in a little over two months. Each of these measures is linked to a specific promise made during the electoral campaign. And now, in the Speech from the Throne, we are continuing to keep our promises. In fact, I was quite pleased to read the headline in La Presse this morning; there had been others like it during the campaign that had been just as positive.

The Speech from the Throne, like this government's mandate, originates from the red book, the title of which is Creating Opportunity: The Liberal Plan for Canada . We have provided Canadians with an action plan. We have run the risk of submitting a complete and detailed plan of action. We have done what no other party had ever done before.

Canadians are not afraid to go off the beaten path. They were not expecting miracles either. What they want and deserve is a government capable of taking up difficult challenges.

During the campaign I called it realistic hope for a better future for themselves and their children, for a prosperous economy in which they can contribute, for a society that is compassionate and caring, for communities that are safe and decent, for a government that represents them, that believes in the same things they do.

Canadians opted for realistic hope for the future and they invested their hopes in this government. On behalf of the men and women who were elected to form this government I would like to tell the Canadian people we will not let them down. What we will do is work to respect what we said to the Canadian people we were going to do.

This throne speech marks an important step in renewing the faith of Canadians in their institution. The agenda is ambitious but it is doable and it is the agenda Canadians have chosen. We must build on the goodwill and the renewed confidence in institutions that the government's actions have created among Canadians. The people of Canada said loudly and clearly during the election that they want to return integrity and honesty to government.

The government understands that desire and will act on it with concrete measures early in this session. We have already sent very important signals. The work of the Hon. Mitchell Sharp is a powerful message to Canadians that government can be a force for good in society, that public life is a very honourable calling and that we are here to serve others, not ourselves. That is how we intend to conduct ourselves throughout our mandate.

However it is not enough to clean up the system. Canadians voted for something more. They voted to return power to the elected representatives here in the House of Commons. We made commitments to the Canadian people to give the House and members of Parliament new relevance so that it once again becomes the focus of political debate and decision making in our government.

The government House leader will bring forward changes to the rules and practices of this place. We will give a much greater role to parliamentary committees.

I have asked the finance committee to come up with alternatives to the GST. Later on in the year, I will ask that they be closely associated with pre-budget consultations. The government will ask the parliamentary committees to submit our strategic policy as it relates to foreign relations and defence to a thorough examination.

This government is serious about the need for real political debates to be held in this House before decisions are made.

Earlier, during question period, the Minister of Finance suggested that a pre-budget debate be held in the House of Commons to allow the members to express their views on the coming budget, and I wish to commend him for that initiative.

We will also have a debate in this House on the role of our peacekeeping forces in the former Yugoslavia because, as you know, difficult decisions will have to be made when the time comes to renew mandates, in March and April. And I want the hon. members to have an opportunity to debate the issue.

I would like members to have the occasion to debate it before, including the members of my party. I would like everyone to speak very frankly. After that we will make a decision knowing what everyone thinks. Particularly for my party it will be unusual because some members may take a position that is not in accordance with what we will eventually decide. However in a democracy we go along with the majority view, the decision of the authorities. I hope the opposition parties will realize this is a new opportunity we are giving to this Parliament so that we can know exactly what members think before, rather than us making the decision. I have been there. It is a terrible job to be in the opposition and I do not want to go back there.

I want members to speak first. Of course they will criticize after that, but we will compare their first speech and the second one.

These reforms are part of our efforts to bring government closer to the people and to restore trust between them.

A government must act in the best interest of all members of society, mainly by promoting job creation, fostering economic growth and creating opportunities.

The economic policy of this government can be summarized in two words: jobs and growth.

During the course of this debate the President of the Treasury Board will speak about the national infrastructure program. The Minister of Industry will elaborate on government policy with respect to small and medium sized business. The Minister of Human Resources Development will speak about the youth corps and programs to help the transition from school to the workplace. The Minister of Finance has begun a consultative process across Canada before presenting next month's budget. He is committed to getting the economy moving and to creating jobs.

Through a combination of expenditure restraint and economic growth we will succeed in reducing the deficit. We are determined to achieve our goal of 3 per cent of the deficit in relation to the GDP.

We will not throw people out of work simply to be able to say that the deficit has come down. Yesterday the member for Madawaska-Victoria said it very clearly in a way we on this side believe it should be said, as do some on the other side too. He used a phrase all of us should keep in mind: the government should be lean but not mean.

In fact our approach to economic policy will be guided by the need to prepare Canadians for the jobs and economic opportunities of the 1990s and the 21st century.

We will invest in Canadians, in training programs and programs to improve literacy and other basic skills.

Our agenda for job creation and economic revival is an ambitious one and, as everyone knows, our resources are limited. A government cannot do everything and, in 1994, it should not try to. This is why we are going to count on partnership to boost growth and job creation.

We will work in partnership with other levels of government to implement our infrastructure program, to reduce internal barriers to trade, to replace the GST and to reform our social programs.

We will work in partnership with the private sector for job training and the youth service corps and for helping-and this is very important-financial institutions to better recognize and better meet the capital needs of small and medium-sized businesses.

This partnership will also extend to our work in knitting together a stronger social fabric in Canada.

Our number one focus will be the economy, but a strong economy is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end, to better lives for Canadian families, to healthy caring communities, to a decent quality of life. This is the essence of what being a Canadian is all about.

Canada's social security system was created by successive federal governments. A cornerstone of our philosophy is the principle of shared social responsibility. We are extremely proud of the Liberal legacy in social policy. In fact, the father of our Minister of Finance was one of the fathers of this great system. I was here in this House to vote on many of these measures.

We believe that people experiencing economic difficulty must have income support available to them through social assistance. But it is our goal to help people on social assistance who are able to work to be able to move from dependence to full participation in the economic and social life of Canada.

We know that the jobless do not want to be unemployed. Canadians want to earn their living honourably. They want the

dignity of a job. We must therefore design programs which will help them find work.

We know that the poor do not want to live in poverty. Canadians who are able to work do not want to collect welfare. Our programs must therefore help, for example, a single mother who does not have access to child care services; otherwise, she will be forced to remain dependent on the state for many years.

We must admit that Canadians have never faced so many social and economic challenges since the depression of the 1930s.

The structure of our economy is changing and the family unit has been deeply transformed. We must therefore reform our social security system to meet the needs of Canadians today.

The minister of human resources will announce a process to rethink our social security system and to modernize it, in co-operation with the provinces and for the greater good of all Canadians.

During the course of this debate the Minister of Health will speak about the commitment of this government to health care and to women's health issues. The Minister of Justice will speak about measures we will take to protect individuals from crime and violence in their homes. He will speak about measures which enhance our commitment to the fundamental equality of Canadians.

These are areas in which a society is judged. This government wants to play its role in ensuring the fabric of Canadian life continues to be tolerant and generous and that the quality of life we all cherish and which is so distinctively Canadian improves and benefits all Canadians.

The agenda is full and it will require co-operation and a sense of a shared mission which our country has not seen for a long time, the kind of spirit we saw at the first ministers meeting in December. Canadians are ready for this national will. They want those of us who are in responsible positions in government and the private sector to work together toward those worthy national goals.

I wish to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on his speech. It is a first in the House of Commons, in a quite unprecedented situation, as he said himself. I do not intend to respond to all the arguments he put forward, because I think the debate would be rather sterile. In the election campaign, we talked a lot about jobs, we talked a lot about the deficit in Quebec and we maybe talked a little about independence and separation, but not much. I know that if I got into that subject, I would not be fulfilling the mandate which I received from the people of our country.

Besides, my convictions are well known. I have been here for many years. I would just like to tell you that my convictions about Canada are based perhaps on a text which describes our country very well. A hundred years ago, one of my predecessors, Laurier, spoke thus, as the twentieth century approached:

We are French Canadians, but our country is not limited to the territory around the Citadel in Quebec; our country is Canada. Our fellow citizens are not only those who have French blood in their veins. They are all those, regardless of race or language, who have come here among us as a result of the vagaries of war or the whims of fortune or by their own choice.

These words are just as appropriate today, on the eve of the 21st century, as they were at the beginning of the 20th century.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Jean Chrétien Liberal Saint-Maurice, QC

I also want to mention that it is true that we did not get as many votes as the Bloc québécois. We will change that next time, but it is the reality now.

But I have something to say to the hon. members who were elected in Quebec and who are French-speaking Canadians like me. Something happened this week in this House, something which they should have noted. First, we chose a Speaker. Two French-Canadians from Ontario got the same number of votes in the fifth ballot, which means that, at one point, all the members of this House voted for a French Canadian. One won and one lost. But in a sense it is very telling that a person like the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier who, throughout his career, has always been proud to be a francophone and has always said it loud and clear, got such support.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.