House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Parliament Of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

11 a.m.


Eugène Bellemare Carleton—Gloucester, ON

moved that Bill C-201, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (oath or solemn affirmation), be read the second time and referred to a standing committee.

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to introduce Bill C-201, the first Private Members' bill of this session. It concerns the oath of allegiance we swear to the Queen, to which I would like to make some changes.

On October 25, 1993 I was honoured and proud to be elected to Parliament for the second time. On November 9, 1993 at my swearing in ceremony I had the honour as an elected member of the Canadian Parliament of pledging allegiance to the Queen.

Having been elected to Parliament by the electors of my riding of Carleton-Gloucester by a record 46,800 votes in my favour, about 35,000 votes more than my nearest challenger, I felt proud but above all I felt honoured at having been elected to serve so many Canadians.

For this reason I want to add to the present oath of office, that is to say the one that pays allegiance to the Queen, a pledge of allegiance to Canada and its Constitution.

After swearing allegiance to the Queen on my family Bible and signing the parliamentary documents handed to me by the Clerk in the presence of my wife and children, I requested that the Clerk of the House of Commons let me read the following affirmation:

I, Eugène Bellemare, member of Parliament for Carleton-Gloucester, swear and solemnly affirm that I will be loyal to Canada and that I will perform the duties of a member of the House of Commons honestly and justly in conformity with the Constitution of Canada.

I was extremely proud to add this affirmation to my pledge of loyalty to the Queen.

Since I first introduced this bill in 1993 when it only went to first reading, I have had many discussions and conversations on this topic and received many letters from across Canada from my constituents and colleagues applauding this bill which adds to our present oath to the Queen. It adds to our allegiance to Canada. It is with this support that I present the bill to the House today.

This private member's bill in no way negates or removes our allegiance to the Queen. Our parliamentary monarchy is part of our Canadian Constitution, our Canadian history and our Canadian heritage. The Constitution cannot be amended by Parliament without the consent of the provinces and territories.

My proposed oath for solemn affirmation to Canada and the Constitution is a proposed amendment to the Parliament of Canada Act, not the Constitution, and therefore is in proper order. It comes as an addition to swearing allegiance to the Queen.

The wording of my private member's bill was prepared according to parliamentary rules by the legal experts of the House of Commons.

Some people think this bill is redundant, in that the oath of allegiance to the Queen already implies allegiance to Canada and Canadians and it would therefore be unnecessary to add a pledge of allegiance to the Constitution. In my experience, however, what is implied is often interpreted differently by different people.

I think it is important to affirm what we believe in when we pledge our loyalty, and in this case, I pledge my loyalty to Canada and to Canadians, and I am not afraid to tell the whole country and the whole world.

Canada, as a member of the British Commonwealth, is headed by the Queen. The existing oath sworn by members of Parlia-

ment is the swearing of allegiance to the Queen. I was as proud as any member of the House in pledging allegiance to the Queen during my swearing in ceremony.

However, the oath sworn by all members of this House is practically identical to the oaths sworn in all Commonwealth countries.

I may point out that we were all elected by Canadians in Canada, and I assume that we all represent Canadians and not people living in other countries like Australia, Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Tanzania, and so forth. These are all Commonwealth countries whose members of Parliament pledge allegiance to the same Queen.

Canada is a distinct society and is different from other countries that belong to the Commonwealth and are represented by the Queen. The pledge I made to my constituents clearly indicates that I represent Canadians, not citizens of the whole Commonwealth.

Since the bill I introduced in the House today is not votable, this will prevent me and my fellow members from taking a position and stating whether we feel patriotic about Canada.

I was very disappointed to hear that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is responsible for deciding what happens to a Private Member's Bill, has judged that my bill would not be votable.

Even though my bill answered all 11 criteria for the selection for votable items as set out in the rules of the House, I had submitted a positive written reply to all these criteria when interviewed by the House committee. It told me the interview would be five minutes. It seemed interested enough to prolong the interview to over 20 minutes and the attitude was very positive. I do not know what has happened since the time I left that committee when it decided in private to make the bill, unfortunately, non-votable.

I want to make it clear that the bill is an amendment to the Parliament of Canada Act and is not intended to replace the current oath but rather to add to it. The pledge to Canada and the Constitution is in addition to the pledge to the Queen.

Members of Parliament, present, past and future, I am sure are proud to be Canadians and are proud to serve in the House of Commons.

Several other Commonwealth countries are presently studying the need for an oath such as the one I am presenting today. Members of the national assembly in the province of Quebec already pledge allegiance to the people and the constitution of Quebec. They do this because they feel the need to affirm their loyalty to the people they represent. They also, as everyone knows, swear allegiance to the Queen.

I would therefore urge all members, who wish to pledge their loyalty to Canada and Canadians or who feel the need to do so, to do this in the form of a pledge of loyalty to the Constitution and to this country. I would be delighted to meet anyone who would like to discuss the pledge of loyalty to Canada I made when I swore my oath of allegiance after the last election.

In concluding, I can inform all hon. members that I am proud that at my swearing-in after the last election, I added my pledge of loyalty to Canada, to Canadians and to the Constitution.

I believe that all of my colleagues presently sitting in the House of Commons would like a chance to individually go on record and officially tell their constituents that they are proud to be Canadians. Giving all members of Parliament a chance to vote on this bill in the House of Commons is the perfect vehicle for such a patriotic statement.

Madam Speaker, in concluding, I wish to say that yes, I was elected by 46,800 Canadians in a Canadian riding, and I have a responsibility to my constituents in Carleton-Gloucester.

I have a solemn commitment and I am conscious of my responsibility, to use my judgment to serve all Canadians, and I would ask my fellow members to do likewise. I know from discussions I have had with them that in their hearts they want to pledge allegiance to their country, in addition to pledging allegiance to the Queen. They want to pledge allegiance to their Constitution and their people.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


François Langlois Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-201 which was tabled by the hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester. Constitutionally speaking, I have a problem with this bill. Pursuant to section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, "the Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect".

What exactly is the relationship between the Constitution of Canada and the oath of allegiance? The provisions respecting the oath of allegiance are contained in section 128 of the Constitution Act, 1867 which I will take the liberty of reading. Section 128 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which most of us know as the British North America Act, reads as follows:

Every Member of the Senate or House of Commons of Canada shall before taking his Seat therein take and subscribe before the Governor General or some Person authorized by him, and every Member of a Legislative Council or Legislative Assembly of any Province shall before taking his Seat therein take and subscribe before the Lieutenant Governor of the Province or some Person authorized by him, the Oath of Allegiance contained in the Fifth Schedule to this Act.

The fifth schedule reads as follows:

I, A.B. do swear, that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

Of course, in accordance with the law governing succession to the throne, the reference to Queen Victoria includes all of her heirs and successors. This is the sole requirement for sitting in this House that is set out in the Constitution of Canada. And, as we have seen, the Constitution is the supreme law of Canada.

The hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester is proposing, through a simple bill, to amend section 27.1 of the Parliament of Canada Act by the addition of the following: "No person holding a seat in the House of Commons shall sit therein nor shall any funds be made available to such a person for the carrying out of parliamentary functions unless the person, in writing, has taken the oath or made the solemn affirmation provided for in Schedule II before the Governor General or any person authorized by the Governor General to administer such oath or solemn affirmation".

Schedule II of Bill C-201 reads as follows:

I, --, swear that I will be loyal to Canada and that I will perform the duties of a member of the House of Commons honestly and justly in conformity with the Constitution of Canada.

Clause 27.1 of this bill states very clearly that no member can sit in this House unless he or she takes this oath. Enacting a statutory law is certainly not the way to go about changing the oath of allegiance. What we need to do is amend the Constitution of Canada, just as a member of Parliament, Mr. Keyes, attempted to do during the third session of the 34th Parliament with Bill C-270, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (oath of allegiance).

It is clear that unless the Constitution of Canada is amended, and since section 128 applies not only to the federal government, but to the provinces as well, the amending procedure that applies here is unquestionably the one set out in section 38 of the Constitution Act, 1982, that is the 7/50 rule which requires approval of seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population. Curiously enough, we are not moving in that direction. We therefore have before us a bill that would be futile at best since it would contradict Canada's existing Constitution.

Some of the comments made by the hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester about the merits of his bill surprised me a little. He told us that the oath of loyalty to the Crown prescribed in Schedule V of the 1867 Constitution could apply to His or Her Majesty as head of the Commonwealth. There is a timing problem. When we look at the situation, we see that there is an anachronism somewhere for, when the Constitution Act of 1867 was enacted, the Commonwealth did not exist. How could it have been possible in 1867 to consider a measure applying to the Queen as head of the Commonwealth when the Commonwealth was formed almost 100 years later?

It also ignores the whole evolution of the monarchy in Canada, from the imperial conferences of 1926 and 1930 and the 1931 Statute of Westminster to the Constitution Act of 1982 that definitely Canadianized the monarchy.

It is now clear that the monarchy in Canada is solely dependent on the will of the Canadian Parliament and the Canadian people. We are not subjected to any foreign monarchy. Our oath of loyalty to the Queen is undoubtedly directed at the Queen of Canada, and only Canadian parliamentarians can swear allegiance to the Queen of Canada. This oath is not required of parliamentarians in Australia, Great Britain or New Zealand who swear allegiance to their Queen; we are the only ones affected.

Canada is not a republic where the official oath is usually directed at the state. It would be rather surprising to see French parliamentarians, for example, swearing allegiance to President Mitterrand. They have to swear allegiance to the institutions of the Fifth Republic. It is the same thing in the United States of America.

In a monarchial system of government like ours, the Sovereign, the Queen of Canada, is the embodiment of the state as the official head of the Canadian state.

Like Louis XIV, Her Majesty the Queen could say, "I am the state," subject, of course, to the limits imposed by the Constitution since we live in a constitutional monarchy.

Swearing allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Canada is the same as swearing allegiance to Canada, everyone having their own definition of Canada. Is it the Canada of 1867 with its four provinces? Is it the Canada that existed prior to 1949 without Newfoundland? If this oath had existed, would it have been possible to allow Newfoundland to join the Canadian federation if we had sworn to keep the oath's status quo? Is this a way of singling out the members of the Official Opposition, who want to promote and eventually achieve Quebec's sovereignty in a democratic fashion and by respecting

clearly established constitutional conventions and the right of peoples to self-determination?

Those are questions I ask myself and to which I have no answer. We have always been comfortable since we have always said that we would respect the current system as long as it remains unchanged, as well as its institutions. We are showing it every day in this House, and such an oath, even though it can be voluntary, cannot in my opinion encroach on the provisions of the 1867 Constitution which are unusually clear.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, I am speaking today in favour of Bill C-201, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and not the constitutional act.

The bill would ensure that all members elected to this place, before they could sit here and before any funds would be made available to them, would have to take an oath or make a solemn affirmation of loyalty to Canada and to the Constitution of Canada.

This oath seems to be an appropriate step in the process of recognizing our nationhood. It is only recently that Canada became a nation in its own right rather than being merely a so-called dominion of Canada, a part of Great Britain.

As our nation moved through this maturing process, we acquired our own flag, the beautiful red and white maple leaf of which we are so proud today. We have chosen as our national anthem "O Canada" in which we sing about having true patriot love for our home, our native land.

In my dictionary the word patriot is defined as being a person who is devoted to and ready to support or defend his or her country. It comes from a word in Greek and also a word in Latin that means father.

Many people living in Canada today are new Canadians, people whose fathers and mothers were from some other country who came here as immigrants or new Canadians to seek a new life for themselves and for their families. I want to say a special word of welcome to them and to tell them I hope they will now become Canadian patriots, devoted to and ready to support or defend Canada.

I devoutly hope that they will be proud to call themselves simply Canadians, not Chinese-Canadians or Lebanese-Canadians or any other hyphenated Canadian. Personally, I believe there is nothing more racist than saying that we have English Canadians and French Canadians and new Canadians. We should all just be Canadians and proud of it. If we want to celebrate the customs and traditions of the land where our parents were born, we should be free to do so but we should first of all be proud Canadians.

Two weeks ago I was in my constituency of Okanagan-Shuswap. I had been invited to visit the children of an elementary school in the community of Sicamous. They were interested in some of the simpler facts about being a member of Parliament, like where did I live, where did I work. However one little girl asked a question that had me stumped. She wanted to know why she and her little classmates do not start every school day by singing "O Canada".

I would be obliged if some hon. member could answer that question. Why do all our Canadian school children not start every school day by singing "O Canada"? When members assemble in this place, why do we not start our proceeding by singing "O Canada"? I believe such a practice should go hand in hand with swearing our loyalty to Canada as this Bill C-201 would require to show that we are patriots devoted to this country.

There is a group in our midst in this place who are not devoted to Canada. No, no, this group brags that it is devoted not to Canada but instead to the breaking up of Canada, to making the great province of Quebec a separate country.

Personally I would like to go to each of them and ask how they can dare come to Parliament to try to break this great nation apart. Many of us from western Canada have been hit hard by such legislation as the national energy program which hit Albertans especially hard. We are paying for official bilingualism while hospital beds are closing from lack of money when we do not even know anybody who speaks French.

Many of us westerners think we have grievances, yet we do not talk of breaking up Canada. The Reform Party has come to Ottawa to try to right some historic wrongs but we are pledged to working within Canada. We are each, every one of us, proud patriots devoted to one federation of 10 equal provinces.

It has been said before and in many ways that a country is like a big family. When hard times come, it can bind a family closer together but it can also tear that same family apart.

As I mentioned earlier a group in our midst in this place thinks times have been so tough for Quebec that it wants to tear Quebec away from the rest of us. This group says there have been wrongs done to the great province of Quebec. Therefore it wants to separate from Canada and become a separate country. Nevertheless members of this group somehow found it in their hearts to swear allegiance to the Queen when they took their oaths on becoming members of Parliament.

Many Canadians in Okanagan-Shuswap and all across our nation have asked: How can anybody be allowed to serve in Parliament who is not loyal to Canada? How can people be allowed to serve in Parliament who are not patriots devoted to doing the very best for the people they represent both in their own constituencies and for people all across Canada?

Each of these constituencies we as members represent is not some isolated island, not some little kingdom all on its own. Each and every constituency is part of one country, Canada. Therefore I cannot accept it when someone in this place says: "I only represent Quebec". All of us must represent Canada. We should swear an oath of loyalty to that one great country, Canada.

All of us must feel some pride in the examples set by some members of the government recently when they started making tough decisions about what services, programs, and military bases should be cut. They did not just think of their own little backyards; they thought about all of Canada. Much as we on this side of the House may disagree with some of its overall philosophies, much as we may disagree with this or that piece of the budget or with this or that amount being spent or cut, we must give the government credit for at least trying to look at what is good for the entire country.

Now it is time for each of us to look at Bill C-201 and ask ourselves: If we are one country and if we have our own flag and our own national anthem then why should we not swear or affirm allegiance to Canada before taking our seats as members of Parliament?

Personally I think this is an excellent idea which is long overdue. I believe in it so firmly that before Black Rod opened the first session of the 35th Parliament, I held a grand opening of my office back home in Okanagan-Shuswap. I put ads in the paper inviting the community. With a standing room only crowd I personally took an oath of loyalty to Canada and had everyone at the ceremony sign as my witnesses. In conclusion I might add we started that little ceremony by singing "O Canada".

Parliament Of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Audrey McLaughlin Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak on Bill C-201, a bill to amend the Parliament of Canada Act so that members of the House may pledge allegiance to the country.

I am pleased to support this initiative. It is extremely important and reflects very much the public opinion I heard during the previous election in my travels throughout various parts of Canada.

I come from Yukon which in this federal Parliament is probably the farthest area away from Ottawa. I recognize how important it is for those of us who live in regions not in central Canada to share in that feeling of commonality which exists among the majority of Canadians.

I certainly do not share in any way the point of view of colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois who want to see Quebec separated from Canada. However I respect the right of duly elected parliamentarians to express their views in this Parliament. That is the essence of democracy. Should we ever be in a position in this country where we did not have a forum to express various views we would indeed be losing not only our democracy but the essence of what we are as a country.

This issue is very important to me as an individual who has worked in federal politics for a number of years and to all Canadians. The country is going through a period of uncertainty. Many people fear for their economic security but there still remains a pride in what we have achieved together. We can go further in that and build not on our differences but on what we have in common.

That is where I part company with some of my other colleagues in the House who have often asked why we cannot all be the same. As a white female anglophone from an Anglo-Saxon background I take great pride that Canada respects different languages, different cultures and that it welcomes people to its shores. There are only three people in the House of Commons whose ancestors did not come to Canada generations before as immigrants.

We must learn to rejoice in the diversity of our culture, not defile it. It will make the loyalty to and strength of Canada which the bill expresses meaningfully.

There are two visions of what kind of country Canada is. One vision was presented by my colleague just before me. Using the analogy of a field of flowers, he would see Canada as a field where all the flowers were the same, all pretty and neat. My vision of Canada is as a field of flowers of different colours, sometimes chaotic, always difficult but vibrant and providing excitement to the North American continent.

What have we achieved? We have achieved a political system with different points of view from social democratic to Liberal to Progressive Conservative and the Reform Party. We represent those views in our debates. By presenting different alternatives we come out with better solutions.

For the cause of our disunity the tendency today is to point to those individuals who have come to this country and not accepted what it is to be a Canadian. This is what I believe it means to be a Canadian. To be a Canadian it means first that we are loyal to this country. We want to take walls down, not put them up. Every part of the country from Newfoundland to Yukon is as important as every other part. When it comes to employment equity and other issues our goal of social and economic justice sometimes stands alone in the world where the tide often goes the other way.

Canada is not a perfect country. Things are not always done perfectly, but what are the options? An option is to wrench our country apart, in many ways to rend our democracy apart when the whole world is moving to work together on major problems of the day such as unemployment and growing debts. Those are not just Canadian problems. They are not the problems of the North American continent. They are problems of the world.

In closing it is with pride that I support the bill. It is a very important message that we put those constituencies we represent front and centre in the House of Commons, but that we know and accept that our first responsibility is to work for Canada.

I hope people will take this debate very seriously and will support this bill. Canada is worth standing up for and we will all be better for doing that.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Ted White North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, in rising to speak to private member's Bill C-201 I would like to state at the outset that Reform MPs do support a change to the oath of allegiance. In fact a separate oath of allegiance has already been developed by the Reform Party. Many of us used it in our ridings, as my colleague from Okanagan-Shuswap mentioned.

I held a local swearing in ceremony at my office in North Vancouver on January 7 of this year. We invited about 175 voters, chosen at random from the voters' list, people we liked and people we did not. It did not even matter if they voted Liberal; we had them in our office. Although for the most part the event was fairly informal we did have a formal part of about five or ten minutes when I took the oath of allegiance.

I would like to quote from documentation we used that day which is headed: "A Statement of Principles and a Pledge of Commitment by Your Reform Party Member of Parliament". I will read some of these principles quickly.

I, Ted White, having been elected by the voters of the Federal Constituency of North Vancouver to represent you in the 35th Parliament of Canada, do hereby sincerely pledge that I am committed to the following principles as I carry out my duties on your behalf:

I am committed to the development of a new and stronger united Canada: a balanced democratic federation of provinces, distinguished by the acceptance of our social responsibilities, and the recognition of the equality and uniqueness of all of our provinces and citizens.

I am committed to equality for all Canadians regardless of race, language, culture, religion or gender and will give true and faithful representation to all of my constituents.

I am committed to being your democratic and fiscal conscience in the 35th Parliament, and I am prepared to demonstrate this commitment by showing leadership by example.

I believe you have sent me to the House of Commons to present your views in that forum, not to represent Ottawa's views to you. I believe that the House of Commons must be the house of the people, not the house of the parties. The word "politician" must mean a representative of the people not a servant of a party. To that end, I shall not only encourage you to communicate with me, but I am committed to consulting your views at every opportunity, and shall make myself available to you regularly, within our constituency. I need your advice and guidance.

I believe that when decisions are to be made on contentious issues of major national importance, it is my duty to seek the consensus view of my constituents, and to represent that consensus in Parliament, even if it conflicts with my own personal view.

I believe you have placed me in a position of great trust. I shall therefore conduct my personal and public life with honour and integrity. I shall administer public funds as carefully as if they were my own. I shall make sure that neither I, nor my family, will profit from any knowledge or influence I have as a legislator.

Then I took the short oath with one of my peers, the hon. member for New Westminster-Burnaby taking the oath. The oath read:

I, Ted White, your Member of Parliament, do pledge, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Canadian federation and to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, and that I will faithfully represent the people of the Electoral District of North Vancouver in the Canadian House of Commons.

The document was then signed and witnessed by 25 of the people present.

The wording for a new oath as suggested in Bill C-201 is similar to the suggested Reform oath in that it addresses the concept of loyalty to the Canadian federation. However I feel that it does lack the very important reference to the need to faithfully represent the people of the riding. Bill C-201 proposes that the oath read:

I, Ted White, swear that I will be loyal to Canada and that I will perform the duties of a member of the House of Commons honestly and justly in conformity with the Constitution of Canada.

The oath refers to performing the duties of a member of the House of Commons. However the problem is that there is no job specification for a member of the House of Commons. If the duties are not defined then it is meaningless to swear to carry out those duties. MPs are entrusted to conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the position and very few constraints are placed on us. We must be free to speak and to act on behalf of our constituents without any controls being placed on us by the system or the government.

It is virtually impossible to define our duties, making the suggested new oath better than the one presently used. However I believe it is open to improvement. In the absence of the ability to amend the bill I do support it. I am sorry it is not a votable bill. I congratulate the member for introducing it to the House.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Québec-Est, QC

Madam Speaker, many things have been said this morning about Bill C-201. I cannot comment on all the points raised. Perhaps I could just correct or qualify a number of remarks like this one, to the effect that to effectively sustain Canadian unity, all ten provinces must be equal.

That is the problem, this lack of understanding of the fact that Quebec is slightly different. We have been trying for a long time to make English Canada understand that Quebec is not like any other province. Actually, it was one of the things we tried to do with the Meech Lake Accord and again with the Charlottetown Accord. It was in good faith, I think, to seek recognition of the fact that Quebec is different from the rest of Canada. It is absolutely obvious to me, even a blind man could see, be it only at the cultural level, how rich the French language is in Quebec and how many cultural industries it sustains, as compared to English Canada.

Quebec is different in many regards, not only culturally, but also economically. Quebec has been trying for thirty years or so to be recognized as a distinct society or at least as a province which is not like any other. That is part of the problem with Canada in fact. As long as Quebec's distinctiveness is not recognized-because of the failure of Meech and Charlottetown-we will find ourselves stuck with an amending formula which prevents the Constitution of Canada from being amended to recognize Quebec's uniqueness, and that is a shame, of course.

It is a shame, but only to a point because it sets us on a course where we will be forced to readjust our relationship with English Canada. I think this will do Quebec much good, and English Canada as well, judging by another remark made this morning, to the effect that Canada was a distinct society. The fact of the matter is that Canada is made up of a number of distinct societies. Just as British Columbia is completely different from Atlantic Canada, English Canada is different from Quebec. And I believe that by setting off on this course, by restructuring Canada, we will be able not only to better define ourselves, in Quebec, but also to develop better relations with English Canada, at least that is what I think.

Basically, we must bear in mind that we are part of a truly great democracy. The Bloc members were elected with quite substantial majorities. This show of will from the people of Quebec was not artificial, it was not fabricated. It is not the kind of thing that happens all of a sudden, by surprise. It must be recognized that the people of Quebec massively supported the Bloc Quebecois and this is a reality that we respect and live by. If we at least want to respect the democratic principle, we must recognize the legitimacy of the Bloc Quebecois as representative of the distinct character of Quebec here in the House of Commons. This is not to insult anyone. This is not to irritate English Canadian nationalists-on the contrary, I find it is a very fine thing to affirm the beauties and virtues of English Canada. Is that opposed to recognizing the distinctiveness of Quebec? I think not.

Someone mentioned the diversity of Canada. I too am a great believer in it. Furthermore, it is a principle found in nature, all the diversity found in gardens-there are many examples of it. Indeed, diversity is a richness. That is what nature teaches us and of course we in Canada have great diversity.

However, this government, like previous governments, has tried instead to make Canada uniform. I think that is a bad idea. I think that it is very good to recognize the diversity of Canada, since it makes our country richer.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I recognize the hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester and add that by exercising his right to reply, he will close the debate.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Eugène Bellemare Carleton—Gloucester, ON

Madam Speaker, thank you for letting me reply at the end of the debate. I would like to challenge the sense of loyalty of all Canadian members of the House present here today. I ask that we waive the Standing Orders of the House, as I will move at the end of my reply, so that we can vote on my bill.

What a wonderful opportunity to have MPs declare publicly that yes, they want to vote on my private member's bill, to swear allegiance not only to the Queen but also to Canada, Canadians and the Constitution, and that they are loyal and patriotic citizens.

A few minutes ago, the member for Bellechasse made a presentation on the legal aspect of my bill. He took us into the history of Canada in 1867 and spoke about the Constitution and Queen Victoria and all the regulations of 1867. He overlooked all the changes to the Constitution since 1867. He overlooked the patriation of the Constitution in 1982.

Above all, the member for Bellechasse did not mention that in 1976, I believe, in Quebec, Premier René Lévesque wanted to respect the Constitution, as I do and all hon. members here, especially the member for Bellechasse and the other members of the Bloc Quebecois, wanted to tell us they do want to respect the Constitution. With reference to the Constitution, the then-premier, who was a member of the Parti Quebecois, added that once elected to the Parliament of Canada or a provincial legislature-the Quebec members in the Quebec legislature would swear allegiance to Quebecers and to the Constitution of Quebec.

I congratulate the former premier for that. Why not?

Members of the Bloc Quebecois were elected to the federal Parliament. Very often they seem to forget that they are not members of the Quebec provincial legislature, which I esteem and respect greatly, but members of the Canadian or national or federal legislature, let them choose the term they like.

They have come here to help make life in Canada better, and let me make an aside on this point. I often hear members of the Bloc Quebecois refer to French Canada, to English Canada, to Quebec, but what is English Canada? I would say to them that it includes the province of Quebec. What is French Canada? It includes Quebec and also Ontario, New Brunswick, the Yukon, the territories, the other provinces, all of us.

We must be proud of being Canadians and I challenge all members of this House today to proclaim that pride.

In closing, I invoke the Standing Orders of the House which allow me, as a member, proud to be what I am, a Franco-Ontarian, a French Canadian, or if Reform Party members prefer, a French-speaking Canadian, a fourth-generation Franco-Ontarian whose ancestors came from France in the 17th century, and call upon all my colleagues here in the House to let me have a vote on this bill by overriding the Standing Orders. We can do so with unanimous agreement and I call upon the patriotism and loyalty to Canada of all members of this House.

Long live Canada. Long live Canadians.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Can the member for Carleton-Gloucester move a motion in the House? Does the House agree to allow the member to present his motion?

Parliament Of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Parliament Of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Eugène Bellemare Carleton—Gloucester, ON

Only members of the Bloc Quebecois said no to the country.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired.

Pursuant to Standing Order 96(1), the item is dropped from the Order Paper.

Government Orders

March 14th, 1994 / 11:55 a.m.



Ray Speaker Lethbridge


That this House declare that the budget plan of this government is not a solution to Canada's debt and deficit problem and therefore requests the government to:

(a) place a moratorium on all new spending programs announced in the budget such as Youth Services Corps, Court Challenges Program, Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Plan, Engineers Program, and Infrastructure Program;

(b) establish effective spending caps in co-operation with all parties of thisHouse;

(c) produce quarterly reports on the progress being made on deficit reduction; and

(d) commit to immediate corrective action using a spending contingency plan developed in consultation with all parties in the House.

Madam Speaker, I rise today only three short weeks since the budget was presented to the House of Commons. Those three weeks have been very significant. Today we want to evaluate that budget in light of some of the recent economic changes and events that have occurred. It is on this basis that I move the motion before the House.

Reformers have objected to the lack of true cuts in the budget. We have said that it does not go far enough and we still hold to that criticism. To our ministers currently at the G-7 conference to attempt to create job opportunities, jobs in Canada, jobs in North America and throughout the world, the message today must be very clear to them that it is not the government that will create jobs but rather a matter of the economy being able to have the circumstances in which jobs can be created without the intervention of government.

The budget that was presented to us three weeks ago is already off track. Assumptions and calculations done in the budget are no longer relevant. Today in light of that I would like to examine the budget with three factors in mind. I believe it is time we look again and rethink our responsibilities in the House of Commons.

First, I want to examine the revenue predictions and ask a question. Is it prudent today to expect the type of revenue forecast that is in the budget?

Second, I want to examine interest rate assumptions. I ask is it prudent today to expect the type of interest rate forecasts in the budget?

Third, I want to examine the question of what is the true deficit. Have we been presented with the true picture in the House and as Canadians?

As Canadians we felt that we were misled. We thought the deficit was $38 billion; then it was projected to be $45 billion. Someone is misleading us. Therefore, it is very important that we ask is it prudent today to believe the deficit numbers that were presented to us by the Liberal government?

I would like to look at each one of these questions. I am certain the answer is no to each one, but I believe it is time that we look at each one with greater detail, realism and sincerity in this assembly.

First is the issue of the unrealistic revenue assumptions presented to us. Forecasting fantastic growth in government revenues is certainly not a recent phenomenon. The former Conservative government consistently predicted revenues far in excess of what it ever collected. Knowing this, the Liberals in the budget promised that their budget would be the end of those unrealistic assumptions. They pledged to come clean with Canadians.

What are the facts? Robert Fairholm of the forecasting firm DRI Canada said recently: "The government is saying that revenue growth will exceed the growth in the economy by roughly 22.5 per cent. This is optimistic". If we examine the growth of revenues coming out of the 1982 recession we find that tax revenues increased just over 8 per cent faster than the economy. The finance minister stood in the House and promised that he would come clean with Canadians. He now says that the revenues will grow 22.5 per cent faster than the economy. That is unrealistic. It is blatant wishful thinking. I wonder where the numbers come from.

There is no indication that we will grow out of this recession as fast as we escaped the recession of 1982. Because of massive public debt and deficits our growth out of the recession is absolutely hampered. To expect revenues to grow faster than they did coming out of the 1982 recession is foolhardy. The finance minister is playing games with Canadians.

We have not seen a change in the way government predicts revenue. The finance minister is following in the footsteps of his predecessors. I am sure if Mr. Wilson or Mr. Mazankowski were in the House they would be very proud of the way the budget is playing itself out. They would be very proud and very pleased to see that the pattern is the same.

It is right to ask: Is it prudent today to expect the types of revenue forecasts that were in the budget? The answer is clearly no, it is not.

Second, I would like to look at the interest rate assumptions. We must understand exactly what an increase in interest rates really means. For every 1 per cent that interests rates on our debt increase, that translates into $1.7 billion in increased interest rates on a yearly basis for the Canadian taxpayer. That is a significant amount, $1.7 billion per year with a 1 per cent interest rate.

We must recognize that just a 1 per cent increase would wipe out the net savings that the Liberals have claimed in the budget. Also we must recognize we are very dependent on these interest rates because our debt is so massive.

In the budget the Minister of Finance assumed that short term interest rates would be 4.5 per cent and that long term rates would be 6.4 per cent in 1994. What are the facts? Today the short term rates are just above 4 per cent and are rising and the long term rates are already one full point above the minister's predictions. These rates must be sustained. If sustained, it will cost anywhere between $2 billion to $3 billion in the budget so that the final outcome will mean a greater deficit for certain.

Where will the minister get this revenue? How will we come to a point at which we only have a $39.7 billion deficit as projected when we have not taken into consideration these interest rates? What are the markets saying about future interest rates? Are these increases just a temporary measure or an indication of future trends?

Sherry Cooper, chief economist of Burns Fry, said as early as last week that the government's projections look suspect. If the term structure of interest rates is the best indicator of long term rates, as is commonly understood, then the predictions that long term rates will fall are clearly hogwash. Our current term structure would indicate that rates are on a slow but steady climb up, not down, as predicted in the budget.

One of the other factors we have to consider, and it has not been talked about in the House of Commons, is the Quebec factor and the influence it will have not only on interest rates of the upcoming fiscal budget but certainly on a longer term basis on budgeting in the future.

I am not any more pleased with the prospect of further constitutional wrangling than the government or anyone else in Canada. However I have the courage to stand today in the House and say that whatever the outcome, the uncertainty created by the separatists who want to tear our great country apart, who want to break us down, will affect our markets and will affect interest rates. We must recognize that uncertainty is the enemy of the financial markets. Uncertainty is the enemy of the budget that we are examining today after three weeks.

Let us look at some facts about interest rates and the various effects of constitutional discussions or constitutional wrangling. How does that type of environment affect interest rates and the value of our Canadian dollar? I would like to make a couple of quotes.

First, Scotia McLeod had this to say following the debates: "During the key weeks of the Charlottetown constitutional discussions, the spread between 10 year Canada and U.S. government bonds rose sharply. The rate on 91 day T-bills jumped from 4.6 per cent to 7.9 per cent and the Canadian dollar dove from 85.4 to 80.0 U.S." This is a significant shift.

If this type of uncertainty and this circumstance were created and continued and applicable here today, a 3 per cent rise in rates would translate into $5.1 billion of increased interest costs because of constitutional wrangling. That would occur over a one year period in a fiscal budget.

We have every reason to believe that the upcoming Quebec question will be more severe and more drawn out than the recent Meech Lake and Charlottetown fiascos. There are two things I would like to bring to members' attention. First, the potential separation of Quebec will undoubtedly have a much more

devastating short term effect on Canada than the passage or failure of the Charlottetown accord. There is no question about that.

Second and most important, the debate will be more prolonged and certainly delayed in terms of a crisis circumstance.

Mr. Parizeau, the leader in Quebec, has said that if he is elected he would hold a referendum within six months or a year. That translates into a significant period of uncertainty and, more important, it will have a significant effect on the 1994-95 budget before us.

As Reformers, how do we feel about this matter? I want to put on record so that it is very clear that we do not want all that constitutional wrangling. We believe that Quebec should continue to be a part of Canada and that we fully expect Quebecers to see the benefits of staying in Canada. We will do everything we can to get that message across clearly and concisely. We reject any divisive message of either the Leader of the Opposition or Mr. Parizeau. We will do everything on our part to ensure that Quebec stays as part of this nation.

I ask the Minister of Finance today, considering the potential of the Quebec circumstance and considering other circumstances, what provisions he has made for this potentially explosive and expensive issue in the budget before us in the House.

When this issue creates a significant jump in rates and if that jump is sustained, we recognize and we all know that it will cost our federal treasury untold billions of dollars, not millions, which we cannot afford at this time. We should take this matter into consideration. That is the reason that this motion is before this assembly today. It is so we can rethink our position, re-entrench what we are doing and be ready for any type of critical circumstance that may befall us.

I want to make a final point with regard to interest rates and the interest rate spread between Canada and the U.S. The spread between Canadian and American rates indicates the confidence in one economy relative to the other. When investors lose confidence in Canada or in their Minister of Finance it is reflected in increased costs of borrowing relative to our major partner.

The real question is: Did the budget increase the confidence of markets in the economy of Canada? Despite the reserved acceptance by the markets these questions should be asked as well: How are investors voting with their money? What are investors doing at the present time? Are we watching that? Has the finance minister got his finger on where our Canadian investment money is going?

As I examine those questions the news is not good. Canadians have been investing abroad in increased numbers due to taxation and lack of confidence in the government's dealing with the debt and deficit question.

International investors are moving away from Canada to lower risk investments. This has been occurring with greater significance in recent years, especially the last quarter of 1993 and into the early part of 1994. We can blame the latter government for this, and we should, but we also must take responsibility currently with the budget before us in this assembly.

What are further facts about this budget in terms of confidence? What can we say it has done for confidence? How are the investors voting with their dollars?

I quote a couple of people, first, Robert Palombi, senior economist with MMS International who said this recently:

The cracks in investor confidence are beginning to show. Despite the increase in bond yields, buyers were not attracted. This does not suggest the financial markets have confidence in lower Canadian rates or tighter Canada-U.S. yield spreads. This is why Martin's deficit projections are questionable.

The Financial Post pointed out as early as February 24:

Canadian markets have been hit hard by the recent hike in U.S. interest rates, despite a lower inflation rate and weaker economy. This is a sign that foreigners are selling our bonds, continuing a trend that started in the fourth quarter of last year-A post-budget widening of 10 year Canada-U.S. yield spreads suggests U.S. investors are the ones pulling out of Canada, a big concern since the size of the U.S. holdings now rivals that of the Japanese.

Clearly the 1994-95 budget is no solution to the confidence required in the Canadian economy. Despite calm assurances from the financial community, investors are telling the story with their money. They are losing confidence in the ability of Canada to deal with its debt and deficit and the budget gives them no reason to regain that confidence. I ask this question: Is it prudent today to expect the types of interest rates forecast in the budget?

To this question I have to say the answer is no. The market since the budget has destroyed the interest rate assumptions. The Quebec question is never raised, never mind dealt with in the budget, and the budget has done absolutely nothing to build investor confidence which will create the necessary jobs.

I would like to talk about the fudging of numbers. What are the facts here? I pointed out very clearly in that section of my remarks that the government projections of $39.7 billion will not hold. It will most likely be more like the current budget. The deficit will be $43.7 billion. I point out that this is not acceptable and it should be dealt with.

On all three of my questions with regard to revenue projections, interest rate projections, and whether the deficit projections are accurate, I want to say no, no, no, on all three counts. They are unrealistic revenue assumptions, unrealistic interest

rate projections, and the Liberals have misled the people in terms of the numbers.

Government Orders

12:20 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to make a brief comment to bring out two points. First, I agree with the hon. member for Lethbridge when he says that the budget does nothing to reduce Canada's deficit and excessive debt. Indeed, in spite of unacceptable cuts of $7.5 billion which will affect the unemployed, the poor and the elderly, we will end up with a record deficit which will probably exceed even the least optimistic forecasts of about $45 billion.

However, I do not agree with the hon. member when he dares say that the gap between Canadian and American interest rates, as well as the difference in the two economies, are attributable to the fact that there is a sovereignist movement in Quebec. I also disagree when he claims that our bad financial situation and the sudden fluctuations in our interest rates are due to the existence of that movement.

I want to remind him that, during the debate surrounding the Charlottetown Accord, in the fall of 1992, the rise of interest rates and the lowering of Canada's credit rating were not due to the presence of sovereignists, but to the catastrophic situation of Canadian public finances and the inability of federalists like the hon. member to control government finances and the economic future of Quebec and Canada. This is the real problem.

If we go back to 1992 and 1993, we see that the problem is also due to the chronic inability of the Ontario government to control excessive spending, which had the effect of hurting Canada's reputation, and not only Ontario's, with foreign investors. The problem of interest rates and the economy in general is much more related to government finances than to the presence of a sovereignist movement. In fact, this is the real source of the problem.

To think and speak like the hon. member for Lethbridge is to bury one's head in the sand. And this kind of excessive talk, which stirs up emotions and is pure misinformation, will scare away investors, who will think that Canadians are not serious.

Government Orders

12:20 p.m.



Ray Speaker Lethbridge

Madam Speaker, I say to my colleague that constitutional wrangling in the past has had a major effect on interest rates, and that is realistic.

The debate on the Constitution will take place in 1994. An election is going to take place in Quebec in that period of time. If Mr. Parizeau is successful the sequence will be a referendum following that and there will be a lot of tug and pull between the federalists and the separatists.

Investors are going to ask themselves whether they really want to invest in Canada. Interest rates will most likely increase. For every 1 per cent rise in interest rates on the debt, which is over $500 billion, it costs Canadians $1.7 billion. That will increase the deficit projections in the budget. Other factors have to be taken into consideration. All of it is stress and strain not only on the budget but the Canadian economic circumstance. That is the way it is.

It is not looking at the circumstances if I have my head in the sand. I am looking realistically at what is going to happen in the Canadian political system in the next few short months.