House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was languages.


11 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I believe there is unanimous consent to have a statement by the Minister of National Revenue. Has that been agreed to?

11 a.m.

Some hon. members


Customs Officers

11 a.m.

Victoria B.C.


David Anderson LiberalMinister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank in particular the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam for allowing me to step in before continuing with her motion.

It is certainly with a heavy heart that I rise in the House today on behalf of Revenue Canada and the government to express my deepest sympathies for the families of the two customs officers who died in a tragic accident over the weekend in New Brunswick.

The two officers killed were Inspector David Moore and Superintendent Jim Finnamore, both of Perth-Andover.

They were swept to their deaths Saturday night by a sudden rise in the flood swollen waters of the Aroostook River.

I want to stress that they died not because of carelessness, error or mistake. They died by reason of their high concern for the safety of other customs officers under their command.

Briefly, the facts as far as they are now known are as follows. The customs office at Tinker's Road, which is some 15 kilometres from the Perth-Andover office, was threatened by rising flood waters on Saturday evening. Although the two men had spoken to the customs inspectors who were on duty at Tinker's Road and had been told that the situation was satisfactory, Mr. Moore and Mr. Finnamore decided to check the situation personally. I want to stress that is the type of men they were, dedicated professionals determined to do everything in their power to ensure the safety of their staff.

A short distance from the Tinker's Road office they met an RCMP officer and several provincial government employees who were monitoring the rising flood waters. The customs officers were in fact joined by an RCMP officer for the remainder of the short trip.

Once they arrived at Tinker's Road office, Mr. Moore and Mr. Finnamore met with the two customs inspectors who were working there. After reviewing the situation the four men agreed that there was no immediate danger of flooding at that particular customs post. The two men then left with the RCMP and started back on the road to Perth-Andover, the same road they had travelled less than a half hour before. It was at this point that tragedy struck.

An ice build-up on the river suddenly released and a torrent of water swept over the river bank and the adjacent roadway just as the vehicle of the three men was traversing a low point in the road. The vehicle was swept to the side of the road, nose down in the ditch, and was almost totally submerged. All three men were successful in climbing on to the roof of the vehicle. The two customs officers tried to reach land while the RCMP officer stayed with the vehicle. Tragically, they failed to reach the shore.

Shortly after a search was launched for the missing three men. The RCMP officer was located and taken to hospital at midnight. The search continued in the darkness for a further three hours without success.

Yesterday morning at daybreak the search resumed. The body of Mr. Moore was found first and the body of Mr. Finnamore was recovered shortly after.

Coping with such a loss is always difficult, but it is so much more difficult when the loss is sudden as a result of a series of events that cannot be explained.

David Moore is survived by his wife Kelly. James Finnamore is survived by his wife Frances and their three children, Tamara, Brent and Peter.

Yesterday I spoke with both widows to express my most profound sympathy for their loss and to tell them that the department will do all that it can to support them and to help them through this very difficult time.

David Moore worked for the department for six years and James Finnamore was an employee of Revenue Canada for almost 18 years. We have lost two fine men, highly professional public servants, dedicated to their work and to the people of Canada. They will be missed dearly at home. They will be missed by those with whom they worked, who are both their colleagues and their friends.

I know all members of this House will wish to join with me after the statements of other party representatives to stand for a few moments to reflect on this tragic event and to remember these two fine individuals who died in service of this country.

Customs Officers

11:05 a.m.


Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, very briefly and on a serious note, the members of the Bloc Quebecois agree fully with the comments of the hon. Minister of Revenue. We wish to convey our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of Mr. David Moore and Mr. Jim Finnamore.

Customs Officers

11:05 a.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I join with members of the government as expressed by the minister and my Bloc colleagues in expressing the grief and sympathy of Reform members in the tragic deaths of Inspector David Moore and Superintendent Jim Finnamore.

I grew up beside the South Saskatchewan River and know first hand the beauty, the benefits and also the danger associated with our waterways. In fact, I remember as a young boy when my father lost an employee to the river. We sense the shock and pain and sorrow those involved in this situation are experiencing.

I have also visited the Perth-Andover area and I can envision the landscape and the beauty of the Saint John River valley and the rolling hills in western New Brunswick. I have met with some people in that region and I am sure they share in the grief caused by this accident. I am also confident that the community is rising to the situation and will give comfort and support to Kelly Moore and to Frances, Tamara, Brent and Peter Finnamore, as well as to other loved ones.

With my colleagues I express appreciation for the lives of Jim Finnamore and David Moore and our sympathy and prayers go out to their families and other loved ones.

Customs Officers

11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would ask that we rise and have a moment's silence. Editor's Note: The House stood in silence .]

Non-Confidence MotionsPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC


That, in the opinion of the this House, the government should permit members of the House of Commons to fully represent their constituents' views on the government's legislative program and spending plans by adopting the position that the defeat of any government measure, including a spending measure, shall not automatically mean the defeat of the government unless followed by the adoption of a formal motion.

Mr. Speaker, in the time available to me today I would like to explain my motion so that members of this House will clearly know what they are being asked to vote on.

As this is a votable motion, declared so by the procedure and House affairs committee, it will be the first time, at least as far as I can determine, that members will have the opportunity to express themselves on the issues of confidence and flowing from that the issue of freer voting in the House.

I would also like to address the history of voting in this House, a history which has been characterized by political party discipline or voting along party lines. I will refer to the experience in other jurisdictions such as Great Britain where there has been a noticeable relaxation of the party whip.

My research indicates that in Australia and New Zealand, while party discipline is somewhat less than in Canada but more than in Great Britain, there are clear avenues for backbenchers, private members, to influence the policies of their party.

I will conclude by dealing with the criticisms of allowing freer voting by members of the House of Commons. I must admit that I am surprised there are any criticisms because of the support this issue has received in the last two Parliaments. When I first spoke on this subject on January 21, the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood took issue with my arguments and more recently at a meeting of the House of Commons committee on procedure and House affairs I was amazed by the arguments raised by members opposite.

I believe it is necessary that these be addressed, fears put to bed so that all members of the House may join together to support this motion. The motion refers actually to three matters: relaxation of the confidence convention, freer voting and representation of constituents' interests.

By relaxing the confidence convention I mean that only votes that are explicitly labelled as confidence votes when lost by the government bring about the government's resignation. There is a myth that has been spread about this place for many years that

the government cannot lose votes. If it does it must resign, either forcing an election or putting the Governor General into the position of calling on someone else to see if she or he can form a government.

Intellectually, we all know this is nonsense. Yet it is the practice followed in this House, and my motion would narrowly define the confidence convention. The result of a narrow definition of this convention should be that members, especially government backbench members, should feel freed from the strictures of party discipline to occasionally vote against the party line.

In fact, the beneficial effect of this motion applies to all members, both government and opposition. Government members would feel free to vote against the party line because losing an occasional vote will not mean the defeat of the government. Once this type of thinking is understood by the party leadership, those voting against the party line should also not be subject to retribution or punishment. At the same time we in opposition should feel free to vote with the government members from time to time. The government cannot always be wrong, even this government. It is incumbent on us in opposition to recognize this fact and from time to time vote with the government even though our party leadership may try to convince us otherwise. I also want to make it clear that I am speaking about freer voting and not the declaration of free votes which is done under the direction of party leadership.

Finally, why or when would the break come with party discipline? My motion reads that it would be done "to fully represent their constituents' views". This is one example of when it may be done but there are others. However, I want to deal with the issue of representing constituents' views because there seems to be a lack of understanding of the position of the Reform Party on this matter. Let me be very clear.

Unlike some elections in the past, the 1993 election was significant in that the three recognized parties that are now in the House set out for Canadians platforms which to a great extent detailed how the parties would deal with the major issues as these issues presented themselves in the fall of 1993.

They were what Canadians voted for when they voted on October 25, 1993. To a great extent, we believe that when an issue arises which was in the party platform then the member is obligated to vote the party line. I could argue that the Liberal red book may be long on theory and grandiose but very short on implementation plans and there is room for departure from the party line. However, I am not here to discuss Liberal Party policies.

My main point is that issues will come along which are new, issues which are not found or addressed in party platforms. Two such issues come quickly to mind; cigarette smuggling and constituency boundary redistribution. On these issues and issues like them members should feel less inclined to blindly support the party line.

As well as breaking with their party to represent constituents' views, members could also be representing their own views based on common sense logic which the individual member may bring to the issue in question.

There is a feeling that if members are suddenly freed from party discipline there will be chaos with complete unpredictability in the system. Members will be voting every which way and Parliament will become unworkable and the country ungovernable.

This is not where this motion leads at all. It simply recognizes that on occasion members without fear of retribution from party leadership may vote against the party line. The government will not fall. The sun will still rise in the east and I believe the interests of Canadians will be better served by their elected representatives. Is that not what we are all here to do, serve the Canadian public to the best of our abilities?

Enough about the content of my motion. Now I would like to deal with the history of this matter, a history which began long before most of us got here. It began with a feeling of dissatisfaction among the Canadian people which was detected by the Canadian Study of Parliamentary Group in a Gallup poll it commissioned in 1983.

A question was asked as to how MPs should behave when voting. The response was that 49.5 per cent felt members should vote according to their own judgment. By way of contrast the view that the member should vote as the party wishes received very little support. The national average in the survey favouring the MP as party loyalists was only 7.9 per cent.

The frustration with MPs following the party line which the public expressed in this survey found its way into the 1985 report of the special committee on Reform of the House of Commons. This committee believed that "the purpose of reform of the House of Commons in 1985 is to restore to private members an effective legislative function, to give them a meaningful role in the formation of public policy". One of the main methods by which this goal was to be accomplished was by attitudinal change. This would result in a relaxation of the confidence convention, allowing members to occasionally vote against the party line without fear of bringing down the government or retribution by the party leadership.

The report of the McGrath committee was quite clear on the subject of the confidence convention and freer votes. The committee stated that "once elected, members of Parliament are legally and constitutionally entitled to act independently". In

the House they can speak and vote as they like. "If they choose to deviate from the party line they are free to do so provided they accept the political risks".

It was these political risks that the McGrath committee through its recommendations was trying to minimize. The committee went on to describe the ideal situation. "Rigid discipline is hardly compatible with a philosophy of a democratic political party, and reasonable latitude consistent with loyalty to the party should be permitted the individual members of any party".

This was the middle ground which the committee sought and it is the middle ground that the motion before the House today seeks to establish: loyalty to a political party, but not blind loyalty, loyalty combined with the latitude to vote against the party line on occasion.

The McGrath committee offered five observations on the confidence convention and this is one of them.

In a Parliament with a government in command of the majority the matter of confidence has really been settled by the electorate. Short of a reversal of allegiance or some major cataclysmic political event the question of confidence is really a fait accompli. The government and other parties should therefore have the wisdom to permit members to decide many matters in their own deliberative judgment. Overuse of party whips and of confidence motions devalues both these important institutions.

We are fortunate in this Parliament to have two members of that committee still with us, the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is my hope that both will find time to speak on the motion before it comes to a vote.

More recently in April 1993 the House management committee recommended:

Members of Parliament should be made more aware of a confidence convention and the observations of the special committee on Reform of the House of Commons. With few exceptions, motions proposed by the government should be considered as motions of confidence only when clearly identified as such by the government.

However, the committee which was made up of many members who are still in this Parliament, such as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the Minister of Health and the hon. member for Saint-Léonard were realistic in its prediction of the effect of this recommendation. It stated:

The Canadian parliamentary system does have extremely strong party discipline, one that is perhaps stronger than in many other systems. The committee endorses the idea of freeing up voting in the House but we hesitate to create unreasonably high expectations. It is not a procedural issue. Ultimately it is up to the individual members and Parliament.

Why did these groups of members of this place in previous Parliaments feel relaxation of the confidence convention and freer voting were so important? I believe that these members properly read the mood of the Canadian public.

With the advent of the information age, the public is better informed about political institutions. The work of the members of these institutions, and as a result the public, is less willing to follow without questioning the lead of elected representatives. They expect their representatives to be well informed and represent the best interests of their constituents. This well informed public does not respond to leadership the way it used to. The actions of Canadians in the referendum on the Charlottetown accord is ample evidence of their refusal to be blindly led.

The public also expects its elected representatives not to be blindly led. As well the public feels disenfranchised when members are forced by the threat of dire consequences to a member's political future to vote in a fashion which is perceived by the public to not represent the public interest. Lack of independence in voting is equated with lack of influence in the policy making process. Those involved in the political process make the argument that the influence of the private member is exercised in caucus or in private meetings with ministers. For the public this is not good enough any more.

The public wants to feel that its views are taken into consideration more than just every four or five years at general elections. The public also wants to see a public demonstration that its views are being heard and acted on. This public demonstration most often occurs in the act of voting by an MP.

This exercise of independence by members of the House of Commons has occurred to a great extent in Great Britain and their system of responsible government has survived. In the period between April 1972 and April 1979 there were 65 defeats of the government in Great Britain. These defeats were important because they helped destroy the myth that had arisen to the effect that any government defeat endangered its continuance in office.

They were also important in that they influenced the behaviour of subsequent members of Parliament by established a precedent. MPs from all parties became less willing to accept party dictates on matters of policy and voting. Those who defied the party whips discovered they could do so with little negative sanction and were encouraged to do so more often. Others were influenced in turn by their example.

In Canada our experience with cross voting is more limited but in the sixties and seventies we did have experience with governments losing votes and not resigning.

Therefore I believe I have established that a relaxation of the confidence convention and freer voting has been the subject of study and positive recommendations of at least two parliamentary committees, many members of which are still sitting in the House today. As well we know of at least one other jurisdiction where what would be the results of my motion has been put into action with no dire consequences. Responsible government still prevails, political parties still exist-they have not been deemed obsolete-and most important of all, the public through its members in the House of Commons has some real influence over the policy making process.

I would like to address some of the criticisms that have been levied against relaxation of the confidence convention and freer voting in the House. It is argued that freer voting would have a negative effect on the future well-being of political parties. Political parties are vitally important to the system, especially at election time, for the development of policy and the support the leader can give individual candidates. Also between elections political parties can give tax receipts for contributions.

I cannot stress it enough; freer voting will not have a negative effect on either the continuance of political parties, nor on their ability to meld together various divergent viewpoints. Freer voting does not mean that on every issue members will be voting in unpredictable ways. As I stated in the beginning of my speech, on issues where the party platform is clear, members would be expected to support the party. It is in those other areas outside the platform where I believe freer voting should be allowed.

It is also argued that the government will be criticized for bringing legislation forward and then telling members that defeat of the measure will not be deemed to be a vote of non-confidence in the government. It will be argued that the government is wasting House time with proposed legislation that it does not care about.

I believe that instead of being criticized for such an attitude the government will be praised for allowing all elected members to take part in the policy influencing process. Too often governments have taken the House of Commons for granted, paying lip service to obtain support on critical votes and lapsing back into a dictatorial demeanour.

Another argument presented against freer voting is that if dissent is allowed the government will not be able to make tough decisions because members will duck making unpopular but necessary decisions. While the possibility of dissent may make it tougher for political parties to take potentially unpopular stands, it also presents a challenge, a challenge to inform the public of the necessity of an unpopular decision. It may also force political parties when they are developing an election platform to be as forward thinking as possible so most issues are covered in the party platform and there are no surprises for the public after the election.

Another point often made is that there are plenty of other avenues open to a member to show his or her displeasure with party leadership than voting against the party line in the House of Commons. While at first glance this may seem to be true, there are in reality few effective means available to members to express dissent.

For example, a private member's bill takes a very long time to become law under the best of circumstances. Question period, because the list is controlled by the party leadership, is a difficult time for a dissident government backbencher. Such a member may get to ask one tough question and that is it.

The criticisms regarding the relaxation of confidence convention and freer votes are simply not valid. What is valid is the need for the political courage necessary to start freer voting. Leadership on this issue must come from the government. Once this has been shown, opposition parties must agree to allow dissent so that all members are free to express views which may differ from those of their political party leadership. This will require a change in attitude and political courage. However if this results in more members playing a vital role in the influencing of public policy then dissent will have been worth the time spent to reduce party discipline.

I look forward to the debate on this motion and I urge all members to support it as it will send a clear message to Canadians that we are not afraid of the party leadership punishing us for exercising independent thoughts and actions, as has been done in the past. We want to play a meaningful role in influencing the formation of public policy which addresses the needs of all Canadians.

Non-Confidence MotionsPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Colleagues, because of the statements earlier, the private member's debate will last until 12.08 p.m.

I would ask all members to please refer to people who are still in this House by the names of their constituencies or titles rather than by their proper names.

Non-Confidence MotionsPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, after hearing the thoughtful address by the member for Mission-Coquitlam, I was unfortunately reminded of a recent movie entitled "Back to the Future".

The ideas of the Reform Party on the Constitution seem sadly out of date, as if they had been reading pre-1914 textbooks. Without any derogatory reference to the member for Mission-Coquitlam, I would rather have heard the other Jennings invoked. I refer to the Jennings whom you know, Mr. Speaker, and I know and who taught briefly at the University of British

Columbia before going on to greater fame in other arenas, Sir Ivor Jennings.

It is a fact that by the 1920s and the 1930s it had been recognized generally throughout the former British Empire and the British Commonwealth that the defeat of a government on a measure does not automatically warrant its resignation. It requires a qualitative judgment.

Indeed, to speed matters up I would remind the House that in the spring of 1968 when the government of the day, the Pearson government, was defeated by accident-the failure of some members to return in time from other places-it was not felt necessary for the government to resign.

I appeared on nation-wide television with the then NDP leader and others and we concluded that the precedents that Canada accepted at that stage did not require an automatic resignation.

In the 1979 episode when Prime Minister Clark was defeated, as it was said, by bad counting, his whip had failed I think to count up the numbers in government and opposition, Mr. Clark concluded that perhaps he should resign. He went to Government House. It is believed that the Governor General tried to suggest to him that the precedents did not require that particular course of action.

As we know, Mr. Clark's request for dissolution was not granted immediately. The Governor General suggested he return to Parliament and he phoned him later.

I am simply saying that the issue of confidence is not interpreted today in 19th century terms. It is a matter for a qualitative judgment. Here again I regret that the Reform Party has not paid enough attention to Canadian parliamentary practice.

The Prime Minister rightly reminded us in an address to the House of Commons on January 20 that the House is not a group of independents who have been elected on their own. We are dealing with a team. Law-making today is a sophisticated process of give and take, of exchange and discussion. It is a dialectical process of law in the making.

To cite only my own experience in the brief time that I have been a member, I receive the views of my constituents as a member. I communicate them to the members of my provincial group. We meet once a week. We meet also once a week in a regional caucus with members from all four western provinces. We meet again in a national caucus and we discuss. There is a give and take. There are the all-party committees. That is the reality of law in the making today, that members do not have to participate by simply voting yes and no. If they do that they are voting after the event.

The dynamic process of law-making today requires contributions, give and take discussion while measures are evolving. That is how one influences the law. I think that is how we have to undertake to interpret our role as members in a modern contemporary sense.

It is to say that constitutional law is in full evolution. There is a danger with the best of intentions that the member for Mission-Coquitlam has of attempting to legislate constitutional conventions. The life of constitutional conventions has not been logic. It has not been legislation. It has been experience. It is this and error testing process. The interesting thing about law making today is that all parties participate in the all-party committees. To cite only the two to which I belong, the members of the Reform Party have contributed significantly and constructively. I have welcomed that. I have seen the changes in measures that might otherwise have been drafted or put forward differently, and that is to be welcomed.

It is not a matter of saying that members do not represent their constituents or do not fully represent their constituents' views. Any member who does not do this has been neglecting his or her function today as a member to consult regularly with the constituents, to bring it back to the provincial caucus, to speak out in the regional caucus, to speak out in the national caucus, and to discuss it in the all-party committees.

That is the life of Parliament today. That is the reality of law making. It is not the way it was in 1914. It is not the way it was before the other Jennings wrote his beautiful works. These works have been studied in Canada and they are part of our practice.

I would welcome the Reform Party joining with us in moving forward into the future and recognizing the changes that have been made and not trying to legislate and therefore stultify and I think arrest a process already in creative evolution today.

Non-Confidence MotionsPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I feel that the private member's bill before us today could be one of the most important that we will have in this 35th Parliament.

I think that all of us recognize that there is something wrong with this place and that is the reason we have to re-examine the very structure of the way it operates.

First, we have to look at what people are saying. I believe that to simply put our heads in the sand and not listen is a disservice to those people. People have lost confidence in this place. They believe that they send their MPs and they get gobbled up down here. Sometimes we have referred to that as Ottawa fever or whatever we want to call it. It leads to a situation where we have messages being taken from Ottawa to the constituency with the reverse seldom ever occurring.

I think that the election results probably were a good indication of where that sort of thing occurred.

What about the MPs themselves? They come here and they follow the party line. There is little free thinking. Attendance drops off. Mr. Fisher, in speaking to our caucus prior to us coming here, put it very well when he said that most or a lot of MPs become good constituency people. Really that is giving them the benefit of the doubt that in fact they must be working in their constituency because they are certainly not working here.

We have to try and find the answer. Some say it is in committee work. For others, it is that they had better toe the party line or be kicked out. Freer votes, I believe, are a solution to at least part of this problem. This was recognized in the throne speech in 1991. It was said that freer votes were definitely a way to make this better.

The famous red book in 1993 suggested that MPs should be given a freer vote and count for more in committees and in the House. So it goes. Freer votes have been dealt with by many, many people but have not been instituted as yet.

Why have we come to this conclusion? Why do we feel this way? Maybe we can examine a little deeper some of the reasons. The first one might be in committee work itself. It is said, as I have said, that you can make a difference in committee work and that it does not have to be just that old party follow the line sort of thing.

I have seen discussions occur in committee work. In our committee we had a two-day seminar where we looked at the areas of interest to our committee. Members got a feel for where the members of Parliament on that committee really were at.

When it comes right down to it, it seems that we will go back to the organizational phases of the committee. Here we should have looked at things like merit. We should have looked at where they were from in the country and whether there was fair regional representation. We found that the party whip or his assistant came along and made the decision that Bloc members should be the vice-chair of every committee.

It did not matter whether we had representation from all parts of Canada or not. We have been looking at the estimates. The party position seems to come through loud and clear. I suppose when we do our reports, again we will have a party position or that of the chairman, vice-chairman and so on because of the majority situation.

Opposition members will be left to do little else than submit a minority report and one does not really know whether anyone looks at it or not. What does that do? It makes one wonder why one really works so hard on committees. Let us look at the House.

In the House we sit and listen. I know that members are aware of the excellent ideas, the good research and the good speeches that are given here by all parties. Does it really matter because we always come back to voting the party line? I suppose the best example that was brought out to me was when I moved an amendment to a motion to exclude the Senate from joint standing committees.

I felt that was something the electorate was saying about the other place. Most MPs feel that way about the other place. Again we voted the party line. Again we could not have a free vote. We could not say what we or the people of Canada thought. Instead, we thought about the spin doctors of party politics.

How can we develop a national pride and trust in politicians if we are always going by party line? How should we decide a vote? How should it really go on any bill? We should listen to the speeches. As I have mentioned, the quality is certainly there. In committees we should go into the depth of the issues, look at the details, the facts and the solutions. All members should then be made aware of what occurred. That would be how they get their information.

We must get the constituents involved. We must have town hall meetings from day one. We should have phone blitzes, TV shows and householders that are not simply political propaganda or what MPs feel is good material. It should really count for something. We should really be trying to inform the electorate.

I am really impressed with how the general public communicates with its members of Parliament. Those people have given some thought. They expect their member to vote their will, not simply the party line of thinking. Members can see why many politicians and many members of the public have lost faith in the system we have here.

The procedures of Parliament as I would see them then would result in a bill being introduced. It could be stated up front whether it is a confidence motion. The committees would report in detail on the bill. The members would speak and other members would come to listen. It would count for something. The members' speeches would have some meaning.

Members must have the opportunity to communicate with their constituents. Finally, when the vote occurred it could be passed, modified or defeated. That would not change or put any aspersions on the present government. In order to make this happen, we must re-educate a number of people.

We must re-educate members of the media. They cannot look on every defeat of a bill as being a defeat of the government. They must see the positive side of having all of that extra input.

The government must not think of things as being a defeat or a win or a lose situation. The opposition of course must not take advantage of the situation where a bill is defeated and hold that

over the government. Instead it must be looked on as a constructive measure for the good of the country.

The public must realize the MPs they elect really do have a say in what happens. Then they will be more careful in their selection of their MPs. They will make sure it is someone they can trust to represent them and not just the party position.

Freer votes will mean that MPs will express the views of their constituents better. It will take government right back to the people. Some of executive power will be moved out of cabinet hands to the true representatives in the House. It will allow for a much greater accountability of MPs because members will not point to a party line when voting against the wishes of their constituents. MPs should always be responsible to the wishes of their constituents.

We have greatly underestimated the ability of the electorate to get involved, become informed and thus participate in direct democracy. The more complex form of representative government got us into the $500 billion deficit and other serious problems we now have. Let us let freer direct democracy get us out of those problems.

Non-Confidence MotionsPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the House for giving me the opportunity to speak to motion M-89 of the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam. Right off the top I want to say I do not accept the position of the hon. member's party on confidence.

I would like to address the three points put forward by the hon. member, the first being relaxing the confidence convention, the second being history, and the third being the aspects of freer voting.

The first concerns relaxing the confidence convention. If there is one conclusion that can be drawn from 300 years of political thought it is that there is not one correct interpretation of confidence. Reform's view is that confidence need only be expressed in formal votes. I think this is a mistake in the thought process.

To quote the hon. member's remark to "feel free to vote with the government members from time to time", I assume she was speaking of the opposition. I asked the table clerk to provide me with the number of votes we have had since the beginning of this 35th Parliament. We have had 31 votes and not once from day one has anyone from that hon. member's party broken ranks.

Non-Confidence MotionsPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Non-Confidence MotionsPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

And some of them applaud. Well, congratulations to that party and the solidarity it shows behind its ideology and its ideas about how this country should act and look.

On the position of history, like my colleagues in this House I am privileged to serve my constituents. I am privileged to serve the constituents of Hamilton West. They know Stan Keyes. They know what he stands for. They know what he has no tolerance for. They know his deeply held beliefs, his deeply held convictions.

The hon. member opposite is sadly mistaken if she thinks I or anyone else on this side of the House can be blindly led. If I supported a government objective that went against any of my well known principles I would be laughed out of this office, out of this House, out of this job. I remind the member for Mission-Coquitlam that I was re-elected.

The third point was the issue of freer voting. Since the opening of the 35th Parliament Reform MPs have repeatedly called upon the government to accept the doctrine that "the government not consider the defeat of a government motion including a spending measure to constitute an expression of non-confidence in the government, unless it is immediately followed by the passage of a formal non-confidence motion".

This is directly related to the Reform Party's desire to see increased direct democracy within the Canadian federal system. Reform has long argued that direct democracy is manifested through citizens initiatives, binding referenda, a recall mechanism and free votes in the House of Commons. Let us look at that for a second.

This weekend the hon. member's party, the third party of this House, tried a little experiment in direct democracy. According to an Ottawa newspaper: "Reform leader Preston Manning learned democracy does not always go as planned when a majority of people watching a televised town hall meeting last night voted in favour of allowing doctor assisted suicides. To quote Mr. Manning, care has to be exercised in making a simplistic interpretation of the results".

Well what about the simplistic, shallow, minimal amount of time presented by both sides of that argument. It is very easy to get on national television to present arguments pro and con on any matter and then ask everyone on the basis of those arguments to phone in, if they can afford to have a touchtone phone and there are many Canadians who cannot. That process shuts out how many Canadians who either cannot afford to have a phone or have a dial phone so they cannot participate in that party's direct democracy. Then a decision is made based on those arguments by dialling whatever number for whatever decision a person wants to make, yes or no, right or wrong, pro or con.

How does one prevent the process of stacking in such a process? We know what stacking is. Some of us here in this House went through the abortion debate. Stacking means the ability of one organization to overcome the organization through organization. It is the ability to put the process together better than the other guy because maybe they have more money than the other guy. This is where the faultlines and cracks are in this party's ideas.

Is the decision that will be made by the caller on the particular weekend based on all the facts presented to them? Or has that decision been made as a result of what could be a very moving, a very powerful statement made by one individual over another?

We have heard some of the debate in this House. Some of the members have the most powerful arguments, the most powerful delivery. If we get into a passionate subject where life or death is involved we know what kind of arguments can be put forward. Because one is presented more passionately than the other, does that make that argument the right one and there can be no other conclusion but to vote for that particular person's point of view? "I will not even hear the other side. That guy was so good I am voting yes", or "I am voting no". It is a dangerous policy.

To secure freer votes Reform would release the government from demonstrating that it retains the confidence of the House except for those occasions when the House is asked to express itself on a formal confidence motion. Members in turn would be able to vote as they choose on any given issue secure in the knowledge they would not be subject to party discipline.

According to Reform these two practices would allow members to better represent their constituents, particularly when issues arise where constituents clearly indicate they do not support the member's party's position on that issue.

In the leader of the Reform Party's point of view when confronted with such a situation that member's choice is clear: "If push comes to shove in my view", says Mr. Manning, "the will of the constituents will prevail over my personal view or my party's view". Mr. Manning however then goes on to say: "I am not talking about turning members into a voting machine where all they do is go home on the weekend, count noses and come back here and stick up their hands. The relationship between a member and his constituents has to be one of dialogue".

Both the Prime Minister and our government House leader have indicated the government's desire to see more free votes in the House. What we have not done is to accept the Reform's interpretation of free votes. While not rejecting Reform's view completely, the Prime Minister and government House leader both have argued there are valid and longstanding reasons for the government to approach confidence from a more comprehensive perspective.

The Prime Minister for example has referred to the mandate given the House in the recent election: "This House is not a group of independents who have been elected on their own. We too are members of a party and we had a program. It is the red book and it will be implemented".

That is what we stand for here as a group. It is not the individual vote; it is the collective. It is the understanding of what we believe to be in the best interests of our constituents, of our riding, of our province, of our country. That is what we are doing here.

This motion cannot be allowed to undermine that Canadian democratic process. I am sure the people who elected me would not approve.

Non-Confidence MotionsPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, when talking about freer votes in this debate it is important to keep in mind the fact that when the pendulum swings it does not always have to swing to either extreme.

What we are looking for in this Parliament and the single factor that would probably distinguish this Parliament thus far from the last Parliament, is that there is a great deal more balance. The government has gone out of its way to try to provide that balance and provide input in government from opposition and from the Liberal backbenches as well.

I am reminded particularly of the opening days of this session. So many of us were brand new to this House. We were very nervous about what we were doing, myself included. We had the opportunity to engage in a couple of very important debates over quite a few days. It gave us the sense of belonging and participating and an opportunity to actually do something.

Here we are with this notion of freer votes. Before we talk about the mechanics of exactly what free votes or freer votes are, we should look at a couple of things. One would be our party's history in this House.

As the hon. member who spoke to this motion just a moment ago so rightly pointed out, it is somewhat paradoxical that we are talking about the need for freer votes yet since we have been in this House all of us have voted together.

Basically all of us voted together from all parties. That has to be because we were all elected on the particular platforms with the particular ideology we were promoting. It is only reasonable to assume we would follow through as our ideology was presented in Parliament and vote according to however it was we said we would when we were elected.

It is interesting also, in conversation with others who have been in this House much longer than I, that very often a vote when in opposition is opposed. The role of opposition is to oppose the government, to be a check and balance to government to try and ensure that government thinks through all of its policies.

This government has a very substantial majority and that substantial majority flows through to the committees. The essence of this place is that we as members of Parliament have the ability to try, as others have said before, to influence the way

government would think about its agenda. However, the reality is that the government agenda is the agenda that will come through this House.

What we are talking about is not to change things 100 per cent, but merely to create the atmosphere in which members feel free to exercise their own independent best judgment, not just in the House but in committee. Even more important is before it gets to committee, when it is still a germ of an idea in someone's head, when the formulation of policy is put together, before we get all the political capital organized in a particular mode of action so that if that course of action is changed in any way it becomes a vote of confidence in the government or in the person who initiated the action.

That is what has us in this position today as a nation. It does not matter whether all of us are 100 per cent right all of the time, because we are not. That is the beauty of this place. There are 295 members here and the collective judgment and wisdom of all of us here today is infinitely better than the individual wisdom of the smartest and most intelligent among us.

We find ourselves in a situation in which in this Parliament or in business if the leader happens to come up with an idea or says something that seemed like a good idea at the time we all scurry about trying to justify whatever the leadership or the leader or a particular person might have said, even if it is a slip of the tongue. God help us, we cannot in any way endanger this person by saying that if this person is not 100 per cent right all the time then perhaps this person does not have the ability to lead.

I am not suggesting that is true of any particular party. That is just as true in our party. We have to be careful and we have to guard against that. This is human nature. It happens in business, it happens in politics and it happens everywhere.

The real job of all of us is to question and to say to the leadership: "Do you really think that is what we should be doing? I know we started out on this and perhaps the bill is in second reading already, but do you not think it might be a good idea if we changed it?". I guess that is what we want, the flexibility, the wisdom and the freedom to change and learn as we go along.

Our experience here has been kind of fun because we have been talking about freer votes and when the votes come up members opposite watch to see who among us is going to be the first not to vote along the party line. We are looking forward to being the first not to vote along the party line because we know that sooner or later we are going to have to otherwise certain members are never going to give us peace. We are going to do it sooner or later somehow.

However, the reality is that we have to follow the principles that got us elected in the first place. We gain from experience. I am gaining from experience as we go along. I am certainly not shy to admit the fact that many of the preconceived ideas that I had about how this place worked I have changed since I arrived here. I see how this place works and I am learning every day, as we all are.

I would like to conclude my comments by quoting someone I think is of particular value to this House and whom we might all keep in mind as we go into the future. There are two people whose names are brought up many times in this House. One is the famous Edmund Burke. In Edmund Burke's letter to the electors of Bristol he pretty much debunks the whole notion of representative democracy. He was in support of delegate democracy through which once every election the electors decide who they are going to vote for and they vote for that person and for better or worse that person ends up in Parliament and they get their next crack at him four years hence.

Members opposite would know that this famous letter to the electors of Bristol was written in 1776 or thereabouts and had to do with the treatment of the British patriots, the sailors who were called pirates. They were captured, taken to England and held there for three years, given a fair trial and hanged. He did not think that was a good idea and said so. His electors thought it was a good idea and they said so. He wrote the letter to the electors of Bristol saying: "You not only have my body, you have my mind. If you do not like what I am doing turf me at the end of my term".

Interestingly, they did turf him at the end of that term and he went on to be re-elected in a rotten borough.

The other person, a contemporary of his, was Thomas Paine. Thomas Paine was the adviser to Thomas Jefferson and helped to frame the famous Declaration of Independence. He wrote in his work The Rights of Man that the greatest tyranny of all is the tyranny of the presumption of ruling beyond the grave, and that each generation has the right and the responsibility to govern for its times and should not bind any future generation to its decisions any more than this generation should be bound by decisions made by past generations.

I would ask that as this debate unfolds we consider that our generation and this Parliament are setting the foundation upon which future parliaments will base decisions. If we can relax the rules of discipline it would be for the benefit of all Parliament and all parliamentarians and we need not be concerned about going all in one direction or another.

Non-Confidence MotionsPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

St. Boniface Manitoba


Ronald J. Duhamel LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I have two minutes so I shall try to be very effective.

I believe that the motion is well intentioned but it does contain a number of flaws. As a result of that I cannot possibly support it.

Let me raise a few of those points because this does raise some very important questions. For example, in one of the comments there was a statement that the government's agenda is coming through. Of course the government's agenda is coming through. It must, it has a majority, it has a moral responsibility for making absolutely sure that what it says it will do and the way it interprets that will be carried out.

There is a suggestion that direct democracy is important and I think most of us would agree that it is. We must make awfully certain that direct democracy does not replace the judgments that we have to make as duly elected members of Parliament.

One can see the danger. For example, the opposition party that brought forward this motion had direct involvement recently, last night, on direct democracy. The leader said that perhaps he would support this and needs to check this out to make sure it is not flawed. That is another flaw.

The other thing is when we start changing something like a budget we know that if we change one part there are repercussions for other parts. We simply cannot unravel one little part without considering the implications for the other.

I may have time for a final point. I am a little worried that this could lead to ransom by a minority group.

Non-Confidence MotionsPrivate Members' Business

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business is now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the motion drops to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should:

(a) amend the Official Languages Act to reflect the philosophy of "territorial bilingualism", which holds that French should be the predominant language of Quebec and English the predominant language of the other provinces, and that federal government services should be available to official language minorities in their own language in any part of the country where there is demonstrable local public demand;

(b) continue to facilitate the use of English or French in the debates and other proceedings of Parliament, in the records and journals of Parliament, in federal courts, and as the languages of federal legislation; and

(c) refrain from expending monies on those aspects of language which fall under the sole jurisdiction of the provinces.

Mr. Speaker, in making this motion, before we get started I would really like to get the attention of everyone whose minds are already made up.

There will be a lot of automation out there saying if a Reformer is getting up and talking on the Official Languages Act it has to be bad. The Official Languages Act is not working well. Whether one favours it and carte blanche says it has to be good or whether one says maybe it really should be changed, please give a listen to what we are going to say here. Do not prejudge it. Let us go along with the lines of what is good for Canada and what is good for Canadians.

My basic premise here today is that the Official Languages Act has not been working well. It is divisive for us as a country and it is too expensive. It is not just this member for Nanaimo-Cowichan saying so, each and every commissioner has had problems with it. So has the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. So have people across the country. So has the Bloc Quebecois and so have les gens de Québec, ainsi que les gens de la Colombie-Britannique. We have all had problems with it. What are we going to do about it?

Listen to the debate this afternoon and as you are doing so I ask you to please put your own minds in gear and ask how we can do it better.

Let us go back in history and I hope to paint you the picture-

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Would the hon. member please put his comments to the Chair. Please try not to use the word "you".

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will try mightily to do that.

Let us collectively look at history and ask how we can improve things. In 1608 New France was founded by Champlain. In 1752 Acadia was conquered by the British and therein was the first and most horrid example of linguistic intolerance. As soon as the Brits conquered Acadia they kicked out all the Acadians. They said: "We do not need your language. We do not need you-out". That is the worse case we have had. Maybe in one sense historically we have improved things, at least from that point.

In 1759 New France was conquered. By the standards of that day, the Brits really made some improvement. They said: "Fine, there will be a tolerance not only of the French language but of the religion". Let us remember in historical perspective that religion has been part of the language equation.

Moving on to 1774, we had the Quebec Act which confirmed the rights of French-speaking people and catholics. In 1791 we had the constitutional act which created a legislature for Lower Canada. Because French became the language of legislation, francophones essentially became politically active for the first time.

Between 1820 and 1840 we started to have problems again. The rapidly rising English-speaking minority worried the French dominated assembly in Lower Canada. As a result, they adopted a series of intolerant laws regarding the districts and the eastern townships, denied them representation and invoked a head tax on immigrants from Britain.

Between 1837 and 1838 we had real problems, including a bit of open rebellion and almost warfare. It is important to note that from 1840 to 1880, as the proportion of English speaking and French speaking people balanced, people felt a little more secure. Things quietened down nicely in those 40 years up to 1880.

It allowed the British North America Act to be passed in 1867. So quiet were things that the BNA Act was hardly mentioned at all. People were comfortable with it. It did of course guarantee in section 133 that both languages would be used in Parliament, the Quebec legislature and in laws.

I am trying to paint a picture of the see-saw of what has been happening in Canada and the emotions that went with it. From 1880 to 1920, the proportion of French speaking people in Canada and catholics-we might as well put in-started to rise thus sparking fears in English Canada and among the protestants that their status would be reduced to a minority position.

As a result, one province after another adopted laws that were restrictive of the educational rights of francophones and catholics; New Brunswick in 1871, P.E.I. in 1874, Manitoba in 1890 and again in 1916 and Ontario in 1912. Here we can speak with shame. Regulation 17 in 1912 was the most restrictive educational law in Canadian history. It made it unlawful for any francophone child to be educated in his own language beyond grade three. That is bad news but it illustrates that pendulum swing.

Where were we after that? From 1920 to 1960, once again that stability was achieved. There was stability in the language environment. What did we see in Quebec in 1963? We saw rising nationalism. All right? There is going to be a reaction to that. Lester Pearson therefore established the royal commission on bilingualism, the B and B commission. It filed six volumes up until the year 1971.

That commission endorsed territorial bilingualism which I will address in detail in a few minutes. Territorial bilingualism is really a compromise between the territorial principle and the personality principle. Incidentally the findings of that commission were essentially compatible with Reform principles as we espouse them officially today.

The spirit of thought of that commission is in this quote: "A bilingual country is not one where all inhabitants necessarily have to speak two languages. Rather it is a country where all principal public and private institutions must provide service in two languages to citizens, the majority of whom may very well be unilingual". Think on that. It is not bad.

In 1969 the first Official Languages Act was passed. That is what we are critiquing today. Twenty-five years later there is unhappiness with it.

This Official Languages Act favours the personality principle in which individual minority language rights are to be extended as widely as is politically feasible with the result that onerous obligation to respect these rights are placed on the majority populations and, of course, particularly on taxpayers.

It is clear that in passing that act Pierre Trudeau did what he believed to be a just and generous gesture. He repeatedly states that the law's goals of justice and national unity are inseparable. One can understand that. But Trudeau's technocratic view of society is also built into the act, one of its key features being the creation of a supreme language bureaucrat, the Commissioner of Official Languages. That was 1969.

In 1972 Quebec, fearful that its French language was in decline, said it had better pass a law. That was bill 22, the Official Language Act for Quebec.

In 1977 the Levesque government passed bill 101. These are now getting to be famous or infamous in this country, bill 22 and bill 101.

We go from there to 1982. This is a very important date as well in that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gave recourse to those offended by bill 22 and bill 101 and allowed them to appeal the injustice, shall we call it that, of the Quebec legislation.

In 1988, finally the Mulroney government rescinded the old Official Languages Act and introduced a new one, the current one, which somewhat extends the scope of official bilingualism and in fact perhaps to too great a degree.

I would like now to define territorial bilingualism because this is really what we are talking about here. It is a compromise position between the legitimate desires and concerns of linguistic minorities and the legitimate concerns of linguistic majorities. It is one of four distinct and clearly articulated philosophies designed to bring justice to the matter of language policy.

These policies are, first, the personality principle. This is really the one championed by Pierre Trudeau. He believed that the key to a just system is that all individuals wherever they might be located in the country have the right to communicate and receive services from the government in their preferred official language. That is what we are trying to put in place in Canada today. We say it is not working and cannot be afforded.

The next principle is the territorial principle which should not be confused with territorial bilingualism which we will come to.

The territorial principle holds that language rights should be territorial and non-portable in nature. In the case of Canada it means that everyone living in Quebec should be expected to live and work in French and everyone in the other nine provinces should be expected to live and work in English.

This principle has been successfully implemented in Switzerland but it will not work in Canada because our minority populations in Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario are so much larger than in Switzerland.

Next we hit territorial bilingualism, not the territorial principle but territorial bilingualism. As I said, it was first proposed by the royal commission on B and B, since adopted by the Reform Party. It is essentially a compromise between the extremes of territorial and personality principles.

Under this model, language rights and minority language services would be extended only to those minorities large enough to survive over the long term. Smaller minorities would not receive full rights on the basis that the burden imposed on the majority population, which has to foot the bill for all of this, outweighs the benefit being received by the minority.

This model has been successfully employed in Finland in dealing with its Swedish-speaking minority. If practised in Canada the model would extend full minority language rights to the large francophone communities in eastern and northeastern Ontario, to the Acadians of New Brunswick, as well as to the anglophone community of west end Montreal. The rest of the country would be unilingual.

The fourth principle or style of language policy is what we might call asymmetrical bilingualism advocated by the Bloc Quebecois which calls for full and generous language rights to be extended to francophones living outside Quebec and very few rights to be extended to anglophones living inside Quebec.

The logic of this asymmetry is that French is in danger of extinction in Canada and can only survive on an equal footing with English if it receives preferential legal treatment. Most English Canadians find it unbelievable that someone would actually advocate such a position. Nonetheless, it is genuinely believed by many to be the only true and just language policy.

There we are. We have a situation that has hurt Canada and that we must collectively address. I leave it to this House to listen closely to the ensuing speakers. Be critical of yourselves, be critical of us, but at the same time be positive. What can we do to be just and furnish proper services to everyone across the country where the numbers warrant? Where numbers warrant is a little buzz phrase that is fought with difficulty. I think on that one we have to get down to brass tacks and put numbers on it and say: "This is where the numbers warrant and this is what we can afford or we cannot afford".

We must address all those points. I would ask the House to think in positive terms as we go through the speeches that follow. We must think about our history which I have gone to some length to expand. It really has been a back and a forth. One group gets stronger and the other group gets afraid and starts putting in restrictive legislation. This is not good news. Let us try and balance it out and be together.

That is all, Mr. Speaker. I would ask everyone, you and others, to consider seriously the adoption of this motion to amend the official languages to reflect the philosophy of territorial bilingualism.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Eugène Bellemare Liberal Carleton—Gloucester, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to comment on this motion. I have met the hon. member for Nanaimo-Cowichan and I have always found him to be a reasonable person, that is until today.

Today, I find the hon. member for Nanaimo-Cowichan to be far from reasonable. I feel great disdain for someone who seems to want to destroy our country, or distort its long history.

As a fourth generation Franco-Ontarian and as a member of a minority, I find the Reform member's comments abhorrent. To him, language is a financial question, or at least that is what he claims. He seems to be suggesting that majority groups should trample on minorities. He speaks of the French language in Quebec and of the English language everywhere else.

What can francophones outside Quebec aspire to? How can they live in our country, a country that Mr. Ringma, or his parents, probably adopted some time ago? How can they live here? How should I respond to a Reform member's surreptitious attack on my language, considering that the Bellemare family has been in this country since the 17th or 18th century and that my ancestors fought first for France, and later for Great Britain, and defended Canadian institutions of British origin? French-speaking Canadians fought in both world wars. They fought against the United States to protect their country. We want to be a part of Canada, but the Reform member feels that we are not entitled to belong, unless we agree to be assimilated and become, as in my case, an anglophone.

The hon. member spoke of generosity. Does he really understand the meaning of the word? Does he really know what he is talking about when he speaks of education within and outside Quebec? Does he truly understand this country? He compares Canada to Switzerland and Belgium. Again, does he really understand our country?

Since I will be speaking on this issue a little later, I will conclude by saying that the Reform member should not have worn a dark suit to address this House today, but rather a white sheet.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find that really sad. It is damn sad. Right at the beginning, I tried to explain it to people, but they have to listen. I said what we are proposing. Obviously, some members did not listen at all and then they attack me, saying that I want to destroy Canada. That is an insult. I must also say that it is awful, what they are saying to the effect that I am attacking the French language. That is false.

I challenge you, Mr. Speaker, and those who did not hear what I said to find those words. When you read Hansard tomorrow, or even the blues this afternoon, you will see that we are making an effort to keep Canada united, to preserve the rights of francophones and the rights of anglophones in Quebec. We want everyone to keep their rights, but we do not want it to cost us too much.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Jean Landry Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question. How do members of the Reform Party explain the economic decline of francophones outside Quebec and what policy do they propose to reduce the gap?

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is very hard for me to explain why francophones' standard of living is falling; I am not an economist and I do not know the reason. It is all a question of money.

Perhaps it is because our economy is in decline and in a very precarious situation now. Foreign governments look at the situation in Canada and think that there is probably a problem between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Also, Quebec is considered to be too hard on anglophones. A lot of money is going out now, the economy is suffering and Quebec too, I suppose.

That is all I can give as an explanation for that question.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very closely to the hon. member and I am afraid what he proposed is not very clear.

If I understand correctly he rejected a territorial language policy which would have all of Quebec French and the rest of the provinces all English. He seemed to propose a territorial bilingualism in which he said he would accept the extension of the provisions of the Official Languages Act to the minorities in eastern and northern Ontario, into northeastern New Brunswick and into the west island of Montreal and that there would be unilingualism for the rest of the country.

If I understood him correctly, he was rejecting official bilingualism for any part of the west, including Manitoba. He was rejecting it for the eastern townships where I lived as a child in Sherbrooke and have roots. He was rejecting it for the Gaspé. He was rejecting it for the Outaouais, Aylmer and Papineau county and so on. Is this what I understand?

If that is what he is proposing, it is not as bad as the territorialism which would have all the provinces English except Quebec, but it approaches that. I want to be absolutely clear in what he is proposing. "Where numbers warrant" seem to be exceptionally large "warrants", leaving out francophone minorities in different parts of the country and anglophone minorities in Quebec where they have had long historical roots. I think particularly of the Gaspé and the eastern townships.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address the question which is a very legitimate one.

The examples I used were just that. They were examples and were not meant to throw away the St. Boniface area of Winnipeg or the Gaspé or Aylmer or anything of the sort. It was illustrative of the sort of the territorial bilingualism that we should discuss in detail.

The critical matter, and the hon. member mentioned it, is the phrase "where numbers warrant". That is what is in the act today and that is the matter that is giving us such problems. For example we could adopt the policy of the Canadian Association of Municipalities which puts a number on it. It says either 10 per cent or 5 per cent and one can go from there. If the phrase "where numbers warrant" is inadequate, let us put numbers on it and let us collectively agree where we will provide minority language rights.