That this House strongly affirm and support the desire of Canadians to remain federally united as one people, committed to strengthening our economy, balancing the budgets of our governments, sustaining our social services, conserving our environment, preserving our cultural heritage and diversity, protecting our lives and property, further democratizing our institutions and decision making processes, affirming the equality and uniqueness of all our citizens and provinces, and building peaceful and productive relations with other peoples of the world.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to this motion which addresses the issue of Canadian unity from a positive and federalist perspective.
The motion has two parts: an affirmation and a description. The first part simply calls for the House to strongly affirm and support the desire of Canadians to remain federally united as one people. Surely this is a proposition which every federalist in the House can and should support.
The second portion of the motion is a brief, shorthand description of what Reformers believe should be some of the distinguishing characteristics of that federal union as we move into the 21st century. It is a shorthand description of a new Canada which our members will expand on in the course of the debate.
Please note that there is nothing negative in the motion. The motion does not criticize the government so that government members cannot and should not regard it as a confidence motion. Nor does the motion contain any implicit threat to Quebecers who for whatever reason may have given up on federalism.
The motion is simply a positive affirmation of the desire of the vast majority of Canadians to remain federally united and a shorthand description of some of the characteristics which can and should distinguish such a union in the future. The motion is worded generously enough and is of such positive intent that a majority of the members of the House can and should support it.
Why do we present the motion to the House? It is because we perceive a growing vacuum on the national unity issue, a leadership vacuum. If it is not filled with a positive vision of federalism and a reasoned response to the separatist challenge, the danger is that it will be filled with constitutional delusions and incomplete or inflammatory responses to the separatist challenge. That will harm Canada and every province and territory of Canada.
The past month has provided ample evidence of the existence of this vacuum and some of the delusions and inflammations which it encourages. It is said that nature abhors a vacuum and so should Parliament. Reformers offer this motion and a list of questions which we will be forwarding to the Prime Minister later this week as our contribution toward filling this vacuum with something more constructive and forward looking.
The Reform Party was originally created and is presently supported by discontented federalists.
We are discontented federalists.
We got our start in the west and have gradually increased our support across the country by appealing, for example, to people who are appalled at how the federal government spends money and accumulates debt. Our supporters are for the most part people who reject constitutional models or public policies based on alleged partnerships between racial and linguistic groups and who long for constitutional arrangements based on the equality of all citizens and provinces.
Our supporters are for the most part people who deplore the lack of effective, regional representation in Ottawa and the unwillingness of the traditional federal parties even to consider, let alone embrace, such democratic reforms as genuine free votes, citizens' referendums and initiatives or recall.
This is just a partial list of the dissatisfactions of Reform supporters and hundreds of thousands of Canadians with status quo federalism. We can therefore identify with other Canadians, including Quebecers, who have also become dissatisfied or disillusioned with that status quo federalism.
This brings me to the major point of difference between ourselves and the Bloc. Rather than reject federalism or the concept of a federal union of all Canadians, we are committed to reforming federalism and overcoming the systemic problems, chronic overspending, inequitable constitutional arrangements,
top down decision making and policy making, the things that have brought status quo federalism into disrepute.
We have weighed both status quo federalism and separatism in the balance and have found both wanting. This has driven us to seek for a vision of a new and better federal union of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, we have evaluated separatism and the existing federal system and we believe that both of these formulas are imperfect. This examination has prompted us to seek a new and improved federal union for Canadian citizens.
There are two ways to bring into being a new and better vision of a new Canada as a federal state. One is to assemble the first ministers in federal-provincial conferences attended and advised by various academic and interest group elites to focus exclusively on amending the Constitution. This was the approach taken in creating the 1982 Constitution, the Meech Lake accord and the Charlottetown accord. It failed to produce a vision or a form of federalism capable of inspiring a deeper commitment on the part of Canadians to the federal union.
The other approach is to go to hundreds of meetings, big ones, small ones, quiet ones, noisy ones, with the rank and file citizens of the country and to ask these simple questions: "What kind of country do you want to live in as we approach the 21st century? What kind of country do you want your children to live in? What do you want the distinguishing characteristics of that new and better Canada to be?"
Reformers have done this over the last five years, mainly in the west and parts of Ontario. We intend to continue to do this in the west, throughout Ontario, in Quebec, the north and Atlantic Canada. We have found that if we ask these questions and listen carefully to the responses Canadians will share their fears, their dreams and their aspirations with us. If we ask them they will answer.
In the dreams and aspirations of individual Canadians and groups of Canadians we will find the substance, the raw material from which to create a composite picture of a new and better Canada of the 21st century.
We have developed shorthand phrases to refer to the distinguishing characteristics of this new Canada, some of which are summarized in our motion. For example, there is the simple phrase "strengthening the economy". In the context of the 21st century this means establishing a truly internationally competitive economy, knowledge based, service oriented, environmentally sustainable, capable of providing good jobs and good incomes for all our citizens.
To get to that destination the new economy of the 21st century requires the implementation of certain public policies: fiscal policies to lower the cost of government, tax policies to pass on the benefits of this reduced cost to taxpayers and encourage job creation, trade policies to eliminate barriers to trade including internal barriers to trade, educational and training policies to produce an internationally competitive workforce.
To get to that destination the new economy of the 21st century may also require constitutional changing: a constitutional requirement to balance government budgets, a strengthening of the federal commerce power and a new division of responsibilities on education and training.
Defining and getting to that new economy of the new Canada is far more than a constitutional exercise but it may have constitutional aspects which cannot be ignored. In this resolution we have used simple phrases like "strenghthening our economy " as a heading. The words of the heading may seem trite and familiar but if one understands each of these shorthand phrases to be the tip of an iceberg beneath which lie all the public policies, private initiatives and constitutional changes required to actually bring into being a 21st century economy, then each phrase can be made to stand for something substantive and to fully describe a distinguishing characteristic of a new Canada.
Some will ask what this approach to defining a new Canada offers to Quebecers. The short answer to the question is that it offers Quebecers the same benefits it offers every other Canadian, including the freedom to develop and preserve cultural distinctiveness.
In short, the answer to that question is that this approach offers Quebecers the same advantages as all other Canadian citizens, including the freedom to promote and protect their cultural distinctiveness.
This approach offers to Quebecers as well as to all other Canadians the new jobs of the new economy, jobs which are more likely to be created and maintained if our bargaining agent in the new free trade world represents a market of 28 million people rather than 8 million.
This approach offers to Quebecers as well as to other Canadians tax relief, not the additional tax bills that will come from establishing a sovereignist government with national obligations, obligations to Canada, and new international obligations as well.
This approach offers to Quebecers as well as to all other Canadians financially sustainable social services. Properly designed social insurance plans which spread the risks over a
larger population and a larger financial base are more secure than those resting on smaller populations or economic bases.
The Reform approach to a new Canada also recognizes that Quebecers as well as other Canadians want to be treated equally under the law and to be free to preserve their cultural and linguistic heritage. When we ask Canadians they say they want both equality and freedom to preserve cultural diversity.
The problem in the country is not getting support for these objectives. The challenge is to reconcile them and to provide for the attainment of both within a single state. The approach recommended by Reformers is a two-pronged approach. First, in Canada's basic constitutional arrangements we should explicitly recognize the principle of the equality of the provinces and all citizens.
Federalists should be encouraged in this regard that the year end Decima-Maclean's poll taken immediately after the defeat of the Charlottetown accord showed for the first time that an absolute majority of Canadians in every province, including Quebec, support the equal provinces constitutional model over the founding racial groups model.
Second, in Canada's constitutional division of powers and in public policies flowing from that division of powers, we should make the preservation of cultural and linguistic distinctiveness a personal, private and provincial responsibility. The role of the federal government in such matters should be confined to the prevention of discrimination on the basis of cultural or linguistic grounds.
I have only scratched the surface of developing a fresh vigorous vision of a new and better Canada. My colleagues will expand on this vision. We look forward to the contributions of other members. My main purpose is to illustrate the process whereby Canada, the whole great sea to sea to sea federal union, can renew itself. We start by asking the people where they would like to go. We listen carefully. We construct public policies to move the nation in that direction. We offer more than the status quo. If our policies require constitutional changes, we seek those as well but only at the end of the process and not at the beginning.
This is what Reformers have endeavoured to do over the last five years on a limited scale as an extraparliamentary party. Now as a party with strong parliamentary representation and greater resources we are in a position to do more to pursue this vision of a new Canada and to establish a rallying point for those Canadians who wish Canada to remain federally united.
We shall do three more things to advance the cause of federalism in the months ahead. First, we are striking a new Canada task force within our party to further refine and flesh out this vision of a new Canada. This task force will include members of our caucus. It will seek additional input from people in parts of the country where we are not well represented. It will initiate a major teledemocracy effort on this subject in the early fall.
Second, we are establishing a contingency planning group to prepare a reasoned, principled, federalist response to all those troubling questions and issues which the threat of Quebec secession raises for Canada. A list of the questions which this group will address will be released this week and the terms of reference of this contingency planning group will be established before the end of June.
Third, we will bring together the results of this work, a fuller and more complete vision statement of a new Canada and a reasoned, principled federalist response to the issues raised by separatism for presentation to the country at our national assembly here in Ottawa on October 14 to October 16.
This is what Reformers are doing to fill the national unity vacuum with a positive vision of the future and a reasoned, principled federalist response to the threat of separation. Our question to the government is: What is it going to do more than defending the status quo to fill the national unity vacuum over the next three months?
During the last few days our Prime Minister has been visiting Normandy as we and other nations remember and honour D-Day in Europe. That event still speaks to us and to people around the world. It declares that there are certain ideals and concerns for which men and women are prepared to die. If leaders and legislators can discern and articulate those ideals and concerns for their generation, they can give that generation a vision worth living for and worth striving for.
The wartime leaders of the western democracies in the 20th century, Borden, King, Churchill, Wilson and Roosevelt, all understood this. One of them put this into words to this effect. He said: "Mothers who had lost their sons in France have come to me and have taken my hand and have said `God bless you'. I advised the course of action which led to the deaths of their sons. Why then, my fellow citizens, should they pray God to bless me? Because they believed", and listen to the words, "for something that vastly transcended any of the immediate or palpable objects of the war".
There are certain things such as freedom, security, equality, heritage, unity, democracy and home which vastly transcend the immediate and palpable objects of public policy and our daily routines. These are the things that people are in the final analysis prepared to die for and should therefore be prepared to live for and to strive for.
The Canadians who landed in Normandy were not fighting for the preservation of the status quo or for a hyphenated Canadianism or for the right to secede. They were fighting for ideals which vastly transcend and yet were rooted in their personal beliefs and hopes.
If our Prime Minister could return home with a fresh vision of those ideals that vastly transcend for contemporary Canadians and if Parliament could help him link that vision to the practical hopes and dreams of Canadians in every corner of the land then the House would have done its part to provide a rallying point for federalism which is the spirit and the substance of this resolution.