House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to rise to speak to the motion by the hon. member for Calgary Southwest that we affirm our desire for unity as a federal state. Specifically I would like to address the clause of the motion that we affirm the equality and uniqueness of all our citizens and provinces.

The equality of citizens is at the heart of a fundamental principle of democracy and one that I put to members we have drifted from in recent years, at least some would say the elite have drifted from as a country toward a concept called group rights.

In the Charlottetown accord we had this concept becoming more and more a proposal to entrench that kind of concept in our Constitution, where rights of citizens are determined not regardless of race, language, culture or gender but because of them. This commentary, this observation is not simply my own. The former leader of the Liberal Party, Mr. Trudeau, noticed this during that period when he talked about the hierarchy of rights embedded in the accord.

What this trend toward group rights has done, in our view, is not just detract from the fundamental principle of the individual and the individual's rights within the collectivity but has also had the effect, in our view, of a loss of our greater sense of collective identity as a nation.

I would reflect on Andrew Coyne's editorial yesterday in the Globe and Mail where he noted that group rights and its linkage to comprehensive philosophy of political victimology had led us to see ourselves increasingly as a nation of victim groups and ultimately as a victim nation, one without identity or power.

As Reformers we propose that we get back to the roots of liberal democracy, that we reaffirm the principles of democracy in a modern age and manifest political equality through institutional reform. Specifically we advocate free votes for the people's representatives in the Parliament of Canada, direct democracy among the population at large, introducing in the modern age with our educated populations mechanisms of referendum, initiative and recall, and even in the area of constitutional change, mechanisms like constitutional conventions and popular ratification.

The equality of citizens does not preclude the uniqueness of citizens. We hear objections whenever we raise this point. We recognize there are all kinds of communal and individual identities within the country. We are suggesting the Government of Canada should concentrate its efforts on the responsibility for the promotion of our collective identity as a nation rather than the focus it has had in the past generation on things like official multiculturalism or the promotion of Canada as a federation of two founding peoples: the English and the French.

In our view we should be going toward more race, culture, language neutral concepts of our nationhood. Defining a country as a union of founding peoples, English and French, in this day and age is to Reformers as ridiculous as it would be to define it as a nation of two founding religions: the Protestants and the Catholics.

I would also like to speak about the equality of provinces, the second portion of that clause. This refers, in our view, to what is a fundamental principle of a federation. The fact that we are a federation of provinces was clearly recognized in the 1867 Confederation constitution and quite properly so since it superseded the disastrous binational unitary state of 1841 to 1867. In Canada we have not always lived up to the concept of equality of provinces. My province of Alberta and the prairie provinces generally were deliberately created as inferior political units after Confederation, an error that was not corrected for decades.

At all times, because of the way our parliamentary system unfolded, small provinces have found themselves at the federal level subjected to the domination of the central provinces of Ontario and Quebec through the systematic skew of power in the House of Commons and the decline of the Senate as an effective political institution.

Later all provinces, even the large provinces, have found problems in the federation as an increasingly unbalanced federal spending power has been able to override clear areas of provincial jurisdiction. This breakdown of division of powers has occurred for both the federal and provincial governments.

We propose as Reformers to reaffirm our commitment to provincial equality through institutional reform and also through re-establishing a balanced division of powers in the federation. I have spoken many times in the House of our hope to reform the Senate based on the triple-E model, to restore the Senate as an effective second Chamber through electing senators and providing equal representation to the provinces. In other words, we want a Senate that is the kind of effective regional Chamber that the Fathers of Confederation had intended so that in the Parliament of Canada federal law-making is more than a simple domination of small provinces by large provinces.

This concern for regional representation is not only a matter for small provinces; it is also a concern for small regions in large provinces like British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec as well. Indeed, we hope to have a provision in a reformed Senate for regional representation within large provinces, for example, for the Gaspé and the North Shore in Quebec or for northern Ontario.

Of course, when we speak of the equality of provinces in this motion, we also speak of their uniqueness. Our critics will say, "Of course you just want to see Quebec as a province like the others." Of course not. Equality does not mean identity. The federal principle does not mean that the provinces are identical; it means that they share certain values and policies, for example, the economic criteria mentioned in the motion, but the federal principle also means that provinces have their distinct character and uniqueness through the division of powers in a federal state. Canada's uniqueness includes, for example, such things as the cultural realities in the province of Quebec, language, of course, and certain geographical realities such as natural resources in the western provinces. In a federal state, these things should be in provincial jurisdiction and the division of power should be respected in a developed federal state.

In conclusion, I have spoken in the context both of equality and uniqueness of provinces, of many things that are in Canada today and also things we would like to see changed. Some of the

changes I have mentioned are mere policy matters. Others would be more serious constitutional changes at some point.

I remind all members, in conclusion, that all serious constitutional change, all constitutional change, anything that would significantly change in our federation the status of any citizen or any province requires respect for democracy, for the Constitution and for the rule of law. It is not compatible with unilateral or illegal actions. I expect that as we debate our future in the next few months that the expectation of all Canadians will be that we continue to function in the context of a constitutional democracy and we will all respect the rule of law.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Jane Stewart Liberal Brant, ON

Madam Speaker, I just have to say how baffled I am by the fact that this motion is being presented on the floor of the House today.

My goodness, over the course of the election campaign that we just fought the only thing I agreed with the Reform opposition was the fact that the Canadian people are tired of discussions about unity and the Constitution. Yet here in the House the Reform Party presents the motion to us.

More and more I am aware of confusion. I hear the Reform Party saying: "We are against the process, the top down approach that this government is taking". Yet as we take the approach of reviewing our social safety net that is inclusive of Canadian people, that encourages them to come and debate with us, they say: "That is not good enough. We want strong and firm action. The government must take action in this regard". I do not understand the difference.

In his speech the hon. member talked about the difficulties we face with approaching group dynamics and looking at people as groups. Yet in their motion, the Reform members talk about diversity. To me diversity means understanding individual differences, talking about those differences and knowing that by encouraging parts and bringing them together as a sum we get far greater results in the whole.

I am very confused by the motion. The hon. leader of the third party talks about a new Canada. My God, what is wrong with the Canada that has grown and developed over the last 127 years, a Canada of compassion and generosity?

The member talks about debt and deficit. I thought the member had seen the light, had seen that there are important additions to governing a country, not only the importance of debt and deficit management but the importance of issues that face individual Canadians as human beings. I thought he had seen that light. Yet we go back to that same old conversation. I am confused, totally confused.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I would agree strongly with the hon. member that she is confused. In fact she is so confused that I was barely able to understand the last half of that intervention.

However I will comment on the initial point which I think was important, and that is the issue of constitutional change and when and how we should pursue it.

Our party did say during the election campaign, as did the government, that Canadians were not interested in discussions of comprehensive constitutional change at this time. I would certainly agree with that. I think our priorities should be elsewhere.

Unfortunately we have to face the reality we have here. We have a party in the House which day after day is talking about the most dramatic and wide-ranging constitutional changes possible and that is the disintegration, separation, division, redivision of the federal state into two completely separate states, one which would presumably be a unitary state in Quebec and the other which as yet is undefined.

We hear this daily. We are heading into an election in Quebec where this will be an issue. Of course the separatists do not want to describe this as constitutional change because they realize it would immediately raise in the minds of the population of Quebec all the complexities and difficulties that are involved in that. The fact is that Quebecers are going to be asked very shortly to discuss constitutional change once again and to discuss it in the context of all the problems that exist with federalism.

We recognize those problems are there. We advocate some solutions to them. I am merely pointing out in my statement that we do have some constitutional perspectives here. We also have some things we would like to change about the country that can be pursued outside the constitutional framework.

The whole purpose of the motion while obviously not entering into constitutional negotiations is to raise the fact that there are alternative constitutional perspectives, including reforming ones, that do not require the kind of upheaval that separatism would entail.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Madam Speaker, in Canada, indeed around the world, the common element that joins all human beings is that of our environment. We cannot avoid consuming air and water as we sustain our lives. All elements of our environment impact positively or negatively on these two essential ingredients of life.

As I travel throughout my constituency, the people who are most interested in the issue of the environment are young people. Going from school to school I can count on the fact that

they will be bringing up the issue, not just with academic interest but with serious concern.

I say time and time again in the House and in public speeches that the future of Canada is our young people. Their future is surely on my mind as I am delivering this speech today. We owe it to the young people of our great nation Canada to be deadly serious about protecting their future.

I have been involved with both the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development and the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, especially on forestry issues, since the commencement of this Parliament. In that time I have become very aware of our environment which impacts the flow of air and water. It does not have anything to do with man-made political boundaries. These lines that have been arbitrarily drawn on a map do more to fragment or impair our ability to control our elements within our environment than any other force.

In Canada competing provincial jurisdictions create an imbalance for industry and influence investment decisions being made by business. By way of example, as an alternate member on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage I have looked at national park boundaries. Unique ecological realities are frequently dissected by those national park boundaries.

Environmental events inside a park reflect what is happening outside a park simply because they are part of the same unique local ecology. Insects and disease that destroy our forests while developing within the national park boundaries can spread across that man-made line and destroy commercial forests. Of course the opposite may also be true. For example, river pollution from industry on the upstream side of a park can have severe consequences for wildlife and ecological balance within a national park.

I cite these examples to underline current Canadian examples of the potential negative environmental results in fragmenting Canada by creating a sovereign state of Quebec. The arbitrary man-made boundaries, lines drawn on a map to carve the province of Quebec out of our great nation, cannot possibly give us any comfort from an environmental perspective. Political activists in Quebec want to develop control over their own geographic jurisdiction, including generation of their own environmental protection regulations.

The point of my speech today is to talk about the environmental concerns facing our nation and show how a separate Quebec jurisdiction could have a harmful effect on that province and the remainder of Canada.

I am not raising this point on the environment to tell tall tales of dark horses and earth shattering catastrophes but simply to outline all of the consequences a separate Quebec will have on our nation and that province.

Here is a small sample of what has happened since the beginning of this parliamentary session. I say with the greatest respect to the Bloc Quebecois members on both the Standing Committee on Natural Resources and the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development that I have viewed their intercessions as being somewhat narrow and oriented only to Quebec.

For example, our natural resources committee is studying responsible forestry management especially where so-called clear cut logging is used to answer the question: Is clear cut a legitimate tool that can be used by responsible professional foresters?

We are trying to assist the Canadian forest service and the ministry of natural resources as they bring forward a Canada-wide position on sustainable forest practices in international meetings. Those meetings will be attempting to establish international standards for sustainable forest management. The standards will lead to ecological labelling for forest products world-wide.

Placing a new international boundary between Canada and a new state of Quebec would simply complicate an already complex problem and divide our collective voice on the world stage. Will the province of Quebec, for example, as an independent state be prepared to utilize identical standards in international discussions on eco-labelling or would it be a competing voice to Canada?

Healthy forests generate oxygen. It is the air we breathe. Creating a new political jurisdiction will do nothing to make me breathe any easier.

The Liberals in their red book wanted to work toward the position of an environmental auditor general for Canada.

Following exhaustive hearings, the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development produced a detailed report on the position of a commissioner of the environment and sustainable development. The Liberal election promise called for an environmental auditor general. The decision to proceed with the position of the commissioner instead of an auditor general was a consensus decision that came from serious discussion following exhaustive hearings.

The Bloc Quebecois committee members offered a dissenting opinion. While this dissenting opinion is a legitimate part of our national Canadian process, I know that if the Bloc Quebecois were representing an independent Quebec today we would not be proceeding with this very important function.

My party supports one window environmental review for all provinces and our country as a whole. Could the Bloc possibly argue that the concept it represents is not myopic and unique to Quebec?

It states in its conclusion: "We feel, however, that the committee is paving the way for an organization that will only add to the jumble and confusion now prevalent in environmental matters".

The Bloc is concerned about a national Canadian government representing the second largest land mass on our globe having precedence over its smaller provincial jurisdiction. The danger is that smaller jurisdictions invariably lead to narrower approaches, never ending discussions and negotiations. This would ultimately lead to a compromise of independent nations that would do nothing but magnify the confusion which currently exists between the individual provinces and the Government of Canada on environmental issues.

The Reform Party supports the principle of sustainable environment which balances the need for a healthy environment with the continued progress and growth of Canada's economy. The Reform Party believes that environmental considerations must carry equal weight with the economic, social and technical considerations of any projects.

In the same report I have been referring to on the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, page 25, Reform committee members expressed the concern that Canadian industry might in the short term be put at a competitive disadvantage if Canada adopts the principles of green accounting ahead of other countries.

When I refer to greening and green accounting, I am referring to new imaginative accounting practices and business practices that give specific dollar values to previously undefined environmental costs. These real costs appear on a business or a country's formal balance sheet. Premature independent greening of the Canadian system of national accounts could alter our gross national product and have the effect of discouraging domestic and foreign investors.

In order for Canadian business to remain internationally competitive, the Reform Party believes it would be advisable that Canada not get too far ahead of its major trading partners in issues like greening of national accounts or imposition of green or carbon taxes.

In the context of this speech today, this example relates to the potential fracturing of Canada with the separation of the province of Quebec. Obviously the separatist leader had the autonomy and control of Quebec as an objective. A separate political and economic jurisdiction that would be competing for international trade with what was left of Canada would open the very real possibility of competition at the lowest common denominator of environmental standards. Progressive concepts like green accounting would most likely be set aside due to the new competitive pressures.

If the Bloc Quebecois cannot even agree with other environment committee members to arrive at a consensus on an environmental report as benign as the establishment of the office of commissioner of environment and sustainable development, what does that tell us of the potential for co-operation between a sovereign country of Quebec and the rest of Canada?

The common element that joins all human beings is our environment. Fracturing the nation of Canada with man-made lines on a map can only serve to weaken our will, even our ability, to protect our ecologically balanced resources.

As a leading middle power in the world, we can lead the way. We have within the nation of Canada a large critical mass that can bring responsible environmental practices to a new high standard. The fragmentation of Canada will dilute our ability to impact the world. Our globe is desperate for leadership in the development and establishment of responsible environmental practices that ignore political boundaries.

We must not build political walls. We must break them down for our environment, for our children, for our future.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I compliment the member on his very fine speech. The hon. member spoke not only to the issue of saving the planet, but he also talked about this whole notion of creating national standards. I believe that is how national will is created and from that national will we develop a sense of patriotism and a feeling for our country.

The hon. member talked about national standards on the environment and I support that totally. Can the member not see it is also important in other areas? For example, is it not better to have a national standard and a national program on multiculturalism rather than 10 different provincial ones? This whole notion of creating national programs and national standards should not just be on the environment but on other issues as well. Then those in the disadvantaged regions could come up to the advantaged regions, for example in health care, education and training. Would the hon. member not agree that would be a much better way to go to build a nation?

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments of the hon. member.

When we are dealing with issues like water and air, we are dealing with absolutes. When we are dealing with issues relating to multiculturalism, biculturalism and those other issues, we are talking about interaction among human beings. While I respect the fact he has made that linkage, I suggest they are slightly different. When we are dealing with the absolutes of water and air, water and air proceed over political boundaries and that is the absolute place where we must have national standards.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Madam Speaker, the Reform Party member talked a lot about the environment. I can tell him one thing about the environment. Quebec's environmental law and Ottawa's, which was passed after Quebec's, are so different and so unlike that two environmental studies are required for every major project.

Even the president of Hydro-Québec says that he cannot bring federal and Quebec officials together to go over an environmental review. Personally, I sincerely believe that the federal government is again trying to meddle in environmental management just so that it can control and centralize more in Ottawa.

I will give you an example. Our particular natural resource in Quebec is hydro-electricity. Sometimes hydro-electric projects are blocked, perhaps to benefit uranium development in Ontario or oil in western Canada; if we had responsibility for our environment, we could do the proper studies and at the same time develop economically according to our own priorities.

Again, the federal government is responsible for the atmospheric environment and probably some world body should be involved. As far as the environment and economic development projects are concerned, where we can very well do our environmental studies in Quebec, we do not need the federal government to meddle in our industrial development, often to the benefit of other fields of activity outside Canada.

It is in this regard that we absolutely want real power over the environment and in many other fields as well.

SupplyGovernment Orders

June 7th, 1994 / 1:15 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Madam Speaker, I can see quite clearly that the hon. member and I have different opinions on this issue. I simply restate what I said in my speech.

In an ideal world it seems to me we would not have any political boundaries with respect to questions relating to environmental issues. In an ideal world we would not have the environment being used economically as a ploy or as a pressure tactic. I am suggesting the erection of additional formal boundaries is not working in the best interests or the best direction of protecting our environment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario


Jean Augustine LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, yesterday Canada along with other western nations remembered the sacrifices young men and women made on behalf of world peace and freedom. Their courage enabled Canada to emerge as a world leader. We pumped our chests with pride yesterday as we listened to our Prime Minister. We watched our Governor General and the men and women who went over to Europe. They remembered fallen comrades and spoke so well on our behalf. They reached out to the general assembled gathering and took the congratulations that were offered.

Many Canadians felt that sense of pride. Many Canadians felt that they wanted the country we call Canada maintained, this place which is our home, which many of us who came after the post-war era chose as home.

Canada has created jobs and opportunities. I stand here as someone who selected this country, who came with a sense of pride and was received and welcomed by Canadians. I was told that with my talents and skills there were opportunities to develop, to grow and to be very much part of the building of Canadian society.

In our large urban areas, a large percentage of the residents were not born in this country. Like myself, they came and have created a dynamic community, a community which is a model for the rest of the world, a cosmopolitan world. We are now a diverse, multicultural, multiracial, multilingual, multiethnic and multireligious society. We are the envy of the world. Canada is rated as the best country in the world in which to live. Changes have occurred but the Leader of the Opposition would have us believe that Canada still remains as two solitudes. Canadians are growing frustrated by the constant belittlement of the country.

I would like to share with members a fax which I have received. It is one of many, but is especially appropriate for today. It comes from Christa Jacobs in my riding. She wanted to make sure some things were put on the record. She says: "In 1962 I became a citizen of Canada of my own free will. I was elated and proud to be a member of a democratic country consisting of 10 provinces and two territories".

She goes on to say a whole series of things, but I will point out a few. Again I will quote from her letter because she also believes Canadians are growing frustrated by the opposition's constant belittlement of this great nation: "Mr. Bouchard's plans would actually destroy the contract I made with Canada in 1962, since the Canada that would remain should Quebec separate would no longer be the country of which I became a citizen and tax paying member. I wonder how others who became Canadians in the way that I did stand on this issue".

She goes on to talk about the two official languages: "Do not make two official ethnicities. I can speak several different languages. I can speak German, Russian and Italian. I certainly do not feel that speaking a language makes me anything. It is my national affiliation that counts".

I underscore the point that Canadians who watch this House daily are growing frustrated by the constant belittlement of the country. She says: "Mr. Bouchard is acting like the Robespierre of Canadian politics and together with his group of new age Jacobins would purify Canada in some sort of ethnic historical way. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose". She goes on to speak about her real frustration and the frustration of Canadians

with the Leader of the Opposition's constant belittlement of the country.

We have evolved into a society which cares, a land which is just and free, peaceful and prosperous. Canadians who care deeply for the country are growing impatient. Many believe they are not respected, not understood and not wanted. We hear these sentiments daily and that sense of frustration grows.

Canada is a model for the rest of the world. Those who created Canada shared the fundamental commitment to freedom, representative democracy and the rule of law. Canadians want the federal government to maintain its powers, to remain strong and to enable the continued efficient functioning of the economic union and national social programs.

There are very few places and very few countries to which I have not travelled. While in South Africa I heard 11 official languages and saw people of different ethnic and cultural groups attempting to work together and talking about unifying, building and establishing the kind of country they model on our country, Canada. I was constantly asked about our democracy and about someone like myself who was not born in this country. Speaking with a Caribbean accent, a person of colour, a black woman, I said to the South Africans: "I am a member of the Canadian legislature", and I felt the sense of pride that in Canada this is possible.

Canadians know we benefit from a number of social programs that reflect our understanding of community. These programs are implemented in a way that permits governments to take into account changing times and changing needs. I am presently working on the modernizing and restructuring of our social security programs. I can say that the constant discussion which takes place with members of the party across the way is not nation building.

In other nations people risk their lives and sacrifice their material security for the very freedoms previous generations have already guaranteed for us. Our sense of freedom is modified by a sense of justice, caring and compassion for all. We must remain committed to ensuring that our country operates and that each and every individual is a part of the national image.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I really appreciated the speech just given by the member opposite. As a youngster born in a family of immigrants that pioneered in western Canada I feel that same love for the country in its entirety.

The question here today really is not, for most of us at least in the House, whether this is the best country in the world. It is not a question of whether we want to maintain the programs and the things we are famous for. The question is really how we are to do it.

Would the member respond in any way specifically to any of the questions that we are asking in the motion? What vision does she have for actually strengthening our economy? What vision does she have for balancing the budgets? How about sustaining social services and so arranging our affairs that we can continue to deliver the things all of us would love to promise?

I could go on and on. Our cultural heritage, I share that. I am a Canadian whose first language was neither English nor French. We are, as the hon. member said so emphatically, a multiracial, multiethnic, multilanguage country.

If we want to preserve that I believe there should be a real vision for how we can bring all Canadians, including those 25 per cent whose first language is not English or French, into a real sense of belonging.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond because the question is who we are as Canadians, the fact that we support a federal state, the fact that we all need to work together. What happens in the House is really not Canadians on all sides of the issue working together to bring about economic strength, to work for that sense of equity, to work for all those things that become part of the nation and the nation building activities that should be occurring.

We spend a lot of time on discussion about who we are and examining it instead of taking about who we are and starting from there. We throw in all the issues about what are provincial and federal rights, the Constitution, and many of the issues that get rolled around, instead of focusing on who we are as Canadians, what we want of our nation and how together we can work to ensure that we have a nation and respond to the community and to the faces of Canada. I think that is the important question.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister talk about how frustrated the Bloc members are. On several occasions, she mentioned this frustration. I have to remind her that we were given a clear mandate, following several events. First, there was Meech which failed. Then, there was the Bélanger-Campeau Commission which studied in detail the needs of Quebec, and Quebecers clearly expressed their views on that matter. And then, English Canada rejected once again the demands made by Quebec. So, it was a total failure.

Afterwards, Quebecers sent 54 members from the Bloc Quebecois to Ottawa. So, it seems to me that our mandate is very clear. It is not a mandate made for frustrated people. We are here because Quebecers want us here to protect their interests. Maybe this is something the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister should understand. If she does not know what

happened during the last five or six years, how can she can understand what is going on now in Canada?

I would like people to stick to the facts, and the fact is that we were elected to this House and given a clear mandate. We have no qualms about being here. Since Quebecers pay 25 to 30 per cent of all federal taxes, we have the right to have a say in the direction this country wants to take until Quebec becomes sovereign.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Madam Speaker, I spoke about the frustration of Canadians on a daily basis as they listen to, as the member said, the only mandate of the Bloc, which is to separate.

We are here to build a nation. We are here to respond to the economic needs before us. We are here to ensure that our societies and communities function. We are here to provide for all people the kind of society in which our children will find jobs and opportunities to grow and develop.

The constant back and forth of members across the way talking about separation, because that is their mandate, is what I am talking about in terms of frustration. We are frustrated with this. Canadians are frustrated with this discussion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton—York—Sunbury, NB

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate in order to express my deep commitment to the preservation of Canada.

I must also express my disappointment in the fashion in which the debate has found its way into the House. I have yet to be convinced that the leader of the Reform Party is not simply using a critical juncture in our country's history to score fleeting political points.

In his motion the Reform leader refers to the need for a defining vision for Canada. He then outlines a series of policy options to indicate his own sense of vision and that of his party.

My sense of vision for a nation does not rest with the policy options we choose. It rests with the values we pursue; in our case values of generosity, mutual respect and generational and international responsibility, to name a few. Policies should then be chosen to reflect the values contained in that vision.

To build a country purely around good management and social order has been the mistake made by many in history and it is not one we need make here in Canada. Having said that, I recognize the democratic process and as such am accorded the opportunity to place my own views on the record.

In some ways I guess I am relieved. Most of us here as well as most other Canadians welcome the chance to reaffirm a commitment, a commitment to remain the best place in the world to live, just as the UN has recently decreed, because neither a Canada without Quebec nor a Quebec without Canada would be able to claim that same international standing.

Apart from our obvious abundance of resources and relative affluence, the real bounty we possess lies in our unique history, our ability to compromise and understand the position and perspective of others, to subjugate our own narrow self-interests in the interest of the larger whole. This is the way we have evolved.

Canadians either consciously or unconsciously have an abiding understanding that none of us individually, regionally, even collectively lives alone in the country. Nor can we or should we wish to claim some kind of moral or cultural superiority. This is what makes our country great; not our wealth, not our beauty, not our vast expanse and limitless developmental potential, but our people and the course we have charted for ourselves.

We need only look to see what is happening elsewhere to realize that the struggle among elements of our own Confederation mirrors a larger debate taking place in every continent.

In many countries cultural conflict has been the source of bloodshed and has caused the loss of generations; such a tragedy and all because the solitudes are resolute. We watch aghast as others, not us, fail to find the will to co-exist and even thrive.

In Canada our competing values have been a source of enlightenment. Differences have taught us compassion, mutual respect, a desire to know and embrace the intricacies of other cultures, other worlds and other points of view.

We embrace these and champion our multicultural fabric as the asset that distinguishes us from other countries. For too long our leadership has been timid, assuming that ordinary Canadians might not share the same spirit of compromise, the same generosity, the same noble purpose of which I speak.

I feel otherwise. Canadians, because of our relative youth, because of our unique history and perhaps even because of an unnatural preoccupation with our Constitution, have spent more time discussing, debating and defining our country than we have a right to. However we have done it and we are a more thoughtful place for it. We need only look a little south to our American neighbours to recognize the truth in this. The United States approach to nationhood demands conformity by its citizens to a narrowly defined set of habits, traditions and principles.

Perhaps the argument can be made that this was at one time appropriate but that time has clearly passed. Both the present and the future belong to those able to cope with the enormity and diversity of our world and even our country.

While considering whether to offer as a candidate in the last election, I recall watching the American Democratic convention in Atlantic City. One of the key speakers of that convention was Senator Bill Bradley. I watched amazed while the senator from New Jersey suggested that the U.S. had occupied its superior position in the world because of its natural resources, but that now the value of physical abundance was diminishing the American's position would be maintained because as the global community became smaller the fact that so many cultures called the U.S. home would once again give it some kind of advantage on the global stage.

While I agree in part with the senator's analysis, I take great exception to his conclusion. It is Canada that is the place where members of all nations can feel at home. Canada is the place where people can truly celebrate their cultures to the greatest extent possible with government support and encouragement.

Madam Speaker, I was privileged to grow up in the only officially bilingual province of a bilingual country. Most of my friends and I myself support this opening up of opportunities and the protection of minority rights, and to us, the opportunities of diversity are a way of life. Granted, my generation of Anglophones in New Brunswick is mostly unilingual, but only due to circumstances. My children and other members of their generation are for the most part bilingual. To them, the struggles and debate that marked our past no longer make sense.

Earlier this century our former Prime Minister and the father of the modern Liberal Party boasted that the 20th century would belong to Canada. Many whose values tend toward materialism dismiss Laurier's pronouncement as wishful thinking.

As we enter the 21st century and as countries and people around the world struggle with questions of ethnic strife and ideological absolutism, we face a choice. Isolationism and scapegoating and finger pointing that go with it are not the answer. I believe in the need for pluralism and bilingualism in our case and the generosity of nationhood will be held up as the primary lesson learned from the 20th century. Whether we serve as a model of accommodation and compromise or become just another example of unfortunate shortsightedness depends entirely on us.

Canada is not without its challenges. Nor can we claim a past without blemish. We must confront with resolve our failure to include in a way of their choosing Canada's aboriginal communities in our abundance and comfort. We must attend to the inequities that continue to diminish us all, inequities between the genders, inequities between those of us who have been here for generations and those of us newly arrived.

We must be vigilant to ensure that programs and policies be in place to protect and promote both our official languages from assimilation regardless of where we choose to live.

Further, we must do a better job of promoting the values of which I speak. Racism exists in Canada but I believe in most cases it is born of fear and confusion rather than deep-seated hatred or profound incompatibility.

We should never underestimate the work and sometimes expense involved in nurturing a model of nationhood that requires patience, understanding and generosity of spirit. In short, it draws from all Canadians the very best in each of us.

To illustrate, in the spring of each year many go through the annual ritual of deciding which plants to grow. We travel to local markets and nurseries. Some of us, less optimistic, purchase hardy annuals with the knowledge that little effort is required for these plants to flourish. Braver souls recommit each year to buying and growing roses and other such delicates. We similarly possess the knowledge that more work is required and that the challenge of success is more daunting. At the end of the day those who chose the roses and finer flowers will have done something special. Quite simply, as a country, whether it be from good luck or vision, we have chosen to grow roses. It is harder; it does require more work, more patience and more creativity. Even the sting from a thorny debate is not enough to thwart us in our overall pursuit. In the end we have done something special and it is through the maintenance of that the majority of Canadians remain resolute.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to the hon. member talking about flowers and dreams, but in my opinion, Canada, the great Canadian dream, has lost much of its lustre.

Last week, when I was in western Canada, there was a lot of talk about the Canadian dream, but people tend to ignore the debt and the annual deficit the government is unable to control. We are on the brink of bankruptcy, and these people still think this is the richest country in the world. They refer to a statement by the UN that says we rank first in standard of living, but it is a standard of living obtained on credit.

I said this many times before and I will say it again for the benefit of people who still want to dream. Sure, you can have your dreams, but let us be realistic, when the mortgage is sky high. Before, we did not have a mortgage, but now we are mortgaged to the hilt, and the car as well. We still have the same standard of living, but we got it on credit. And now we are right on the brink, we keep on dreaming.

People still think a very strong central government will be able to run everything, but in fact, we need thorough decentralization, with Canada's regions in a broad confederation and a central government with perhaps a few members who will make recommendations. I do not know what the exact parameters will be, but we do need thorough decentralization to ensure that the regions can develop their potential. Because the federal government insists on centralizing everything here in Ottawa, Canada is going straight into bankruptcy. It is as simple as that.

We have to stop dreaming. We have to face the facts. And the facts are that we need a sovereign Quebec and a sovereign Canada. And we will work very well together, as we do now at the economic level, but we will both perform better. That is what we have to offer. We offer a way to better results. So take advantage of that offer.

When we tell you our performance will improve, this is not our opinion, it was the opinion of the experts in Quebec who sat on the Bélanger-Campeau Commission. They concluded, but they did more than conclude, they analysed the issues and interviewed everyone, the business community, the unions, and all socio-economic sectors. They said that to develop its potential, Quebec needed 22 or 23 real powers. That request was turned down. So let us stop dreaming. Let us face the facts. Let us build a strong and prosperous English Canada and a strong and prosperous Quebec, and let us work in unity. We do not want to divide anything. We do not want to hurt anyone. We want to develop our potential, as is our right. Why prevent us from doing so? We want you to develop your potential as we develop ours. Let us stop dreaming and talking about flowers and let us talk a little about dollars and cents and prospects for the future.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton—York—Sunbury, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question.

My immediate reaction to the proposition that somehow the country would be better if the member has his way prompts me to think of the province I come from, New Brunswick, and the 250,000 Acadians who probably would challenge that proposition.

I would also defer to the judgment of the United Nations as to whether Canada is living the dream. I would also defer to the many hundreds of thousands of people who would dearly love the opportunity to live in the country as it is.

As for the question having to do with the deficit, I can only acknowledge the need to deal responsibly with our finances, which I believe we are. I would also challenge members who constantly stand up and speak to this question to think about the programs that are financed and have been financed. As an Atlantic Canadian I know there are those in the Reform Party who are not as sensitive to the nature of the country relative to the spirit of generosity I referred to. I cannot imagine that in any way the country could be better off being more divided.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to say how pleased I am for the opportunity to speak in the debate today.

In reference to the hon. member's remarks preceding mine, speaking of the spirit of generosity let us not forget where the bulk of that money from taxpayers is coming from. Much of it comes from western Canadians in a spirit of generosity to the rest of Canada. Let us be absolutely clear about that.

I will mention again how pleased I am to speak in this debate today. I will be addressing the phrase in our motion which talks about further democratizing our institutions and decision making processes. As we spend month after month in this place we are all well aware of the situation we are all in and dear knows we do need to have some democratic reform in our institutions and in our decision making processes here.

It is also very clear that many people outside of this Chamber but outside and inside Quebec as well are demanding some things as they demanded of us in the last election. These are I believe from people inside and outside Quebec. It is every bit as important to them. Inside Quebec and out they are seeking dynamic and constructive change in their political institutions. They are asking for governments that listen to them, consult with them and are accountable to them. Canadians and Quebecers want to improve the quality of representative government in the country.

We know these things well. Madam Speaker, you and I were here in the last Parliament. We know through the national debate surrounding Meech Lake, the Charlottetown accord and more recently through our door knocking at the federal election last fall, through town hall meetings and other communication with our constituents, that there was almost a cry from people saying something needs to be done to democratize the institutions and Parliament itself.

This desire for reform of our political institutions is something that all of us in this 35th Parliament can do something about. Many of my colleagues and I have offered a number of proposals that would lead to democratic reform in the House.

As was mentioned before and was mentioned just a few moments ago by my colleague from Calgary West, we need in the House, regardless of what provinces or areas of the country we are from, more free votes in Parliament. If members are to exert influence over policy making in committees, as we have heard so much about, or in the House they must be able to demonstrate independence of thought.

Again we read articles of some members from the government side who are brave enough to stand in committee and say: "I do not think this is right. Perhaps I will vote against it". They are absolutely taken aside and told they must go along with it. They cannot give other reports. My friends on the other side are well aware of that.

We want to make sure that more free votes are allowed in Parliament. We also need a change in attitude to the confidence convention. As my friends from the government and I sat on the opposition benches in the last Parliament we heard time and time again that every piece of legislation does not need to be treated as a confidence convention. How things change, how things become so different with the stroll of about 12 or 14 feet across the aisle here.

We need a change on the part of government and party leaders that would allow members to vote as their constituents wish without bringing down the government. I certainly have assurance that I can offer on behalf of my party leader that he would be willing to give unanimous consent to the other leaders to provide that.

We also need provisions to recall MPs who have lost or betrayed the trust of their constituents. As members would know I have spoken at great length on this in the House. It seems to rattle some even now. Recall will ensure that members consult with and serve their constituents and not merely serve their party. That if anything is one thing we can do to change the attitude that Canadians have about this place.

Also we believe in holding elections every four years at predetermined dates so there would not just be something that would be helpful or productive for the government. We saw that again in the last election where it was thought that because it had that benefit it was able to call the election at what it thought was the most opportune time. Unfortunately history will show that perhaps it was a mistake.

However, if we had elections at predetermined times every four years it would eliminate all that hassle and trying to think about it and manipulating dates.

Also we are in favour of a binding referendum on national and important constitutional and moral issues or matters that would alter the basic social fabric of the country. We have seen a referendum in the country. Naturally I was pleased with the results of it because I was the only federal political party here that was on the no side on the Charlottetown accord.

There is nothing wrong with that, just because people in the House and the parties which they represented lost the Charlottetown accord. A great deal of good came out of that. People in my constituency, and I am sure in every other one in the country, felt that somehow they had been given real power. They were able to exercise on a ballot their view, that it was binding and that it carried the weight of the day.

Also citizens' initiatives are so important. People can put questions on a referendum ballot which will be dealt with at election time. What a marvellous sense of power. That would free up this place so that people know they have access to the House of Commons and not just somebody who will stand in a public place regularly, as I have heard, and say: "My opinion is important. My constituent's opinion is important but when it comes to the vote I will decide". Nothing could be more arrogant or any further from the truth. If we are going to democratize this place that is something that is absolutely essential.

All Reformers have advocated Senate reform. We are talking about a triple-E Senate, elected by the people, equal provincial representation, thereby making it effective in representing regional interests. There may be people from Quebec and Ontario, the two big provinces, who say they have more senators and so they have absolute power of majority in the Senate. It is important that each province realize it is one of ten equal children in Confederation.

There seems to be no reason in my mind to justify the fact that my province of Alberta has 6 senators and that Quebec and Ontario would have 24. There is something wrong with the mathematics in that. We believe Quebec is important in Confederation. Let us turn the other place around.

I have heard many of my colleagues talk about the fact that we need to abolish the other place. We have seen very recently that the Senate is important, that it is essential. Its decision to reject Bill C-18, the suspending of the operation of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, is a good example of the Senate's sober second look at bad legislation. Bad it was, and we would hear from members of the government side perhaps that it was bad, such interventions were rare, granted, and usually not welcome because of the unelected nature of the Senate.

I proved my point. Because Canada is a federation of equal provinces this reality should be reflected in that other place because it does provide a function. We think that if it were that much more legitimate it would provide a bigger and better function on behalf of poor legislation and as a counterweight to some of the things that come out of the House of Commons.

We believe as Reformers that the adoption of these political and democratic reforms would lead to more active participation in the legislative process by ordinary Canadians. It would improve the quality of debate, enhance legislation coming from Parliament and build an even better democracy than we have in Canada today.

What a marvellous country this is has been mentioned over and over today. We agree. I think everyone in the House agrees that Canada is wonderful. My colleagues to my right are wanting to leave that. Of course my question as a western Canadian as well as a fellow member of this family is: What does Quebec want?

I have a researcher from the University of Michigan, an intern, trying to look at that question for me. What is it Quebec wants in Canada, if it is to remain in Canada?

It is one thing to say that these people are here to represent all of Quebec. That is not true any more than my party is here to represent all of the west or that there are members from the government side representing all Canadians because they form the government. There are people who supported the Bloc and we give respect for that certainly. Earlier we talked about the enormous amount of people in Quebec as well as outside who said Canada is the best place. We need to build on the successes that we have had.

We often forget the long and difficult way that we have come together in Confederation. We seldom remember our great achievements together. What we need to do at the very end of this debate, and I am so glad we have been able to have it, is to ask a question. If we in the House of Commons are willing to get together and democratize these institutions, if we on all sides of the House are willing to get together and say yes, this place is wonderful or yes, we will move to be able to say Canada is a worthwhile place, is Quebec interested in staying? If we all get together and build it I believe they will come. That is the offer we extend to them, to say this country is bigger and better with all of us fighting on behalf of it rather than somebody who wants to leave and thinks, just completely hypothetically, that things would be better.

My time is just about up. We have a minute left until oral statements. I will be answering questions and comments right after that. However, let me assure my friends here that we are trying to build this new Canada. We make the offer to them and to their constituents that if they will work with us, if we build it, we give them the offer to come.

SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

The Speaker

Of course there will be a question period when we take up debate after the question period. We will now proceed to Statements by Members.

Battle Of NormandyStatements By Members

2 p.m.


David Iftody Liberal Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, as we know 50 years ago yesterday, D-Day, the great liberation began and the freedom of Europe and indeed the world was under way.

I was proud to represent the Government of Canada in a wreath laying ceremony last weekend in Manitoba. I reflected on the courage of those who gave their lives for freedom from tyranny and oppression.

I also reflected on those individuals like Irving Scott and Alex Tarasenko who, as young men from Provencher, were among the first to land on the beaches of Normandy. They were the first to brave the bullets and the land mines.

It is hard to imagine the burden of duty that we called upon these young Canadians to perform on our behalf.

Thank you, Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Tarasenko. Thank you all for what you did on that day. We are very indebted. We are very grateful and we will never forget your contribution.

National Environment WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, as spokesperson for the Official Opposition, I am pleased to talk about National Environment Week.

The protection of our environment must be ensured in our daily actions. The various projects and activities of each level of government must be implemented in the context of sustainable development. Our society must meet this important challenge, and National Environment Week is the appropriate time to reflect on initiatives which can be taken to improve our environment.

I want to point out the work done by thousands of people who are members of environmental organizations, or who promote environmental protection in schools and recreation centres. Their contribution is essential and must be recognized.

Environment WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, this week is Canadian Environment Week and it is time to reflect on how lucky we are.

If the earth were only a few feet in diameter, floating above a field somewhere, people would come from everywhere to marvel at it. People would walk around it marvelling at its big pools of water. People would marvel at the bumps in it and the holes in it. They would marvel at the very thin layers of gas surrounding it and the waters suspended in the gas. The people would marvel at all the creatures walking around the surface of the ball and the creatures in the water. People would declare it sacred and would protect it so that it would not be hurt.

The ball would be the greatest wonder known and the people would come to pray to it to be healed, to gain knowledge, to know beauty and to wonder how it could be. People would love it and defend it with their lives, if the earth were only a few feet in diameter.

Let us participate in Environmental Week.

EducationStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Friday the Speaker drew the attention of the House to a special group of young people who were sitting in the gallery.

These students of Ridgemont High School are participants in the work experience program called "Partners in Change". This program had its start back in 1986 due in large part to the hard work of one of my constituents, Ms. Patricia Mainwaring.

Ms. Mainwaring is a teacher at Ridgemont High School who specializes in helping students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She saw the potential of her students to contribute in a whole variety of ways to our work here in the House of Commons.

With the help of their volunteer buddies, they have been learning how to do all sorts of things and also learning a new independence and pride in themselves.

When I taught at Ridgemont High School 30 years ago, these students would not even have been part of our school environment. Now they are part of our environment here in Parliament in governing the country. I congratulate Ms. Mainwaring for her work.

Billy BishopStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise the members of the House that last Saturday, June 4, I attended a short ceremony at the birthplace of Billy Bishop in Owen Sound. The Bishop home is now a museum dedicated to the memory of Canada's most highly decorated serviceman, the winner of Canada's first air Victoria Cross.

At the ceremony a representative of Canada Post, Mr. Tom Creech, announced that a postage stamp in Bishop's honour will be unveiled in Owen Sound on August 12 of this year.

It is entirely fitting that the man who at the end of the first world war had shot down more enemy aircraft than any other British pilot be recognized with a stamp issue.

Bishop's remains are interred in the Owen Sound Greenwood Cemetery, along with the remains of two other Victoria Cross winners, Private Thomas Holmes and Lieutenant-Colonel David Currie, who I understand for a time was the Sergeant-at-Arms in the House.

Yesterday I mentioned Mr. Currie's name and I hope that the record will be corrected to spell his name correctly as well as that of his wife who was a gal from Owen Sound and who is currently living here in Ottawa.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture announced 10 partnership projects in Ontario to promote sustainable agricultural practices which will benefit and restore fish and wildlife habitat.

Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington is proud to be included as part of the Canada-Ontario agricultural green plan. Over the next three years this plan will provide $1.8 million for demonstration projects which are part of the wetlands, woodlands, wildlife program.

I am very pleased that Ducks Unlimited, farmers and land owners in Lennox and Addington will be involved in this partnership project.

I am also pleased to announce that the Napanee Conservation Authority will participate in project sites on Little Creek, Selby and Wilton Creeks, which will include windbreaks and shelter belts, reforestation, fence rows, retirement of fragile land, livestock fencing, and stream bank stabilization.

The government's support of the Bay of Quinte's remedial action plan will ensure the goals of the 3-W program.

Franco-OntariansStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, last weekend, at ACFO's annual meeting, the health minister stunned and embarrassed the 200 Franco-Ontarians who were in attendance. All heard the irresponsible comments made by the minister who said that Franco-Ontarians were stupid. All witnessed the lack of democratic spirit displayed by the minister who called the Bloc Quebecois leader a traitor to his country.

Several people were shocked by her simplistic speech which left little to the judgment of Franco-Ontarians.

This episode confirms that the Minister of Health has become an embarrassment. Let Franco-Ontarians form their own opinion about the Bloc Quebecois. We trust their judgment.