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.


Transportation SubsidiesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick


Douglas Young LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. There is no doubt that in the major changes that will have to take place in the transportation system, if it is going to be affordable in Canada we will have to maintain the notion of equity and fairness.

There is no question that the subsidies we refer to mainly deal with rail but of course the freight subsidies in Atlantic Canada that deal with a lot of truck transportation will have to be reviewed.

As we go through this process the objective will be to have an integrated affordable transportation system where all modes can compete on an equal footing.

Transportation SubsidiesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I have notice of a question of privilege from the member for Vancouver South.

Transportation SubsidiesOral Question Period

3 p.m.


Herb Dhaliwal Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, on the question of privilege, the hon. member for Simcoe has talked to me and I will defer until Monday on this question.

The House resumed consideration of the motion and the amendment.

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June 7th, 1994 / 3 p.m.

The Speaker

There is a question for the hon. member for Beaver River.

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3 p.m.


Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few remarks to the hon. member for Beaver River, who particularly mentioned the great generosity of Westerners to Easterners.

I would like to remind her that no more than six or seven years ago, some financial institutions in western Canada were in great difficulty. Since her memory is so short, I would point out to her that it cost the Canadian government almost $3 billion to save the financial institutions in western Canada six or seven years ago.

So, when it comes to her great generosity, I think that she should remember some things and realize that Canada has helped Westerners perhaps more than it is helping Easterners.

The other thing that I would also like to tell the hon. member for Beaver River is that when we had problems with our credit unions, small financial institutions in Quebec, the federal government never helped them out. So you see that the principle of equity is not necessarily always applied in this country. I want to put things in their proper perspective and point out that Canada has been very generous as well, with taxes from Quebec, to boot.

So I would like the hon. member to retract and say that she probably got more than she gave in the past.

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3:05 p.m.


Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Madam Speaker, after my great efforts to hear the hon. member's comments, I would respond briefly to him.

When we talk about generosity or balancing funds across the country, let us remember the amount of money which each province puts into Confederation. It has been made very clear to the hon. member through various publications, and I refer specifically to Robert Mansell, an economist from the University of Calgary, that Alberta has been a net contributor to Confederation. Quebec and some of the eastern Atlantic provinces have been economic beneficiaries of national dollars.

Let us step wider and more broadly at this point to look at some of the things which some hon. members may have complaints about.

If we are going to try to balance out every dollar or every cent that we gave or every cup of coffee that somebody bought for us, we have to look at this more widely and ask what is this Confederation that we are talking about.

It is important for all of us to note that this is something like the family of which I spoke in my remarks and which many others in the House have spoken of as well. In a family you cannot balance dollars and cents. Some children require more spending than others. We understand that. We appreciate that.

When talking about this whole situation let us not gripe about money or one thing or another. Let us look at it as a unit, as a family of 10 equal provinces in Confederation. I believe we are stronger. I believe we are more likely to be able to work in the international community as trading partners. As my leader mentioned earlier the BQ and Quebec would be far better off financially as part of a trading unit with Canada, a group of people 28 million strong, in dealing and trading internationally than trying to hunker off by itself as a market of eight million people.

My friend is bright. I know that he understands the whole idea of trading blocs and how we have seen blocs become much larger.

If Quebec tries to go it on its own, it will be a much smaller trading bloc. If the member thinks that his comments affect the financial situation in the country, let him beware. I really do not think going it on its own would be a viable situation. It would be much better for it to accept the invitation of the rest of Canada and say it will be part of this larger trading bloc than what it is attempting to do.

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3:05 p.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Madam Speaker, what you will be hearing in the next 10 minutes as I speak are the visions and the aspirations of the people I represent. I speak for them today as Canadians who are genuinely interested in Canada as a whole nation.

Many Canadians wonder why their elected representatives are spending so much time discussing national unity. In many cases it is generally considered that politicians are the real problem, not the good people of any province. Yes, there are differences throughout this country but you cannot solve the problems within a country by opting out of a country.

Because we have had many frustrating years in this country of patronage and financial mismanagement does not mean our nation is facing an unsolvable dilemma. The people of Atlantic Canada have a special identifiable culture. So do Quebecers as do people in Ontario and the west. That does not mean we do not

have an identifiable Canadian culture. We do. We have a lot of things that bind us together.

In the years to come Canadians will demand even more equality, more of an identity and more accountability from the federal government. I suspect we will do it together with the same national hockey teams, the same national anthem, and the same pride in our flag as we have today.

I firmly believe however we need a new vision, a new political approach. The old line parties drove us to the crossroads we are at today. We do need a change, do we not?

There is a significant frustration that exists in this 35th Parliament, patronage, poor answers given to the opposition parties' questions posed on behalf of their constituents, ineffective legislation and disregard of the poor financial conditions they got us into in the first place.

When that old approach is eliminated then Canada, that is all provinces and territories together, will move ahead and lead the world. What is it that will tie us all together? How can we share Canada and yet respect the cultural differences of all of its parts?

We must return to the days of financial stability, of balanced budgets and of optimism in a proud future and not a shadow of doubt about interest payments going to foreign countries and those kinds of issues.

It has been said that the only thing necessary for the success of a separatist idea to prevail is for the people of this good nation to do nothing. We must take it upon ourselves to balance this budget with a firm, realistic approach. For instance, we cannot reduce the deficit to 3 per cent of gross domestic product of some $730 billion and neglect to tell the people that the government will raise Canada's debt by $100 billion over the next three years in doing so. That is called hocus-pocus politics. We have seen it for 10 years. We saw it for five years before that and we are seeing it again today.

The long range solution to the continual co-operative coexistence of all Canadians is to increase the incentive for ordinary Canadians to save, invest, work and employ others. Today we make it costly to employ people and we subsidize people to stay home. We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes non-work.

If all provinces capture the vision of a country that lives within its means, a country that saves for the future generations and a country that spends on necessities, we will coexist with respect for one another. Let me outline for members some of the specific attributes that a united Canada will exhibit when we finally remove the greatest impediment, the last of the traditional party philosophies.

First, governments have no money on their own. It is not their money. It is necessary to legislate a way by which the people can control government spending.

Second, budgets must be balanced every three years both provincially and federally.

Third, any borrowing by any government must be approved by a national referendum, that is our national government, and a provincial referendum for provincial governments.

Fourth, a vibrant private industry with little or no government subsidization is an attribute that would lead Canada in the right direction for the year 2000 and beyond. Finally, patronage should be non-existent. Of course we need to have a real talk with the folks across the way because we have seen more than that already.

Let us for a moment review some recommendations relative to the financial stability of our great country. If undertaken by all Canadians, it would be motivation for all of us to work together and to stay together.

First, all provinces should have as one of their highest priorities the pursuit of national interests above the pursuit of provincial interests.

Second, the system of transfer payments to the have not provinces should be changed because it has made them less economically viable. The provinces that receive transfers vigorously debate why they should have more and the transferring provinces ask why they are contributing the amounts they do.

Third, the federal government has had access to tax revenues well beyond those needed to discharge strictly federal responsibilities. The patronage and the waste that is seen by the taxpayer in all provinces must be seen to have stopped. It has not stopped. It is continuing. Until this government gets it through its thick regulation book that that has to stop, we are going to have difficulties in all provinces.

If we can convince this government that strong fiscal management and a commitment to balance the books should be a priority, all provinces will be strongly motivated to continue with the federation of Canada.

To ensure the financial independence of the provinces and to place Confederation on a more firm financial footing, it is proposed that the principle of a balanced budget be enshrined in the Constitution. Put it there. Live by it. Live within one's means and then watch all of the provinces feel like they are a part of something that they can contribute to. This would require that all government spending be financed from the current tax revenue and that any shortfall be made up by a reduction in expenditures.

Balancing the books also means balancing the common market trade between provinces. We must give up this "what's in it for me" attitude which is prominent among politicians. We are at a crossroads here, a decision about the equality of members, not who can get the most from a country that has served us so well.

The old line political parties have a fossilized vision of Canada. Fiscal mismanagement has led to a significant regional difference between all provinces, not just one. It is time for a new theme. It is time we moved out of Jurassic Park and into the future.

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3:15 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Not clichés.

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3:15 p.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Yes, it is a cliché but if you ever saw Jurassic Park, Madam Speaker, it is sitting across from me.

I appeal to the people of Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Yukon and the Northwest Territories to set aside regional differences and work toward a strong, financially secure nation.

Once again, a concern. Our generation of politicians are excluding the millions of young people under the voting age in this discussion. The future of these young Canadians is being decided upon and they will be the ones responsible for this decision and the mess we create. Does it sound familiar? That very kind of philosophy was embedded in Liberalism when they started increasing debt and borrowing year after year, as did the Conservative Party as well. If our young could vote they would not separate, they would build a stronger Canada.

We cannot make a strong nation by emphasizing the differences through multicultural policies, differences through bilingual policies, differences through special aboriginal policies, patronage and other political toys. We are a federation of 10 equal provinces. We are the true north strong and free. We are our home and native land and we will always be a united Canada.

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3:15 p.m.


Anna Terrana Liberal Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to say that as surprising as it is coming from the Reform Party, I am glad to hear this debate on national unity. For 20 years I have been trying to keep Canada together, doing what I could from the other side of the country, from British Columbia.

I would also like to remind my colleagues that we are a democratic party. Our party is a democratic party so we vote by consensus and majority rule.

During the Charlottetown hearings, and I attended several of these hearings, there were several answers that came out. We heard what Canadians wanted. The referendum was an expensive one. Referenda are all expensive. I believe that an election is the time for us to vote on whether the work that the government has done is good or not.

I would also like to add that in all these discussions, and I have been listening all morning, I never heard where the Reform Party stands on inherent rights to aboriginal self-government. In fact, during the Charlottetown accord hearings one of the questions that came up constantly and one of the things that people seemed to be agreeing more on was in fact the inherent rights to self-government for the aboriginal people.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague where the Reform Party stands on the inherent right of aboriginal self-government?

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3:15 p.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Madam Speaker, I have just two comments. It is ironic that one hears in the House, as surprising as it is, the Reformers discussing national unity. I would suggest that Reformers are as nationalist as the government. The difference is how you run that government, how you run a country and how you deal with it. I certainly do not subscribe to its approach.

The inherent right of our aboriginal peoples has always been of concern to Reformers. We believe in their inherent right. The difference is that the government has yet to define what inherent right is, what kind of management style it is, how much is it going to cost, will the department of Indian affairs still exist and so on.

We believe in the inherent right of aboriginals to govern themselves, but there are a lot of questions that have to be answered before we would sign on the dotted line and that is understandable.

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3:20 p.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I have heard many motions on opposition days and I can say that this one is flim-flam. It is phoney. It is political opportunism.

We have a six to seven-part motion. There is absolutely no way I would support the leader of the Reform Party when he spoke this morning of their vision of what a new Canada is. There is absolutely no way.

I am going to refer to what the leader of the Reform Party said on January 20. There are all sorts of other quotes in Hansard that we can go to. This is the leader of the Reform Party speaking:

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that he does not want to reopen constitutional issues at this time and that the priority of his government is jobs and economic growth. Yet yesterday he and other members were repeatedly drawn into heated exchanges with Bloc members on the constitutional future of Quebec.

There are millions of Canadians, including Quebecers, who want Parliament to focus on deficit reduction, jobs and preserving social services.

Is the Prime Minister abandoning his commitment to stay out of the constitutional swamp or is it still his resolve to stick to economic, fiscal and social priorities?

That is exactly what the Liberal Party is doing. We are trying to get the economy going and get the country back on track.

Madam Speaker, I can say to you, as a comment, that I have found their position on this issue to be divisive for the country and helpful to the Bloc. The only comparison I will make is that the Bloc is at least honest and forthright about it. I cannot say the same thing about the Reform Party in terms of what it is doing.

What it wants to do is divide the country and it is doing it for crass political purposes.

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3:20 p.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Madam Speaker, it is just unbelievable the amount of emotion that gets into this process.

The government has moved an amendment today that wants to eliminate such words as "a country that is committed to strengthening our economy". We know that is a problem over there, so it is taking that out. It wants to take out of the amendment "balancing the budgets of our government". It also wants to take out "sustaining our social services, conserving our environment, preserving our cultural heritage and diversity". What is wrong with a good debate on that? It is about time the government started talking in the House about it.

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3:20 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario


Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, the member who just spoke was absolutely right when he said that this is a debate that gets Canadians' emotions going. In that sense it is uncharacteristic of how we usually approach political issues.

The government does not take one day of the year to debate national unity. We make sure that every day of the year, every act of government is about nation building, not tearing the nation down.

The member spoke about how we have to cut the country into little pieces. I heard him say a few moments ago, if we take the power of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, P.E.I., British Columbia and all the other provinces and divide it up into little packets, that all of a sudden this is the new formula for the new federalism.

The Government of Canada believes that we should be tested and measured on our commitment to nation building in every decision that we make. We cannot take a motion which by and large is a series of platitudes. It is a series of motherhood statements, but it is a thinly disguised attempt to once again begin the counterproductive squabbling over the Constitution.

I shook my head when I heard the leader of the Reform Party, who only a few weeks ago stood in his place in the House and pointed his finger at the Prime Minister, a Prime Minister who for 30 years has epitomized balance, fairness, rightness and nation building, and accused him of being involved in a family feud because he was in his place defending the position of the Government of Canada on a number of very important issues.

I will accede to the point that maybe the Reform Party does not really know what its strategy is, because the approach taken by leader of the Reform Party and his party today actually fuel the cause of breaking up the nation. They fuel the cause of separation. They reinforce, for anyone who cares to hear, the fact that the nation is not being built, the nation is being cut into little pieces.

With today's motion, the leader of the Reform Party tried to do worse than simply launching futile debates. He tried to position the Reform Party on both sides of the fence on basic issues. He tried to play with his party's policies.

On this issue the leader of the Reform Party is trying to sit on both sides of the fence, and that can be a very painful position.

What exactly does the leader of the Reform Party mean when he talks about sustaining social programs? Does it mean that the party has reversed its position against universal medicare? Does that mean that its members now agree with the government that we should vigorously oppose extra billing? Even more confusing is the motion's reference to "preserving our cultural heritage and diversity". What does that mean, from a party that ran on a platform of abolishing multiculturalism? What does that mean, from a party which introduced another motion to oppose official bilingualism?

The Reform Party has a curiously confused policy. It wants to preserve our cultural heritage and diversity in theory but it wants to oppose it in practice. It is impossible to know what to make of the wording of the Reform Party's motion.

When Reform Party members talk about diversity, are we now to take it that they favour aboriginal self-government? When they talk about equality, do they now favour employment equity? Do they now favour access to decent child care for working parents? When they talk about productive relations with the peoples of the world, are they now in favour of abolishing the cuts that they proposed to foreign aid? When they talk about protecting our lives, are they now favouring the gun control that they so vigorously opposed?

I am certain the answer to these questions is no. The Reform Party hopes that it can get away with some fuzzy language to mean whatever it wants it to mean.

This is the message that I want to leave with the House. What is most disturbing is that once again the Reform Party is playing right into the hands of the separatist Bloc Quebecois. We do not believe that the leader of the Reform Party is naive. We know that his action is giving a platform to the Bloc to bash federalism. As Liberals, as federalists, as Canadians, we deeply regret that initiative.

This morning, Bloc members rose in the House to complain about comments I made yesterday about their leader's presence at the Citadel on the 50th anniversary of D-Day. What is important, what I said yesterday and what I continue to say is indeed very emotional. When a political party leader comes to Canada's Parliament to try to break it up, it is indeed an emotional issue, but I still defend with all my heart his right to speak because what motivated the soldiers 50 years ago is the absolute and total democracy we see with the presence of the opposition spokespersons. What is worse, Madam Speaker, and perhaps less generous is that the opposition leader sees nothing wrong with travelling around the world to brag about a separate country. He boasts about the fact that in Paris he was welcomed like the leader of a new state but he denies the Canadian government the same opportunity to travel to other countries to find the economic solutions we are looking for here.

The separatists, these so-called defenders of freedom, now want to muzzle any financial or economic institution that does not agree with them. We heard the comments made yesterday by Mr. Parizeau. Today, it is the Bank of Montreal's turn. Tomorrow it could be Wood Gundy. Tomorrow will it be ordinary Quebecers who are denied the right to speak in a debate so critical to our country's future?

The leader of the Bloc thinks he should be free to travel the world promoting his view of separation in Canada and abroad, but by God, should a minister of the crown dare to go to an OECD meeting to exchange ideas on the economy? Deux poids, deux mesures.

Conspiracy theories, Quebec bashing and Canada bashing make for a few good political points, but they do nothing to solve the country's basic economic problems.

Liberals want to take part in this debate today because we want to concentrate on the fundamental reason we were elected to this Parliament. That is to put Canadians back to work.

Last week, Shawinigan's police chief was in Hamilton, Shawinigan's twin city. We spent the whole day together. You know, Madam Speaker, what struck me and continues to strike me is that, if you ask young people in Shawinigan, Chicoutimi, the Lac-Saint-Jean region, Hamilton or Toronto what they are looking for, they will tell you they share the same goals.

I am the godmother of a two-year-old girl in Montreal who speaks French at home even though her father is an anglophone. It may surprise some separatists who do not know how Quebecers live but there are such people. Twenty-five French-speaking Liberal members worked here in this House and elsewhere in the country to defend minority rights across this beautiful country of ours. Do you think that, on the day that Canada ceases to exist, minorities will still have rights? Do you think that the millions of francophones now living in Timmins, Sudbury, Haileybury, New Brunswick, or Saint-Albert, will have a say in the new political reality?

Madam Speaker, why not work here together on issues affecting all our young people, work hard to try to renew our social assets, our human resources, because one thing is obvious: If you are about to get training in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver, the current system does not work. But instead of letting both sides of the House work together, all the Bloc does is put up roadblocks and whine; they refuse to accept anything good just because it comes from the federal government.

The saddest thing is that if you scrape away all the politics, if you scrape away the regional infighting, if you talk to a young person in Lethbridge, Red Deer or Dawson Creek, they share the same dreams. They share the same needs as the young people in Chicoutimi or Chibougamau.

The unfortunate tone and nature of this debate is that the Reform Party and the Bloc seem to believe that by carving up the country into linguistic pieces or geographic pieces, somehow we will make the nation better. What they do not understand is that any nation that wants to build for the future has to understand its past. Look at the reality of Canada.

Why? Why are we recognized throughout the world as a generous nation? It is because we decided, at the very beginning of our history, in our Constitution, to create a country with the two founding nations, and this is a fundamental element of who we are today.

Why do we have laws on firearms which differ greatly from those of our American neighbour? It is because we believed, at the beginning of our history, that both the individual and the community, not the individual alone, must define the priorities for our society.

And the role of the community was enshrined in the Constitution itself, in 1867. Yes, there were problems. We lived and we continue to live difficult periods. But this is like a marriage:

either you communicate and achieve something great, or else you shut the door.

Unfortunately, what is happening is that the hon. members opposite are closing the door. They have no interest in helping the Canadian economy. They have no interest in putting the young unemployed from Roberval to work because if young jobless in Roberval find work it will reflect favourably on the economy and the Government of Canada.

If the Reform Party really wanted to advance the cause of federalism and unity it would focus on the important task of rebuilding the economy and meeting the real challenges of the 21st century.

Canadians voted last October for a message of hope. They voted for honesty and integrity in government. We have made mistakes and we will continue to make mistakes, but by and large the hallmark of this government is honesty and integrity. They voted for an end to jurisdictional wrangling and indeed the Prime Minister is proud that he has promised to focus on a jobs agenda and to stay off the eternal treadmill of constitutional dissension. Ask ourselves the best question: Where else in the world would we rather want to live?

Is it true or not that Canada, in spite of all the problems and challenges, is the best place in the world to raise children?

It is the best place in the world to grow up. It is the best place in the world to be sick. It is the best place in the world to build a future.

We are moving to tear down those interprovincial barriers. My colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, is working very hard on accomplishing real tasks to get Canadians back to work.

A Reform Party member laughed earlier about what we were doing with the infrastructure program. I can say that in the Labourers' International Union hall in my riding when they get called to go out to a job they are not laughing. They are thanking God that a Liberal government had the good sense to put in place a very specific and direct job action to get Canadians back to work. That is a case of functional federalism: a country that puts Canadians back to work.

In the space of five months the minister responsible for infrastructure signed agreements with every single province to deliver on specific programs, no mean task.

According to the OECD, this year our economy will grow by 3.9 per cent. That is almost 4 per cent. And next year, the economic growth is expected to reach 4.5 per cent.

Canadians were right when they elected our government. They understood its message. Economic recovery is what will make our country work. The best way to ensure Canadian unity is to strengthen the things which unite us, not the things which separate us.

If you had the opportunity to spend half an hour with my seven-year old daughter, you would see that she shares the dreams and hopes of every Canadian child. Sure, we can put the emphasis on what does not work. Even if this was not Canada, there would still be some bickering between the various levels of government. If the federal government is not involved, then it is a municipality against the province or the region. It is part of human nature to think that things are not going well. It is an obvious thing to do, it is normal and it is even desirable.

But to go so far as to say that the federal system is no longer working, is finished, is not only to show a lack of logic but-

It is a denial. It is a denial of the real wishes of every single citizen of this country to be given the opportunity to achieve to the best of their ability.

They do not want us to come here to whine, to bicker and to fiddle. They want us to come here to put our country back to work.

You can always find excuses to make it not work, as demonstrated by the motion tabled today.

Our objective is not to be dragged into the constitutional morass but rather to work with Canadians as we have worked. Last week we signed the first ever Atlantic environmental accord which put Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island together to work with the federal government for positive environmental change. That is about government that works.

We do not need constitutional amendments and we do not need the kind of negative rhetoric of the Reform Party. What we need is a plan to put Canadians back to work to build a better country.

We do not want one language group to succeed over another. English only is not the solution. If one language group succeeds at the expense of another, Canada is not working. When Canada is working every language group has the right and the privilege to be everything they want to be. That is what the Liberal vision of Canada is all about. When I can stand in the House of Commons with a Chinese immigrant who came to this country and is now Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific and is proud to

speak more than one language, that is about making Canada work and using the talent of every citizen.

Our agenda is an economic agenda. Our agenda is a social agenda. Our agenda is a healing agenda. If we stay on the straight and narrow, the road the Prime Minister has set for us-

-if we put the emphasis on job creation and economic growth, it is obvious that Canadians and Canada will work, which is our goal in this whole debate on Canadian unity.

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3:40 p.m.


Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Madam Speaker, several things which the hon. member for Hamilton East alluded to talked about our playing into the hands of the BQ, that we were bashing federalism, that we were engaging in negative rhetoric and that we were on a constitutional treadmill.

Let me make it painfully clear so that every member in this House understands. We are not talking about the Constitution as such. We are talking about federalism and this is what needs to be discussed in this House. Surely there is a difference between wrangling about the Constitution and about federalism. There is not one person in this House, I hope, who would talk about how dreadful Canada is. That is simply not true.

We heard those comments coming across. We believe this country is worth fighting so hard for that we are here out of other careers, not people who have made their living off politics for years and years. We are asking for an open and frank discussion about this, not getting into the tirades that we have heard about. This is not right.

When we talk about such things as our position on bilingualism let me remind the member again because of any one else on the government side she probably has poured over our blue sheet more than anyone else. The member well knows the position of this party on official bilingualism. It is not what she referred to as English only.

Let me give the hon. member a chance to say that there is something positive about a debate on this. Perhaps it is unfortunate that someone else came up with the idea before they did.

I heard the member for Brant talking about how confused she is about the election and how people did not talk about the Constitution. Much has changed. I would like the hon. member to comment on this. We did not talk about it at great lengths because Charlottetown was so new and Meech Lake was so new and painful. However, we discussed this in the election last fall.

May I ask the member to comment on the fact that things are much different now. There were eight BQ in the House last time around and there are now 54.

Quite frankly the Liberals got smoked in Quebec during the election and she knows that. The provincial situation there is much different now than it was last fall as an election is imminent.

May she discuss with us very briefly why there is such an obsession on the other side to defend status quo federalism, as her comrade from Brant talked about earlier. Why is there is such a partisan difficulty with a tirade in this? Why can we not just discuss this so that we are building a new country together and the BQ and others in Quebec would want to come to it?

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3:45 p.m.


Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

Madam Speaker, I guess I get excited about the issue because I care about the future of my country. I believe that the motives of the member certainly are moving in the same direction. She cares about the country. She wants to see the country stay together. I appeal to her and to her colleagues that the direction of their policies would have the unfortunate and unexpected opposite effect.

When they introduced a motion, as they did only a few weeks ago to basically carve up the country into linguistic categories where there would be English in all the provinces except Quebec and then French except on the west island of Montreal, they were reinforcing the idea that somehow what is going to keep this country together is a kind of linguistic ghettoization.

I believe the unexpected results of their policies are to feed into the same kind of message that the Bloc is using to encourage people in Quebec to follow the road of separation.

The simple message of the Bloc is that Quebec works without Canada. The unfortunate message of the linguistic policies of the Reform Party is that Canada would work better without Quebec. That is the message that comes out. The distinction of the policies of the Liberal Party and the policies of the Government of Canada is that a fundamental tenant of our party's belief is that this nation historically was built and in the future will be built on the principle of two founding nations and the importance of every other person who came to this country.

My great grandparents came from Ireland. Technically they were neither anglophones nor francophones. They were on the republican side of the Irish.

The reality is other individuals and groups have come together to form an incredible strength, a real asset to this country. In recognizing the fundamental rights of two founding peoples we underline the importance of providing opportunities and equality for every citizen of this country. I think it is important to compare that with the route taken by the United States that did not have a two founding nations principle. It basically said to

their minorities: "Jump in with us, meld with us and we are going to make it".

The reality is that the framing of the Canadian Constitution originally set the stage for a partage, a co-operative approach that said every part of this country can speak different languages and make the system work.

I think that is the fundamental difference between the one language policy of their party and the two people policy of the Liberal government.

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3:50 p.m.


René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Madam Speaker, the minister spoke with a lot of emotion, but I say we have to find a balance in passion and reason. Where were the minister's emotions on Meech Lake and Charlottetown? I will look at this in a reasonable way.

We have reached the point where, although we are all part of the same country, we do not really live in the same house. We are part of that country but we have to go in through the back door. We simply want to be a people, to have our own house and leave the other house to those who want to live in it. They say Canada is wonderful. They are absolutely right. But Quebec is wonderful too, and afterwards, we will be able to say that Canadians and Quebecers are still the best of friends. We can live as good neighbours, we can be happy and we can work together.

Earlier, I heard Reform Party members say they wanted another Canada. We have wanted another Canada for 15, 20 or even 50 years, but it never happened. When I say that we want to become sovereign, you say no, no, no. When an eighteen-year old wants to leave home, will his father give him cookies and candy to get him to stay? Why do they want to keep us from leaving? That is my question.

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3:50 p.m.


Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

Madam Speaker, I do not hand out cookies or candy, and I think it is insulting for Quebecers to be told they can have candy if they stay in Canada.

There are certain things that have to be discussed. First of all, the hon. member talked about good friends, and of course we have good friends across this beautiful country. When a husband and wife who get along well, and are very good friends but decide to separate and finally to divorce, I do not know whether you saw the movie The War of the Roses , but you can have the most logical people in the world, but when emotions surface, that is the struggle between passion and reason.

Second, when the Leader of the Opposition went to Washington, he mentioned the fact that we had the best social security system in the world. He told Americans that he wanted a U.S. passport for his son. He said his wife wanted a U.S. passport for her son so he would have dual citizenship, because she is a republican and proud of it. This was in an interview he gave in Washington. He also confirmed the fact that despite everything that was said about Quebecers in the past-the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are both Quebecers- everything that was said in the course of Canadian history and during the period before the quiet revolution, today, as Quebecers within a united Canada, you are in a position to face the real challenges of the twenty-first century, and you have a level of entrepreneurship that is unique in this country. Use it. You are also talented-

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3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I am sorry to interrupt the minister. Resuming debate. The hon. member for Roberval.

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3:50 p.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Madam Speaker, without a doubt, the presentation we have just heard paints a picture of Canada that is nothing more than an illusion. The Deputy Prime Minister is a master illusionist, skilled at relating facts in a very interesting, entirely believable way, while concealing certain realities that must be brought to light today. And we intend to do just that.

Let us not forget that as recently as yesterday, in her Canada, the Deputy Prime Minister questioned the right of the Leader of the Official Opposition in this House, and of a member whose father fought in Europe, to lay a wreath in honour of the Quebecers who died because they shared the same ideals as soldiers from other nations.

In the Deputy Prime Minister's Canada, francophones outside Quebec, in particular those living in Kingston, have to fight to get adequate French-language schools with running water and washrooms.

In 1994, in the Deputy Prime Minister's Canada, francophones outside Quebec must fight to obtain which has long been viewed as necessary in all civilized countries. In her Canada, each citizen inherits a debt of $18,000 when he or she comes into this world. This is reality, not an illusion.

In the Deputy Prime Minister's Canada, the job prospects of citizens are the bleakest of all industrialized countries. The rate of unemployment hovers anywhere between 12 per cent and 14 per cent, depending on the circumstances, and stands as high as 20 per cent in a region such as the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean to which she referred several times in her speech.

Yes, we intend to talk about the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, about young people who want to work in this country and about the Deputy Prime Minister's idealistic vision of Canada.

The Canada of which she spoke with such apparent sincerity a while ago is the Canada which patriated the Constitution in 1982 without the consent of the country's only predominantly francophone province. This is the country which imposed on an extremely important minority which accounts for nearly the entire population of a province, an unwanted Constitution hatched behind Quebec's back. This Canada is the end result of the odious work of numerous representatives of this govern-

ment over the years. Exactly what kind of work are we talking about?

Since you want to hear about it, let us set aside the traditional legitimate demands of the French-speaking majority in Quebec; let us set aside all these demands to take a closer look at the sorry, obscure role that the leading lights in this government played in our recent history. When did relations become most embittered in Canada?

Remember the reign of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Remember that period of very great centralization when the Prime Minister, obviously, decided that his conception of Canada, which was supported by his colleagues, was a country where power had to be centralized and the provinces were only secondary.

Do you want to know one of the major problems which explains our presence here in this House today debating a motion in which it is clear that the Deputy Prime Minister's great beautiful Canada is breaking up? One of the main reasons is the odious centralizing attitude that ignores the French fact which Prime Minister Trudeau had in a recent past.

Madam Speaker, I will remind you that in other circumstances it was possible to think that in this would-be ideal Canada there would be room for Quebec, a proper decent place for Quebec. But I tell you it always happened when the voters had gotten rid of a Liberal government. Whenever Canada was governed by the Liberal Party in our recent history, there has been no political peace. The people who are crying today, trying to tell us what a shame it is that the separatists are in this House-who were democratically elected, we must say-what a pity it is that these people offer a different political position from their own.

You must be blind not to see the frightful role played by successive Liberal governments in this Parliament which denied the very existence of the French fact in Quebec. These governments always strove for centralization, which is no longer acceptable in Quebec. Is that clear? Quebec no longer accepts the centralizing attitude that those people believe in.

You remember the Meech Lake Accord; everyone does. This was an extremely important political moment for Quebec. Yes, Quebecers gave Canada a last chance for a face-lift. Yes, Quebecers successfully negotiated minimum conditions with the other provinces, the other regions of Canada and the federal government. It cannot be denied that all Quebecers made a tremendous effort to accept the five conditions behind the Meech Lake Accord. Even the premiers, may I remind you, undertook to convince their respective provinces that these demands were acceptable.

What are these demands? Recognition of Quebec as a distinct society and of Quebec's National Assembly's role in promoting this distinctiveness. Was it surprising, outrageous, odious to ask that Quebec francophones, who form a people, be recognized as a distinct society? I think it is a basic requirement.

Recognition of the federal government's spending power but with the right to opt out and full compensation for the provinces because the central government's unfortunate tendency to invade areas of provincial jurisdiction had to be contained to prevent this society from expressing itself as it saw fit in the future.

Quebec's participation in the appointment of three civil-law judges to the Supreme Court; entrenchment of the Cullen-Couture Agreement in the Constitution, that is, Quebec's power to control its immigration and to protect the very nature of the Quebec people; the provinces' unanimous agreement to reform some federal institutions. Everyone in Quebec as well as many people in English Canada thought these demands were quite acceptable. They were very minimal but they at least made a dialogue possible.

Do you know what made the premiers go back on their word? Let us look at those mainly responsible for the failure of the last great historic opportunity to achieve this wonderful Canada described by the Deputy Prime Minister.

Do you remember someone called Clyde Wells? He does not belong to the Bloc, the Parti Quebecois or the Reform Party. Clyde Wells is a Liberal, Madam Speaker, just like the Liberals opposite.

Do you know Mr. McKenna? McKenna is neither a Bloquiste nor a Reformer but a Liberal.

Do you remember Sharon Carstairs? She was not a member of the government but what role did she play in making the Meech Lake Accord impossible to accept? Ms. Carstairs was not a Tory, a Bloquiste, a Pequiste or a Reformer; she was another Liberal.

Finally, Madam Speaker, we all remember the extraordinary role played by the hon. member for Churchill, also a Liberal, who resorted to technicalities to ensure that the Meech Lake Accord would not be accepted in his province.

Those are the people who played a major role in the failure of the Meech Lake Accord. Those are Liberals who, on the evening of the Meech failure, the evening of the Liberal convention, hugged the current leader of the party and Prime Minister. Those are the ones to blame. Those people, who prevented the ratification of the five conditions deemed acceptable by all the parties involved for Canada to continue to be a viable option, are the

true responsibles for that failure and the situation in which we find ourselves today.

Yet, these same people come here and try to teach a lesson to Reform Party members, to Bloc Quebecois members, and to everyone else, with their vision of Canada. These people are fooling Canadians. I want to be clear. You are fooling Canadians. Stop burying your head in the sand. Face reality as it exists in Canada.

Surely, not everybody on the other side is disconnected from reality. There must be people who are sensitive to the needs of Francophones. There must be people who are still able to understand that democracy has rendered its verdict in Quebec and that the Bloc Quebecois is here for a very specific reason.

We campaigned by promoting sovereignty for Quebec, and I have something to say to the Liberals opposite. Whether you like it or not, we will promote Quebec sovereignty in every possible way. We will use every argument to explain, not only to Quebecers, but also to other nations, to people abroad, and to others in Canada, how this eminently democratic project will be based on a serious, responsible, democratic and proper process which will be respectful of people and realities.

This process will be similar to our interventions here in this House. It will reflect the spirit of co-operation which we have always displayed to ensure that this Parliament operates the way it should.

I will conclude by saying that we have no lessons in democracy to receive from the other side. If there is a place in Canada where a minority is treated with respect and is an integral part of the community, it is the English-speaking minority in Quebec.

Which other region of the country provides its minority with a complete network of school boards, schools, hospitals, health care facilities? These institutions are not only at the service of the minority: They are also controlled by anglophones in Quebec.

Yes, we respect Quebec's anglophones. Yes, we intend to keep building bridges with a community that is an integral part of Quebec as it is today.

I suggest members opposite to do the same in their part of the country. We do not need any advice on how to be democratic and respect the rights of others. We are doing a very good job, thank you very much, as far as democracy is concerned, and we intend to finish what we have set out to do. I admit there were other alternatives in the past, but we intend to go ahead with our plan because across the way are the real perpetrators of the constitutional mess Canada has been in since the eighties.

Two Liberal Prime Ministers in succession have created a situation that has become intolerable in this country. They are the real culprits, and they keep denying it. They even got themselves an ineffable Prime Minister who, with 54 sovereigntist members elected to Parliament, went around saying: "There will be no debate on the Constitution during my mandate. There are no constitutional problems in Canada". That takes some doing, Madam Speaker.

As long as we have people on that side of the House who will not face the facts. As long as, day after day, we see ever-increasing attempts at centralization, as has been the case since we were elected to this House a few months ago. As long as we see these shocking attempts at patriating powers to the central government. As long as we see federal-provincial conferences being postponed because not only Quebec but most provincial governments can no longer tolerate federal intrusions into their jurisdictions. As long as we have a political situation in which people in Ottawa do not make the effort to understand the different realities of Canada's regions, not just the circumstances in Quebec but those in the other regions as well. As long as we are governed by people who show so little interest in what happens in Canada's regions, we will continue to see centralist offensives and provinces, premiers and citizens who protest, and they will have to deal with these problems in their own Canada, because Quebec, I am positive, will have decided, in a democratic way, to make its own choices.

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4:10 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister had said that she was hurt to see the Leader of the Opposition lay a wreath, but she defended his right to do so because she believes in a democratic country. I shared her hurt and pain when I went over to the war memorial on Monday and the first group of MPs I saw were the Bloc, the separatists.

Yes, separatists lost family during the war, but it was a war in which Canada fought as one united nation to preserve one united nation. While I have defended the right for the Bloc to be the party of the opposition in my riding, it hurt me to see the people who would destroy this country.

I would also like to suggest that the leader of the Reform Party must feel very pleased with what he has wrought today. I wonder what goes on in the lobby of the opposition side, the collusion, the strategy, the working together, the flip side of the coin, the Quebec without Canada, the Canada without Quebec. Madam Speaker, I would suggest that when you watch the news tonight you will see the member from the other side as he raises his voice and his face turns red and he yells and screams "more rights, more rights for Quebec," and I tell you how difficult it will be to defend his right to sit in this House in my riding.

We can thank the leader of the Reform for being irresponsible in heating up the rhetoric in this debate. If the member on the other side is respectful of people's rights then my question to you is why do you ignore and why do you choose not to respect the rights of the native people in Quebec in their path toward sovereignty and self-government.

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4:15 p.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Madam Speaker, what is there to say! The hon. member is attempting to give us a lesson in democracy and while I am convinced that she is not acting in bad faith, I feel she has neglected to consider the important role I alluded to earlier that was played by these leaders, by the first ministers and ministers.

The hon. member tells me that she was hurt to see the Leader of the Opposition pay tribute to the soldiers who died. First of all, the Canada which these soldiers defended was not the same country that later was coerced, manipulated, despoiled, altered and tormented without Quebec's consent. That is something the hon. member should first understand. The Canada bequeathed to us by Mr. Trudeau, her former leader and the former Prime Minister, the Canada in which Quebecers no longer feel at home, is not the same Canada that we knew back then. We must not lose sight of this fact.

Regardless of our political option, are we to be denied the right to pay homage to those who came before us and who fought to preserve our democratic values? Are we to be denied this right? Is this a country in which people will become indignant because we are allowed to pay tribute to our own sons who fought for democracy?

More than anyone, we hope that respect for democratic values is deeply rooted in this Parliament because this principle will one day help us to achieve the objective we hold so dear.

With respect to native rights, without delving into this subject too deeply because of time constraints, I would just like to say to the hon. member that if she was truly up on native issues, she would realize that native people in Quebec far and away enjoy the best standard of living of all native peoples. Far and away. She would also realize that it was in Quebec that natives first obtained some recognition from the government, something which natives living elsewhere cannot even hope to secure.

She forgets that in Quebec, negotiations and discussion involving more than two thirds of the territory have taken place. An agreement was reached with the Cree of James Bay and with the Inuit, an agreement signed by all parties. This was nothing like the unilateral agreements of the past, but a genuine, all-party agreement which resolved a slew of problems that have yet to be settled anywhere else in Canada.

Of all the provinces in Canada, Quebec more than anyone else has engaged in the broadest, liveliest, most open and most consensual dialogue with native peoples.

I would ask the hon. member to speak to the Minister of Indian Affairs, to discuss this issue with him and to call upon the other provinces to do for their native communities what Quebec has done. This would be a major step forward.

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4:20 p.m.


John Harvard Liberal Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Madam Speaker, this member from the Bloc can huff and puff and shout and make a lot of noise and it really will not matter-

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4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I am sorry, I am going to interrupt. I would ask hon. members to recognize when the Chair recognizes someone. I do not have to be told what side they are on. I see them standing and I see who stands first. Continue please.