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.