Madam Speaker, today I have the honour and privilege to speak in favour of the Reform motion which states:
That this House strongly affirm and support the desire of Canadians to remain federally united as one people, committed to strengthening our economy, balancing the budgets of our governments, sustaining our social services, conserving our environment, preserving our cultural heritage and diversity, protecting our lives and property, further democratizing our institutions and decision making processes, affirming the equality and uniqueness of all our citizens and provinces and building peaceful and productive relations with other peoples of the world.
What a wonderful vision of Canada. I am happy to join with my leader, the hon. member for Calgary Southwest, and my colleagues who have shown leadership and vision in beginning to define a new federalism that can create a revitalized or a new Canada to which 10 or more provinces can look with pride and accomplishment.
I am disappointed in the government's amendment. It calls for a cake with no recipe. It is a continuation of the irresponsible role played by this Liberal government where it insists on Canadian unity but has no blueprint to achieve the goods. It has no way of accomplishing what it has set out to do and it is compromising federalism in the process.
In January the leader of my party described the 35th Parliament as one without precedent and it surely is. A few years ago not very many prognosticators would have predicted a House of Commons where the Official Opposition, the Bloc Quebecois, would sit in this House happily accepting the title of Official Opposition, would swear allegiance to the Queen and would collect a salary from the federal treasury all the while on a mission to break up Canada by taking Quebec out of Confederation.
Even fewer forecasters would have guessed that a federal Liberal government would sit idly by and pretend it was not so. Who could have guessed the Liberal government would sit on its hands and play politics as usual while separatists were chipping away at the very foundation of the country?
This sad state of affairs explains the need for Reformers to bridge the gap and start pouring a new brand of unity concrete to provide some cement to which Canadians with a commitment to federalism might attach themselves, including those who live in Quebec, perhaps especially those who live in Quebec.
I will take a few moments to speak to the motion and particularly the phrase "preserving our cultural heritage and diversity". There are many myths and misconceptions associated with culture and heritage. One tends to associate myths with the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Babylonians, but we have fostered a few in Canada too. Some of the myths most commonly perpetuated include:
Myth No. 1: Canada is composed of two founding nations. Some have gone so far as to call the English and the French the founding races. While the myth may describe a contract between upper and lower Canada it is exposed when you consider the fact that aboriginal people have always been a factor in Canada and that for all of our 128 years as a nation, people have come from every corner of the globe to help build this country.
Myth No. 2: Canada will become more unified if we enact language legislation. The Official Languages Act has not made Canadians feel more unified. It has been a bone of contention in our land. It has put a black mark on bilingualism in Canada, rather than permitting it to be a prestigious step of accomplishment like knowledge of languages should be.
Myth No. 3: Canada will only be able to sustain its multicultural heritage if the government bundles up tax dollars and earmarks them for song and dance across our land to preserve our diverse cultural heritage.
Reformers have done an excellent job of debunking the myth that Canada can still be described as a nation of two founding cultures. Clearly we have moved far beyond this narrow view of our country. A few weeks ago Reformers spoke at length about the failure of official bilingualism in this House and put forth a
realistic and constructive alternative which would prove much less divisive and less costly than the status quo.
I will deal briefly with the third myth, that having an official multiculturalism secretariat that gives grants and makes lofty pronouncements is not the best means of preserving our multicultural heritage in a harmonious manner. Government should get out of the multicultural business. Let me explain what I mean by the multicultural business.
The Secretary of State for Multiculturalism spent over $3.8 billion in 1992-93. Much of this budget we would transfer to other more suitable departments and ministries. The $2.9 billion transferred to the provinces for post-secondary education is a good example of a program that would be protected from cuts under the Reform plan. The $500 million in student loan guarantees is another good example, as is all federal funding to fight racism and human rights protection.
However, the funding to universities, private individuals and associations promoting cultural development, totalling over $26 million, could be eliminated. Furthermore, $47 million in taxpayers' hard earned money could be saved by cutting funding to language-based special interest groups in all parts of the country.
If, as we have argued, the federal government is not the appropriate body for funding and running multiculturalism, then who should be responsible for preserving, conserving, encouraging and paying for our cultural heritage? That is a fair question. The Reform Party supports the principle that individuals and groups are free to preserve their cultural heritage using their own resources and we shall uphold their right to do so.
We would focus federal government activities on enhancing the citizenship of all Canadians, regardless of race, language or culture. We oppose the current concept of hyphenated Canadianism as pursued by this and previous governments.
If you reject the idea that culture can be designed or engineered by the state, then it only stands to reason that the development, preservation and promotion of our multicultural heritage should be left to individuals, private associations, or in some cases lower levels of government.
The focus of the federal government should be the prevention of discrimination on the basis of race, language or culture. How would this approach affect Quebec? I think this is the focus of what we are discussing in this House today. Reformers believe this approach to linguistic and cultural issues may hold the key to Quebecers' aspirations to feeling culturally and linguistically secure. It would allow Canadians in Quebec to promote and preserve their language and culture through their provincial government. Therefore, the federal government should transfer its efforts at protecting and promoting language and culture to individuals and lower levels of government.
In the case of Quebec, the provincial government would likely accept the challenge. Other provinces may not choose to do so, but we believe the prerogative should lie with the provinces as to whether they want to promote language and culture within their jurisdiction.
The federal government would maintain and even revitalize its role in preventing discrimination of minorities wherever in Canada they may be. We believe the federal government should provide the glue that helps hold us all together, no matter where we are from, no matter what our cultural heritage, no matter whether we are first generation Canadians or 10th generation Canadians.
By allowing people the freedom to pursue their linguistic and cultural interests independent of federal government interference we would create a more unified country. It is far more productive to stress those things which all Canadian citizens share in common rather than to emphasize differences that threaten to tear us apart. If the government would work to bring Canadians together we would all be a lot happier.
Therefore I strongly support our motion. I believe it is a blueprint to prepare Canada for another 128 successful years as a Confederation of 10 equal provinces, perhaps more if the northern territories are brought into Confederation. It is a country in which we can all feel secure, whether our heritage is Asian or European, whether it be French ancestry, English ancestry or whether it be First Nations, the aboriginal people of Canada. That is the kind of Canada in which I want to live in the future and that is the kind of country I believe most Canadians would be quite excited about, working for and preserving.