Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Leader of the Reform Party for the opportunity to participate in this debate. I was under the impression that he would not give us the chance, since he had said that he would not interfere in what he dubbed a family squabble.
I think he now realizes that this is much more than a family squabble and that we are grappling with a fundamental problem, one that existed before all of our economic problems and deficit woes. I think he realizes, and I thank him for that, that until the issue is resolved, we must confront it head on. At least that is what the Bloc Quebecois has decided to do.
Yesterday, all of the western countries who joined the vast anti-Nazi coalition after 1939 held ceremonies to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy. The thousands of young soldiers who died and all of their comrades in arms were in reality, to quote the cover page of Time magazine, the soldiers of the last great crusade. Upon the cessation of hostilities, two antagonistic blocs emerged, each wanting to bring about lasting peace in the western world.
The western world has known peace for nearly 50 years. Troubles and differences of opinions are of course not uncommon, but today, no country in the western world would consider taking up arms to resolve in its favour a political or economic conflict with another country. Yesterday's adversaries such as Germany and France, once centuries-old enemies, have become the staunchest of allies.
Peace in the western world is based on two major interwoven principles, namely democracy and national sovereignty. The exercise of democracy guarantees the exercise of national sovereignty. These principles provide the answers to two fundamental questions about how societies organize themselves politically, namely how is power achieved and who governs whom.
The western model provides clear answers to these two questions. Nations prefer to govern themselves and within each nation, citizens want to democratically choose their govern-
ment. In short, the democratic nation-state is the norm in our western civilization.
What better opportunity than this solemn celebration of the ideals that brought together 50 years ago as many peoples and combatants under the same banner, to remind all Canadians and all Quebecers of our deep commitment to the fundamental values of peace and democracy!
Giving the national feeling the framework it needs to grow normally is a guarantee of peace. And what an example of constructive co-operation the nations of Western Europe have been giving the whole world for more than 40 years without infringing on national sovereignty on basic issues! This should serve as an example for Canada, a country that is young but, strangely enough, incapable of showing the flexibility it needs to deal with inescapable sociological and economic realities.
Democracy certainly seems the most demanding system for the leaders and for the whole state machinery in terms of restraint, transparency and respect for human rights. During the difficult times that every country experiences in the course of its history, there is a strong temptation to play fast and loose with democracy. Canada is no exception to this rule, as demonstrated by the 1970 War Measures Act.
These difficult times put the democratic fibre of a society to the test but we are not afraid of the immediate future from that perspective. Canada will certainly not backtrack at a time when democracy is gaining ground throughout the world, particularly in Latin America, notwithstanding the unfortunate situation in Haiti, and in Central Europe.
Let us be clear that it is perfectly normal for the federal government to plan a campaign of persuasion to convince Quebecers of the merits of the status quo, but it is also perfectly normal for us to promote the only alternative to the status quo which is political sovereignty of Quebec.
The leader of the Reform Party talks about a new federalism but the last 30 years offer abundant proof that this so-called new approach is nothing but a cul de sac. There are two options on the table. There will be a political debate and the people of Quebec will decide. All of us will have to abide by the results. This is democracy.
This does not mean that anything goes, that blows beneath the belt should be tolerated or that reaching for the gutter should not be singled out for what it is. Are these words too strong? We hope at the outset of this important campaign decency will prevail. One can hold strong views on the issues of the day without demonizing the adversary. This has been and will be our line of conduct.
When all the peripheral noise has been removed one should be able to focus on the central issue. If Canada is performing so poorly it is mainly because there is in its bosom a sharp conflict of vision. In the minds of the people of English speaking Canada there is one national government in Ottawa and 10 equal provinces; in other words, one senior government and 10 junior governments.
For Quebecers their national government is in Quebec and the doctrine of provincial equality represents a denial of their history and of their aspirations for the future.
Being the senior government, Ottawa can intervene in almost all of the provincial domains mainly by using its spending power. What happens when Quebec and Ottawa have different sets of priorities? Not only do their bureaucracies overlap but they are at cross purposes. If English speaking Canada prefers to transfer some provincial powers to the federal government it can do so not only administratively but also legally so that Quebec cannot prevent the erosion of its powers
All this boils down to a simple reality. Canadian federalism means that the Government of Quebec is subordinate to the central government both in large and lesser matters. Quebec does not have today all the powers it needs to be the key player in setting its priorities, be they economic, social or cultural. In other words, English speaking Canada has a veto on the future development of Quebec within the federation.
Nobody ever relinquishes power joyfully, but one can at least expect English speaking Canada to clearly see the impasse to which the present regime has brought us both. The budget crisis is but the most visible symptom of this impasse. Another one is the sheer impossibility of significant political movement in one direction or another. The federal government will never let go of its extensive powers, not only on grounds of ideology but also because many provinces do not have the resources to assume even a few of its powers. In fact the necessity of a stronger central government for English speaking Canada, in the education sector for example, is not in doubt. The more important provinces, seeing the fierce resistance of Quebec to any transfer whatsoever to Ottawa, will hesitate to climb aboard the federal bandwagon.
Thus gridlock and confrontation are built into the system. It is easy to predict, for example, that the eventual blueprint of the Minister of Human Resources Development to overhaul social security will not meet its objectives. Unreasonable deficits will just go on piling up, speeding in the process the relative decline of the Canadian economy.
The Quebec people reject the status quo that will never satisfy them. They spoke loud and clear on this in the last federal election. They understood what the Quebecers sitting on the government benches in this House have not understood yet, namely that there are times in history when governing well means making drastic changes to the system. We are approaching one of these times.
Some prefer to wait until they are confronted with newspaper headlines before admitting that something is happening. It is their right, although it shows a particular kind of historic long-sightedness. In fact, we see with every passing month that the federal government is unable to get Canada and Quebec out of the increasingly devastating economic and budget crisis.
In the February 22 budget debate, we drew the attention of this House to several questionable aspects of the budget and I would like to remind you of two of the points we made at that time. First, the Minister of Finance deliberately inflated his 1993-94 deficit estimate to make his performance for the current year look better. Debt servicing for this year, in particular, was overestimated. A few weeks ago, the Department of Finance proved us right by stating that it now expected the deficit to be under $44 billion instead of the $45.7 billion announced on February 22.
Second, we said that the interest rate projections in the budget were too optimistic. Today no one finds them credible. The interest rates on short- and long-term securities now exceed by almost two percentage points the average level forecast in the budget despite the last few days' decline.
In view of the federal government's poor financial situation, it is impossible for interest rates to decline significantly in Canada without a similar drop in the United States. The American economy is approaching the threshold of capacity utilization which will lead to larger inflationary pressures. Just look at our southern neighbours' unemployment rate: it was down to 6 per cent in May, while ours is still 11 per cent.
Under these conditions, U.S. monetary policy will remain more restrictive and U.S. interest rates could rise further. Add to this an overly optimistic revenue projection and you will understand that the government, like its predecessor, is underestimating the deficits from the outset.
Since the economic hypotheses on which the 1995-96 deficit forecast is based are even more optimistic than those for the current fiscal year, the extent of the underestimate will necessarily be larger next year. Why be surprised then when the financial community does not believe the finance minister's promise to reduce the federal deficit to 3 per cent of GDP in 1996-97? The C.D. Howe Institute has just warned the government in a very recent study that its spending should be cut by $7.2 billion if it wants to keep the promise of 3 per cent. In a few months, the federal government's inability to correct its financial situation except by passing the crisis on to the provinces will be obvious to all. That is what the next federal budget has in store for us.
We must admit right away that the Minister of Finance has already shown his colours. With questions pouring in from all over about the precarious state of the federal government's finances, he promised a month and a half ago to make massive cuts in transfers to the provinces starting in 1996-97. He went even further, since this is his chief method for eliminating the federal deficit by the year 2000.
On the one hand, the federal government pretends to decide everything; it is even eyeing education. On the other, it is prepared to pass on to the provinces the bill for its fiscal irresponsibility. Fiscal federalism is thus more and more disadvantageous for Quebec. The trend of recent years will accelerate markedly. It will become more obvious than ever that Quebec must take back all its resources if it really wants to break the vicious circle of a decaying system which every day is a greater fundamental impediment to its freedom of action.
Thus we know that the political and economic dynamics of the present system are working at a deep level and not only superficially for the sovereignty of Quebec. The coming years will confirm that our historical destiny is leading us to this sovereignty.
I heard the leader of the Reform Party explain his view of what Canada should do to get out of the present crisis. I heard that he proposes something like a new round of negotiations but prior to that many members and ministers of the House should be travelling around, along with civil servants, with city hall meetings all over the country.
When I listened to him I had a sense of déjà vu and I thought it looked so much like the Keith Spicer approach. Do we remember the Keith Spicer train that went all across the country listening to people? It heard all kinds of things, disparate things, and at the end we had nothing. Out of the mountain came a mouse, as we say in French. I am quite discouraged to see that we will begin again if we listen to the Reform Party.
The leader of the Reform Party does not know a lot of Quebec history. I am 55 and I spent most of my last 30 adult years involved directly or indirectly in the sterility of federal-provincial discussions, constitutional quagmire. I have a feeling that we in Quebec, and probably people in the rest of Canada have the same feeling, lost the last 30 years wasting our energy, our money, our political stamina that we needed to build something
real in all parts of this huge country, devoted to the sterile discussions of the Constitution.
Here we are with a new proposal to resume this terrible circus. People have forgotten that we went through the referendum in 1980 in Quebec, that there has been the unilateral patriation of the Constitution in 1982 where Quebec had imposed on it a Constitution which is our current Constitution. We never signed it and every attempt to bring Quebec to the table to sign the Constitution has failed because the people of Canada and of Quebec have said no.
I was in the House when the political establishment of the country, the House of Commons, decided that there should be a deal based on the Charlottetown accord. I was here when we voted-I would exempt the Bloc because we voted against it-and all the federalist parties voted for the Charlottetown accord. We saw the people of Quebec and the rest of Canada reject it.
The right reason and the great reason why the government will not get involved in the debate with a new proposal is that it knows it is not possible. It knows that everything has been done: good faith, bad faith, imaginative strategy, all kinds of things. Everything has been attempted. I would say it is a disease of the country that we cannot move. The country has no power when it comes to changing anything, to adapting the Constitution to reality because the country does not accept reality.
There are two realities as long as no one accepts that outside Quebec there is no possibility for anything. We have two realities: we have Quebec and we have the rest of Canada.
The Quebec people do not think they are better than any other part of the country, but they think they are different. They have done nothing to destroy anything. We do not intend to destroy Canada. We intend to adapt the political structures to the realities.
I have a different vision of the country from what people on the other side of the House have of their country. I respect their vision. I have the ultimate, utmost respect for their vision.
I respect the people who died in the last war. When I laid a wreath yesterday I did it out of sincerity, out of respect. We have people in our families who died in Europe and who fought for democracy, for whatever. We should respect those people and not put words in their mouths because silence is now their privilege. Silence is now their prerogative. We should not resurrect them. We should accept the fact that they died for a great cause, that we have inherited a legacy of their courage. We should respect it and silence about what they thought when they died, what they had in their hearts when they died on those beaches far away from their families, should be respected. It is for them for eternity because they have kept it in their graves.
When I laid the wreath yesterday I asked the member for Quebec to do it. She had never told us before. Perhaps she was absolutely taken by the atmosphere, the tragic and grandiose atmosphere yesterday, when she said: "You know my father was there and he spent the war in Europe". I said: "You should lay the wreath yourself", and she did.
I was so upset this morning, so sad, when I read the comments made by the Deputy Prime Minister about the significance of our gesture yesterday.
I will close my speech. I know it is a very emotional, very difficult debate. I pledge to stay forever a democrat and to respect the opinions of other people. And I would ask people to do the same for us.