House of Commons Hansard #268 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.


Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to seven petitions.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Chris Axworthy NDP Saskatoon—Clark's Crossing, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-363, an act to amend the Criminal Code (juvenile prostitution).

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to introduce this private member's bill for first reading. It provides that a Canadian citizen be tried in Canada where that citizen has sexually exploited children overseas.

We all know there is a multibillion dollar sex trade, particularly in Asia. Other countries, in particular the United Kingdom and Sweden, have taken measures to ensure that their citizens who commit crimes against children, which is surely one of the most heinous crimes we can imagine, are tried in their home country.

Article 35 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada was instrumental in implementing, states that governments have the obligation to ensure that children are protected from all forms of sexual exploitation.

I recommend the bill to the House. I congratulate an organization called End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism, which has worked very hard to ensure that this trade be stopped.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I present a petition to the House. The petition is signed by people from all across the national capital region: Ottawa, Nepean, Gloucester, Orleans and so on. It has to do with same sex benefits.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, the petition I am presenting today comes from the constituents of Yorkton-Melville. It states: "We, the undersigned citizens of Canada, wish to draw to the attention of the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada that a very vocal minority of citizens are requesting Parliament to institute a dual marketing system for wheat and barley.

Therefore, your petitioners request that Parliament continue to give the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly powers in marketing wheat and barley and also request that Parliament expand further the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly powers to include all grains and oilseeds".

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of my constituents in Regina-Lumsden who are concerned and opposed to the approval of the synthetic bovine growth hormone known as BGH or BST, the drug injected into cows to increase milk production.

The petitioners call on Parliament to take steps to keep BGH out of Canada through legislating a moratorium or stoppage on BGH use and sale until the year 2000, and examining the outstanding health and economic questions through independent and transparent review.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


Act Respecting Constitutional AmendmentsGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario


Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-110, an act respecting constitutional amendments, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, Bill C-110 represents the fulfilment of one of the three undertakings made by the Prime Minister during the referendum campaign. At that time, the Prime Minister made a commitment not to amend the Canadian Constitution without the consent of the people of Quebec. But the bill goes much further. It also ensures that no constitutional change will take place without a regional consensus.

Let us be very clear: this initiative, the resolution respecting Quebec's distinctiveness, and the initiative that will follow tomorrow, are in no way the sum total of our response to the Quebec referendum or to the issue of national unity. Rather, these three commitments should be seen as important first steps.

It was in front of a rally of over 100,000 proud Canadians in Montreal that the Prime Minister promised change. He made a commitment and now he has delivered.

On that day he made it clear that to implement change he would need the support of those same proud Canadians and their friends who came from coast to coast to coast to Montreal. The time for this renewal starts now.

We need the support of those Canadians and Canadians from all across the country to confirm the faith of the majority of Quebecers who voted no to separation on October 30.

The steps we are taking this week in combination signal a new beginning and a reaffirmation of our desire to remain united.

Bill C-110 should be seen in the context of this renewal. Yesterday, the Prime Minister spoke eloquently before the House to the resolution recognizing Quebec's distinct society.

That resolution represents a solemn commitment, the fulfilment of a pledge, and this Chamber's genuine expression of respect for the people of Quebec. True, this resolution will satisfy neither the Parti Quebecois nor the Bloc Quebecois.

As we know, sadly, nothing short of breaking up this country would satisfy them. But, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, it is easier to destroy than to build. This government is interested only in building a stronger, more united Canada.

As the Prime Minister asserted yesterday, the resolution through which the House is being called on to confirm the reality that Quebec is a distinct society is not intended in any way and does not infringe on or derogate from aboriginal or treaty rights. This position includes the inherent right to self-government. We recognize the unique legal position of aboriginal peoples, including the protection of aboriginal and treaty rights as found in the Constitution.

Tomorrow my colleague, the Minister of Human Resources Development, will table a bill transforming the unemployment insurance program into an employment insurance program. This will represent the latest step in the practice established by the government in the two years since we have taken office; a practice of co-operating to end duplication with other levels of government as we work toward our common goals of creating jobs and achieving economic growth.

We reaffirmed that commitment during the referendum campaign. Tomorrow will mark an important step in that continuing process.

During the referendum campaign, we assured the people of Quebec that the Canadian Constitution would not be amended again without their consent. That was a solemn commitment. Yet, the Government of Quebec stands in the way of our modernizing the federation and stays on the sidelines by itself. It refuses to participate.

As Canada begins its renewal, we need a practical way of assuring Quebecers that we will not proceed without them. What we have done is to provide a strong political commitment, backed by the force of law, that we will use our veto to oppose any change that, in the opinion of Quebecers or people from any other region, goes against their best interests. This simply acknowledges the reality. There is no point in adopting changes that do not have substantial support in all the regions of the country.

Allow me to deal briefly with the contents of Bill C-110. May I emphasize at the outset that this legislation does not initiate or represent constitutional change. It is essential to emphasize that the adoption of this bill by Parliament will not result in any change in the amending formula provided for in the Constitution of our country.

All of the features of Part V of the Constitution calling for provincial agreement in various forms, depending on the nature of

the proposed amendment, will remain entirely as they are at present. In particular, the general formula for amendment requiring the approval of two-thirds of the provinces representing 50 per cent of the Canadian population will remain exactly as it is at present.

What this bill does achieve is to make the federal veto over constitutional change available in such a way as to ensure that no such change will take place without regional consensus. Simply stated, the federal government is providing by law that such support will not be forthcoming unless certain conditions are met. Those conditions involve the support of every region of Canada.

Let me spend a few moments setting out in a summary way that which is already well known to members of Parliament; that is, the features of the present amending formula contained in Part V of the Constitution Act, 1982 and that will continue unchanged after this bill is adopted.

Each and every one of the provinces already has a veto on many categories of proposed constitutional amendments. For example, each and every one of the provinces has a veto on all changes that require unanimity; that is, those matters that are touched on by section 41 of the Constitution Act. These involve changes to the office of the Queen, the governor general, the lieutenant governor of a province. They involve changes in provincial representation in the House of Commons and the Senate, the use of the English and French languages, and the composition of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Under section 41, every province, from Newfoundland on the east to British Columbia on the west, has an absolute and unconditional veto over any amendment referred to in section 41.

The second type of change contemplated by the Constitution and the second kind of veto provided in part V is dealt with in section 43. Whenever there are proposed changes that affect one or more but not all of the provinces, those provinces affected by the proposed changes have an absolute and unconditional veto over any such amendment. Think, for example, about the resolution of boundary questions between provinces that neighbour each other, or instances such as the amendment permitting the construction of the fixed link between the mainland and Prince Edward Island. Without the concurrence of the province or provinces affected by changes under section 43, those amendments will not occur.

The third kind of change in respect of which there is a virtual veto is under the general amending formula in subsection 38(1). It is provided in subsection 38(3) that where there is any amendment approved by seven provinces with 50 per cent of the population, if it involves the reduction of any provincial power, right, or privilege, any province can opt out. In that section, the veto is exercised in a negative sense by the objecting province opting out of the proposed change. Under section 40, where such an opting out takes place in relation to matters involving culture or education the federal government is obligated to compensate the dissenting province financially.

It is therefore clear that each and every province, from Prince Edward Island to Alberta, from British Columbia to Newfoundland, has a veto either directly or indirectly over almost all categories of constitutional change.

The only area that exists at present where there is no veto is where the general amending formula applies and where the opting out provisions of subsection 38(3) do not arise; in other words, those amendments that do not involve taking powers away from the provinces. We are therefore dealing with those categories of amendment that would, for example, add powers to the provinces, enlarge the territories of existing provinces, or deal with all the other matters listed in section 42 of the Constitution.

The effect of Bill C-110 is to provide a regional veto for any of the changes in respect of which the individual provinces do not already have direct or indirect vetos. The additional regional veto that is contemplated by this legislation will be provided not by constitutional change but rather through a commitment by the Canadian government to introduce such changes only when regional consensus is demonstrated.

In effect, the federal government is putting in place a set of criteria that will guide the future use of its own veto power. The seven and fifty amending formula is still in place. Bill C-110 is merely a discipline the federal government imposes on itself.

Canadian history shows that the idea of a regional veto has often been supported by many responsible proponents. Indeed, at the Victoria constitutional conference of 1971, the federal government and all 10 provinces agreed to a constitutional amending formula that was, in general terms, very similar to that proposed in Bill C-110.

This approach was ultimately rejected, for other reasons, by a subsequent decision.

Let us keep in mind, however, that the Victoria formula as it was then called had the original support of all eleven governments.

Similarly, the 1991 report of the Beaudoin-Edwards Committee contained a proposal almost identical to that in Bill C-110. Finally, at its 1992 policy convention in Hull, the Liberal Party of Canada

endorsed certain specific amending formulas, including the very formula set out in this bill.

As members will see, this bill provides expressly that no minister of the crown can introduce a resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution unless such an amendment has the consent of a majority of the provinces. Which begs the question: What is meant exactly by "the consent of the provinces"?

First, let me point out that it will be up to the federal government to determine what this phrase means every time a new situation arises. Depending on the circumstances, the federal government might interpret as consent, for example, an expression of consent by the provincial government of the day, a resolution of the legislative assembly, or a direct expression of the population's agreement through a referendum.

There are those who may argue that Bill C-110 is unconstitutional because it represents a unilateral attempt by the Canadian government to amend the Constitution. I can tell the House that I gave careful consideration to this question before certifying the bill as constitutional, as it was tabled in the House yesterday.

Let me express my sincere conviction that Bill C-110 is valid federal legislation. It does not amend the Constitution in any way. Indeed, it is complementary to the constitutional amending provisions.

It must be observed that the House of Commons is the only legislative assembly in Canada with a complete veto over almost every conceivable type of constitutional change. That is so because as a practical matter no such change will occur if it is opposed by the House of Commons.

Bill C-110 simply represents a reflection in legislative form of the policy of the Canadian government with respect to the circumstances under which it will lend its support to constitutional change where the provinces do not already have a veto.

In my respectful view, this legislation is much in the same category as those provincial statutes by which certain provinces have bound themselves to support constitutional amending proposals only after a referendum has been held in which the people of a province express their support. I refer specifically to the legislation in both Alberta and British Columbia, which imposes on those provincial governments exactly that constraint or discipline.

Accordingly, I say that this bill is neither intended to nor does it amend the Constitution directly or indirectly. It simply sets out the circumstances under which the Canadian government may support constitutional change.

Another question that arises is whether there are four regions for these purposes or five. As the Prime Minister asserted in his remarks yesterday, some are already suggesting that the bill does not do justice to British Columbia. Let me emphasize that this is simply not the case.

The changes in this legislation are a significant step forward for British Columbia in the constitutional process. These steps are the clearest recognition we have had to date of British Columbia's growing importance within Canada. The voices of British Columbians are being heard in Ottawa and throughout Canada. Let there be no mistake about that.

As the largest western province, British Columbia will obviously have a major voice in determining whether regional consensus exists in the circumstances contemplated by Bill C-110. Indeed, the arithmetical reality is that British Columbia, with the support of only one other western province, could block any constitutional change affected by Bill C-110. This represents a significant increase in British Columbia's role in the amending process. The situation at present in respect of amendments to which Bill C-110 would apply is that change would be possible without the consent of three western provinces, even if the three dissenting provinces together represented a majority of the population in the western region.

The population of British Columbia is expected to surpass 50 per cent of the total of the western region early in the next century. This will mean that under the provisions of Bill C-110 British Columbia on its own would ultimately be able to block any amendment. This will represent a major improvement and significant recognition of British Columbia's place in Confederation.

This issue should surely be kept in perspective. We speak in this bill of a veto. A veto does not initiate constitutional change, it blocks it. What we are talking about is the ability of a region to stop an amendment to the Constitution.

I remind members as well that the Constitution requires that a conference convened by the Prime Minister and including all first ministers must be held before April 1997, expressly for the purpose of discussing the amending formula in part V. The issue of British Columbia's involvement in the veto process could very well be put on the agenda of that conference for full discussion.

There are those who suggest that Bill C-110 will make it impossible for any government to amend the Canadian Constitution. I fundamentally disagree.

First of all, the amending formula remains exactly as it is today. Part 5 remains unchanged. The general amending formula will still require the consent of seven provinces representing over 50 per

cent of the Canadian population. Bill C-110 simply provides that a regional consensus must be achieved before the Canadian government can effect any changes.

It is difficult to imagine that the federal government would endorse constitutional change without the support of all regions. Bill C-110 requires that a majority of provinces, namely six, express their support for or consent to the proposed changes before Ottawa can participate.

That is, of course, a smaller number than required in Part 5 of the Constitution, and I emphasize as well that there is no national population threshold.

I suggest that Bill C-110 will strengthen the constitutional fabric of this country, not by changing the Constitution but rather by making plain the circumstances under which constitutional change can be carried out.

This bill is a measure that reflects the importance of the regions of Canada and ensures their participation in constitutional renewal. In a sense the bill is a bridge, because we can expect that the amending formula will evolve in the years to come. There is no doubt that at some future point the amending formula will be reviewed and no doubt improved upon. In the meantime, by this legislation the federal government is ensuring that amendments will occur only when they have the support of all regions of the country.

As I said at the outset, this bill and the other initiatives introduced this week are not in any sense the only response by this government to questions of national unity. Rather these initiatives are the first steps. They represent new beginnings. We undertake them with renewed hope and optimism for our future as a country. Let us proceed in that spirit and put Canada above all else. Let us put Canada first.

I commend the legislation to the House and I urge all members to support it.

Act Respecting Constitutional AmendmentsGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Lac-Saint-Jean Québec


Lucien Bouchard BlocLeader of the Opposition

Madam Speaker, we are engaged here in a continuation of the discussion of the recent attempts by the Prime Minister to amend the Cconstitution. I feel that the contribution made to the history of Canada and Quebec constitutional law by Bill C-110 will be fairly negligible. It will add a page to the federal statutes, but that is as far as it will go.

Before entering directly into an examination of the content of Bill C-110, I would like to try to destroy a myth, if I may-although myths are virtually indestructible-the myth that René Lévesque lost Quebec its right to a veto. Yesterday again we heard the Prime Minister tell the House that Quebec had to be given back its veto because René Lévesque had given it up. That is something we hear all the time on the Hill as a self-evident truth, but something that is totally contrary to the facts.

I note that the Minister of Justice, with his familiarity with law and jurisprudence, has taken great pains to avoid repeating such an enormity. We are well aware that the reason why Quebec is in the vulnerable situation it is with respect to constitutional change is that the Supreme Court, in a 1982 decision, its second judgment on constitutional challenges raised because of the 1982 patriation, found that the veto Quebec believed it possessed, the veto everyone believed Quebec possessed, which had always been respected because the general perception was that the Canadian Constitution could not be altered without Quebec's consent, had never existed.

The Supreme Court analyzed the Constitution and found, after examining all elements which might make it possible to confirm the existence of a veto, that Quebec had no veto and never had had one. Now, that is a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada. As a result, people ought perhaps in future to refrain from stating that if the necessity for Quebec to obtain a veto is central to the whole constitutional debate, is not as a result of René Lévesque's being so careless that it was lost, but has never existed in the opinion of the Supreme Court. The proof lies in the second challenge in 1982, when Quebec, which now stood alone, attempted to block unilateral patriation by invoking its right to a veto.

You will recall that in the first attempt, in the first case, in 1981, Quebec had seven other provinces on its side and was successful in blocking patriation, this time by convincing the Supreme Court that a reasonable measure of provincial consent was necessary for proper patriation and major change to be possible. The Supreme Court had concluded that, with eight provinces dissenting and only two supporting the federal government, the reasonable measure of consent needed to authorize the patriation of the Constitution and the amendments it contained had not been reached.

It was in the second attempt, when Quebec found itself alone, that it tried to block patriation and exercised its right to veto. At the heart of the 1982 constitutional challenge, which the Supreme Court decided on, just before the act of patriation was signed, but still in 1982, the court concluded that the argument did not hold in this case, because Quebec had no veto.

I would just like to say this so it appears somewhere in Hansard , here, in this wash of gratuitous remarks to the effect that René Lévesque lost the right of veto, that someone rose, namely the Leader of the Opposition, who was on one of the teams of lawyers at the time, to point out that the Supreme Court never said René Lévesque had lost the right of veto. On the contrary, it said we never had it. Hence the present debate, which is part of a long series

of abortive attempts to introduce the right of veto into the Canadian Constitution.

Earlier, the Minister of Justice provided a quick overview of the various attempts that have been made, from Victoria, more specifically the Pepin-Robarts Commission, to the various task forces that were set up during the constitutional debates that preceded the Charlottetown accord, to show there had been a number of formulae. The formula used in Bill C-110 is somewhat like the Victoria formula in which Quebec is considered a region and could therefore, if the government is rightly talking veto, have its own veto too.

But what is the reality of the situation. I contend, and the Minister of Justice was careful to avoid saying it, that there is no way this bill can be said to give a veto to Quebec in particular or to other provinces and regions. There is no way anybody can claim this bill provides for a veto, for two basic reasons.

First, veto power is given only if everyone wants it to be. As soon as someone objects to its being given, the right vanishes. Consensus is at the very heart of the according of veto power. Unanimity is essential. All the provincial legislatures and the federal government must be in agreement. What we have before us is nothing more than the federal government's wish. Where is the support of Canada's provincial legislatures? There is none.

What we do have are statements making it very clear that at least two, and maybe more, provinces have refused to support this veto bill. Only one need refuse for it to never exist.

This means there is a basic flaw in the plan for establishing a right of veto. The reality of the situation is that we do not have here the conditions necessary for a veto to be given.

The second reason has to do with the definition of a veto. The right of veto is an absolute guarantee. It is written into the Constitution and cannot be withdrawn without everyone's approval. It serves to permit one of the interested parties to block constitutional change.

It should be binding on everyone under the constraining effect of the Constitution, the country's supreme legislation. Where will this bill end up after being passed by a majority of the members in this House? It will end up gathering dust in the federal statute books, where it will remain. It will never be enshrined in the Constitution or invoked to bind anyone outside this House because it is not, in fact, a right of veto.

They will tell me: "Yes, but Parliament will be bound, the federal government will be bound, since a bill was passed". Not really. It will be bound only so long as the act remains in the federal statute books. It will no longer be binding, even on this government, as soon as one minister or another rises to propose that this bill be withdrawn and replaced with another one. One piece of legislation replacing another. The legislative process hinges on having the same forum, the same vehicle, namely the House of Commons, pass a bill to amend another piece of legislation.

In any case, we know full well that, fortunately, governments do not last forever, that there are elections in a democracy, that there will be a federal election in two or three years, that another government will be formed, perhaps by the same party, but possibly by a different party, why not? As for the Bloc Quebecois, it will certainly not be in the running, so that the only other party in this House likely to come to power is the Reform Party. What will be the first bill tabled by Reform should it come to power? The bill to withdraw Bill C-110. Which means that Bill C-110 is nothing. It amounts to smoke and mirrors.

So, Madam Speaker, I trust you will allow me to spare you and not spend too much time repeating that this bill contributes absolutely nothing to the debate, that it is, at best, a diversion, a show put on by the Liberal government to silence criticism about failing to act on the constitutional issue, making empty promises and misleading the people. This way, for the next two or three years, the Prime Minister will be able to keep telling us, until we are sick and tired of hearing about it: "We granted Quebec the right of veto through Bill C-110. We granted Quebec the right of veto through Bill C-110. We granted Quebec the right of veto through Bill-"It will become quite annoying to hear him say that over and over. That is not true, but he just will keep on repeating it all the time. Over, and over again.

Those in the know, all those who examine the constitutional issue, who are courageous enough to keep looking into it from time to time, who overcome their mental fatigue to ponder these matters again, know that Bill C-110 is just one of those political ploys that do not really change anything in the problem Quebec and Canada have in this regard. And I suspect that the Minister of Justice would be the first one to recognize that, he who, a moment ago, gave a very neutral, factual and, I would say, professional description of his approach by setting out very clear limits, reassuring English Canada in the process.

I noticed, in the remarks he made in English in particular, that he made a point to remind everyone that the Constitution will remain unchanged. "Do not assume that this is a constitutional change. This will have no effect on the Constitution. The federal government is just exercising self-discipline". I heard a speaker use the word "discipline" earlier, in English. The federal government will

exercise self-discipline, restraint, before granting too much to Quebec, of course. To anglophone listeners, the government is describing this initiative as a way to refrain from giving too much to Quebec, to resist the urge to do anything like that.

This leads me to believe and shows us that Bill C-110, in fact, has a pernicious effect in that, since the Canadian Constitution is so complex and twisted in certain respects, this bill, and that is a paradox, will in no way solve the current problems, but will make it even more difficult to transfer the powers that the federal government might be willing to give to Quebec.

I can see the day when members from this side of the House will rise to ask the Prime Minister: "Are you going to transfer manpower to Quebec, along with the real powers provided for in the Constitution? Are you going to enshrine the transfer of manpower in the Constitution? Are you going to do that? Are you going to also transfer the related funds?" The Prime Minister will reply: "I cannot do that. Bill C-110 prevents me from doing that. I have imposed self-discipline on myself. I have forbidden myself to transfer anything to Quebec". Since he is a law abiding person, the Prime Minister will no longer be able to do anything for Quebec, when he wanted to do so much.

I end with the conclusion of the Minister of Justice, who said: "Listen, this may not be much"-and he is right-"but it is only the first step. It will be improved. We will continue to work. The committee has an important task. That committee, which is chaired by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and which will explore avenues for change, will come up with other proposals just as inventive as Bill C-110". The minister adds: "Do not lose heart just yet. True, there is not much in this, but we will improve things". The fact is that, never in the history of constitutional negotiations and talks involving Quebec, the federal government and the rest of Canada, was an initial proposal improved on. On the contrary, every initial proposal made was later scaled down, watered down, split, doctored or dolled up, and in the end became almost meaningless. Now we are told: "No, this time we start small, but end up with something big". We will talk then.

For the time being, let us simply say that this sham fails to convince, and that we will not give it any credibility by voting in favour of the bill. On the contrary, we will oppose this legislation and, in Quebec, we will move on to a more immediate, pressing, serious and imperative agenda, given the need to put our fiscal house in order, to create jobs and to do something about education and culture.

We will see what happens after that.

Act Respecting Constitutional AmendmentsGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Act Respecting Constitutional AmendmentsGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to address Bill C-110, an act respecting constitutional amendments, and to state clearly our opposition to the bill as it is now drafted. I also hope to propose some things that the government will think about in terms of altering this legislation which may make it more acceptable.

I want to say that we, the members of the Reform Party, certainly oppose that bill, which gives a veto power over constitutional amendments to certain provinces, but not to others. More importantly, it denies Canadians the possibility of playing a role, by way of a referendum, in amending the Constitution.

I must admit that in the last two or three months I have been wondering what exactly it is we are doing in this place and why we are really here when it comes to the question of national unity.

I had prepared a fairly long speech to discuss the constitutional amending formula and some of the considerations in that historically. I probably will not give it today. Instead I want to concentrate on a few other comments, things that I feel about this situation which I think need to be said.

When I say I wonder why we are here, as intergovernmental affairs critic for my party I want to share some of the frustrations we have had. Monday morning the government did not even know it was making an announcement on national unity. We contacted the government and were told that by the office of the intergovernmental affairs minister. Certainly nobody in the press gallery was aware of it.

The announcement was made Monday afternoon. Even yesterday morning no copy of the bill was available. We were told it was in the extremely complex process of being drafted, after notice had been given. Then we got the bill and it is all of one page. There is no doubt that the drafting required a lot of time and a lot of complex decisions which prevented it from being shown to anybody until a few minutes before it was tabled.

We saw what happened when we tried to get a constitutional amendment at Charlottetown. We ended up with 60 clauses. It took months and they could not even produce a legal text. This is the kind of the role we see here.

What is more important is this is a bill about the amending formula. The amending formula is an important question. Frankly I do not really think this bill has much to do with an amending formula in the Constitution. I do not think much thought went into this position.

Judging from the comments of both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister when we have questioned them in question period it is very clear there are concerns other than the amending formula. We seldom get any responses that try to justify or explain why this particular formula would be a good one.

Instead, what is obviously a preoccupation in the government and in the country is the very deep denial about the nature of the events in the province of Quebec and where it is really going. The deep denial this country has been in for a long time is that there is a very simple solution to this problem, that somehow there will be some constitutional or non-constitutional concession and all we do is present it. It will address Quebec's historic demands; it will embarrass the bejeesus out of the separatists; the whole movement will collapse and then everything will be solved.

We have heard this story over and over again for 30 years. Attempts have been made to go along with that approach and frankly, they seem to have made the situation worse. The most notable was in 1982 when nine provincial governments and many people were persuaded to pass a major constitutional package against the wishes of the separatist Government of Quebec. This was done as a method of dealing with our unity crisis to fulfil the commitments of the then Prime Minister to the people of Quebec during the referendum. We know that has led to a much more profound crisis than we had to begin with.

As this crisis gets worse and worse, governments and the Liberal Party particularly seek to find enemies of Canada everywhere. Now the enemies of Canada are no longer just in Quebec among the separatist movement; we are now told there are enemies of Canada in great numbers in Alberta and in no less than the premier's office in Newfoundland. There are enemies in British Columbia. Everywhere there are enemies who will not put aside their narrow views in order to save the country.

Let me go to our position on the amending formula and make it very clear. The Reform Party will not agree to any change to the amending formula for federal ratification unless it is done by national referendum. It does not matter whether there are four regions, five regions, 10 regions, or if we make every constituency of this House a region.

It is not good enough to have 10 votes of 10 provincial premiers. We want there to be 30 million votes, the population of Canada in a national referendum to discuss federal constitutional amendments. If we get that, we can be more flexible about the nature of the federal geographic approval process. We have a constitutional amending formula for provincial approval today and that amending formula is satisfactory to us as a formula for provincial approval.

The position that the Minister of Justice has presented, I would state with respect, does not make any sense. The government says it is not a new formula for constitutional amendment. It is not a constitutional formula because it will not be in the Constitution. That is clear enough, except that it is the stated intention of the government that these proposals will be brought into the Constitution at some point.

The government is proposing a new formula for constitutional amendments involving provincial ratification. We already have a formula in the Constitution for provincial ratification, the seven and fifty formula. There are difficulties with the seven and fifty formula. The minister accurately outlined some of those difficulties.

The reason for that formula is that when dealing with provincial governments the provinces decided that they did not want any one government to have a veto because that was a very risky situation with the concentration of executive power there is in this country. I will get on to that more later.

The new formula obviously violates what the provinces themselves wanted in selecting the current provincial amending formula. The Minister of Justice has tried to make an argument that it is not unconstitutional for the federal government to unilaterally amend the provincial ratification formula even in a non-constitutional way. He has an argument there because the federal government can clearly delegate its powers.

Why it would want to delegate powers to the provincial governments in an area where the provincial governments already have a formula is unclear to me. We will have two rounds of provincial ratification and no real federal ratification. This is completely unclear to me. In any case, this is what they are proposing to do.

The delegation which is proposed here delegates that authority in a way that gives some provincial legislatures more authority than others.

It is on that ground that some provincial legislatures, in particular the legislature in my province of Alberta, may well attempt to take this to court and have it declared unconstitutional. Alberta may challenge that and I would encourage it if it sought to do so because in the area of governmental powers all of the provinces should be treated equally.

As well the Minister of Justice has argued, and I am a bit mystified at why he is even making this argument, that there are already plenty of vetoes in the Constitution which is true enough. There are already plenty of vetoes in the Constitution. That does not change the fact that for the areas he is proposing vetoes, he is proposing to give some provincial governments and not other provincial governments vetoes. This will be rejected by the population in large parts of the country, but particularly in western Canada. Western Canada will reject it because it reflects a vision of

the country that does not at all reflect the way westerners see the country.

I was born and raised in Toronto, so I can understand the central Canadian perspective. Unfortunately it is simply not a complete perspective of the country. It is interesting, when looking at the four regions there is Ontario and Quebec, the two original provinces before Confederation. Then there is Atlantic Canada and of course, it is a group with a small population. In the original Constitution we had recognized three regions, but then there is out there: western Canada and all of the Rockies, all of the prairies, all of the north. That is just one area.

If we were to ask a westerner what the regions were, I am sure he would say they are the prairies, the Pacific, the north and the east. That would be the formula that would be proposed.

This particular view is obviously going to be rejected even more in British Columbia than it is anywhere else. Why? Because British Columbia is obviously a distinctive and strong region with a vibrant economy, a great future regardless of what happens politically in this country. It is growing. It is larger both in terms of geography and population than all of the Atlantic provinces combined. It certainly is not going to view itself as part of some western region. Why then has it been defined this way? It is important to say something about this because it does reflect the nature and the inadequacy of the thinking behind the bill.

The Minister of Justice talked about renewal. What does this particular formula have to do with renewal? When we asked why this formula came about, we did not get an instruction about renewal; we got an instruction from the minister and from the government about history.

In 1971 the Government of British Columbia as part of a wider constitutional package that was eventually rejected, agreed to a formula that involved four regions. In 1971 Ken Dryden was a rookie playing goal for the Montreal Canadiens. The United States was still at war in Vietnam.

The premier who signed that deal- and I do not mean to besmirch his memory, the premier has long since passed away-not only is he and his government out of power, the party he represented does not even exist in the province of British Columbia. The premier is dead and we are using him now as the reason we are bringing forward a a proposal for a constitutional amending formula in 1995.

Then we got a second set of reactions. This morning the Minister of Justice seemed to concede that B.C. should have a veto or should be moving that way because of its population. I ask the House to think a little bit about this. The argument is that sooner rather than later, British Columbia will have a majority of the population in western Canada so it will have a veto.

What does this mean? This means that under the formula proposed by the government, the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba would have no say whatsoever in constitutional amendments, none whatsoever. They can be isolated in the seven and fifty formula and their consent would not even have to be requested to fulfil the requirements of Bill C-110. We would not even need to know what their position was.

This is an absolutely incredible position and explains why in Alberta there is a reaction. Some circles have called for an Alberta veto.

Across the country there is a particular concern that this gives a veto to the government of Quebec at the very time when it will be led not just by the separatists, but by the Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois who will become the future premier of Quebec. He is not only committed to taking Canada out of confederation, but unlike Rene Levesque, is not willing to entertain any constitutional amendments whatsoever.

During and since the referendum when the Prime Minister has been asked him about his speech in Verdun, he talked about trusting the people. He told us we had to trust the people in the referendum. The people defeated the proposal by Mr. Parizeau. Now the Prime Minister does not trust them. Now he is prepared to trust the Leader of the Opposition. This position contradicts his previous statements on constitutional reform. It contradicts resolutions the Liberal Party passed in 1992. It contradicts his statement about trusting the people and giving the Constitution to the people. It even contradicts statements he made recently in the House.

We have to ask why would the Prime Minister do this? I want to try and be fair to him. The Prime Minister has been in politics for 30 years. He has had a very successful political career. None of us would debate that. He has shown from time to time some very clever political judgment, regardless of what anyone says.

He said he would trust the people. He said he would give the people a say. He said he would give the people of Quebec a veto. Now he is doing the opposite. He is giving the legislature of Quebec a say and not the people. In fact, a couple of days ago when I asked about this, he said this was even more democratic. This was really democracy. The people of Quebec chose this legislature and that is who we are trusting.

I have pointed out on more than one occasion in the past that if we had left the decision on the separation of Quebec to the legislature of Quebec, it would already be a separate country if that is where the decision is to be taken. It is the people of Quebec who have decided repeatedly not to separate.

Why is the Prime Minister doing this? I suggest he is doing this for the very reason that it is being criticized. He is doing this precisely because it gives a veto to the leader of the official opposition, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois. The Prime Minister can stand and say: "I gave you a veto. I gave the people of Quebec something through you and you turned it down. You are the bad guy". That is what he wants to say.

Why does that matter? It matters because for 30 years the Prime Minister has been a fighter for Canada in Quebec against the Quebec nationalist movement. It is a fight that looks more and more in jeopardy as there has been a long term rise in support of this movement through the decades.

As with all nationalism, this movement says that anybody who has a sense of wider loyalties is a traitor. The Prime Minister, because he sees himself as a Canadian, believes it is some kind of a sell-out.

It reached a pinnacle in the last couple of years when the Prime Minister became the first Quebecer in our history to be elected Prime Minister without substantial support from the French speaking areas of Quebec. He also was aggravated, when in the referendum campaign, his interventions did not seem to have a particular affect on the population.

The Prime Minister has decided to strike back. It is a perfectly understandable response for somebody who has been in the position he has been in, for somebody who must feel the way he feels, given the way events have gone and given the way he has been treated from time to time, particularly in his own province. From his perspective it may also be a response that is necessary politically as a federalist Quebecer.

I suggest it will not work. The Leader of the Opposition, as we all know, is a smart enough fellow, which he demonstrated again today. He is not going to have any problem playing around with this argument. That is what he will do. Whether his arguments are right or wrong he will be able to deliver an effective argument against this motion.

The Prime Minister should also know from his own history that success in politics is about being able to see that one's own feelings or one's own reactions should not interfere with one's own judgment or with the broader interests that are at stake.

Canada needs an approach in looking for a new constitutional formula. That is what we should be looking at here. Canada needs an approach that is good for the country and good for Canadians. I suggest there are many things wrong with this bill. In particular a veto for the premier of Quebec is not in the interests of all Canadians. It is not in the interests of this country.

What is in the interests of this country at the federal level is what we have: a provincial ratification formula which I believe is as good as it is going to get. At the federal level we need a national referendum for the people of Canada. We should be trusting the people of Quebec who have voted against separation. We should be trusting the people who went to the Montreal rally who were not there to endorse some bills and resolutions which they had not seen. We should be trusting their judgment. We should also be trusting the people who did not go to the Montreal rally. They were millions of Canadians, many of whom I suspect considered they would go but had second thoughts because they said: "If I go there am I going to find that my name is being used to back some agenda by some group of politicians that I had never endorsed?"

Those people in Quebec and outside of Quebec need a say in constitutional amendments. It is only by trusting the people that we are going to get anywhere. We will certainly vote against this bill the way it is. I ask the government to seriously consider looking at this proposal again to give the people a say over constitutional change at the federal level.

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Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations among all parties in the House. I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order if, on Friday, December 8, any division is demanded with regard to any business pursuant to Standing Order 81, the said division shall be deferred until 15 minutes before the expiry of the time allotted for Government Orders on Monday, December 11, and immediately after the disposal of the said division, the House shall dispose of all other business relating to the business of supply in the manner set out in Standing Order 81(17).

Madam Speaker, a copy of this motion has been given to both opposition parties present in the House and I believe you will find unanimous consent for this motion.

(Motion agreed to.)

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Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish to indicate that pursuant to Standing Order 43(2), Liberal MPs speaking on this bill from hereon in will be sharing their time with 10 minutes for every speaker.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-110, an act respecting constitutional amendments, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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Hamilton East Ontario


Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, there are defining moments in the history of a nation. I had the privilege of being a part of one of those defining moments. It was not a political

agenda. It was not a politician's agenda. It was an expression by the people of Canada, on the eve of a very important referendum about their futures, to come to the heart of Canada, the city that probably best embodies the distinctiveness of Canada and the distinctiveness of Quebec, to come to Montreal.

I spoke yesterday about a woman I met on an elevator in a hotel who had come in a wheelchair with her husband from Peace River, Alberta. She said to me:

"Mrs. Copps, I cannot speak French like you do, but would you please tell Quebecers that Quebec is an important part of our country, Canada, and that they are a distinct society".

I know it makes the separatists sick to see that Canada has a heart that is generous enough and I can see why.

I was in Montreal with 150,000 Canadians who came from every part of this country because they believed that we have a nation worth saving. They believe that Quebec is a distinct society. There is a reason we are different from our neighbours to the south, there is a reason that we have-

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Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

-there is a reason we are different and generous-

There is a reason why, last week, we were able to pass a bill on firearms and there is a reason why we have a universal health care system; it is because, at the dawn of our history, when we made the decision to become a country, we held as a fundamental principle that there are two peoples.

The hon. member can laugh, but my ancestor was a member of the Louisbourg government before anglophones ever came into Canada. My maternal grandmother was born in England. We can find solutions. That is why, last year, on Canada Day, the Leader of the Opposition said Canada was the most democratic country in the world.

Canadians know that nothing we do will ever satisfy the Bloc Quebecois. Unfortunately the Reform Party has shown that it is incapable of understanding the meaning of building a nation and the setting aside of regional differences for the good of a nation.

The fact is that if Bloc members were offered the world they would want the moon. If they got the moon they would demand the sun. If they got the sun they would demand the galaxy. If they got the galaxy they would want the universe. If they got the universe they would demand heaven. If they got heaven they would claim that the angels were in a federalist conspiracy to centralize power.

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Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

We have listened to the opposition parties. It is really very sad. I have a lot more faith and confidence in the people of Canada and the good judgment of those 150,000 people.

The Bloc wanted to know if campaign managers had paid for this, who had taken the school bus? Steelworkers from my riding, who had never been involved in politics in any way, rode in a school bus for ten hours to go to Montreal to express their solidarity and recognize what you know and what we know. It is a fact, Quebec is a distinct society, and that is why since the beginning of our history we have been different. Why did I say during the referendum campaign that Quebec is the heart of Canada?

If our nation is respectful of individuals and communities, it is thanks to French speaking Canadians, who were able to survive throughout the history of North America. You were all by yourselves. Some could not keep their language, but you were all by yourselves and you managed to survive because you knew how to build a community. You have embraced the principles of sharing through institutions such as the caisse de dépôt and the co-op movement. Your contribution to the fabric of Canada is what makes up the soul of our country.

Some people tell us: "Mind your own business." If I am a Canadian, I am not an Ontarian, I am not an English speaking Canadian, I am simply a Canadian who believes her country, without Quebec, would be an empty shell. My country, without Quebec, will lose all we have achieved together. Admittedly, we have problems. There are always problems. But are we generous enough and open minded enough to accept wholeheartedly the changes that need to be made?

Canada is not about cutting the best deal for oneself. Canada is not about carving up power among politicians. Canada is about building a hope and a dream for people around the world who look to Canada for inspiration from a country that can make its differences work.

Let us look at the globe today. People with far greater differences than ours are making enormous accommodations and throwing off centuries of bitterness, centuries of historic hate. We see peace in the Middle East. We see peace in Northern Ireland. We see the peace process in Bosnia. Bitter rivals are laying down decades and centuries of hatred and destruction and they are finding accom-

modation. We thank God that in this country we do not have such hatred to overcome.

The city of Shawinigan is twinned with mine. It was my father, a guy from Northern Ontario who spoke French slang, who twinned those to cities in the sixties. What do working people in Shawinigan and Hamilton want? They want us to be able to give the best to our children.

My grandmother was a widow who raised six lads in Northern Ontario. She was penniless, and could not afford university for her children. Neither my father nor my mother went to university. But all their children did because, in the sixties, we tried to improve the situation in Canada to give more opportunities to more people.

Our current fiscal circumstances are difficult, and we live in a period where we tend to withdraw into ourselves. But is that the way to have a strong country in the next century? The country we have can be a leader in the world and meet the challenges of the 21st century. I sure of that.

This summer in my riding of Hamilton East we will be twinning with families from Shawinigan. One hundred and fifty Shawinigan families are coming to Hamilton for the 150th birthday of my city.

I am not afraid of public reaction to distinct society and veto rights. I am not afraid of people's reaction. The people said very clearly and in great numbers in Montreal that they were prepared to embrace real change. They were prepared to understand that the distinctiveness of Quebec forms an important part of the heart and soul of Canada.

We are not hearing here today the voices of the people. They are the voices of the power brokers and the politicians who want to carve Canada into little pieces. The Bloc has an agenda. It wants Quebec without Canada. The Reform clearly wants a Canada without Quebec. Will regional expressions of difference, of making us smaller, of cutting us into little pieces, giving a little power to a politician here and taking a little power away there solve our problem? I know what will solve our problem.

What will solve our problem is the linguistic heritage we got from French speaking Canadians, if we prove able to meet new challenges thanks to the generosity and historical background of our country.

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I am sorry to interrupt but the minister's time has expired.

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Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, today, I can understand the emotion the minister is feeling as she comes to realize how little she can do to change the situation for which her government is responsible.

She also realizes that what she is offering on behalf of her government, because she is part of that government, means almost nothing to the people of Quebec. What I want to tell the tearful minister we saw today is that she should have shed her tears when her leader, the current Prime Minister of Canada, killed the Meech Lake agreement. That is when she should have shed tears.

She should also have cried when the Prime Minister of Canada-who was only the leader of her party at the time-lurked around and tried to influence the Charlottetown accord negotiations. She should have shed tears then to try to convince him to listen more closely to what Quebec was saying.

She should also have shed tears these last two years every time her government held a caucus meeting to say no to Quebec and to the historical demands of our province. That is what she should have done.

Today, her tears come a little too late, and she has only herself and her own government to blame. I think the Leader of the Opposition made it clear yesterday and again today that we can expect nothing new from English Canada. We can expect nothing new from the other side because, besides some lip service and telling us: "We love you, Quebec", they have come up empty-handed.

So, please, let us have a little less fuss and a little less show of emotion here. Let us try to remain clear-headed in our remarks and our approach in this House and have a very civilized debate, which is what we, in the Bloc Quebecois, intend to do.

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Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

Madam Speaker, I was there for Meech Lake. I voted for Meech Lake. I worked hard for Meech Lake to pass, but someone jumped ship before it did.

I am clearly not a dear friend nor a real chum of Brian Mulroney's. But the one who stabbed him in the back by jumping ship one month before the end of Meech was the Leader of the Opposition.

When he was needed and the pressure came on, Mr. Bouchard left. I was there till the end to support Meech Lake. The one who was not there, the one who resigned and did not have the guts to speak directly to his real chum, his dear friend Brian Mulroney, that one was Lucien Bouchard. An if you are looking for one who did that, I am not the one-

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

The time has now expired. We should refer to members by their official titles.

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Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

Madam Speaker, I was there till the end. I know how hard it was. But one thing is sure with the Leader of the Opposition and that is that every time life becomes harsh, he takes off. He left the federal cabinet one month before Meech failed, without even having the decency to speak directly to prime minister Brian Mulroney because the pressure had become too much for him.