Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak to Bill C-110 introduced by the federal government. This bill is suppose to legislate the changes the Prime Minister promised during the referendum campaign. In addition to Bill C-110, we also have motion No. 26 on the distinct society and the changes in manpower training.
Quite a menu, all these changes, at least the federal Liberals seem to think so. Just think, the Prime Minister went on national television during the referendum to announce sweeping changes if the no side won. Quite a menu, according to the federalists. But Quebecers feel they are looking at an empty plate. There is nothing here to satisfy Quebec's legitimate demands. Nothing to meet the expectations of Quebecers who believed the Prime Minister's promises made in haste towards the end of the referendum campaign and served up with a catch in the throat and, almost, a tear in the eye.
The no side won in a photo finish: 50.6 per cent of the voters said no, and many of them believed in the last minute national farce produced by the little guy from Shawinigan. On the other hand, 49.4 per cent of Quebecers said yes, in fact 56 per cent said yes in the little guy's part of the country. Most revealing.
The message from Quebecers was clear, and it will be even more so next time. Meanwhile, we have to live with the Prime Minister's initiatives which clearly show he did not get the message. In fact, will he ever get the message? Will he ever understand what Quebecers really want? In light of the changes he proposes and of his previous actions toward Quebec, it is easy to conclude that the Prime Minister is out of touch with Quebec and that his roots are Canadian from coast to coast first and foremost.
Let us not forget that the hon. member for Shawinigan is following in the footsteps of the illustrious Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who has always advocated Canadian unity, equality among the provinces, and individual rights and freedoms above all, especially
with a view to checking Quebec's momentum. These Liberal politicians have always believed in 10 little provinces that are equal and subordinate to a dominant central state, the Government of Canada.
How can someone who has been soaking in this kind of atmosphere for 30 years not become contaminated? Can we hold this against the Prime Minister? Of course, it is not easy to break from the past and the illustrious Trudeau and to amend this outdated concept that lives on in federalist minds. Too bad for them. But is it their choice and their problem.
In this regard, I recently had a discussion with a remarkable constituent of mine, Bernard Gilles Grenier, whom I salute, who remembered a time when he rubbed shoulders with eminent Quebec federalists. He told me: "They have always wanted to clobber us separatists. From Trudeau to the current Prime Minister. But we should not worry, because Quebecers evolve much more quickly than those people. Problems cannot be resolved by using such gutter language or by stooping to that level. I can tell you from experience".
We must also acknowledge the giant step taken by Quebecers between the 1980 referendum and the one held in October. With popular support having grown from 40 to 50 per cent, Quebec's sovereignty is at hand, and Bill C-110 as well as the other meaningless measures improvised by the Prime Minister will certainly not quash Quebecers' will to build a country of their own.
In this regard, editorialist Alain Dubuc wrote the following in the November 29 edition of La Presse : ``But this beginning of a reform remains too modest and too uncertain to represent a proposal acceptable to Quebecers and constitute a credible alternative to the sovereignist movement''.
In his editorial comment entitled "Quebecers want more, much more", Alain Dubuc goes on to say: "Let there be no mistake. Had the Prime Minister declared during the referendum campaign that all Canada had to offer in terms of prospects for change were the three proposals put forward on Monday, the yes side would have won". It is interesting to note that Mr. Dubuc had sided with the no camp throughout the campaign.
Earlier, I commented on the Prime Minister being out of touch with Quebec and not understanding Quebec. Mr. Dubuc, a federalist editorialist at La Presse , a newspaper owned by Paul Desmarais, who pulls the strings of this Liberal government, supported my position on occasions in recent articles. First, on November 29, when he wrote: ``This first and rather timid effort shows mainly that the Liberal government is having a real hard time understanding what is going on in Quebec''.
And second, on December 8, Mr. Dubuc wrote: "The Prime Minister is showing that he does not understand all that well the country that he is seeking to save and that he is not living in the same world as the Quebecers he has to convince".
Mr. Dubuc is quite clear: the Liberal proposals just do not cut it. That opinion is clearly confirmed by a SOM -La Presse-Droit de parole poll released on December 8. The results of that poll are very telling, since 53 per cent of Quebecers find the proposals inadequate, and 30 per cent even find them totally inadequate. Is that clear enough?
Then there is Claude Ryan who, on Friday, during Radio-Québec's Droit de parole , said that he too felt these offers were inadequate. Coming from such a firm believer in the Canadian cause, this is quite the statement.
The veto proposed by the Minister of Justice is part of that last minute plan. That second element once again created a circus-like atmosphere, something at which the Liberals are expert. That second element, that proposal to "loan" the federal veto, was condemned by just about every major stakeholder in Canadian politics. From coast to coast, opponents rose to strongly condemn that proposal. The Mercredis, Filmons, Romanows, as well as the Reform Party leader and, yesterday, the Conservative leader, all condemned the plan.
We, the members of the Bloc Quebecois, will have nothing to do with this bill, which contributes nothing to the debate. As pointed out by our leader, it is, at best, a diversion used by the Liberal government to silence those who criticize it for not doing anything about the constitutional issue, for making promises and for misleading the public.
This bill, which, following the minister's amendment, gives a veto to five regions, is a political maneuver that does not change in any way the substantive issue that concerns Quebec and Canada. The Minister of Justice himself has said that it does not change the Constitution and that it is primarily a form of self-discipline on the part of the federal government. Actually, the federal government is resorting to self-discipline in order to avoid giving too much to Quebec.
Suppose that the federal government acted as if it wanted to give an advantage to Quebec by transferring new powers to this province, for example under Motion No. 26 which recognizes Quebec as distinct. What would happen? Wham. The power of veto of the other regions would be invoked immediately to put a stop to any such intentions on the part of the federal government. This is the new self-discipline the federal government is resorting to. Yet the federal government is getting itself of the hook with this measure. It will be able to open doors to Quebec without any fear, knowing that the veto of other regions will slam those doors shut.
Therefore Bill C-110 will have a perverse effect. While solving none of our present problems, it will make it even more difficult for the federal government to transfer powers to Quebec, though I strongly doubt it intends to do so.
In this morning's issue of Le Devoir , Jean Dion wrote the following on this issue: ``The constitutional amending formula requiring the approval of seven provinces constituting at least 50 per cent of the Canadian population was already considered very restrictive. Yet, this formula will now require the prior approval of seven provinces representing 92 per cent of the Canadian population. One can already imagine a few crafty persons coming to the conclusion that the approval of 14 provinces representing 142 per cent of the population of Canada will now be required. After all, this would not be the first incongruity for this country''.
In other words, Bill C-110 is a yoke, a straight jacket, which this country is putting on itself. The whole thing is becoming so complex that nobody believes in it, except of course the leader of this national farce, the Prime Minister himself.
Those of us in the Bloc and many Quebecers are left cold by the federal proposals. We are light years beyond them, and Quebec sovereignty alone is acceptable and inevitable. This real change will take place soon.