Mr. Speaker, this motion condemns the federal government for wanting to centralize powers through legislation, and more specifically, through Bills C-46, C-91, C-88 and C-76. Little by little, the government, acting as it were behind the scenes, has made the Canadian federation, and especially the government of that federation, the master of this Canadian destiny, while ignoring the people of Quebec who want to develop their potential according to their own priorities, their own culture, their own way of doing things. It is always the same old story.
The process is a very gradual and very discreet one, and if we look at the situation very carefully, we realize that gradually, the provinces, if the process is allowed to continue, would become regions that would merely act on decisions handed down by Ottawa, something Quebec will never except, since for years we have refused to become a part of this way of running Canada.
The federal government, and a Liberal one to boot, says it wants a flexible and open federation, but at the same time it decides to centralize and give itself certain powers without further consultation. As my colleague said, there have been no federal-provincial meetings since this Liberal government was elected. Why? Because it is independent. It thinks it is the only government in Canada that should determine the future of this country. It does not consult the provinces, and it goes ahead, slowly but surely, little by little, very discreetly. It is very smart about the way it is doing this, but we in the Bloc Quebecois, who came to Ottawa to defend the interests of Quebec and promote the sovereignty of Quebec because we felt we had to do this, we cannot let this go on.
I would remind you that this desire to centralize powers in Ottawa is not new. Sixty years ago, Mr. Duplessis was elected in Quebec in 1936 on a platform of: "Il faut rapatrier notre butin". I remember by father and grandfather voted for Mr. Duplessis, who was Quebec's premier for many years and who got elected on the platform of: "Il faut rapatrier notre butin d'Ottawa". Quebecers' mistrust of the federal government is not new. In
order to grow, we need more independence. Mr. Duplessis got elected with the slogan: "Il faut rapatrier notre butin".
Jean Lesage was a Liberal, a senior public servant and a former member of Parliament in Ottawa. He ran for election in Quebec City in 1960 and was elected with the slogan "Maîtres chez nous". This is important. Quebecers voted for Mr. Lesage because he talked to them about being "Maîtres chez nous". He was a Liberal, a former member of Parliament in Ottawa, and he became the Premier of Quebec who got the quiet revolution in Quebec rolling. This is when Quebec really began to pick up speed in achieving success and bringing about change. It happened because Quebecers began to take pride in themselves and because the Liberal Premier of Quebec in 1960 said that we had to be "Maîtres chez nous". This is how he got elected.
Daniel Johnson, the father of the Union Nationale, got elected with the slogan "Égalité ou indépendance". So, here again, Quebecers elected a government in Quebec on the strength of a slogan like "Égalité ou indépendance". It is important, when the federal government wants to centralize things here in Ottawa and proves the point with the bills we mentioned earlier, to note that governments in Quebec have been elected almost since the start of the century on the strength of such slogans.
We are not here by chance, we in the Bloc Quebecois. We were sent here by Quebecers to defend this point again. Today, as in the past, while it has been in power, the Liberal Party continues to try to centralize, obviously a little at a time and somewhat deceitfully. They are good at it. People do not really realize it, but we are being had yet again.
In 1976, Mr. Lévesque got elected with "Souveraineté-association". We can see that things have evolved. Sixty years ago, Mr. Duplessis used to say: "Il faut rapatrier notre butin". Mr. Lesage: "Maître chez nous", Daniel Johnson Senior: "Égalité ou indépendance", and Mr. Lévesque, in 1976: "Souveraineté-association". While keeping a close eye on things, we realized that the federal government wanted to take over more and more and centralize more powers in Ottawa.
What happened? In the 1970s, Mr. Trudeau's Liberals realized that Quebec was really coming along with its governments which were really working for the people-Maîtres chez nous, Égalité ou indépendance, and so on and so forth-Quebecers were really starting to be proud and to grow. So the federal government said: "We cannot let this happen, Quebecers are going to be ahead of us". In order to stay ahead, the federal government decided to use its spending power. And it established all kinds of programs. It set health care standards. It injected money, taxpayers' money, of course, it is never the money of the federal government, it is the money of taxpayers. It started borrowing.
In 1972, the federal government borrowed so much money that it started accumulating a debt. From a zero deficit in 1972, the federal government had accumulated a $175 billion debt by 1984. In 1980, its accumulated debt had reached $80 billion, strictly to show its superiority over Quebec. Seeing that Quebec was developing, seeing Quebec with a sovereignist movement more sovereignist than Quebecers themselves, if I may say so, the federal government, not looking kindly on these developments, said: "We are going to show Quebecers that we are important. We are going to spend money and show them that they will not survive without us".
Quietly, they borrowed and borrowed. What has been the result? For the sole purpose of proving its superiority, the federal government borrowed and spent. At the same time, it created a completely artificial economy which contradicted the very model of the Liberal free entreprise system. It did not create a system, it created an artificial economy by injecting so much money into it. It was not free enterprise which caused the economy to overheat and go into a crisis, it was the government with its interventionist policy.
Remember that in the 1970s, the federal government caused inflation by trying to prove its superiority with its free spending. The annual inflation rate climbed to 10, 12 and even 15 per cent. The federal government continued its free spending until after the 1980 referendum. We had to wait until 1980. In that year, a referendum was held in Quebec, a referendum which was lost by Quebecers. But still they won by 43 to 45 per cent.
It was only after the referendum that the government began to say that it made no sense. It had been causing inflation for so long that it now had to stop it. And the only way to stop it-the governor of the Bank of Canada said it himself-was by raising interest rates. So, in 1981, 1982, interest rates soared to 21 per cent. The recession which ensued was so severe that many small businesses in Quebec as well as in Canada went bankrupt. The hon. member from Vaudreuil knows that, he just mentioned it. I know too, I was in business at that time. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that those were very hard times. A lot of businesses went belly up.
Many businesses were expanding, they had lines of credit and heavy mortgages. Quebecers went with the flow, they grew, contracted loans, etc. because Quebec was part of the modern economy. The recession which was a pure creation of the federal government which brutally raised interest rates up to 22 per cent over a very short period of time caused bankruptcies and economic and social chaos. The whole problem was caused by the federal government which wanted to prove that it was the big
boss, that it was the greatest and that it must stick its nose everywhere. It was terrible, simply shocking.
In 1984, the cumulative debt totalled $170 billion. That year, to show its superiority, the liberal government, with Mr. Lalonde as Minister of Finance, presented its last budget before being defeated that same year. Its deficit was estimated at $38 billion and its revenues at $70 billion. The government was borrowing $38 billion, which meant it was spending almost 150 per cent of its anticipated revenues. It collected $70 billion and borrowed $38 billion. That was the Lalonde budget. All that, I repeat, only to show that it was superior, to show Quebecers that it was the big boss, that it spent and controlled.
As you know, in the 18th century, the Emperor Napoleon spent 135 per cent of what he could collect in revenues to maintain his empire.
But in 1984, Lalonde and Trudeau were spending 165 per cent to maintain their superiority here in Ottawa. That is what happened. People wonder why we are deep in debt and why things are not working. Why? Because two nations want to grow and they are fighting to see who will be the strongest. We decided that the best way was to have two countries so that both nations could grow.
The same thing happened in 1984. I arrived here as a Conservative in 1984. We had three slogans: decentralization of powers, national reconciliation and spending cuts. Those are the three reasons why I joined the Conservatives and why we were elected in 1984. Some said that a decentralization of powers was needed, and I agreed with that. In any case, we had lost the referendum, so we decided to take the risk of starting over again if that were possible.
The Conservatives were well-intentioned. They said that they would decentralize powers. A national reconciliation was necessary. Everybody was fighting, so we had to clean up our act. A reduction in spending was obviously needed. We had an accumulated debt of $175 billion, which was way too much. That is what we said. The Conservative government did cut spending and did make extraordinary efforts toward a national reconciliation. But you know what happened to Meech.
The Meech Lake Accord failed because it provided for a reduction in the federal government's spending power. That is why it failed. It failed because Mr. Chretien, the current Prime Minister, did not want to see the spending power of the federal government reduced. He used the premiers of New Brunswick and of Newfoundland, Mr. McKenna and Mr. Wells, and also Mrs. Carstairs, who is now a senator, to bring about the failure of the Meech Lake Accord because it limited the spending power of the federal government.
That was the major problem. We were absolutely right in asking for that, but it was the reason the accord was rejected. The leader of the present government is the one who caused the failure of the Meech Lake Accord. He is the one most responsible for the failure of the Meech Lake Accord. Everyone knows it. It is not something we made up.
What were the consequences? The consequences were that the Tories spent even more to prove their superiority. Despite spending cuts, they spent approximately $30 billion, $32 billion annually in excess of what they collected, that is a yearly deficit of $30 billion, $32 billion dollars. They continued to artificially inflate the economy, to raise inflation. They created a kind of artificial economy.
The economic growth was between 3 and 3.9 per cent, but the real economic growth-if the government had not invested $30 billion, $32 billion dollars to prove its superiority-would probably have been 2 per cent. Real economic growth such as we are seeing in Europe and elsewhere. Real economic growth of 1.5 or 2 per cent per year. But no. The federal government borrowed abroad and now 40 per cent of the $600 billion we owe are foreign owned. They artificially inflated the economy, and we are now faced with this big problem.
What I want to say is that because of the federal government's desire to centralize, to prove that it is in control, the Canadian economy has been destroyed. Canada is bankrupt as a result. It has to stop. Even if, tomorrow morning or in the fall, Quebecers lost the referendum, the problem would be the same. Fifty per cent of the sovereignists in Quebec still would want to prove their superiority, to continue to develop according to their needs, to their priorities. The problem would be the same.
I am telling Quebecers through you, Mr. Speaker, that they must vote for sovereignty. They have to create a new country for the good of Canada and for the good of Quebec. We must strive to do so. There is no alternative, otherwise we will never get out of it. For the good of our children, for the good of our grand-children, for the good of Quebec and Canada, we should build a sound economic union. If we had some kind of union council, with delegates from the two countries, it would be fine. But we should each have the opportunity to develop according to our own priorities and according to our own culture.
I guarantee you that we would be better off not centralizing, as it is done right now, but becoming two separate sovereign nations linked by an economic union. There is some kind of agreement on the management of such an union.