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House of Commons Hansard #227 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was punishment.

Topics

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Liberal Saint-Maurice, QC

Yes, they know me very well. I was elected to Parliament nine times by the people of a riding that is 99 per cent francophone. And they know perfectly well that

across Canada I made it clear I was proud to be a francophone, a Quebecer and a Canadian.

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is taking great care to answer the questions put to him by the Leader of the Opposition to give him a second chance, because Quebecers know him and remember him.

The Prime Minister's attitude toward honouring the result of the Quebec referendum strangely parallels his behaviour in 1982 at the time of the unilateral patriation of the constitution, when, for the first time, he made a mockery of democracy.

Is the Prime Minister aware that, by refusing to agree to honour the result of the Quebec referendum, he is creating a dangerous precedent by taking a step no Canadian Prime Minister before him has dared take?

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the debate in Quebec City will adjourn at four o'clock this afternoon. The members of the Parti Quebecois and its leader, the Premier of Quebec, will have to vote on an amendment proposed by a member of the National Assembly in which the question will be very clear: Do you want to separate from Canada? Yes or no.

This question was probably taken from the Parti Quebecois agenda at the time of the election, when the Premier himself was saying: "We will ask a clear question: Are you in favour of sovereignty for Quebec on-", followed by the date. It is very clear. As I said two days ago, they will have the opportunity to be really honest with the public and say clearly that they want separation. But again today they will keep the question ambiguous in order to keep the truth about separation from Quebecers.

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, in addition to making compliance with the result of the Quebec referendum dependent on his choosing the question, which of itself is no easy task, the Prime Minister used the opportunity to make his Minister of Labour change her mind by twisting her arm. He made Daniel Johnson change his mind by twisting his arm. He tried to get the leader of the third party to change his mind by twisting his arm.

Can the Prime Minister tell me this? Just how far will he go in trying to subvert democracy? How far exactly?

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, they are according me a lot of power. As far as I am concerned, I have clearly stated that the Prime Minister of Canada cannot agree to independence from Canada as the result of a simple majority vote plus one on an ambiguous question. Come on!

As William Johnson said in The Gazette this morning, under proposed legislation, a two thirds majority will be required to dissolve a hunting and fishing club in Quebec.

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Liberal Saint-Maurice, QC

I am not saying it would take a two thirds majority, I am saying-

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Liberal Saint-Maurice, QC

No. Listen, what I am saying is that I see them using a double standard once again. Let us be honest. Tell Quebecers as you told the Americans: "We are separatists". Then you will really have to face the music.

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, in the referendum campaign Quebecers are being told by the separatists that a no vote means passively accepting federalism as it is, but many federalists, including 52 of us in the House, believe that no can mean both no to separation and no to the status quo, that no can be the word that opens the door to a changing federalism without amending the Constitution, without special deals, but with Quebec as part of the national family.

What is the Prime Minister going to do, besides doing nothing more vigorously, to make sure that when Quebecers vote no it means more than simply accepting the status quo?

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I see a smile on the face of the leader of the Reform Party. I did not break his legs or his arms yesterday. We had a very civilized discussion. We did not agree on everything, but we would be surprised if some day we were to agree on everything.

However I agree today with him that change can come to Canada without changing the Constitution. It is what we are trying to do all the time. He says that we do not need to have a long constitutional debate. That is fine. We are trying to always find new ways to do things in this federation and we will continue to do that. We have made a lot of changes and we will make a lot of changes in the future. Canada is evolving all the time.

When I became a member of Parliament the federal government was spending two-thirds of the public money. Now we are down to around 40 per cent. The rest is spent by the provinces and the municipalities. Of the 40 per cent a big part is to pay the interest on the debt accumulated by the Conservative government.

If the leader of the Reform Party, who used to be a Social Credit person, can give me a way, in printing money or something like that, so that there will be no more debt, our share of the pie will go down.

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have heard all of that before, but it is not strong enough and clear enough to be a real asset to the no side. While many Quebecers will vote no because they reject separation, others will vote no only if they believe there is a groundswell of support for changing federalism in Canada.

There is such a groundswell and unlike Meech and Charlottetown it is coming from the bottom up, not the top down, and its key feature is a demand for real decentralization: greater control over health and social services by governments close to the people.

If the Prime Minister wants a no vote as badly as we do, a big no vote, will he do something concrete in the next 30 days to recognize the demand for decentralization throughout Canada, including Quebec?

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the burden of proof is not on those who believe in Canada at this moment but on those who want to destroy Canada. They are the ones who have to explain to Canadians how they can promise on behalf of Canada that they will keep the passports, the money, the citizenship and an economic and political union. They have the burden of proving to Quebecers how they are so sure they will become members of NAFTA and so on.

Do not divert the debate. These people are faced with the burden of proof and have no answers. Let us keep the pressure on them and not on me.

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the separatists have been doing everything in their power to prove a no vote means more of the same and that Canada will never move off the status quo.

The Prime Minister can disprove that charge by seizing opportunities to respond to the demand for decentralization. Even today his health minister is in Victoria. She could advance the cause by simply agreeing to open up the Canada Health Act to permit the provinces greater flexibility in financing health care. Albertans want it. Ontarians want it. Quebecers want it. Canadians want it.

Is the Prime Minister willing to put some meaning into this phrase of flexible federalism and thus advance the no side by committing to amend the Canada Health Act?

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I do not think it would change the vote in Quebec if we agreed to have a two tier system of health care. The people of Quebec want a system for hospitalization and the Bloc Quebecois supports that every citizen should be allowed admittance into a hospital. We all agree we do not need clinics for the rich and hospitals for the poor. We want the same health care system for everybody.

Destroying the health care system in Canada will not persuade the Leader of the Opposition and his leader in Quebec to vote no. However, the people of Canada would be very disappointed if I were to stand here just to maintain peace for 40 days and concede our national health system which makes everybody equal in Canada.

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has just shown his real conception of Quebec. How can the Prime Minister of Canada compare the Quebec referendum to the decision to dismantle a rod and gun club?

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is not me. I am telling you that the hard and fast rule of the majority plus one is clearly stated in the Quebec Civil Code and that even to dismantle the smallest entity, a corporation, or to found a rod and gun club, one must respect more than the rule of the majority plus one.

The Quebec Civil Code is based on the Napoleonic Code. I simply wish to state clearly that, with such an ambiguous question, they should not ask me to disregard the basic rules of the Quebec Civil Code. However, as I said before in this House, change the question and ask an honest one. You still have two and a half hours. Ask an honest question: "Do you want to separate from Canada?" Go ahead and ask it. I will not stand in your way, because I am sure we will win.

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, those are the words of a politician who received only 33 per cent of the vote in Quebec, precisely because Quebecers know him very well.

How can the Prime Minister let himself be guided by his scorn for Quebec, to the extent that he decided to trample our democratic values underfoot, thus repudiating the best of Canadian traditions?

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I think that my position is very clear.

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh yeah?

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Liberal Saint-Maurice, QC

Yes, it is very clear. Everyone knows that I believe in a united Canada where it is possible to be both a francophone and a Canadian. Everyone knows full well that I have spent my whole career defending millions of francophones outside Quebec, whom those people want to abandon. Everyone knows full well that I have always spoken up in this Parliament and this country to protect the rights of anglophones who have lived in Quebec for centuries, who are proud anglophones as well as proud Quebecers.

I have spent my whole career making sure that this country, which should be a model of democracy-

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Ah!

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Liberal Saint-Maurice, QC

Yes, yes, always.

Mr. Speaker, to make the Leader of the Opposition happy, I will quote René Lévesque, who said that a referendum is a public consultation. We will consult the people and then we will wait for the results. You must, however, show Quebecers what you will achieve with your separation proposal. Although you, as Leader of the Opposition, have the courage to tell the Americans that you are a separatist, you lack the courage to tell Quebecers the same thing.

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Quebec ReferendumOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, I remind you once again that you must always address the Chair.