House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was throne.


Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

4:35 p.m.

The Speaker

There is not unanimous consent.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

4:40 p.m.


Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, this shows that the Liberals do not want to know the reality and the truth. It is that simple. In any case, this has already been made public, but I still wanted to table this document and ask the government if it could enlighten me about the direction of the changes reflected in this document-for the Liberals' information, I will get back to this document later-and whether these changes were going in the right or the wrong direction.

In 1989, I commissioned and participated in a study on science and technology. Including the national capital region in the statistics is no simple matter. There are some 75 research and development programs in science and technology, and about 20 departments are involved. So for each department and program, we had to calculate what the federal government spent in the national capital region. This is important. It had been done before, but I had never seen the figures, and I wanted to find out for myself. This exercise showed us there is no equity.

In 1989, Ontario, including the national capital region, received $1.9 billion for science and technology, compared to $724 million for Quebec. This means that Ontario received $1.2 billion more per year than Quebec in federal spending. Even though 36 per cent of the population then lived in Ontario, while Quebec's share was 26 per cent, the difference was enormous.

The point I was trying to make earlier, to tie in with research and development, is that there was a $700 million discrepancy in that area, for a total of almost $2 billion per year in science and technology, and research and development.

What this means is that Ontario was getting $2 billion more every year. I am not saying this only for Ontario, but for all the other Canadian provinces that are disadvantaged by this. A large percentage of the $2 billion invested each year on science and technology-given how many jobs for scientists and experts there are in that area-is spent on salaries.

Let us take a look at the economic spinoffs in Ontario. First, there are taxes paid on the products, houses and other goods purchased in the province. You can imagine the magnitude. I am strictly speaking in terms of science and technology, and research and development. Two billion dollars generate substantial economic spinoffs in a province.

That is precisely why, a few years ago, I had suggested that the national capital region be considered a province in that respect and that the federal government keep the taxes collected in the region. It would have been fairer. But the government will hear nothing of it, because this benefits Ontario greatly. The fact that Ontario has always been richer than most Canadian provinces explains the presence of the federal government in the national capital region, where it spends tremendous amounts of money.

This is all explained in the document I wish I could have tabled, so that government members could take a look at it, but I will find another way to get it to them.

This goes to show that, when, in the speech from the throne, the government claims to want to be fair and equitable, to encourage harmony, to anticipate political uncertainty, it should start by being fair and equitable to the provinces, including Quebec, until it becomes sovereign.

My other point also concerns research and development, as I said earlier. By the way, our leader is welcome to come and visit the Tokamak facilities in Varennes next week. It is a nuclear fusion research centre. The nuclear industry is a clean industry that can be established within city limits; it really is tomorrow's source of energy. The federal government has decided to withdraw from this project.

I invite you to visit the Tokamak project, in Varennes. It is an extraordinarily modern facility that is the result of a partnership involving Europe, Japan and the United States, and where research is conducted on nuclear fusion, a form of energy for the future.

Electricity is produced with turbines, and power will come from the fusion that generates the heat. It is thousands of times more efficient than uranium and other sources of energy. This is not an imaginary thing. It is said that this form of energy will be available in 10 to 15 years.

The materials created and developed through this research allow companies from the Montreal region and elsewhere to build high performance products that they would not otherwise be able to make.

The chief executive officer of the company says that a large number of products sold are the result of the research conducted at Tokamak. This means that financial spin-offs for the federal government are greater than the $7 million it is currently investing in this program, but does not intend to reinvest next year.

I do not know how the federal government does its evaluations but, by ending this annual investment of $7 million, it not only jeopardizes the very important development of nuclear fusion, it also loses potential revenues for itself. This is really a bad calculation.

It is true that the $7 million invested in nuclear fusion research at Tokamak came from the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. AECL was competing against Ontario's oil and uranium industries. The Minister of Natural Resources said the project was not one of her priorities. I realize it is not one of her priorities because she must first protect the oil and uranium industries, not this new form of energy called nuclear energy.

The Minister of Industry should subsidize Tokamak, since he does not have to protect other forms of energy. He is neutral in this respect. The Minister of Industry should subsidize Tokamak. I am making this request in all honesty; I am not playing politics. I believe the federal government is making a fundamental mistake by ceasing to invest a mere $7 million per year in the Tokamak project. This is very important.

I would also like to talk about the whole issue of drugs. I remember all our efforts to attract medical research investors. We worked very hard. That was the first time I saw scientists travel to Ottawa to demonstrate against the opposition. There was a delegation of close to 200 scientists and researchers, primarily from the Montreal area, who came to demonstrate in favour of the government and against the opposition, which wanted to block passage of Bill C-22 concerning drug research.

The Liberals were then in opposition and they vigorously opposed the bill. We were calling for the protection of patents. We wanted to give some protection to those doing drug research and development so that they could justify their investments.

Mr. Trudeau had allowed drugs to be copied after five years. Companies doing drug research were forced to go out of business. Office buildings and research centres, particularly in the Montreal area, had to close their doors.

Hundreds of jobs were lost. Hundreds of millions of dollars left the country, and the Conservatives of the time wanted to get them back. Hundreds of millions of dollars came back into the country to be invested once again in the Montreal area, because there are many very competent people doing drug research there.

As recently as this morning, we learned that the Swedish company Astra is going to invest in the Montreal area. This will be the first time that this Swedish company has invested abroad, $300 million over a ten year period, for drug research.

Lately, we have learned to be very wary of the government. I have met people who lobby in Ottawa. They are in favour of Bill C-22 and C-91. They have doubts about the present Liberal government, which intends to reduce the number of years during which drugs are protected.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

November 7th, 1996 / 4:50 p.m.


Harold Culbert Liberal Carleton—Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to join in the debate this afternoon on the speech from the throne. The throne speech outlined many initiatives which the government would carry forward this year and into the future.

It reflected what has been said in the House on many occasions, in statements by the Prime Minister and many ministers in the House and elsewhere that the number one priority of the government was, is and continues to be economic growth and jobs for Canadians.

One of the most important initiatives in the speech from the throne was to get government right, to continue to bring order to our financial house and to meet or exceed our deficit reduction targets, targets that the government has met or exceeded to date and will continue for the balance of this year and for 1997 and 1998, reaching a reduced deficit target of $9 billion in fiscal year 1998-99. This has resulted in the lowest interest rates we have seen in the country for decades and at the same time a low rate of inflation.

It has prompted an increase in small business and industry in Canada which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of new jobs being created. Getting the deficit on a downward trend toward a balanced budget and our financial house in order is also the best protection for our cherished social programs such as the national medicare system and the protection of pensions for those Canadians depending on this important made in Canada program.

Let me talk a bit about economic growth and the enthusiasm for business, industry and the associated jobs with the same in my constituency of Carleton-Charlotte.

Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of attending the official opening of the new, expanded Sabian cymbal plant in the small community of Meductic, New Brunswick. This new, enlarged and modern facility means an additional 12 to 15 new jobs immediately. As a result of these wonderful cymbal producers who export throughout the world and are marketing what is proclaimed to be

the best or one of the best cymbal products known throughout the world is something to take a lot of pride in.

Also earlier this past early summer McCain Foods in Florenceville, New Brunswick announced the expansion of its data processing centre to double its size, meaning another new 30 to 50 jobs. That is confidence when we see this happening.

In Centreville, New Brunswick, another small community in my Carleton-Charlotte constituency, Canusa Foods announced and began construction of a new potato processing plant, meaning another 25 to 30 new jobs that were not there before.

In Woodstock, New Brunswick, Penn Papers is expanding its processing manufacturing plant which certainly means many new jobs.

Last week in the village of McAdam, New Brunswick I had the opportunity to participate in the announcement that the former railway station would be turned over to the community by the Southern New Brunswick Railway Company and by the Irving family. This is a very picturesque railway station and something of which we can be proud as part of our Canadian heritage.

What does it mean to the village of McAdam and surrounding area? It means that it is the focal point for the tourism industry, and I might say year round tourism industry, the focal point for the lakes, the beautiful eco-tourism industry of that whole surrounding area.

Imagine, in a small community, over 800 people came out for the official announcement. They had waited years for this to happen. This did not just start yesterday. It started many years ago. I certainly was delighted to be part of it. What does it mean? It means new and additional jobs for that whole region.

Briggs and Little in York Mills, New Brunswick is a yarn company which is famous across Canada. It will be opening its new plant this month which produces woollen yarns that are used in products across this country. It will see an additional 25, perhaps 30 jobs as a result of this opening. It is a new modern plant, with modern machinery and modern technology to meet today's demands.

Earlier this week, this very week, I had the opportunity to participate in the official opening of Apocan Inc., an antimony mine in the Lake George area of New Brunswick. Some 75 new direct jobs have been created. The mushrooming effect of this antimony mine will produce additional jobs in trucking and other services throughout the community.

What is antimony? In the very early days it was used in the mixture of medicines. Later it was used as a component in the production of alloys. While it is still used to a small extent in those areas today, one of its major purposes now is as a fire retardant. It is used in many of our homes in such things as draperies, carpeting, even in our clothing because of its fire resistant qualities.

The projections are that the use of this product will increase at a rate of 8 per cent a year for each year in the foreseeable future. Therefore I am optimistic that those 75 jobs announced this very week will continue to expand to become 100, 150 or 200 jobs in future years. They in turn will have the spin-off effect of creating jobs in service industries to support them.

In St. Stephen the famous Ganong Brothers chocolate plant is working at full capacity at the present time. It is working on its Christmas production of those famous chocolates that are in demand not only in Canada but in many parts of the world.

Connors Brothers which operates fish processing and packing plants in Blacks Harbour, Back Bay and Seal Cove has certainly seen increased production this year and the important jobs associated with that.

Agriculture, the traditional fishery, aquaculture, forestry, literally hundreds of small businesses and industries of all sizes are working hard across Carleton-Charlotte, and indeed across New Brunswick, in order to profit, expand and provide hundreds of new jobs.

There are challenges with the new technologies and the changing requirements of today. There is no question that much work still has to be done, but these new technological requirements are being met today and will continue to be met into the future. There are a few examples which were just announced this week by Industry Canada.

There is support for the community access sites. I can refer to those in my constituency and others may want to talk about those in their constituencies because this is good stuff. These are great opportunities for our communities and our youngsters. New technology, new opportunities to connect with the world marketplace are at our doorstep.

Announcements were made for new community access sites in St. Stephen, St. George, Fredericton Junction, Florenceville and Hartland, New Brunswick. These announcements on this three year program are in addition to the ones that were made last year for community access opportunities in Juniper, Bath, Woodstock, Harvey, Lawrence Station, Deer Island, Campobello Island and St. Andrews.

The program provides all of those communities and indeed all of those rural areas with the tools to reach out to the markets and to the information that is available around the world. That is what the throne speech was about: equal access for all Canadians. Regardless of whether they live on Prince Edward Island, in New Brunswick, in the wonderful province of Quebec, on the west coast,

in central Canada or in the Northwest Territories and Yukon, there will be equal access and equal opportunity for all Canadians.

That is why leading economists and even the OECD have projected that in 1997 Canada will lead all G-7 nations in economic growth. Canada will lead all of the industrialized countries of the world in economic growth. What does that mean for Canadians? It means jobs. That is why we are excited about it. It will mean jobs for all Canadians.

I see my colleague across the way from St. John's, Newfoundland. She is excited because there will be an opportunity for her constituents to get jobs. Jobs are needed in Atlantic Canada, there is no question about it.

Yes, we have challenges and we will continue to have challenges. But we will meet tomorrow's challenges as we have in the past. We did not say it was going to be easy and that the solutions would simply fall at our feet. It has been tough work.

On arriving here we faced a $42 billion deficit. The debt was over $500 billion. There was a $6 billion deficit in the unemployment insurance fund. It went on and on. When we opened the books it was scary. Yes, there is still a way to go. There is no question about it. But is it not great to see our deficit on a downward trend? We can look forward to a balanced budget. That is exciting stuff.

What is being said about Canadian exports? We know that team Canada is planning another trip. Business and industry leaders, the Prime Minister and the premiers will get together to travel overseas to create more opportunities for Canadian business and industry. That is being planned for early 1997. What does that mean to us as Canadians? We are told that every $1 billion of export trade that is garnered means 11,000 jobs for Canadians, either in new jobs or existing jobs which will be protected. That is important.

Almost every day in the newspapers the leading economists write that Canada will lead in economic growth in 1997. That is the result of getting government right. That is the result of bringing down the deficit. That is the result of having an acceptable inflation rate. That is the result of good administration and hard work. It will continue from this time onward until the next throne speech and thereafter.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:10 p.m.


André Caron Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for Carleton-Charlotte on his speech. It is a very fine Liberal speech. He has listed for us the things that are going well in his riding, and the things that are going a bit better in Canada with respect to putting our finances in order and reducing the deficit.

What struck me at the beginning of his speech was his reference to three objectives in the throne speech: getting government right, bringing order to our financial house, and reducing the deficit.

I wish to address the first point. I think he perhaps did not speak much on it: getting government right. There is much talk of this, in the newspapers, in books, in magazine articles. They all say the state must change, must be defined differently.

Our Reform colleagues often tell us that we need less and less government, that the state has no role in certain economic or social areas. On the other hand, it ought to play a heavy role in suppressing crime, and other such things.

The question I would like to ask my colleague is not a loaded one. I would just like to know how much it can be claimed that the Canadian government has re-examined the role of the state since the Governor General's reading of the Throne Speech? Does this mean less involvement in the economy, less involvement in social measures? Does it mean government involvement in job creation?

Reference is often made to job creation, and sometimes the impression is given that the government is boasting of having created jobs. There is talk of 600,000 jobs, yet certain ministers sometimes tell us that the government is no longer the one creating jobs, it is business.

Having made these few comments, I wish to ask the following question: How has the federal government met the objective it set for itself in the throne speech to get government right? How has it re-examined the role of government, and what are the differences today between the federal government's concept of government before the throne speech, and now, five or six months later?

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:10 p.m.


Harold Culbert Liberal Carleton—Charlotte, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the Bloc for his many questions. There were a number of them and I will try to answer them in the order that he put them forward.

The member talked about rethinking government. As all government members are well aware, since arriving in this place we certainly have been rethinking government. We have been looking at the size of all departments.

The first thing I recall being done upon arriving here was reducing the number of staff members in ministers' offices. Many offices in the junior portfolios had 50 to 60 staff members and the senior portfolios had from 100 to 120 staff members. Those offices are now working with 15 to 20 staff members. We are rethinking, taking the challenge first.

The hon. member will know that the budget of every member of Parliament was frozen. Government members and opposition members alike, we all shared in it because it was a burden and we had to overcome it.

There have been a number of those initiatives to build a smaller and more active oriented government that can provide services to people.

This was done in balanced fashion. We protected those social programs that I spoke about earlier and a number of others that we and our constituents across Canada cherish in this country. We did not cut and slash and say they would be gone tomorrow, as others have suggested we do. We looked at their value and tried to make the difficult changes in a very balanced fashion that would be respected by all Canadians.

Industry, business and job growth were mentioned. I think all members see that it is our responsibility to develop and take the initiatives that will build the climate in which business and industry in this country can expand and develop, thus creating the jobs that are needed for Canadians, creating jobs in the new technologies that we know are developing right here in the city of Ottawa. It is happening right under our noses. We heard one of our colleagues speak about it this morning.

It is also happening elsewhere in Canada in many small communities. I spoke earlier about the importance of community access so that rural communities would be on the same level as our urban areas. Those are the important things.

I would like to give a quick example. Some of it has been tabled in the House and some of it will be coming. We know in agriculture and fisheries how important our inspections are to ensure that we have the best product to export around the world. Whether it is in agriculture, fisheries or whatever product we are producing it seemed to put them under one umbrella, a new agency that will have the expertise and the most modern technology to ensure that our product is the number one quality in the world. Those are the types of things that will help us to continue our growth in the export trade and continue making Canada number one in the world.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:15 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Madam Speaker, I think seeing the member for Carleton-Charlotte sitting there with his hon. colleague from Malpeque I would have to ask one simple question about the Canadian Wheat Board.

Hearing the member talk about all the expertise in communications that we have today, I am wondering why the Canadian Wheat Board sold less grain than in the previous year. Why, when there was a tremendous need in the U.S, did we sell half a million tonnes less into that market? Now we have a record carry-over in durum and also some feed grains.

It was very interesting to read in the papers recently what the priorities of this Liberal government are. When a motion or a resolution was brought forward to its policy convention supporting the Canadian Wheat Board it was side tracked by a motion to legalize the production of hemp. One of the reporters said: "Instead of supporting the wheat board we can now legally smoke a rope". I am wondering if that is supposed to soothe the nerves of western farmers, with Liberal philosophy of that sort, so that we can sit quietly at the end of the field and more or less smoke a couple of ropes and not realize that our grain is still in the bins instead of being sold. I wonder how the hon. member would respond to that.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:15 p.m.


Harold Culbert Liberal Carleton—Charlotte, NB

Madam Speaker, I will try to be as brief as possible. I thank my hon. colleague from the Reform Party for his question.

I recall in all the east coast literature I have read over many years and all of the programs I have seen on television that people around the world have exclaimed time and time again what a wonderful organization the Canadian Wheat Board must be because it continues to bring revenue for western farmers in Canada.

It has, time and time again, shown that it could bring more revenue than those selling on an independent basis in many other countries, many other wheat producers around the world.

Yes, there are problems. The hon. minister, time and time again, has alluded to those problems and is looking at ways to make it better. It has a wonderful history. I am glad to see it is going to continue to expand and prosper for all farmers in western Canada in the future.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:20 p.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate today. I am a little surprised that we are continuing only on the fifth day of debate on the speech from the throne, considering it is nine months since the speech was given. Perhaps it speaks volumes about the worth of the words in the speech from the throne and the integrity of the government in implementing some of those ideas.

I listened with considerable amusement to the former speaker because it was such a typical Liberal speech. The Liberals, in the last three years since I have been here, truly have been masters of governing by illusion and creating an illusion of doing great things when the facts do not bear those things out.

Truly, what could we expect from a party whose leader has an imaginary friend he talks to on the street corner and has imaginary ethical guidelines that his ministers go by? It would only stand to reason that we would have an imaginary report card on the performance of this government giving it an honours score when, in reality, the facts do not bear it out in any way.

I would like to go through some of the facts and statistics that would paint a somewhat different picture than what I have heard coming from the members of the Liberal Party.

The speech from the throne, as a previous speaker indicated, kind of took a three pronged approach in its direction. Its objective was "to provide security for Canadians, to provide unity for Canadians and to provide jobs for Canadians". I believe that was the expression we heard.

When we look at the facts, in spite of the rose coloured glasses that some members wear, they do not bear that out. When we look at the security for Canadians, this government over the last three years has cut social spending transfers to the provinces by some $7 billion. It has cut funding for health care, for education and has enforced the closure of hospitals. There are many things people do not hear it talk about.

It has cut substantially the benefits to seniors since coming to office in spite of the rhetoric we hear about protecting seniors' benefits and all the rest of it. There has been one segment, however, that it has provided substantial security for to show where its priorities are. Of course, that is in the security of the MP pension plan, looking after its members' own security on retirement. I do not hear a lot of them bragging about that when they are proposing to cut security for other seniors in this country.

When we look at the promise to create unity for Canadians, the statistics do not bear out that there has been much progress on this front as well. Only a year ago we came within half a percentage point of losing the referendum and having this country split apart.

I did not see much progress being made up to that point and certainly not much since. The only reaction before going back to sleep on the whole issue was the proposal to drag up the distinct society clause for Quebec which even the party representing Quebec in this House and most Canadians rejected soundly in the Charlottetown accord many years ago. I do not see that there has been substantial progress on that.

The third prong of the speech from the throne was dealing with jobs for Canadians. Perhaps this is one of the most dismal areas in spite of the illusion that the previous speaker tried to create of this wealth of jobs being created for Canadians.

The fact remains that personal and business bankruptcies are at an all time record high in this country. In spite of presumably coming out of the recession that the North American economy was in and having some of the lowest interest rates since the 1960s, our unemployment rate still hovers on one side or the other of 10 per cent, in spite of the fact that across the border to the south unemployment rates are only half the rate they are in Canada. I do not see a lot to brag about when we talk about job creation.

Looking a little further at what has been going on in Canada over the last 30 years it is hardly any wonder that conditions in Canada led to the creation of the Reform Party and some of the ideas the Reform brought to this House and promotes in Canada. In spite of all the bragging and illusion created Canadians today, after three years of Liberal government, are unquestionably worse off than they were three years ago. There is no arguing that.

The income of an average family of four has dropped by $3,000 since 1993. People are working harder and harder just to try to maintain a standard of living. Two out of three two-parent families have two or more jobs; 1.4 million Canadians are unemployed and continue to be unemployed; 2 million to 3 million Canadians are underemployed and one in four Canadians are worried sick about losing their jobs and not being able to provide for their families.

Canadians truly have taken a national pay cut. For a family of four the pay cut has been some $3,000 over the last three years. The Liberals at the end of their mandate will be collecting some $26 billion more in taxes than they were when they came to office in 1993. This government, which says everything is so wonderful and rosy, the economy is booming, jobs are being created, has added $111 billion more to the national debt, forcing it up to the $600 billion mark; truly not a very good track record.

Looking at the last 25 or 30 years in this country, in 1972 when Pierre Trudeau came to power only 553,000 Canadians were unemployed. When his government was defeated in 1984, 1.45 million Canadians were unemployed.

Then the Tories took over and were going to turn things around. They talked about a job for every Canadian who wants to work. By the time they left in 1993, 1.65 million Canadians were out of work. Certainly in 1993, in spite of the red book promise of jobs, jobs, jobs, there remains in Canada today 1.5 million Canadians out of work.

The Prime Minister is trying to tell Canadians that somewhere around that level of unemployment is acceptable, that it cannot be brought down lower. We know what happened to former Prime Minister Kim Campbell when she made that remark.

Certainly we have heard a lot of bragging today about balanced budgets. A number of previous speakers talked about achieving a balanced budget somewhere in the year 1998-99, getting the deficit down to $9 billion and then assuming at that point that the budget was balanced. I submit that only in a place like this would anyone presume that a $9 billion or $10 billion deficit is in fact a balanced

budget. Certainly in the real world I do not think that could be considered a reality.

Between 1972 and 1984 the Liberals increased the national debt from $17.2 billion to $199 billion, a staggering 1,057 per cent increase. In 1984 the Tories promised to put a stop to the increase in the debt. Instead they increased it from $199 billion to $508.2 billion in only nine years.

Then of course the current government has added another $111.5 billion, bringing the debt to the $600 billion mark. It is not a record about which most governments would have the audacity to brag, I am sure.

The illusion is not one that most Canadians will long believe. I firmly believe that Canadians are demanding an end to this political rhetoric, this campaign platform that makes all kinds of promises that the government has no intention of living up to. Canadians are demanding some integrity in government, some honesty in election platforms and they are demanding a fresh approach to government, a basic restructuring of government, a basic downsizing of government.

I spent last week travelling in western and central Canada with the natural resources standing committee which is holding hearings on rural economic renewal. In spite of real prompting from the members of the Liberal Party on the committee to try to initiate some response in favour of another infrastructure program or subsidies to provide incentives to small business, witness after witness said: "We don't need more hockey rinks and canoe museums and the like. What we need is government to get off our backs, get out of our pockets, give us a chance to make a dollar, succeed in our businesses and be successful".

That is a story we heard over and over again. I very much look forward to the day when we write the report on the committee and put into print what supposedly we heard on the tour.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Could the hon. member please indicate to me if he is sharing his time with another colleague?

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:30 p.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Yes, Madam Speaker, I am sharing my time with my colleague from Surrey North.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

That should have been indicated at the beginning of your speech. You are two minutes over your time. I will give you 30 seconds to wind up your speech.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:30 p.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I did not realize that the time had expired. I apologize for that.

The government has maintained the degree of popularity that it has over the last number of years through illusion and political rhetoric that really is very shallow. I am sure that Canadians, come the next election, will see through the rhetoric and the illusion and take a dim view of the record of the government.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:30 p.m.

Winnipeg—St. James Manitoba


John Harvard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Madam Speaker, I just have a couple of comments to make.

The hon. member of the Reform Party was talking about jobs. He was criticizing the government for not creating enough jobs. I think the member's credibility is lacking very seriously.

Reform Party members have been in Parliament now for three years. For almost three years the word jobs never crossed their lips, never crossed their minds. Did we hear a word about jobs from the Reform Party in 1994? Not a word. Did we hear about jobs from the Reform Party in 1995? Not a word. It was not until this past summer that Reformers discovered the word jobs in the Reform Party vocabulary. Somebody put it there. I suspect what happened was that they read a survey or two or a poll and they discovered that Canadians are actually preoccupied with the issue of jobs. This is the party that talks about its members speaking to its constituents.

It took Reformers three years to discover the word jobs in their vocabulary. Where have they been for three years? Talk about a fresh start. That is the kind of fresh start we get from the Reform Party. It discovers that Canadians are actually concerned about jobs.

While they were somewhere in the wilderness, somewhere in the bush, not realizing that Canadians do have a concern about jobs, the government has been doing something. Since the government came to office, well over 600,000 jobs have been created.

One more thing. Now that Reformers have discovered that Canadians have a concern about jobs, what does the Reform Party propose as a response to that? It proposes a tax cut, right across the board. Do Reformers ever learn anything?

What did Ronald Reagan do in the United States when he came to power in the beginning of the 1980s? Across the board tax cuts. What happened? The deficit went right through the roof. The United States went from being the greatest creditor nation in 1980 to being the greatest debtor nation in the world in 1988. That is what Ronald Reagan did. The Americans suddenly realized that this trickle down theory of economics does not work.

But here is the Reform Party, true to its dinosaur heritage: "Yep, that's what we're proposing, across the board tax cuts". It did not work in the States and it will not work here in this country. Canadians do not believe in it and it will never work. That is why this member and all the members of the Reform Party have absolutely no credibility.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:35 p.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I can only assume that what I am hearing from across the floor is political rhetoric. I assume the member opposite is an intelligent individual and can certainly read our fresh start platform and our platform of the last four or five years. Job creation has been an integral part of that platform from day one.

I do not expect him to believe or to support our platform, which is perfectly reasonable. Since he is a Liberal and I am a Reformer we take quite a different strategy in dealing with job creation. We believe that jobs can be created by the private sector, by getting government out of Canadians' pockets and off their backs, by giving Canadians back some of the 60 per cent of their wages that governments take away from them with the view that it is smarter than the individual and that it can spend it more wisely.

I heard the comment awhile back that they believed the primary purpose of government was the redistribution of wealth. I am only assuming that is rhetoric and positioning. I think the member knows better.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:35 p.m.


Margaret Bridgman Reform Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the debate today on the throne speech. I will direct my remarks to the family.

The throne speech was in February. I wondered if the government was going to take the opportunity, as is traditional, to utilize the throne speech to tell us what it intended to do to meet the needs and wants of Canadians. I am glad to see we are now debating it again so we can pursue that.

One of the areas in which Canadians want change is in the area of families and how governments treat families. Of course, work and the resulting income is an essential component for the establishment of a healthy family unit, yet the government and those which preceded it over the last 20 or so years have implemented social and economic policies and continue to enhance those policies which result in undermining the security of Canadian families. That contributes to the levels of stress, burnout and financial hardships which many Canadians face today. The policies of the last 20 odd years have created the situation in which we find ourselves today.

For example, one in four Canadians are worried about losing their job. Another two million to three million Canadians are underemployed. They are unable to find work in the area for which they trained. There are approximately 1.4 million Canadians who are on the unemployed list. That was the number in 1993 I believe. That number has not changed.

Not much of an inroad has been made into job creation. If inroads have been made, then other jobs have disappeared, because the figures are still hovering around 1.4 million. We all know that puts extra strain on people's lives and on their families. If we do not have a sense of job security we are left in limbo. We begin to wonder what kind of a future we will have.

Canadians are worried about making ends meet. Often two incomes are necessary. Often, despite the two incomes, we do not get enough time to spend with our families and raise our children. About 25 years ago one income seemed to cover the bills and there was some room to spare. Now, for many families, it takes two incomes to run the family.

When we consider that the tax freedom day falls in June, it is easy to see where that second income has to go. One income goes to the household and the other goes to government in some form or another, be it in taxes, user fees or a licence for this or that. It seems that the government wants both parents to have to work. It wants families to need two incomes to survive.

In a recent letter the Minister of Finance said he is opposed to changes in the day care tax deduction because levelling the playing field would be a disincentive for both parents to work. The day care tax deduction should not apply to those parents who work, it should be directed toward the children. It is a day care service for children, so it really should not matter if the parents work. If they have children, they should be entitled to it.

The priority of members of the Reform Party is the family. The best words to illustrate that goal are the words of the leader of our caucus, the hon. member for Calgary Southwest, who said: "Because of social and economic changes, many families are facing high debt, stress, bankruptcy and burnout. A Reform government will recognize the value of families as the most important building block in our society, so you can spend less time under pressure and more time with those that you care about most".

We are committed to Canadians and to the family. We want to make the family a priority and ensure that government regulations and policies are definitely family friendly.

Where do you start? One place to start is to extend the $3,000 to $5,000 child care deduction to all parents, not just to those who are working.

We could also increase the spousal deduction from $5,380 to $7,900, levelling the field for parents who choose to stay at home to look after their young children. Of course, that would help families to meet the needs of the more demanding economy.

Family time or family life is not a luxury. If families are to preserve health and happiness in a home it is not a luxury, it is a necessity. They need the time to spend building that core structure. It is time to make families a priority once again in our Canadian lifestyle.

The Reform Party believes that parenting has real value and if there is anything this whole House can agree on it is that children are the key to the future of countries around the world.

We must give parents greater freedom to spend time parenting and to succeed economically while they shape the lives of their children. Some ways we feel that can be done is to increase the child deduction to parents to $5,000 for every preschool child; $3,000 for every child age 7 to 12 years old. All this is in the fresh start program. We have to start somewhere and these are some of the targets we are looking at which will definitely assist the family situation.

To make it as fair as possible to all families with regard to income level, we will turn the deduction into a tax credit. That method will allow everyone to save.

My critic area is in aboriginal affairs. Consequently, I have spent a fair amount of time looking at that aspect of our country. One thing that comes forward there is family violence. It is not just in that group. It does not matter who we talk to in the country, it seems to be at all levels of society. It does not matter if it is in the north or in the south. I certainly believe that family violence, spousal and child abuse, has to addressed and there have to be some guidelines put out there. We have to identify the playing field.

This is one thing Reform would like to do. Instead of looking solely at the intent of the action, we would like to focus on the action itself. Assault is not something Canadians choose to have in society. We want to get more firm with people who assault, assault of any kind. However, this predominantly occurs in family circles, which we are not able to address because there tends to be a reluctance to identify the situation. Therefore many people live in these abusive situations who do not wish to come forward. We should create a situation that would encourage them to come forward.

Another thing is that when there actually is a situation of abuse and someone has been charged, in looking at the counselling aspect, the aboriginal community is trying to tell us that there is more than one way of getting to the bottom line. I really feel we should be looking at different methods and address the one which is most suitable to achieving the bottom line.

If a person wishes to read and understand the English language as written in Reform's fresh start, from the family point of view which I am addressing today our main concern is to leave more money in the hands of parents to allow them to build that home and the structure in which to raise their children, cloth, feed and educate them, and give them the choice as to how they wish to pursue that.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:45 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciated the remarks of the member for Surrey North with respect to wanting to improve the lives of families in Canadian society, possibly by tax means and other instruments.

I would like to point out to her this is a sentiment that is shared broadly in the House. Two nights ago there was a motion presented to the House by the member for Mississauga South, a government member, which proposed that the government introduce a caregiver tax, particularly for families with young children and families of the disabled. That motion was supported on all sides of the House.

I think I can assure the member for Surrey North that the desire to give better opportunities to the traditional nuclear family is a concept that is shared by all members of this House, not just the Reform Party. I think we can look forward in the coming year to some significant steps on the part of the government in that regard. I think certainly most members on the government benches would support it in every way.

I would like to take the member just briefly down another road if she would not mind. One of the points made in the speech from the throne was there would be a modernization of the federal labour code which applies to federally regulated industries.

Just this past week a bill was presented to the House containing the proposals of the labour minister in this regard. I would like to draw the attention of the member for Surrey North to a couple of provisions in the proposals put forward by the government in this new legislation. One of the provisions pertains to replacement workers.

In Quebec there has been a ban on replacement workers during labour stoppages since I think 1977. In Ontario legislation was brought forward by the New Democratic Party banning replacement workers in 1993. This legislation was since overturned by the current Conservative government. We find this Liberal government bringing down legislation that is in between these two extremes. What it proposes basically is that replacement workers continue to be an option of a company facing a strike or a work stoppage but that company is not allowed to use those replacement workers to break the union. I think this addresses the problem that exists with several very nasty strikes that exist in Quebec. It seems to me that this is a very positive compromise on the part of the Government of Canada.

I also point out that the labour code proposals also suggest that following work stoppage, those who have been out of work and faced with replacement workers are entitled to return to their jobs. Again the government in its wisdom has made provisions for workers who have legitimately sought to pressure a company by the means of a legal strike but not to be unfairly penalized at the conclusion of that work stoppage.

I hope the member for Surrey North can reply to these three initiatives. The third and final point, which I thought was very progressive on the part of the government in introducing these amendments to the labour code, is that it is proposed that when it comes to the grain handling industry, only those unions that actually handle the grain should continue to have the right to stop the shipment of grain. In other words, peripheral unions will no longer be permitted to hold the country at ransom by the stoppage of shipments of grain.

These are three very positive initiatives that spin directly out of the speech from the throne. I could find the page in the speech from the throne for the member. I think these are very fine initiatives and I would like to hear the member comment on these three initiatives. Does she support them or reject them?

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:50 p.m.


Margaret Bridgman Reform Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I find it ironic that when I address my remarks to family how it suddenly got into silos and grain, but here we are.

I think at the heart of what I want to say here is that the policies of this government and preceding governments over the last 30 years miss the point. We tried them but they are not working. It does not matter what we are looking at, replacement workers or whatever.

Basically what we are doing here is taking a policy and band-aiding it. My background is health and I feel we are addressing a symptom. We are not actually looking at the cause and treating the cause to resolve the problem or the disease.

The negotiating process where we have the type of thing that is being suggested by the government of bringing in these workers when a strike is threatening was not the original intent of the negotiating process.

The negotiating process initially was to give the employee, when things were perceived to be wrong by the employee, some clout to negotiate and bargain to get them right.

We have let that go to the nth degree. It is not working-

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

We are now resuming debate.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

5:55 p.m.

Simcoe North Ontario


Paul Devillers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak today in the debate on the Throne speech.

The speech from the throne was delivered on February 27, 1996, approximately two years and four months into the government's mandate. It was an opportunity for the government to confirm its priorities, namely jobs and growth, and to continue on that agenda. At that point over half a million net jobs had been created. Now we are at over 620,000 net jobs created.

The speech from the throne went on to deal with three priority themes: the jobs and growth agenda, the security for Canadians, and the modernization of the federation to ensure national unity. The area where I would like to concentrate my remarks is national unity.

When we speak of national unity, invariably we end up speaking of the Quebec situation. Canadians are aware that national unity is a much broader question than simply the wants and desires of the province of Quebec.

We end up concentrating a lot of our effort and time dealing with the Quebec question because the separatist governments in that province have twice called referendums under provincial legislation dealing with the question of the separation of Quebec from the Canadian federation.

Going back prior to the speech from the throne and the time just before the last referendum, Canadians will recall that in the week before the referendum the Prime Minister became very active in the campaign.

Until then the Prime Minister had been a member of the no committee, constituted under the Quebec legislation. There were other members of the committee, federal ministers, the leader of the federal Conservative Party, the leader of the Liberal opposition in Quebec, et cetera.

The strategy that was arrived at was that the Prime Minister would make certain timely interventions in the campaign. As the campaign wore on it became evident from the polling that there was difficulty, that the result was going to be much closer than polls indicated earlier.

The Prime Minister became much more involved. He made certain commitments to the people of Quebec dealing mainly with the recognition of Quebec's distinctness, the question of regional vetoes and the issue of job training. It had been a traditional Quebec demand that job training be turned over to the provinces so that they would have more jurisdiction in that field. The Prime Minister made those commitments.

In December 1995 the House of Commons passed the motion on distinct society, passed the bill dealing with regional vetoes and in the course of its employment insurance reforms it has been dealing with the job training issue.

As far as the federal government and the Prime Minister's being able to honour those commitments without the participation of the provinces, they have done so.

The government has also indicated and continues to indicate its willingness to entrench the recognition of Quebec's differences in the Constitution as well as the regional vetoes. Of course, that cannot be done unilaterally by the federal government and requires the participation of the provinces in accordance with the amending formula of the Constitution which requires seven provinces representing at least 50 per cent of the population.

The speech from the throne sets out what the government's plan on national unity is. Basically it is a plan of reconciliation, to reconcile all of the concerns of all of the provinces and all of the regions of Canada and to modernize the federation to take those concerns into account.

Much progress has been made with respect to the modernization of the federation. At the first ministers conference in June, steps were initiated and negotiations were undertaken. At the premiers conference in August, there was a resolution passed and agreement arrived at by the premiers that they would work with the federal government in its efforts to try to make arrangements so that the jurisdictions between the provinces and the federal government could be worked out to the satisfaction of all parties.

The federal government has acknowledged that there are certain areas where definitely there should be more provincial involvement. I have made reference already to the job training areas. Another area is the administration of social housing. There are also the forestry and mining sectors. Measures have been taken in the Fisheries Act to allow for the delegation to the interested provinces of responsibilities for management of freshwater fisheries habitats.

Later this month there will be more meetings in the field of the environment. The provincial ministers of the environment will be meeting with the federal Minister of the Environment to try to negotiate the terms of subagreements on environmental assessment to eliminate duplication and the mixed jurisdictions in those areas.

As well, the Minister of Human Resources Development and the Minister of Health are negotiating with their provincial colleagues. They are trying to come to arrangements where perhaps the provinces would have more say in certain areas of jurisdiction and maybe certain other areas of jurisdiction would be turned over to the federal government or their role would be heightened in the appropriate cases.

On the question of future referendums the speech from the throne also indicated the following: "As long as the prospect of another Quebec referendum exists, the government will exercise its responsibility to ensure that the debate is conducted with all the facts on the table, that the rules of the process are fair, that the consequences are clear and that Canadians, no matter where they live, will have their say in the future of their country".

That commitment is in the speech from the throne. The government has acted upon it with the intervention in the Bertrand case when the Quebec provincial government was saying that the rule of law had nothing to do with the right to self-determination, and also with the reference to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Inevitably, as I indicated at the beginning of my speech, we end up speaking of Quebec when we speak about national unity, even though many of the other provinces share many of the same concerns that Quebec has with the operation of the federation and the need for its modernization.

Canada today is not the same place it was in 1867. Much has changed and obviously there is a need to modernize the workings of the various levels of government. We come back to the Prime Minister's commitment on the question of recognizing Quebec's distinctiveness.

In today's debate I heard one of the members from the Reform Party mention Charlottetown and that the concept of a distinct society was rejected when Charlottetown was rejected and that the people had their say. There were so many things in the Charlottetown accord. No one can say with any degree of certainty which of the components of the accord people were voting against when they voted no. If they were voting yes, they had to agree with every component. It was a flawed process and I think we have learned our lesson.

The Prime Minister has indicated on several occasions in this House that his strategy is to deal with these issues separately one at a time so we will know exactly what the acceptance of a particular concept is. It is not correct to say that the people of Canada rejected the distinct society because it was one of the components of the Charlottetown accord.

The polls tell us that 60 to 65 per cent of Quebecers feel an attachment toward Canada and want to see the difficulties that are being expressed by many of the provinces and not just Quebec resolved within the Canadian context. We need to determine why then did we have a referendum result with 49 per cent voting yes? Was the question reasonable and fair? Did the people understand it precisely?

I think it was more than that. There has to be some other explanation as to why, if only 30 to 35 per cent of people are committed to separating, as high as 49 per cent would vote yes. We need to look at that and determine the reason for that and for those of us who want to see the country stay together, what we can do to deal with that.

That is where we come back to the question of the recognition of Quebec, its difference by reason of its French language, its French culture and its French institutions. Those are the facts. Quebec is the only province in Canada that has a predominantly French speaking population, a predominantly French culture. It has le droit civil. It is one of two jurisdictions in North America that has le droit civil legal system as opposed to the common law system. There is an indisputable difference I would submit and we need to deal with that. A recognition of that difference needs to be entrenched in the Constitution.

People may have noticed that I am not using the term distinct society. When that concept is discussed there is a fear in the provinces other than Quebec that it means there is going to be some advantage, right, power or privilege given to Quebec that the other provinces will not enjoy. That certainly is not what is being proposed by this government. This government is simply proposing a recognition of Quebec's difference by reason of its French language, culture and institutions without granting to it any further rights, powers or privileges.

That begs the question: Of what value is it? Is it simply symbolic? It is not going to fill the bill. It is not going to address the concerns of the Quebec people who are looking for some reason to remain in Canada. I submit it is more than symbolic because it would entrench in the Constitution the existing constitutional convention.

Mr. Justice Brian Dickson, the retired chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, recently published an article in the Globe and Mail . It indicated that presently the Supreme Court of Canada in interpreting grey areas of the Constitution takes into account Quebec's difference by reason of its French language, culture and institutions.

We would be guaranteeing what is existing now. On the one hand we would have something substantial which Quebecers could feel secure about. On the other hand we would not be granting any rights, powers or privileges that the other provinces do not now enjoy. In other words, there would be no preference given.

There is certainly room for that type of discussion, not by our friends in the Bloc Quebecois and members of the PQ government in Quebec because they want a separate country. Offering them any form of guarantee or recognition in the way the Constitution is interpreted today will not be of any benefit to them because it will not lead to separation.

We have to address the other 60 to 65 per cent of Quebecers who are looking for that. It is also a way for Canadians outside Quebec to express to their fellow Canadians in Quebec that they are prepared to assist in the preservation of the French language, culture and institutions which are prevalent in Quebec. It is a way to support them and to alleviate their insecurity.

The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs has said that if Quebec is the only predominantly French speaking province or jurisdiction in Canada and in North America, it creates a natural insecurity and a legitimate concern with respect to the preservation of the French language, culture and institutions. If we Canadians outside Quebec can show that we are prepared to support them in that preservation, it would have an influence on their desire to remain a part of this country.

As part of my duties for the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs I have travelled to different regions of Canada. I was in three of the four maritime provinces this past summer. I have been to British Columbia and Alberta. I have spoken with people who have formed Canadian unity groups, Canadian citizens who are concerned about Canadian unity. They have expressed frustration at not being able to do anything about the preservation of unity in Canada. They have come together in an effort to become involved in the process.

When I speak to them in the terms I have just outlined, I get very little opposition to the concept of recognizing Quebec's differences by reason of its French language, culture and institutions when it is presented to them in a way that gives them some assurance that it will not lead to any additional rights, powers or privileges. Once the term distinct society is put into the equation however, then there is all of the baggage that comes from the constitutional wrangling of the previous government with the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords.

There is a way to develop that support and to act on it. The government is on the right track. The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs has spoken to most of his provincial counterparts. In certain provinces he gets a warmer reception than in others. However, we must continue to work on it.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

6:15 p.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, I noted that the member focused on unity or disunity or the lack of unity or the concern about unity but very little on how to build unity in the country.

I was particularly intrigued by one comment. I am talking about the courts of this land for which we have respect and high regard for their impartiality and the quality of the judgments they render based on the law. The law of this land is important and it is the responsibility of the courts to uphold the law as Parliament sets it out in the statutes for them to apply. Of course, there is a great deal of independence between this House and the courts to ensure that they are totally impartial and unbiased and not influenced by the House or by anyone else for that matter.

The member made reference to the fact that the courts seem to take into consideration the political perceptions of the different culture in Quebec, the language and so on, compared to the rest of the country.

I wonder if he was suggesting that the courts are becoming politically aware, if I can use that phrase. I hope not, but I thought that is what he was alluding to.

I happen to have a little quote here, a supreme court ruling in the province of Alberta, where I am from. It was a rather eloquent judgment that went on for some considerable length by Mr. Justice John McClung in a ruling in 1996 in the Alberta Court of Appeal in the case of Vriend et al v. Alberta.

"None of our precious and historic legislative safeguards are in play when judges choose to privateer in parliamentary sea lanes". I thought that was a wonderful quote that says that the courts are apart, separate and must protect their own integrity and impartiality. If they want to privateer in the sea lanes of politics, we should all be serious concerned.

Would the hon. member please confirm to me and to the members of the House that he was not suggesting that the courts would take politics into consideration or anything into consideration other than the law which they are asked to interpret. Or did I misinterpret what he was trying to say?

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

6:15 p.m.


Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, I agree with the proposition that the hon. member has put forth that the courts should not become involved in politics. We need to maintain the separation between the judiciary and the political procedures in the country.

I was quoting an article by Mr. Justice Brian Dickson, retired chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. He was not talking about politics. He was talking about when the Supreme Court of Canada is called on to interpret grey areas of the Constitution; in other words, areas where the jurisdictions are not clearly aligned.

The convention now is that the Supreme Court of Canada in those grey areas takes into account the fact, not a political policy, that Quebec is the only jurisdiction in Canada which has a predominantly French speaking population. There are French speaking people in all other regions but they are not the majority. Therefore in Quebec they are different by reason of the first language of use, by reason of their culture because they are of French origin and have a different culture than the multiplicity of cultures we have in Canada and because their legal system is the Napoleonic code, le droit civil, which is an entirely different legal system which therefore leads to different institutions in that province.

He is not playing politics. He is saying that the Supreme Court of Canada takes those actual facts into consideration when it needs to interpret areas that are not black and white in the Canadian Constitution.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

6:20 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Simcoe North for his remarks which I appreciated very much.

I would like his response to a point about distinct society. There are about 600,000 Francophones who live in Ontario plus many thousands who live in New Brunswick and other parts of the country. My thoughts with respect to affirming that Quebec has distinct society status are that it would not only protect the cultural traditions of Quebec but it would also be a guarantee to Francophones elsewhere in the country that this national government will defend their interests, their language and their culture.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

6:20 p.m.


Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, that is the case with the government's policies on official bilingualism and that is being done by the government at the present time. The French speaking minorities in the other provinces are protected where the demand is sufficient and they can obtain the services they need in the French language.

However, that is a different issue from recognizing that Quebec as a province has a majority of French speaking people; whereas in the other regions the member referred to, the French speaking people are the minority or perhaps in the case of New Brunswick it is almost a 50-50 split. In the other provinces, save New Brunswick, French speaking people are in the minority.

It is the recognition that Quebec is predominantly French speaking, although it has many other people from various backgrounds, that we are talking about. It is about recognizing that fact and the consequences of its culture and its institutions as well.

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

6:20 p.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, I am still intrigued by the question I asked. I am not sure I got a satisfactory answer. The hon. member quoted a retired chief justice, an eminent person.

I am still trying to get clear in my mind these facts he kept referring to. The courts are to apply the law and the law is quite specific. It is written down quite clearly. The law is the basis on which judgments are rendered by the courts. I get this uneasy feeling that he is suggesting the courts take facts, whatever facts may be or however one interprets facts, into consideration in rendering their judgments. Could he make it crystal clear?

I am not aware of any law on our books today that says one province is different from another. Yet the law of the land is what the courts are supposed to apply. Could he be crystal clear and tell me on what basis extraneous facts can be introduced by courts in rendering their decisions?

Speech From The ThroneOral Question Period

6:20 p.m.


Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, I guess we are going to beat this horse to death. It is simple. There are grey areas in the Constitution. The member says the law is clear. Well, it is not. There are many areas. The Constitution does not cover every possibility. There are

unclear areas which the court has to interpret. I am not saying it. Mr. Justice Dickson is saying the court takes into account the difference that Quebec has by reason of its French language, culture and institutions. That is what we are trying to get to make that a law. It is not a law now. It is a constitutional convention. We are saying let us entrench it into the Constitution. It should be of some comfort to some Quebecers and it is not taking anything away from the other provinces because it is what is happening now.