My apologies, Mr. Speaker. I want to talk about a couple of things. First is the whole question of national unity.
Canada is threatened on two fronts having to do with unity. First is the ongoing problem with respect to how we accommodate the obvious need in Quebec for its cultural distinctiveness and desire for more autonomy to be recognized within the Canadian context.
The second one-they are related-is the pressure on the Canadian social contract that was built up in the post-war world. The pressure on that social contract is a result, partly, of an ideological trend against seeing government as a positive force in the economy and in society.
Also partly ideological-some people call it globalization-are the pressures from so-called competition and the debt, which is a result in large part of that globalization and our inability to maintain our revenue base.
All these things are putting pressure on the kind of Canada that Quebecers voted to stay in in a substantial way in 1980. Two things have to happen in my judgment. We need to find a way of taking into account Quebec's cultural distinctiveness and need for more autonomy within the Canadian context and we need to build, to recover, to maintain a kind of social democratic Canada. There was a social democratic consensus in the country about what kind of country we wanted. To the extent that that has been eroding it has created a Canada about which not just Quebecers but also many other Canadians are anxious and wondering about the future. I say that those are the two fronts on which the government must work.
The failure to meet Quebec's needs is being exploited by people who were separatists all along. But it has also made separatists out of people who were not. We need to recognize that. It is an ongoing
failure the government must address. I do not have any long or brilliant suggestions to make as to how it ought to do that today.
However, I do want to put on the record something which has bothered me for a long time. Along with a handful of other MPs, including the member for Winnipeg South Centre, I was here in 1981 when we repatriated the Constitution. We, who were not from Quebec, by voting for that repatriation package, in no way intended to deliver an insult or any humiliation to Quebec. We were in the House with 75 MPs from Quebec, 74 from the Liberal Party at that time. Those of us from outside Quebec were assured over and over again by all our Quebec colleagues in the House that this was not an insult to Quebec, that there was support for this in Quebec. For anyone in Quebec to suggest that those of us outside of Quebec were engaged in some kind of nefarious activity against Quebec at the time is quite unfair and inaccurate.
What is true is that most of us from outside Quebec for a number of years in the House and elsewhere have been constantly reduced to spectators in a debate that is really taking place between Quebecers themselves, whether it is Mr. Levesque and Mr. Trudeau or Mr. Bouchard and the current Prime Minister. I think Canadians outside of Quebec are tired of being spectators to this debate taking place in one part of their country about the future of the whole country.
Although I do not necessarily know the details, in that sense I applaud the notion that somehow next time round the whole country will be involved in what transpires with respect to Quebec.
I want to say a bit about jobs. The Prime Minister has challenged the private sector to create jobs. He said that the government had done its part and now it is up to the private sector to do its job.
I do not think the government has done its job with respect to job creation. It says it is getting the fundamentals right. I am not sure that the fundamentals are as fundamental as it thinks they are. However, let us take it for a minute that the fundamentals are right. The government still has not addressed other fundamental issues such as the fact that the world trading system, the global economy the minister spoke about is siphoning off jobs from the so-called industrialized world into other lower wage economies and labour markets.
Unless we set ourselves against that trend we are going to continue to have a very difficult problem generating the kind of employment we want in the country. It is not about creating any old job. It is partly a question of creating jobs that pay Canadians enough so that the middle class of the country, and others who aspire to be so, can continue to dream the kind of dreams we dreamt in the past and to live the kind of life we dreamt of in the past, albeit within some diminished expectations related not to the economy but to the environment and the need for us to realize the limits of the planet when it comes to growth, but not the limits to justice.
I am prepared to recognize limits to the environment when it comes to economic growth but not limits to justice. It seems to me there is not that kind of effort on the part of the government. I know that is a big project but I do not see progress. I see too much acceptance of the way things are on the other side of the House and not enough resistance. I know the resistance was there when they were in opposition and particularly when the member for Winnipeg South Centre was on the opposition benches. I hope he has not given up on resisting those trends.
I have some concrete suggestions in terms of job creation. I do not think the corporate sector is going to meet the Prime Minister's challenge. In order to be challenged one must be a moral agent.
In order to accept the challenge of another human being one must be a human being. In order to accept the moral challenge implicit in the Prime Minister's challenge, one must have a particular mind set. The mind set that our corporate elite and corporate sector have now is by definition amoral. I might want sometimes to say even immoral, but it is at least amoral. They do not recognize the economy is a moral sphere at all, which is why I do not think this challenge will be picked up. I hope it is. There may be some companies that are exceptions but we continue to see company after company whose profit margins are in good shape laying off employees, or as my colleague from Kamloops recently said, casting off employees.
The other day the member for Kamloops unveiled something he is promoting which we are promoting with him, a Canadian code of corporate citizenship. This tries to instil in the Canadian business community some sense of its responsibility to the community, but that is very hard to do in a world of free trade and globalization which basically says there are no borders, there are no communities, it is all just one big marketplace.
We are fighting the very kind of mindset that has been enshrined in these agreements when we try to do this, when the government is trying to do it or when the NDP is trying to do it or when anybody is trying to do it. We are tilting against a windmill when it comes to talking about responsibility in a world trading system, in a global economy which basically pooh-poohs that kind of thing.
The government should be looking at ways it can encourage corporations to create jobs. There are all kinds of tax breaks that discourage job creation and mitigate against the preservation of employment. We have tax breaks for research and development and technologies that eliminate jobs.
The banks have taken advantage of tax credits to introduce their automatic teller systems. We have tax breaks that favour mergers which lead to layoffs. We have tax breaks that favour greater RRSP
investment outside of the country which creates jobs outside the country.
Instead we need to get rid of those tax breaks. Let us have a tax on overtime. I have people in my riding who have to work overtime at the CNR and there are hundreds of people laid off there who would be dying to get back in there and work. They cannot get back in there but the CNR and other corporations like it are allowed to make people work overtime who do not want to work overtime.
Why do we not have a tax on overtime? Why do we not have taxes and other incentives to make family friendly schedules, benefit requirements that do not discriminate against part time workers to allow people to work part time rather than full time and still have benefits? There are many things we can do like that to create jobs without challenging the global economy. I hope next week we see some of that in the budget.