House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


The House resumed from February 28 consideration of the motion for an address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his Speech at the opening of the session, and the amendment and sub-amendment; and of the amendment and the amendment to the amendment.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

February 29th, 1996 / 10:25 a.m.

Hamilton East Ontario


Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak today about a country which has a wealth of young people. This country was born of a common will to populate one of the largest territories in the world. It was born of this sense women and men had of belonging to this fertile land.

This country was born of an ideal, the same ideal of freedom that inspired the first settlers and continues to inspire newcomers; an ideal based on civic-mindedness and rooted in democracy, an ideal that produces a peace-loving society whose most dynamic force is the principle of individual equality. This country has a name: Canada. This country is part of the New World, as explorers of times gone by called it; it is also a country ready for a new world.

Our friend opposite is shouting that he is waiting for the tears. What is somewhat regrettable is that the separatists, who are so concerned with having the country they love passionately, are denying us ours.

Our heritage, our culture, our shared struggles, shared joy, these help define what it means to be a Canadian. All the voices of Canada must be heard. Whatever their pitch, wherever they are, it is when our voices can be heard that we have a country moving forward. It is when the people of one community can have an emotional and lasting impact on someone from another community that we have a country that is moving forward. It is when the problems of one are the problems of all, when the joys of one can be the joy of many that we have a country moving forward. Our voices must be heard and they must be nurtured.

Canada is our greatest heritage, for us, for our children and for those who will come after them. It is the duty of every Canadian to keep alive our faith in our country and keep on nurturing it.

Ours is a country too often taken for granted, a country where women, men, children, First Nations, Acadians, Franco-Saskatche-

wanians, Quebecers, the people of Hamilton as well as those of Vancouver, and immigrants of all backgrounds feel at home.

Canada has not said its last word. In fact, Canada is just beginning to speak out. We Canadians are not in the habit of boasting about our feats, but modesty does not preclude pride. Our flag, which is only 31 years old, is one which, albeit young, commands respect around the world, a flag that represents one of the most envied people on this earth. Let us honour it. I invite all Canadians to take part in the one in a million flag project. This is quite a challenge.

The one in a million flag project launched on Signal Hill, the eastern most point of the North American continent overlooking St. John's harbour, challenges Canadians by this time next year to have one million more flags flying across the country. We challenge businesses. Yes, we challenge businesses and we challenge companies, school boards, municipalities and Canadians to help sponsor this mission to put one million more maple leafs on the porches, the balconies, the parks and the school desks of Canada.

In the coming days Canadians from coast to coast will be able to call 1-888-Fly Flag or-

-in French, 1-888-DRAPEAU, toll free, to show their pride in Canada or to obtain any information they may be looking for in order to promote the Canadian flag.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC


Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.


Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

The member calls it propaganda. As Canadians, it is our right and our duty to take pride in our flag. Indeed, it is not only our right but also our duty to make our country, which is called Canada, better known.

We must show our pride in the linguistic duality of this land. I challenge every community across the country to make Saint-Jean Baptiste day an integral part, not a separate part, of celebrating Canada.

You may not be aware of the fact that, in our riding of Hamilton East, the Cercle français has been celebrating Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day for 20 years. That day must be celebrated in every province and in every community across the country, from Sherbrooke to St. Boniface, from Moncton to Maillardville. We will honour our country by celebrating Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, a day for all Canadians.

We should also take the days leading up to Canada Day to honour the diversity of this great country.

I know my colleague, the Minister for Indian Affairs and Northern Development, is committed to seeing us recognize the first ever national aboriginal day, and to make this an integral part of the celebration of what we are as a nation. We need more contact and cultural exchange community to community, person to person. We need to recapture the spirit of 1967.

My community this summer is celebrating our 150th birthday.

And I know that there will also be a celebration in Rimouski.

I was very touched when the hon. member for Rimouski invited me to come to her home town. I can assure her that I will be there to celebrate Rimouski's anniversary, and I also want to invite her to Hamilton, for our city's 150th anniversary.

This summer 150 families from Hamilton and Shawinigan will be twinned.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC


Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.


Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

The hon. member says Shawinigan. He makes fun of the name Shawinigan. There are a lot of people from Shawinigan who like that name.

The 150 families from Shawinigan that will come to Hamilton will be welcomed by Hamilton residents who will help them discover our region.

I see the level of understanding between our communities growing. It is a great idea and we must do more. We need to help Canadians rediscover this great country and make it easier on people to visit Montreal instead of Miami, Port Alberni instead of San Francisco, Cape Breton instead of Cape Cod.

We must work with the airlines, the bus companies and the railways to put Canadians on the road to rediscovering the greatness of their own country. The world lives in an age in which knowledge is power. We need to know ourselves better as Canadians because that will give us more power as Canadians and more power as a country.

We are committed to providing Canadians, particularly young Canadians, from every corner of the country an opportunity to experience the whole of what Canada has to offer.

We will also launch the Terra Nova project to allow Canadians to talk to each other not just face to face but through cyberspace. We will bring together the public and private sectors in a unique CD-ROM project which will tell the Canadian story in a new and exciting way.

We also intend to build on the Youth Link project which was launched recently by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and by me at a school in Winnipeg. We hooked up students speaking in French-

-with students attending Hamilton's Delta High School, students from a school in Hull, and students from a school in Dorval. They talked to each other. They did not talk about the Constitution or politics. They talked about music. They asked each other what they thought of such and such a musician, or they inquired about their favourite hockey team. They talked and were starting to get to know one another.

Quebec francophones did not know that there were students in Winnipeg who did all their school work in French, even though they were anglophones. English speaking students attending Hamilton's Delta High School were not aware of the fact that students in Dorval could go to an

Youth Link will give students a chance to exchange ideas with not only other students across the country but with young people around the world. The more we know about where we have come from as a nation, who we are as a people and what we have accomplished together, the more confident we can all be that we will make the right decisions about our future.

We have every reason to walk hand in hand on the road to Canada's future. We were always able to overcome every obstacle and we are now the society that is best equipped to face the next millennium.

Our strength lies in our diversity. In the context of an increasingly greater worldwide economic integration, Canada offers to the world community the image of a modern, bilingual and openly multicultural society, a society reflecting the world itself.

The francophonie is a significant feature of the Canadian diversity. I recently met with provincial premiers in Winnipeg and we discussed how such a great asset it is to have people speaking French in every province.

Ten years ago we probably would not have had the kind of meeting we had in Winnipeg. Ministers from across the country came together and said that being able to speak in both languages in their province was not an economic drag but an economic plus. They were positioned to bid for international contracts and bring people together because they could offer the kind of linguistic capacity the world is looking for.

This major economic asset is just now beginning to be recognized throughout the country, which was not the case when we adopted bilingualism policies during the 1970s.

People want to take active charge of their own development, and this is why we will be organizing an economic forum of the francophone communities throughout this country which will take place this summer in the Beauce region.

This economic forum will foster the economic development of Canada's francophone communities, making every possible competitive opportunity available. Indeed the federal government will need to meet our commitments to help these communities to develop and grow. To show you how serious we are, both the President of Treasury Board and I as Minister of Canadian Heritage, are committed to delivering the goods relating to the Official Languages Act. I shall be working in close conjunction with the President of Treasury Board to ensure that we as a government meet our obligations.

Canada is about building hope and a dream for people around the world who look to us for inspiration and who look to us to make our differences work. Canada is bigger than the sum of its parts. We have come to learn through our own experiences and our history that even if culture and tradition distinguish people from each other, the bonds between us can be strong and unbreakable when we work together to build each other up instead of tearing each other down.

Canada is about people. It is also about land. We are proud to be the second largest country in the world. We are proud to be the country that holds 20 per cent of the world's fresh water, fresh water that will be an important instrument into the 21st century.

We are the first country to have established a national parks service. The government is proud to have a Prime Minister who created more national parks than any other Canadian. That is why we are committed to giving all of Canada's natural regions a national park by the year 2000.

Our ancestors left us a tremendous natural legacy. It is now our duty to build on that legacy for our children and our grandchildren.

Canada is both a geographical and a cultural space, and a number of our artists have gone beyond our borders to conquer the world, as we were delighted to see last night in Los Angeles. Our artists must be assured of pride of place in their own markets and their work must be made accessible to the entire population. As well, our

artists must have exclusive ownership of what they produce. We must bring our copyright law up to date, so that there is a proper balance between the needs of creators and the needs of consumers.

Last night in Los Angeles Canadians were honoured when some of the largest recognized entertainment awards in the world went to Canadians. Canadians also know that more than 20 years ago governments through policy had the courage to make sure Canadian lyrics and Canadian music would have a chance to be heard in Canada and around the world.

When Canadian content rules were introduced there were naysayers, downplayers, the negatives and the nos, but the results of those policies are coming to fruition in what we saw last night. Joni Mitchell, Charles Dutoit, Shania Twain, Alanis Morissette, Daniel Lanois and Rob McConnell are Grammy winners not just because of their incredible talent but because their country's cultural policies supported them at a time when it was needed.

We must continue to stand up for our singers, our songwriters and all our artists. Cultural institutions like the CBC, the National Film Board and Telefilm Canada are essential in understanding Canadians and in telling Canadian stories. We will maintain the vitality of these institutions.

The Juneau committee report calls for more distinctively Canadian programming in quality and quantity. Let me assure Canadians we have heard that message loud and clear.

As a country, Canada is by far the most open to foreign cultures. This openness is a source of enrichment, but the Government of Canada must ensure that Canadian culture is promoted and developed.

Proud of our past, we are a people that looks to the future.

An hon. member just mentioned ADISQ. Mr. Speaker, I happened to meet some representatives of ADISQ the other day in Montreal. What struck me was that ADISQ works with all the other record companies in Canada-in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal-because they realize that when you are in that kind of small business, there is strength in numbers. We have a music culture in Canada today, thanks to the policies we set as Canadians. Canadian content rules guarantee that Canadians can listen to their own songs, not just to what comes from the United States.

Above all, we are a nation of builders. We were when we built a new world. We will be again as we start a new millennium. Let us all work together. Let the courage and pride of each Canadian be an inspiration to his or her fellow citizens.

Why do we have universal health care in Canada?

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Because we are all sick.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.


Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

The hon. member says because we are all sick. You may be, but I am not.

Why do we have a health care system? Because in the forties and fifties, some farmers in Saskatchewan got together and decided to create a shared-risk system, which was eventually endorsed by Canada. It all goes back to the principle of collective responsibility which we inherited from the francophones in this country. Thanks to this expression of shared responsibility, which recognizes the individual, we have a country that shares the wealth with the people of Newfoundland, at a time when they are in need. Five or ten years from now, when Newfoundland experiences economic growth, it will be their turn to give, because that is how Canada works.

In the past, we have noted that provinces have needed each other. The system of shared responsibility that has been established has permitted us to help when help is needed. Newfoundland needs our help right now but in 10 years' time perhaps Newfoundland will be helping its neighbours.

It is that spirit of shared and collective responsibility that gave us national health care and the uniqueness that makes us Canadian.

It is the strength of our common collective experience that will make us succeed in the 21st century. I am convinced that Canadians across the country want to build a better country: Canada.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister. This morning she spared us the tears and the story of the woman in the wheelchair, who went to Montreal on October 27. Her awkward sincerity was entirely justified this morning.

She speaks of a Canada, a Canada I have long travelled and which I fail to recognize in the words of the minister.

In 1965, I joined the army. That was the time I decided to give Canada one last chance. There were seven Quebecois in three platoons at Borden, in Ontario. The member, now retired from the armed forces, with whom I had the privilege of discussing this in the past, acknowledged that this was in fact the case. There were seven Quebecers who joined at Borden in January 1965 in three platoons-90 men. After five months, the first test, six of the seven Quebecers were dropped; three English Canadians of the eighty-three were dropped. Note the proportions.

Someone came to my office the other day. In 1965, in those same years, the Department of External Affairs was preparing future ambassadors. From the class of ambassadors, of the 38 Quebecers

who entered in 1964 or 1965, three remain with the department. Of the 12 English Canadians, 11 are still there.

That is career equality, equality of opportunity in this fine country.

In 1965, I was one of the six who left the army. It really upset me, but it led to my becoming a separatist. There, I used the word the Deputy Prime Minister wants to hear. I am a a staunch sovereignist with an unshakable faith in his cause.

She talks about drastic budget cuts at a time of economic difficulties for everyone, including the unemployed. How many millions of dollars will they now spend on bringing little English-speaking Canadians from the West over to Quebec for Canada Day or Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day? Probably almost as many millions as they spent so little Quebecers could enjoy their summer vacations in the rest of Canada, at taxpayers' expense.

The Deputy Prime Minister described this country as the most beautiful, the greatest, the most noble, the one that welcomes and accepts everyone. What they should have done first is have accepted Quebecers in the land and given them the place and consideration they deserved. That, however, is something they were not able to do. They tried to assimilate us.

She talks about Winnipeg. I was in Winnipeg last summer; I visited Louis Riel's grave and, just beside it, that of his lieutenant, Ambroise Lépine, whose tombstone has fallen over and broken in two. For five days, I walked all over the streets of Winnipeg, St. Boniface, St. Adolphe, St. Norbert, but I heard fewer than 10 people spontaneously speak French among themselves.

She talks to me about a Canada I do not know, a Canada that is disappearing. And they will not be able to save it because they already have a $600 billion debt, a good part of which was chalked up keeping the country together. They cobbled this country together with money. It did not happen spontaneously. They bought it with special legislation and massive spending. They spent billions on keeping the country together and today they realize that our debt has reached $600 billion but that the country is no stronger than at the beginning.

I say that they should spend the billions or hundreds of millions of dollars they are about to spend on trying to reduce poverty in Montreal. She did not boast about that. She overlooked this little detail. Montreal is the poorest city in Canada. She did not brag about that in her speech. They might throttle an unemployed person now and then, but there are thousands of unemployed in Canada. What regard does she have for these people? She did not say anything at all about them, not a word.

And what about the UI bill? We can reply to the Deputy Prime Minister that her Canada is a utopia, an illusion, and that she may be the only one dreaming about it.

She and her boss, the Prime Minister, are among the last believers in that kind of Canada. They should sit down and discuss with the provinces, especially Quebec, and they might eventually be able to achieve a more acceptable partnership.

In this regard, I ask again-and now I might get a show of tears, the wheelchair story, the events of last October. I, for one, do not believe at all in the Canada described to me by the Deputy Prime Minister.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.


Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a shame that the hon. member feels the need, as it is, to refer to how things were in the mid-sixties.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Things have changed now.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.


Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

He says that things have changed. In 1965, women could not join the army, period. Women were not allowed in and, in many cases, they were excluded the same way that francophones were.

That is why, in 1977, we put forward policies to promote the development of francophones. Does anyone know who Roméo Dallaire is? Dallaire is known around the world as this person who came from Canada, a French-speaking serviceman selected by the United Nations to lead the battle. Roméo Dallaire is a Franco-Canadian, a Franco-Ontarian, because he was born in Ontario. There are francophones in Canada. The Bloc member was born in Ontario. The fact that his fellow member comes from Peterborough, Ontario, goes to show that there are indeed francophones. The fact that Roméo Dallaire is a francophone, who has lead a battle for the UN proves that the French fact is recognized at the highest levels in our government. The Prime Minister, a francophone, did not speak English before being elected to the House of Commons. The Minister of Finance, and some of the most seniors government members happen to be of French background.

It is true that, in 1965, women were underrepresented. How many women sat in the House of Commons in 1965? But we are turning things around and making changes happen in our country. I am not living in 1965, but in 1996, and I figure that we are able to work together to build something better.

Take this morning's newspaper, Mr. Speaker. There are reports about Canada and the Filipinos; we have our problems, I agree.

What does Montreal want? I have a brother in Montreal, an anglophone who did not speak a word of French before the age of 12 or 13, but who now lives in French, with his daughter Béatrice and his son Gabriel. An anglophone. I am not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of people across this country who want to build. But what do the people in Montreal want? They want us to set aside our quarrels about the Constitution and separation, which

are draining the energy and strength of this beautiful country, Canada.

If you really want to work toward economic recovery, let us seek political stability and recognition together. Together, we can work wonders for this country, Canada. The tears I have shed for this woman from Alberta, thousands and thousands of Canadians also shed. Notwithstanding the comments made by the Premier of Quebec, they know full well that we form a country and that we will remain a country, Canada, a country in a good position to meet challenges. Let us stick together.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

10:55 a.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca. I want to respond to the throne speech and to some of the comments that the Prime Minister made yesterday when he addressed the House.

He talked about the government's having done its job already and that now it was time for business to do its job to fulfil its obligations.

Those are very bizarre comments from the Prime Minister because I do not think the Prime Minister and the government have fulfilled their obligations at all. I see the obligations of the government with respect to business, job creation and those sorts of things as creating an environment in which jobs can grow, businesses can be prosperous and people can look forward to the future with some hope. The government has failed miserably in its attempt to create an environment like that.

This fall a poll suggested Canadians could not list a single thing of significance that the government had done over the two years it had been in power. We have a pall over the country today, a shroud, a pessimism because the government has failed to show any leadership on the issues that Canadians are very concerned about.

I will talk specifically about some of the things the government could address but has failed to. The Prime Minister said that when talking about jobs the government has done what it could do and it is up to business. I reject that. I point to the debt, probably the single most important underlying problem we have which affects not only jobs but the sustainability of social programs, the prosperity of the country as a whole.

Today we have a debt of $570 billion. The Prime Minister has been in government for a long time and perhaps has started to take billions for granted.

For the benefit of the government, when I go to high school classes and talk about the size of the debt, I remind them of how much money $1 billion is. If I had a stack of hundred dollar bills about two metres high that is $1 million. If I stacked our debt of $570 billion it would be over 1,100 kilometres high. That is a tremendous amount of money and the government over the course of its mandate is adding $110 billion.

Business cannot balance the budget for the Prime Minister, only the Prime Minister and the government can do that. How can he say he has done all he can do? That is absolutely false. They have not balanced the budget and they have not begun the process of paying down the debt which is also critical to the long term fiscal and economic health of the country.

If we do not balance the budget we cannot begin to lower taxes. There is tremendous weariness in the country today with respect to the heavy burden of taxes that people bear. It is unbelievable. Under the previous government we had something in the order of 32 tax increases. In both budgets that have come down under the Liberal government to date we have had more tax increases. Over the last several weeks starting with the finance committee, a report in January, and ending up with the Deputy Prime Minister, we have had more talk of taxes.

The finance committee was talking about tax increases for fuel, lotteries and tobacco. The Deputy Prime Minister was talking about a tax for the CBC. Despite the fine words of the Deputy Prime Minister a few minutes ago about Canadian culture and how the government creates Canadian culture, 61 per cent of Canadians want to see the CBC privatized. The Deputy Prime Minister, the finance minister and the Prime Minister have ignored what Canadians are saying on those issues, saying they want a tax to support the CBC. That is outrageous. That is ridiculous.

The government has not done all it can do to deal with the issues Canadians are concerned about. It certainly has not created an environment that leads to job growth. When it does that I can guarantee businesses will more than pick up the slack. They need to have the chance and the government is the only one that can give it to them.

There are many other areas in which the government has not fulfilled its moral obligations or even the promises it made during the election campaign. I guarantee if the government fulfils its obligation, its promise, to get rid of the GST, that would be something Canadians would cheer. They would respond very well to that. Business would respond well to that. It is a regulatory burden. In the election campaign government members made a very irresponsible promise, saying they would abolish the GST.

They said it again last week. However, the only responsible way to abolish the GST is to balance the budget and then begin to lower the rate of the GST. We cannot just get rid of it because we would

then be out $17 billion. We already have a huge debt and a deficit we have to deal with. They made a very irresponsible promise.

Liberal backbenchers are very concerned. They put their integrity on the line when they went door to door during the election campaign, promising to get rid of the GST. Now they are very concerned their government cannot fulfill that promise. They should be holding the government to account on that issue.

Despite the Prime Minister's words, the government has not done all it could have done to create an environment in which business could create jobs, in which there could be prosperity, in which people could look to the future with some hope. It has not done what it needs to do.

Tax reform is another area in which the government could have done something but has not so far. Our party has talked about the prospect of a flat tax. Even some of the Liberal members across the way have talked about a flat tax. In the United States today it is one of the major issues.

People are very interested in making their tax system understandable, which must be one of the most important aspects of a tax system. In a democracy people have the right to understand how their tax system works. It would also be fairer. There would be only one rate. The more money one made, the more one would pay, but it would be one rate. Therefore it would cost people on the basis of their ability to pay.

We would not need so much help to fill out tax forms. Therefore it would be much less of a drain on Canadian taxpayers. There are may other aspects of a flat tax that make it good, something to help create jobs, not the least of which is the removal of disincentives to be more productive. However, the government has rejected this. The finance department has said no way, it does not want this. Again, the Prime Minister is dead wrong. The government has not done all it can to create an environment for jobs and for growth in the economy.

Last spring in the House we debated internal trade barriers. The government brought down legislation, if I remember correctly, Bill C-88. The Reform Party argued at that time that the changes the government was advocating were simply not adequate. The industry minister assured us the changes were an important first step. We said we still do not have the mechanisms in place to ensure we do not have those disputes.

Now we see in the throne speech the minister is eating his words, saying we need a better trade deal. I remind Canadians and members across the way that according to studies, internal trade barriers cost anywhere between $5 billion and $44 billion a year to Canadians. Again, the Prime Minister and the government have not done the things they need to in order to create an environment for business.

Group after group told the finance committee over the course of the prebudget hearings in the fall that they do not want the

government involved in business anymore. The nine words Canadian entrepreneurs fear the most are: "I'm here from the government, I'm here to help". People are tired of seeing the government interfere in business.

Many business groups told us not to interfere in, subsidize or pour billions into businesses. What is in the throne speech? The government is stating it will get involved in envirotechnology and biotechnology industries. It wants to be involved in the aerospace industry and the high tech industry. Does that mean we will be subsidizing Bell Canada? What does that mean? It is ridiculous. Let us get away from that, from pouring money into business. Let business look after business and then we will create jobs.

The government has also failed to give people some hope that in the future the Canada pension plan, old age security and health care will be available for everybody. Because of that and because it is talking about more payroll taxes, which are job killers, there is a shroud of pessimism across the country which hurts the ability of the economy to create jobs.

Therefore I argue the Prime Minister is wrong. The government has not done all it could to create an environment for growth and jobs. It should rethink the approach it has taken in the throne speech and get at the fundamentals which include the debt and deficit problem. If we can wipe that out we can have lower taxes. If we have lower taxes we will have jobs for Canadians, which is what the Prime Minister should be working on.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.


Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is so easy to criticize, which truly seems to be what is happening, but the government is trying to find concrete answers.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Perhaps we have all forgotten some of these things, but the member has to be in her seat when she asks a question or makes a comment. Unless I misread my sheet, I do not believe the member is in her seat. If the member would be kind enough to go back to her seat we will stall for time while she is doing that.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.


Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hated to do that because I was able to sit beside a Reformer and I hate to have the camera off him.

It is easy to criticize. I worry about that because the Reform member did not talk about some of the really positive things, for example, the youth initiatives the throne speech announced.

However, I will talk a bit about the balanced budget the hon. member made reference to. We have continually over the last two and a half years been hitting our budget targets. As much as the Reform Party does not want to acknowledge that, we are the first

government in 20 years to do so. It is important for all Canadians to know that.

It is much more important to hit our targets than to say we will balance the budget and never do it and perhaps even accumulate debt. Most of the Reform members came from the Conservative Party which accumulated debt for years and years. I draw that to the member's attention. Concerning the GST, I as a Liberal backbencher promised to replace it. That will be done.

I ask the hon. member if he found anything in the throne speech that pleased him at all, particularly the youth issue which is a wonderful thing for our communities to help our youth find jobs.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has raised a number of things. I was pleased to see you put her in her place, literally not figuratively.

With respect to budget targets, the only budget target that really matters is a balanced budget. One can set arbitrary figures and meet them, but at the end of the day the one that really matters is the one that gets us to zero so that we can start having surpluses and start offering people tax relief, sustainable social programs or whatever.

She mentioned that we were members of the Conservative Party. I would argue that the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party have been peas in a pod in this place for 125 years. We are a breath of fresh air. We are introducing some new ideas. The people across the way are recycling the old ideas that got us into the mess we are in today.

With respect to the GST, what Canadians want is lower taxes, not different taxes. They do not want the son of GST. They do not want a different name.

With respect to the youth initiative, what Canadians want are not band-aid, short term solutions. What they really want is an economy that creates long term employment for all Canadians and of course, for young Canadians as well, but that cannot always come from the government. That is how we got into the mess in the first place. That is why we have a debt of $570 billion. It is because the government has gone out and thought it could fix all these problems by throwing money at them.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, long on wind and short on constructive solutions to Canada's deepening problems, the government's throne speech was a huge disappointment.

By footing up this path, the government has done a huge disservice to all Canadians. Never more in the last 50 years has Canada needed strong leadership and a vision to lead us out of the problems that affect all of us. We need effective solutions to solve these problems and we need them now, yet the throne speech had only comments like: an openness to explore, wanting fresh approaches, a desire to consult and have meetings. This government has been in power two years. The people of this country want and demand more than some vague desire to study, meet, consult or heaven forbid, have another royal commission.

There are few solutions in the throne speech yet solutions are what we want. Solutions are what Canadians demand. Our problems are not insurmountable despite what the public thinks. There are solutions out there but we must have the courage to enact them today.

I will not spend my precious time trashing the government. That is going to be fruitless. Rather, what I will try to do is put forth some of the constructive ideas that we have. I hope the government will work with us or better yet, take these solutions and implement them for the benefit of all Canadians.

The biggest threat to Canadians as my hon. colleague has mentioned is the debt, the deficit and government overspending. It is not commonly understood despite what we have said as to why that is so.

Continued overspending adds to the debt, driving interest payments up which decreases the ability of this or any government to provide for government programs to help Canadians. It also drives up taxes. That of course is crushing to the economy and drives businesses either into bankruptcy or down south.

Despite what the Minister of Finance has said, the International Monetary Fund told us a few months ago that the projections of the Minister of Finance are wholly inadequate if we are to get back on our feet economically. Yet we do not see any action by the Minister of Finance on this.

We are going to put forth a budget next week that is going to tell the government specifically how we can get the deficit to zero and attack this problem in a meaningful fashion. This issue of course is biggest for our youth. What did the government serve up in its budget plan? A lot of motherhood statements, a lot of feel good statements. As we know, that does nothing to get someone a job. It does nothing to provide solid funding for post-secondary education for our youth. Furthermore, those promises were vague promises, somewhat grandiose and not backed up with any ability of how those things are going to be done.

The other big issue today is national unity. I would say this to the Prime Minister: The action that the government is taking on this issue rather than leading to national unity is going to lead to national disunity.

The Prime Minister's efforts to give Quebec a regional veto and put distinct society clauses in the Constitution are not going to bring Quebec into Canada. The separatist leadership wants one thing and one thing alone and that is a sovereign country called Quebec.

The Prime Minister can stand on his head and do gymnastics, promise anything under the sun and it is simply not going to keep this country together. He has to take some decisive actions. He must first give offers that do not smack of inequality and unfairness to Canadians. He must give solutions which are going to bring Canadians together.

First, he has to stop bribing separatist politicians to stay in. Second, he must decentralize appropriately: allow the feds to do what the feds do well and allow the provinces to do what the provinces do well. He must offer all Canadians exactly the same deal. Equality and fairness must be the basis of any proposal which the government puts forth, not one province unequal with any other.

The second point which was brought forth in the Deputy Prime Minister's speech interestingly enough in the words that she used, is that we have to stop referring to Canadians in some hyphenated fashion. We must get away from the hyphenated Canadianism that has been entrenched in our verbiage over the last 15 years. We must stop referring to ourselves as anglo-Canadians, franco-Canadians, Ontarians, British Columbians, New Brunswickers. Simply we must refer to ourselves first as Canadians.

That is one of the first things the government can do. The Deputy Prime Minister referred to one of Canada's greatest heroes of recent memory, Major-General Roméo Dallaire. Major-General Dallaire as we all know is first and foremost simply a Canadian.

This country has big problems. Solutions do exist to solve them. Canadians from coast to coast in every province demand, need and desperately want hope. The government's throne speech does not give them that. The government has a window of opportunity now to bring forth constructive solutions to address the problems that affect us all. Give people the hope that they demand. Give people the hope that they need. Put Canada on the course to the destiny that it can have.

I believe, as I am sure almost every member in this House does, that we in Canada share not only a great past and a present, but also a superb future. It is our destiny to lead in some ways the world we live in today. Not many countries have that opportunity. Not many countries have that ability.

Canada and Canadians have that ability. We have the strength, we have the knowledge, we have the ability and we have the international respect and recognition to be able to do this. Not only is it our destiny but it is also our responsibility. As Canadians, that is part of our destiny.

One of the beauties of the country to which I emigrated from England is that we in this country have managed to bring together over 178 different ethnic groups to live in relative peace. There are many differences which separate us or that exist within us. These differences need not separate us. These differences, rather than pulling us apart, can bring us together.

We can look at differences in two ways: as a them versus us mentality, or as the differences that we have which bring us together and make us all stronger as individuals and as a group. We must use our differences in this country to make ourselves stronger because that also is part of our future as Canadians.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate the hon. member for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca for his comments. It is refreshing to hear comments such as those made by the Reform member, particularly given the fact that, in the last few minutes, we had to listen to the whining of the Deputy Prime Minister, who keeps harping about the same old things when giving her vision of Canada's future, but mostly its past.

I would rather hear comments such as those just made by the Reform Party member. It goes without saying that I do not share his view on Canada's future, but we, sovereignists, recognize the greatness of Canada and of the Canadian people. Our views differ in that we also recognize ourselves, Quebecers, as a people, and feel that we have the right to control our destiny and have our own country.

It is my belief that, once both Canadians and Quebecers have established themselves as peoples, it will be easier to create links that will unite us instead of dividing us.

This is what I understood from the hon. member's comments, and again I want to congratulate him on his speech.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, we love Quebec, we love the Francophonie and we love the French language.

However we love Quebecers, we love Quebec and we love the French people and the French language as equals. That again is the basis upon which we have to have a discourse with the people of Quebec. I believe that myths have been put forward to the people of Quebec for decades. It is up to the government and all of us to dispel those myths, distortions and half truths which have been advanced for so long.

The only way to do that in my estimation is for us to go into Quebec, listen to the people there and for them to listen to us as to where we stand and where we come from, in order to dispel these myths and distortions which have been put forth by both sides. If we can do that, then a reasonable question and a reasonable answer can come on the unity issue.

Speaking as a British Columbian and a Canadian, I will say that this Chinese water torture that Canada has been subjected to for the last 20 years with the referendum issue hanging over our heads has to end. Canadians are simply fed up with it and they want it to end once and for all. It will be up to the government to do this and it must be done soon so we can get on with our lives.

Again, for the people of Quebec to make a reasonable decision on unity they must understand what Canada is offering them, what the true history of Canada is and what is taking place right now. If we rely on the separatist media to do this, the people of Quebec will not get the correct appreciation of what is taking place in this country. The only way to get the correct message across is for this to be done eyeball to eyeball in Quebec between all Canadians.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the honourable member for Lachine-Lac-Saint-Louis.

Our government has a reason to be proud of its record over the past 28 months. During that time we have focused on the government's jobs and growth agenda and there are now half a million more new jobs in the country. Canada has the highest growth rate in the G-7. Those are very important accomplishments and they are something to be proud of.

At the same time, we still have problems. We still have unemployment. People in my riding come to me looking for ideas. They ask me where they can find jobs. They still need jobs. We are lucky in the Halifax area that we have a relatively low unemployment rate compared to the rest of Atlantic Canada, but we still have our problems and so does the rest of the country.

We have more work to do as a government, but we must focus. We cannot do everything. That is the idea here of the throne speech. The idea of the throne speech is to set out the priorities and the focus of the government.

The government has set out three main priorities in the throne speech. The first is to maintain its efforts on jobs and growth and even to strengthen those efforts.

The second is to pursue security for Canadians in a number of areas.

A very important third is to modernize our federation to ensure the unity of our country.

Let me talk first about the issue of jobs and growth. It is very important that the government continue to pursue deficit reduction. It has met its deficit targets and is going to continue to meet them. It is very important that it do so. It is important to support a healthy economic climate. The government has to meet those targets but it can also do more.

For example, there is the problem of sales taxes across the country: the GST and provincial sales taxes. In the province of Nova Scotia there is a tax on a tax and we are paying very high levels of tax. A lot of people in my area have complained about the way it works. They are constantly hit with that tax which they see all the time, especially when the goods have one price on the shelf and then they are hit with another price. It is difficult to accept.

The government is now saying, let us harmonize these taxes. Let us work together with the provinces and have one system of sales tax. Then there would be one form for people in small business to report on and a simpler system for Canadians. It is very important to support a healthy economic climate for Canada and also create jobs and growth.

However, growth alone is not enough. There has been growth over the past two years, the highest rate in the G-7 as I mentioned. However it is not creating enough new jobs. That is the concern of my constituents.

The Prime Minister is right to challenge the private sector. It is time to challenge them to do more to create new jobs. What are the big companies and the big banks doing for Canada? They receive tremendous profits from Canada, in some cases bigger profits than ever before. What are they giving back? Big layoffs. Large numbers of people are being cut from these companies.

I heard yesterday on television that the big banks are having a study done to determine whether they have a moral obligation to not lay off people, but to employ them. It is remarkable that someone should have a study done in order to decide whether they have a moral obligation.

I could pick almost anyone in my riding to do the study and answer the question and it would probably be a lot cheaper than they are going to pay for this fancy study about their moral obligation to give people jobs when they are making such incredible profits. Or can they continue to make these huge profits and continue to cut jobs at a tremendous rate?

The answer should be obvious to the big banks and corporations. I hope they will join what the Prime Minister proposed as a Team Canada partnership to create jobs, especially for young Canadians. Young Canadians are our greatest resource and are so important to our future. At the present time the rate of unemployment among young Canadians is 16 per cent. That is an atrocious rate. The government has a responsibility to deal with that. However, we must also challenge the private sector which has the main job of creating jobs for people, especially our young people.

Yes, the private sector must be challenged but the government also has a role here. It is good that the government is going to double the number of summer jobs for students this year. That is very important because students and their families in my area and across the country are concerned about their futures, the cost of education and other problems they are facing. They need help from the government and I am glad to hear it is coming.

Another area that the government is focusing on is trade. Trade has been the single most important factor in creating jobs and growth over the last two years. It is interesting to note that 20 per cent of the jobs in my riding of Halifax West depend on trade. It is not surprising considering the fact that Halifax is a port city. There is also manufacturing in Halifax that must be sold around the world. Trade is very important to us and that is why it important to continue the Team Canada trade missions the Prime Minister has attended around the world. Those missions have brought $20 billion in new deals over the past 14 months. That is not singing in the dark. Those are important numbers. They are important because they mean jobs for Canadians, including those jobs in my riding.

A moment ago I mentioned the port of Halifax. The port of Halifax is a key national entry point for trade. It has grown tremendously in the past few years. It has great potential for the future but it has to compete with American ports. Those are its main competitors especially for container traffic.

I have a great concern about the issue of marine service fees. I have expressed my concerns very strongly to the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, his department and the commissioner of the coast guard about the need to ensure that whatever fee structure for marine services is brought in, it must be fair and must allow eastern Atlantic ports such as the port of Halifax to compete with its main competitors in the U.S. That is very important for the economic future in our region. It is very important for trade for this country too.

I was pleased to see that the government plans to focus also on rural areas because rural areas have special challenges. I come from an urban-rural riding. I have a mix of mostly suburban but also quite a large rural area.

In those areas some of the things that are important, as they are across Atlantic Canada, are things like access to capital, human resources development, infrastructure and access to the information highway. These are all things the government is going to pursue over the next year. Those rural areas need a special focus and we are going to give that focus.

The throne speech also talked about security for Canadians. That is very important in many ways. The throne speech is really about values and that is what it should be about. We should be talking about the shared values of Canadians because those shared values are what make us Canadian. Values such as freedom, peace, tolerance, sharing and generosity are what set us apart from other countries and peoples in the world,

Those are values that are very strongly shared across this country by all Canadians no matter what background, no matter what province, no matter what language. Those values make us Canadians.

The throne speech set out those values and why they are important to us. Economic growth is important to pursue, but it is not enough by itself. It is not an end in itself as the Prime Minister has said.

The government must pursue it for jobs and wealth creation for our country. At the same time the government must create opportunity. That is very important. We have been trying to do that over the past years and we must focus on that more. We must ensure that all Canadians can benefit when there is growth in our country, not just the big companies, big banks, for example. All Canadians have to take part.

An important part of the distribution of the success of our country is that a secure social safety net is maintained. It is very important to Canadians. It is a very important value.

Canadians are worried, in my riding and I am sure in other ridings, about the future of medicare. The government is committed to maintaining the five principles of the Canada Health Act. That is a very important commitment, and one that I endorse heartily.

I was very pleased to hear that the government will put a floor under the cash component of the Canada health and social transfer. That is an important guarantee of continuing federal cash transfers to the provinces which, especially in Atlantic Canada, is very important. It is important for a strong nation. It is important for strong national standards. It is important for our future and for our values as Canadians.

I have had many calls on the issue of pensions over the past while. With all the talk in the media about the future of the Canada pension system, the OAS and the GIS, Canadians are worried about this. While I am glad the Prime Minister has reaffirmed his commitment that we must protect current seniors and the pensions they receive, at the same time the system has to be examined to find ways to make the pension system sustainable for the long run for younger Canadians. For instance, when those our age retire the system should be there for us and others across this country.

One of the things I was delighted to hear in the speech from the throne is the traditional Liberal and Canadian value of equality of opportunity. This value is very dear to the hearts of Canadians. It is a basic Canadian value.

Equality of opportunity begins with children. The government has said it will make children a priority. That is no empty statement. It is a very important commitment that members in this party have been working on for a long time. We have worked hard to see that the government does more on the issue of child poverty.

I am delighted to hear the government say that it wants to move in that direction and I am looking forward to hearing more about that.

The government says that it will improve the child support system to help single parents and low income working families, the working poor who have always been a big concern of mine especially when I was involved with food banks in the Halifax area. We found people coming to us who had jobs but who were working on minimum wage, for example, and could not put enough money together to feed their families for the whole month. They had to end up going through the degradation of standing in line at food banks. It is an awful thing to have to do.

Food banks are certainly not the answer for our country. I am glad that the government is going to focus on this issue. I look forward to seeing measures in the budget in relation to poor children and young working families.

Equal opportunity is also important for small communities and rural communities. For example, it is important for the black communities. In my riding are several small black communities that just finished celebrating Black History Month, which was a great success.

It is important to recognize the black Canadians who have made an important contribution to making the road a little easier for others who followed them. Dr. Pearleen Oliver has recently written the book called The Song of the Spirit . It is a history of the Beachville United Baptist Church. In it she gives a record of people who have worked to build their community and to overcome prejudice and disadvantages in those kinds of communities. It is very important that she has recorded this kind of work and paid tribute to those people.

It is also important that we implement the new employment insurance system but that we not do it hastily. The minister has committed us to review it. This plan has to be adjusted. He has to do that to make it fairer for all workers.

We know that the system has not been fair enough in the past. It has to be made fairer for all workers across the country. At the same time we must ensure that we do not hurt unfairly those people who cannot afford it, those who need the system the very most. I am glad to see that it is in the throne speech and that we are going to see more of it. These are very important messages in the throne speech.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

11:40 a.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, in all debates very often the most realistic judges are the ones who watch from the outside and who do not take part. Their view is far more objective and realistic.

In my own background, because I was born in a small British colony, I remember the time when we could not go to university there. There was no university. All of us young people had to exile ourselves and go far away to study here and there. Thus it is that my family is scattered. My brothers and sisters are all over the place. I have a brother in England, two in France. I have a sister and other brothers in Africa. I have cousins and family members in Ireland, in England, in the United States and as far as Australia.

Speak to anyone outside of our country. Speak to Germans, parlez aux Français, speak to people from Niger or Nigeria, speak to Indonesians, speak to people in Hong Kong or China and they will always say the same thing: They view Canada with immense respect, as a country that is friendly, moderate in tone and action, peaceful and that is always attentive and helpful to people around the world who need support and help. Unfortunately at home we do not see Canada the same way.

Some among us would like to undo the Canadian experience. Some among us, regrettably, would like to break asunder the ties that bind Quebec to Canada. They would like to break apart this country of moderation, of tolerance, of peace and social justice, a country greatly respected everywhere in the world.

Outside observers, whether my relatives abroad, whom I see often, my friends outside the country, or people I meet when representing Canada at various conferences, always ask me the same thing: "What kind of spoiled brats are you in Canada? What is going on? You have so much, resources beyond value, a country in full flower of its growth, a country that is in some ways a model for others in the world, how can you want to put an end to that remarkable experiment"

Today I feel terribly bad when I hear my colleagues in the official opposition referring so often to Quebec and English Canada, never Canada. It is always Quebec and English Canada, as if they were saying that people like Fernand Robichaud, Raymond Bonin and Don Boudria were not real francophones. Those millions of francophones living outside Quebec make up part of English Canada. This polarization by camps, by language, by culture is what is hard to explain to outside observers, what they find so sterile.

If we have so many resources, if our country is so rich, with everything it could possibly need for success, can we not reach agreement, they wonder.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

A bankrupt country.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam, would you give me the chance to speak without interruption, please? Might I have that courtesy? Thank you.

If we here with so many resources, with so much going for us, cannot get along because on the one side we are Quebec francophones and on the other we are supposedly the people of English Canada, what chance does a country with 24, 15, 30, maybe 80 different ethnic groups have? What chance do the smaller countries without any resources have? What chance do countries with more than one language or more than one religion have, when we who share the same historical tradition, whose roots lie in two European peoples with the same general culture and the same religion, cannot agree? What chance do other countries in the world have, when they have several ethnic backgrounds, several religions, several languages?

It is unfortunate that we are quarrelling in this way, because the unemployed, the little guys looking for work or receiving welfare, do not read Le Devoir , do not read La Presse , do not read the Globe and Mail. Nor do they attend the congresses of the Liberal Party of Canada, the Bloc Quebecois, or the Reform Party. What they are telling us is that they are fed up, they have had enough of our empty rhetoric, they want to hear no more of it.

The throne speech is particularly relevant where it says that we must get together and reconcile our differences, set our sights higher and look ahead to the future. We must be able to work undisturbed. We must restore the stability we had before.

Look at what is happening today in Montreal, what political instability is causing all around us. There are too many examples to mention. Recently I met some business people involved in communications, aerospace, pharmaceuticals and computers. Today scientists are leaving and people are postponing investments because of the political instability all around us. I know some people will say they have heard it all before or that this is political terrorism.

In fact, the premier of Quebec himself admitted there was a problem when he put one of his top ministers in charge of the renewal of Montreal. But to get the economy going again and have a genuine renewal, we must set aside this useless debate which is killing us, slowly but surely.

I want to ask my Bloc Quebecois colleagues most sincerely, today, now that we have a window of opportunity with a new premier in Quebec and a new Leader of the Official Opposition, whether they are prepared to say: "Let us postpone all our plans for separation for four or five years, to give us all a chance to work together in a spirit of conciliation on projects that will put people back to work and give them back their dignity".

That is what all Canadians want. Whether they live in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia or P.E.I., what people want first of all is for us to stop our quarrels. They are tired of that. They do not want it anymore. What they want is a dignity of life and work. This is what I hear from the speech from the throne. I hope all parties will join in to ensure that this will be our main objective in the years ahead.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

11:50 a.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with considerable interest to my colleague for Lachine-Lac-Saint-Louis. I know that my colleague is knowledgeable about various countries, as he has mentioned. I know he lived a long time in South Africa or in Rhodesia, as someone in my riding told me. He was therefore able to get a close look at apartheid and such regimes. I trust him absolutely on the subject of respect for democracy. It took him 15 years to understand it, but he did.

The gentleman is talking about pointless debate. The new premier of Quebec, who was the Leader of the Opposition here until Christmastime, said, in taking up his duties in Quebec City, that the accent would be on economic growth, on economic renewal, that constitutional debate would be put on the back burner for a while and that the state of public finances would be improved and the province managed as it ought to be.

I am proud of that and I know that members of Parliament and that those in the party opposite us were proud as well. However, with the throne speech, they are the ones rekindling the debate the member for Lachine-Lac-Saint-Louis has just rightly complained of.

There was no more discussion on this side about the referendum. We lost it. The winners, however, are behaving like losers. They are poor winners. We are good losers, we accepted it. In his response to the speech from the throne, my leader said that we would respect the institution of the federal Parliament; we would not kick over the traces, as they say; we would respect the democratic process.

I find it odd that the winners are the ones complaining. I find poor winners funny. I think they are just as rare as good losers. That is what Maurice Richard used to say.

Still, it is the member for Lachine-Lac-Saint-Louis who is talking about pointless debate. You are the one who started the debate. You are the one who raised it. We want to talk about improving the economy in Quebec and in the other provinces as well.

We want you to come to the defence of the unemployed you are relentlessly pounding these days. This is what the speech should

have been about. Your philosophical debates on the perfect society are all well and good, in their place. I remind my honourable colleague for Lachine-Lac-Saint-Louis that the referendum has been over since October 30. Move on to something else. Put your knowledge to use. You are an expert in environmental matters, talk to us about the environment. Talk to us about whatever you like, but do not accuse us of rekindling the debate, which is what you did yourself this morning.