Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House this morning in support of the amendment by my colleague, the hon. member for Mercier, calling for nothing short of the withdrawal of Bill C-11.
Need I remind members that the Liberal Party of Canada, faithful to the objectives established by its guru of the last decades, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, took office in the House of Commons in October 1993 with the clear intention of giving government in Canada a more centralized structure. Right from the beginning, there was a major offensive action against the autonomy Quebec was aiming at.
During the more than two years of the present administration, we have seen countless examples of this thrust towards centralization, bill after bill. Bill C-11, creating the Department of Human Resources Development, and arising from the reform of that department in June 1993, is yet another manifestation of the centralist intent of the federal Liberal government.
Bill C-11 is but another step in the invasion, by the Liberal central government, of Quebec's jurisdictions in the area of social and economic development.
Clauses 6 and 20 of that bill are extremely revealing about the federal government's will to limit the freedom of action of the Quebec National Assembly. Clause 6 defines the powers, duties and functions of the minister which now extend, and I quote:
-to include all matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction relating to the development of human resources of Canada-with the objective of enhancing employment.
The minister is given considerable powers and will be free to act without the approval of the provinces, I repeat, without the approval of the provinces.
In fact, this bill contains no provision on provincial jurisdiction, let alone on honouring this jurisdiction; on the contrary, it denies Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction over manpower training and development.
Consensus has just been established once again, with a unanimous statement at the latest summit held in Quebec, a consensus of all parties: employers, unions, as well as the social and political communities. But they refuse to recognize it and thus fail to respect Quebec's dominion in an area of exclusive provincial jurisdiction, that is, manpower training and development.
Clause 20 lists the organizations with which the department may enter into agreements. It reads as follows:
- For the purpose of facilitating the formulation, co-ordination and implementation of any program or policy-the minister may enter into agreements with a province-, agencies of provinces, financial institutions and such other persons or bodies as the minister considers appropriate.
So the minister may put anyone he wants in charge of managing his department's policies and programs without having to justify himself in the House or worrying about the Quebec government's directives. And what are those directives? Nothing very complicated: the Government of Quebec has its own legislation, an act relating to the executive council of the Government of Quebec. And what does that mean? Allow me to review it for the Liberal government.
Mr. Speaker, I believe I am waking up two or three hon. members. They are awake now, fine.
The legislation on the executive council provides that only the government, through its intergovernmental affairs, can enter into agreements, make arrangements or establish programs on behalf of all agencies, municipalities, school boards and parapublic agencies.
What is the Liberal government doing systematically in its legislation? It ignores the executive council act and the exclusive
responsibility of the Government of Quebec for agreements outside of Quebec. Now, not only does the Liberal government systematically treat Quebec lightly, but it does so explicitly in all its bills in a pernicious and vicious way and with total disregard for provincial jurisdictions.
The minister will have the power to enter into agreements with all local agencies and municipalities. And we all know there is a clear consensus among Quebec municipalities regarding a regional development strategy with the federal government and its secretary of state and bypassing the Quebec government. According to Quebec employment minister, Mrs. Louise Harel, this bill is the antithesis of the Quebec consensus on manpower policy, the antithesis of the single window concept.
This bill prevents Quebec from implementing its own integrated social policy. On the other hand, the federal government is giving itself the legal basis to encroach on provincial jurisdictions whenever it feels like it, for example in the areas of childcare and manpower.
As the official opposition critic for heritage and cultural industries, I cannot help but relate this bill to Bill C-53 establishing the Heritage and Cultural Industry Department. Both are extremely centralizing.
In the area of communications, for instance, the action of federal government is unequivocal. The successive rulings of the Supreme Court of Canada on broadcasting in 1931, on cable television in 1977 and on telecommunications in 1994 have given exclusive jurisdiction to Ottawa in those areas and thus have deprived Quebec of any prerogative in the area of communications.
Here are a few examples of the federal government's tendency to centralize everything in this area. On February 27, 1992, with Bill C-62, the legislation on telecommunications, Ottawa announced its intention to pass new legislation in order to put in place a consistent policy for the entire country overseen by a single regulatory body. In this, however, it totally ignored Quebec's identity and legitimate aspirations of wide reaching autonomy because of its distinct nature.
Another example of centralizing policy. On October 31, 1994, the Minister of Canadian Heritage said that the information highway should be controlled by the federal government, meet national objectives and promote Canadian culture. Quebec should be able to control the socio-economic and cultural issues relating to the information highway since the federal government did not share its strategy for the French content of the information highway.
In setting up her cabinet on June 25, 1993, and I am talking about the Conservatives here, Prime Minister Kim Campbell created the Department of Canadian Heritage in order to promote a Canadian cultural identity based on Canada's foremost characteristics: its bilingualism and its multiculturalism.
The federal government decided to combine under the authority of the Department of Canadian Heritage all areas, according to Bill C-53, which established the department, relating to Canada's identity, values, cultural development and heritage, thereby denying Quebec's true cultural identity. This department's mandate made no provision for the difference in Quebec's culture and so, as usual, Ottawa denied Quebec's cultural reality by melding it with Canada's cultural identity based on bilingualism and multiculturalism.
In fact, all legislation concerning the major policies of the Liberal Party of Canada is extremely centralizing and continues to be expressed bill after bill. The Canadian federal system is a centralized political structure, and the Liberal Party is its master builder.
Bill C-11, which establishes the Department of Human Resources Development, is nothing more than the logical conclusion of a long series of legislative measures aimed at denying the existence of Quebec and its ability to establish a legislative and institutional framework to suit its needs, its uniqueness and its aspirations.
Bill C-76, legislation implementing certain provisions of the budget of February 1995, is another example of the Liberal government's efforts to negate the state of Quebec. I would remind you that, under this legislation, the Minister of Human Resources Development is using savings realized from the reform of unemployment insurance to set up a human resource investment fund. This fund will be used for manpower training, among other things, and will therefore give the central government massive discretionary and centralizing powers over an area that is under Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction-education-thereby completely disregarding Quebec's policies in the area.
Let us look at other examples. Interprovincial trade is another area in which the federal government likes to impose its centralizing vision. Bill C-88 shows the federal government's determination to act as judge and jury in interprovincial trade and to give itself, through this bill, a power of enforcement through orders it issues. Thus, it can extend the application of any federal legislation to the provinces, as stated in clause 9(1)( c ), in other words, to exert control over its partners by declaring itself in all disputes the sole judge and jury able to decide.
This unitary state attitude of a centralizing federal system is in contradiction with provincial identities and, as such, impedes the development of Quebec. This attitude is also reflected in Bill C-46 establishing the Department of Industry. Its clause 8 states specifically that the Minister of Industry is responsible for regional economic development in Ontario and Quebec.
This bill only goes to show that there is overlap with respect to regional economic development by confirming the federal industry
department's right to interfere in an area of jurisdiction over which Quebec has been demanding control for a long time.
Bill C-91 to continue the Federal Business Development Bank under the name Business Development Bank of Canada is another example of centralizing federal legislation. Clauses 20 and 21 of this bill are totally unacceptable to Quebec. Clause 20 provides that the Business Development Bank "may enter into agreements with, and act as agent for, any department or agency of the government of Canada or a province, for the provision of services or programs on their behalf".
This is another example of how, bill after bill, the government is invading provincial areas of jurisdiction, and going as far as stipulating in a piece of legislation how to do it, completely ignoring the legislation on Quebec's executive council where it is said that the Quebec government alone may enter into agreements and arrangements with governments outside Quebec on behalf of its own agencies, institutions, and municipalities.
However, the federal government keeps turning a deaf ear, refusing to abide by the laws of Quebec. Bill after bill, it keeps on centralizing without any constitutional consultation. It claims it is decentralizing, it claims it is willing to talk to everybody, but quietly and slyly, one bill at a time, it is giving itself all the tools to centralize.
Moreover, government members congratulate themselves for being open, flexible, ready to talk to anyone. But talks will not go very far, since with every new bill they become judge and jury, and can impose their own policies and legislation.
Under this clause the Liberal federal government pursues its strategy of centralization, a political strategy the objective of which is, I remind you, to substantially restrict the Quebec government's ability to act in the area of economic development, ultimately preventing it from achieving political autonomy.
The demagogic approach developed by the present Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, who claims that Canada is the most decentralized country in the world, is an insult to intelligence and reflects a bad faith which is a major impediment to finding a solution regarding Quebec's place in North America.
In spite of the incessant pleas of the Quebec government to develop its own economic and social policies, the Liberal Party of Canada always said no and used every available legislative means to restrict the decision making power of Quebec National Assembly.
The new Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs may very well claim that the Canadian federation is one of the most decentralized, but we are of the opinion that it is one of the most centralized in the world. This is why 2,308,266 Quebecers voted for sovereignty on October 30.