That the House endorse the declaration of the Prime Minister of Canada, who stated in 1985, "If we don't win, I'll respect the wishes of Quebeckers and let them separate".
Mr. Speaker, to begin with, as the Standing Order allows, I would like to request that all speeches from here on be split into ten minute segments.
Now, to explain the context of this motion before the House, let us say that, recently, the Prime Minister has acquired the bad habit,
if I dare describe it as that, of going back on his word about certain things he has said, explaining to the public that, of necessity, in political life sometimes commitments cannot be met, and that politicians must not be required to keep their word.
We have seen that in the GST matter, where the PM had promised to scrap the GST and where, finally, the government's decision was quite different. It was the opposite, in fact: to expand the GST. Since the federal government is digging itself further and further into a constitutional hole by cosying up to Guy Bertrand in contesting the legitimacy of a Quebec referendum, we thought it worthwhile to review the statements the Prime Minister has made.
For this reason, we are submitting the matter to the House, and are asking our hon. colleagues, both those in the Reform Party and more particularly those in the Liberal Party, to join with us in ensuring that the House deals with a statement made by the Prime Minister, when he said in 1985 that "If we don't win, I'll respect the wishes of Quebeckers and let them separate".
This is a quote from Straight from the Heart , written by the Prime Minister himself. In 1985, the Prime Minister waxed most eloquent, saying:
We'll put our faith in democracy. We'll convince the people that they should stay in Canada and we'll win''. It is normal for a politician to believe in what he is proposing, normal for him to think that he can win in his political undertakings. But he ends up saying:If we don't win, I'll respect the wishes of Quebeckers and let them separate''.
That is the quote, and the book, behind today's motion. The question being asked of our colleagues across the way is this: Are we going to take steps to ensure that the House in its entirety, through a majority vote or, who knows, even by a unanimous vote, endorses these words by the Prime Minister? Is what the Prime Minister promised, stated, in 1985, still endorsed, first of all, by himself-something we might well wonder-and then by his ministerial colleagues, of whom solidarity is required, and his caucus colleagues, who are also supposed to be in solidarity with their Prime Minister on a matter as basic as this?
To facilitate the decision, I shall be making use of some more quotes by the Prime Minister, for this is not the first time the Prime Minister has made a statement on this matter. Doing so may perhaps help them see that this was not just an unfortunate slip of the tongue that got past the Prime Minister in an angry moment, or in some speech or other, but indeed something that he felt profoundly, or at the very least, something he wanted to get across to his fellow citizens by writing it down and repeating it in a variety of ways.
During the proceedings of the Bélanger-Campeau Commission, on December 17 1990, which is even more recent, the Prime Minister declared, and I quote: "I am a democrat. I said in numerous speeches in 1980 that if we had not recognized that Quebec had the right to opt for separation, we would have acted differently. There were powers we could have used but we decided not to".
Therefore the hon. members across will appreciate that the Prime Minister formally recognized for a second time that Quebec has the right to separate. By saying that there are powers which could have been used but were not, he also excluded resorting to legal guerilla warfare as a means to challenge the referendum.
We feel concerned because unfortunately the Prime Minister went back on his word, on this point. We all know that this government decided to team up with Guy Bertrand in a legal war which could result in denying Quebecers the right to make a decision on their future. In 1990, the Prime Minister repeated his statement of 1985 according to which Quebec has the right to separate.
Even more recently, on October 24 1995, the Prime Minister declared in the speech he delivered in Verdun on the eve of the referendum: "Next Monday we will have to decide if we are ready to abandon a country which personifies them better than any other country. Think twice before voting". This means that the Prime Minister explicitly recognized that the referendum vote was decisive. Indeed, he declared: "Think twice before voting. Next Monday we will have to decide if we are ready to break away from our country". Therefore, on the eve of the referendum, on October 24 1995, the Prime Minister repeated what he had written in 1985 and reiterated in 1990.
On October 25 1995, in his address to the nation, the Prime Minister said: "The vote on Monday will determine the future not only of Quebec but also of Canada as a whole. This is a serious and irreversible decision". Once more he recognized what he had already admitted in 1980, 1985, 1990 and on the previous day, on October 24 1995: "Canada, our country and heritage, are in danger. Breaking Canada apart or building this country, remaining Canadian or becoming foreigners, staying or leaving, those are the issues at stake in the referendum. When we make our choice, we all have the responsibility and the duty to understand the impact of our decision".
In the mind of the Prime Minister, therefore, a referendum in Quebec is legitimate and its results are binding. The outcome of the referendum must be respected.
The Prime Minister has the support of one of his colleagues in cabinet, the super minister of the Quebec referendum, the present Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who said: "We have always said that Quebecers were entitled to have their say on Quebec's future inside or outside Canada. Ours is a democratic country, and we will respect the outcome of the vote". So the minister supports the Prime Minister.
In closing, since my time is running out, any doubts the Liberals may have had as to a vote in favour of this motion calling for the House's endorsement of the Prime Minister's declaration: "If we don't win, I'll respect the wishes of Quebecers and let them separate", are fading.
I will close by saying that, if it might reinforce their conviction that they must support what the Prime Minister has said, I will quote his speech to the nation on October 25, 1995.
In this last quote, the Prime Minister said, and I suggest they think about it: "My friends, we are facing a decisive moment in the history of our country. And people all across Canada know that decision lies in the hands of their fellow Canadians in Quebec".
In all that he has said since 1980, in 1985, 1990 and 1995, he has been consistent repeatedly. He has always said that Quebecers had the right to decide their future themselves and that a referendum would be decisive, binding and would change the nature of things in Canada.
Accordingly, there is no reason for the Liberal members to think the House will not endorse the statement he made in 1985. We could have taken all the ones he has made since then, but we chose 1985: "If we don't win, I'll respect the wishes of Quebecers and let them separate". We will see whether the GST is the only issue where the Prime Minister reversed himself or whether, in the constitutional matter as well, he will suddenly deny all he has said on different occasions over a very long period of time.