Madam Speaker, I will begin by correcting an impression of my colleague from Elk Island.
Bill C-276 does not affect the ability or the right of a person or a group of people to run as candidates in an election. It addresses the right of a group of people to become a registered political party whereby they would be entitled to certain remunerations, certain tax breaks and equal broadcasting time during an election.
This is quite a proper thing for government to concern itself with because we are a national democracy and we define our country by how we define our members of Parliament. We choose to define our members of Parliament by political parties which receive some government funding based on the number in that party; the present law requires 50. Or, as in the case of Bill C-276, it would be required that the members of a political party that receives government funds would have to have nominees in seven out of ten provinces.
Bill C-276 is fundamentally directed against the concept of provincial parties, against parties which instead of coming to Ottawa to represent and to debate the interests of all parts of the country, come to Ottawa to debate only the interests of one part of the country, specifically a province.
We can test the wisdom of the concept behind Bill C-276 by extending the idea to its ultimate extreme. Consider a House of Commons in which there is nothing but regional and provincial parties where every group of people represents only the provinces in which the members of Parliament were elected.
Then we would have a House of 10 parties. We would not need to have a federal election at all. We could simply use the members from the 10 provinces and territories to come to this place one or two times a year to debate and pass laws. We know what would happen. It would not work because each group would represent only its provincial interests and we could be described by that famous term which is relevant even today. We would have a total balkanization of the country where only provincial interests were represented.
The bill is aimed directly at that. It is aimed even more specifically at the Bloc Quebecois.
We heard earlier the hon. member for Bellechasse admitting that the Bloc Quebecois would have a great deal of difficulty with this legislation if it were to pass because the Bloc Quebecois represents only the interests of Quebec. That is how the Bloc Quebecois defines itself.
The member for Bellechasse conveyed the impression that because the Bloc Quebecois represents only one province-and it is a province that seeks some sort of sovereignty association
relationship with the rest of the country according to its current government-he made the assumption that the Bloc Quebecois would have no relevance in running members of Parliament in other parts of the country. Here I disagree most wholeheartedly with him.
In the recent byelection in Hamilton East 13 candidates ran as well as candidates from the major parties. Absent was a candidate from the Bloc Quebecois. I asked myself what would have happened if a member of the Bloc Quebecois would have run in that byelection. How would that candidate have been greeted by the people in Hamilton East?
I occupy a riding not very far from Hamilton East. I imagine a Bloc MP running in Hamilton East and being received very well by the people. I know, Madam Speaker, you might find that statement surprising coming from someone like myself who is certainly very much a federalist.
I have considered some of the important issues I heard the Bloc Quebecois express many times on behalf of Quebec. One of them is self-determination. The people of Hamilton East would understand the concept of self-determination very readily. I could tell my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois that the people around Hamilton East have a very proud sense of their territory, a sense of the region.
Indeed, there is quite a sense of rivalry between Hamilton and Toronto. There is a great desire in the people from Hamilton, and particularly in Hamilton East, for a kind of self-defining and self-determination. If a Bloc Quebecois member ran in Hamilton East and tried to express the concept of self-determination for Quebec, he or she would be understood.
If the Bloc Quebecois ran a candidate in Hamilton East and spoke about the need to preserve language, the people in the audience in Hamilton East would understand him precisely because those in Hamilton come from many origins. In that part of the city there are predominantly people of Italian origin.
The people in Hamilton East are of many different language groups and sometimes of a different first language. It is often Italian, sometimes Greek, Portuguese, Spanish and sometimes French I might add. They have a great sense of pride in their language. They would understand a candidate who aspired to being a member of Parliament who wanted to defend a language; who felt a language and a culture was worth defending. They would understand that.
Again that certainly follows with the concept of a distinct society. I know the Bloc Quebecois has not exactly supported the Liberal initiative in that regard. Nevertheless it is a principle that underlies much of what Quebecers refer to as nationalism or at least sovereignty. I still see it as a kind of provincialism, in the sense of province, not in the sense necessarily of being narrow.
People in Hamilton East would understand it if a Bloc Quebecois candidate explained things like the difference of the civil code, the difference of the traditions in Quebec. Even better, it would give them an insight into what motivates so many people who do support the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois. It would help enormously in their understanding. They could relate to it in a sense that in my part of Ontario there is a very strong sense of pride at being from Ontario. Indeed around Hamilton, MPs are expected to serve the interests of their province and their city.
I submit that there is not a great deal of difference between that and Bloc Quebecois members who get up and want to represent, somewhat narrowly perhaps, the interests of Quebec. There would not be much difference there.
I could go on. I have often seen the Bloc Quebec members in the House defending, very expertly, social and cultural issues. Sometimes it has been an irony to hear the Bloc Quebecois more effectively attack the government when it is talking about cutbacks to major cultural institutions like the CBC. It has often been the Bloc Quebecois that has sprung to the barricades, rather than the Reform Party.
That would be understood, certainly, in Hamilton East as well because there is a great sense of pride in cultural institutions, in song and dance, and the need to communicate among us.
I do not think, for the most part, a Bloc Quebecois candidate in Hamilton East would have much difficulty in delivering a message to which people would listen quietly and with great attention.
The only place where the Bloc Quebecois candidate would have difficulty is with the concept of sovereignty. We each define sovereignty differently in our minds. However, when the concept of sovereignty is extended to the idea of actually breaking away from the country, actually separating from Canada, I have to admit that no Bloc Quebecois candidate would get much support. On the other hand, the Bloc Quebecois candidate would do much for the good-