House of Commons Hansard #21 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was referendum.


Newfoundland School SystemGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Charlie Power Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, there are several reasons for it. Partly it was the summer. Having education reform or something like that in the middle of July and August when many people are on holidays, travelling outside the province is difficult. We had the Cabot 500 celebrations where there were a tremendous amount of volunteers involved. Many were parents and teachers and there were school board activities.

I think the timing of it, having it on September 2, gave little or no input certainly made it difficult. The other part is that we are just so sick and tired of it.

It has been an ongoing debate in Newfoundland. I taught school in the early 1970s and it was there then and long before that. People just got tired of it. The people of Newfoundland are beginning to realize that this information age is going to pass us by if we are not careful. So let us get on with the reform.

A lot of people have just said that it is going to happen anyway. Let us just do it and have it over with.

Newfoundland School SystemGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a couple of questions.

I had the opportunity of travelling in Newfoundland and I spent some time in the schools there talking to the students as well as teachers. This is a great concern in Newfoundland, as the hon. member has said. It is so much a concern that I am troubled about the committee having a time limit of December 5. That really scares me when we are going to make a decision pertaining to a province which was guaranteed a lot of things when it joined Confederation, yet none of it has taken place.

I will say in all sincerity, that if there is one province in the country that has really been taken advantage of since Confederation it is the province of Newfoundland. When I see a time limit of December 5 being put on a committee that is going to study how education be furthered in one of our provinces, it causes me great concern. I wonder if the hon. member would address that for me.

Newfoundland School SystemGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Charlie Power Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I think there would be a pretty enthusiastic group in Newfoundland if we were to suspend the House in January and members came to Newfoundland and renegotiated the terms of the union. We would be pretty delighted to take back fisheries management and give the government health care and education and a few other things that we find it difficult to afford.

The whole business is very serious and I for one would be more than happy to see the deadline of December 5 extended somewhat, not ad infinitum, but until another time. Maybe a practical suggestion would be that when the House is not sitting in January and part of February to take some time and go to Newfoundland and do this thing properly. Certainly I think the people of Newfoundland would benefit from it and the whole House of Commons would as well.

Newfoundland School SystemGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Ted McWhinney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on a matter on which I last addressed the House on May 31, 1996.

We are dealing with an issue of constituent power. That is basically the constitutional amending power and to some extent it is terra incognita, or better said, the law in the making because there have been so few precedents to date that what we do creates the precedents of future conduct.

I did make several observations that are perhaps worth repeating. I will not forget, by the way, the useful intervention by the Leader of the Opposition because I think that deserves some special comment in light of what has happened since the debate in May 1996.

On the issue of what this amendment stands for, I think it can be established as a constitutional duty of the federal government to respond with all deliberate speed to requests by provinces made under section 43 of the Constitution Act of 1982, for changes in the Constitution. Section 43 relates to what we might call bilateral amendments to the Constitution. They concern the federal government as Canada and the government of one province only. It might be said that by definition the significance of an amendment made thereto is limited to the federal government for Canada and the the province concerned. It does not bind other parties.

Since this was a matter of some concern to people in provinces other than Newfoundland 18 months ago, and many of us including myself were visited by very distinguished religious and other authorities, I felt it necessary to make some comments which I will repeat again.

This proposal for amendment relates to a request by Newfoundland for change of term 17, of the terms of the union of 1949 and it is limited to that. It has no legal implications for other provinces.

Second, as a matter of constitutional interpretation, the Supreme Court of Canada gives a deference in the interpretation of the Constitution to what are called the travaux préparatoires, the parliamentary debates. They have a significance they do not have in relation to ordinary legislation and I built into my own statement my reasons for voting 18 months ago that I was voting on an amendment limited to Newfoundland, and I would recommend to other members to do the same. This would help create the precedent that this does not apply to other provinces where other considerations apply.

There are legitimate considerations in all provinces, in Ontario obviously, but in British Columbia where the issue of funding for schools including church schools is a relevant political issue.

As a further matter I would also say that there have been significant changes here since the matter was first presented 18 months ago and this House voted overwhelmingly to approve it. The matter originally approved by this House went to the Senate and the Senate did not act with all deliberate speed. It took perhaps a certain amount of time longer than I think the constituent process envisaged. It then went to hearings by the Senate which I commended, by the way, to a number of people who had written to me as a chance to have their views expressed. It also went to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and a single judge gave a ruling. It was at that stage that the premier of Newfoundland called for a referendum.

I said I would comment on what the Leader of the Opposition has proposed. I have said to him at times only half in jest that I feel these parts of his thinking may be borrowed from some of my earlier writings. I know the Leader of the Opposition is opposed to a non-elective legislative chamber. I think it is hard to deny the question that the constitutional legitimacy of a legislative body depends on its being elected.

Nevertheless I think we should recognize that the Senate and the Senate committee in this case, which was a strong committee, performed a useful and constructive role in the months that followed on this House vote.

When the premier of Newfoundland appeared in Ottawa to defend this measure 18 months ago some asked him if there had been full consultation and could he give them assurances here because they are getting representations from voters in Newfoundland and people in other provinces. He undertook to have discussions and consultations with them. I think that was an important undertaking. I read this again into my address in the House of Commons so that it would be a matter of record that under the principles of constitutional comity it would be understood that the premier approaching for a constitutional amendment under section 43 might find it proper to give undertakings of this sort which could in a sense become constitutionally binding.

What I am simply saying is that the extra time, including in this the Senate role, I think has been helpful and we come to this matter again 18 months later with a very substantially augmented case.

I think these figures, because they have been passed over perhaps rather too obliquely, are startling. There is an overwhelming majority, 73% of the Newfoundland population, that has approved this measure in a province-wide referendum vote. That is an astonishing figure for referenda. It goes even beyond the majority that rejected the Charlottetown accord throughout Canada.

If we say what is the significance of a referendum, we can go to the Prime Minister of Great Britain and we will see that this is participatory democracy in action. It is so much becoming part of constitutional thinking that it would take a good deal of courage to say let's write off the 73%.

Let me go a step further and say that 47 of the 48 Newfoundland electoral districts have voted to support this measure. That is an astonishing figure, let us face it, in terms of any of our votes in any of our own provinces.

Let me look at the breakdown which has been made for me of the votes analysed constituency by constituency in an attempt to determine the particularity of the vote. In the St. George's Bay region, which is 74% Roman Catholic, 59% of the population voted yes.

In the Burin peninsula, which is 48.5% Roman Catholic, 72% voted yes. That is an astonishingly high percentage. In the Avalon peninsula, which is 48.5% Roman Catholic and Newfoundland's most heavily populated region, 72% voted yes. That again is a remarkable figure.

When we go to the Pentecostal vote in the four electoral districts where Pentecostals are most heavily concentrated, the resolution carried with majorities of 57% to 64%. If we are looking for participatory democracy, if we are looking for popular consultation, I would defy anybody to find a more startling affirmation of public support.

These are matters in this contempory era that Prime Minister Blair of Great Britain calls the second modern period which have implications not merely for the economy but also for the political processes. There is, I think, a clear support for what is normally our duty in acting on a request under section 43.

It seems to me that the federal government, unless there is a direct conflict with the charter of rights or some other constitutional fundamental provision, is bound to act on a provincial request. When we get this support in terms of the popular majority, it seems we are bound to act.

The Leader of the Opposition did raise the issue as to whether this should be discussed or considered by a joint Senate and House committee. As I say, I have sympathy with the viewpoint of the paramountcy of the elected House. I would simply say that we have already had the opportunity of the Senate participating in this process. In my view it was not necessarily surprising that the particular senators delegated to that committee before were exceptionally talented people. I think their role has been constructive and useful. There is a body of accumulated experience and I see no point in disturbing it at this stage, although I understand the point of the Leader of the Opposition there.

Back again to this issue, I think it is necessary to reaffirm the point we have basically made. This is a proposition limited to a change to term 17 of the terms of union of Newfoundland with Canada.

Second, we are normally bound as a federal government to act on a resolution presented in good faith under section 43 by a provincial legislature unless there are overwhelming constitutional reasons to the contrary. We did not see those 18 months ago and I do not see them today.

Third, the support of the people of Newfoundland, expressed in the only way in a constitutional democracy it can be expressed, through a vote, is overwhelming. I do not see that we would be justified in rejecting it.

On the implications for other provinces, as I have said, I read into my own vote, and I commend to others to do this, a limitation to a particular constitutional amendment proposed under section 43. This is without prejudice to a position that I and others may take on a request from Quebec for an amendment or a request from other provinces. However, I see no implication here for perfectly legitimate political requests or demands that religious groups in other provinces may make for various actions by their government, whether it be in the form of state aid to education of religious schools or otherwise. Those must be fought on their political merits within those provinces and they are not affected by what we are doing today.

Are there any other matters here? I would take note of the fact that I believe the premier of Newfoundland has discharged, in good faith, the undertaking he made that he would consult with religious groups within the province. I think he has acted in good faith on that. I am impressed by the guarantees that he is giving here that religious education will be made available in the province in what will become non-religious schools.

He has also carefully read the constitutional precedents and none are better developed than those before the United States supreme court. He has built into that guarantee guarantees of the rights of parents of children who might wish to opt out of their religious instruction.

I think there has been a great deal of thought given to this by Newfoundland. I think it indicates the value of the constituent processes, the bilateral nature of the dealings. Newfoundland has listened to objections that were made here by members of this House on both sides who may have supported the measure but had some objections to the way it was being done but who may have voted for it nevertheless.

The premier has responded well. I think we should take this as an example of good faith on his part and we should respond equally to that.

I will be voting for this measure. It has been considerably improved over the measure which I voted for before.

I am also impressed with the extra degree of constitutional legitimacy it has by the very overwhelming vote that the Newfoundland people expressed in democracy's most direct way, the direct voting of the people.

Newfoundland School SystemGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to reiterate my great admiration, past and present, for the member for Vancouver Quadra, who was an emeritus professor of law. He has been quoted in all Canadian faculties of law.

I have some questions, however, about the sort of nuance he is introducing when he says that we are now debating the particular case of Newfoundland. I get the feeling he would perhaps have reservations when it came time to discuss the particular case of Quebec and the amendment that province is seeking.

I would like the member for Vancouver Quadra to tell us if he has any reservations and if they are the result of the Reform Party approach? Could he be influenced by the Reform Party in this regard? I would like him to be a bit more specific.

Newfoundland School SystemGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question, which is, as usual, an intelligent one. He is looking for an answer.

My observations, my nuances if you like, were more to do with a few other provinces, not the Province of Quebec. I already have an opinion on the amendment favoured by the Government of Quebec, but I would like to make it clear that I am in no way suggesting here that I would like to make a distinction between the two cases.

Newfoundland School SystemGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a very decided question. It is a question which I believe is fundamental to human rights.

I can take my car to a shop and have it fixed. Even though the repairs are covered by the British Columbia government run insurance company, I can choose the car dealer. I can choose my doctor for myself and members of my family, even though it is a government funded health care system.

Does he agree that we should have also the fundamental right to choose for our children how and where they should be educated? If there is a defence of that right of free choice, should there be a financial penalty attached to exercising that right?

Newfoundland School SystemGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, on this particular issue we have all the rights guaranteed by the charter of rights and an amendment put forward by a province cannot run counter to the charter of rights.

On the issue left open, and I was particularly referring to issues raised by certain provinces in relation to the Newfoundland question, it seems to me completely open, if and when we adopt this amendment, to raise the issue of the provision of provincial aid, for example, for education in church schools and other provinces. That is an issue to be fought out within the political processes there, but there is no negative implication from a vote here.

Newfoundland School SystemGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 2 p.m., we will now proceed to Statements by Members.

Jacques VilleneuveStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, Jacques Villeneuve, who comes from Quebec, won the 48th edition of the world championship, becoming the 26th driver in history to do so.

The Prime Minister of Canada did not miss the opportunity to congratulate the 26-year-old driver, who has set an example for all Canadians. We are proud of him and know that this victory is the result of the hard work and determination of a driver and his entire team.

On behalf of all my colleagues, I congratulate Jacques on this great victory, which will propel him on to other feats, of which we will all be equally proud.

War MedalsStatements By Members

October 27th, 1997 / 2 p.m.


Peter Goldring Reform Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday an extraordinary Canadian, Mr. Arthur Lee, stood up for his adopted country by boldly acting to save the war medals of poet Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.

Chiselled on the walls of the House of Commons are the words of the poem In Flanders Fields penned by John McCrae over 82 years ago:

To you from failing hands we throw the torch Be yours to hold it high.

Mr. Lee singlehandedly accomplished what the Liberals could not or would not. Mr. Lee saw value while the Liberal minister of heritage saw none. An important vestige of Canada's war history is now preserved.

I ask the House and gallery to recognize Mr. Lee's deed, to recognize his passing of the torch to the safety of our museums.

The veterans of Canada applaud his efforts.

David ShannonStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, David Shannon from my riding of Thunder Bay—Atikokan is without a doubt one of the most courageous Canadians I have ever met.

He has never allowed a spinal cord injury to prevent him from pursuing his lifelong goals. David, an actor, a lawyer and a community activist, recently completed a cross Canada tour on his wheelchair. His trek began on April 1 in St. John's, Newfoundland, and was completed on October 14 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

During the journey David made public appearances, presented his one act play, promoted the role that Canadians in wheelchairs make to our communities and raised over half a million dollars for spinal injury research.

Canadians are proud of David Shannon's accomplishments.

Jacques VilleneuveStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, the people of Berthier, Villeneuve country, where the new world champion started out, and where the memory of his father Gilles is still alive, followed the European Grand Prix held in Spain with great emotion.

After an exciting race, and an victory that was as spectacular as it was dramatic, Jacques Villeneuve, the Quebecker, the boy from down home, became the World Formula 1 champion. In my part of the country we have long recognized Jacques' talent, his brilliance and his straight-forwardness. But with this victory, this great victory won with class, honesty and exemplary sportsmanship, the entire world has become aware of his great talent.

Jacques, all of Quebec is proud of you. You stuck to your race for the championship with your usual tenacity. Jacques Villeneuve, the great driver, has won not only the world championship, but the hearts of all Quebeckers.

Bravo, Jacques, and thank you for this championship.

Inuit And Aboriginal ArtStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, following my statement in the House last Wednesday the parliamentary gift shop has agreed to take its fakelore from its shelves. This is an important step toward promoting authentic Inuit and aboriginal art in this great country of ours.

Much work still remains in promoting authentic Inuit and aboriginal art. Regulations must be in place that will ensure fakelore is properly labelled as imitation or fake.

My office will be undertaking this project with the help of artists from across Canada in coming months.

EnvironmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, based on questions, the Leader of the Official Opposition does not understand the climate change issue and is creating unnecessary anxiety. This can be a win-win issue.

We can reduce emissions by shifting to greater use of cleaner natural gas. We can reduce emissions by making buildings energy efficient. We can reduce emissions by developing energy efficient transportation policies. We can reduce emissions and reduce production costs through energy efficiency. We can reduce emissions and create jobs through the development of alternative and renewable energies. We can reduce emissions by removing costly subsidies for oil sands.

Over 2,000 leading Canadian and American economists have declared there are many potential policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for which the total benefits outweigh the costs.

We can reap considerable economic benefits and help reverse global warming. We can control emissions and help clear the air without slowing our economy. It takes imagination and determination. In Canada we have a lot of both.

Jacques VilleneuveStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday Jacques Villeneuve became World Formula 1 Champion.

He is the first Canadian to win this great honour. His father's untimely death robbed him of the opportunity to win this prize. I had the opportunity to participate with Gilles in a competition on a circuit in Canada. He was a formidable driver, as his son is now.

Congratulations to the people of Berthierville, in Quebec. Congratulations to Canada. Congratulations to Jacques Villeneuve, the new world champion.

Canada PostStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Rose-Marie Ur Liberal Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government believes that a strong Canada depends on a strong and economically vibrant rural community. Rural post offices contribute to the fabric of our nation. I am proud to state that the government has kept its promise to stop the closure of rural post offices.

According to figures reported in the Western Producer there are 19 more rural post offices operating in Canada today than in 1993. Before that time the Conservatives abandoned over 30% of our rural post offices.

The Liberal government is standing up for rural Canadians and we will continue to do so. Canada has the best postal system in the world because it serves the needs of Canadians wherever they live.

Rights Of ChildrenStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the social problem of child labour challenges people of conscience around the world. A solution is not simple because in some countries the child worker's income is vital to the family's survival.

Canada's strategy focuses on children's rights, the right to health and the right to education. Our CIDA funding targets primary schooling and child care and seeks to strengthen the position of women in society.

Today in Oslo at the International Organization of Labour Conference, Canada joins 39 other countries in drafting an agenda for action by the international community in order to protect children from harmful and exploitative forms of child labour.

Let us all hope that Canada can build another consensus as positive for children as the one we are now forging on land mines.

Trans-Canada HighwayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Roy H. Bailey Reform Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the 288 kilometres of undivided portions of the Trans-Canada Highway in Saskatchewan has this year claimed nine lives and in the past four months 38 serious injuries have occurred on the undivided sections.

The government is shirking its responsibilities. It refuses to initiate a national highway program. It refuses to return a reasonable share of the excise fuel tax. These refusals are directly related to some of the deaths and injuries on the untwinned portion of Saskatchewan's Trans-Canada Highway.

When motorists approach Saskatchewan on the number one highway there should be signs saying “Drive with extreme caution. This highway receives no federal funding”.

National GeographicStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, Ian Darragh's article in November's National Geographic offers a bunch of clichés on Quebec, including political uncertainty and partition.

But the worst of it is that National Geographic runs down Quebec's economy and presents a catastrophic view of Montreal. With Quebec's economy growing 2.9% faster than those of the United States, France and Italy and with Montreal becoming the North American high tech capital, we might wonder about this journalist's intellectual rigour.

However, we stop wondering when we discover that he is a consultant with the Ottawa-Carleton Research Institute, an organization promoting the economy of the Ottawa-Carleton region. It is clearly a conflict of interest that the famous magazine must surely have been aware of.

Quebec PremierStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Nick Discepola Liberal Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the weekend, the Quebec premier said that he would not hesitate to use the notwithstanding clause to restore the referendum act in its entirety.

As the House may remember, the Liberal government in Quebec City used this clause in language matters. In 1996, the current premier of Quebec disapproved of this option, saying that he believed in democracy and that, by honouring all the obligations, he would be able to face himself in the mirror in the morning knowing he had not suspended the application of fundamental rights.

Rather an odd message from the premier of Quebec. This approach seems acceptable to him only when his own government is contemplating it. Are we to understand that the premier of Quebec advocates a two-tier democracy? Is he really facing himself in the mirror or is he looking in the rear view mirror?

Human RightsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak out in solidarity with an Edmonton man, Mr. Ekrom Kolay, who is in his sixth day of a hunger strike in support of imprisoned Turkish member of Parliament Leyla Zana.

Zana, the first Kurdish woman elected to the Turkish parliament, was jailed with other MPs in 1994 for speaking out against the brutality and violence of the Turkish government against the Kurds and the destruction of their villages.

I appeal to the Government of Canada to call for the release of Leyla Zana, winner of the 1995 European Sakharov peace prize, and to urge the Turkish government to enter into a dialogue with the Kurds that respects their right to self-determination and fundamental human rights.

Too many writers and journalists have been jailed and murdered. Too many innocent Kurds have been jailed, murdered and tortured. Now is the time for peace and reconciliation.

Remembrance DayStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Carmen Provenzano Liberal Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, with Remembrance Day fast approaching I would like to pay tribute to Canadian veterans of the world wars, the Korean war and the UN peacekeeping missions.

Canada has a proud military tradition but it too often goes unrecognized. That is why I was very impressed to see businessman Arthur Lee pay $400,000 to return the medals of John McCrae to McCrae House in Guelph.

As mentioned earlier in the House, McCrae was the poet and World War I veteran who gave us the haunting war poem In Flanders Fields .

Mr. Lee, an immigrant, said his generous act was a way to repay Canada for opening its doors to him.

I call on all Canadians to draw inspiration from Mr. Lee's example and in some way repay those brave soldiers who have kept the doors of freedom open to all of us.

War MedalsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, Canada has another hero today. His name is Arthur Lee. Mr. Lee took it upon himself to go to Toronto to the auction this weekend and bid on Lieutenant Colonel McCrae's medals.

After a lengthy bidding process, his bid of $400,000 purchased the medals. He will be donating the medals to the Guelph museum where the rest of McCrae memorabilia has been preserved.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage should take note that Canadians are very proud of their heritage and that they are prepared to do anything to protect it. It was the minister who should have looked after making sure these medals were put in the museum.

Canadians are proud of Mr. Lee for what he has done to save Canada's heritage. I suggest that he be invited to the House where he can be thanked publicly and given special recognition for protecting our heritage.

On behalf of myself, my colleagues and all our people in the House and the millions of Canadians out there, we thank you, Mr. Lee.

Reform Party Of CanadaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Paul Bonwick Liberal Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will start by telling you how proud I was the first day I sat in the House. I felt that regardless of my party my colleagues and I were here to create laws and directions for Canada. We would make Canada a better place for all Canadians regardless of religion or region.

I was and am excited at this prospect. Often I disagree with my colleagues in opposition. However I believe they are expressing their hearts in a way they feel is best for their constituents and in most cases Canada. I commend them.

Recently I have become disillusioned at the actions of the Reform Party. Enough is enough. Reform members continue to describe in graphic detail the most heinous of crimes for no other reason than grandstanding. I say shame.

I remind my colleagues that expressing the details of tragic violent acts on national TV only makes the victims relive these atrocities over again. Exploiting people's tragedy only hurts the victims.

Canadians will not take it any more. The Reform Party and their leader should be ashamed.