House of Commons Hansard #163 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.


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4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


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4:20 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I knew what I was saying was so interesting that I would easily have the unanimous consent of the House. I thank my colleagues, particularly the member for Beauséjour who is smiling. For a minute I thought he was going to start applauding.

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4:20 p.m.


Fernand Robichaud Liberal Beauséjour, NB

We are holding back.

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4:20 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

You are holding back, are you not?

I was saying that with Motion No. 24 that we introduced, when all is said and done, it was very clear that the Government of Quebec had a say in all sorts of agreements that the federal government could conclude with respect to the bill on endangered species.

There is another motion that is extremely important and that is along the same lines. I understand that the Chair has grouped the Bloc Quebecois's Motions Nos. 2, 16, 21, 24, 26, 34, 35, 44, 49, 55 and 64 together because they are all similar. That is the logic we are using in the amendments to make it clear that provincial legislatures have the last word on agreements concluded with respect to endangered species.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out the excellent work done by the member for Laurentides, who examined the issue in extraordinary detail. I think she had an extremely good grasp of the problems. She showed great initiative throughout. She took the time to consult her colleagues in the National Assembly so as to have a very clear position, to truly represent the greater interests of Quebec.

When we defend the interests of Quebec, they are always paramount in our eyes because they affect us deeply. That is why we are here. The day after the election, we will still be here to defend the interests of Quebec, and all the more so, considering how things will be after the election.

That being said, Motion No. 44 says:

(l.l) Where a provincial minister advises the Minister that the government of the province does not wish subsection (1) to apply in the province in respect of a wildlife animal species in so far as individuals of the species are found on lands in the province that are not federal lands, this subsection shall not apply to the species-

So, here again, the purpose of the proposed amendment is to allow the provincial government to exclude species that the federal government would perhaps like to protect, but that the province, for all sorts of reasons, would not, or vice versa. All the motions we introduced are really along these lines, that is they seek to make it possible to establish very clearly the provinces' jurisdiction in this sector, which, in any event, comes under provincial jurisdiction. Yet the federal department wants to pass legislation in this area. We will allow it, with some extremely important modifications that will set things out clearly so that the agreement will be a good one.

Immediately after sovereignty is achieved, Quebec will want to have agreements with the federal government and with the other provinces. I believe we are capable of demonstrating this with a bill such as the one we have before us at present.

I do not want to take too much advantage of a good thing this Thursday, so I shall finish with this, a quote from the Quebec Minister of the Environment, David Cliche, who put Bill C-65 into its proper perspective with a concrete example. A bill which seems very ordinary at first glance, with which everyone ought to agree in order to protect little sparrows, can have some effects that are extremely important for the economy of Quebec when it is put into application.

On November 26, 1996, David Cliche said the following: "With Bill C-65, the federal government, under the pretext of protecting the harlequin duck-to take but one example-could intervene directly in our energy policy by saying that, in order to protect the harlequin, the Minister of Natural Resources could exclude a given river from hydro-electric development and rational use. This is a flagrant example of federal intervention in our areas of jurisdiction, an inconceivable intervention, and an unacceptable Canadian interference in our jurisdiction".

You see, this is just an ordinary little bill on which everyone agrees. We must protect the little sparrows, the whales and so on, from extinction. However, the government could use this to encroach upon jurisdictions which are even more clearly provincial and even stall a sector of Quebec's economy, like the example I gave, for hydro-electric power.

I have almost finished. He also said: "The federal minister-I will not name him, because he does-has just introduced in the House of Commons a bill which has raised concerns in Quebec. I want to put this into context because it illustrates the difficulties of federal-provincial relations. Recently I represented Quebec in Charlottetown and I defended its interests in the area of environment and wildlife. We had an agreement. We had even signed an agreement whereby if the federal government introduced legislation on the protection of endangered species under federal control, it ought to respect provincial jurisdictions, especially territorial jurisdiction. We thought we had an agreement with Ottawa on the following principle, which is simple: If we agree that a species is endangered, it is the responsibility of the government which has jurisdiction over the land on which the endangered species is living to take action to protect its habitat and, hence, the species itself".

The minister added: "The main problem Quebec has with this bill is that the federal government is changing the rules of the game completely by no longer establishing that the territory on which a species lives is also important for determining which jurisdiction applies. Instead, the federal government is trying to grab more power by extending the scope of the definition of federal land".

I could have quoted the minister more extensively, but this short excerpt allow us to clearly see that there is a problem. It shows especially that the presence of the Bloc Quebecois in this House is useful to make the connection between what happens in Quebec and what happens in Ottawa. Again, the Bloc Quebecois is here to defend Quebec's interests. We do so very well and we will continue to do so after the elections.

I thank you for your co-operation and also for your smiling attention. I believe it was a smile of approval and I thank you for it.

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4:25 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the Group No. 2 amendments to Bill C-65.

In my opinion, the amendments in this second group will not do very much to fix this legislation, which is clearly flawed. I would like to present some of the questions that I have received from farmers and ranchers in my part of the country and from outside of Alberta as well. I have grouped the questions which I think should be asked before the bill goes any further.

I will refer to some letters, including a letter from the Alberta minister of environmental protection, Ty Lund, as well.

What is Bill C-65? It is the government's new endangered species legislation. It is an attempt, and I think a very sincere attempt, to protect endangered species. As I go through my presentation, I am going to comment on what is likely to happen if this legislation, even as amended, is put in place.

How was the bill born? Where did it come from and why? The groundwork for Bill C-65 was laid by the Mulroney government at the Rio conference. In 1992 Canada signed a global agreement that in part agreed to protect endangered species. Canada agreed to put some type of legislation in place that would protect endangered species. I believe this is a response to the commitment made by the Government of Canada.

However, several things in the process that brought this legislation to the point it is now really are not acceptable to many Canadians. Some of them have been expressed by the Bloc members who feel that the government has really ignored the wishes of the province of Quebec. That has been backed up by the Alberta minister of environmental protection, Ty Lund.

I want to read part of the letter he wrote to me regarding this bill. "I am writing to express my growing concern about the proposed Bill C-65, the Canada Endangered Species Protection Act. All provincial and territorial ministers responsible for wildlife in Canada have identified several major concerns in the bill".

The Hon. Alan Graham recently wrote to the Minister of the Environment on behalf of my colleagues and myself outlining these concerns. I have a copy of that letter. It was referred to earlier by my colleague from Calgary.

The Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development has completed its deliberations. Unfortunately, the majority of the concerns raised were not resolved.

The amendments tabled on March 21, 1997 by the federal government do not address the issues and leave us with a bill which destroys the national approach outlined in the national accord for the protection of species at risk.

The Alberta minister makes clear what is happening. The group of amendments which we are debating do not answer the questions and the concerns of the environment minister.

The environment minister went on to say that Alberta is committed to fulfilling its role, as outlined in the national framework for the conservation of species at risk. The minister fully expects to honour the commitments that he made on behalf of the people of Alberta in that agreement.

He states: "I believe that the approach of co-operative programs and the complementary legislation proposed in the framework is the only way to ensure endangered species conservation". He goes on to say that the co-operative framework has not been followed in the development of this legislation. That has to be a concern. Bloc members have indicated that it is a concern to them. The New Brunswick minister who wrote on behalf of all the ministers to the federal Minister of the Environment made it clear that they are not happy with the process or the bill. The Alberta minister has supported that view.

The government has taken a heavy-handed approach. It is the federal government and it will say how things are run in the country and to heck with what the people in the provinces feel. This is one more demonstration of that approach. I understand why Bloc members are upset. We in Alberta are every bit as upset.

Western Canadians have revolted against the approach taken by past Liberal and Conservative governments. That is the reason the Reform Party is here today. We expect the provinces to have more say in more areas. We expect the federal government to not take this heavy-handed, interventionist approach which it has taken in so much legislation, including Bill C-65.

Why are my constituents and others complaining about Bill C-65? There are many reasons, some of which I outlined this morning.

Canadians want to protect endangered species with a co-operative approach. That co-operative approach has worked very well in the past in dealing with protecting certain species. For example, it has worked in the burrowing owl project. The Ducks Unlimited program has done much to build up the duck population.

It has been a co-operative effort. It has not taken heavy-handed legislation. It has not taken the threat of fines. In this legislation the fines run up to $1 million. They can be levied against a land owner or a land user. The co-operative approach has not involved legislation which would require a land owner to spend money to fence property which happens to be the habitat of an endangered species. It has not taken that for Ducks Unlimited to work well or for the burrowing owl operation to work and other projects like them. Those people have taken a co-operative approach. This heavy-handed, interventionist approach is wrong. That is one of the major reasons people are complaining about this bill.

Another reason is that there is very little allowance for compensation.

It is totally inadequate. That again could force land owners or land users to spend money out of their own pocket to fence off an area to protect an endangered species. Land owners or land users could lose the productive capability of property with no compensation. In other words, they can be required to set this property aside.

They could be kept from using the property yet there is no compensation.

What kind of country is this where people can be denied the use of property, lose economically and receive no compensation? That is unacceptable. That is another thing that the people who I have talked to are revolting against.

As well, because of the way this legislation is set up, people can launch anonymous complaints. They can have their identity kept anonymous, the complaint lodged and action taken against that landowner or the land user.

Even someone committing a crime as violent as murder has the right to face the accuser in court and to know who the accuser is. Yet under this legislation Canadians are being denied that same right. It is completely inappropriate. That is another thing Canadians are revolting against when it comes to this bill.

Further, there are the search and seizure measures which are very similar to those in Bill C-68, the so-called gun bill, which are unacceptable and which really put aside some of the basic, judicial procedures we accept in our justice system but that really are not in this legislation.

This package of amendments in Group No. 2 will do nothing to deal with any of these concerns in a meaningful way.

The best thing the Liberals could do with this legislation is to let it die. However, they should learn from it. Should they be government after the election, they can come forward with new legislation. If the Reform Party is government, then we will bring in legislation that will take a much different approach from this heavy-handed one.

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4:40 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague for Beauséjour seems to be speculating about my chances to be back here, in this House, after the election. I would like to reassure him. I know he is about to leave us to assume other duties we do not know anything about yet. I wish him well. I suspect we will soon have a new Senator Robichaud in the other place.

That said, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-65 dealing with endangered species. It is a very serious bill that interferes in areas of provincial jurisdiction. I will get back to this.

It seems quite fitting to be discussing endangered species just hours from an election call. I want to draw a parallel with this absentee government, whose mind is elsewhere these days. One only has to watch Oral Question Period to realize that the ministers would rather be doing something else than answering questions.

Considering the way this government's piecemeal approach, I can say, like my colleague from the Reform Party, who just announced that his party would form the next government, that the Liberal government opposite is certainly an endangered species nowadays.

Our fellow citizens across Canada, and particularly in Quebec, are in a position to know we must get rid of this government. In fact, I would say the greatest threat is not that this government could be out, but that it could come back for another mandate, since we see, as I mentioned earlier, that the main concern of this government these days is to announce good news that the official opposition had been demanding throughout its mandate.

This week there was the manpower agreement announced by the human resources development minister, after 32 years of negotiations, I might add. If this is not a record in terms of stretching out negotiations, it is certainly a good average. At this rate, not many colleagues in this House will see the results of the next negotiations dealing with who knows what, endangered species perhaps. At the rate negotiations are going, the very future of this federal government, of this institution, is in danger.

Consider the intergovernmental affairs minister's attitude when the Quebec government asked for an amendment to the Constitution establishing linguistic school boards. The contempt of this government is obvious as election day nears.

When it is not delaying a decision it should be taking now, such as the one on linguistic school boards, the government is announcing amendments to a bill that has yet to receive royal assent-and I am referring to the tobacco bill. The Prime Minister has succeeded in this incredible feat of announcing, even before Bill C-71, the Tobacco Act, received royal assent, that it would be amended next fall. It is quite an achievement. If ridicule could kill, we would no longer have a Prime Minister.

That being said, I would like to deal briefly with Bill C-65 to point out how this bill is right in the tradition of this government. In their speeches, government members and the Prime Minister, who is here occasionally for question period, keep harping about how, these past few years, their government has been most open to the decentralization of our federation.

But each time the government introduces a new bill, it proves otherwise. Back home we have an expression for that. We say the Prime Minister talks from both sides of his mouth. On the one hand, we are being told the government is more open to decentralization, but, on the other hand, whenever the government introduces a bill, like Bill C-65, it tries to centralize even more. The official opposition objects to this intrusion in a provincial jurisdiction. In

the area of the protection of endangered species as in many others, Quebec has already taken its responsibilities.

Since 1989, there has been a law concerning endangered species. There was a consensus in Quebec and all stakeholders asked their government, the Quebec government, to take action, which it did by adopting a bill that satisfied the aspirations and desires of the Quebec people.

It was the same thing in Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick, the province you are from and of which you are justifiably so proud, Madam Speaker, which all adopted legislation on endangered species.

But the federal government, as it usually does, decided not to take into account the desire of the provinces to take things into their own hands and solve their problems by talking to each other to ensure that their respective laws are in sync. But no, the federal government decided to barge in and take this area of jurisdiction away from the provinces so it could impose its own views and decisions.

That is the essence of that bill. That is why the official opposition will take its responsibilities and defend Quebecers' interests as it always does when Quebec's jurisdiction is questioned, when Quebec's interests are threatened. And I know, Madam Speaker, that you are proud of the official opposition. We will vote against this bill and ensure that it will die on the Order Paper, so that we will not hear about it anymore, not only during the election campaign, but ever again.

I would also like to point out that the government, by invading this field of jurisdiction, is creating more problems than it is solving, as is usually the case. It would have been much more productive and efficient if the government had simply asked the provinces to reach an agreement in this matter, if it had recognized that a lot of work had already been done since similar laws have been adopted in Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick and of course Quebec, in 1989. The enforcement of these laws takes necessarily into account the needs of the people.

Madam Speaker, you are indicating that my time has expired. Since I respect the rules of the House, I will comply with your order and end my speech.

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4:50 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-65 and the Group No. 2 amendments before us that reference habitat and other necessities to protect endangered species across the nation.

The bill is asking for a balance in legislation across the country. It is also asking for co-operative federalism where provincial government, municipal governments and local agencies are able to work with our national government and at the same time co-operate with other countries touched by bird migration across the continent. That may even involve the rest of North America, South America and other adjacent lands that form part of the bird migration patterns of the world.

When I think of one side of the balance where we must do everything possible to protect the endangered species, in terms of a cause it is good and noble we are working toward that. When we consider the aspect of protecting endangered species, we must ensure we take into consideration the players that will be involved. Private land owners, provincial lands, federal lands and adjacent nations need co-operative agreements.

I have looked at the legislation and have considered some of the content of the amendments in terms of habitat. Recently I saw a discussion of the specific bill on television. The person on the side of protecting all endangered species made a noteworthy comment at the time. He said that the legislation provided for protection of birds if they land in national parks, on federal buildings or on Parliament Hill. I thought maybe that was the way it was.

Subsequently I received a letter from the Minister of Environment, as have other members of this assembly, in which he outlined the concerns of the provinces. He indicated that Bill C-65 was more encompassing than just federal lands, national parks, federal buildings across the nation and Parliament Hill. The legislation was actually intervening, overlapping and interfering with provincial jurisdiction and responsibility. That is a major violation by the federal minister.

The federal minister signed an accord with the provinces on September 25, 1996 called "A National Framework for the Conservation of Species at Risk". The accord was signed with the idea provinces would be able to administer, take the major responsibility and be independent from the federal government for writing legislation that would take away from the autonomy of the provinces or their responsibilities. An agreement was reached by all the provinces.

They agreed to participate in the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council to co-ordinate activities and resolve issues for the protection of species at risk in Canada.

They agreed to recognize the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as a source of independent advice on the status of species at risk nationally and to establish complementary legislation and programs that provide for effective protection of species at risk throughout Canada.

The agreement listed a long list of specific kinds of things the provinces would commit to doing. They would refer any disputes that may arise under the accord to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council for discussion.

The provinces agreed, with the expectation that federal Minister of the Environment would write legislation to facilitate that kind of co-operation. That did not happen.

Subsequently we received letters from the Minister of the Environment, as mentioned by my colleagues from Vegreville and Calgary North, indicating that the federal government did not live up to its commitment and has written legislation that duplicates and adds to the legal tangles or actions to be put in place by regulations to protect endangered species. That is unacceptable.

In a time when provinces have matured to a point where they can take on responsibilities such as these, we should decentralize and give them the responsibilities. If there needs to be umbrella legislation to facilitate co-ordination or to fill in some of the blanks, the legislation would be acceptable.

As the chairman of the provincial ministers, the minister from one of the maritime provinces points out very clearly that Bill C-65, even with the amendments of groups one to four and those introduced by the government to try to deal with matter, falls short of co-operative federalism. It is just not there. The minister, the government and the Liberal caucus have missed the point being made by the provinces.

Recently there has been similar legislation to try to foster co-operation between the federal Minister of the Environment and the provincial ministers of environment. The legislation dealt with a variety of developments that would take place on the rivers of Alberta or on any other river across this nation.

The province of Alberta wanted to put a dam on a river. We went through about 20 years of studies and hearings. Finally we decided to build a dam on the Oldman River in the Three Rivers area. At the point when the decision was made and construction had even started, the federal Tory government found a piece legislation to allow it to intervene and start the whole process of hearings again. It cost a lot of money and delay. Fortunately the provincial government was able to work through that and proceed with the building of the dam, which will be a great asset to our province for many years ahead.

The lesson we learned was that the federal government had duplicate legislation that added difficulty to the process. It complicated and delayed the project, and it cost many dollars for the province of Alberta to answer interveners and so on and delayed construction. We learned a lesson. The legislation was changed.

The federal government was able to write legislation that avoided overlap and duplication. We thought the House of Commons learned something but I guess it has not. With Bill C-65, the federal government has written legislation that infringes on the rights and responsibilities of provinces. I do not know if the bureaucrats are at fault or who it is. You would think we would have learned something and would not do that again.

I recommend in my remarks, which are probably my final remarks with regard to this legislation, that the government rethink its position. If it really wants to work with the provinces, as it says clearly in this supporting document which was passed around to all members of Parliament, then it better back off and put in place some kind of umbrella legislation that facilitates the provinces in doing their job. Then there would be no overlap or intervening process to take away from local autonomy.

How can this kind of thing work for farmers who are affected? A major concern of my constituents is that if an endangered species is found on a piece of land, no compensation is listed here. The government only promises that a person who provides land for conservation will be recognized for that. It will be a donation of environmentally sensitive land and a partnership.

My final statement is this. Why should one individual landowner have to take all of the cost to provide the land? That is the responsibility of all Canadians when endangered species are being protected.

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April 24th, 1997 / 5 p.m.


Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to please check if there is a quorum.

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5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Regan)

Quorum call? Ring the bells, please.

And the count having been taken:

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5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

We have quorum.

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5:15 p.m.


Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-65.

I want to point out right off that the bill before us exemplifies this government's approach to all legislation. Having sat here for some time now, we in the official opposition, the Bloc Quebecois, have accumulated a fair amount of knowledge about parliamentary life. We are more experienced. This is the result of three and a half years of parliamentary debate. And now we have a new ability: the ability to assess, based on facts, to what extent the legislation passed by the Liberal Government of Canada complies with the provisions of the Constitution and respects provincial jurisdiction.

Since it took office, this Liberal government tried repeatedly, through several bills tabled in this House, to meddle in areas of provincial responsibility, ignoring their respective jurisdictions as well as the terms of federal-provincial agreements. In addition, as I was able to see for myself while participating in several debates on

the reorganization of the Department of Industry, the Federal Office of Regional Development, the Federal Business Development Bank, now the Business Development Bank of Canada, this government took every opportunity, every time a bill was introduced, to give itself, the department or the minister responsible more powers, thereby gaining more and more control in recognized areas of provincial jurisdiction, without going through the federal-provincial consultation process.

You will understand that, with the legislative experience it has gained, the official opposition now knows how to get in the way of the government's efforts to take powers away from the provinces by disregarding provincial jurisdictions.

What does the government propose today? Bill C-65, the Canada Endangered Species Protection Act. I want to make four general observations before dealing more specifically with the bill.

First, when we read the bill, we realize that, as usual, the provinces' jurisdiction and responsibilities are completely ignored and overlooked.

Later on, I will point out some major contradictions by referring to statements made in the red book, and also by the environment ministers, both the former one, who is now the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage, and the current one. This government, which always claims to want to co-operate and to establish partnerships with the provinces, does just the opposite with its bills. This government tries to get its hands on power. It gives itself special powers, at the expense of the partners it claims to respect.

Second, this bill does not take into account the sharing of powers. The sharing of powers in areas that come under provincial jurisdiction has always been a burden for the federal government.

Even though the government tries, as it has always done, to convince Quebecers of its desire to create a partnership with them, it invariably comes up with bills that give increased power to its ministers, or that confirm such power.

The provisions of the bill make it clear that the minister is giving himself a very broad discretionary power. This from a government which always claims to seek partnerships with others. Yet, it gives itself, through its own mechanisms, its department and its minister, very broad discretionary powers. In fact, after the talks on the internal trade agreement, this government went so far as to add to the bill things that had not even been mentioned in the discussions with the provincial ministers.

But such is the way of this government. We all know that. Everyone knows the federal Liberal government, particularly in Quebec, given its pattern of the last 30 years, which consists in promising one thing but doing just the opposite once in office.

This bill provides that the minister will appoint COSEWIC members. Later, I will define the COSEWIC, this committee set up to protect endangered species. The minister alone will make these appointments. It gives himself the power to do so. This government shares everything but, in the end, it always includes a little clause saying that "as a minister, I will appoint those who will sit on the committee". In discussions between the ministers and the provinces, they always say "we are acting in good faith, we will make sure that everyone is represented, that there is representation from all parts of the country and everyone is included".

So what happens? They table a bill in which the minister has the authority to appoint people without consulting his partners. Is that partnership? Is that respect? They said in the course of discussions and negotiations that they would reach an agreement on committee membership. So the bill is tabled, and what does it say? It says the minister will appoint the members himself.

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5:20 p.m.


Fernand Robichaud Liberal Beauséjour, NB

While respecting all parties concerned. Perhaps Bloc members are not mentioned, but that does not mean that-

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5:20 p.m.


Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

The minister will determine his own powers. I heard my Liberal colleague react, obviously, because the truth is not always pleasant to hear. Earlier, the hon. member for Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead welcomed our colleague, who will probably be appointed senator one of these days. The Liberals need people to get a majority in the Senate and ensure they control the proceedings. They need people who are dedicated, and our colleague, this very lively Acadian, will probably be one of several future senators, and more power to him.

Not only will the minister determine who will be appointed, but the bill on threatened and endangered species also says that the minister even has the power to decide which species will be designated as threatened or endangered. No ifs or buts. Some provinces and organizations across Canada have been involved in this for a long time, since 1978, but I will get back to that. And the minister proposes federal legislation that did not exist before.

Provincial legislation exists in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Manitoba. But for the first time, the federal government goes and walks all over an area which, as far as jurisdiction is concerned, belongs to the provinces. So what does it do? It not only tables legislation but gives the minister the power to circumvent everyone and decide for himself which species will be designated threatened or endangered.

He will also have the power to decide whether or not to implement recovery plans once species are designated. He will have the decisive vote.

Madam Speaker, you are signalling my time is up, although I thought I had 20 minutes. May I have the unanimous consent of the House to finish my speech? If there is unanimous consent, I would like to continue my speech.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to proceed? I remind the House we have only five minutes left.

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5:25 p.m.


Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

I can finish my speech in five minutes.

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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is there unanimous consent?

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5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

There is no unanimous consent.

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5:25 p.m.


Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Democracy has spoken on the other side; the name of democracy on the other side is no.

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5:25 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC


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5:25 p.m.


Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Theirs is a no society, a negative society.

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5:25 p.m.


Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Madam Speaker, I thought it would be appropriate to say a few words on the endangered species act. I am tempted to make references to those across the way, with the election coming and so on. I could get into it for ages and we would all have great fun with it.

This is a very serious bill. It is always difficult when there is a certain amount of emotion involved. We want to protect animals, wildlife and various endangered species in the country. We do not want to see anything being harmed or eradicated, not even members over there. We have to keep a few of them around. I cannot keep myself away from it.

There are problems with a bill like this one. The government may have intended to come out with something very meaningful and something very worthwhile in terms of protecting endangered species. However, either because it was ill conceived or because for some reason it was put out the way it was, we have problems with it. People in communities, business, different organization and sports groups have problems with the bill.

In a lot of other government legislation I have discovered through the committees I have sat on that there seems to be a very bad tendency. It is a style of government that caused me to get into government to hopefully see some change in it. There are committee meetings to study legislation at that level and to get input from people who say what they like or do not like and what they want included, yet the government is not prepared to listen.

I have participated in a couple of studies by committees when the input from the population, the voters, the taxpayers, has been overwhelming and the government for whatever reason chose to ignore it. I do not know why the government spends the money it does for consultation with the public if it is not prepared to listen. We heard a lot of concerns raised by industry, ranchers, farmers and people who go into the woods for recreation. Even they feel they may have problems.

We put forward a lot of amendments. We want to support the bill but we simply cannot do so in its present form. We get into a real conundrum when the government says it is doing this to protect endangered species and anybody voting against it does not want to protect them. That is not true.

In their heart of hearts members know that. It might be a little difficult for them to admit it on the eve of the election but they understand it. When we return to the House after the election in whatever make-up it is, maybe we can learn to work a little better together. I hope government, whichever government it is, will bring forward legislation and will listen to people. Hopefully it will listen to the points raised by the opposition and the public but it does not mean they will be automatically accepted. Sometimes of course there are at least two points of view in the public domain. These things have to be considered.

There were a lot of good amendments brought forward on this bill and they were rejected out of hand. That is very unfortunate. Had the government made these amendments to the bill, it would have found support. We could have moved the bill through the House quickly, even on the eve of the election.

I hope when we return after the election that those members opposite will have learned to co-operate, perhaps with the opposition or perhaps as the opposition. I shall look forward to that.

Agreement On Internal Trade Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

moved that Bill C-375, an act to amend the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-375, which would allow the completion of the agreement on internal trade.

The agreement on internal trade was signed in 1994. At that time several deadlines were set by the legislation. Almost all the deadlines have passed and agreement has not been reached. Clearly there is a problem which must be dealt with. It is important that we complete this agreement.

I would like to explain what this bill would do. First I will give a little background on the events which led to the agreement on internal trade and the implementation bill, which is the legislation that Bill C-375 would amend to allow the completion of the agreement on internal trade.

If we take a look at the sequence of events we will see that the committee on internal trade is comprised of trade ministers from federal, provincial and territorial governments. The agreement on internal trade, as I mentioned, was signed in 1994 by the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The agreement states that all governments will commit to work together to break down barriers to internal trade. That is the basic principle of the agreement on internal trade. The barriers which prevent free trade between the provinces will be brought down.

We live in a country which has free trade agreements with the United States and Mexico. Goods move relatively freely between the countries, yet we have barriers between provinces which do not allow the free movement of goods. Clearly that is unacceptable.

The present formula that the committee uses to reach an agreement, whether it is an agreement on completing the deal or an agreement on the dispute settlement mechanism, is a formula of unanimity. In other words, the agreement on internal trade stipulates that a consensus is required. However, consensus is not defined. The way this committee has chosen to interpret consensus is unanimous consent. Most areas are left incomplete after almost three years. To complete any area it requires unanimous consent from the federal government, the representatives from the provinces and the representatives from the territories.

When was the last time we had unanimous consent on any type of an agreement like that in this country, a consent which in some cases may cause some difficulties with certain groups in the provinces? Although, all provinces and territories have agreed that completing the agreement on internal trade will make things better for those living in every province.

Unanimously all governments involved have agreed that completion of the agreement on internal trade will make things better and yet the completion has not happened.

Clearly this unanimous consent formula is not going to work. My private member's bill, Bill C-73, simply changes the formula and puts in place the Reform policy on this issue. Instead of requiring unanimous consent it will require consent of at least two-thirds of the provinces and territories which includes at least 50 per cent of the population.

Then when the provinces are negotiating settlement in any one of these areas that are left incomplete the impossible task of getting unanimous consent will be removed and instead the requirement will be there for agreement from a majority of provinces and territories including a majority of Canadians, which is a much more reasonable formula and a formula which I believe if implemented would lead to the completion of the agreement on internal trade in all areas. There are many experts who agree with that, as I will demonstrate later.

I would like to read through the actual Reform policy on this issue. The policy is that in order to break the deadlock which has prevented the completion of the agreement on internal trade and the removal of internal trade barriers, the Reform Party proposes to amend the approval formula of the committee on internal trade, used to approve sections of the agreement on internal trade and the dispute settlement mechanism, by replacing the requirement for unanimous consent with the following. First, allow the current unanimity base voting formula, eight months, to resolve the deadlock experienced in completing the agreement on internal trade. Let us give the unanimous consent formula another try but limit it to eight months.

Second, if sections of the internal trade agreement remain unresolved after eight months, then the unanimous ratification formula will be replaced by a formula which allows ratification on the basis of at least two-thirds of the provinces and territories representing at least 50 per cent of the Canadian population.

Third, if sections of the agreement are not completed within one year of implementing the two-thirds/fifty formula, the federal government shall move unilaterally to use its constitutional powers to complete the agreement on internal trade.

Clearly the change proposed in my private member's bill will lead to the completion of the agreement on internal trade in all sectors. The impact of that will be dramatic indeed.

I will speak a little on the possible impact. I will refer to several experts in this area and different groups which have found this to be such an important issue that they have written substantial documents outlining what they feel the impact of removing the barriers would be on Canadians.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in a substantial document released approximately a year ago said that just by increasing trade

between provinces by 10 per cent would lead to 200,000 new jobs in Canada.

We know the Liberal government has failed on its promise to deliver jobs. The unemployment rate has been above 9 per cent for so many months that people have lost count, the highest level since the Great Depression.

We have had this situation where the unemployment rate has stayed above 9 per cent and the government has not done what it should to complete the agreement. I know that the Minister of Industry would like to see the agreement completed. I believe he is sincere in wanting that. It is so hard to figure why it has not happened when the agreement was signed almost three years ago.

I think 200,000 jobs would be some incentive for the government to get serious about completing the deal. However, it has not happened. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is disappointed.

The Fraser Institute put out a substantial paper on the issue. It said that trade barriers between provinces costs Canadian families $3,500 a year. Again, it is so difficult to understand why the government would not work hard to remove the barriers. As we know, since it came to power in 1993, the average Canadian household income has dropped by $3,000. If this agreement had been implemented in 1994 after it was signed by the provinces the $3,000 that was lost to these Canadian families would have been replaced with increased income resulting from the removal of these barriers.

It is difficult to understand why the government has not taken this more seriously.

Other think tanks and groups that have studied the issue have determined that these interprovincial trade barriers cost Canadian companies and Canadians between $6 billion and $10 billion a year. That is a lot of income because of a problem that should not be there and which really makes no sense.

We have the agreement that was signed in 1994, a formula that clearly does not work. However, after three years nothing has been done about it.

On speaking to representatives from the different provinces I know many provinces are absolutely committed to the completion of the agreement. Granted, most provinces have certain areas they are really concerned about because the province may be a net loser in a particular segment of its economy. But each province has recognized that overall the people would benefit from the removal of the barriers. There may be some losers in each province, but the numbers and the amounts lost would be very small compared to the net gain in each province.

What have the Liberals said on this issue? We can look at their red book where this was mentioned. In both throne speeches it was said that it was important to remove barriers to interprovincial trade. The 1996 prebudget report from the finance committee had a section on the removal of interprovincial trade barriers which acknowledged the impact on the economy and on jobs by removing these barriers to trade. Yet what has been done? Clearly not enough. The barriers are still there.

The industry minister introduced Bill C-88, an act to implement the agreement on interprovincial trade. The act passed third reading in the House in June 1996.

I do not know why the lag in time between the agreement being completed in 1994 and the implementation legislation being passed in 1996. It does not really show a commitment on the part of the government that match the words it used in the red book and in its throne speeches. Clearly the two do not gibe. I cannot answer why. However, it does show a huge failure on the part of the industry minister.

If I were running against the industry minister in his Ottawa riding I would be out talking about the barriers to the free movement of labour into Quebec. Quebec labour has a lot more freedom to move people to work in Ontario but it is pretty much a one way street. I would be telling all the potential voters in the minister's Ottawa riding about this and about the failures of the industry minister in this area.

He spoke the words, signed the agreement in 1994 and finally in 1996 got around to passing the implementation agreement. However, that is where it stalled. Deadline after deadline has passed, deadlines that were supposed to lead to the completion of the agreement, but it has not happened. I do not know why but I would be out there bringing that up in the minister's riding.

Why are barriers to interprovincial trade so harmful? Why does it cost who knows how many jobs? It is enough that 200,000 jobs would be created if trade increased by 10 per cent. There are several reasons. Just imagine being a company in Canada. I have talked with the CEOs of several companies in Canada that want to do business with people and businesses in other provinces. However, they find the barriers to trade between the provinces and the territories do not allow that to happen freely.

In fact, they say that they have far more access to companies and people in the United States than they do with people and businesses in other provinces. Some top notch companies in this country, high tech in some cases, have told me that they should be moving to the United States because if they operated there they would have free access to all provinces, something they do not have operating from one province of Canada. Is that not absurd? However, that is what we have.

I have also spoken to the owners of companies that have moved to the United States. They just gave up. They wanted to do business with all of Canada but there are too many barriers under the current system. By moving their companies to the United States they were able to do business much easier and in a less expensive manner with all provinces freely. That is the kind of absurdity that these barriers produce. We are losing jobs as a result of these barriers being in place.

A second way that these barriers really have an incredible negative impact on companies is on the small companies that want to do business internationally so they can grow. I have companies like that in my constituency. A prime example is a company that manufactures tanks in Lloydminster, Universal Industries. It has complained it is so difficult to do business in Saskatchewan. Lloydminster is a border city. The business is in a city that straddles the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan. To do business in Saskatchewan it has to jump through so many hoops that it is hurting its business. It would be able to operate a lot more effectively if it went to the United States where it would have open access to all Canadian provinces.

We have to get rid of these barriers. Canadians can no longer afford the jobs that are lost. They can no longer afford the $6 billion to $10 billion that is lost each year as a result of these barriers being in place. They can no longer afford the loss in family income of $3,500 a year. That income would replace the $3,000 per family a year that has been lost as a result of Liberal policies. This one change would go an awful long way to removing these barriers and to allowing the benefits of jobs, the benefits of added income, the benefits of added take home pay and the benefits of businesses growing in the country so that they can compete better in other countries.

These benefits are being denied due to a lack of action on the part of the government. I have taken the action necessary here. This private member's bill, should it ever be enacted, would go a long way toward the elimination of these barriers.

Agreement On Internal Trade Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Perth—Wellington—Waterloo Ontario


John Richardson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-375, an act to amend the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act. I would like to thank the hon. member for his hard work in presenting his case to support this.

This bill reflects worthy intentions and concerns which I am sure the hon. member will share. Most of us in the House are very directly aware of the importance of trade to Canada. Each of us represents constituents who are in some way involved in trade, be it business, banking, retailing, agriculture, construction or some other exchange of goods and services, capital or labour. Canada is a trading nation.

Trade, the efficient exploitation of our natural resources and effective use of our innate abilities and skills, has enabled us to grow and prosper both as individuals and as a nation. We trade, both internationally and internally.

Internationally, we operate in an increasingly exciting world market, one that is continuing to become more and more open, dynamic and demanding. We have benefited, and will continue to benefit, from the opening of that market and the opportunities it gives us to sell and to make the best of ourselves and what we have.

Internally, we are blessed with being an economic union that has a high degree of coherence and integration. The relative openness, freedom and efficiency of our domestic market, compared to international markets in many other parts of the world, has served us well. Our internal trade is worth over $300 billion a year and accounts for 1.9 million jobs.

In many, indeed most, areas or sectors of economic activity, our internal market has made it possible to develop the abilities and to increase the areas of competitive advantage, expertise and experience. It has given Canadians, business and industry the basis on which to become strong and effective competitors in both foreign markets and against foreigners and foreign suppliers here at home.

That said, it remains evident that our domestic market is not quite perfect. In the past, national business, industry and professional associations have cited numerous examples of companies, businesses or individuals being unable to invest or supply goods or services in certain parts of the country.

Many individual workers have found that their ability to work anywhere in the country is hampered by the fact that some local authorities refuse to recognize their qualifications, skills or experience. Such problems are not unnatural where jurisdiction over trade, commerce and economic matters are shared between different levels of government.

That was one of the reasons why the federal, provincial and territorial governments negotiated the agreement on internal trade in 1994. That agreement reflected the readiness of governments in Canada to try to deal with the problems of conflict, overlap and duplication of their measures without entering into discussion of, or affecting, their respective constitutional powers. The substance of that argument treats how governments agreed to exercise their respective powers. It does not change those powers.

The agreement on internal trade, as the minister of industry emphasized in 1994, was a consensual agreement. It is important to remember in considering this bill that the basis of the agreement on internal trade was voluntary acceptance by each of the governments that signed it. That is the main reason for the weaknesses and shortcomings of the agreement and perhaps why it has failed to

live up to the expectations of many since it came into effect in July 1995.

Those weaknesses have been analysed and reported a great deal in the last year. The hon. member who proposed the bill before us has elaborated on several at length and on numerous occasions. What he has said is not without basis and many of his criticisms of the agreement are backed in very respectable and respected quarters.

When they testified before the House committee concerning the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada and others all identified a range of problem areas: the decision making process; the dispute settlement mechanism; the exceptions and exemptions; the putting off of issues to future negotiations; and the failure to meet the deadlines set for those negotiations.

The intent of this bill is to correct at least one of those problem areas, the decision making process. Unfortunately the proposed changes cannot accomplish that. Indeed, no action by this House alone can change that agreement.

The question might be asked then, why did the government introduce the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act last year and why was it passed into law? The short answer is that the legislation the House passed was necessary to give the government the tools it needed to meet its own responsibilities, obligations, and commitments under the agreement.

The fundamental flaw of the bill before us is that it fails to recognize that simple fact. The legislation could not and did not pretend to make the agreement binding on any of the other parties. The provinces and the territories are bound to the agreement on internal trade by their acceptance of and signature to that accord. Changing the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act, as the bill proposes, could not affect how the agreement works.

This bill is inappropriate because it fails to recognize that the agreement on internal trade is a consensual agreement and not just a federal creation. Besides that, the proposed amendment is unviable because it is based on simplistic analysis and cloudy assumptions regarding constitutional powers. It unwittingly mixes apples and oranges where it joins the exercise of federal constitutional powers with proposals being negotiated among the provinces in the context of the agreement on internal trade.

Many, if not most, matters under the jurisdiction of the agreement are sectors or areas where jurisdiction is shared with the provinces. Some areas are exclusively within provincial constitutional power. Where provinces are negotiating a proposal but one or more do not agree, this bill would have the federal government impose a majority view on all.

If the matter under negotiation were clearly or even arguably within provincial jurisdiction, the ability of the government to impose a solution would at best be open to challenge in the courts. Instead of being a way around the impasse, this amendment is more likely a recipe for protracted legal wrangling. It could make matters worse, but the intention of the person submitting this bill are honourable.

Even if, suspending all critical faculties, we were to allow that the kind of action envisaged by this amendment might be legally sustainable, it is not necessary. The government already has the power to regulate under sections 91 and 121 of the Constitution Act where it considers that doing so would be desirable and practical. Not only would the amendment be unnecessary but it would have the perverse effect of restricting government's ability to act in the national interest by limiting its powers in two ways.

First, the amendment makes the exercise of that power contingent on a majority of the provinces being in favour. The government's record in consulting interested parties before taking action speaks for itself. However, limiting our ability to take actions in areas within our jurisdiction to the approval of the majority of provinces as this bill would do is an unreasonable and unnecessary constraint.

Second, the amendment would further constrain the government's ability to take action in circumstances where both sections 91 and 121 of the Constitution Act would be invoked. Given the intent of the bill, the specific linkage would limit even further the practical scope of the kind the government action envisaged. It is difficult to determine whether that particular linkage is intentional or inadvertent. It is certainly poor drafting.

It is clear that there are several reasons this bill does not merit the support of the House. First and foremost it is not viable. It is inappropriate. It is unnecessary. It is poorly conceived and drafted. But the intent is honourable.

There is another reason this bill is wanting. It is coercive and divisive in a context where co-operation is necessary to achieve practical results for workers and companies.

In summary, this bill would amend section 9 of the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act, the section that gives the government authority to make orders pursuant to the dispute settlement procedures of the agreement on internal trade. The intent is to fix unilaterally a major AIT weakness by applying to or in all provinces any measure under negotiation in the AIT on which the provinces cannot reach consensus but for which there is

majority support, that is, two-thirds of the province and 50 per cent of the population.

The bill misconstrues both the nature of the AIT and the real scope for unilateral action under federal constitutional powers. New personnel and financial resources would probably be required to enforce any regulations made under the agreement.

Agreement On Internal Trade Implementation ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see you in the Chair. It is now my turn to speak to Bill C-375, an act to amend the Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act.

The purpose of this bill is to ensure that amendments can be made, even if they do not have the approval of all the provinces, by having a system in which at least two thirds of the provinces representing 50 per cent of the population would be enough to make these amendments.

It is a bit much to see that, on the one hand, they say no to a bill promoting trade between the provinces, something that should benefit the provinces, and that here in Ottawa, they want to pass a bill to impose interprovincial trade on the provinces against their will. There is something wrong here. Obviously, it smacks of the old logic that Ottawa has a monopoly on truth: "We know what is good for you, and we will make sure that is what you get".

What is worse, this is not the only sector in which this refrain comes up. We know very well that, when you talk about seven provinces and 50 per cent of the population, seeing how a consensus is arrived at in Canada, Quebec is often left standing on its own and often gets a raw deal.

I am surprised to see a Reform member sponsoring this bill. Three and a half years ago, when we first arrived here, I recall meeting these members at a luncheon designed to help us get to know each other's respective positions a bit better and being told they were for decentralization.

I think they are getting ready to deliver the same message during the next election campaign, but it is not very consistent with what we see here: "Yes, Canada must be decentralized, the provinces must be given more power, and so on. The provinces are in the best position to decide what is good for their future".

On one of the very last bills in private members' business, we heard a member of this same party say: "No, in the end we are changing course and siding with the Liberals". It is unbelievable how Ottawa can change people in a few years. This seems to be a dynamic that runs through all of the federal machinery. For us, this is a highly centralizing trend, one with no consideration for the provinces. Once again, there is talk of putting in place clauses in favour of domestic trade.

It is common knowledge today that, in the world of politics, the world of economics, and the world in general, people know that this is an era of opening up borders and encouraging the free circulation of goods and services, of capital, or of individuals. When it is good for economic activity, people reach agreement and liberalize trade.

So why would this be done against the will of some people? Why at some point would it be said: "No, some provinces do not agree, but we are still going to impose this decision upon them, because Ottawa has decided it would be a good thing to do"?

How could the federal government decide something is good, and a province decide otherwise? What gives it more right to decide what is good and what is not?

This represents a return to that political paternalism that exists in Ottawa, that supremacy some people want to give this Parliament over the provinces.

This bill is hard to accept. I am certain that this desire for centralization which we often see expressed here will be one of the issues openly discussed in the coming weeks, and will go beyond domestic trade.

I come from a region of Quebec, Témiscamingue, in Abitibi, a magnificent region I would invite you to visit if you have the opportunity. The people in the regions are increasingly anxious for decentralization, and not just toward the provinces. For us, when we in Abitibi-Témiscamingue speak of decentralization, we think of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, not necessarily of decentralization only toward the provinces.

We know, for instance, that all federal regional development agencies have become agencies for political propaganda. They say they are there to help businesses become more competitive. In fact, the provinces already have similar structures. In the regions we are trying to have our own tools. We want to control these tools for economic development and we want to see them used by people, by our businesses where they are needed.

There are regions in Quebec and Canada which specialize in certain fields. In the agricultural sector this varies considerably. Some provinces are much better in the dairy sector and in poultry and egg production, while other provinces are good in beef and there are even different regions within these provinces.

The point is that the decision making power should be much closer to the grassroots. We have natural units and territories that have formed over the years. That is where the real power should be. They are close to the people. It is normal for national policies to be determined in parliaments. We hope that will be the case in the Parliament of Quebec, obviously. Everyone knows we are sovereignists and that we believe the national Parliament should be the

Parliament of Quebec, but we must decentralize to let our regions manage their own development.

So we have a measure that goes in the opposite direction. Ottawa is going to decide how interprovincial trade will be conducted, if it is to implement provisions that promote trade. However, there may be major differences of opinion. What about construction or government procurement?

In fact, there is quite a discussion going on in Quebec around this bill. We have dairy producers challenging the provisions on margarine colouring and butter. This is quite an issue. There are provincial authorities which are also accountable to the voters and as a result under pressure to do something.

I do not understand why people who are profoundly federalist and say they want to decentralize want all this to be decided here in Ottawa. We should leave it up to the provinces. When the provinces think it would be useful, they can conclude bilateral trade agreements. They can also enter into agreements among themselves. When all this has been done, then the government can go ahead but it should not impose such agreements, and this applies to both economic issues and constitutional issues.

The seven and fifty formula, which involves imposing on others, is certainly not the way to build and develop a country. This is what will happen in the coming years to bring us back to the situation that has long existed. Canada and Quebec will be two different entities, but imposing things against the will of one of the two founding peoples will mean political catastrophe for Canada.

I therefore do not recommend this route, except for Canada's own future within its own provinces. If it obviously works for everyone, people will agree at that point.

In conclusion, I simply want to mention as well that it is important to understand Canada's trade dynamic, which is much more along north-south lines now than east-west. So trade is developing more toward the south now. I know there is a certain nostalgia. Some want trade to go along east-west lines, even force it to do so to some extent. This is perhaps the desire underlying all that. We all know that trade is now naturally developing much more between north and south.

I close by expressing my great disappointment at the 180 degree about-face taken by a member of the Reform Party. I can hardly wait to watch these members explain their support for decentralization in the upcoming elections, when the aim of this bill is totally the opposite.