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House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, we are very concerned about the situation the member describes and I would appreciate it if he listened to the reply, because it is important that he tell his constituents and all those living in his riding what to do.

We have set up a transitional job creation fund. We do not believe in passive income support. Our preference now is for active job creation measures, which we have transferred to the Government of Quebec. We are talking about $800 million in active job creation measures and a $95 million transitional job creation fund for Quebec alone, precisely so that people can have real work and not rely on passive income support. That is what our workers want.

ImmigrationOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Carmen Provenzano Liberal Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

A new American law requiring Canadians crossing into the United States to undergo a lengthy and invasive inspection process could have disastrous effects on Sault Ste. Marie tourism and the normal flow of business between our city and its American neighbours.

What steps is the federal government taking to ensure Canadians will continue to have easy access to the United States?

ImmigrationOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Ted McWhinney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the new measures announced by the United States are extremely damaging to Canadian and to American business. They are counter to the initiatives taken by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister to dismantle controls at borders and to promote the free circulation of people and of goods. They are probably counter to NAFTA.

Our objective is to secure the removal of those controls from application at the Canada-U.S. border. We are encouraged already in our efforts by the amendments introduced by a member of the United States Senate and a member of the United States Congress to this effect.

FisheriesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government has made a mess of the Pacific salmon dispute. We have seen four years of mismanagement on this file.

The fisheries minister is from British Columbia. Why was the minister sport fishing in Newfoundland at a time when he should have been dealing with the height of the crisis in British Columbia?

FisheriesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's assertion is incorrect.

The issue, however, of the salmon treaty is an important one. I am disappointed the fisheries critic of the official opposition would choose for his first question such a trivial, irrelevant and inaccurate comment as the one he has made.

FisheriesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the throne speech contains not one word about resolving the Pacific salmon dispute. The government continues to show a lack of commitment to British Columbia.

Will the minister make resolving the treaty by January 31 the number one priority of his department?

FisheriesOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, we are again hearing questioning by Reform members who obviously have not read the throne speech or listened to it.

The fact is that in the throne speech there is a clear commitment to continue to deal with the issue of foreign overfishing.

If the fisheries critic of the official opposition knew something about the problem of the Pacific salmon treaty, he would know that it began because the Alaskans overfished Canadian bound sockeye salmon in northern British Columbia going to the Nass and Skeena Rivers, to the tune of three times what they had done previously under the treaty.

That is what he has not understood and he has not understood that the throne speech addresses it directly.

Standing OrdersRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table a reprinted copy of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons dated June 1997.

Chief Electoral Officer Of CanadaRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table the 1997 report by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 36th general election.

This report is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present three petitions on the same subject that vary a bit.

Each of them calls on the government to reject proposed changes to the Canada Health and Drug Act that would prevent people from taking dietary supplements or herbal goods of their own choice.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, my congratulations on your re-election, Sir.

I have two petitions to present today. The first petition is signed by 30 of my constituents and calls upon Parliament to urge the federal government to join with the provincial governments in making the national highway system upgrading possible beginning in 1997.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is signed by 57 of my constituents.

It calls upon Parliament to enact legislation to amend the Criminal Code, specifically sections 173 and 174, the indecent act and public nudity provisions, to clearly state that a woman exposing her breasts in a public place is an indecent act.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to present a petition on behalf of 57 constituents who live in a co-op housing project on 610 Beatrice Street in my riding.

In part they indicate that the Government of Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation have begun secret negotiations with the province of Ontario, that the people who own and operate co-operatives have been excluded from these negotiations, and that the Government of Ontario has already breached its own agreements with provincially funded housing co-operatives.

They pray that the minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing will immediately suspend negotiations on social housing with the province of Ontario and resume negotiations only if the minister proceeds under publicly declared principles established with the input of the co-operative housing stakeholders.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

September 24th, 1997 / 3:10 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from September 23 consideration of the motion for an address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his speech at the opening of the session.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I rise to open debate on the Speech from the Throne. I wish to begin with some sincere congratulations. First I congratulate you on your re-election to the Chair. I extend best wishes to you on behalf of the members of the official opposition. We wish you patience and wisdom in your deliberations in guiding our deliberations and express the hope that the spirit of democracy expressed on the first day you were elected will continue throughout this Parliament. Congratulations to you, Sir, on behalf of all of us.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

We would like to congratulate the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, and his colleagues on their election.

While we disagree profoundly with the policies of the Bloc, we respect the democratic process that permitted the election of Bloc members to this House. We will continue to try to convince them and their electors that real reform of the federation is possible and preferable to separation from it.

To the hon. member for Halifax and our NDP colleagues we extend congratulations as well. I also ask the leader of the NDP to convey our best wishes to her predecessor, Ms. Audrey McLaughlin. So often members leave the Chamber of their own accord after serving their time with little acknowledgement or recognition. I ask members to simply join in applauding Ms. McLaughlin for her hard work, her compassion and her contribution to Canada.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

I congratulate the leader of the Conservative Party and his colleagues. We exchanged some harsh words during the course of the election campaign. It is perhaps time to bury the hatchet. I will not try to bury it in his head if he will not try to bury it in mine.

I congratulate the Right Hon. Prime Minister. He has had a long career in politics. We were attempting to terminate it a little earlier but we were not quite successful. It is a remarkable achievement to lead a government into a second term. That is no insignificant accomplishment and we want to congratulate him.

Jason Moscovitz on the night of the election said that the member for Sherbrooke won the leaders debate, that Reform won the campaign but that the Prime Minister won the election. We would have preferred his victory to ours.

I would also like to congratulate the prime minister and his gracious wife Aline on their 40th wedding anniversary a few weeks ago. Forty years is a long time and we take inspiration from the fortitude of Madam Chrétien. If she can put up with the prime minister for 40 years I guess we can put up with him for another four.

To all hon. members I would like to extend congratulations on elections and re-elections. I want to pay a welcome and special tribute to our 60 Reform MPs. We have 40 members who are returning and we have 20 new members, including some of the youngest members in the House of Commons, three under 30 years of age. I would like to say to all the younger MPs and to the new MPs that we wish to encourage them. I think they can bring invigoration and a fresh spirit to this institution which sometimes shows signs of age. I would encourage all members to encourage these new members and to give them the respect they deserve. They do represent really the vanguard of the future and we welcome them to this House.

Last of all but not least I want to acknowledge and thank the people of Calgary Southwest. As I have frequently said to them, this seat in my judgment does not belong to me. It does not belong to my party. It is their seat. I consider it an honour to sit in it, occupy it on their behalf and to represent their views.

Turning to more important business, on June 2 over 12 million Canadians participated in the federal election. When the ballots were counted the seats were allocated, whether we like it or not, the way we see them in the House. It seems to me at the outset it would be important to ask ourselves precisely what did Canadians do on June 2 and what message were they endeavouring to send by what they did.

I suggest they were saying four things. First, they reduced the representation of the both the government party and the official opposition of the last Parliament; fewer seats for the Liberals and fewer seats for the Bloc. There is a message in that of dissatisfaction. It was not enough dissatisfaction to upset the government but it was dissatisfaction that the government needs to heed.

Second, the public increased support for three very different parties, the Reform Party, the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives. There is a message in that. The public is searching for different ideas and different personalities to represent different realities in the country. That is one the public wants to see, for better or for worse, reflected in the House. It is incumbent on us to reflect that.

The third is one of the most interesting things. When historians write about the 1997 election I think this is one of the things they will single out. The Canadian people regionalized this Chamber in a way that they have not done for a long time.

If we look at the votes, while Reform got one million votes east of the Manitoba-Ontario border, all our seats are in the west. The Bloc is exclusively a Quebec party. Even within Quebec its vote is regionalized primarily in the area east of Montreal. The NDP is divided between members in Atlantic Canada, in the west, but with no seats at all in central Canada. The Progressive Conservatives have 90 per cent of their seats east of Ontario, with a majority in Atlantic Canada. While the Conservatives will continue to represent themselves as a national party in the House they are in essence an Atlantic party with a Quebec contingent.

For the government of course two-thirds of its seats are in Ontario, with half of the remainder in Quebec. While in theory it too is a national party, or claims to be a national party, in fact in the House it is an Ontario party with a Quebec contingent.

If there is a lesson in this, it is that this country continues to pay a price for failing to reform the upper house. In Germany, Australia, the United States and in other big federations of the world regional interests are expressed in their federal arenas through an effective upper chamber. When you do not have that one of the consequences is a regionalization of your lower house.

Those who think regionalization of this House is a backward step or something that will hurt national unity should join the ranks of those who demand an effective upper chamber to represent regional interests.

The fourth thing that Canadians did in 1997 was allow a 10 year old federal party, with roots in the west and proud of it, and with aspirations to become a truly national party, to occupy the role of official opposition and to become the alternative to the government.

As we begin that new role and analyse the Speech from the Throne, we owe it to the public to share with it how we see this role being discharged.

We see ourselves as having a twofold mandate. The first is to hold the government accountable, to commend it on actions which we consider in the national interests but to criticize it on actions which we consider not to be in the national interests. Second, we see our role as one of proposing constructive alternatives consistent with the big themes of equality, accountability and fiscal responsibility on which our members were elected.

In relation to the Speech from the Throne I would like to perform these two functions. I want to commend the government where it deserves commendation. We want to criticize the features of the speech which we consider inadequate. Most important, we want to present constructive alternatives where we see those deficiencies.

As the Speech from the Throne remarked, the 36th Parliament of Canada is a transition Parliament. It is the last Parliament of the 20th century and the first of the 21st century. Therefore people can ask in which direction it is going to look. Is it going to continually look back over its shoulder at old ideas and concepts from the past or is it going to squarely face the future?

The throne speech professes to look ahead. It is important that we look at the reality behind the words.

I see a great historical and political analogy between the end of the 19th century politically and the end of the 20th century. By the end of the 19th century the governing party, the Conservative Party, had run out of leadership, ideas and energy. It had run out of steam.

Macdonald, the guiding light, was gone. The lesser lights, though well meaning, who took his place were unable to build on the foundation which he had laid. Once new ideas, such as the federal union, the national policy or the transcontinental railway, were by that point in time the status quo. As J. Arthur Lower the historian put it, the once vital era of Macdonald sputtered to a dreary conclusion after the death of its guiding spirit.

While an exhausted government was still running the country, Canada itself was bursting with the new ideas, new energies and new potentials of the 20th century, and while the government was mired in the past, the people started to seek ways and means to express their frustrations with a government whose time had past. With their desire to see new ideas expressed in the federal arena they started to search for new personalities and new groups. The personality they settled on was Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the new group of MPs around him.

The throne speech quotes Sir Wilfrid Laurier. I would like to quote Sir Wilfrid Laurier back to the government. He said about the government of the day's unwillingness to face realities: “A true patriot does not, like the ostrich, hide his head in the sand and ignore the facts, but he looks the real situation of the country in the face”.

He was talking about fiscal realities. He described Canada not as a country led and inspired by government policy but as a young giant shackled and manacled by government policy.

He said about the Conservative government which was re-elected in 1891 but with a reduced majority: “Another such victory and the government is undone”.

He said about the need for a fresh start: “I say that the time has come for gentlemen on the other side to cease their boasting and self-glorification and for the people of the country to open their eyes and see that a new departure must be made from the policy which has been followed for the last 10 years. I have said that a change has become absolutely necessary to the well-being of the country”.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier on the weakness of the previous government's legislative program in a debate on the speech from the throne, precisely like this, said: “The speech from the throne has been for some years past a very dry skeleton. This year it is drier than ever and the few bones that are in it rattle together with an ominous sound”.

I see a striking parallel between the end of the 19th century politically and the end of the 20th. The once great Liberal Party is running out of steam. The leading lights, Laurier, King, Trudeau, gone. Once new ideas, constitutional change, unity through special status, the welfare state as a way to care for people, prosperity through government spending; all of those ideas are either passé or hopelessly out of date.

Canada outside of Parliament is brimming with ideas, excitement, ways to solve problems, ideas that see little reflection in the representations of the government or in the speech from the throne. I suggest that the current government, like the old Tories that followed Macdonald's day, is mired in the past and out of touch with reality.

The throne speech, despite forward looking language, offers no brilliant illumination of the horizon of the new millennium. There is no connection to the forces of innovation and change and reform that are at large in the country which if harnessed to national policy will help propel Canada into the 21st century with vigour and optimism.

I say in applying glorious analogy to this throne speech, it is a dry bone speech lacking in the flesh and blood and muscle and sinew and heart and soul required to inspire Canadians for the 21st century.

I would apply the words exactly: “The speech from the throne has been for some years a very dry skeleton. This year is drier than ever and the few bones that are in it rattle together with an ominous sound”.

With this sobering historical parallel and Laurier's analogy before us let us analyse the government's speech from the throne. We want to examine the dry bones. We want to give credit where credit is due. As any dog will tell you, a dry bone is better than no bone at all.

Where deficiencies exist what we will endeavour to do is not simply to be critical but to offer new ideas that can perhaps turn this dry bones throne speech into something vibrant and new and appropriate to leading the country into the 21st century.

Let me look first at the economy. The government proposes little with respect to the economy. It mentions none of the resource sectors. It mentions nothing about the manufacturing sector. It does mention investing in knowledge and creativity.

We find all the government's references to high technology tiresome because the rhetoric is there and yet we cannot even get electronic voting in this House. Let us start practising high tech if we believe in high tech and not just talking about it.

The principal argument in the government's throne speech with respect to facilitating economic recovery is that it now has the deficit under control. When we first came here in 1993 our analysis was that the federal financial vehicle had four flat tires. One of them was the deficit, one was that spending was out of control, one was the debt out of control, the other was taxes out of control.

The government has partially fixed one of those flat tires, and we give it credit for doing that. We disagree with the way it was done. We do not think the timetable was right but at least one of those tires is now getting close to being in good shape.

The question is what to do about the other three tires. In the speech from the throne there is virtually little or nothing on the subject of how to fix the problem of the debt and how to fix the problem of excessive taxation and how to ensure that future spending will not get out of control the way it did in the past.

We ask where are the commitments in this speech from the throne to debt reduction targets and tax reduction targets? Where are the principles that will guide us on these issues? Does the government have a view on what is the optimal size of government, on what is the optimal revenue that it should be taking out of the economy? Does it have a view on what is the optimal debt size for a government of this nature in this type of a country? The government may say wait for the budget, but the government had no hesitation at all about naming 29 measures for spending more money with absolutely nothing on these other great questions.

My colleague, the member for Medicine Hat, has been circulating a discussion paper entitled “Beyond a Balanced Budget”. What he is finding and what we have found for the last three years is that there are all kinds of ideas out there in the country, with the think tanks, with the business people who have had to rationalize these problems within their companies or they would go under, with younger Canadians who have been thinking about these things because it is their future that is jeopardized. The tragedy is that very little of that thinking is seen at all in the government's program or in the speech from the throne.

My colleagues in their discussion of the speech from the throne and in legislation that comes before this House will endeavour to bring that muscle, sinew, tissue, spirit and body required to add some substance to the dry bones on economic recovery contained in the throne speech.

Let me talk for a moment about the social safety net. The government to its credit acknowledges that the social safety net is frayed, that we are in trouble with respect to health care, with respect to pensions, with respect to child poverty and in some respects with regard to education. We agree with that assessment. However, in the throne speech there is only dry bones, administrative tinkering to deal with the problems of these programs.

The social safety net in our judgment requires a new approach. It requires acknowledgement that the frontline caregivers in this country, mothers, fathers, families, and services given by governments closer to the people are the elements of social safety nets that need to be strengthened by government policy. Where is the recognition in the speech from the throne that many government initiated social programs, no matter how well meaning they would be, are simply no longer affordable, no longer workable and no longer even supported by the clients that they were intended to serve.

The speech from the throne refers to children but it seems to refer to children as if they were disembodied spirits not connected in any way, shape or form with families. In fact they are in most cases connected with families, many of them in desperate straits. That family is the most important primary caregiver in our judgment and if you want to do something for social policy, do something for the family.

The hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill and other of our colleagues will be advancing some new principles and ideas for real social reform in the days ahead. We do not just criticize the government's attempts to patch up a creaking welfare state. We think that there are new ideas that involve personalizing, decentralizing and localizing social service delivery that can offer more hope to people in the future. That will be our contribution to this throne speech debate in the area of social reform.

With respect to criminal justice, we look at the speech from the throne and we ask what happened to the new justice minister's new tough agenda on criminal justice that was announced in August. She was going to do something to tighten up the Young Offenders Act. She was going to have sentencing reform. She was going to have parole reform. Yet there is absolutely nothing on that in the speech from the throne at all. The one sentencing measure actually made sentencing easier rather than tougher.

Where is the response to the needs of victims of crime? I think of the families of the victims of Clifford Olson and what they have endured as a result of the faint hope clause. Did the government not feel any twinge of conscience in seeing those people watch Clifford Olson parade passed the cameras on his way to a parole hearing? Our hearts go out to them. I feel like apologizing to them on behalf of at least part of this Parliament for our inability to prevent them from suffering the pain that they did.

Where is the government's response to families that suffer and are at risk because of violence and because of defects in the Young Offenders Act, defects in the parole system, defects in the court system and defects in the penal system?

I think of the member for Surrey North, himself a victim of crime with the murder of his son, and how he has struggled and fought to get to this House so he could represent victims. When it comes to the speech from the throne, this being the passion of his political life, what does he see? He sees a little section with three or four paragraphs in it. It would have been better, Mr. Prime Minister, to have not had that section in the speech than to have it there with such a bare bones agenda.

My colleagues, particularly the member for Crowfoot and others interested in criminal justice reform on the Reform side, will endeavour to remedy this deficiency in the government's legislative program by proposing reforms, particularly those that put the rights of victims ahead of anything else.

With respect to accountability, members who were here in 1993 will remember that the throne speech referred on numerous occasions to integrity, to ethics, to ethics commissioners, to guidelines for ministers, to accountability. We cannot help but notice in this year's throne speech that element is completely missing.

In no way does the government accept responsibility for political interference with the Somalia inquiry. In no way does it acknowledge its responsibilities in that area and agree to implement the recommendations of that aborted inquiry.

We see no acceptance of responsibility by the government in stonewalling the Krever inquiry. It was all for that inquiry as long as it was looking into the misdeeds of the Tory government. As soon as it started to get back to the period before that, the government stonewalled the inquiry.

Perhaps most serious of all is that we see nothing in the throne speech which would make ministers more accountable to this House and politicians generally more accountable to the people of Canada. If you go out not just in this country but in virtually every country in the world, there is a current running around ordinary people demanding a greater degree of accountability from their politicians. This is not just a phenomenon in Canada. It is a phenomenon in eastern Europe. It is a phenomenon in China. It is a phenomenon in Asia. It is a worldwide phenomenon: democratic revolution from the bottom up.

Yet there is not a flicker of recognition in the speech from the throne of that desire for accountability, not even a willingness to look at some of the mechanisms that can be used to hold people more accountable: greater use of referenda mechanisms; greater use of citizens initiatives; treating petitions with respect instead of parading them here in the House and storing them in the basement the next day never to see light again.

In speaking on the speech from the throne, one of the things that we will endeavour to add to the non-existent skeleton of public accountability is a proposal for making this chamber and its members, not just ourselves but all members, more accountable to the people whom we serve.

Lastly I want to turn to the never ending subject of national unity. I note that the government has made some modest changes in its approach to national unity, small steps I suggest, but in the right direction.

In 1995 prior to the last referendum the government was completely unwilling to challenge the legality of a unilateral secession. It was unwilling to address with frankness and clarity the practical, hard questions that arise when some province decides to secede; issues like boundaries, debt allocation, what happens to minorities who do not want to remain in the seceding province, et cetera. Not only did the government not have that on its agenda, but it castigated as traitors to the unity effort those who insisted such questions be dealt with and that such consequences be communicated to the people of Quebec.

Until recently the government has also been putting all its unity eggs in one basket, a basket with a hole in it. It has been relying on the distinct society clause to move public opinion in Quebec, despite the fact that that has been tried before and despite the lack of support elsewhere in the country for that approach. That was the government's position in 1995. As I say, we see now some modest changes.

The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, to his credit, is starting to address the negative consequences of secession and we commend his efforts.

The government appears to be accepting some advice from the premiers, although we question this based on the Prime Minister's replies in question period today. However, we thought there was some movement in accepting the inadequacies of the distinct society clause and accepting the premiers' view that the language has to be changed and the concept has to be changed. The concept should be changed by marrying it to the principle of equality and making crystal clear that any recognition of uniqueness in Quebec or elsewhere, a uniqueness that we applaud, will not confer on one province powers not conferred on another.

These changes are far too small. They do not add up to a fresh vigorous vision or federalist initiative to unite the country for the 21st century. They are just a skeleton, dry bones rattling against each other. If the government desires to clothe the skeleton of its national unity strategy with real spirit, substance and muscle, I would urge it to start accepting more substantive proposals from other quarters beginning with the premiers. Let me mention what some of these would be.

The section in the throne speech on unity is extremely brief. It contains only one paragraph recognizing the work of the premiers in Calgary on September 14. The paragraph reads:

The government will work closely with provincial and territorial governments to further advance the progress made by nine premiers and the territorial leaders last week in Calgary toward the full recognition of the diversity inherent in the federation, including the unique character of Quebec society.

Members who have read the premiers' declaration from Calgary will note the selective editing in the speech from the throne. It quotes what the premiers said about diversity and uniqueness. We have no quarrel with that. However, it completely ignores what they said about equality of citizens and provinces, and it completely ignores the subject to which they devoted three-quarters of their communique, namely a process to involve the public at the front end of the consideration of any proposals having to do with national unity.

The official opposition urges the federal government to pay more attention to what premiers and Reformers have said on both equality and on public participation.

The premiers' framework of principles for discussion mentioned equality five times. In the throne speech the government uses a hundred adjectives to describe Canada but it does not make one single mention of the equality of citizens and provinces.

If the government thinks it can develop a unity position that ignores the principle of equality of citizens and provinces and more importantly, ignores practical measures to make it workable in the real world, which involves getting equality into the exercise of the federal spending and taxing powers, if the government thinks it can ignore that principle, it will be designing a unity position that will not be acceptable to millions of Canadians. Why take that chance on the unity issue?

We also say if we take the premiers seriously that the government should develop a deeper commitment to public consultation on unity initiatives. It could start by doing two things. It could start by assuring this House that it will respect the output of the public consultations the premiers are initiating in their provinces even if it does not agree with all the points that are raised.

More particularly, the government will answer definitively the question asked today by the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona: What is its role going to be in ensuring that unity proposals developed in the rest of the country are heard and considered in the province of Quebec?

Lack of meaningful public involvement was the single greatest weakness of past constitutional efforts. It marred the 1982 Constitution. It was not just some Quebec politicians who were left out of the 1982 Constitution, it was the public who were left out. It marred Meech. It was fatal to Meech.

Then there was the consultation that was done in Charlottetown. The public's view was that it was after the fact consultation. Meech was just packaged up in a slightly different form. Spicer went out across the country and came up with dozens and dozens of recommendations, not one of which really found its way into the Charlottetown accord.

We Canadians, in pursuit of national unity, have been like a family packed into the family car trying to get to a destination called united Canada. But so far the only people who get to drive the car are old line politicians and leaders. Canadians are jammed in the back asking “Are we getting to united Canada yet? Are we getting to a united Canada?”.

But what has been our experience? For a number of years we let Mr. Trudeau drive the car. Everyone remembers Trudeau, one hand on the wheel—he was a great cavalier driver—and the other hand out the window giving the finger to Alberta and other places. We forgive him in retrospect. Canadians in the back are asking “Have we got to a united Canada?” And what did Trudeau say? He said “We have not got there but it just over constitution hill. Get to constitution hill and we will have a united Canada.” We got to constitution hill. We got the 1982 Constitution and we were not at united Canada. In fact Levesque was getting car sick in the back and tried kick out the window.

Then we got another driver, Prime Minister Mulroney. Canadians in the back were asking “Are we at a united Canada yet?” And he said “No, but it is just over there by Meech Lake.” So we go to Meech Lake and we are not at united Canada. He said “No, it is at Charlottetown.” We go to Charlottetown and we are not at united Canada yet.

A little later our current Prime Minister gets to drive the car. He drives very, very slowly. And we are in the back asking “Are we at united Canada? Mr. Prime Minister, are we there yet? Are we there yet?” But there is no answer. He is dozing at the wheel and we almost went into the ditch at the referendum.

The distinguishing characteristic of all these drivers, and every male member of the House can identify with this, they never stop to ask instructions about how to drive.

We are saying that if we stop to ask instructions that the public has good sense of where a united Canada lies. That is why I plead with the Prime Minister to give greater weight to public consultation. If you come up with some new initiative on uniting Canada, certainly the House has to look at it and give it due deliberation. What is even more important is that the public gets a kick at the cat at the front end because if they do not they are going to reject whatever package we come up with no matter how well it is conceived.

What are some of the other things that maybe should be in a national unity initiative that really address where the public's mind is at? I suggest one of the other ingredients which the premiers are starting to talk about is a rebalancing of the powers and also institutional change.

We had a meeting of our little caucus unity team just this week. If we had been writing the speech from the throne and wanted to demonstrate to Canadians that we had some substances behind our unity proposals, what would have been in our legislative package that might have sent that signal? I have a list two pages long. We would have had a bill expressly recognizing equality of citizens of provinces and applying that principle to the exercise of the federal spending and taxation power. Some day in the House I would like to discuss in detail the inequality that exists in the country with respect to the exercise of the federal spending and taxing powers.

We would have had a bill with statutory adjustments respecting provincial jurisdiction over natural resources, respecting provincial jurisdiction over worker training, respecting provincial jurisdiction over social services, respecting provincial jurisdiction over housing, respecting provincial jurisdiction over tourism. We do not regard, nor do most of the provinces regard, mere administrative agreements which vary from province to province and do not exist in half of the provinces, as being anywhere near recognition of provincial responsibility in these areas.

We would enact bills to strengthen the economic and Canadian union. Where is the bill from the government to establish a mechanism to beat down internal barriers to trade? This House has the power to pass that bill whether the provinces agree with it or not.

Where is an act to facilitate the development of national standards? The federal contribution to the total health care bill is now less than 10 per cent. It will be technically and economically unfeasible for the junior partner in health care to dictate standards in the way it did in the past. That does not mean we will not have national standards or that people do not want them, but we need a new mechanism for the federal government to facilitate national standards for interprovincial agreement.

I look at the speech from the throne and if I were an aboriginal person I would not pick it up. There is nothing in it that really addresses the problems of aboriginal people. Where is the bill that starts to decentralize and ultimately do away with the department of Indian affairs and transfers functions and funding to local aboriginal governments? Where is the parallel bill? They will never get that bill accepted even by rank and file aboriginal people unless there is a parallel bill establishing mechanisms for financial accountability and democratic accountability on reserves.

Where are the bills and motions to strengthen the regional sensitivity and accountability of national institutions? Where is the motion in the House to amend the standing orders so that the defeat of a government motion does not result in the defeat of the government unless specifically designated a vote of non-confidence? That would allow more regional representation in this House than it has ever enjoyed.

Where is a non-constitutional Senate reform amendment, at least to make the place elected? Where is the constitutional resolution to at least start the Senate reform process? Where is representation by population in this House? Where is the bill to get that? If the upper House was regionalized we could have genuine representation by population in this House and it would be different in the upper House.

Where is the bill to provide for constituent assemblies if and when this country ever decides to completely write its Constitution? This House is supposed to be looking ahead. We cannot wait until the day when Canadians finally decide they want to rewrite the Constitution to start setting the mechanism up. We should set the mechanisms up in advance. Two mechanisms are needed. One is a bill for constituent assemblies, the other is an ironclad guarantee of constitutional referenda at the end of the day.

I suggest to the government that if it had brought in a package of those types of proposals, or even the promise of bringing them, it would add up to something. They add up to a Canada that respects uniqueness. They add up to a Canada that respects equality. They add up to a Canada that has the institutional arrangements to make that practical. They add up to a new division of powers for the 21st century. There is none of that in this speech from the throne.

To add breadth and depth to national unity strategies we ask where are the policy initiatives to address the big regional concerns that are so apparent in this House? If the federal government had been truly consulting Canadians it would be acutely aware of our regional differences. I said at the outset that this House more accurately expresses some of those regional differences than many House have in the past.

I was frankly surprised when I first opened the speech from the throne that some of the big headings were not the regional interests of the country. Where in the speech from the throne is the new Atlantic Canadian economic initiative, one that recognizes that the approaches of the past, the subsidies and handouts and that type of thing, are simply not working? Where is the economic initiative that uses the new tools of expanding trade, of beating down internal barriers to trade, of expanding trade with New England and of making Atlantic Canada the gateway to European trade with the American community? Where is the proposal for public-private partnerships to build roads and short line railways and container ports? There is nothing in this speech about the new ideas that are out there and nothing related to Atlantic Canada.

I ask where is the new vision for Quebec, the troisième voie? In this throne speech there is no fresh vision for Quebec.

There is no third option for Quebec. There is no option between separation and the federalism we have today. There is nothing but the revamping of the division of powers under way at present. There is no third option which would allow a true reform of the federation by rebalancing powers.

With all the new Ontario members in this House, surely in caucus they must have been looking for an open invitation from the federal government to develop a co-ordinated fiscal policy to sustain the economic recovery in Ontario. We simply cannot have the biggest government in the country, this government, and the government of the biggest province in the country, Ontario, pursuing fiscal policies that are either going in opposite directions or at 90° to one another. You could not think of a way to hinder economic recovery better than that. You cannot have Ontario with the priority of tax relief and the federal government having the priority to spend. The danger to the investor is he sees that whatever tax relief Ontario gives, the federal government will move in to that tax room and the taxpayer will never see it.

What about the north, our last frontier, demographically and ecologically? There is no recognition of the north, no vision of the north. Even Diefenbaker had a vision of the north. He did not have much substance but he tried to get a vision of the north. The north is completely neglected, left as a distant ward of the federal government, ignored or forgotten.

I left the best for the last, the west. I ask the government members to listen for a moment. Where is the acknowledgement and the recognition of the new west and what it brings to Canada's 21st century? There is a new influence for good, for prosperity and for unity emerging in this country. It is an influence whose strength and vitality in the 21st century is like that of Atlantic Canada in the 19th century and Quebec and Ontario in the 20th century. It is the growing influence of the new west, that portion of our country that stretches from western Ontario across the vast prairies and woodlands of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, into the plains and foothills of Alberta, across the mighty Rockies to the Pacific coast of the great province of British Columbia.

The new west is built on the principle of freedom of enterprise, fiscal responsibility, compassion for the young, the old, the sick and the poor, equality of citizens and provinces and democracy that reflects the common sense of the common people.

The new west is exercising new muscles and energy, not simply to get its old grievances addressed, but by offering a new source of hope and energy to unify our country and strengthen our economy.

Reform is the principal spokesperson for the new west in the federal Parliament. Those who think that Reform is simply a protest party or that the new political energy in the west is simply protest are 15 years behind the times. The west can take care of its own regional grievances. The west believes that it can compete with the Americans and beat them two times out of three if it is on a level playing field. It demonstrates it every day.

Pacific rim trade is now twice Atlantic rim trade. Its possibilities are infinite. The greatest single private sector job creation machine is operating today in the city of Calgary. It is no longer based on oil and gas. It is an example that can be multiplied in other parts of country. The west is ready to bring those ideas and energies to the national scene, not simply to advance its interests, not to protect its interests, but to make a contribution to the new Canada.

This throne speech fails to speak to that spirit in the west. It fails to try to harness that substance to the national interest and thus misses a golden opportunity at the end of the 20th century to harness energy and vigour to the task of uniting our country and making our economy strong.

I conclude by commenting on the the dry bones throne speech once again. Perhaps some would say that dry bones are enough. I hear an hon. member saying that it is, but there are others among us who are not satisfied. There are those of us who want something bigger, deeper, fuller and wider; who want tissue, muscle, heart, spirit and soul added to those bones; who want to exit the 20th century with a baying, not with a whimper. This throne speech is a whimper.

I do not believe the government is up to that challenge but prove me wrong if I am wrong. The challenge to other members of this House, and I do not just say Reform members, I say the challenge to other members in this House, including some of the government backbenchers who know that what I am saying is true, our challenge is that what realities the government has failed to recognize, let us recognize. What sources the government has failed to consult, let us consult. What voices the government has failed to hear, let us speak for them. What values the government has failed to represent, let us represent. What ideas the government has failed to acknowledge, let us pursue. What policies the government has failed to develop, let us propose. What hope the government has failed to give, let us inspire so that the 21st century does in truth belong to Canada.

To sum up, I move:

That the following words be added to the address: “and this House regrets that your government is proposing a legislative program that is mired in the past, out of touch with the present, and incapable of leading Canadians with foresight and vigour into the 21st century”.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

The Speaker

This is an opposition amendment to the speech from the throne moved by the Leader of the Opposition.