moved that Bill C-237, an act to provide for a national referendum to authorize the Government of Canada to negotiate terms of separation with a province that has voted for separation from Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, today I am pleased to speak in support of my private member's Bill C-237 which provides for a national referendum authorizing the government to negotiate terms of separation with a province that has voted to leave Canada.
Because the bill applies to any province voting to separate from Canada, today I want to speak about both Quebec and my home province of British Columbia. I believe that Senator Pat Carney was not wrong. There is a growing resentment in B.C. against the way central Canada runs this country, primarily to the benefit of central Canada.
Economic times are tougher now in B.C. than they have been in recent memory. One of the biggest contributors to these tough economic times is not the so-called Asian flu but Ottawa itself, a fact I will discuss this morning. However, regardless of which province might want to separate from Canada, certain conditions must apply.
My private member's Bill C-237 would set conditions which must be met before the federal government can negotiate with any province voting to separate. Because Canada is a democracy, which means ruled by the people, the first condition must be to ensure that separation really is the will of the majority.
My bill requires parliament to determine several conditions, including whether advance advertising for a provincial separation referendum as well as the ballots themselves state in both official languages that a yes vote means becoming a foreign state, losing representation in parliament, losing Canadian citizenship and passport and losing the unrestricted right to enter, travel and work in Canada.
My bill challenges separatists to follow some rules. If they do, my bill requires Canada to hold a national binding referendum authorizing Canada to negotiate. It does not spell out what would have to be negotiated, but I presume it would include such things as that province's share of the federal debt, rights of way for highways, power lines, pipelines, cables, payment of future pensions, cost of transferring permanent buildings and return of portable assets like military equipment.
This bill would establish a framework in which both the people of a province voting to separate and all Canadians could have a say in the future of our country. It would also provide a basis in law by which everybody would know what is expected, including separatists, federalists and the international community.
This legislation deals with one of the most difficult aspects of separation, namely, what must be done about people in the province who do not wish to leave Canada. This government has stated in the past that Indian bands that vote to remain in Canada would have their wishes respected. Why would the same rights not be extended to other areas where people vote to remain in Canada? After all, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If Canada can be broken into pieces so can a province.
Therefore, my bill proposes that a referendum on separating from Canada should be decided according to provincial and electoral district. It requires that only those districts with a majority of votes to separate would be allowed to leave Canada. Some people will say that this is ridiculous, but I find it no more ridiculous to suggest, for example, that the Montreal region of Quebec might want to stay in Canada while the Saguenay region voted to leave or to say that the Victoria and Vancouver areas of B.C. might want to stay in Canada while the interior and northern regions voted to leave than it is to say that we can rip Canada apart, allowing Quebec to leave while Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories remain in Canada.
Will this be easy? No, of course not. Separating parts of Canada or parts of a province to become a foreign country will be extremely difficult. People who talk about separating have to know that in advance. I repeat that if the popular will can break up a country then the popular will can break up a province. After all, Quebec separatists claim to be a nation. They claim to be a country, so how can breaking up Quebec be any different than breaking up Canada? I want to emphasize that as a grassroots party Reform is well aware that only a small percentage of Canadians, whether inside or outside Quebec, want to see Quebec separate from Canada.
There was a statement concerning Quebec in the 1991 Reform Party green book which includes the following comment: “Our desire is to have a New Quebec as an equal and fully participating province in a New Canada”. At that time Reformers were trying to change the Quebec question from: “Do you want to leave Old Canada?” to: “Do you want to be a unique, equal and fully participating province in a New Canada?”
The statement concluded:
Reformers believe that the more the people of Quebec and the people of the rest of Canada are involved in defining the New Quebec and the New Canada, the higher will be the probability that the two visions can be reconciled. This is because ordinary people everywhere want more or less the same things for themselves and their children—a safe environment, good jobs with good incomes, high-quality education and health services, respect for their personal values and cultural heritage, and the freedom to live their lives in peace and dignity.
I personally believe that most people in Quebec as well as those in the rest of Canada want those same things today, but politicians and governments which do not listen to the people keep getting in the people's way. One of the most outrageous topics on which politicians do not listen to everyday Canadians is the question of unsettled native land claims.
Today for the people of British Columbia, especially people in rural ridings like my riding of Okanagan—Shuswap, we see natural resource jobs grinding to a halt. For example, B.C. has half the mining jobs it had 10 years ago. Mining investment in British Columbia is too low to replace existing reserves. According to a letter from a group of mine managers, one of the biggest reasons for this sharp decline in mining jobs in B.C. is uncertain land title and uncertain mineral tenure.
Nobody is going to invest millions of dollars in a mining investment without a certain answer to one basic question: Exactly who is the landlord?
The same question hurts the forest industry. The same question hurts the aquaculture industry.
According to the Constitution, land falls under provincial jurisdiction. Nevertheless, federal policies require that questions about aboriginal title to land be settled by the supreme court. Many in B.C. say it is time for B.C. to demand that the highest provincial court must be the court to decide questions of land rather than the supreme court.
The federal government seems totally oblivious to the enormous impact which the Delgamuukw decision of December 1997 has had on B.C., where 110% of its land mass is claimed by conflicting Indian bands, but the entire population lives on about 5% of the land.
Moreover, the entire provincial economy is based on natural resource jobs which are being choked off by unsettled land claims combined with increased expectations raised by Ottawa politicians and the supreme court.
When B.C. joined Confederation, one condition laid down was that it must set aside land for Indians in the form of Indian reserves. Setting aside those Indian reserves fulfilled all of B.C.'s responsibility to the Indians living there according to the terms of union.
However, Ottawa expects the people of B.C. to bear enormous additional costs in settling native land claims. Currently on the table are 50 treaties, with the Nisga'a treaty widely seen as the prototype for the others.
Ottawa is now expecting the people of B.C. to supply 20% of the cash costs and 100% of land treaty settlements.
A couple of summers ago my wife and I had the opportunity to visit with the Nisga'a and to talk with them firsthand. We saw the land surrounding the Nass River inland from Prince Rupert, which will form the land settlement of 1,930 square kilometres, plus $190 million in cash, $59 million for interest or inflation, another $122 million for their new highway, $100 million to compensate commercial interests like forestry, fishermen and big game guides for loss of their tenures, $21 million for the Nisga'a commercial fishery and unspecified millions to underwrite the cost of Nisga'a self-government.
Additionally, other forest companies in B.C. pay substantial amounts to the forest renewal fund from which the Nisga'a already receive about $2 million a year to reforest their lands. Funding will continue after the treaty but the Nisga'a will not have to contribute.
What will the taxpayers of B.C. and Canada get in return for this extremely generous settlement? No extinguishment of aboriginal title and a statement that the treaty is not final.
Yet this government, and this Prime Minister in particular, have said that the costs of about $2 billion to compensate all victims of hepatitis C from tainted blood are so huge that they threaten the very future of medicare. Fifty unsettled B.C. native land claims times $2 billion apiece is 50 times as great an amount as that for those additional hepatitis C victims.
This government figures that the land claims are okay while the law-abiding citizens who get sick after receiving tainted blood must go to court to try to get some help. Why the double standard? Does anybody remember that there are as many additional B.C. treaties from bands which have not started the long process of negotiation?
To a westerner like myself it is crystal clear. Central Canada, namely the two provinces of Ontario and Quebec, exercise absolute power and control over this country because of their population numbers and the total ineffectiveness of today's unelected and unaccountable Senate.
Let me provide a short list of other major offences Ottawa has delivered to B.C. For example, the softwood lumber deal was a poor substitute in accepting quotas and tariffs for lumber going to the U.S. despite the NAFTA. The first big hole is now obvious in new tariffs and quotas being imposed on us by the U.S. on pre-drilled softwood.
Another example is that Bill C-68 has been forced upon us regardless of the important role of rifles and shotguns in the rural western lifestyle.
Endangered species legislation was put forward and no doubt will come again soon. It makes little or no effort to compensate farmers and ranchers, the forest and mining industries for the cost of protecting species.
Canadian Forces base Chilliwack was closed. It was the only land force base in the most earthquake prone region in Canada with a significant population, including millions of international tourists each year. An official language policy that ignores freedom of speech has forced a great cost in British Columbia where the most common language after English is Chinese although in my riding it is German.
B.C. gets no protection from an immigration department that imports literally thousands of criminals into British Columbia who prey upon law abiding citizens while our own MPs hear accusations of bribery interfering with legitimate immigration.
The government has disbanded the ports police throwing costs into Vancouver area municipalities and making it easier than ever for illegal drugs and weapons to enter B.C. Taxes to support the so-called have not provinces have helped drive businesses out of B.C. including high taxes on gasoline. As for fishery policy one could easily devote more than one speech to the federal idiocy of a race based aboriginal fishery with no help to the salmon negotiations with the U.S.
This is the short list of reasons why I think it is possible my own home province of British Columbia may start talking seriously as Quebec has done about separating from the rest of Canada.
Up until now B.C. has not played the separatist game of trying to get special favours or it will leave. On the contrary western Canada voted for the Reform Party to make changes inside the system. However many people are becoming fed up with how little the government respects its commitments to get out of provincial jurisdiction and to rebalance the federation so there would be no need for any province to separate.
Therefore we need new rules in place to govern how separatism could take place so that everyone understands them. This is a must. This uncertainty has to end.
I will summarize at the end of the hour.