Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity of my first speech of the second session of the 36th legislature to greet the people of Beauharnois—Salaberry and to let them know that I intend to continue to represent them in this House with dignity and to behave in a manner that is fully respectful of Parliament and its members. I reiterate my commitment to continue to serve the public within this institution, a service which gives a deep and sincere meaning to my political commitment.
I would also like to greet my landlady here in the federal capital region, Mrs. Anne Allard, who has honoured me today with her presence in the Opposition gallery.
I was not much impressed by the Speech from the Throne, and even less impressed by the address in reply given yesterday by the Prime Minister. What I find objectionable in these speeches is not so much their ceremonious nature but, rather, their pretentiousness.
There is something unhealthy about a speech in which the government keeps repeating that Canada is the best country, that it is the envy of the whole world and that others dream of a country like ours. The fact is that such pretentiousness cannot hide the insecurity that characterizes this country, that compels it to make an abusive use of its flag and symbols to create an identity that it is sorely lacking.
Such insecurity probably explains why the Prime Minister likes to refer to Canada as a multicultural, postnational society, while trying to present his government as a national government.
It is not the first such paradox from the Prime Minister. This speech is indeed a paradox, given that a supposedly national government is opting for a way which, for Canada, is increasingly less respectful of federalism, an allegedly national government that is delivering, at least as regards Quebec, an increasingly less coherent speech.
Incidentally, is it not strange that, following the Mont-Tremblant conference on federalism and globalization—in which my colleagues and myself were, as can be expected, very pleased to participate—the word “federalism” is nowhere to be found in the throne speech, nor is the term “federation”, and the adjective “federal” is used only four times?
By contrast, the speech refers to national will, national strategy, national program, national child benefit, national action plan on skills and learning, national health system, national accord with the voluntary sector, and so on.
So, after the great federalist statements made in Mont-Tremblant, here we have the national ambitions in Ottawa. In Mont-Tremblant, Bloc Quebecois members were sovereignists and they still are, here in Ottawa.
National ambitions may seem quite legitimate to Canadians who want the federal government to take on a greater role in the areas of family policy, education, health, or in the voluntary sector.
As far as Quebecers are concerned, the jurisdiction of the National Assembly and of the Government of Quebec should not be limited by such intrusions and by such ambitions, because these ambitions become intrusions. Each successive government in Quebec has challenged the federal government's right to invade Quebec's areas of jurisdiction, by using its exorbitant spending power.
In this regard, the Speech from the Throne, like the latest budget speech, puts the framework agreement on social union at the centre of its national strategy, an agreement that incorporates the national will of the Liberal government.
It should no doubt be mentioned that Quebec did not sign the agreement, because the Speech from the Throne does not mention Quebec's opposition and treats Quebec's objection as empty. According to the throne speech, the agreement is, and I quote `?a commitment by governments to work together for Canadians”. It calls for “governments to report publicly on the effectiveness of social programs”. It also commits “governments to eliminating barriers that unjustifiably impede the mobility of citizens within Canada”.
But what does it matter, the framework agreement on social union, like the Constitution Act, 1982, before it, which Quebecers objected to and continue to do so, is to structure Canada of tomorrow, to provide it with a national government, to focus on health care, post-secondary education and social services.
The Bloc Quebecois will defend the interests of Quebecers here in the House of Commons, and will keep on reminding people that the framework agreement on social union, just like the 1982 Constitution, was adopted without the consent of Quebec and cannot be imposed upon it.
It will continue to demonstrate that Canada is engaged in a process of centralization that adulterates the federal regime, which can scarcely be described as such, since it is obvious that what is wanted for Canada is a single national government, one that barely tolerates the existence of another national will, that of Quebec, which remains free to choose its destiny. That freedom is making the Government of Canada more and more troubled and less and less clear.
The modest place reserved for national unity, an expression moreover that does not figure in the text of the 1999 throne speech, only thinly disguises how much the Liberal government is troubled by this question. The cause of this seems to be the continuing high level of support for sovereignty and the fact that Quebecers are keeping all of their options open as far as their political and constitutional future is concerned.
Moreover, it is aggravated by the fact that the commitment to an in-depth reform of federalism cannot be respected and that no concrete proposal for renewal has been formulated, as is clearly evident in the throne speech and the Prime Minister's address in reply, both of which indicate the total absence of a plan A, which we now realize will never see the light of day.
It also explains the laconic nature of the throne speech, which contains two very general statements, one that suggests Quebecers do not want a third referendum, and another that invents a new principle of clarity. As far as this second point is concerned, the Government of Canada, which demands clarity from others, is hiding behind a principle of clarity that the supreme court has not ruled constitutional so as to hide its own intentions.
It is leaving itself lots of leeway to interfere in Quebec's referendum process. Will it resort to legislation, a motion, or a ministerial statement? When it comes to clarity, we have seen better.
And here is a clear message to all ministers responsible for clarity, truth, interference and guardianship: they will have to answer to the Bloc Quebecois, which will proclaim loud and clear that Quebec is a sovereign nation and that, when the time comes, it will oppose any plan designed to limit its freedom to choose its own destiny.
In conclusion, I would like to quote from Jean de La Fontaine, who wrote in one of his fables:
Discussion is what many like. Opinions in the court abound. But calls to action strike great fear. Supporters then cannot be found.
Today, the government keeps talking about Plan B in an attempt to give it new life. The court of the Prime Minister of Canada and his Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is overflowing with advisers pushing for confrontation with Quebec. If they do not make their intentions clear, they will no longer find any support in Quebec.