Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to follow the last three speakers.
I have a small comment before I approach the clarity bill from the point of view of my constituents. I must say to my colleague from Matapédia—Matane that he appears to have forgotten that although we talk about two founding nations there are others. We also have aboriginal people who have been here for more than 11,000 years. We have just established Nunavut within Canada, an Inuit territory. We have just passed the Nisga'a treaty in B.C., an Indian nation. In fact, many Newfoundlanders consider themselves to be part of a fairly unique group. We have the Acadians in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
My friend says that we have the nerve to tell the French Canadians, the Quebecers, what to do. That is not so. The government has the responsibility to maintain the federation, if possible, and to see that it is not broken apart on a vague question because some people feel disadvantaged. Lots of people feel disadvantaged.
The member for Saint-John, with whom I have worked very hard on a couple of committee, said that Quebec tax money is coming into Ottawa in undue amounts. That is not so. I do not know why we have to argue about figures which have been the same for a great many years.
Ontario is a have province. Quebec has been termed a have not province. That is not out of disrespect of course; it is due to the equalization payments of the provinces.
Just this year the cash paid to Ontario was raised to equal the per capita rate that is paid to Quebec. Ontario people knew that and they were very pleased. Finally they were being paid at the same rate as Quebecers.
My friend also said that we will stand up and sit down like rabbits to vote tonight, or soon. There is an easy way to cure that. They could withdraw the unnecessary amendments. Then we could all get on with the nation's business and discuss a lot of other important things that we need to do.
Twice this afternoon speakers from the Bloc talked about sovereignty with a partnership. That is what a federation is. It is a partnership among equal partners. That is what we have in this country and we want to maintain it.
I agree also with the member for Scarborough East. My constituents support this bill. They think it is long overdue. They are fed up with the uncertainty and the instability which the spectre of sovereignty raises every other year or so over industry, exports and farm products.
The bill follows the supreme court decision on the Quebec secession reference and it asks for a clear majority on a clear question. My friends in the Bloc are upset about 50% plus one. I would ask the question that the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs asked: If 50% plus one is a clear majority, what is an unclear majority?
In my experience on organizations, hospital boards, school boards, unions, Liberal associations and other associations, at an open meeting on a matter that goes to a vote, if there are six votes for and five against it passes. However, that does not hold for constitutional amendments. Most of the organizations I belong to require 66% or a two-thirds majority for a constitutional amendment, and even that is only following notice and discussion which has probably taken six months or a year. To make a constitutional amendment any faster than that would require 90%, not 66%. Why is that? Because it makes awfully good sense.
It means that a rump group or a group of zealots cannot change the constitution of a well respected association, of a government, a country or a company by marching into the annual meeting and taking over. It is to preserve the policies, the methods, the rules by which we live, the rules by which we conduct our business. It is not to get around anything, it is to protect us from undue change and unlawful takeovers.
Canada is unique. We have two founding nations. We have two official languages. In the schools in my county French language instruction begins in grade 3. We have French immersion in our public schools. We have French immersion in a high school. Students take all of their courses in French, and this is in the heart of southwestern Ontario. Our children know the value of the federation and their Canada includes Quebec.
Since the 1995 referendum I have co-operated with my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi in Quebec on a student summer work and exchange program between my riding and his. I am glad to say that this program has now spread across the country and literally hundreds of students each summer go to Quebec, New Brunswick or other parts of Canada on a work exchange, to live within the community, learn about that community and return home better people. They have no trouble understanding, working with or playing with students from Quebec. They find themselves and their parents to be very much alike.
Our young people know that Canada is respected around the globe. Canadians who travel abroad are always happiest when they return to Canada's shores and set foot again on Canadian soil. They display the Canadian flag wherever they go because it is sine qua non. It is an entry to every country in the world, and yet here we are trying to establish a bit of a rule and clarity on how long we will keep this country going. We will not have it broken up by frivolous and unworthy claims.
The last clause in the bill states:
No Minister of the Crown shall propose a constitutional amendment to effect the secession of a province from Canada unless the Government of Canada has addressed, in its negotiations, the terms of secession that are relevant in the circumstances, including the division of assets and liabilities—
This sounds like a divorce to me. It continues:
—any changes to the borders of the province, the rights, interests and territorial claims of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, and the protection of minority rights.
I wonder how many people have thought about what that would comprise and how long it would take, a possible change in the borders of the province.
Most of the people I discussed the matter with are concerned about four changes. First, the Inuit of northern Quebec would obviously have to be given some territory because they would not stay with Quebec if they could stay with Canada.
Second, the Cree of James Bay in northern Quebec would have to have a large chunk.
Third, maybe the Outaouais-Hull area would want to become part of Ontario because its citizens do a lot of work here. They have been freely interchanging for years.
Fourth, in my thinking about this I look at the independence of India and the partition between Pakistan and India. Eventually the two parts of Pakistan, thousands of miles apart, ended up as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. There has not been peace between India and Pakistan since they were established. I think that if Quebec were to go, then we would have to talk about a land connection between Ontario and New Brunswick.