Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this important issue. There is no greater issue that any member would address than the dissolution of his or her country. I am in somewhat of an ironic position because in the riding of Scarborough East, where I come from, this is, frankly, not an issue.
One would have thought or anticipated that the dissolution of one's country would have been of extreme interest to citizens of my riding, that constituents would have spoken to me, or would have sent e-mails, faxes, letters, et cetera. Quite to the contrary, if I could characterize it as such, this is an issue that has almost fallen off the political map. In some respects my constituents see this as a done deal and they thank goodness that somebody has introduced some sanity into the debate.
There is an irony. This is an enormous issue. It is a very significant issue on which the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs gave probably one of the finest speeches that the House has heard in a number of years, and yet there is no political resonance in my community.
I have just spent a week in my riding, as did all members. What I heard were issues around Bill C-23. I heard about gas prices, as if I am somehow able to deal in some manner with gas prices. Health care is a significant issue to my constituents. I think those are probably the top three issues. I cannot recall anyone in the past week or 10 days writing to me, faxing me or e-mailing me about this issue. It is enormously ironic that arguably the most significant bill which the government will pass in its mandate has almost no response from my own constituents.
When this bill was introduced by the government there was an initial sense of euphoria. Finally the Government of Canada was getting on with it. Finally somebody was going to do something concrete, something decisive, something that will bring closure to this issue, this interminable debate of our national dream.
The message I got from my constituents was pretty vocal. First, they liked it. They thought this was a great bill. Second, get on with it. Just do it. I cannot phrase it any more bluntly than that. The message was, bring clarity to this debate. Finish it. Deal with it and move on.
The tactics in this debate are hugely ironic. Bloc members, for their own reasons, and I am still at a loss to understand them, choose to take tactics of delay and obfuscation, introducing meaningless amendments and reading newspaper articles into the record. It does everything but deal with the issue and is quite reluctant to accept the political judgment of Canadians on this matter.
Instead of dealing with what I perceive to be the political reality of not only my constituency but Canada and all Canadians including Quebec, which is that this is something that needs to be done, the Bloc's tactic in this matter is to delay and to waste parliamentary time.
I have listened to the members opposite. I have some understanding of their issue. They consider this to be a unilateral decision which is something that is available to Quebecers and Quebecers only. That position has been debated and frankly they have lost the debate. After that there has been nothing of substance added to the debate.
I have some expectation given the philosophical position of the Bloc that it would not really care what the constituents of Scarborough East, Ontario or the rest of Canada thought, but I would have thought it had some interest in what other Quebecers thought. What I understand to be the situation is that the political reality in Quebec is much similar to the political reality of Scarborough East which is to get on with it, deal with it and finish it off.
The position of the Bloc to my mind is unfathomable. I do not understand. It does seem to me that this has become a discredited political philosophy. Members opposite are unwilling to accept that this has become a discredited political philosophy, that they are in the death throes.
We get ironical statements by members such as the member who spoke previous to me about how Quebec is being ripped off in its relationship to the rest of Canada. He quotes a number of examples where apparently research and development is done on one side of the Ottawa River as opposed to the other side of the river, et cetera. He neatly forgets the equalization payments of something in excess of $4 billion on an annual basis. Any studies I have ever read on the issue have said that Quebec does very well in its relationship with Canada.
I cannot quite fathom what they are against. I looked up the speech of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. I thought it was one of the better speeches given in the House in a long time. He said in his conclusion that the bill is reasonable, that it is in everybody's interests including those of his fellow Quebecers who desire independence. They can and must acknowledge that their plans for political independence can only be realized in clarity and legality. To act otherwise is to try to reach independence through ambiguity with no legal safety net, is to show disrespect for Quebecers and to doom the independence initiative to failure, to an impasse that would be disappointing and costly for everyone. I adopt the reasoning of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and I think he said it well.
I find the tactics of the Bloc to be quite disappointing. Raising irrelevant amendments and matters of procedure, slowing down the work of the House ending up in endless picayune discussions as to whether a comma should go here or there is a great disservice to what was and is a noble cause, namely the issue of whether Quebec is or is not a nation. To my mind it does no great service to the dream of René Lévesque and all those who have spoken so eloquently in favour of the position.
It appears to me that the Bloc members are reluctant to accept a democratic result. They simply will not accept it. Again I go back to the speech of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. It states, “In this matter the separatist leaders do not defend the rights of Quebecers. None of our rights as Quebecers are threatened in this bill. Quite the contrary, no one in this country wants to keep Quebecers against their will. No. What the separatist leaders defend is their capacity to maintain confusion on their project. They are upholding their so-called right to confusion”.
I was not aware that a right to confusion was in fact a charter or parliamentary right but I suppose this is something we will have to look at. The tactics bring parliament into disrepute. This is the kind of stuff that makes Canadians say that parliament has outlived its usefulness, that it is only marginally relevant. It tends to diminish parliament in the eyes of my constituents and of other Canadians.
In summary, my constituents want this bill to pass. My constituents believe that the time has passed for this endless discussion. My constituents want clarity.