Madam Speaker, I have mixed feelings.
First, I have a feeling of gratitude towards our colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry and our colleague from Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans for their excellent work in committee, where they truly tirelessly defended the rights of Quebec.
I have mixed feelings because despite this gratitude, I believe that all who speak out in support of democracy are in a sort of mourning today.
I listened to our colleague, deliciously pompous as usual, remind us that the rule of 50% plus one suffered no exception. Spiritual son of Pierre Elliot Trudeau that he is, he should be covered in shame, because he must know that his mentor was a true supporter of the rule of 50% plus one.
In committee, a witness by the name of Guy Lachapelle, an eminent political scientist—and I will seek consent to table the document after reading it and I dedicate a single quote to my colleague—quoted former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who made the following statement:
Democracy genuinely demonstrates its faith in man by letting itself be guided by the rule of fifty-one per cent. For if all men are equal, each one the possessor of a special dignity, it follows inevitably that the happiness of fifty-one people is more important than that of forty-nine; it is normal, then, that— ceteris paribus and taking account of the inviolable rights of the minority—the decisions preferred by the fifty-one should prevail.
It is signed Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Approaches to Politics , Montreal, Éditions du Jour, 1970.
One cannot speak out of both sides of one's mouth. The reality is that no politician, except the Liberals, is saying that the Quebec referendum should not be decided by the National Assembly and that the 50% plus one rule should not apply.
I challenge any government member to give us one example, and political expert Guy Lachapelle clearly said “It is important to remember that no western democracy worthy of that name makes mention of a specific majority for a referendum”.
I remind hon. members that the sovereignist movement is very comfortable with the notion of democracy. Do you know why? It is because three leaders of the sovereignist movement founded political parties to periodically submit the option to the public.
It is quite the paradox to live in a political system where the supreme law of this so-called country is the 1982 Constitution, which was never approved by the public. By contrast, in Quebec, three sovereignist leaders historically known and appreciated have created political parties. We know these leaders; they are Pierre Bourgault, René Lévesque and Lucien Bouchard.
From time to time, we have had the courage to submit our option to voters. Periodically, we have had referendums too. We have submitted our option to the referendum test. They took part in the 1980 campaign, and the one in 1995. The rule was 50% plus one.
What was the first reaction the next day by that great Quebecer Lucien Bouchard, at the Mirabel Airport press conference, after we lost the 1985 referendum? What did the Premier of Quebec say? His behaviour was that of a democrat. It was not that of a partisan. It was not that of a party leader, but of a democrat at the head of seven million Quebecers. The day after the referendum, what he told Quebecers was this “A no is a no, but when the day comes that the answer is yes, then that will be yes, and that will mean yes”.
We accept that rule. We are not saying that the 1995 outcome was too tight, that its validity is not recognized. We acknowledge that we lost the 1995 referendum, if only by 50,000 votes. A victory is a victory, if lost by 50,000 votes.
Here in the House of Commons something rather dramatic is going on. I would like to share with the House just how much indignation is being stirred up in quarters where none is usually expected.
Claude Ryan, that intellectual respected by those of all political stripes, he who was there during the discussions of the Fulton-Favreau formula, who was there for Victoria, who was there when the Parti Quebecois took power, who was there in 1995, who has been a minister, leader of the Liberal party, leader of the no faction, is a federalist. He is a self-confessed devout federalist, a militant federalist. He is a man of great discipline and no one can deny the discipline of Claude Ryan.
He appeared before the parliamentary committee. If it would not be abusing your kindness, Madam Speaker, we should circulate his brief.
I quote what he said:
In the third “whereas” of the bill, the federal government, in accordance with this principle, recognizes that “the government of any province of Canada is entitled to consult its population by referendum on any issue and is entitled to formulate the wording of its referendum question”. However, it contradicts this statement by including in the bill a clause giving the Parliament of Canada the power to interfere directly in the referendum process—
If the National Assembly has the right to consult its population on a proposal to secede, it must be able to do so free from any constraint or interference from another parliament.
That is what is bad about the bill. We accept that there is a split in Quebec between federalists and sovereignists. We wanted to include in the referendum act provision for the ability to express one's viewpoint, on equal terms.
We are not in a situation where one option is more amply funded than another. In democracy, everyone is entitled to his viewpoint. The best way in a democracy to oppose an idea is to propose a better one.
We sovereignists think that our idea, our viewpoint, our option are better than the federalist option. But this is not what we should be talking about today.
Bill C-20 says to Quebecers “Whatever choice you make, no matter how you read the constitutional future, there are people outside Quebec, in the federal parliament, who will retain a veto”. And that is unacceptable.
Who are the allies of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs? I could say that the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is not a democrat. I will refrain from passing personal judgement on the minister. I will put an objective question and ask his parliamentary secretary to reply. Who are the minister's allies in Quebec?
When we think about the major central labour bodies, Claude Ryan and the student federations, we realize that the minister is a lonely man. The Bloc Quebecois does not find it easy to witness what is going on right now. It is never easy for democrats, for elected representatives to watch such wrongdoings.
I will conclude by saying that we are convinced that, in the short and the long term, Quebecers will opt for democracy and, when they are consulted at the next federal election, they will fire this government, which has constantly bullied the National Assembly and trampled the democratic principles of which we on this side are so proud.