Madam Speaker, this is one of the last minutes in which we can speak of this bill. The way things are going at present with the government, this may be one of the last times MPs will be able to speak in this House. Having three gag orders on one bill is absolutely incredible. That is how the present government operates.
I will savour these next 10 minutes, because I am not sure whether the government will allow me to speak on behalf of my party for the rest of the session. That is how things are going at this time.
I would like to make two or three brief comments. First of all, one to my caucus. From the start, four members had decided to support the bill, because everyone agrees that having clarity on the question and on what constitutes a majority might facilitate things.
I am addressing them. I hope that the hon. members are going to see that the way the government is handling this bill is preventing the elected representatives and citizens of this country from being able to really speak out and reflect on this matter. I trust that my colleagues are going to see what is going on.
In a referendum process, after a yes vote of 50% plus one, imagine how we are going to have our cage rattled, how much the few rights remaining to the opposition will be trampled. The way the Liberals are handling things now is not a very good sign for the future.
I trust that our party will be the same as the country on Bill C-20—united.
I heard what the Reform Party critic had to say. Not to be disrespectful of the Reform, but I had a picture in my head. I do not know if hon. members are familiar with the Simpsons, but when people want to make fun of Homer Simpson, they stick a sign on his back.
The signs says “kick me”. I think the Reform Party has a sign on its back which says “Please kick me. I will love you anyway”. That is the problem with the Reform Party. It is so afraid of losing one vote on this issue in western Canada that it is willing to have a sign on its back which says “Please kick me. I will love you anyway. I am going to support the bill anyway”.
There has been closure three times. The Reformers say they do not agree with the process, but support the bill nevertheless. It makes no sense. The official opposition is going around saying that the government is wrong “No, you should not do that, you Liberals, it is wrong, but we like you all the same and will support you in this”. Such principles are not exactly cast in stone.
There is my NDP colleague as well, who is in fine fettle today and who said “It makes no sense the way they are treating the first nations”. He is right, but his party will support the bill in any case.
The member for Mount Royal, the expert on the committee, said to the first nations “Your message has been clearly heard, we will see there are amendments to have your thoughts taken into account. No more, however. It will be like the provinces. We will look after everything, trust us”.
The member for Winnipeg—Transcona had his show, of course, but according to the member for Mount Royal, the government will support the first nations amendment. But, what happens if the government does not support the amendment? There will be problems with the credibility of the member for Mount Royal, who, in committee, seemed to be speaking for the government. But, in addition to that, what is happening with the New Democratic Party's opposition?
What I would ask my colleagues in the Reform Party is to take off the sign that says “kick me” and say it makes no sense.
I say to our NDP colleagues that we will be pleased to support their first nations amendment. Our amendments were rejected for the most part, in any case. We wanted clarity amendments. We proposed clarity amendments and they were rejected in the process.
Do you know what amendments we moved? We proposed inclusion of the words province of Quebec and National Assembly in the bill. I base my remarks on what the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs said when he spoke about Bill C-20. In his 16 page testimony before the legislative committee, the minister did not mention British Columbia, Prince Edward Island or Cape Breton. He spoke only of Quebec throughout those 16 pages.
During his whole testimony, he said how evil the sovereignists and the Progressive Conservatives of Quebec were. The government says “This bill is about clarity”. We want to help it make things even clearer. The title of the bill refers to Quebec, the preamble refers to Quebec and the minister, the Prime Minister and witnesses spoke of Quebec but the bill itself does not mention Quebec.
The word Quebec does not appear one single time in the text of the bill. Why? Because they were too afraid. The sensitivities of Quebecers could put the federal government at risk in the future. As a principle, it is rather feeble.
What we hope is that all opposition parties will send a very clear message: this bill is incomplete, it is a plan B bill, B as in baseball bat.
One does not run a country with a baseball bat. That is not the way this country should function. That is a big problem. These stem from baseball bats or batons.
I believe there should be much more openness. Canadians should be very concerned about the way this government is dealing with this bill. The minister, in all his good will—let us give him that—must be extremely disappointed that his bill had to go through the parliamentary process. This bill has to be passed. Why? So that the Prime Minister may say next weekend “We got it. Now, here is the good news: thanks to the wonderful work of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, of Cabinet and of the Liberal Party caucus and thanks to my political instinct, if you want to break the country, you will need to ask a clear question and to obtain a clear majority”.
It is a rather feeble excuse. They are happy, the country is saved. But no. They are being told “Well, now you are going to separate”. I remember one very interesting comment amongst all the relevant comments we heard. There were some good witnesses, not enough, however, because we did not have enough time, but some. This one was from a witness from British Columbia. In passing, it was not a Conservative, but a Liberal. He said that no matter what the question was, for example the question used in 1995 or in 1980, with a result of 50% plus one— You are now entering a new world.
He said “Whether there is any legislation or not, you are in a new political, economic and legal world”.
The legislation can be improved as much as they want, what will happen with a result of 50% plus one on a question like the one used in 1995 and 1980, will be something new. It is certainly not Bill C-20 that will solve everything, on the contrary. It prevents us from finding solutions or alternatives. We are stuck with a table of contents, a modus operandi. And they call that flexibility.
The ambiguity Mr. Clark was talking about is the same ambiguity that we were faced with when Mr. Trudeau said, back in 1980 “If you vote no, it means yes”. Now that is ambiguity. As far as flexibility is concerned, it remains to be seen.
I urge all the opposition parties and my colleagues in the Conservative caucus to stand up and to stand united as we want the country to be.