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House of Commons Hansard #63 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was yea.

Topics

PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

Noon

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois just presented in a very eloquent way the problem that confronts us.

A question of privilege was originally raised by the hon. member for Rimouski—Mitis, who just reminded you of its nature. There is at least one new development, namely that the government is about to impose closure, with the result that we will likely begin to vote this evening, at 6.30 p.m., on the various amendments proposed at report stage of Bill C-20.

This creates two problems. The first one, which was raised by the hon. member for Rimouski—Mitis, is that two of our amendments, on which we worked with the legislative counsel, were deemed out of order before even having been tabled.

This greatly affected our ability to actually table these amendments later on, since they were deemed out of order before even having been tabled. This is not to mention the much more fundamental issue of the confidentiality that must exist between each member of parliament and the legislative counsels.

As for the voting process that will likely begin this evening, you will agree with me that it poses a problem.

The second problem concerns the amendments that were first deemed to be out of order. Explanations were provided to us by the Deputy Principal Clerk, who told us why these amendments had been deemed out of order.

We went back to the drawing board. We rewrote these amendments by taking into account the points raised and, surprise, these amendments were again deemed to be out of order.

You will agree that, if you were to rule in favour of the question of privilege raised by my colleague, it would then be necessary to include in the various groups of amendments all those amendments that were deemed out of order for a reason that we feel totally unjustified. It would be necessary to include these amendments in the various groups, so that they could be voted on this evening.

You will agree that we cannot possibly begin the debate on the amendments to Bill C-20. Moreover, we cannot begin to vote on these amendments if the Chair has not rendered its decision.

I want to stress what the Bloc Quebecois leader just said. If we were faced with the prospect of beginning the debate and, worse yet, of voting on the amendments proposed at report stage of Bill C-20, without the Chair having first made its ruling, we would have no other choice but to conclude that Bloc Quebecois members are not treated impartially.

PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

You are facing me with a dilemma. I intend to render my decision before the voting this evening.

It is a bit of a concern to me that an hon. member is questioning the impartiality of the Chair of this House. I know that the matters we are going to discuss, debate and vote on today are very important ones.

As I have said, I intended to bring down my ruling before the votes, but I do not know when the voting will take place. The hon. member may know, but I do not. Perhaps it will be this evening, as he said, at 6.30 p.m. Perhaps it will be next week. I do not know at this point, because I have no document or opinion before me indicating how we are going to proceed.

It is troubling, however, that the Chair be asked to tell when this will be done, or face having his impartiality questioned. It is my intention to bring down my rulings before today's voting. If that is what the hon. member wanted to know, that is my intention.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That in relation to Bill C-20, an act to give effect to the requirement for clarity as set out in the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec Secession Reference, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage of the bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill and, fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government business on the day allotted to the consideration of the report stage and on the day allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the state of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 760Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

Points Of OrderGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to deal with the point of order raised by the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry on March 3, 2000 relating to certain motions in amendment to Bill C-20, an act to give effect to the requirement for clarity as set out in the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec Secession Reference, which were found out of order.

I would like to thank the hon. member for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.

The hon. member stated that the motions in amendment submitted to the journals branch were intended to clarify the working of clauses 1(5) and 2(3) of Bill C-20 and did not go beyond the scope of the bill. He maintained that, because the amendments were ruled out of order, not only was he prevented from debating them but that this action interfered with the rights of all members of the House and constituted a restriction on his freedom of expression and that of other members.

I can assure the hon. member that the scope and substance of the amendments submitted by him were carefully considered.

I also want to underline to the hon. member and the House that, while preliminary assessments about such matters may be taken by officials of the House, the review and approval of such decisions remain the responsibility of the Speaker.

It is a responsibility that I take very seriously.

I have myself re-examined all of the amendments ruled out of order, not in relation to their substance, but from a strictly procedural perspective and I remain convinced that those amendments the hon. member referred to do in fact go beyond the scope and alter the principle of the bill as already agreed to by the House.

I refer the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry to page 666 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice . I wish to reassure the member that the decision is purely procedural and not based in any way on whether the subject matter is worthy of debate. It was made in accordance with the traditions and practices of this House.

For these reasons, I must conclude that the matter does not constitute a valid point of order. I thank the hon. member for raising this issue and trust that this ruling has been helpful to him and to other hon. members.

Further to the question raised by the member for Rimouski—Mitis on Friday, March 3, 2000, I wish to inform the House that there was an error in the table for the voting on Bill C-20. The vote on Motion No. 70 will apply to Motion No. 71. A revised voting table is available from the table. I regret any inconvenience this may have caused the hon. members.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2000 / 1:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The deputy House leader of the Bloc Quebecois raised a question of privilege on March 1, 2000 relating to the rejection of two motions in amendment to Bill C-20, an act to give effect to the requirement for clarity as set out in the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec Secession Reference.

These motions in amendment, declared out of order by the clerks involved with the bill, were never forwarded to the journals branch for inclusion in the Notice Paper.

Before beginning I would like to thank the hon. member for raising the matter. I also want to acknowledge the contributions of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes, as well as the House leader for the Reform Party on this subject.

The acting House leader stated that on Tuesday, February 29, 2000, the Deputy Principal Clerk of the legislative unit forwarded a letter to the office of the leader of the Bloc Quebecois presenting the procedural details for rejecting some 700 motions in amendment to Bill C-20. These motions in amendment were appended to the letter. The Bloc Quebecois had, in fact, never forwarded two of the motions in amendment bearing the reference numbers 5180 and 5163 to the journals branch for inclusion in the Notice Paper.

After inquiries by the office of the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, it became clear that the clerks working on the bill had made an error by including reference to those two motions in the covering letter. The acting House leader argued that the privileges of the Bloc Quebecois members and all members of the House have been breached because of the actions of these clerks involved in the performance of their duties, namely consulting a database that the member contends is intended for the exclusive use of the legislative counsel.

The member went on to assert that the relationship of confidentiality that must exist between the legislative counsel and those members who request the drafting of amendments had been breached and that this action constituted a contempt of the House.

On behalf of all members of the House, I have looked carefully into the actions and events related to this matter. Hon. members should understand that House legislative counsel do not work in isolation.

They are part of an operational team that supports the legislative work of the Chamber and its committees. This group is comprised of procedural clerks as well as legal drafters who are assisted in their functions by text processing operators and administrative support staff. The confidentiality to which the acting House leader refers is shared by all staff within this group for operational purposes.

There is no separate database for legislative counsel as the hon. member suggests. The legislative database supports the work of all persons having duties within the field of legislative support operations.

Members should also understand that with respect to report stage, there must be interaction between the staff of the legislative services group, the clerk of the committee to which the bill was referred, and the staff of the journals branch.

All staff of the House working in support of members in their legislative function are governed by strict confidentiality with regard to persons outside their operational field and, of course, vis-à-vis other members.

In this case, I note there is no mention of any breach of confidentiality whereby the text of proposed motions of the hon. member or her party has been made known to persons working outside the field of legislative support operations or to other members. Confidential information proprietary to the Bloc Quebecois and several of its members remained completely and absolutely confidential. Consequently, I am unable to find that this constitutes a prima facie question of privilege or a contempt of the House.

I thank the acting House leader of the Bloc Quebecois for bringing this matter to my attention and permitting me to make this clarification to the House.

The House resumed from March 3 consideration of Bill C-20, an act to give effect to the requirement for clarity as set out in the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec secession reference, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, at this point I will use the three minutes I have remaining to remind the House of why we are here and why we will end up in the position we seem to be inexorably heading toward tonight.

After the 1995 referendum there was a decision to ask the supreme court what we might do in the event of another referendum. The court said very clearly that in a democracy like Canada, should there be a clear expression of the will of a population in a region of Canada on a clear question about the secession of that province, the Government of Canada would be obligated to negotiate. The government has come forward with a piece of legislation that puts that decision into law and nothing more. It adheres very closely to the decision of the supreme court.

From the moment it was even hinted that we might undertake to do that, at every opportunity the Bloc indicated there would be no co-operation, no discussion, no debate and no attempt to work together to improve legislation as is often done in the House. That is the purpose of this Chamber. I note that the New Democratic Party and its House leader, who was a member on the committee, worked hard to review the bill and put forward amendments. I note that even the Reform Party came forward in support of the bill and also looked at ways in which the bill could be improved.

Unfortunately, we end up where we are, responding to the unending stream of statements and actions by members of the Bloc who say “It does not matter what the debate is. It does not matter what the logic is. We are going to do everything we can to stop this”. Therefore, we end up in a very sad place, a place where it is no longer possible to debate. I am sorry that we are here, but we are here. Let me be very clear on this. We are here because of the consistent and continuing actions of one party in the House.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate having the opportunity to speak briefly to Bill C-20.

The clarity bill, as it has been called, is a bill which the official opposition supports in principle. I might say that we support it in principle because we think that confusion is antidemocratic.

However, we disagree with the haste of this process. We disagree with the imposition of time allocation. We disagree with the arbitrary nature that the committee used to decide who would appear as witnesses before the committee. I will not spend a lot of time on those things because that disagreement has been well documented.

We believe that a well informed public is better than a confused public. On an issue as important as the breakup of our country, to be well informed is very sensible.

It is not often that a politician makes a comment about his opposing politician. However, I would like to make a positive comment about the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs across the way. I believe that the minister has been forthright on this issue. He has been pretty straight-up on this issue. He has not changed his tune since he made up his mind that he was going to look for clarity from the supreme court and carry it through. I give him credit for that. He has been castigated in his home province. He has been called unpleasant things. He has been made fun of in caricatures. I would like him to know personally that I do not agree with any of those things. I think he has been at least honourable on this subject.

We can disagree with him, and I believe that it is fair to do do, but in this instance I do not disagree with him. I want him to know personally that I think the characterizations have not been accurate nor proper.

I will spend a moment on the committee hearings to talk about what I found most interesting. I attended all of the meetings and found the old politicians to be the most interesting people who appeared before the committee.

First, two of the witnesses I listened to opposed Bill C-20. Claude Ryan, who is a man with enormous prestige in Quebec, opposes Bill C-20, as well as Joe Clark, a politician who has had many years of constitutional battles. I will not make comments about the reasons they oppose the bill. They have reasons which I think are debatable and arguable. However, those two senior politicians both oppose Bill C-20.

I looked at those who came in support of Bill C-20. I found it interesting that some of them fought those constitutional battles with vigour themselves. I will list four of them: Claude Castonguay, le père de l'assurance-santé, the father of medicare in Quebec, is supportive of Bill C-20; Gil Rémillard, a senior politician who has had long experience in Quebec, supports Bill C-20 as well; and two politicians from outside Quebec, Ed Broadbent and Bob Rae, both came to the committee and said they support the bill.

I found it interesting when I asked them this question: “Did you ever during your time battling these constitutional battles ever say that a clear question was something that was valuable?” They admitted that they had not. They battled this without ever saying publicly that a clear question was important.

I also want to reflect on what Reformers think of the clarity bill. I had the opportunity to poll Reformers. It was not a poll which would reflect the views of every Canadian. It reflected the views of Reform supporters.

It is fascinating that when asked if a clear question was important, 98.7% of Reformers who responded said yes. When asked the question, “Should the majority level be spelled out?”, 96.2% felt that the majority level should be spelled out. This bill does not do that. That probably reflects my position that the majority level could and should be spelled out.

When asked about the majority level, as to whether 50% plus one was sufficient, especially if it also was to decide what part of Quebec would stay in Canada, the percentage dropped to 77.6%, still a pretty strong number of people saying that the level should be spelled out.

I tried to reflect, all the way through the committee hearings, on whether the question last time was clear. My way of deciding was not to listen to those who on one side or the other have an axe to grind, but to ask those who are experts in asking questions of the public, and to my mind they are the pollsters, those who do polling all the time. The pollsters told me that when asking loaded questions we cannot expect anything but a loaded answer. They ask “yes-no” questions, which of course the referendum did as well.

When I asked the pollsters if the last question asked of Quebecers was unambiguous or unconfusing, they said no, it was neither; it was both ambiguous and confusing.

I posed to the pollsters what kind of question they would ask. I received some uniformity in their answers, which I will distil by saying that if there are two issues, two separate questions would have to be asked. It would be something like the following: “Do you want Quebec to enter a new economic partnership” or whatever “with Canada?” To that question there would be a response, yes or no.

I think that most Quebecers would probably answer yes, that they would like to enter into a new partnership with Canada. However, if we wanted to go further we would ask: “If that new partnership is unsuccessful within a timeframe, do you want Quebec to separate from Canada and sever all legal ties, yes or no?” On that issue I believe that we would get a different response from that which we had in the last referendum.

My analysis is that there are lots of people within and outside Quebec who would like to have a new relationship with Ottawa, and that relationship with Ottawa could well reflect a country that was advancing, a country that was improving, a country with a vigorous future. However, when asked if that new partnership fails would they want to split up Canada, I think the response might well be different. I know that there is very little appetite for splitting up the country outside Quebec, and certainly not in my part of the country.

Bill C-20 is imperfect. It could have been improved. It is a step in the right direction. In principle it is supportable. The official opposition will be supporting the bill unamended. I think it literally will not be amended, unless there is some surprise awaiting us.

It has been a privilege to represent interests from the western part of the country on the bill.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words before this bill clears the House. In that respect, I want to reiterate my view that this bill has been rushed through in a way that has discredited the parliamentary process.

For the record, it has been one of the low points in my parliamentary life, watching the way this bill has been handled, both by the government and in some respects also by the Bloc Quebecois, because it has created a situation in which something as important as the legislative framework for the secession of a province from Canada has not been able to be studied in the way that it should have been studied. We were not able to hear from as many people as we should have. We were not able to hear from them in a context that was constructive and open to real change.

I see the minister in the House today and I am glad he is here. I would like to echo the complimentary, positive attitude of the member who just spoke, but I would find that difficult. I do not think the minister and the government have been open, unless I am wrong and I find out later today that they will be open to some amendments. They have not been open to building a consensus around the bill that would enable not just Liberals but others to go forward and claim this very important piece of legislation as their own, so that it would be clear that, with the exception of the Conservatives, there was some measure of federalist unity on this issue.

I have been part of this process before. Even Pierre Trudeau, who was noted for his determination and has been called all kinds of things, including arrogant, tried to do things in the early eighties which the NDP felt were important so that he could bring us on side.

That is related to what is happening today. At that time the NDP would not support the patriation package unless it was amended to recognize the inherent rights of aboriginal people. That had been left out. What did Pierre Trudeau do? On the basis of being urged by the NDP, the patriation package was amended. That is why we have section 35 today.

But nothing was learned. In fact, some things seem to have been unlearned. We have Bill C-20 before us, and we have a bill, insofar as it affects aboriginal people, that is pre the patriation package. It does not recognize them at all.

Then we have something which is pre the patriation package, or worse, because in this context we have made recommendations, in conjunction with the Assembly of First Nations, the Grand Council of the Crees, the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada and others, and pleaded with the minister to accept some of the amendments we have officially made and which aboriginal organizations have recommended. So far, nothing.

We will be voting later today and the word I get from the government is “no amendments”. So even the wisdom of that time, the early eighties, of Mr. Trudeau and others trying to build something that could bring people together, is not for this minister. No, he knows everything and the rest of us are just chopped liver, including the aboriginal leadership and everyone else.

This is constitution making, as it has to do with the possible breakup of the country or how it could be kept together in the event of a referendum, depending on how one looks at it. It needs to be approached with a far different spirit and a far different frame of mind from the way in which the current minister has approached it. Frankly, he has made it very difficult. Maybe that is what he wanted all along.

He is making it very difficult for myself and others in my caucus who supported the principle of the bill, who supported the idea that there be a legislative implementation or framework established pursuant to the supreme court opinion. We have supported the need for a clear question, which is absolutely fundamental to any referendum, the need for the rest of Canada to be able to pronounce on whether it was a clear question and would justify negotiations on secession, the need for a clear majority, the fact that democracy was more than just a simple majority and that there was a need for a qualitative judgment after the fact. All of these things we have supported.

All we asked was that what the Assembly of First Nations and others have identified as a fundamental flaw, to use the language which they used in a letter released this weekend, be addressed, that aboriginal people be listed as political actors, and that the government be obliged to take their view into account. Those are the two easiest amendments for the government. We have submitted about six or seven amendments having to do with aboriginal concerns, but the two easiest ones for the government were to simply list aboriginal people along with the provinces, territories and the Senate as people whose views the minister would want to take into account in determining whether there was a clear question and subsequently whether there was a clear majority.

The government will not do that. Why not? There is absolutely no good reason for not putting the aboriginal people on that list of people whose views need to be taken into account. There is not a person on the other side of the House who could stand up and give me one good reason why those two amendments could not be accepted, except for the unmitigated, titanic, bloody arrogance of that man over there, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs who thinks he knows everything about this country and that the rest of us do not have anything to say.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe that is unduly provocative and unparliamentary. I think it is uncalled for and the member should withdraw what he just said.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I believe that the member has gone overboard slightly this time. I will ask him to resume debate but to please choose his words more carefully.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I have no intention of apologizing because I did not say anything unparliamentary. All I did was speak the truth.

Further to what I had to say, the government is revealing an attitude toward this place that should concern the government backbenchers. They themselves should be as concerned as I am. They should be concerned about the way their own government is acting.

The government is bringing into disrepute the parliamentary process. It is bringing into disrepute a piece of legislation that those members say is very important and which we agree is very important. We said from the beginning we would try to take this process seriously, even though it was introduced surreptitiously on a Friday when the government said it would not come in until Monday, then closure was moved on second reading, then closure was moved in committee and we could not hear witnesses we wanted to hear. Now we have this process. All the way along there has been nothing but stonewalling, nothing but a totally closed door and not just to us.

In the end it does not matter what happens to the NDP or our amendments but it matters what happens to the ideas that our amendments embody. That is that there should not be a retreat from Charlottetown. There should not be a retreat from section 35. There should not be a retreat from all the things we have accomplished in the last 15 years to establish aboriginal people as constitutional and political actors in this country. That is what this bill does. That is what makes it so fundamentally unacceptable and regrettable.

I am here not just in sorrow but also in anger. I feel we could have done much better as a parliament. We could have done much better as a committee in spite of the fact that we had the kind of obstacles that were put in our way by the Bloc Quebecois. The government could have taken St. Paul's advice and tried to overcome evil with good instead of wrong for wrong, arrogance for arrogance, mistake for mistake, contempt for contempt. That is all we got. It is regrettable, truly regrettable.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

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.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Bernier Bloc Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok, QC

Madam Speaker, you will appreciate that I was anxious to take part in this debate. We are not pleased, however, to have to speak to such an issue, to a bill on clarity which, I must say, does not provide any.

Instead, the bill before us creates confusion. It is unreasonable and undemocratic. It fails to respect the letter and the spirit of the opinion provided by the supreme court at the request of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

The Bloc Quebecois certainly moved many amendments, but when the government wants to introduce a bill on clarity, it must be clear.

Let me read an amendment that I moved and which is part of Group No. 1. We were asking, in Motion No. 2, that Bill C-20, in the preamble, be amended by adding, before line 1 on page 1, the following—and this is very important. You will understand later:

Whereas when the Quebec people were consulted by a referendum in 1995, the winning choice was the one that obtained a majority of the votes declared valid, that is, fifty percent of the votes plus one vote;

The people on the other side won last time. If they participated and are still here, it is because we are democrats and we respect the result of the votes. But they are scared of the results, perhaps because the results were tight that time.

What did the government promise to us before the referendum? That it would recognize the distinctiveness of Quebecers. That was in the speech delivered in Verdun. We have already gone further. What about this declaration? The Prime Minister wasted no time in pushing through this House a motion on distinct society.

You are the Chair. A motion is not as powerful as legislation. When they want to tell Quebecers that they love them, they use a motion. It is barely worth the paper it is written on. When they want to clobber Quebecers, they use legislation. I am not inventing this. We have a bill before us.

I would also like to add to the four adjectives I used earlier an explanation on how this bill is confusing. It has to do with the arbitrary criteria the minister is trying to include. He wants to reserve the right to decide whether the question is clear.

You have visited all of Canada and know that some expressions used in eastern Canada are meaningless in western or central Canada. For example, there is one we often use in Quebec when it rains. We say that it is raining nails, whereas in English they say that it is raining cats and dogs.

Maybe the image is too simple, but how can they ask some different provinces to determine the clarity of a question when we have our own way of expressing ourselves in Quebec, as can easily be seen from the ads in Quebec. Sometimes we use a colourful language, but everybody understands.

The last time, the Prime Minister understood, but now he is not quite sure. The day before the referendum he said “To remain Canadian or not, to stay or to leave, that is the issue of the referendum”. If even he could understand the question, it means that the question was clear. Why should we waste the time of the House in a debate like this? During this time, the economic issues in this country are being ignored. In the finance minister's last budget, we do not find a single word about areas like mine which are hurting.

We are just back from a one week recess. People in Quebec and in the Gaspé peninsula do not need clarity. What they need is money to boost their economy. However, we never talk about that in the House. I would like the House to discuss reasonable initiatives, and give resources to people in our ridings.

This bill is unreasonable because it gives the federal government plenty of reasons to prevent any negotiation from taking place. Let us consider all the steps we have to go through. We have to consult the provinces and the first nations. I like the first nations, but let us not forget that what is at stake is the right of Quebecers to decide their own future.

When we joined confederation, there was no referendum. The fathers of confederation made that decision among themselves. However, the surprising thing is that, when more provinces joined the federation, we were never asked for our permission. We are nice chaps, we did not object in any way.

I know what I am talking about. I am come from the Gaspé peninsula, the eastern tip of Quebec. All the ships carrying settlers travelling to Upper Canada sailed in front of our homes, but today, they are highhanded with our economy and our future. People in my riding are fed up with such a government.

The bill is unreasonable because it also prevents Quebec from offering a partnership to Canada. They want us to look like the bad guys while they take away all the furniture including the kitchen sink. We want to be able to make the decisions concerning our future by ourselves, including the decision to say that we would have a brighter future outside of Canada. Every time we want to improve on things, we are gagged.

The bill is unreasonable also because it is contrary to the position of all political parties in Quebec. Even Jean Charest, the saviour, a former member of this House who was sent to Quebec, does not approve of Bill C-20. Quebec's consensus should be taken into account.

The bill is undemocratic because it subordinates the democratic will of the Quebec people to the will of the rest of Canada. It is our future. Let us decide by ourselves what we want. The bill is undemocratic also because the federal government is appropriating the right to reject the vote of Quebecers. The bill will give more weight to a federalist vote than to a sovereigntist vote.

The bill does not respect the letter and spirit of the supreme court opinion. The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs has made up requirements that are not mentioned in that opinion.

The bill does not respect the letter and spirit of the supreme court opinion because the government chose what it liked in that opinion and threw away all other democratic considerations. What this bill proposes is unilateral action when the supreme court condemned such a course of action.

In its opinion, the court insisted on the need to negotiate when the bill is geared to prevent any negotiation. I move:

That the French text of Motion No. 9 be amended by adding the word “un” after the word “donné”

As many members have said, after being gagged, censured and subjected to time allocation, as the member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok, I will have had only 10 minutes to speak to a bill that could have an impact on the future of Quebec and of my fellow citizens. It is not normal that we were given only 10 minutes. If they want to claim to be great democrats, they should let people express themselves.

I understand that this is not the Chair's fault. You are there to apply the rules, but I believe that, for the people opposite, democracy does not mean much. When I see the minister's smile, I believe that he despises the people of my riding and of Quebec. When he returns to Quebec, he will have to answer for that smile.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession ReferenceGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, it is with great honour that I enter the debate today. What we are discussing is very important. It seems to underpin the very democratic process not only of parliament, but of the Canadian way in terms of how we do things and the importance of what it means to act in a democratic fashion.

I listened with great interest to the Reform Party and the member for Macleod. The one thing with which I agreed was his congratulations to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. The minister has done a tremendous job in this whole process and deserves our congratulations, respect and thanks. Not only is he a great Canadian but he is also a great Quebecer. It bodes well for us as we move confidently into the 21st century to have a person of his calibre leading very positively in the way he is along with the Prime Minister.

The Reform Party really flip-flopped on this issue. It is always disturbing to see how it never stands for Canada when it counts.

I listed too to the NDP and the member for Winnipeg—Transcona. He got a little outraged and put on a little theatre for us in the House. Really what he did was quite trite. I assume he knows his constitutional history but he certainly did not show it today. If he knew his constitutional history he would know that the aboriginal peoples are covered off in the constitution. They will be very much at the table when it comes to making these kinds of decisions not only for themselves and for whom and what they represent, but for Canada as a whole.

I say to him and all Canadians, that process is in place and in hand and we will do it in a manner consistent with the values—