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.