House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pension.


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6 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, members of the Bloc Quebecois are opposed to this motion, except for the member for Laurentides, the member for Lotbinière—L'Érable and the member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who could not be present for this vote.

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6 p.m.


Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, members of the New Democratic Party who are present will vote in favour of this motion.

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6 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Progressive Conservative Party will vote yes.

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6 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting yes on this motion.

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6 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to be recorded as voting yes to this motion.

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6 p.m.


Dan McTeague Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want the record to show that I will vote in favour of this motion.

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

Division No. 131
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6 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

It being 6.03 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Business Of The House
Government Orders

6 p.m.


Jacques Saada Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. You will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or the usual practices of the House, Bill S-27, An Act to authorize the Imperial Life Assurance Company of Canada to apply to be continued as a company under the laws of the Province of Quebec, and Bill S-28, An Act to authorize Certas Direct Insurance Company to apply to be continued as a company under the laws of the Province of Quebec, be deemed to have been read a second time, referred to a committee of the whole, reported without amendment, concurred in at the report stage and read a third time and passed.

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6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there unanimous consent of the House to adopt the motion?

Business Of The House
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6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

Sir John A. Macdonald Day And The Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

June 7th, 2001 / 6:05 p.m.


John Godfrey Don Valley West, ON

moved that Bill S-14, an act respecting Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker:

Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers in their generations.

The Lord apportioned to them great glory, his majesty from the beginning.

There were those who ruled in their kingdoms, and were men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and proclaiming prophecies; leaders of the people in their deliberations and in understanding of learning for the people, wise in their words of instruction.

This passage from chapter 44 of Ecclesiasticus reminds us of the obligation of humanity to honour its great men and women, both of the present and of the past.

Canadians as a nation are a modest lot, which is in many ways an endearing quality. I am reminded of the advice I was given many years ago before I moved to Nova Scotia. I was told that things would be well if I simply remembered the chief operating principle of all Nova Scotians: who the hell does he think he is? I must say that in the past few days as the House has been considering the delicate subject of pay increases for MPs, I have heard more than one constituent express this very sentiment.

Canadians, however, for all their becoming modesty, do not seem well equipped to deal with greatness, to praise famous men and women. This is partly because by definition greatness is in short supply at any given moment in history. Indeed when we are confronted with true greatness, we are startled. We hardly know how to react, so rare is the experience.

In my time in the House we have met greatness in this Chamber in the persons of Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela. There is something rarefied in the air, something special which is hard to define but utterly palpable, something which produces a sense of awe mingled with excitement.

So too was it when Pierre Trudeau died and his body was brought last fall to Parliament Hill to lie in state. The spontaneous decision of thousands of Canadians to come to Parliament Hill from all over the country to pay their last respects, to line up for hours before filing by his coffin, reminds us of the power of greatness to awaken within all of us profound feelings of wonder, awe and sadness.

Those who planned Pierre Trudeau's last trip to Ottawa were well aware of an earlier lying in state, that of Sir Wilfrid Laurier in February 1919. The aptly named Laurier Lapierre, in his book Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Romance of Canada , describes the scene:

The country did well by him. All the seats in the temporary House of Commons in the Victoria Memorial Museum were removed, except his, and the room was adorned in the purple and black colours of mourning. He lay in the centre of the room in his open casket, candles surrounding him, flowers banked in profusion, and police officers guarding him. After the officials had passed by, the doors were opened to the general public. From about 7:00 p.m. on Thursday until the early hours of Saturday morning, fifty thousand of his countrymen and -women, many with their children, came to bid him farewell.

Meanwhile, Ottawa, Hull and neighbouring municipalities were inundated with a mass of humanity. Every hotel, pension , and empty room was occupied as, by every means of transport available, thirty-five thousand people came to take part in the national moment.

Saturday, 22 February 1919, was a calm day with a fluttering of spring in the air. By 9:00 a.m. thousands of people were already on the streets through which the funeral procession would pass. Soon thereafter, close to a hundred thousand were lined, six rows deep in many places, to await Wilfrid's passage. . .

At 10:30, as the procession proceeded down Metcalfe Street, every train in the country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, stopped, wherever it was, for one minute.

This brings me in an admittedly roundabout fashion to Senate Bill S-14, an act respecting Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day, which I have the honour of introducing in the House of Commons today. Its purpose is simple. In the words of its proposer, Progressive Conservative Senator John Lynch-Staunton, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate:

The Bill declares the birthday of each outstanding Canadian (January 11 and November 20) a national holiday as distinct from a statutory holiday. Canadians too often are faulted with not being as familiar as they should be with their history, particularly how Confederation came about and its early years; honouring Macdonald and Laurier in such a special way will contribute greatly to correcting this deplorable situation.

As a Liberal member of the House of Commons I am pleased to support the initiative of my Conservative Senate colleague. It should be noted that this bill was given unanimous third and final reading in the Senate.

It is a curious fact that Canada has no equivalent of Washington's birthday, presidents' day or Martin Luther King day. The closest we come is Victoria Day and her Quebec cousin, Dollard des Ormeaux, or perhaps our acknowledgement every September of Terry Fox. This bill would begin to rectify that lack by honouring two of Canada's greatest prime ministers.

In some ways they make an odd couple. They were men of totally different character and temperament. Macdonald was a character, indeed almost a rogue. What contemporary politician would dare boast in an election speech as he did “I know enough of the feeling of this meeting to know that you would rather have John A. drunk than George Brown sober”? A man of artfulness and subtlety in politics, he was variously known over the course of his political life as Old Reynard, Old Tomorrow and The Wizard of the North. As one anonymous Liberal member of the legislature was heard to mutter “Ah, John A., John A., how I love you! How I wish I could trust you!”

Laurier, the first French Canadian to become Prime Minister of Canada, had a totally different personality. He was an elegant and refined intellectual, an extraordinary speaker, and there was a tragic dimension about his persona that was absent in Macdonald's case.

He had to face difficult tests during his political life, including the challenge of francophones outside Quebec, the Catholic Church in Quebec, the threat to national unity posed by World War I, and the challenge represented by compatriots such as Henri Bourassa.

These two great men also had much in common. John Raulston Saul, in his book Reflections of a Siamese Twin , argues that Canada was built over a century and a half through eight dramatic strategic acts. Another term for these is national projects, deliberate, strategic acts of nation building.

We think of Macdonald and we think of confederation itself, or the national policy or the building of the transcontinental railway. We think of Laurier and we think of the building of the west.

These great national projects were the acts of great men. They were not incrementalists. They were risk takers.

I would like members to listen to Macdonald defending his railway policy in 1873:

We have fought the battle of Confederation. We have fought the battle of unity. We have had party strife, setting Province against Province. And more than all, we have had, in the greatest Province, every prejudice and sectional feeling that could be arrayed against us. I throw myself on this House; I throw myself on this country; I throw myself on posterity, and I believe that, notwithstanding the many failings of my life, I shall have the voice of this country rallying round me. And sir, if I am mistaken in that, I can confidently appeal to a higher court—to the court of my conscience and to the court of posterity.

That is the authentic voice of a great leader. These were men of vision who were not content to accept things as they were. They were creators. They were agents of change. They were also great humanists, apostles of tolerance and respect in an era that was decidedly less respectful and tolerant than our own.

Here is what Laurier said at Montreal's National Club:

We, people of French origin, have a sense of our own individuality. We want to pass on to our children the language we inherited from our ancestors. But while we cherish this feeling in our hearts, we refuse to admit that it is incompatible with our being Canadians. We are citizens of Canada and we intend to fulfil all the duties that this title implies.

This being said, whenever we invite men from another race to our table, we affirm that they are our fellow citizens, just like they affirm that we are their fellow citizens. Our country is their country: their political opinions are our political opinions; our aspirations are their aspirations. What they want, and what we want, is that the rights of minorities be respected; that our constitutional guarantees be safeguarded; that the provinces remain sovereign and that Canada be united in its diversity.

Let the House now praise two famous men, two great Canadians, by voting to support Bill S-14, an act respecting Sir John A. Macdonald day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier day.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day And The Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on behalf of the official opposition to address Bill S-14, an act respecting Sir John A. Macdonald day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier day.

Sir John A. was born on January 11, 1815 and was of course our first prime minister. Sir Wilfrid Laurier was born on November 20, 1841, and was the prime minister of Canada from 1896 to 1911.

It is my understanding that the purpose of the bill is to designate January 11 of every year as Sir John A. Macdonald Day and November 20 of every year as Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day. I also understand that a variation of the bill was introduced in the last parliament only honouring Sir John A. Macdonald and to remove a partisan twinge in the other place, I say the other place is not represented by the elected commons and therefore that caveat does not play well here.

I would like to make clear that the bill does not ask for the declaration of a national holiday. It is simply recognizing two great Canadians.

We approve in principle any efforts to allow Canadians to appreciate their history. The fact that these two great Canadians come from different traditions is a very positive thing. We feel that the bill will put these dates on the parliamentary calendar, the national calendar and will provide an opportunity for teachers, for parents and for Canadian society to honour the memory of two great Canadians.

Inasmuch as there is no attempt to declare these days official holidays, there is no financial implications to Canadians, employers and otherwise. We think that is a very positive aspect of the bill.

In reflecting on the contribution of these great Canadians, I came across a debate about the contributions by Sir John A. Macdonald in the early days when they were considering this union. I would just like to state a brief quote where Sir John A. was speaking about this union. He said:

When this union takes place we will be at the outset no inconsiderable people. We find ourselves with a population approaching four millions of souls...And with a rapidly increasing population...our future progress, during the next quarter of a century, will be vastly greater.

That was received with cheers.

He went on to say:

And when, by means of this rapid increase, we become a nation of eight or nine millions of inhabitants, our alliance will be worthy of being sought by the great nations of the earth.

Hon. members responded “Hear, hear”.

It is interesting to reflect that at the time of independence, 1931, Canada's population was around 10.5 million.

Canadians need to reinforce our sense of identity. We do well to remember men and women of distinction who have contributed greatly to these institutions of democracy that we now labour to protect.

Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier are without doubt worthy of this recognition. We support the bill, and we hope that it will contribute to our appreciation of our history and our heritage as Canadians.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day And The Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I had not planned to speak to this bill, and I apologize to the mover for not having prepared remarks because I think it is the kind of topic on which one would have liked to have had the time to do a little research and perhaps to have come up with some worthy quotations from both Macdonald and Laurier, particularly with respect to Macdonald and some of the anecdotes somewhere along the line already engaged in by the member who introduced the motion.

I would certainly like to speak in favour of the motion in its particularity, that is to say the idea of having a day to honour Macdonald and Laurier. Generally, I would like to speak in favour of more opportunities for Canadians to reflect upon their history and for Canadians to know their history better than they do, because I would say that one of the weaknesses of Canada as a nation is that we do not know our history as well as we should.

I think it is fair to say that in many of the constitutional debates we have had in the country we might have been able to have had more intelligent debates, more constructive debates if people had been more aware of their history and more aware of the particular traditions out of which people were operating, out of which they were thinking, speaking and acting when they were participating in those debates.

That does not mean to say that it would have eliminated disagreement, because I think any study of Canadian history will show that there have always been different ideas about the country. There have always been different ideas about the role of the central government ever since the initial debate about confederation. There have always been different ideas about how much power should reside with the provinces. There have been a number of different ideas about Canada all competing with each other within the bosom of this great country we call Canada.

To name a particular day after Macdonald and Laurier is appropriate because within those two names is contained at least two of the contending views of the country, although there would be a great overlap between them as well. Nevertheless, one remembers that it was Sir Wilfrid Laurier who was the first prime minister to consider free trade with the United States, and it was Sir John A. Macdonald who was the creator and defender of the national policy, which was not a free trade policy but rather a policy which intended to create more of a national economy.

We see that debate being lived out even today within Canada with respect to free trade, although I must say that the free trade that we have today is far more extensive and far more destructive than anything that Sir Wilfrid Laurier had in mind when he defended the idea of reciprocity. That had to do only with tariffs. It did not have to do with investment, services and energy. It did not really have to do with incarnating or entrenching a whole philosophy.

I do not want to wander into the free trade debate. I want to stick with the idea that we should know our history better and that any designation of days, such as the bill suggests, which would help Canadians to do that should be supported. It might become an occasion in schools in particular, but also in other places for Canadians to reflect on their history.

There are many who lament the fact that Canadian history is not taught as much in our school system as it should be. It seems to me that we do a very poor job of that. Knowing Canadian history should not be an option. It should be something that every Canadian kid should have a good grasp of by the time he or she gets out of high school.

For children to simply take one course in grade 11, another course three or four grades back of that, and spend most of their time learning about the very early days of Canada with regard to explorers and everything else but never really knowing as much about our history in both the 19th century and the 20th century as I think people should know, is a fault of our school system. I know the history is in the textbooks, but I do not think we spend enough time on it. I wanted to use this opportunity to register that particular point.

I hope this is the kind of bill that might pass. I understand it is votable, although I hope that it does not come to a vote today because I think other members may want to speak to it. That is partly why I am on my feet, to ensure that the debate does not collapse within the first hour. It is something we would like to hear more members on.

I commend the mover of the motion in the other place and here for giving us the opportunity to reflect, however inadequately, on Canadian history and on these two great prime ministers. One who had this vision of a country on the northern half of the North American continent that would be different and distinct from the United States of America and another who had a vision somewhat later, when we were receiving more immigrants from all around the world, of a country that was tolerant and diverse and respectful of minority rights.

Both these visions need to be nurtured. As I already indicated the vision of Prime Minister Laurier with respect to a diverse and tolerant society that respects minorities is being nurtured, but I think the vision of Sir John A. Macdonald of a different and distinct country on the northern half of the North American continent is a vision that is in great peril.

An argument could be made that Macdonald would be rolling over in his grave if he could see the extent to which the country has become integrated into the North American economy and the extent to which it has come under the sway and domination, both ideological and political, of the country from which he sought to set Canada apart.

Forgive me if I use this time not to make a partisan point but to talk about something a great many people are very concerned about, and that is the project we call Canada. The hon. member spoke of national projects. The project we call Canada has had various mini projects along the way or various stages of the project. Our concern in the NDP is that we are in a project now that is quite antithetical to all previous projects.

We live in a world where we talk about a North American economic union, adopting the U.S. dollar and continental energy projects. These kinds of things would have driven Sir John A. Macdonald around the bend. They might have driven him to drink. Indeed they might have driven him to have a few more than he might otherwise have had.

I would certainly ask hon. members to consider this when we honour our history and honour the ideas some of our prime ministers had. Let us be vigilant and careful that we are not, by dearth of uncritical attraction to various new ideas or so-called new ideas, because some of what passes for new ideas these days is just old 19th century capitalism being repackaged and shoved down our throats, that when we pay homage to these individuals we are not by accident or design destructive of their visions of Canada.

The hon. member recalled the time of Prime Minister Laurier's funeral and the most recent time of mourning having to do with the death of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. We might remember another time in recent history when Canadians gathered from all walks of life, and certainly throughout western Canada, to pay homage to Prime Minister John Diefenbaker who, for all his faults and certainly his partisan faults, had a vision of Canada as something very distinct from the United States. He was not a member of the party I belong to, but certainly a great many western Canadians and I am certain Canadians from other parts of Canada, shared that vision with him.

It was a sense that Mr. Diefenbaker had, along with Sir John A. Macdonald, which sometimes got him into trouble with the United States of America. I would put that on the record as we;; because it is something New Democrats hold dear, not the memory of John Diefenbaker but the idea of a distinctive country on the northern half of the North American continent, something that is different, more compassionate, more caring and more sharing. Let us defend that to the death.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day And The Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour to speak this evening to a bill which has been unanimously passed in the other place and which recalls the contribution to this great country of two extremely honourable gentlemen.

When we suggest to others that we are to bring in a bill to honour Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, there will probably be other people who will say we should wait because there are other prime ministers who have made a greater contribution to the country. Were there?

If we were to give one person credit for bringing this great country together we would have to focus on the efforts and leadership of Sir John A. Macdonald, the first prime minister of Canada. Every time we look at a picture of the Fathers of Confederation and see Macdonald standing there with his bushy hair, a lot more bushy than mine or my colleague's from the Canadian Alliance, he stands out in more ways than one. There is an awe about him that we see in very few people.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the seventh prime minister if I remember my history correctly, and the first French Canadian prime minister, was known to be a silver-tongued orator. Some of the phrases he issued about the country would make anyone feel proud to be Canadian.

When I think about what Macdonald and Laurier envisaged this great country of Canada to be, and then look at the state of the country today, I can hear Laurier in some of his more pointed dialogues talking about the unity of the country. I will read one. I will read a little quote.

He said:

We are all Canadians. Below the Island of Montreal the water that comes from the north from Ottawa unites with the waters that come from the western lakes, but uniting they do not mix. There they run parallel, separate, distinguishable, and yet are one stream, flowing within the same banks, the mighty St. Lawrence, and rolling on toward the sea bearing the commerce of a nation upon its bosom—a perfect image of our nation. We may not assimilate, we may not blend, but for all that we are still the component parts of the same country.

How often in recent days or even in recent years have we heard this type of oration in a place similar to this? I would suggest it has been quite some time.

Even though Macdonald and Laurier were opponents in and out of the House, one a Liberal and one a Conservative, they were not opponents when it came to fighting for what they both believed in: a strong, united country where everybody, regardless of religion, race or language, lived and worked together for the benefit of the great nation.

Laurier felt so strongly about it that he said the 19th century was the century of the United States in terms of its development, but that the 20th century would be the century for Canada and Canadian development. He undoubtedly felt that others who came after him would show the same leadership and insight as to what the country could do.

However somewhere along the line we have failed. I think of the dream of unity and then look at the disunity in the House and within parties. I look at my friends in the Canadian Alliance who are conservatives and at my friends in the Progressive Conservative Party who are also conservatives and they are in the far reaches of the House at separate ends. I look at people here who tell us that their job is to take their province out of the country rather than to use their collective skills and wisdom to strengthen this great country. When I look at these things I ask where we have failed Laurier and Macdonald.

What did Macdonald say? In addition to the work he did in leading this great country and uniting the land physically by the construction of the railway, he too had some quotes we should never forget.

Macdonald talked about the French. He had learned that any relationship with the French depended on respect. If treated as a nation they would act generously, as free people generally do. If called a faction they would become factious.

In old age, Macdonald declared:

I have no accord with the desire expressed in some quarters that by any mode whatever there should be an attempt made to oppress the one language or render it inferior to the other: I believe that would be impossible if it were tried, and it would be foolish and wicked if it were possible.

Have we learned from that? I do not know. I guess history will decide.

When I came here and walked into this honourable Chamber I was asked if it was my greatest, most memorable political moment. I said no. My most memorable political moment to date was when I sat in the legislature in Newfoundland and saw Meech Lake scuttled. That night I said to myself something, which I hope will be incorrect, “I think this is the night we jeopardized the future of this great country”.

It is an honour and a privilege to stand here and talk about these two great men who made such an impression on this nation, not only by what they did but by what they said. Their words, if we read them, listen to them and heed them, can be an example for all of us.

As the waters from the west blend with the waters that flow through the St. Lawrence and into the ocean, so too do the energies of the people of the territories, British Columbia, the western provinces, central Canada and on to the Atlantic. If we only believed in this nation as did Laurier and Macdonald, we would not be having some of the petty problems we are having today.

Perhaps if we focus a little less on ourselves individually and a little more on our nation, as did Macdonald and Laurier, somewhere along the line people might look at us as parliamentarians and say that we too made a contribution to this great nation.

I am pleased and proud to support the bill and I hope others will also.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day And The Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to comment on Bill S-14.

This bill seeks to honour two of our greatest prime ministers, Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier. It would designate the birthdays of these outstanding Canadians as special days, helping to commemorate their remarkable contributions to the building of our nation.

Before commenting any further on the bill itself, I would like to offer my congratulations to the member of the other place for his initiative in proposing this piece of legislation. Like the hon. member of the other place, I believe we must work constantly and creatively to identify appropriate ways of preserving and celebrating our shared heritage as Canadians.

Only by fully understanding our history and learning about the lives and accomplishments of the women and men who have built Canada, can we know who we are, and fully appreciate what it means to be Canadian.

The intent of this bill is clear. It represents an act of respect and acknowledgement for these two towering figures of Canadian history, one, a Father of Confederation and the first Prime Minister of Canada, and the other, Canada's seventh prime minister, one of our nation's most powerful and articulate advocates for national unity.

I would like to say that Canadians are all familiar with the lives and accomplishments of Sir John A. and Sir Wilfrid. For people in this room today, that is almost certainly true.

However beyond this room in other rooms, other cities and other places across Canada that knowledge may be less widely shared.

Most Canadians know that Sir John A. Macdonald led the effort to make Confederation a reality. He drafted the British North America Act defining the federal system by which the original four provinces were united as one country on July 1, 1967. He became Canada's first prime minister and went on to help forge a strong and vibrant nation. He launched the Intercolonial Railway which would eventually provide a key physical link for Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast in the vast largely unsettled land in between.

What of Sir Wilfrid Laurier? Many Canadians recognize him as an eloquent and staunch promoter of national unity and as the first Canadian of French origin to become prime minister, but how many know that he held the longest unbroken term of office as prime minister from 1896 to 1911, a period during which his unshakeable confidence in Canada fostered unprecedented growth and prosperity for the young country? These are not matters we can take for granted.

As the member from the other place has demonstrated through his proposed bill, if we care about preserving and celebrating the achievements of these great Canadians we must take the initiative to ensure that their contributions to Canada are recognized. What is less clear about the bill, however, is whether by moving at this time to enact it we are taking the most appropriate and effective means to honour these exceptional Canadians.

Setting aside special days celebrating the achievements of great Canadians is a well established and time honoured tradition, but the 21st century offers new opportunities that may be even more effective in engaging the interest and imagination of Canadians.

New technologies and communications modes are providing exciting, new ways to celebrate and educate, opportunities to achieve this same goal.

As more and more Canadians are connected to the World Wide Web, information on virtually every aspect of our society, past and present, has become accessible to citizens, no matter where they live.

If I had a computer with me right now and I initiated a search for information on Sir John A. Macdonald or Sir Wilfrid Laurier, I would have instant access to a combined total of more than 18,000 websites devoted to these great Canadians.

Literally, at my fingertips, I would be able to draw upon an astonishing range of information and visual images. I would be able to review speech texts and quotations, copies of historical and more recent media commentary, academic analysis, and on and on.

The information revolution and the advent of new technologies are making it increasingly possible for Canadians to log on to their history, as well as to the latest stock quote or sports score.

The Government of Canada, in recognizing the value and potential of the Internet, is committed to help Canadians exploit the opportunities being made possible by the Web. This recognition of the increasingly important role and potential of the Internet is at the core of our government-on-line strategy.

Through government online the Government of Canada is committed to becoming by 2004 the government most connected to its citizens. This not only involves more efficient and timely citizen access to government information services. It also means using the Internet and new technologies to offer Canadians greater access to their institutions and their shared history.

Today, by accessing the Canada site on the web, it is possible to take a virtual tour of the Parliament Buildings and the parliamentary precinct, including the offices, parliamentary corridors and House of Commons seats where these two great Canadians did their important work.

The Department of Canadian Heritage is playing a leading role in the government online initiatives, especially with respect to Canadian content. We have an unprecedented opportunity to use the Internet to connect with our past as well as with each other. Strengthening this connection is a goal that we all share.

As the bill recognizes, both Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier were forwardlooking men who saw nation building and unity as the road to Canada's future. Each made profound and lasting contributions to achieving a strong and united Canada. The proposed legislation presents one very tangible means of paying tribute to their legacies and, for this reason alone, I believe the bill to be worthy of support in principle.

At the same time, it must be recognized that enacting the bill would likely generate calls for similar honours to be bestowed on other great Canadians. That is not a simple issue to resolve. At what point do we draw the line in creating recognition days for those who have played a significant role in building our country? What standards and criteria do we set in determining who to honour and, most important, who to leave aside?

In opening the door to demands for specially declared days, we risk diminishing the value and significance of such an honour, the exact opposite of what this bill hopes to achieve.

These are points for careful consideration. The good intent and purpose of this bill are beyond question. What we must not be afraid to question is whether this proposed legislation represents the best way to pay tribute to the great Canadians it is intended to honour.

As I have tried to suggest, there may be other options, such as the application of new technologies and the Internet, that may help achieve the same ends. The decision on which options are best is up to you.