Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate. First, I want to congratulate the Bloc member for Trois-Rivières for putting the issue of federal-provincial relations on the table so we can discuss it.
We have discussed some important issues, such as the leadership of the member for LaSalle—Émard. However, it is important to see that Canada is a federation that deserves to be modernized. It has been experiencing problems for several decades.
Even if it is somewhat late in the day, what the member for Trois-Rivières is doing is bringing up, for a debate that will last about an hour, the issue of federal-provincial relations. That is the crux of the problem.
Where the government opposite is concerned, there is always presumption of guilt and not presumption of innocence. We are afraid, because we have a decade of experience with the Liberal government. Those who care about their province or territory, especially in Quebec, will automatically see the federal government as guilty. It will try to encroach upon provincial jurisdictions.
We can see that right now with regard to the very difficult decisions that the provinces have made on issues such as municipal mergers, among others, which, by the way, are a very good idea. We end up having provinces within provinces. That is the problem. Going back to the presumption of guilt, we can see that the government is thinking of municipal affairs as an election issue.
How many tens of ridings are there in Toronto alone? There may be more that in Atlantic Canada. So the government will leave aside Atlantic Canada and the fisheries issue to take care of Toronto. It will also take care of Calgary and even Montreal. That is what the government has done.
This government has even put in place a partisan committee, a Liberal committee, to study this issue. It has refused to let the House of Commons deal with it. Municipalities are a provincial jurisdiction. That must be said. The federation needs to be modernized.
The other interesting aspect of this motion concerns the issue of Quebec's place within Canada. This is important. People may say whatever they want about the Bloc Quebecois. However, the word Quebec is often mentioned by members of that party, more often than by government members. It is important to point that out.
On the issue of nation, I think there is a distinction to be made. I would humbly suggest to my hon. colleague from Trois-Rivières that it all depends on the dictionary one might be using. My colleague from the Canadian Alliance touched on this earlier.
As far as we are concerned, it is clear, we recognize that Quebec constitutes a nation. However, if I were speaking in English right now, the word “nation” would have a completely different meaning. Depending on whether we are looking in the Larousse dictionary or the Oxford , the definition might not be to the liking of the hon. member for Trois-Rivières. If we stick to the definition found in the Larousse , then we do not have any problem recognizing that Quebec constitutes a nation, quite the opposite.
I would remind my hon. colleague from Trois-Rivières that the Progressive Conservative Party recognized Quebec for what it is a long time ago.
In fact, in 1991, some of his colleagues were still members of the Progressive Conservative Party. At the time, motions were passed to recognize the right to self-determination--that was in 1991--which meant that Quebec constituted a nation--that was in 1991--and the fact that Quebec was a distinct and unique society. That occurred in 1991. It is important to point that out.
I also want to go over the background of the social union. I would remind the House that the Quebec premier at the time was a sovereignist. During the negotiations, before the final agreement was reached, he had managed, with the support of his partners, to come to a basic agreement, a framework agreement, where the right to opt out with full financial compensation was granted to everyone.
Then it was realized that, for Quebec, that right was rather an obligation. To the other provinces, it was a bargaining chip. That goes to show again that Quebec is truly a distinct society.
I am not sure that the provinces have realized yet that they missed the boat by not supporting Mr. Bouchard, who was the Quebec premier at the time.
And that has nothing to do with whether Quebec has a sovereignist government or not. The current premier, when he was in the opposition, said that he would not sign this agreement without a full right to opt out with full compensation; he is still saying that today. It has nothing to do with it.
When a government or a political party, no matter which, dilutes this position, it is a slap in the face in terms of demands—not just for Quebeckers but for all Canadians—it is arrogance. It is not love, not Amour with a capital A, it is Arrogance with a capital A.
A federation is a living and changing thing. Even though Canada has one of the oldest written constitutions, not much has changed. There have not been many constitutional amendments, but there have been agreements that have evolved.
We may remember that in the 1960s, Quebec opted out of 22 federal programs with 7 tax points. Now we are talking about opting out with tax points. It has been done in the past. It is one way of looking at the country.
Then, there was some centralization. The presumption of culpability behind the Liberal's centralization is the heart of the problem. Federalists and sovereignists alike realize that this is not working and that each side of the House has a different vision.
I was listening to my hon. colleague from the Canadian Alliance and I think that he did not read the entire web site. With all due respect, he should investigate further. Neither Quebec nor any province has the right to opt out with full compensation. There is no such thing.
First, in order to take advantage of it, Quebec would have to sign it. But it did not. The provinces are so hungry for resources that, often, during negotiations, they accept certain conditions. But some provinces—including Quebec—some politicians—including the Bloc—and some Conservatives at times, rise to say it is not logical.
This system must be re-examined, and I say this with all due respect, because my position on this is clear. We are talking now about the leadership; there are now, officially or unofficially, two prime ministers. As a constitutional lawyer, I am inclined to say this is hardly legal under normal circumstances, but not to worry, the Liberals will work around it.
However, the system currently is not working. We are talking about important issues, of course, but we forget what makes a country: its units and its partners.
Canada is more than just Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Forget that. Ottawa has done wonderful things in remote regions; but it has also caused problems in my own riding.
The social role was to modernize relations, to remove the presumption of culpability behind the federal government's centralization and say to the provinces that it is now to be presumed innocent. I believe in a balanced relationship between the partners in a federation. It is a dog's breakfast. This country is failing in terms of relations between the partners. As soon as a partner becomes strong, the Liberal government tries to appease it.
That is not how the system works because a federation, a country, must also be there to help people facing difficulties and challenges.
What the member for Trois-Rivières has done is perhaps to again raise—on the eve of an election with the king from LaSalle—Émard—the issue of relations between the partners in the federation and I thank him for that. In the coming weeks and months the Progressive Conservative Party will be giving this some thought as well.
I hope all the partners here in the House of Commons will also give this some thought.
A country is more than a name on a piece of paper. It is alive and like the people who live in this country and evolve, the country must evolve too.