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House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

The House resumed from September 18 consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Pursuant to order made Thursday, September 18, 2003, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the opposition motion standing in the name of Mr. Paquette.

Call in the members.

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

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed from September 19 consideration of the motion.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2003 / 5:45 p.m.

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the referral to committee before second reading of Bill C-49.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it you would find consent in the House that those who voted on the previous motion be recorded as voting on this motion, with Liberal members voting yes.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Canadian Alliance Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadian Alliance members present today will vote yes to the motion.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois will vote against this motion.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, Progressive Conservative members vote no.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the NDP members will vote against this motion.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Guy Carignan Liberal Québec East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting in favour of this motion.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Saskatoon--Humboldt. Saskatoon--Humboldt. Yes or no?

The hon. member for Saint-Bruno--Saint-Hubert.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will vote against this motion.

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

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to committee)

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 5:52 p.m., the House will now proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

moved:

That the House acknowledge that Quebec constitutes a nation, and accordingly, as it is not a signatory to the social union framework agreement of 1999, the said nation of Quebec has the right to opt out of any federal initiative encroaching upon Quebec jurisdictions, with full financial compensation.

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleagues who have agreed to join me in this debate, which I feel is important to the history of Quebec and Canada.

What is important is not that I have taken it upon myself to bring forward this motion, but that it has to do with such an important issue: the existence or non-existence of the Quebec nation and the appearance on the historical scene of the 1999 social union policies.

To aid in the process, I will reread Motion No.394. It states “that the House acknowledge that Quebec constitutes anation, and accordingly, as it is not a signatory to the socialunion framework agreement of 1999, the said nation of Quebechas the right to opt out of any federal initiative encroachingupon Quebec jurisdictions, with full financial compensation”.

The meaning of the motion must be clearly understood, and a historical overview is necessary as well. It must be kept in mind that the federal government, Canada, had a choice. It had a crucial choice to make in the aftermath of the October 30, 1995 referendum, because of the resounding results. The columns of the Canadian temple were strongly shaken by the desire for change expressed by 49% of Quebeckers. At the very least, this sent a message to the federal government that things had to change.

The Canadian people—although that concept is also a debatable one—had a choice, through its government. It could recognize the need for change expressed by the referendum and shape the Canada of tomorrow to fit the aspirations and demands of the Quebec people. It could also bring about constitutional change to the way the country works so that Quebeckers might feel more comfortable. That is, in our opinion, where the problem of Canada, and Canadians, lies.

It could also continue along the path toward centralization that we have become familiar with since 1967, one that has characterized the constitutional evolution of Canada, shaped by crises and wars, throughout its entire history.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order, please.

Members should continue their conversation outside the House. This is the second time. I apologize to the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, but we cannot always control the situation.

The hon. member for Trois-Rivières.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, it might be good to remember what John A. Macdonald said in 1864, three years before confederation in 1867, in terms of his vision for Canada. He said Canada would have:

A strong central government, a powerful central legislature and a decentralized system of small legislatures for strictly local purposes.

That is one of Canada's great founders' view of Canada. We end up with this will to centralize which has left its mark, unlike the will to make changes; we end up with this will to continue on the momentum of centralization to form an increasingly unified Canada.

We saw the new Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs arrive on the scene. He had a very specific mandate from the Prime Minister, since this minister was also President of the Privy Council. He had to run things, ensure order and put Quebec back in its place.

And the minister gladly did just that—everyone knows it—with, first, the clarity bill in 1999. It was a direct attack on the rights and sovereignty of the Quebec National Assembly in terms of its right to ask the people of Quebec any question it wants.

Then, still in 1999, there came the social union agreement. It was signed by 9 of the 10 Canadian provinces and the federal government; the Government of Quebec, then led by Lucien Bouchard, chose not to sign.

For the benefit of those who would doubt the seriousness of this agreement, I shall simply quote two constitutional experts who have written articles in a monograph on constitutionalism. They wrote about this social union agreement. This book is called The Canadian Social Union without Quebec: 8 Critical Analyses and is published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy. First I shall quote Mr. André Binette, a well known constitutional expert who says:

The 1981 constitutional agreement and the social union agreement are the major and minor aspects of the same proposition: Canada cannot continue to coexist with the identity of Quebec. Canada is less and less capable of defining itself in view of Quebec's aspirations and will to achieve autonomy. Although the social union agreement was created in less dramatic circumstances than the 1981 constitutional blockbuster, its effects are more concrete and more damaging to Quebec's aspirations.

That is what Mr. Binette said.

Another eminent constitutional expert, André Tremblay, has written an article in the same monograph. In my opinion, this passage, this stance taken by a constitutional expert, is an important aspect, and I quote:

For the first time in the history of intergovernmental relations, the provinces, with the exception of Quebec, have confirmed and recognized the legitimacy of the power to spend and have given Ottawa carte blanche to intervene in all exclusively provincial spheres of jurisdiction.

He continues:

The agreement of February 4 [, 1999,] provides all the leverage and all the tools for centralization, and reduces our Quebec specificity. The federal government is crowned supreme and the provinces become its branches or franchises.

What the social union agreement means in practice is that the federal government has grabbed some powers and new responsibilities and that these have been recognized. That is what is new. There is no more debate and argument among the provinces, because Canada's provinces have bowed to the pressure of the moment and the historical pressure of the central government. They have abdicated. Only Quebec has refused to get on board the bandwagon.

In short, the following is involved: recognition of the legitimacy of the federal spending power; equality of the provinces among themselves, Quebec being considered a province like all of the others; no recognition of the Quebec people, as well as no recognition of the concept of two founding peoples.

From now on, the federal government can deal directly with organizations or individuals without any consideration for provincial jurisdictions, even in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. This means that it will now be dealing with municipalities, hospitals, universities, CLSCs, research centres, volunteer organizations and so on. Its presence will be felt increasingly, but we will come back to that later.

Another aspect is that the provinces will have to come to an agreement with Ottawa to establish new programs in their own jurisdictions and soon meet national standards set by Ottawa. The provinces will also have to account to the federal government for their management of certain programs, while the reverse will not be true. Furthermore, it will be up to the provinces to prove that they are managing the programs in question properly.

Finally, and this is the crux of the motion, no province will be authorized to opt out with financial compensation if it turns down a federal program and wants to establish its own. This seems to me to be central to the social union agreement.

Why is it despicable? Why do we feel compelled condemn this agreement today? Because Quebec is not a province, and above all, it is unlike any other province. Quebec is a people, a nation and, therefore, the right-thinking federalists should lead the fight to ensure that, in this country so dear to their hearts, Quebec is recognized as a distinct society. That was the expression used by the Prime Minister himself, but he had to backtrack when he realized that the rest of Canada was not on board.

Where are we headed for in this Quebec and Canada, if not toward recognizing Quebec's distinctiveness and giving it the special powers that go with it? We are moving literally and very quickly toward an increasingly centralized and unitary Canada.

The intention behind this attitude is clearly articulated by the Privy Council. Anyone who is monitoring closely the situation can tell. The result will be that there will be only one national government in Canada and that Quebec's claims in this respect will be eliminated over the next few years or, at most, the next few decades.

This then is the whole issue for Quebeckers: to properly understand the game, the manoeuvres, going on here in Ottawa, day in and day out, week after week, ever since the referendum of 1995. In my opinion, this government has neither legitimacy nor mandate, has not carried out any consultations, and most particularly has not carried out any referendum authorizing it to act so cavalierly, thereby downplaying the distinct character of Quebec. Quebec is a people. It is a nation. Quebec, despite its status as a province, has considerable influence in the international community.

These are not empty words. What does the reference to an unprecedented offensive aimed at making Canada into a centralized and unitary state mean? I will give you a whole list of all the initiatives the federal government has taken without any mandate to do so.

There is the millennium scholarship foundation, the young offenders legislation, the rural policy, the policy on the volunteer and community sector, the national agricultural development strategy, the university chairs, the national strategy on end of life care, the privacy legislation, the national standards on admission to the medical profession, the national strategy on technological innovation for training, the federal rules for environmental assessment, the endangered species legislation, the potential power to divert Quebec Rivers in the St. Lawrence watershed, the sponsorship program—that never ending saga—the planned multitude of cultural funding initiatives, although culture is exclusively a Quebec jurisdiction, the coming national securities commission, the potential national health insurance system, the planned national identity card so dear to the heart of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the program for funding post-secondary research, the national housing strategy for the homeless, the early childhood program, the program for marine conservation areas. Our list could go on all night.

That makes no sense.

It would be better to discuss whether this government was transparent and had the courage of its convictions. Whether the Prime Minister, the member for Saint-Maurice, the member for LaSalle—Émard, the Minister of Justice—all Quebeckers—had the courage to explain to Quebeckers that their plan in 20, 25, 30 years is to make education, health and social programs belong exclusively to the federal government, to say, that is their vision for the Canada of tomorrow and that is Quebec's place in the Canada they dream of.

I think that if people had the courage of their convictions and the intellectual honesty to talk about their daily actions, there would be a lot of problems in future elections. But, since people hide their intentions and do not have the courage to tell Quebeckers what they intend to do, they can still go to Quebec with a semblance of dignity while Quebec disappears slowly but surely.

Just look at our demographic weight compared to our political weight. There were 294 members in this House in 1993, 301 members in 2000 and there will be 308 members in 2004. There is no new seat for Quebec, while Canada will have almost 13 more. We have not even talked about globalization, where the sovereign Government of Canada will increasingly make decisions that will affect all the provinces, or those that remain, and that will have an impact on the daily life of the people of Quebec, putting its destiny at stake.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. friend from Trois-Rivières for his brilliant remarks. It is a wonderful exercise to raise the awareness of all Quebeckers, and I hope, of the hon. members on the front benches.

My question is related to that idea. Is he not surprised by the silence among the Liberal members from Quebec, who, after all, were elected by the people of Quebec? They have been completely silent here since they arrived, since 1993, with regard to this invasion of provincial jurisdiction. And yet they saw the steamroller flattening Quebec's areas of jurisdiction one by one, without saying a word.

We even wonder if some members are not considering suggesting changing the name of the party and, instead of calling it the Liberal Party, we could call it the muffler party, because it keeps things so quiet.

But how can they stay silent, in your opinion, hon. member for Trois-Rivières, when faced with such an invasion of our jurisdictions and such a disappearance of our nation, our people? Whether we want it or not, this social union, as you call it, will make Quebec truly provincial, then turn it into folklore, and finally make it just another Louisiana.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour for his question.

There is a cultural aspect to all this. People belong to a political party. They wear blinders and prefer not to fully investigate things. In particular, they prefer not to see how serious the situation is.

Either that is the case or we need to refine our vocabulary after 40 years of debate, because the real issue is Quebec's status. Since our goal is a sovereign Quebec, we call ourselves sovereignists.

When it comes to Quebec's status, these people see Quebec as a province. For the past 40 years, we have had the courtesy—I do not really know why—to call them federalists, when federalism is the relationship between the central state and the federated states, including the division of powers and the power relationship, which has nothing to do with the real debate in Quebec. This is applicable to all provinces.

It is their mindset to consider Quebec a province. They are provincialists, therefore. Perhaps this is what we should call them from now on. Both in Quebec City and Ottawa, all Quebeckers who consider Quebec a province are really provincialists. They see Quebec as small, shrunken and confined to being a province.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

An hon. member

They see Quebec on its knees.

Encroachment upon Quebec JurisdictionsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

They see Quebec as being on its knees, as not having any major international significance and therefore as being, ultimately, a closed society.

In keeping with what my hon. colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour said, this provincial reality is not neutral. There is an evolution. This concept of a provincial Quebec is progressive. We see this clearly under the current Quebec government, which is advancing the idea of a council of the federation to help make Quebec a better province.

We saw this again yesterday in connection with the municipalities. The Government of Quebec is celebrating as a victory the fact that it has achieved rapid agreement with the federal government on something that dragged on for three years under the former Quebec government, because the Government of Canada in the past was concerned with respecting the constitution. This means that the green plan for municipalities would have funds go directly to Quebec for distribution by it to the municipalities, as set out in the constitution and intended by the spirit of that constitution.

The good provincialist Quebec Liberals were quick to reach agreement, but that agreement was for the federal government to distribute funding directly to the municipalities, through the Canadian Federation of Municipalities. That was yesterday's decision. We describe the process as evolving from day to day. That was what happened yesterday.

This is a good illustration of how provincial these people are, their provincialist mentality, which is headed 15, 20 or 30 years down the road to folklorization and eventually Louisianization. At that point, we will no longer have any influence.

The issue at stake is a very important one. We must hope that the true thinkers among the Liberals, and among the Conservatives as well, take off their partisan blinkers and take a look at the destiny of the Quebec people, look where we are headed, evaluate the price Quebec has to pay to remain within the Canadian federation, assess the price of non-sovereignty. For example, taking a look at one little historical event—