Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to speak about the advantages for the people of Quebec in continuing to play their rightful role at the heart of a broader country that they themselves have helped to build, and that is our country of Canada.
We are continuing to build on Canada's economic success story and it has benefits for both the Québécois and for all other Canadians. Federations, such as Canada, operate not only to preserve and promote plurality and allow for the harmonious co-existence of nations, but also to bring concrete benefits to all its members.
The benefits flowing from Canada's political and economic union are among the most concrete of these. The government's advantage Canada plan, tabled last week in Parliament, highlights this very well. Advantage Canada is a long term plan that creates the right conditions and opportunities for Quebeckers and other Canadians alike.
When world events disrupt economic activity, our strong, solid and integrated economy has a major advantage. In hard times, it is always good to be able to count on the mutual aid that Canadians from all regions are capable of.
This is especially true today with globalization and the new rules of the fast growing international economy.
These new developments are placing a premium on the ability of nations across the globe to achieve a degree of economic integration that safeguards and promotes their prosperity. Economic integration is no longer a vague concept that only economists talk about. It has become a reality. Our economy is a global economy. The benefits of economic integration have been clearly demonstrated, and those countries that pay attention to the lessons to be learned reap the rewards of prosperity. Canada is one of those countries.
Only last week, the government presented a plan called advantage Canada. That plan builds on Canada's strengths and seeks to gain a global competitive advantage. We are an emerging energy superpower that is taking action to make concrete improvements to our environmental sustainability. Our economic plan will make a strong Canada even stronger by building a country that is a formidable economic player in the world.
The focus on economic policy is not an end in itself but a means to broaden the range of choices to all members of our federation, including the choices on how to improve our quality of life. Those choices are made by individual Canadians themselves. They are made by the larger communities of shared interests and national identity to which they belong, which includes Quebeckers, and by their federal, municipal and local governments.
Quebeckers and other Canadians have long shared the same basic values, in other words, sharing between regions, the universal commitment to offer the best possible public services, and respect for diversity, innovation and independence across the country.
What is more, for Quebeckers and other Canadians, it is particularly important to live in a country that is healthy, safe and prosperous.
Canada is a model for how countries can amplify the strengths of their component parts into a sum that is far stronger economically and speaks with a far stronger voice in international economic forums than those component parts could ever do on their own.
However, we do well to remember that Canada is not the first country where the weaving of strong economic and political ties have led to economic prosperity. Nor is it alone in today's world. Throughout history, there have been many examples of successful countries that have united the economic interests of their diverse constituents and prospered. One of the great examples is that of Great Britain. Great Britain was, and remains today, a union of nations.
Canada's first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, one of the principal architects, along with George-Étienne Cartier, of not only our political Confederation but also of the Canadian economic union, viewed himself as a Scot, as well as a member of a larger nation that was Great Britain, as well as viewing himself as a Canadian.
Sir John A. knew something about nations. He was also not afraid of words. On one occasion, he said, in referring to the people of Quebec:
Treat them as a faction, and they will react like a faction. Treat them as a nation, and they will react like a nation.
Like many Scots in the history of both Britain and Canada, members of the Québécois nation have contributed greatly to Canada's economic development. Recognizing Quebeckers as a nation is simply recognizing what they are and the historic role they have played, and continue to play, in advancing Canada's economic advantage.
Examples of nations weaving ever closer economic ties under shared political institutions are not limited to the past either. Today's Catalonia within Spain, today's India, all are clear success stories of different nations and nationalities prospering under unifying political institutions.
Where does Canada's economy stand today in comparison? According to the OECD, Canada's economy is one of the strongest among OECD countries. In the OECD's view, Canada has worked steadily to become one of the world's most open economies.
As the Minister of Finance stated last week in his economic and fiscal update, Canada's economy is among the fastest growing in the G-7. Canada's job creation has been the strongest in the G-7 over the past decade. In fact, we are on the best economic footing of any of the G-7 countries.
Recent public consultations and commissioned experts' work on Canada's internal market indicate that when compared to similar efforts to reform the economic union in Australia and in the European Union, Canada is considered to be ahead of the European Union and comparable to Australia in terms of economic integration.
The advantages of pooling our economic strengths within a united Canada are as relevant today, in a globalized market and unstable world, as they ever were. In the various international forums that are increasingly important in securing economic prosperity, it is as crucial as ever to speak with a strong, united voice.
After all, there is a world of difference between having the right to speak out and having the influence to make oneself heard.
In my opinion, Quebeckers benefit a great deal from being part of the Canadian voice and, accordingly, they are better understood. Certainly all Canadians also benefit from the fact that the voice of Quebeckers joins with that of other Canadians to speak on behalf of Canada on the world stage.
Advancing our common interests and values is best done by binding together. As history has shown, a strong and united country provides the best conditions for societies and economies to flourish. Let us think of how deeply integrated our economy is. Let us think of how much stronger our voices are when speaking in unison. This is what allows Canada as a whole to remain at the global economic forefront.
I have had the great privilege in my life and my working career to spend time in all parts of Canada and I love all parts of Canada. I have spent a great deal of time in Quebec and I love all parts of Quebec. I have enjoyed its people, the language, the food and the culture. I have great friends from Quebec. Serving 30 years in the air force, I developed many strong relationships with mates on my squadrons or mates in the army and navy from Quebec. They brought with them a great sense of love for the country and a great sense of commitment to Canada that went way beyond anything they would commit to a particular province, whether it is Quebec, Alberta or Manitoba, where I came from.
It was a commitment to Canada first and foremost. They retained their Quebec roots, their language, their culture and the Quebec joie de vivre that I enjoy being part of every chance I get. Next week my wife and I are going to Quebec City to celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary, and I cannot think of a better place to spend it than in Quebec City on the shores of the St. Lawrence River in such an historic spot, one of the places where Canada started. I am going to be very proud to do that. We are going to have a heck of a time. We are going to leave a lot of money in the economy of Quebec.
What it comes down to is faith. One of my colleagues talked about love and respect. I love and respect Quebec. I love and respect Quebeckers. My Canada includes Quebec and my Canada will always include Quebec. I have faith in the people of Quebec. I have faith in Canadians. It is time tonight that we put that faith to a vote and showed that. I invite everybody in the House from every party, including the Bloc, to put faith in Canada, to put faith in themselves and to put faith in the people that they were elected to represent and support the motion. Once and for all, let us quit talking about breaking up Canada. Let us talk about a united Canada once and for all and be done with it.