Madam Speaker, I too am pleased to speak to the motion brought forward by the Bloc Québécois.
First I will go back to something our colleague from Hull—Aylmer just said. He used a term that is allowed here, in Parliament, but that would not have been allowed in the Quebec National Assembly. He used the term “hypocrisy“ with regard to the Bloc Québécois. I will give him the definition of this term since he obviously does not know it.
Hypocrisy means disguising one's true character, expressing opinions and showing sentiments and especially virtues that one does not have.
The presentation that I will make over the next 20 minutes will demonstrate to whomever is interested in this situation that only one political party is hypocritical regarding this issue, namely the Liberal Party of Canada.
The Bloc Québécois has its own option, which we obviously do not share, but it is perfectly consistent. The good thing about today’s debate is that the Liberal Party just said it would never vote to reduce Quebec’s democratic weight in the House of Commons. The hon. member in question is experienced and I hope he can read the newspapers, even if not the dictionary. Hopefully, he read the articles saying an amendment would be moved to the Bloc motion in order to do precisely what the Liberal member claimed he wanted to do, that is, prevent Quebec’s weight in the House of Commons from being reduced. It may well just be hypocrisy, however, on the part of the Liberal Party of Canada when it says it does not want Quebec’s weight in Parliament reduced. Those are the exact words he used.
We are going to have a chance this afternoon to compare what the Liberal Party says with what it does. An amendment will be moved to do exactly what they claimed they wanted. Then we will find out who the hypocrite is in the House, the Liberal Party or the other parties.
The bill in question has two purposes. First, it resolves an absolutely intolerable situation regarding the representation of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. In all, 30 seats will be added in provinces that are currently badly under-represented, a situation that is simply unacceptable in our democracy. As the Liberal member said so well, the federalist parties—the Conservatives, the Liberals and the NDP—supported the Charlottetown accord. The problem is that it failed to pass.
The Liberal member puts the blame on the Bloc Québécois and the Reformers, who now enjoy undivided rule over what used to be called the Progressive Conservative Party. The progressives have all jumped ship and it is the conservative Reformers who are in power in this minority government.
This situation must be corrected, while maintaining the democratic weight of the only province with a francophone majority and the only province whose people have been recognized by this Parliament as forming a nation within Canada.
When the negotiations began on the Meech Lake agreement, the Liberal Party did all it could to sabotage them. Remember Pierre Trudeau and his henceforth famous speech at the Maison Egg Roll in Montreal. It was his idea of humour to denigrate the federal political parties that had worked so hard to keep Quebec in Canada.
This attitude on the part of the Trudeau Liberals, of whom the hon. member who just spoke is a shining example, is very easy to understand. In their view, Canada consists of equal provinces. There are no distinctions, nor any recognition of Quebec as a distinct society, as proposed in the Meech Lake agreement, nor any attempt to keep Quebec’s democratic weight at 25%, as proposed in the Charlottetown accord. Neither of these ideas was acceptable in the world of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
According to the Trudeau vision of Canada, the best way for the Liberal Party to stay in power was to constantly kick Quebeckers in the shins, wait for them to react, and then go to the rest of Canada and say, “Look what whiners they are and how hard to get along with. Lucky that Trudeau and his gang are there to keep them under control”. That was the Liberal way that worked so well in Canada for decades on end.
We in the NDP will support the amendment that the Bloc Québécois has proposed to its main motion, which would make the motion match the one unanimously adopted early last October by the National Assembly of Quebec, and which is simply intended to do the following. If we are sincere in saying that Canada includes a nation, the Québécois nation, which is the only nation recognized as distinct within this federation, we must take concrete action to give effect to that recognition. It is contradictory to start reducing the demographic and democratic weight of Quebec in this House if we are sincere about Quebec constituting a distinct society.
My jaw dropped when the hon. Liberal member for Hull—Aylmer said earlier that the sum total of his research on the subject was to consult—and I quote him because it was so moving—“an instructive brochure” from Elections Canada . Yes, you heard right. The sum total of the electoral research of the Liberal Party of Canada is to read an instructive Elections Canada brochure. He goes on to tell us that Canada has a system of one person, one vote. The problem with the absolute system of one person, one vote is that it is the American system found in a republic south of our borders where the parliamentary tradition is different from ours.
I realize that the Supreme Court of Canada cannot compare with an instructive brochure, but its decisions can be instructive all the same. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that, in our country, in our federation, there is a reality that it has described as communities of interests. This is why our electoral map contains certain exceptions such as the four seats in Prince Edward Island, or one seat for 40,000 electors in the Northwest Territories. This is exactly what our Supreme Court said it was necessary to do with a country which today has a population of 33 million and is the second biggest country in the world. Regional differences must be taken into account.
The problem with the Conservatives’ bill is that the big loser, the one and only province that would see its demographic weight change from a surplus—at 104%—to a deficit, the only province to suffer that fate is Quebec. You heard me correctly. The big loser in what the Conservatives are trying to get passed in this House is Quebec. These are the same Conservatives who had the arrogance to propose the recognition of a nation they had no intention of subsequently respecting. They make a show of recognizing the Quebec nation, but whenever the time comes to do something concrete to give effect and recognition to that distinctness, the Conservatives do the opposite. They attack Quebec, they attack its demographic weight here in the House, they attack its capacity to remain within its own fields of jurisdiction. They do this time after time.
This is not recognizing a nation. This is not recognizing uniqueness. This is not recognizing a distinct character. This is the same Reform party that fought against the Charlottetown accord. This is the same anti-Quebec Reform party that is showing its true colours here. It is as if they think that the only way to give British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario their due is to reduce Quebec's representation to this extent.
We are going to have a very interesting political experience here this afternoon. Those wagging their fingers at their neighbours, the Liberals, who love to lecture everyone else, are going to be confronted with their own hypocrisy. The Liberals have just said—the sentence is worth remembering—that they are formally opposed—as their spokesperson said—to any weakening of Quebec's representation and democratic weight in the House of Commons of Canada. This is what they just stated, word for word.
This afternoon, there will be an amendment to the Bloc motion that sets out to do, word for word, what the Liberals have just said that they wanted to do. We shall see what the Liberals will do with that amendment.
The current leader of the Liberals is their fifth in five years. There was Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, Bill Graham, one who is still here, the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville and the current one from Toronto, who comes to us from England and agreed to move to Canada as long as he got to be its prime minister.
I remember as if it were yesterday when he spoke in the same breath of the Canadian political situation and civil war, a juxtaposition that only he could explain. This is the extent to which this man is completely out of touch with the reality of Quebec and of Canada. He is completely out of touch and yet he is the leader of the Liberal party. His spokesperson, the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer, who just referred to Bloc members as hypocrites, will therefore have the opportunity this afternoon to show whether or not he is a hypocrite himself. There will be a motion proposing exactly what he says he wants to do: prevent Quebec from losing any democratic weight and any representation in the House of Commons of Canada.
Nothing will discredit what his leader recently called the political class more than standing up and declaiming in a trembling voice that one defends Quebec's interests and its representation here, then voting against the motion in the afternoon.
This is a big moment for the Liberal Party of Canada this afternoon. We are going to see whether the Liberals, who are fond of lecturing others, are still emulating Pierre Trudeau, who killed the real Canada that had been built since 1867. Will they choose Pierre Trudeau's “One Canada” or a Canada that reflects our reality and the fact that there is a distinct Quebec nation within that federation?
Those of us who have spent our political careers working tirelessly to keep Quebec in Canada—or as my leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, is fond of saying, those of us who have worked to create winning conditions for Canada within Quebec—are going to keep on doing whatever we can to make Quebec realize that Canada is the best option for workers, for families and for Quebec's future.
The biggest problem is the attitude the Liberal Party has had for the past 40 years. That has been the main problem with the Canadian federation since the time of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The Liberals pay lip service to the idea of recognizing Quebec, but when push comes to shove, they always vote against such recognition.
The sad fact is that the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, which were negotiated in good faith, were necessary because the Canadian Constitution that Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien repatriated includes the law passed in English only in England, with a bilingual schedule. The law begins with the words “Whereas Canada has requested”.
It is a bald-faced lie to say that Canada requested this, because Quebec was not included, unless the point was to show that to Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada, Canada did not include Quebec. That has been the problem since 1982. The Canadian Constitution, which was adopted despite both sovereignist and federalist opposition in Quebec City, still exists. In spite of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, which were negotiated in good faith, the government has never managed to accommodate Quebec to this day.
We went step by step, line by line, recognition by recognition, thereby admitting that a big constitutional debate was perhaps not the only course of action. We can go step by step so long as our words mean something. The Conservatives recognized Quebec as a nation within a united Canada, and the other parties followed suit. That recognition was unanimous. On October 9, 2009, the National Assembly of Quebec was also unanimous: it asked the federal government to renounce the tabling of any bill whose consequence would be to reduce the weight of Quebec in the House of Commons.
And that is exactly what is before us today. The words of the Conservatives will be judged in terms of what happens here, this afternoon. The argument of the Liberal member for Hull—Aylmer that his party would vote against a motion that seeks to do exactly what he claims to want, in order to refer it to committee, is a web of lies that needs unravelling.
The spokesman for the Liberal Party of Canada told the House, barely half an hour ago, that his party would oppose any attempt to weaken Quebec's weight in the House. He cannot say that and then turn around and vote against the Bloc's motion and amendment, which seek to do exactly that.
The NDP speaks with one voice on this. We will support the amendment, which aligns the Bloc's motion with the unanimous motion of the National Assembly of Quebec. Let us hope there are enough men and women of good faith in this room to understand that, beyond the jeers and attacks of the Liberal party, if they believe that Quebec constitutes a nation within a united Canada, they cannot say so in one breath and vote against the recognition of that reality in the next breath.
So it is with pride that the NDP will vote this afternoon in favour of this amendment, which seeks to preserve Quebec's demographic and democratic weight in the House of Commons. At the same time, the NDP will continue to work fervently to rectify a situation that is unacceptable for British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.
If the Supreme Court recognizes the reality of communities of interest, what could be a more important community of interest than the only province with a francophone majority?