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House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebeckers.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Quebec’s traditional demandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, Human Resources and Skills Development; the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Citizenship and Immigration; the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer, Ethics.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following public bill, to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the House of certain historical facts and I forgive my hon. colleague from Lévis—Bellechasse for perhaps forgetting them, given how young he is.

It is important to remember that, for sovereignists, the Meech Lake accord was what we referred to as the “beau risque”, and that we were definitely not the ones who killed the Meech Lake accord. I would remind the House that it was Elijah Harper, an aboriginal leader, who was demanding more rights for aboriginal people in this accord, and Clyde Wells, who no doubt was greatly inspired by the Liberals, who were whispering in his ear. They are the ones who torpedoed the deal.

I must say, I was very surprised to hear the member say that with this motion we are hindering all reforms to Canadian federalism. I had to wonder what reforms he was talking about. I did not see any such reforms go through this House. For him, does reforming federalism mean putting Quebec at a disadvantage by reducing its political weight by increasing the number of seats in other provinces? Does it mean a Canada-wide securities commission? If that is what he means by reforming federalism, I doubt very much he would have our support.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the interpreters in this House on the excellent job they do.

I thank my colleague for her comments. I may be guilty of some historical inaccuracies, but she should have no fear, for I will check my sources. But there is one thing about which I can reassure her, and she can check it herself. I would like to tell her about a great father of Confederation, Mr. Chauveau, who was Premier of Quebec. He was a reformer at heart and someone who helped Quebec grow and thrive. He was also a democrat. He even signed a manifesto with a number of other Quebeckers to ensure that there would be representation by population in the House in which we are sitting and that demographic growth in the different parts of the country would be taken into account.

I believe that that goes hand in hand with a nation that is thriving, sure of itself and confident of taking its rightful place, but that also recognizes the place of others and their demographic weight. That is what I would say right off the bat about that issue.

Regarding the other issue of economic crimes and the importance of developing tools, I would just like to remind her of two facts. The International Monetary Fund and the OECD are pressing the federal government to create a more effective securities commission than we have now. I would also mention that the victims of Earl Jones are begging us to do something to prevent people from being swindled like that again. These people are in favour of standardization and a single securities commission.

I also want to reassure her that we fully respect the securities regulator in Quebec. It can continue to exercise its authority. This is a voluntary measure.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of his speech, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse said that the Liberals' unilateral patriation of the Constitution in 1982 was not quite right and that the Liberal Party never asked Quebec whether it agreed with the idea. I should point out that, at the time, 75 Quebec members were Liberals. They could have asked Quebec whether it agreed. I think that MPs from Quebec, who were all Liberal Party members, could have opposed the whole thing.

We are seeing the same thing today. Bill C-12 would further marginalize the Quebec nation within Canada by reducing its political weight in the House of Commons from 36% of the seats in 1867 to 22.4% in 2014.

My question for my colleague is simple. Some Quebec MPs are Conservative Party members. The government wants to reduce Quebec's demographic weight in the House of Commons, but Quebec has told the Conservative Party that it is not in favour of this.

Will the member respect Quebec's will by voting against reducing the province's political weight in the House of Commons? He said that Liberal Party MPs did not consult Quebec. These two approaches have much in common. I would like to know if he plans to respect Quebec's choice.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member opposite for his question. I would like to answer in two parts.

We have to make a distinction between demographic weight and political weight. For demographic weight, I am sure that my colleague is a great democrat and recognizes that the basic principle of “one person, one vote” applies. I agree with this principle, as do many Quebeckers and great democrats, whether they are sovereignists or not, René Lévesque or Daniel Johnson Sr. It is a principle my colleague agrees with. That is demographic weight.

As far as political weight is concerned, I suggest that my colleague come to this side of the House and sit with the government. That way, Quebec would have political weight in the government and could participate fully. I invite the hon. member and his colleagues to join me to make Quebec's voice even louder within the government.

Even though there are not many of us, we are doing our jobs. During the debate on the nation of Quebec, I recall that it was my colleagues, such as the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles and the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, who defended loud and clear the recognition of the Quebec nation. Our Bloc colleagues took two days to realize that this made sense and decide that they would vote in favour as well.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Vincent Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member still does not understand the issue. He said that, in 1982, the members of the House did not consult Quebec and that the Constitution was patriated unilaterally. Quebec told the Conservative Party that it wants its political weight to remain the same. The message is clear. The National Assembly wants to keep the same political weight. The Conservative members from Quebec will have to listen to Quebec and vote the way Quebec wants.

I see a double standard here. The Liberals did one thing in 1982, but today, the Conservatives say that that is not important and that the same thing will not happen again. In 1982, we should have consulted Quebec and listened to what it had to say. Today, they are well aware that the political weight of Quebec must remain the same, but I am sure that they will not listen to Quebec and that they will vote against it, even though these people represent Quebeckers.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would remind my hon. colleague that the motion on the Meech Lake accord that we are debating here today made no mention of the issue he just raised, namely, democratic weight. However, I would like to reassure him. In that regard, as a Quebecker and someone who believes in democracy, I feel that the principle of one person, one vote is important and many intellectuals from Quebec, past and present, share that opinion. Chauveau, in particular, comes to mind, along with many Quebec prominent figures who recognize the importance of democratic weight, which is a fundamental principle of democracy.

That said, I am pleased to see that my colleague across the floor also wants to improve Canadian federalism. How fortunate. I believe that Quebec still has a great future within Canada and I encourage him to continue with his constructive comments. We need the support of the Bloc Québécois to create a stronger Quebec and a stronger Canada.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to share my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher. My speech will contain a number of corrections to the points that the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse has just raised.

The basic question before us is “Can Canada be reformed?” At the moment, the answer is no. The only solution for Quebec is sovereignty. We would then have full power over everything sovereignty means: we could sign international agreements and we could keep our taxes for Quebec. As to the federation, everything has already been tried.

I would like to correct a number of things that the hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse raised. First, there were a number of constitutional attempts. We have mentioned the Meech Lake accord and the Charlottetown accord here. I will speak about those, but we must also remember there was an attempt in Victoria where the Robert Bourassa government said that we did not have enough powers and so we could not accept it. So that was dead in the water.

Each time that Quebec has been faced with fundamental issues of having to water down its powers, Quebec premiers have all stood up and said that we cannot accept that. There was Victoria, but then there was Meech Lake. It is wrong to say that sovereignists dropped it or torpedoed it. On the contrary, at the time, it was called the “beau risque”. There were agonizing debates in Quebec, but at least we ended up saying that we were going to give Canada a chance, and see if, with five little minimum conditions, we could bring the whole federal family together.

The agreement was not torpedoed by sovereignists, but by Elijah Harper, who said that there was not enough in it for aboriginal peoples. But Mr. Harper said that he agreed with Quebec's claims. It was Elijah Harper who prevented Manitoba from signing the agreement.

And what about Clive Wells in Newfoundland who went back on his signature? I remember well the kiss that Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien gave Clyde Wells to thank him for taking his province out of the agreement and going back on his signature, with the result that the Meech Lake accord failed.

We have to talk about what happened. When the accord failed, Brian Mulroney appointed Jean Charest to try to water down powers once more on both sides. That was to get Quebec to swallow a potion that was unpalatable at the time. So Jean Charest was appointed by Brian Mulroney to prepare the Charlottetown accord. The Charlottetown accord was rejected by both the people of Canada and the people of Quebec.

Quebeckers said that the Charlottetown accord did not give them enough powers. Their powers were too watered down and it made no sense to agree to it. The Rest of Canada, the ROC, said that it did not agree to the accord because it gave too many powers to Quebec. That is the ditch that was dug between them. Polls show that there are two countries in Canada. It is no longer a ditch, it is the Grand Canyon that divides Canada's two founding peoples.

I have a lot to say about the recognition of the Quebec nation. Aside from its symbolic value, what good does it do Quebeckers? We have made several attempts. The highest court on the other side—as Mr. Duplessis said, it is like the tower of Pisa, which always leans to the same side, the federal side—has ripped our Bill 101 to shreds. That is a loss for Quebec as well as for the world's heritage. We have to protect the French language in America. We are surrounded by 300 million anglophones. If we do not have a law to protect our language, it will be watered down until it disappears entirely like so many aboriginal languages that are disappearing in Canada.

When we try to apply recognition of the Quebec nation to the Canada Labour Code in Quebec—as we all know, French is the language of work in Quebec—they say it is out of the question. So how is recognizing a nation anything more than symbolic?

My colleagues talked about the Canada-wide securities commission, which will transfer power from Montreal to Toronto. What does the Quebec nation mean in that context?

Why would anyone want to get rid of francophone know-how, assimilate it and pack everything off to Toronto? I should remind everyone that Quebec's National Assembly is unanimously against the idea. That is important to note. That is why, earlier, my colleague from Shefford asked other members how, as Quebeckers, they planned to vote.

The same goes for the 30 seats they want to add. Once again, Quebec's National Assembly is unanimous. People do not agree with the proposal because it would dilute Quebec's power. Some people, including the member for Lévis—Bellechasse, say that a vote should have the same weight no matter where it is. However, federalists always forget to mention Prince Edward Island, which has four members for 120,000 inhabitants. So the concept does not apply to them. Exceptions can be made for other provinces like Prince Edward Island. These things are the way they are for historical reasons. What is the government doing with one of the founding nations, with Quebeckers? It seems to me that exceptions should be made for a founding nation, that the government should act on its recognition of the Quebec nation if it wants that recognition to be more than just symbolic. Those arguments do not work. That is why I say that Canada cannot change. Every time we go to them with ideas, all they ever say is no, no, no.

An interesting survey was conducted. As I said earlier, there is a gap between English Canada and Quebec. It is not just a ditch, it is the Grand Canyon. For example, people were asked whether the federal government should have to respect Bill 101 in Canada and in Quebec. I just spoke about this. In Quebec, 73% of respondents said yes, and in Canada, 83% said no. Those are two extremes. There are two countries in this country. That is what this means.

They were also asked whether the Constitution should give Quebec the power to appoint the three Supreme Court judges. This was one of the conditions of the Meech Lake accord, by the way. In Quebec, 83% of respondents said yes, and in English Canada, 73% said no. Once again, those are completely opposite. There are two countries in this country.

Should the Constitution give Quebec full jurisdiction over immigration on its territory? Seventy-eight per cent of Quebeckers think so, while 77% of Canadians say no. These are extreme differences. When I say that the Charlottetown accord was rejected because Quebec did not have enough powers, while English Canada was saying that it was getting too many, these numbers are proof of that as regards language and immigration, but it goes on and on.

Should Quebec have more powers regarding language and culture? In Quebec, 82% of the respondents say yes, while in the rest of Canada, 69% say no. Where is the recognition of the Quebec nation? Where is the recognition of a different culture and language in Canada? The numbers tell the tale.

Should the Canadian Constitution recognize that Quebec forms a nation and should it include that recognition? Seventy-three per cent of Quebeckers say yes, while 83% of Canadians say no. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that there is no possibility of getting along. A reform is not possible.

Should Quebec have more powers and a special status? Seventy-three per cent of Quebeckers say yes, while 71% of Canadians say no. It is increasingly clear that, as regards these issues, we are at opposite ends, we are very very far apart.

I am going to mention one last question. Should the Government of Canada respect, on Quebec's territory, the provisions of Bill 101, which makes French the only official language in Quebec? We find that 90% of Quebeckers answered yes to that question, while 74% of Canadians said no. It is like that throughout the survey.

To those who think that a reform is possible in Canada, I say it is a big illusion, a fantasy. That cannot happen precisely because of people's perception and the fact that there are two countries in this country. If there are two countries in this country, we agree that Canada should be sovereign. Conversely, Canada must agree that Quebec should also be sovereign. That is the only solution to finally come to an agreement with our colleagues. Let us forget constitutional reforms. They are not possible because of the Canadian and Quebec perceptions. Therefore, sovereignty is the final solution for Quebec.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague opposite a question. He spoke about the Francophonie earlier. What would happen to the 1.5 million francophones outside Quebec when it achieves sovereignty? What would it do to help them? As far as I know, they have never lifted a finger to help francophones outside Quebec. I would like to know how it would help them since they are also part of the Canadian Francophonie.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that when it comes to protecting the French fact, we have always stepped up to the challenge, both in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. We have always helped our colleagues, be they Acadians, Franco-Ontarians or Franco-Manitobans. We do not work like the Conservative Party, which always expects something in return. Just because they oppose Quebec sovereignty does not mean that we will not help them. We have to be more generous than that.

I would like to remind my colleague that for a number of years the Commissioner of Official Languages has noted, year after year, that the French fact is diminishing in the rest of Canada. That is normal. There is no support for these people. They are alone in a sea of anglophones. If a sovereign Quebec were guaranteed to have French as its language—which is what we are aiming for—I believe that we would be much more effective in defending the people in America who consider the beautiful French language to be their mother tongue.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question about this motion for my colleagues opposite. If I am not mistaken, on November 9, 2009, in the riding of Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, after electing a Bloc opposition member for 16 years, the people made a completely different choice. I would like to know how they see the heartbreaking defeat they suffered in my riding.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have to admit that it was a heartbreaking defeat. But we live in a democracy. We always respect the voters' decision. I have always told my constituents that if they do not want me as their member anymore and they elect someone else, I will never question their decision. I will tell myself that it was their decision. There is a Latin saying that the voice of the people is the voice of God. But recent polls give me hope that we will win back that riding and several others in the Quebec City area. The Conservatives can go ahead and blindly follow their ideology. Quebeckers will make their decision in the next few years.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the voice of the people is the voice of God, I would like to tell my colleague that the people in my riding elected a Conservative for a very simple reason: when a party is in power, it can really accomplish things. In 20 years, the Bloc has not been able to accomplish anything in Ottawa. I do not know what the Bloc members are doing in Ottawa if they want Quebec to be independent. Quebec independence will happen in Quebec City, if it ever does happen. I sincerely believe that that is where the Bloc should go.

My question is very simple: how can the members opposite claim to stand up for Quebeckers' interests when Quebeckers elect Conservatives to Parliament?

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is somewhat mistaken. All in all, 30,000 Saint-Jean constituents voted for me. I won. The Bloc won 49 seats in Quebec. The people decide and that always holds true. Just because the people for a Conservative in his riding does not mean that there is nothing more for us to do here. We have heard that before and it is a blow to democracy. Forty-nine Bloc members were elected to this place. That is democracy. I am asking my colleague to respect democracy as much as I do.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Saint-Jean, who made a very interesting speech. I will no doubt touch on some of the results of the survey he mentioned, because the truth bears repeating.

I will of course support the Bloc Québécois motion, and I urge all members in this House, particularly those from Quebec, to be realistic and to join us in acknowledging that Canadian federalism cannot be renewed and cannot be reformed. Twenty years after the failure of the Meech Lake accord, which was the umpteenth attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable, it is more clear than ever that the Quebec nation and the Canadian nation have completely opposite views of Quebec's current and future status.

Even now, the Conservative government has insisted on introducing Bill C-12, a bill to amend the electoral map, which would mean that once again, Quebec would have a smaller percentage of representatives in this House. Unfortunately, the Liberals supported this proposal, and lo and behold, even Liberal and Conservative members from Quebec support this bill, which will be detrimental to the interests of the nation they claim to faithfully represent.

This initiative to further reduce Quebec's place in the Canadian system says a lot about the fate that Canada is reserving for the Quebec nation, which is to live as a minority that will become increasingly smaller. Yes, an increasingly smaller minority is all that Canada can offer us for the future.

Beyond all the nice rhetoric used in this House to make us believe that we are considered with a minimum of respect, the polls reveal the real feelings of Canada towards Quebeckers' aspirations. The one that was conducted between March 18 and April 6, to which the hon. member for Saint-Jean referred, shows us once again the harsh reality.

While 73% of Quebeckers want the Canadian Constitution to recognize that Quebec forms a nation, 83% of the respondents in the rest of Canada reject the idea. In other words, only 17% of the Canadian population outside Quebec supports the idea that we, Quebeckers, form a nation and that Canadian public institutions should reflect that reality.

In any case, the willingness of Canadians to find a constitutional arrangement that would be acceptable to Quebec has never been so weak.

When asked if Canada should begin a new round of negotiations to find a satisfactory constitutional agreement for Quebec, 82% of Quebeckers said yes, while 61% of Canadians outside Quebec said no. Similarly, when we talk about negotiating a new division of powers and resources between Quebec and Ottawa to recognize Quebec's special status, close to three out of four Quebeckers, or 73% to be precise, are in favour of the idea, while more than seven out of ten Canadians, or 71%, are opposed to it.

Throughout their history, the protection of the French language and culture has been one of Quebeckers' main concerns. That is truer than ever, as the poll shows. Indeed, 82% of Quebeckers feel that the Quebec government should have more powers to protect the French language and culture on its territory, but almost seven out of ten Canadians, or 69%, oppose the idea.

The gap between the two visions on the linguistic issue is even more glaring when we ask whether the Government of Canada should respect, on the Quebec territory, the provisions of Bill 101, which makes French Quebec's official language.

According to this survey, 90 % of Quebeckers agree, while 74% of Canadians disagree.

I could go on and on about the drastic differences and oppositions between the Quebec outlook and the Canadian outlook which are highlighted in the survey.

Twenty years after the failure of the Meech Lake accord, is it not more evident than ever that it is about time our two nations draw conclusions from these irreconcilable differences?

Allow me to conclude on a more personal note. At the time when the Meech Lake accord failed, I was president of the Montreal Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, which organizes Quebec national holiday celebrations in Montreal. What an extraordinary outpouring of fervour we witnessed on that day, with hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens following the parade down Sherbrooke Street in Montreal.

The failure of Meech was a test of truth, the kind of truth that is said to set us free. I remember Jean Duceppe, on the evening of the national holiday, shouting to a cheering crowd, “From now on, the future of Quebec will no longer be decided in Newfoundland, Manitoba or elsewhere. It will be decided in QUEBEC, by the QUEBECKERS themselves.”

The motion put forward by the Bloc Québécois today contributes further to the propagation of the truth, the truth that will set us free. Long live a sovereign Quebec. Vive le Québec libre.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It being 5:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the supply proceedings.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Opposition Motion—Quebec's Traditional DemandsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

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

Vote #48