Mr. Speaker, the motion before us is clear, simple and straightforward. It says what it says. It says what the members of Quebec's National Assembly, federalists as well as sovereignists, have already said unanimously. It speaks of a fact that no one should contest or think of contesting, and says it so clearly that in my view there is no room for interpretation or ill-conceived amendments involving any kind of conditions.
Quebeckers are rather surprised this morning to see that, in this House, the Conservative government and some members from Quebec did not spontaneously agree to recognize that Quebec and Quebeckers form a nation.
The Prime Minister tried yesterday to introduce his own motion, bringing in partisan political considerations, referring to the federalism option and the sovereignty option, saying that it means inside a united Canada. The government's behaviour in this matter is so astonishing that I would like to take the liberty of explaining something to you.
I am the second-longest-serving House leader in the history of Canada's Parliament. Usually when there is a minister’s statement, the government sends it to the opposition. The reason for this is easy to understand: it enables the opposition parties to react to a statement made in the House. Every time a minister has made a statement in this House, the content has been transmitted in advance, whether several hours, 15 minutes, or even just 10 or 12 minutes in advance. But yesterday, something exceptional happened in this House and I would like to raise it in today’s debate.
For the past 13 years, the government has always given the opposition a copy of statements by the Prime Minister. For probably the first time in history, that copy was a fake, a statement that did not contain the most important element in the Prime Minister’s remarks, about which all the media in Canada are talking today, in other words, his motion.
The Prime Minister has insulted not only the Bloc Québécois and the other parties in this House, but all Quebeckers. The people of Quebec are humiliated. I see that the Minister of Transport, a Quebec member, seems to find it funny that his Prime Minister and his government deceived the entire population of Quebec, by deceiving their representatives with a sneaky little trick.
For the first time in this House, because the matter at issue was Quebec and the Quebec nation, the government sent a truncated and misleading statement that did not contain the essence of what the Prime Minister was going to state in the House. I leave it to Quebeckers to judge this government’s tactics. Not so long ago, we had the “night of the long knives”, when Quebec was betrayed during the constitutional discussions. We have just experienced a black afternoon, an afternoon where the representatives of Quebec and the people of Quebec were deliberately deceived by the Prime Minister of Canada, whom I accuse of having sent us a faked version of his statement.
Nothing can justify the use of techniques like this. As parliamentarians of all shades of political allegiance, we should be able to discuss issues honestly and openly, and to judge motions like ours on their merits. That is how a parliament should function.
We should be entitled to some measure of openness from the government, from members from other parts of Canada and especially from members from Quebec who are part of the government, some interest in discussion, comparing ideas and working objectively together to do justice to the people of Quebec. It appears however that this is not possible.
The Conservative government has behaved in exactly the same way as the previous Liberal government when Jean Chrétien plotted behind Quebec’s back. This is absolutely outrageous. Will someone tell me why we in the House cannot simply say what we think about such a clear motion, “That this House recognize that Quebeckers form a nation”. Why is it so difficult to speak about this motion?
In closing, I would like to amend this motion as follows:
I move, with the consent of the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie and seconded by the member for Pointe-de-l'Île, the following amendment:
That the motion be amended by adding after the word “nation” the following:
“currently within Canada”
With this amendment, the motion would then read as follows:
That this House recognize that Quebeckers form a nation currently within Canada.