Mr. Speaker, it is important for me to speak today at report stage to Bill C-20, an act to give effect to the requirement for clarity as set out in the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec Secession Reference.
It is particularly important to me to speak to Motion No. 4, which moves that Bill C-20, in the preamble, be amended by deleting lines 1 to 6 on page 1, in other words by omitting:
Whereas the Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that there is no right, under international law or under the Constitution of Canada, for the National Assembly, legislature or government of Quebec to effect the secession of Quebec from Canada unilaterally.
The reason it is so important for me to speak today is that this bill, the so-called clarity bill, is not just nebulous, but undemocratic, and I will demonstrate why.
First of all, Bill C-20 gives the House of Commons the power to overturn an act of the National Assembly and the decision of the people of Quebec. It gives the House of Commons the power to consider the referendum question and, by resolution, set out its determination on whether, in the House's view, the question is clear—I am referring to clause 1, first paragraph—or whether, again in the House's view, there has been a clear expression of a will by a clear majority of the population of that province to separate from Canada, as set out in clause 2, first paragraph.
Bill C-20 also gives the House of Commons the power to overturn a motion by the National Assembly to adopt a referendum question, as well as the power to overturn and to censure the result of a referendum that does not have a majority that is clear, again in the House's view.
By extending such authority to the House of Commons, Bill C-20 reactivates what is referred to by constitutional specialists as “the power of disallowance”, which fell into abeyance as recognised by the supreme court itself in its August 20, 1998 reference. Such an attempt is totally inconsistent with the independence of each level of government which represents one of the basic principles of federalism.
This power of disallowance is extended to a chamber of the Parliament of Canada where less than 25% of elected members are Quebecers—members should keep this percentage in mind—which gives to the rest of Canada a new form of veto on the political and constitutional future of Quebec.
The power of the House of Commons is strengthened by the obligation imposed on it by Bill C-20 to take into account the views of many political players from the rest of Canada, who can also jeopardise Quebec's freedom to choose its own destiny, while if French is spoken to them they will not understand a word of what is being said.
For this reason alone, Bill C-20 is undeniably undemocratic. It should be withdrawn before 60% of the members of the House of Commons coming from Quebec—at least 45 out of 75 members—vote against this measure and deprive it of any legitimacy.
That was my first point and I will now discuss a second point. Bill C-20 denies Quebec the freedom to choose its political destiny and among other things to include in a referendum question, if so it chooses, a offer of partnership with the rest of Canada. It is truly an attack on the freedom of choice of Quebecers, and God knows that we know what we want.
By rejecting the partnership, thus limiting the constitutional and political options for the future of Quebec, Bill C-20 purports to prevent Quebec from reaching out to the rest of Canada and propose a form of partnership that would be entirely compatible with the new status of a sovereign Quebec.
As numerous analysts indicated—and we have heard from a great many of them—this is a scheme, a trick to force Quebecers to chose between status quo and secession, to use the minister's pet word.
There is nothing in the supreme court opinion justifying the hard line taken by the minister and the government. For that reason also, I repeat that Bill C-20 is clearly undemocratic.
My third reason is that Bill C-20 denies the universal rule of the 50% plus one majority and the basic rule of the equality of votes.
By refusing to recognize the 50% plus one rule and by drafting a provision, namely clause (2)( b ), which is itself the opposite of clarity, the Liberal government ignores a rule which was very widely accepted by political actors in the 1980, 1992 and 1995 referendums, and which they still consider valid. The 50% plus one rule is a universally recognized rule, which has applied and continue to apply to all referendums held under the auspices of the United Nations.
Once again, the government relies on an opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada to suggest that the 50% plus one rule is not valid, when in fact nothing in that opinion supports such a position, quite the contrary. The fact that the court made reference to a qualitative majority contradicts him and we will repeat this over and over again during the next few days.
The refusal to abide by the 50% plus one rule is outright discrimination against individuals and is contrary to the principle of equality of votes. In the end, the winning option is the one that has more weight than the other. For this very obvious reason, Bill C-20 is clearly undemocratic.
I strongly wish our institution, the House of Commons, would withdraw it because it goes against the imperative standard of the equality of all citizens.
Not only is Bill C-20 an unprecedented attack against Quebec democracy, but the government also now seems determined to use undemocratic methods to force its passage by the House of Commons: review by a legislative committee instead of a standing committee; hearings restricted to expert witnesses; refusal to consult the public; and finally, Motion No. 8, which is nothing more than a gag order.
The Prime Minister seems to want to show once again that his government lacks transparency. It is not by refusing an open and democratic debate on Bill C-20 that the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs will convince people that all he wants is truth and, above all, clarity.
At this point, I move:
That motion No. 5 be amended by adding, after the word “donné” in the French version, the following:
And I sign the amendment, so as to prove that all is transparent with us.
Bill C-20, proposed by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Prime Minister to force on Quebecers referendum rules that are contrary to the most basic principles of democracy, is a departure from tradition and from respect for democratic rules.
I remind hon. members that the federal government, which took part in the 1992 and 1995 referendums, is now breaking with the democratic tradition of Quebec and Canada.
Basically, we are asking for the freedom to have a responsible government in Quebec, the freedom to make sure that the Government of Quebec is recognized as responsible and legitimate, the responsibility and the freedom to determine the referendum question and to not be tied up by an untenable status quo. This is called the freedom to have the country of our choice.