Mr. Speaker, this debate sadly is faced with closure and that really has been eating at me because democracy is about talking. It is about working through issues. It is about taking the time. Every time the government invokes closures, it is like being told “Sit down and be quiet”. It is really tiring. There have been so many debates in which I have not been able to participate because the government has invoked closure. That is not what democracy is.
There are times when one can understand that possibly a debate should be closed, but not after two hours, not after two days, not after two weeks. We are here, elected to represent the people who put their faith in us and every time we want to say something we are cut off. I had the good fortune to be able to make it in on this debate, but on so many others I have not been able to.
This afternoon in Oral Question Period I listened to the Minister of Industry talk about all the benefits of globalization and how Canadians should be so thankful for globalization and the fact that foreign investment is at an all time high in this country. What the people in Cape Breton are facing is globalization. Their mine is going to be sold and the people who live in that community, who wanted to put together a co-operative approach to buying out the coal mine and using it for their own benefit to benefit their community, are not even being considered. We do not know who is being considered, but it is certainly not the people of Cape Breton Island.
The Atlantic provinces and Cape Breton have a long history of driving their people out, of having no place for their children to stay to work and live.
My father was born in Cape Breton and had to leave. He came from a big family of 21 children. There was nothing for him to stay for in his home province. He had to leave and go to the Yukon where he lived out the rest of his life, but his heart was always in his home. It was always in Cape Breton and it was a place he saw only once again after the end of the second world war in which he served.
I do not believe our country should be doing that to its citizens, making efforts to drive them out rather than keeping opportunities within the places where they were born. This is a huge country and it is very culturally diverse. People from Cape Breton are very different from people in the Yukon. The people of the eastern Arctic are completely different culturally from those people in the prairie provinces.
We have mobility in this country but it still does not make it easy to be able to afford to move. It does not make it easy to be humiliated and driven out of one's own province to seek work elsewhere, probably with barely a penny in one's pocket.
What we are facing is a possibility of Colombian buyers purchasing this mine. What would that mean for the people of Cape Breton? Certainly not putting their own people to work in these mines, if the mine even stays open.
So far the Canadian government has spent about $1.6 billion or $1.7 billion on the mine. That is not a small amount. It is a very significant amount and it has meant that people from that area had a chance to work and live. But the mine gave back as well. Up to $6 billion over those years went back into the community, back into people's lives, funding schools, health care and post-secondary education.
Should we have before us a bill that will shut down the mine and deal with the assets? How is it dealing with the employees, the people who have put their lives, blood and health into the coal mining industry which has a very proud and long tradition, not only in Cape Breton but through the Yukon and the north of Canada?
Miners have a tradition. They know that when they go down into the ground, their lives are at stake and they do that often not for extraordinary wages but to put food on the table for their families. These people who have worked and lived and put their souls into this industry are not going to get the same benefits as other Canadian agencies that have been sold off.
VIA employees will get a five year deal of 100% of their pension and health benefits for their families, but why are the Devco employees not getting those same benefits? Is this returning to the whole idea of globalization just to get away with whatever we can, to give our citizens, our employees the least that we possibly can so that those who would benefit from globalization, the very rich, get everything and the very poor get a few scraps that come from the table?
The people of Cape Breton, the men in those mines, have had to stand up over and over again to demand even basic courtesy for the work they have done. They have had to go underground in protest and say that they will not come out until they get fairness. They have had to go on illegal strikes to even have ministers listen to them. It took ages and ages for even the basic courtesy of a meeting to go ahead.
These decisions were made in 1995. It was only made public 1999 that these families, the people of Cape Breton, would be facing the loss of their jobs and again an out-migration from their communities. They would have to watch their children and grandchildren leave and not stay to build their communities.
In summary, I want to stress that I am really upset that the government has again invoked closure. It is becoming a routine practice. At one time it was considered absolutely extraordinary for closure to be invoked on a debate. I am tired of being told to sit down and be quiet, that I have said enough and that they do not want to hear from me.
I was elected to come here and to be a part of a democracy. Whether the government wants listen to me or not, I have the right to have a say, which is what democracy is about. However, it is being taken away from us over and over again because the government does not want to listen. It does not want to hear. It does have the power to say sit down and be quiet but that goes against our tradition of democracy and a fair hearing.