Mr. Speaker, since this is my first speech in the House, I would like to take this opportunity to convey my congratulations to you as my hon. colleagues have done.
Before I put my questions to the hon. member for Winnipeg St. James, I would like to focus in on some remarks he made to the effect that the Bloc Quebecois and its leader wanted to break up this beautiful country. In my opinion, this is not only a pejorative, but also an inaccurate statement. I would like to draw his attention to several historic footnotes to this debate.
First, there was the Act of Union which, in my estimation, may have been the beginning of the emergence of the two solitudes. As we know, Upper and Lower Canada were united in 1840. Lower Canada came out on the losing end since at the time, it had a much more effective and efficient administration than did Upper Canada. The situation was unfair from the beginning.
I will not review the events of the past 200 years, since it would only bring me to cite examples of the way Quebec has been treated by English Canada. Specifically, in the case of the Meech Lake agreement which set out five minimum conditions for bringing Quebec back into the constitutional fold, English Canada was unable to accept these conditions and these were just our minimum demands.
Charlottetown ultimately signalled the end of this debate and for one very simple reason. English Canada as a whole rejected the Charlottetown accord, claiming that Quebec was asking for too much and that the accord was slanted in its favour. Quebec rejected the accord for exactly the opposite reason. Our goal is definitely not to break up the country. It is to build a nation that would work side by side with Canada, share the same economic space and viability.
I would like my hon. colleagues to think of our objective as being not to break up the country, but rather to complement it on our terms.
Now then, as far as the economy is concerned, I fail to see how the Liberal Party can resolve the problem of the deficit which will hit $45 billion this year, tackle the national debt which just surpassed $500 billion and create jobs without touching social programs. This would seem to me to be a Herculean task, one that I personally think is impossible to accomplish. Therefore, as we can already see, there are some glitches in the throne speech which lead one to believe that this government says one thing, but when the time comes to follow through, it will find that it cannot.
Does the hon. member for Winnipeg St. James agree that a parliamentary committee should be set up to look at ways of resolving the country's economic problems? This is the course of action we are advocating. Why not make this a priority, sit down together and review each budget item separately? And everybody knows that the bureaucracy must be streamlined. So, let us start there before embarking on a crusade against social programs, which is what could well happen now. I would like the hon. member to answer a question. Would it not be better to have an all-party joint parliamentary committee instead of a red book or a throne speech which is only wishful thinking?