Mr. Speaker, for some time now there has been a lot of talk about the Canada Information Office, the CIO. We have been seeing quite a disinformation campaign being conducted by the Bloc Quebecois, which is trying at all costs to discredit and distort the work done by the CIO, particularly as it relates to the organization of the Quebec ministerial tours.
It gives me great pleasure to rise today in the House to clear up a few matters, particularly in relation to the tours that the CIO has been organizing in the last few months.
First, I want to point out that the CIO's mandate is to assist in improving communications between the government of Canada and Canadian citizens. I would note in passing, with all due respect for the members opposite, that Quebecers have confirmed twice in fifteen years that they wish to remain Canadian citizens; accordingly, they have a right to expect that their government, the Government of Canada, will provide them with information about the programs and services that are available to them, and they are entitled to receive accurate information.
This is where the ministerial tours come in. This is a government initiative, prompted by the desire of Quebec ministers to ensure that Quebecers are better informed and by a willingness to listen to them and engage them in dialogue.
Communication is a two way street. The government must not only adopt approaches that will enable it to communicate better with the public, but it must also, to that end, adopt approaches that will enable it to listen to them, to talk with them, so that it can target its activities more effectively.
That is what the tour is. It is not a secret, it is not propaganda, it is not party politics. It is a vehicle of communication that has been designed to promote the exchange of information between citizens and their government.
For the 1999-2000 fiscal year, the tour provided a vehicle of communication that enabled 12 ministers and secretaries of state to visit 128 different cities in Quebec in 122 days, and to hold 340 activities, meetings or visits.
When we get right down to it, it is not surprising that the members of the Bloc would be worried about this kind of initiative. It has been about ten years since they started using the Canadian parliamentary system and taxpayers' money to push a secessionist agenda that a majority of Quebecers reject. And to help them sell their option, the members opposite are spreading half-truths and disinformation. And now that we have ministers making an end run around them to set the record straight, it is only natural that they are nervous.
But, in fact, what makes the Bloc most nervous is not the fact that the government is outflanking them and correcting the falsehoods they are spreading. What makes them most nervous is that the Quebecers the ministers are meeting on the tour, the mayors and leaders of community organizations, the chambers of commerce, the organizers and decision makers in the regions, are all too happy to be able to talk things over with a minister or a secretary of state.
They appreciate the opportunity this gives them to tell the ministers about their concerns and to get more information about the services and programs their government makes available to them.
This fact is reflected in an editorial published in Le Soleil on September 24, 1999, which stated:
The beginning of this new era of co-operation is promising, and conveys a welcome spirit of co-operation in the Quebec City region.
Last November, following a meeting with the President of the Treasury Board, the mayor of Sainte-Agathe des Monts, Pierre Circé, who knows the member for Laurentides well, said, and I quote:
The minister is now more familiar with our situation here, and we learned more about the programs that are available.
This is definitely something that would make the Bloquistes nervous.
It makes them nervous because it is clear that this kind of initiative, and the positive responses it is receiving, help strengthen Canadian unity. In spite of what members of the opposition would have us believe, there is nothing partisan in the government of Canada coordinating an initiative aimed at better explaining the advantages of Canada.
Yes, the ministers' tour in Quebec was financed with public funds and that is quite legitimate. The tour is one of the numerous information services that the Government of Canada provides to its citizens. It is a communication activity focused on a dialogue with local representatives, just as advertising campaigns, mass mailing or the 1-800-O-CANADA line are.
The government tour approach is not new. It is already well-known in Quebec, because it is an approach used by the Quebec government as well.
By the way, I cannot help but find it bizarre that Bloc members would call it information when the Quebec government goes on tour, but call it propaganda whenever Canada does the same thing.
As always, it is a double standard for our Bloc colleagues, and everybody knows why. The Bloc Quebecois absolutely wants to prevent the Canadian government from having visibility in Quebec, from being present in Quebec and from listening to Quebecers. It wants to deny Quebecers the benefits of their country, Canada.
In fact, both levels of governments have the right and the duty to inform Quebecers. Let me quote what my colleague, the president of the Privy Council and member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville said during a recent symposium on the quiet revolution:
We can and we must have two serious governments, each with its own perspective, two governments exposed to different influences and which...learn from each other and from the other governments of our federation....This way, we give ourselves the best development opportunities.
We should not be surprised that Bloc members would criticize a Canadian government initiative which will show Quebecers that it is possible to talk to each other and to work together, that the Quebec government does not have a monopoly on “dialogue” and “joint action” and that their government is there to serve them and provide them with services that are useful in their day to day life.
In a way, all this hustle and bustle we have seen over the last few days is sort of flattering: it shows that the Government of Canada has found an effective and successful way to better communicate with the citizens of Quebec.