January 30, 1979

PC

Erik Nielsen

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

It will be approved by the government, not by parliament. The government has a majority and what it decides to do it is going to do. It does that in this place and in every single committee because of its majority. Do not try to snow us, or, as the hon. lady describes it, confuse the issue, by saying parliament is doing this. We are not doing it; we are opposing it. Hon. members opposite are doing it. It is wrong, dangerous and should be booted out if there is a possibility of such a question being put to the people of Canada in respect of native rights by way of referendum. That is dangerous, and for that reason alone it should be booted out, because there is that possibility. To do the proper thing we should follow the course we followed on two occasions in Canada, in 1898 and in 1942, when specific questions were set forth in specific bills.

Once again, to emphasize by repetition, let me say that, apart from the province of Quebec with its legislation, this is the only jurisdiction in the world that is putting advance closure on the debate on a question, whatever question the government decides to dream up, not only here but in the other place as well. That to my mind, sir, is right next door to a totalitarian state.

[Translation\

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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SC

Armand Caouette

Social Credit

Mr. Armand Caouette (Villeneuve):

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I take part in this debate which is of great importance and which will mark an altogether significant step in our collective and political life. Let us not kid ourselves, the sole reason why this bill is before us is the victory of the Parti Quebecois on November 15, 1976. While this bill concerns every Canadian, it is of special concern to Quebeckers for they will have to take a decision on the constitutional future of Quebec.

Quebec is like a giant who has just woken up, a province which now entertains doubts about its history, its culture, its social organization and its political institutions, wondering as well why it should belong in Canada such as it was established in 1867 by the Fathers of Confederation. Yes, Mr. Speaker, Quebec has woken up and possibly this awakening will bring a second breath, a new vigour to the idea of a real Canadian confederation. If members of the Canadian federation want to keep Quebec in, they will have to accept it as a fascinating and full-fledged society.

Referenda

The Task Force on Canadian Unity has just published its report, where it talks, of this awakening, in the chapter intituled The Anatomy of Conflict. It says, and I quote:

For the longest part of Quebec's history one theme dominated the cultural life of the collectivity. That theme was survivance, or sheer survival. This overriding concern for the maintenance of the way of life of a people coloured the relationship between Quebeckers and their compatriots.

But, Mr. Speaker, only an insensitive observer of the life of the province could fail to note a substantial shift in approach in which that community's concern for survival is now expressed by the thoroughly contemporary and dynamic pursuit of its own development.

Mr. Speaker, those remarks were made by a task force which was created by the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) himself and which described itself as being federalist. Such a quotation is a good illustration of the confusion which prevails in Canada today and of the long way we have to go if we are to restore national harmony. The Task Force on Canadian Unity proposes a new federation, and even though Quebeckers feel that those recommendations do not go far enough, yet these reflect a state of mind which is more conciliatory and not based on childish fights. One cannot talk, Mr. Speaker, of that state of mind which is suggested by the task force without wondering about the federal government's state of mind when it comes up with this bill concerning the holding of a referendum on matters relating to the Constitution of Canada.

When I talk about the federal government's state of mind, I refer to its real intentions in relation to the possible holding of that referendum. In any case, if this bill is passed, hon. members of this House may not have to wait long before they get into a debate on a referendum question. This bill does not concern Quebec alone, but the federal government might indeed use it in any litigious matters between the central government and the provinces.

In spite of the constitutional conferences, the present frame of mind is much more directed toward confrontation than toward dialogue. All this is understandable since one side wants sovereignty association and the other seeks centralized federalism. Canada needs a constitutional readjustment and this is the spirit which should prevail. Since 1945, provincial responsibilities have kept increasing. Just think about the importance of natural resources, education, public health. And yet the flexibility of the British North America Act is often limited in terms of subsidies to the provinces.

Always in the same spirit, the election of the PQ is a reaction to an old constitutional arrangement which goes back as far as 1867 and which does not reflect today's reality. I sincerely think, Mr. Speaker, that we shall have to renegotiate seriously the Canadian confederation before holding a national referendum. Otherwise we would be putting the cart before the horse. Can we demonstrate our seriousness to the Canadian people when there were no serious negotiations? I shall accept a national referendum when we have had serious negotiations

January 30, 1979

Referenda

and when the Canadian people as a whole, and particularly the people of Quebec, have before them really concrete proposals.

Assuredly, Mr. Speaker, the Parti Quebecois government is going to hold a referendum within one year; it will seek approval to negotiate the conditions of sovereignty association; this is not a good deal for the federal government and it would be most unfortunate if Quebec should separate from Canada. It does not mean however that the central government should not reform the constitution to make it more favourable to the well-being of Quebec and other Canadian provinces.

Mr. Speaker, I should like to warn the government that its lack of responsibility as far as national unity is concerned could turn out to be very expensive for Canadians. Indeed, by acting in an obstinate fashion, the federal government would help considerably the all-out supporters of separatism in Quebec. In the present context, Bill C-9 would betray the interests of Canadians and provide a dangerous opportunity for propaganda. We have heard about national unity for several years, especially since November 15, 1976. I consider that this word, Mr. Speaker, is mere propaganda because it assumes uniformity and thus does not correspond to the Canadian reality.

Canadian unity does not exist and has never existed, because there have been too many different groups. However, there are groups in Canada that are willing to share their common interests. The central government's role is to channel the common forces in the best interests of all communities. I should like to remind hon. members that national unity implies cultural homogeneity and sometimes a Unitarian government. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, such is not the case in our country.

Before asking Quebeckers whether or not they are in favour of sovereignty association or whether they prefer our present federalism, it would be in the interest of the central government to make serious proposals instead of minor reforms such as those proposed in the former Bill C-60. Canada has to be rebuilt in order that our ten provinces and our two territories may fight for a common cause. I believe Canada must form a marriage of convenience, and if this country is to grow, it is essential. All parties concerned should be able to fulfil themselves. There cannot be a really viable Canada and a legitimate partnership unless the two contracting parties have freely agreed to it and unless each party recognizes that it is clearly in its interest to share its existence with others.

Until such time as circumstances change, any partnership such as Canada must recognize the right of all parties to the contract to very flexible formulas for amending its constitution. After 110 years, each and every one of the provinces has the right to examine its situation in relation to confederation and to renegotiate sections of the constitutional act. To date, the Quebec government alone has expressed its intention of holding a referendum on the constitution.

I therefore ask the federal government and hon. members to respect the spirit of the Canadian confederation and wait for the results of the Quebec referendum. I feel that Canadians must express their views on the constitutional future of the country after a provincial referendum. Provincial governments and many Canadian citizens are displeased with the present federal system. The current distribution of responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments no longer reflects reality. The federal government machine has become too cumbersome and we have to submit to regulations that border on inefficiency.

I have here in my hand, Mr. Speaker, a letter from a citizen who lives in Radisson, on James Bay, and who is having problems with the unemployment insurance system. I would like to repeat to hon. members some of his quite enlightening comments about the present system. Here is what he says:

Why should I be against federalism? Perhaps because I am now convinced that I am supporting a costly, ineffective, system which is so overburdened with legislation, regulations, paper work and bureaucrats that it cannot deliver the opportunities promised when I adhered to the system.

Why should I be unable to obtain benefits for which I have been paying premiums for years?

Is it unreasonable to believe that the part I play in a project as remote as James Bay will make me lose the benefits to which I am entitled?

As it can be seen, this citizen is not pleased with the government and he is not alone. In closing he writes, and I quote:

To relieve you from the painful task of reading my indignant comments, I will tell you, sir, that I want to be a positive asset in a Canadian and Quebec community, but if a referendum is to be held in the near future I will not consider it as a political but rather as a practical matter, to wit, have I paid to support a system which has not given me what I could rightly expect?

Mr. Speaker, that is the fundamental question we must answer when we consider this legislation. That is the question the Pepin-Robarts commission attempted to answer. That is also the question the various governments and especially the federal government must answer. That is the question the provincial governments must discuss and it is the issue to which will relate the reforms they will submit to their people.

Mr. Speaker, I insist on the fact that the federal government is a creature of the provinces and that all constitutional reform proposals must come from them. The latest constitutional conferences have indicated a general dissatisfaction which is not peculiar to Quebec. All you can hear about in the province of Quebec is dissatisfaction. The people of that province have elected a government whose option is sovereignty. I think the situation is serious enough and that there is no need for us to make it worse by holding a second referendum without any previous negotiation. I deplore that atmosphere of confrontation which opposes the federal government and the government of Quebec. We have had a war of statistics and we shall soon have a war of referenda.

Mr. Speaker, earlier I referred to the state of mind of this government. I am afraid that its attitude and that of the right

January 30, 1979

hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) are not very conciliatory. On the one hand he wants to adopt this bill with a certain measure of haste; on the other hand, at his press conference last Friday, he refused to acknowledge the Canadian duality which Quebec exemplifies. Something which the Pepin-Robarts commission has already acknowledged. The right hon. Prime Minister has often stated that he would refuse to negotiate the possibility of sovereignty association in case Quebeckers replied affirmatively to the Parti Quebecois referendum. I suggest that the attitude of the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues is quite arbitrary. It is not certain that Quebeckers will reply affirmatively to this referendum. As elected members of the Canadian public, we are not asking the government to negotiate the independence of the province of Quebec, but instead a constitutional arrangement which would recognize the particular character of each Canadian province.

Many recognize that the present government is suffering from a superiority complex, and also from what I would call a chronic case of inflexibility. It is indeed showing its inflexibility by engaging in this all-out fight, when the interests of all concerned would dictate co-operation and understanding between partners. In any event, Mr. Speaker, the present political climate and the general purport of Bill C-9 lead me to believe that this referendum will be a propaganda tool rather than a means of discussion and information. The government restricts the scope of its referenda solely to constitutional issues. Besides setting limits of referendum expenses, the bill defines eligibility to the referendum vote and air time allocated to opposing groups as well as to federal and provincial parties. To go back on those main themes, I must say that I deplore the fact that the bill is concerned only with constitutional issues, whereas several other points could be considered, such as abortion, capital punishment, social policies, and so on.

On December 12 last, the former minister of state for federal-provincial relations and the leader of the New Democratic Party praised the democratic merits of referenda. We even heard the leader of the New Democratic Party give his support to this bill. I would suggest to him that he think it over carefully before voting for this bill. I would like to remind hon. members of this House that the result of the referendum would not in any way compel the government to respect the opinion expressed by the public; so one may wonder what the government's reaction would be to a positive response of the people concerning sovereignty association for Quebec. Once again, the Prime Minister said last Friday that he would not negotiate. This means that the government might follow the policy established before the referendum in spite of the opinion expressed. If the referendum is negative, there will be no problems for the federal government, but we must question the legal value of a strictly consultative referendum.

Furthermore, we do not know the wording or the scope of the referendum question. I fear a serious confrontation might be brought about by two referenda, one by Quebec and the

Referenda

other by the federal government, for each of them will try to rally the people to its cause. Mr. Speaker, I would also like to make a few comments on the air time and the expenses allowed. We can see that the air time will be in part allotted to the federal parties and in part to the provincial parties of each province. This means that the federalist parties will get almost all the air time.

I would also like to voice serious reservations about allowable expenses. Bill C-9 is much less restrictive than the Quebec law. Referendum expenses and contributions made by a person, a group or a political party must not exceed $5,000. But only registered political parties and referendum committees will be allowed to make contributions and expenses exceeding $5,000. I believe that this part of the bill discriminates against small political parties and referendum groups. I cannot see how the government can claim it is exercising democracy with such rules. It becomes very obvious that groups and parties with unlimited funds at their disposal will enjoy a clear advantage over the others and this constitutes a propaganda risk.

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my speech by putting hon. members and Canadians on guard against the risk of manipulation of public opinion. I am not imputing wrong intentions to the government, but I do want to warn them that this legislation could be a major asset in the constitutional dispute. Before holding a referendum, it would be preferable that the governments negotiate and put before the people a real common constitutional project aimed at the development of all Canadians and the economic, social, political and human progress of this country. Canada is a great country of which we must be proud. There should be no room here for discord, so let us show the entire world that we are a nation that is basing its relations on mutual respect and harmony.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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?

Mr. Wm. Andres@Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of State (Multiculturalism

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased for various reasons to be able to enter the debate this afternoon on Bill C-9, the referendum bill. From the outset I had made up my mind that I wanted to take part in the discussion because I believe in this country, Mr. Speaker. I believe in the rights, freedoms and privileges of each group and of each region. I believe that as Canadians we have an obligation to each other, a responsibility to each other, to keep this country united. This country was born as a result of people coming here for various reasons in their search for freedom and opportunity. I believe it is the responsibility of the government to see that those freedoms and privileges are protected.

Canada is made up of diverse groups of people of various cultures and traditions and, indeed, with two official languages, yet it is rooted in many other languages. These rights and privileges have been recognized by this government, but now there appears to be a threat. Indeed, there not only appears to be but there is a threat. One government in this

January 30, 1979

Referenda

country has as its aim to separate from confederation, not necessarily by the will of the people within that province. It has taken upon itself to make that move supposedly in the interest of that region.

The federal government has a responsibility to see that those people get a fair hearing, that the views of those people are respected, that their views are not distorted but are taken into consideration. It is for these reasons that I support this bill.

While the leaders in that particular province have taken upon themselves to move the province out of confederation- and it may even be by various and devious means-they have suggested that when all else fails, as when the support of the people failed prior to the election of 1976, they would not separate from the rest of Canada without a referendum. Subsequent to that many statements were made because it was felt that they did not have the support of the people. When we question the motives and methods that may be imposed upon the people of Quebec we must also take a stand to protect the rights of the people in that province as well as the rights of all regions of Canada.

Many words were uttered in this House in the few days before the Christmas recess on this subject. The hon. member for Yukon (Mr. Nielsen) referred to what he called the distortion of this bill by various speakers. I cannot accept that kind of remark, Mr. Speaker, because I am convinced that all parliamentarians are here to represent the views of the people in their constituencies as well as the views of Canadians from all corners of the country. I do not believe for one moment that there are members of this House who would willingly distort the intent of that bill, the words contained therein, or the purpose of the bill.

The hon. member also suggested that the bill was bad, dangerous and explosive. I take the opposite view, Mr. Speaker. The bill is not dangerous, nor is it explosive. The bill is in the hands of the government, in the hands of this House, in the hands of parliamentarians; if it is dangerous and explosive then maybe the hon. member for the Yukon ought to look at himself and his own motives in reflecting on the bill.

Parliamentarians need to take a rational approach. At times in this House we take a very partisan approach, and I have been party to that course myself sometimes in an insignificant way. I do not believe that at this time, however, there is room for partisan politics because the future of this country is at stake. I am convinced that we are all concerned about it. We need to have a unified approach. Goodness knows we have enough discord in various parts of Canada. I even see the discord and fracture on the other side of the House when I hear some members talk about sovereignty association and negotiations for sovereignty association. Then later I hear remarks from speakers on the other side who would not negotiate.

We need to get our act together, Mr. Speaker. Hon. members on the opposite side need to take a look at where they are going. Maybe they ought to consult with their leader and with

their constituents a little more. In the end it will be the Canadian people who will speak. It is at this time and with this bill that the federal government is prepared to consult the people of Canada. It is because of the importance of this issue, the opinions that have been expressed and the hazards that we face that I can support this kind of a view and this kind of an attitude.

I am not even sure what some hon. members on the opposite side of the House are speaking about when they talk in terms of negotiation of national sovereignty. Where is their mandate? They do not have a mandate to speak about national sovereignty or to negotiate with the PQ.

For the first time in history Canada is facing a challenge, the very outcome of which threatens to sever the bridge of her nationhood. It is that important. It is a serious question. Circumstances facing Canadians are peculiar and unprecedented in our history. We are sailing into uncharted waters never before explored. We have a provincial government that is dedicated to separation regardless of what it says. Never before has a government sought a mandate to extricate itself from the bonds of Canadian unity.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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?

An hon. Member:

What do you think happened in 1868?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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LIB

William Andres (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Multiculturalism))

Liberal

Mr. Andres:

We need to consult with the Canadian people, if the matter gets to that point, so that we can protect the people. It is with this reality in mind that I support this legislation presently before this House to give the Government of Canada the authority to consult Canadians on matters pertaining to its constitution. What is more important in the Canadian constitution than the plebiscite of 1898 or the plebiscite of 1942? Those plebiscites were not regarding national unity. This particular referendum overshadows all legislation that has been brought before this House. It is of the utmost importance that members on all sides of the House take a serious look at this piece of legislation and the implications contained therein. It is important that members take a serious look at their obligations and duties to this country. It is important too that they take a serious look at the wishes of the constituents they represent in each particular region of Canada.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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?

Donald Stovel Macdonald

Miss MacDonald:

Just like capital punishment. That will be the next thing you will say.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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LIB

William Andres (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Multiculturalism))

Liberal

Mr. Andres:

Members on the other side seem to bring up the issue of capital punishment from time to time for various reasons. 1 am convinced that there is only one reason for doing that, and that is to drag a red herring across the floor in order to take away attention from the importance of this particular piece of legislation.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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?

An hon. Member:

I will remember that.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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LIB

William Andres (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Multiculturalism))

Liberal

Mr. Andres:

There is no comparison between the issue of capital punishment and the issue of national unity. The issue of capital punishment was put before this House in a free vote. Every member had his or her opportunity. It may be that members on the opposite side may have had some restriction. I

***im

January 30, 1979

am not aware of that from the rumblings I hear, but on this side of the Elouse it was a completely free vote.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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?

Some hon. Members:

Elear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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LIB

William Andres (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Multiculturalism))

Liberal

Mr. Andres:

If there are members on the opposite side who feel this is not the case, I would challenge them to get up and say so. I would like them to tell me where and how, and to give me the proof.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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PC

Henry Perrin Beatty

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Beatty:

The cabinet. Ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau). It was cabinet solidarity.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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LIB

William Andres (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Multiculturalism))

Liberal

Mr. Andres:

It seems strange to them that one can support a piece of legislation while others may not support it. That they cannot understand. I am afraid there are members on the other side who have been in the opposition so long that they do not understand how freely this government operates.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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PC

James McPhail Gillies

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Gillies:

Free with everybody's money.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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LIB

William Andres (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Multiculturalism))

Liberal

Mr. Andres:

Bill C-9 which is presently before the House affects all Canadians. It gives all Canadians a direct voice in the fundamental law of the land, a law which will shape the future of our country. This is a most important piece of legislation.

There are those who feel that referenda are opposed to the principles of parliamentary democracy. There may be some validity to this kind of argument. Some people will argue that referenda give parliamentarians the opportunity to shirk their duty. There may be an element of truth in that. I would suggest to those who advance such a proposition that if the shoe fits, then they may wear it. I suspect that in many cases on the other side of the House the shoe does fit.

This particular referendum which will shape the future of our country and its laws is of the utmost importance. It differentiates in many ways from referenda held earlier.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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?

Donald Stovel Macdonald

Miss MacDonald:

Which one?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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LIB

William Andres (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Multiculturalism))

Liberal

Mr. Andres:

I cannot see any comparison at all. This referendum, as I indicated earlier, is for the protection of people who live in a region of this country. Bill C-9 is a cautious piece of legislation.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   CANADA REFERENDUM ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE FOR HOLDING OF REFERENDUMS ON CONSTITUTION
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January 30, 1979