October 3, 1997

REF

Jay Hill

Reform

Mr. Jay Hill

Mr. Speaker, every member of the Reform Party could go on and on at great length about the lack of real representation that has come from the opposite side of the House over the life that we have been here which is only one Parliament for most of us with the exception of our deputy leader.

This Liberal government is not representing the wishes of its constituents by and large. Something interesting was pointed out in the 35th Parliament which I am sure we are going to see repeated in the 36th Parliament. Time and time again when a member who sits on the government side truly tries to represent the best interests and the wishes of his or her constituents, if those interests run contrary to the position of the government or that of the cabinet and the prime minister, what happens?

What happens with the old parties? We saw it under the Mulroney Tories before the Liberals. Members of Parliament were disciplined, at times even thrown out of their parties for trying to represent the interests of their constituents. That is also what happens with the Liberal Party. We saw that in the last Parliament with the hon. member for York South—Weston when he tried to represent his constituents.

He ran his campaign on the issue of abolishing the GST, as did a lot of members in this House who sit opposite on the government benches. He had the integrity to vote against a budget measure because he said it did not fulfil that campaign promise. He was bitterly disappointed in the government for not taking decisive action, for not living up to its campaign promise. Therefore he voted against it and what happened? He was thrown out of his party and sits now in this House as an independent. It is a credit to him and to the Canadian electorate in his riding that it re-elected him as an independent. It is a tough job to get elected as an independent.

The question dealt specifically with the representation provided by Reformers versus the representation of Liberals and Tories and the other parties in this place. I suggest that we really need some reform of this place. We need to see many more free votes in this place, real free votes, where individuals regardless of partisan political stripe can really represent the interests of their constituents.

Backbench Liberal MPs I believe if they were not so muzzled by the party discipline in the Liberal Party would be crying out along with us for those types of reforms so that they can really represent the interests of their constituents and not worry that the big broad axe is going to fall on their necks and they are going to be publicly disciplined and chastised by their leadership and perhaps even ultimately thrown out of their party.

I spoke earlier in my remarks before question period about the fact that Reform is in this House despite the fact that in the last Parliament they said we would not be back. But we are back and we are going to continue to come back until this place is reformed and we have real democracy in this House of Commons.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Speech From The Throne
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BQ

Bernard Bigras

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Longueuil.

I would like, if I may, to begin by speaking to my constituents in the riding of Rosemont. I would like to thank the people of Rosemont and Petite-Patrie, as well as all of my riding volunteers, for the trust they have given me in the last federal election.

I thank them in particular for the confidence they have shown in my generation and in the future of Quebec, a Quebec which we wish to be modern and sovereign, a Quebec that reflects my generation, open to the world and master of its destiny.

I would also like to offer thanks on their behalf to the man who defended them with vigour throughout the previous two mandates, Benoît Tremblay. Mr. Tremblay always had an attentive ear to the needs of his fellow citizens of Rosemont—Petite-Patrie.

The throne speech again shows that the voters of Rosemont—Petite-Patrie were right in their choice. By electing a representative of the Bloc Quebecois, they have made sure that any threat to the democratic interests of the Quebec people will be condemned. With their support solidly behind me, I rise today in the House of Commons to react strongly to the thinly veiled desire of the government across the way to put Quebecers back in their place.

My fellow citizens who still had any doubt could see in this speech that the Liberals have dropped the commitment they made in the 1995 referendum to recognize Quebec as a distinct society. They dropped this description of Quebec because Canadians felt it gave too much to Quebec. Rather, they adopted the notion of unique character proposed in Calgary. So they want to force Quebeckers to choose between being like Pacific salmon or facing the threats of plan B.

Never has a government in a Speech from the Throne so openly questioned Quebec's right to decide its future alone. Naturally, after the action taken in the supreme court, it would be surprising if the government were to change its tune and try to accommodate Quebec.

The Prime Minister said during his address on the Speech from the Throne that elections were fascinating, that they provided him with the opportunity to meet Canadians of all walks. He said that the dreams and aspirations of young Canadians were a source of inspiration for him.

Today I would like to say to him that young Quebecers dream of freedom and aspire to sovereignty. Nothing in the government's legislative agenda meets the political expectations of the young people of Quebec.

This throne speech is an outstanding example of a strategy for centralization. After slashing budgets for health care, education and social services in Quebec and the provinces, this government now claims to be concerned about the well-being of our citizens. In fact, this is just the logical continuation of a long federal offensive to interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

My colleagues previously condemned many examples of this interference in the throne speech. I would rather use the time I am allowed today to discuss a matter of the utmost importance to members of my generation.

Protecting our environment is important to all of us and it is a matter of concern for Quebeckers. I was astonished to see this government allowed this important question, the environment, only two short paragraphs. And since this government is extremely vague about its intentions and would rather not discuss its far from outstanding record in this area, I would like to recall some of the main points.

The Liberals have often claimed that their strategy for the environment was a perfect example of enlightened, open and decentralized federalism. However, during the previous mandate, they had no compunction about tabling bills that were a direct intrusion in the jurisdiction of Quebec. There are plenty of examples.

First of all, the Environmental Assessment Act, which came into effect during the previous mandate, impinges directly on provincial responsibilities and in many ways duplicates Quebec's legislation in this area.

Then this government tabled a bill to replace the existing Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The proposed legislation would once again have given the federal government greater power to interfere in order to protect the marine environment and reduce atmospheric pollution, to name just two sectors.

Finally, this government tabled a bill for the protection of endangered species. Enforcement of this legislation could have been extended to provincially held land, and all provincial environmental ministers opposed it. This government rejected the amendments suggested by the Bloc Quebecois to uphold the provinces' jurisdiction.

Returning to the throne speech, I read and reread it, but did not find a single line telling us what this government intends to do with these two bills, which died on the Order Paper in the last Parliament. I am, however, pleased to note that the throne speech raised the problem of the emission of greenhouse gases. I am still, however, trying to find out exactly where the government stands on this issue.

I do not need to remind anybody that, in under two months, this same government will be representing Canada and Quebec at the international conference on greenhouse gases in Kyoto. With only two months to go, there is still no news on where Canada stands on this issue. Worse yet, it looks like the Liberals want to develop the entire Canadian policy on greenhouse gases behind closed doors. This would perhaps be less disturbing if the government's track record in this area were not so disastrous.

In 1992, in Rio, the Canadian government made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the 1990 level by the year 2000. In addition, in 1995, the Liberal government repeated this commitment at the Berlin conference on climate change. On that occasion, it introduced a framework of voluntary measures in its national action plan regarding climate change in Canada.

What must be pointed out is that the most recent data, including those from Environment Canada, show that Canada has not respected its commitments. In fact, the Royal Society of Canada estimates that, in the year 2000, greenhouse gas emissions will exceed the 1990 reference level by 9.5 percent.

It is not surprising therefore that the former environment minister tacitly admitted before the UN Commission on Sustainable Development last April that Canada was falling short in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, Canada is still lagging behind OECD countries as a whole.

This government must now stiffen its resolve and meet its responsibilities. The consequences of global warming are too serious to be taken lightly. Also, we must bear in mind the economic implications of the commitments that will be made in Kyoto. In that sense, it seems unacceptable to me that the position that will be put forward as Canada's position be taken by a mere handful of Liberals and senior civil servants.

We are dealing with an environmental, political and technological problem that leaves no room for improvisation. In that context, I am puzzled by the priorities of a government which, in its Speech from the Throne, seemed to give as much importance to celebrating the coming of the next millennium as to the challenge of global warming that faces humanity.

The young people in Quebec want to build a fair and responsible society, while at the same time taking an active part in the great international currents of the third millennium, and they want to do so with all the tools available to a normal country or society. That is why we are convinced that sovereignty is the only option for the future of Quebec.

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Subtopic:   Speech From The Throne
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BQ

Hélène Alarie

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Hélène Alarie (Louis-Hébert, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I endorse, with great pride, what my hon. colleague just said.

He spoke of his generation and we, who are of an older generation shall I say, share the same concerns and feel more acutely the urgency of finding a solution to these problems. He discussed at length the greenhouse gas issue, but that is not the only issue.

It is very important that all that is done be done under the national urisdiction, without affecting all that comes under provincial jurisdiction. I must say that one of the Quebec government's priorities is indeed to protect the environment. I consider that we have gone far enough in that direction to know something about agriculture, for instance. We have exceeded by far every national standard and do not wish to lag behind, but at the same time we expect a great deal of transparency in that area.

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BQ

Bernard Bigras

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Bernard Bigras

Mr. Speaker, I think it was clearly shown in the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development that we in the Bloc want to improve our environment. We think that Quebec, like Canada, is an ecosystem and that the provinces and Quebec are capable of establishing their own standards and environmental policies.

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Subtopic:   Speech From The Throne
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LIB

Paul Bonwick

Liberal

Mr. Paul Bonwick (Simcoe—Grey, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member speaks of commitment to democracy. He is committed to the democratic process or he states so. The hon. member seems very focused on protecting democracy. If he is telling the truth, I ask will he break ranks with his party and respect the majority of Quebeckers as they demonstrated in the last referendum? Democracy has spoken, sir, will you listen?

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Subtopic:   Speech From The Throne
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?

The Deputy Speaker

I remind hon. members that it is necessary to address the Chair. And of course it is assumed that all members in the House are always telling the truth.

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BQ

Bernard Bigras

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Bernard Bigras

Mr. Speaker, I think perhaps it would be appropriate to recall some of Quebec's recent history.

I would point out that, in 1980, a referendum was held in Quebec on that question and, as far as I know, the Government of Quebec honoured the choice of the majority of Quebeckers.

I would also point out that, in 1995, another referendum was held. Even if the sovereignists lost the battle by 50,000 votes, we are a democracy, and the Government of Quebec is democratic. It honoured the democratic choice of Quebeckers. In this respect, I hope the Government of Canada will honour the results of the next referendum, because Quebec has always been a democratic nation.

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BQ

Paul Crête

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Rosemont. He is a quality replacement for Benoît Tremblay, a member of Parliament who represented Quebec in the past. I am particularly proud to see that young people are providing reinforcements to the sovereignist ranks.

We have been trying to find a solution for twenty years. We have tried every way to get Canada to budge. In the end, the only way will be for Quebeckers to accord a political mandate.

I would ask the member for Rosemont what he would like most to be achieved at the end of this mandate so that, when he leaves Parliament, he can say “mission accomplished” to all Quebeckers.

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BQ

Bernard Bigras

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Bernard Bigras

Mr. Speaker, I think young Quebeckers are joining the legitimate march of the people of Quebec in the course of their history. Young people in Quebec have always believed in the political action of the people of Quebec in its history.

The best indicator of the future, as all the polls show, are the results of the 1995 referendum, which were clear. What young Quebeckers want is to be part of the changes that are happening now in Quebec, but the only way we can fully achieve our collective destiny is by becoming sovereign.

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BQ

Caroline St-Hilaire

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the first words I speak in this House are directed to those who supported me from the very beginning and believed in me. In Longueuil, we proved that when people want something, when they put all their energy into a plan in which they believe and a dream they cherish, the combined strength of these individuals can move mountains.

I want to thank those who give me their encouragement, support and advice during the last election campaign, so that I could come here to represent them. I want to thank all the volunteers who worked so hard to ensure that the riding of Longueuil is once again represented in the House of Commons by the only party that looks after their interests and has done so since 1993, the Bloc Quebecois.

To all those men and women who put their trust in me, especially my family and my husband, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I also thank the people of Longueuil who voted for the youngest woman in this Parliament. Today I want to reiterate my commitment to serving and representing them to the best of my ability and with the utmost dedication.

I also want to thank my friends among the hearing impaired whom it is always a pleasure to meet. Today I want to confirm my commitment to working for the deaf. It is an honour and a privilege to salute them.

I was curious to read the throne speech, and I was disappointed when I read it a second time. The only conclusion I could draw is the message sent to Quebec: Be satisfied with a centralist Canada as it is now. Otherwise, it will be plan B.

After repeating this message for months and after it was almost unanimously criticized by Quebec, the Prime Minister has come back again, with the same centralist message, this time in writing, saying he thinks he knows what is best for Quebec.

Is the Prime Minister again trying to scare Quebeckers? Is he trying to make Quebecers accept the “lesser of two evils”? Never before did a throne speech contain such direct threats to Quebec's right to determine its own future.

Quebeckers will never agree to be satisfied with the “lesser of two evils”, much less with the alternative, which we all realize consists in making Quebec go along with the centralist vision of the Liberals and give up its historical expectations.

Yet I would not be honest if I did not admit that I agree with one point which passed virtually unnoticed in the torrent of words in the throne speech. I interpret it as a surprise overture coming from our friends across the way.

As everyone is well aware, what we representatives of the Bloc Quebecois want is a country for the year 2000. That we have never hidden. Now, in reading the throne speech to keep myself awake between coffees, I see in black and white that the federal government is prepared to form a partnership with the Quebec government to celebrate the new millennium.

Of course we will have suggestions of activities to submit to the government, and we may even perhaps send an invitation to the head of state of the next country to come celebrate the new millennium with us in Quebec. That is the least partners can do, celebrate with pomp and circumstance the occasion of an event as important as the arrival of a new country among the nations.

I am pleased to accept the idea of the Canadian Prime Minister and I invite him to Quebec three years from now. We will drink a toast to the new economic partnership between Quebec and Canada.

With the exception of this small overture, what can be seen clearly in this speech is the federal government's stubborn determination not to recognize the legitimate right of Quebec to decide its own future. The federal government even seems to want to reserve the right to draft and impose its referendum question during the next referendum. One wonders whether the referendum ballot will have a red maple leaf printed at the top.

What I find most upsetting in this speech is that the sovereignist movement's proposal is misrepresented by the excessive repetition of the word “partnership” when what is meant is interference, overlap and costly duplication. You will agree that this is not the same thing as the real economic partnership we are proposing to Canada. We are used to seeing this government glibly twist any proposal coming from Quebec. They have outdone themselves in the bad faith department.

At this point in my speech, I would like to turn to a subject of great interest to me and one that my party has entrusted me with defending: the status of women.

First of all, I would like to express my surprise and disappointment at the throne speech's complete silence on women's concerns. Nothing in this speech has women in mind. Worse yet, no one is speaking about them or for them. The government has not even taken the trouble to “feminize” the text. My search for some reference to women netted only one occurrence, in the very first line of the speech, where the Governor General tells us how happy he and his wife were to welcome Her Majesty the Queen last June. Need I say more?

If this is the best our political system can do for women, I can tell you that we have our work cut out for us.

In case he is listening, I would like to remind the Prime Minister some facts about the most beautiful country in the world and the best country in the world to live in, as he likes to say. In Canada, women hold 75 percent of the ten lowest paying jobs; 36 percent of women work part time, because they are unable to find full time jobs. In 1996, Canadian women earned 73 percent of what their male colleagues made. Moreover, 57.3 percent of single mothers with children under 18 years of age live in poverty.

Need I go on about the tragic plight of women in the most beautiful country in the world and the best country in the world to live in? The government must realize that it is women who are paying the price for the cuts made in recent years.

The cost-cutting measures taken by this government were felt more deeply by women than by any other group in our society. The government does not seem to be too upset, since nothing is provided for women in the throne speech.

Today, the government has a duty to do something to help women because, in addition to the numerous cuts, the government also reduced by some 26 percent funding for women's programs, which were already operating on a shoestring budget. The government has got its priorities wrong. Ideally, women should get a little more to make up for what they lost.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the women who preceded us and who worked so that, today, the situation has improved somewhat, thanks to the many battles they fought. We have come a long way, but the road ahead is still a long one.

Thanks to these women, some progress was made regarding equity, including the “equal pay for equal work” principle. I thought the government had understood the meaning of this principle when it passed its pay equity legislation, in 1977. Unfortunately, it was just wishful thinking.

Given all this, you will agree with Canadian women in saying that, if the Liberals really want a just society, as they claim to in their speech, they forgot to show that they are concerned with economic equality for women, otherwise they would have acted differently.

I have always felt that my environment, my way of being, my education, my language, which make up my culture, make me a Quebecker. Therefore, you can understand my disarray when the Liberal government arrogantly claims there is no Quebec culture. I always thought culture was the nourishing element of a people. My people is being insulted whenever such remarks are made.

Worse still, the federal government is now holding accountable the major Canadian cultural institutions which funded sovereignist Quebec artists. We recently learned that Telefilm Canada refused, for political reasons, to provide financing for Pierre Falardeau's film on the Patriotes. This is a tragic decision for all Quebeckers, but the government does not care, because the Quebec culture obviously does not exist.

As you know, I am a young person. But do you know that the plight of young people is a source of concern, particularly the high rate of unemployment and poverty? In 1997, just barely one young person out of two has a full or part time job.

At this point, allow me to make a short digression and to offer my most sincere condolences to the families and friends of the four teenagers who recently committed suicide in my riding. I want to assure them that I will support any initiative to prevent young people from committing suicide. To all those affected by this ultimate act of despair, my thoughts are with you.

To conclude on a happier note, I would like to repeat the line which the late Doris Lussier, an artist who made Longueuil his home, often quoted from the great writer Félix-Antoine Savard “I have much more to do than to worry about the future: I must work toward it”.

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Subtopic:   Speech From The Throne
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REF

Reed Elley

Reform

Mr. Reed Elley (Nanaimo—Cowichan, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her comments. I understand the emotional aspect of her speech, particularly at the end. I think all of us in Canada can identify with these kinds of circumstances and we realize they are something we all have in common. However, I would like to ask the hon. member a question.

In her speech, which was very fine, she said the best country in the world in which to live and then went on to talk about Canada. I would certainly agree with her.

However, why does the member and her party, in light of that kind of statement which I believe we both find to be true, continue to attempt to break up the best country in the world? The words of the old proverb are true, united we stand, divided we fall.

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BQ

Caroline St-Hilaire

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire

Mr. Speaker, once again, we, in Quebec, are misunderstood. I quoted the Prime Minister who said that Canada was “the best country in the world in which to live”. We, however, believe that Quebec is, not Canada. Sorry.

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NDP

Peter Stoffer

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Eastern Shore, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I wish to express to my hon. colleague from Longueuil that when it comes to issues such as the environment, suicide and pay equity she can be assured that I and my colleagues will assist her in any way we can in order to get the necessary funding and the help required in order to meet those needs.

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BQ

Caroline St-Hilaire

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague.

It is indeed comforting to know that we can count on our colleagues. The fact is that, to further any human cause, people have to work together.

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LIB

John Finlay

Liberal

Mr. John Finlay (Oxford, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I was struck by the compassionate and passionate speech by the member for Longueuil.

I appreciate her comments about women. I think she would know that all of us in this House welcome members who are women. We made much in the last Parliament about there being more women representatives than in any previous Parliament. I am not sure whether that is true of the 36th, but I believe it is. I believe that the hon. member's party has been instrumental in improving that ratio.

I have no difficulty in acknowledging that Quebec has a culture. The member said that Quebec was its culture and it is what made a people but that somebody did not seem to recognize that. I would suggest that many of us recognize that. I certainly recognize it and I applaud it.

I wonder whether the member is not being a little hard on everyone else in that the premiers in Calgary indicated that the other provinces in this country believe there is a distinct culture and a unique character to Quebec.

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BQ

Caroline St-Hilaire

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague across the way.

I think he should have a word with his own colleagues. As far as pay equity is concerned at leat, if he really has the cause of women at heart, I think he should sit down with the minister—

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LIB

Bob Speller

Liberal

Mr. Bob Speller (Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am here today speaking on the Speech from the Throne that this government gave to the country outlining the government's policies and the government's priorities leading into the next millennium.

The Speech from the Throne is a product of work done not only by the bureaucrats but also by members of Parliament, backbenchers and by members of the Liberal Party who have worked in little policy groups across this country bringing forward ideas and bringing forward priorities with which they feel the government should set its policies.

All governments that bring forward their priorities and policies in speeches from the throne do so within the fiscal framework that the country faces at any given time. When we first started as a government in 1993 our priorities were set by the fact that at that time we faced a $42 billion deficit. Anything we did, any ideas we could bring forward always had to be tempered by the fact that the government was spending $42 billion more than it was taking in.

That was one of the first priorities that our government in 1993 went after. I feel we succeeded. We succeeded in bringing that deficit down to a point where in 1998-99 there will no longer be any deficit.

Had I promised in 1993 that we would be able to do that, I do not think I would have believed it myself, but we have done it. Now we can move forward. We have a dividend and I believe our party and our policies over the next five years will be to help Canadians, the Canadians who have had to pay the price so that we could get that high deficit under control.

Indeed it is our responsibility now to move forward and to recognize that young Canadians, old Canadians, seniors, children, Canadians who have had to pay the price get some of the benefits from this dividend. That is what this Speech from the Throne tries to do.

As members know, unemployment has been one of the problems facing not only this government but governments around the world. Youth unemployment is certainly far too high. If we look at the numbers over the last three years, the economists say that we have created over a million jobs in our last mandate. I see that as a priority this time and it is a priority in the Speech from the Throne to do that.

I want to take not only my constituents who are listening but all Canadians through the Speech from the Throne. I encourage them all to pick up a copy—they can call their member of Parliament's office—and read the speech from the throne because it is what their government is going to be doing over the next five years. I think it is important that they read it for themselves rather than listen to our colleagues across the way who somewhat filter it.

I find it surprising that my colleagues on the other side of the House would be scared that Canadians would actually pick up the Speech from the Throne and read it. They should be proud of it because it sets out an agenda for the next millennium.

As I said, speeches from the throne are always set up by any government due to the fiscal situation. Certainly all Canadians recognize that the economy has turned around. The economy is starting to grow.

One of the problems in this country, and it has been a problem for some time and has been mentioned in this House over the last few hours, is the whole question of national unity. There are different approaches to the question of national unity and how the government should respond to the problem.

We listen to what our colleague from British Columbia in the other House has been saying about this country. One wonders, given her long history with the former Conservative government, why she would try to grab headlines at the expense of a nation. I find it very shameful.

I might as well at the same time remind our colleagues at the other end, the NDP, I also find it shameful that somebody would stand in this House and try to one up the Conservative Party, try to grab the stage on national unity in British Columbia at the expense of a country. It is not the way to do it. It is not the way to build a strong country.

I believe we set out in the Speech from the Throne the way to do it. We should co-operate. We should work with the premiers and the territorial leaders in bringing together those areas that can be worked on. We have seen the work done in Calgary by the premiers and the territorial leaders. We have seen this government go from province to province to province consulting on the best way to do it. That is right.

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?

An hon. member

Boring.

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LIB

Bob Speller

Liberal

Mr. Bob Speller

I get calls across the way that it may be boring. Well I do not think so. I do not think a long concerted effort to try to save this country is boring. I do not agree with the approach of the last government which was to build some national consensus through the media on a constitutional decision, roll the dice and that is the way to solve the problem.

I think this approach that we have taken in the Speech from the Throne is a serious approach. From what we have seen in recent polls taken in Quebec and in the co-operation shown across this country in areas such as child care and health care, this country can work. I do not think we need to make constitutional changes to make that work.

I support and continue to call on all members of this House to take this issue seriously and to work with their respective premiers or territorial leaders in making sure that the proposals put forward are understood and are a reflection of what Canadians want in a country.

One of the problems outlined in the Speech from the Throne, which is a serious problem, is the whole question of children and children living in poverty. We certainly need to put more effort into that.

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REF

October 3, 1997