Mr. Ralph Stewart (Cochrane):
Mr. Speaker, some 11 years ago it was my privilege to be chosen by my people in the Cochrane riding to represent them in the Parliament of Canada. I have done my best to serve them ever since.
Being a person of frank expression, I have never hesitated to voice my disagreement. It became clear that any opposition to policy on the part of the troops is not looked upon with favour by the government.
A few years ago 1 became increasingly disillusioned following the famous musings of the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) on national television when he stated that the free enterprise system had failed. I could not accept that kind of thinking. The free enterprise system is what made the United States great and brought Canada on the road to becoming a great nation.
Later that year many of my colleagues were scandalized when the Prime Minister stated in no uncertain terms at a meeting of Ontario MPs that he had come into politics to move the country further to the left and he had never abandoned that goal.
Feeling that I could not accept this thinking, nor could I change it, I thought seriously of resigning from the caucus. This would have been a betrayal of those who had elected me as a Liberal because it was not long after the last election, so 1 did nothing in that regard. However, now that this parliament is playing an overtime period, the circumstances are vastly different. It is abundantly clear to me that Canada must reject a further drift to the left and it is time for me to take a serious stand.
I fully realize that I shall be making a great personal sacrifice by taking this action today, but my feelings for the principles involved run very high indeed. There is no amount of personal security that could make up for a failure on my part to come to grips with my gut feeling that to do otherwise would be a betrayal of my commitment to Canada and the people I have served.
Several years before I got into active politics, I was already fighting in favour of bilingualism and the French fact in Canada. I believed that better understanding was necessary to promote Canadian unity. I worked hard and I became one of the first advisors on bilingualism within the public service.
In respect of bilingualism and Canadian unity, it is my opinion that the whole problem has been handled badly. Our country is less united that it was ten years ago. The government has gone about it the wrong way and has even allowed it to become a personal vendetta amoung a few elite, including the Prime Minister and the premier of Quebec. The climate created as a result has been one which pits faction against faction and threatens the very existence of Canada as a nation.
The potential of Canada, in my view, is great. It is my feeling that the present governmental policies will not develop that potential.
Accordingly, I have decided, after consultation with my wife and a few respected associates, to leave the Liberal caucus and seek to take my seat with the Progressive Conservative caucus.
Subtopic: MR. R. STEWART-ANNOUNCEMENT OF DECISION TO SIT AS PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE MEMBER