November 22, 1979 (31st Parliament, 1st Session)


Francis Fox


Hon. Francis Fox (Blainville-Deux-Montagnes):

Mr. Speaker, on November 5 in response to a question I put to the right hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Clark), he indicated that it was not his intention or that of his government to respond to the separatist government's white paper on sovereignty-association, of which the sole interpretation can be described as a call for independence. Since the right hon. gentleman took office we have heard a great deal on his side of the House about the new attitudes he wishes to bring to federal-provincial relations. We have been told that concrete steps, rather than so-called confrontation politics, would be the hallmark of his government.
I would like to put a few questions to the right hon. Prime Minister and to his representative here this evening. I would like to ask him whether responding to the white paper, which he of course refuses to do, and to the inaccuracies and distortions within it, is indeed a question of confrontation? I would also like to ask him whether responding to the charge that federation has been a dismal failure is considered by him to be a confrontation? It seems to me that it is simply not enough for the Prime Minister of this country to say that he will not participate in the referendum debate in Quebec on the grounds that he is neither a citizen nor a resident of the province of Quebec. Indeed, this is an astounding stance for the man who holds the most senior position in government in this country.
I would like to tell the Prime Minister that it is not sufficient for him to state that sovereignty-association is not acceptable to his government. To date, the Prime Minister, who talks about taking concrete steps, has taken two negative steps. He has dismantled a group within the federal-provincial relations secretariat known as the Tellier group, which was in a position to respond to some of these distortions and inaccuracies and to set the record straight. Secondly, the Prime Minister has withdrawn the federal bill on the referendum.
While all this is happening on the federal side, we face a Quebec government which was elected on a platform of good government, not a platform to take Quebec out of confederation. We see that government unhesitatingly using public funds to spread its message of independence. On the other hand, on the other side of this House we have a government, which not only has a right but a sacred duty to promote Canadian unity, refusing to use public funds to set the record straight and to fight the referendum.
I would like to remind the Prime Minister that the course of action which he has chosen to date is not to take any action at
Adjournment Debate
all, and yet on the response to this challenge rests the future of this country as we know it today. It is not a Quebec question or a French question, as the Prime Minister seems to think it is. It is truly a Canadian question, and the real issue is not the separation of Quebec. The real issue is the future of Canada, Quebec being an important part of it.
The government has been remiss in its most sacred, most important duty. It has called its failures principles-the principle of not wishing to set the record straight, the principle of refusing to respond to the detractors of federalism, and the principle of not standing up for the country in this, the most trying year of its history.

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