Mr. Lome Greenaway (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of State (Forestry and Mines)):
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to enter into this debate on property rights and their future entrenchment in our Constitution. I do not think any one issue has bothered me more, nor have I received more letters on any issue than I have on this one. Almost all of my constituents would like to see property rights entrenched in our Constitution. It amazes them that they are not.
It is a well acknowledged, intrinsic human desire to own property, and one would think that to have ownership protected legally could almost be taken for granted in a democracy such as ours. However, we must not forget that it was not a simple oversight that left property rights out of our Constitution.
The Conservative Party proposed that this fundamental right be included in Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms back in 1981 during the original drafting of the Charter. For a time, this worthy proposal was accepted by the then Solicitor General, the Hon. Member for York Centre (Mr. Kaplan). However, due to political pressures from
the New Democratic Party, the Liberal Government quickly reversed itself and withdrew the property rights amendment.
The Leader of the New Democratic Party is quoted in Hansard of April 29, 1983 at page 25001, as having said in 1981 the following:
There's no way we can accept the constitutional resolution with that amendment in it.
The NDP fears the amendment could not only prevent provincial legislation restricting foreign owners-but could hinder Governments wishing to nationalize industries ...
The Conservative amendment flies in the face of what we're attempting to do in the resource sector-tightening up management control-
Prime Minister Trudeau and the then Liberal Government, by making a deal with the NDP, sacrificed Canadians' constitutional guarantee of this basic human right. Therefore, when the Constitution of Canada was patriated in 1982, only three of the four basic human rights were entrenched.
The terrible consequences of not adequately protecting our right to property in the Constitution have already been clearly demonstrated. Past Governments have repeatedly and needlessly seized land while offering little or no compensation. In recent years, the Liberals did that twice, with the shameless confiscation of the frontier lands for the National Energy Program and with the expropriation of land for Mirabel airport.
While the Liberals should be embarrassed by these violations of property rights, members of the NDP openly plot to violate these very same rights in order to realize their socialist ambitions. They oppose the inclusion of property rights in the Constitution because it would be a serious impediment to their policy of nationalization and economic intervention.
The American people recently celebrated the two-hundredth anniversary of their Constitution. What struck me about that event was the pride exhibited by the American people and their realization that a Constitution is a living document. It enunciates basic principles which are then, over time, further defined, added to and, most important, put into practice.
We do not want a Canadian Constitution that remains flawed, incomplete and so inextricably mired in the status quo that it loses its effectiveness and relevance. The majority of Canadians want property rights entrenched in our Constitution.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney), on April 15, 1987, indicated that with the Meech Lake Accord now under way we could begin to look at other constitutional issues such as property rights. He stated then that the successful resolution of the Quebec issue would unlock the constitutional process and allow us to turn our attention to other issues such as property rights in a second round of constitutional discussions.
I would remind Hon. Members that this Government was elected with a mandate for national reconciliation. The Prime Minister stated that a key element of such reconciliation was Quebec's signature on the Constitution. The provincial
April 29, 1988
premiers agreed, and at their Edmonton conference in 1986, stated that Quebec should be the paramount constitutional issue and that other issues, as important as they are, should be dealt with following the resolution of Quebec's concerns.
Given the important and pressing nature of those other constitutional issues such as Senate reform, fisheries, and of course property rights, this decision by the premiers reflected a truly national vision. It was in that spirit that First Ministers succeeded in reaching an agreement with Quebec through the Meech Lake Accord. In recognition of the other constitutional issues, the Accord includes the requirement for an annual conference of First Ministers to examine these matters.
I believe that for the House to proceed with the motion before us at this time would be inconsistent with the Premiers' declaration and the agreed upon process. We must recognize that for this amendment to be adopted consent of a number of provinces will be required, and we should not act in a manner that would make obtaining that support more difficult.
Accordingly I am proposing an amendment to the motion that will send a strong signal of support by the House of Commons for the principle of entrenched property rights but will leave formal adoption until the First Ministers have dealt with the issue. I believe that a demonstration of support for the principle by the House of Commons would provide a strong impetus to those discussions while respecting the process agreed upon by First Ministers.
I would also remind Hon. Members that there are ongoing federal-provincial discussions with respect to this issue. That work will continue and, I hope, will build a consensus for First Ministers to act. Therefore, I move, seconded by the Hon. Member for Kent (Mr. Hardey):
That Motion M-8 be amended by deleting all of the words after "amended", and substituting the following:
"In order to recognize the right to enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof, except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, after an assessment of the continuing federal-provincial work on entrenchment of property rights and a future discussion by First Ministers at the Constitutional Conference."
I would like to inform Hon. Members that this amendment is available in both official languages.
Subtopic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-MOTIONS CONSTITUTION ACT, 1982 SUGGESTED AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE PROPERTY RIGHTS