Mr. Lome Nystrom (Yorkton-Melville):
Mr. Speaker, first I wish to extend my congratulations to you on being appointed Speaker. I am sure that you and the other officers who have been appointed will serve this house in a way we can all be proud of.
Before beginning my general remarks may I say that I was disappointed with several
September 19, 1988
aspects of the throne speech. I wish to mention four or five matters that are pertinent at this time to my constituency. As many hon. members probably know, one of the world's largest potash deposits is to be found near Easterhazy in the southeast part of the riding I represent. It was recently announced by I.M.C., the international mineral people, that they are planning to truck the potash to a point across the United States border for shipment on United States trains to Chicago. If that happens there will be serious economic repercussions to the city of Melville, which is a potash transportation centre at this time. If the transportation facilities are not to be used it will mean that many families in the area will be without jobs. I just wish to bring that to the attention of the house and I hope that it will be possible to avoid bringing about this economic setback to the community in Melville.
I also wish to express my concern about the cancellation of the winter works program, since it affects the cities and towns in my constituency. The cancellation will bring hardship not only for the towns themselves but also for many families. I am sure that as a result unemployment this winter will increase, and I wish to second the remarks of members of the opposition and on the government side who have spoken about this matter.
I also wish to talk briefly about the problems of the Indian Metis people. I have grown up with Indian people. I was raised on a farm which was near a reservation. There are about six Indian reservations in the constituency of Yorkton-Melville, and I would like to congratulate the hon. member who seconded the address in reply for his discussion of Indian problems. It is about time the Indian people had equality with the rest of society. It is about time they were given the right to make more of the decisions affecting their own lives.
[DOT] (4:00 p.m.)
The most important issue in the constituency of Yorkton-Melville is, of course, agriculture. First of all I want to say I concur 100 per cent with what was said by the hon. member for Saskatoon-Biggar (Mr. Gleave) in this house a couple of days ago. I think he quite adequately described the pressures facing Saskatchewan farmers today. He talked about the cost-price squeeze and its effect on the farming industry. The time has come when the government must act to alleviate the farmers' problems. We must introduce a
The Address-Mr. Nystrom vigorous campaign to sell wheat internationally. We must do something to raise the price of wheat. I suggest that the farmer receive $2.12 a bushel for all the wheat he sells abroad, and an extra $1 per bushel for wheat used domestically, up to a level of 1,000 bushels per farmer.
Something must be done about the skyrocketing increase in the price of farm machinery. Here I would suggest we begin by establishing a prices review board to investigate the cost of farm machinery. We must extend farm credit and make interest free loans available to young farmers wishing to establish themselves in the industry. Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in the province of Saskatchewan, and indeed is one of the basic industries in all of Canada. It is about time we started to realize this and gave farmers a better deal.
I would now like to introduce something new into the throne speech debate Mr. Speaker. I could go on to talk about many of the problems in my constituency but that is something I will be doing throughout the session. Now, however, I would like to introduce a new topic because it is very important to the government of Canada although it is something politicians, regardless of their political affiliations, do not talk about.
I do this for basically two reasons. First, I do not want to duplicate some of the things members of my party have already said and, second, more importantly it is an issue of very grave concern to this house and the country. I want to talk about young people and how they relate to this chamber and to the political process in Canada and throughout much of the world.
For young people democracy is on trial right here and now. We have heard a lot about alienation, about frustration, student unrest, riots, hippies, yippies, beatniks and similar groups within me youth community. All of these phenomena are important to this house for one reason. That reason is that the verdict on the democratic system by many of these young people has already been made and that verdict is guilty-guilty of irrelevance, guilty of lack of purpose, guilty of lack of meaning for their lives but, most important of all, the political system has been found guilty for its failure to produce results here and now.
I have mentioned alienation. What is alienation? It is the separation of the individual from his activity. Political alienation is the separation of the individual from
September 19, 1968
The Address-Mr. Nystrom what is going on right here in this house. What do I mean by this and how does one recognize this kind of alienation in society?
You can recognize this alienation in many different ways. The first way of recognizing it is by the sheer indifference that many have to the political process. On the one hand we have the drop-outs. I have mentioned the hippies, yippies, beatniks and the like, but on the other hand you have indifference on the part of what one could probably call the average kid, the average student who could not care less about the political process. This is the person who is a product of society's major institutions, the person who year in and year out has had the fact pounded into him that he must submit to authority without question. He has been taught to be indifferent, to be apathetic, to conform, and thus he does not really care what happens in the government of Canada or in the whole political process.
You also recognize alienation in a more articulated manner from many of the young people who have attempted to get involved in the decision-making process and have failed. You find groups of these people all over the world. To mention just a few there are the civil rights movement in the United States, the Viet Nam action committees in Canada, the United States and Europe, and we have student activists around the world.
This kind of activity is now cropping up in high schools. We have had recent instances of it in Montreal and in the province of Newfoundland.
This despair is found in student riots, for example, in France and Czechoslovakia. We can see it in many wildcat strikes breaking out throughout the nation. It is a frustration with the slow process of normal procedures of government.
What does all this mean to those of us who are here in parliament? I think it first means that young people are no longer interested in proving themselves to the political process as it exists. What it does mean is that the political process has to prove itself to them. It means that a government, a political party, and the leaders of political parties have to prove themselves to young people. And if they do not, not only will parliament be powerless in regard to the corporate interests of the country but it will also find itself powerless in terms of its relationship to an ever-increasing portion of society. This is the youth community and let me remind you, Mr. Speaker, that about half Canada's population, or more, is well under the age of 30.
This frustration is a real factor that we have to contend with in society. It appears not only in the youth community but in the slums and ghettos. It is becoming evident in the Metis groups and among the native population, and also among many of the small farmers in western Canada. I could mention various campuses and youth associations, but I will relate just one example which will demonstrate the point I am talking about. This is but one of the many examples where action was taken outside the political structure. Action was taken outside the political process to speed things up and make them more relevant, and it produced results.
The incident I am referring to took place at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. The faculty and students of the university used to eat together in one huge cafeteria. Then one day some of the senior faculty members decided they wanted a separate eating place for themselves and so they constructed a wall across the cafeteria dividing it in two. The vast majority of the student body did not like this. They objected to the wall being built. They went through the normal political structure on the campus to have the wall removed, but their request got tied up in committee after committee until one night a number of faculty members and a group of students got together and tore the wall down, and the wall stayed down. This is an example of where the normal channels failed and people went outside them to solve the problem.
In many ways this parliament is similar to some of the senior faculty of the university I have just mentioned. This is an institution which is not relevant to many Canadian people. If we do not open our eyes soon many more walls may be torn down by young people, discontented farmers, minority groups and the poor. Parliament and the university are similar institutions in our contemporary society. They are both primarily middle and upper class orientated.
The difference between the two is that there is a growing awareness within the university community. It is becoming aware that education is a right, not a privilege. Members of that community are starting to talk about universal accessibility to education at all levels. They are starting to talk about abolition of student fees, about providing living allowances to students, about expanding university educational facilities and making a university education more relevant to today's society.
Meanwhile, on the other hand parliament, the government and the speech from the throne have all failed even to recognize the
Sepiember 19, 1968
underprivileged and the powerless segments within our society such as the poor, the Indian and the marginal farmer, to mention just a few. If we do not open our eyes to this reality, Mr. Speaker, then many people within the near future will be left with no alternative but to start tearing down some walls of their own. These people are absolutely fed up with the verbal dribble, the fancy cliches and democratic rhetoric stemming from this chamber and that once again is found in the speech from the throne. It is becoming more and more apparent that the government cannot see the forest because of the trees.
I believe it was Rousseau who said, "Since inqualities exist within society it is the duty of legislatures to remove those inequalities." So far parliament is not playing an active role in supporting equality in Canada. If we do not affirm equality, dignity, and the right of people to act meaningfully in their own community, if we do not take some of the practical steps that have been suggested toward these ends, if young people do not get universal accessibility to education, if farmers do not get a two-price system for wheat, if the taxation system is not reformed, and if we do not do something about the ludicrous cost of housing and rocketing increases in rents then parliament will naturally become more irrelevant to people in Canada.
[DOT] (4:10 p.m.)
If the impersonality and power of corporate bureaucracy are not torn down to allow people to participate, then parliament will fade farther into the background of peoples' lives, and they will naturally seek alternative paths of social change. Idealistically, government should be an institution which people can collectively work through to solve the problems which they cannot solve as individuals. As the age of automation increases the sphere of meaningful individual action increasingly contracts.
The need for open participatory institutions in society is becoming more and more a necessity. The basic institution should be government, the people, in other words; but it will never be so long as we are committed to a philosophy of Liberalism which is a philosophy of limited government. The basic philosophy of Liberalism prevents it from attacking private centres of power in society that lie at the root of our country's problems. Instead of control of irresponsible private power the government is deferential toward it.
The Address-Mr. Nystrom
We can see this failure in every segment of our society. I have mentioned a number of aspects. We see it in the taxation system, in the failure to plan the economy and in the failure in any way to grapple with the foreign ownership problem of our economy. Young people and other people as well are starting to ask many very pertinent questions. They are asking where the real roots of power lie in our country. They are starting to ask why the Liberal party, the government, does not release an account of their contributors in the last election campaign. Why will they not do this? It is relatively simple; they will not because then the people would know who have vested interests in the government of Canada. This is one of the major binds on democracy that can be placed clearly on the doorstep of the people sitting across the aisle.
Later I shall be introducing a bill to lower the voting age in Canada from 21 to 18. This is just one important way to open up society for participation. We all know that in the election campaign the Prime Minister invited young people to participate. He said, "Come, and we will participate together in building a greater Canada for all". But then he denied them the basic right of participation, the right to vote. The more one watches the government the more one realizes it is an old man type of government with an old philosophy and reactionary ideas.
We must face up to many problems in our changing world. The government must not act as a deterrent to change. It should be in the forefront of change leading the way. We must eradicate things such as poverty and pollution. We must reform the tax system and we must alleviate the housing crisis. In fact we must set up new objectives and priorities for society. If the government does not soon face up to some of these facts, then the youth image of the Liberal party will become mouldy and musty with age.
I strongly believe that if we open our eyes we can make some of these things more relevant. I have a lot of faith in the democratic system of government. All we have to do is make it more pertinent, more modern and get the people participating.
I should like to conclude my first speech in this chamber by quoting a line often used by the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy just before his untimely assassination a few months ago. He said, "Some men see things as they are and say why; I dream things that never were and say why not."
The Address-Mr. Asselin [Translation]
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY