Mr. Chairman it will come as no surprise to the committee to see me rise following the speech of the hon. member for Laurier (Mr. Chevrier). The member for Laurier never fails to interest me, especially when he speaks for the province of Quebec, a somewhat new role for him. I must say that I do have a peculiar feeling when he says: "We from Quebec, we ask and we say-" Everybody knows, Mr. Chairman, that by far the great majority of Conservative members from Quebec hold university grants to be unconstitutional. The hon. member for Joliette - l'Assomption - Montcalm had expressed his view on this subject last year, as we were reminded by the member for Laurier. The hon. member for Bellechasse (Mr. Dorion) and from Sherbrooke (Mr. Allard) spoke along the same lines. The hon. member for Laurier reminded us also of other statements attributed to me by the press, last September. In this connection, Mr. Chairman, I would like to make a correction right away. What I have said-and this was in a telephone conversation-boils down simply to this: that most Conservative members from the province of Quebec were opposed to grants to universities and that, further, thought was being given to a solution of some kind, grants earmarked for research purposes, for instance. I did not voice this opinion as being my own but as being that entertained by some of my colleagues who were looking for a solution. In this respect I have always believed-and I still believe-that federal grants to universities are unconstitutional.
That is why, after the speech made by the hon. member for Laurier, I deem it necessary to explain my views which may coincide with those of many of my colleagues.
First, there is section 93 of our constitution which gives provinces exclusive jurisdiction over education. Universities are certainly an essential part of our education system. Nobody ever questioned this fact, and jurisprudence, in its interpretation of the word education, upholds this view.
The hon. member for Megantic (Mr. Roberge) who boldly said that the fathers of confederation did not perhaps think of the
universities when they drafted section 93 because, at that time, Canada had no state university, does not agree with this. His was an extraordinary statement, because, even if no state university existed at that time, at least there were private ones, that is Laval and McGill universities. Anyhow, as the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fleming) stressed earlier today, when the time came to establish universities in this country, they were established by provincial authorities.
Indeed, we should not forget that section 93 has a particular significance for the province of Quebec. It is recognized that when confederation was being prepared, French-speaking Canadians of Lower Canada considered section 93 essential for the preservation of their culture, their language and their own individuality. They looked upon that constitutional structure as the essence of their survival. At that time, the province of Quebec was the only French-speaking of the four confederated provinces. Today, while it is the only one in ten, it considers absolute control in this field as more than ever necessary, as an essential guarantee for the preservation of its own individuality, which it believes should be preserved and cultivated for the benefit of Canada as a whole seeing, in short, French culture as serving the Canadian nation.
Mr. Chairman, I am otherwise aware it has been said that we could give grants to universities because nothing in the constitution prevents us from taking out amounts of the consolidated revenue fund in order to make donations to universities.
In that connection, it was recalled that the province of Quebec had made gifts to Toronto and Ottawa universities.
I admit that a genuine gift is constitutional. However, I believe that regular, annual grants do not constitute gifts; they are annuities paid to universities. Moreover, when grants are voted each year, it is just as if some legislation were voted which would establish them on a permanent basis. That which cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly. If parliament introduced some legislation about permanent grants to universities, I would argue that they are illegal. And it is not an annual vote which would change the problem.
Mr. Chairman, reference was also made to a moral obligation on the part of the federal government, because universities are rendering great services to the state. In my opinion, there is no moral obligation in constitutional
law, when the legal obligation is fully met. And if universities do not receive from the provinces the money they need, it is perhaps because provinces cannot afford to give it to them. Consequently, must we not come to the conclusion that the federal government is taxing more than it should, and ought to hand back to the provinces higher taxation powers?
Others have claimed that it was a purely technical objection. "Those gifts or grants", they say, "are unconditional. What are you worrying about?"
What have we to worry about, Mr. Chairman? Well, for one thing, the future. If universities get into the habit of receiving those grants, they will not be able to refuse them, should our government be run, for instance, by our leftist friends, and if conditions were imposed on grants to universities- grants which the Quebec province cannot accept. There is no threat from that direction at the present time, I agree; such a danger perhaps did not exist under the former government, but to overlook the dangers which may be in store for the future would be a sign of an almost unbelievable lack of foresight.
For that reason, we consider it essential to find a solution which could be acceptable to the public of Quebec. It is for that reason that the statement of the Minister of Finance is welcome. It is also for that reason that we are confident that this government will find an adequate solution. This is the situation which has been inherited. The hon. member for Laurier who, a moment ago, criticized the government, and tried to interpret the meaning given to such grants by the Minister of Finance, would do well to read again what was said in 1951 by the former prime minister, Mr. St. Laurent, when these grants were instituted.
He stated at the time that these grants were merely supplementary to provincial grants. It is clear, therefore, that the government's intention was to help education. The principle laid down thereby was extremely dangerous, but I am confident that the present government will certainly find that solution which it is sincerely looking for.
As long as I am convinced that this government is looking for this solution, I will continue to have faith in it. My confidence extends also, in this respect, to the Prime Minister, to the Minister of Finance and all other members of the cabinet.
In principle, I hold these grants to be unconstitutional, though, in practice, I have every confidence in the government. I am
convinced that, next year, it will come forward with a solution which will be approved by the province of Quebec. The province of Quebec will recognize thereby that, in the present government, there are men capable of recognizing its legitimate aspirations and of understanding why it is so convinced of its exclusive rights in respect of education.
Topic: SUMMARY OF FEDERAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PROVINCES FOR THE FISCAL YEARS 1949-50 TO 1959-60