The task which faced Macdonald, Brown, Cartier and McGee was enormously difficult. The challenge was tremendous and horrendous, but they overcame it. I often say, and I am sure my hon. friend agrees with me, that we are unworthy successors if we allow what those men created to disappear. Surely to God on this St. Patrick's Day-that Scottish born saint whom we all honour-we must realize that bringing this country into being was far more difficult than keeping it together in a time of advanced communication. In 1864-and it is wonderful that I am following the hon. member because Canada began in Charlottetown, the cradle of confederation-the problems of communication and transportation were enormous and difficult. The people did not know one another. It was reported in a very distinguished Nova Scotia newspaper that maritimers did not know many Canadians, and the few they did know they did not like.
However, it took people like Macdonald and Brown to build Canada. Brown even started to drink during his visit to Charlottetown. We are very proud of that. He had quite a good time. He probably relaxed for the first time in his life. All these people decided that the ideal of the country was very important. Yet we are reluctant to honour Macdonald. We are reluctant to have likenesses of these men on our coins. We are totally unmindful of Cartier. Having studied a good deal of history I often wonder what might have happened had Macdonald died before Cartier and Cartier had become the leader of our party. If that had happened, today we would be what I think we should be, the favourites of the province of Quebec. However, that did not happen. These men were great figures. Only recently have we even mustered up the courage to put on the stamps of the nation the likenesses of wonderful men like Mr. Pearson, Mr. St. Laurent and a man I did not like very much but admired greatly, Mr. Bennett. These people were
March 17, 1978
leaders. I thought that the hon. member who has just spoken did an excellent job in integrating all our various interests.
For 15 years I have been pleading in this House for a day to remember John A. Macdonald, the father of our country. He was the outstanding architect of Confederation. He was not the only one, but the outstanding one. In consultation with the hon. member I was prepared to forget that John A. was born on January 11, which is a rather bad time, ten days after New Year's Day. John A. was a Scotsman. He knew all about hogmanay. It took him about ten days to recover. We were prepared to move it on into February. We talked it over with the hon. member for York-Simcoe (Mr. Stevens) who-please, God-may be Minister of Finance before the year is out, and we all agreed. There was a very good discussion and a consensus in the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs which, if I am right, was then chaired by His Honour Mr. Speaker. That, in my judgment, was parliament working at its best. It is unfortunate that here today there is not a single cabinet minister I can address this remark to, but I think it behooves the executive to note occasionally the consensus and the will of the people's representatives.
I think it was quite unbecoming, improper and unnecessary for the Secretary of State (Mr. Roberts) to pre-empt the hon. member and the rest of us, and even more unbecoming, if I may use that kind of garbled English-and I do not often do that-for him then to renege on his own interference. We do not have the holiday. We have put the consensus of parliament into discard, and that I find totally reprehensible. At a time when it was more important than ever before that this institution be well regarded by the public which it represents, the government did a double disservice not only to the hon. member, to me, to the hon. member for York-Simcoe and to Sir John A. Macdonald, but also to the parliamentary institution itself. For that I think they deserve the harshest condemnation, and I hope they will take advice and not continue this practice which I have indicated. I mentioned the hon. member for Cochrane, but it has happened many times. Perhaps the most important hour in this parliament is the private members' hour, when we do not listen to the orders of our beloved friends, my highly regarded whip on my right and the House leader, and when members who are here because people sent them here decide what they are going to talk about and what they are going to say. Because representative government is older than responsible government, I think the emphasis should be on that private members' hour.
The learned and hon. member who has just spoken rendered a great service by making a good, earnest and sensitive representation on behalf of people. He is a very courageous committee chairman. He is sensitive to very hot public issues, if I may say so. I applaud him for his leadership.
I never make long speeches. Perhaps my speeches are longer than I think. I believe I am to be followed by the venerable hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles). He is the chancellor of an outstanding university which has still not offered me a degree. As a Scot, I can say that I am proud we gave the Irish St. Patrick. I am very mindful of where my strength came from. I remember the many Irish Prince Edward Islanders who voted for me over the years. I was happy to have an opportunity to follow my fellow islander, the distinguished hon. member for Windsor-Walkerville (Mr. MacGuigan). I am happy to support him in his endeavours to establish a national heritage day.
I am not afraid Canada will fall apart if another holiday is celebrated. Is our economy so frail? Are our people so weak? Are things so bad that if one more holiday occurs, the entire country will go to hell? I cannot believe it. I am interested in greater productivity during working days. I discount the days people do not work. There is no reason why a highly developed country like Canada, with its advanced technology and albeit lousy government, cannot afford a holiday every month.
We must celebrate and honour our native people. We must honour discovery day. We must honour Sir John A. Macdonald. Then we can honour Sir Wilfred Laurier, Sir Robert Borden and even Mackenzie King, God forgive me. There have been many tremendous Canadians. There was Dr. Wilder Penfield, who was probably one of the ablest and most brilliant men the world ever produced. There was Dr. Bethune. Also there is Dr. McClure, who is still living. He was the former moderator of the United Church of Canada. There are scores of people who should be honoured by us for one day. We should stand aside and honour these people who make up our heritage.
If I were greedy and wanted to use up more time, I could name many people. I could talk about Senator Cairine Wilson, Nellie McClung, C. G. D. Roberts, the hon. member for Halifax (Mr. Stanfield), C. D. Howe, Charles Tupper, M. J. Coldwell and J. S. Woodsworth. It would be exciting, imaginative and valuable to have a national heritage day. As was suggested by the hon. member, from year to year a Canadian could be chosen to receive honour. We could survive for 100 years and not be required to use the same list twice. I will not live for 100 years, because I am too intemperate.
While I condemn the government for its niggardly action and their even more reprehensible reaction, I commend and support the measure before the House.
Topic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS
Subtopic: HOLIDAYS ACT