Robert Alfred CORBETT

CORBETT, Robert Alfred

Personal Data

Party
Progressive Conservative
Constituency
Fundy--Royal (New Brunswick)
Birth Date
December 14, 1938
Website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Corbett
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=aa4f6101-0038-477c-8c4c-7323743534ab&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
businessman

Parliamentary Career

October 16, 1978 - March 26, 1979
PC
  Fundy--Royal (New Brunswick)
May 22, 1979 - December 14, 1979
PC
  Fundy--Royal (New Brunswick)
February 18, 1980 - July 9, 1984
PC
  Fundy--Royal (New Brunswick)
September 4, 1984 - October 1, 1988
PC
  Fundy--Royal (New Brunswick)
November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
PC
  Fundy--Royal (New Brunswick)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 120 of 121)


December 4, 1978

Mr. Corbett:

You will have your chance in three minutes. To begin modifying the system risks destroying it. To begin shifting the focus away from the Queen to some government appointee, of whatever "suitable stature", risks destroying it.

"God save the Queen" really means "God help us to govern ourselves". "God save the Governor General" does not sound so convincing. I urge that this motion not be talked out but that the question be put forthwith.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' MOTIONS
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December 4, 1978

Mr. Bob Corbett (Fundy-Royal):

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity of being able to speak on this motion presented this afternoon by the hon. member for Moncton (Mr. Jones). This is private members' hour and I wish to advise hon. members that I do speak as a private member for Fundy-Roy-al, although I have no problem in my identification of the party that I represent in this House because, like myself, they agree there should be no dilution of the role of the monarchy or the Queen as head of state of this country.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' MOTIONS
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December 4, 1978

Mr. Corbett:

Those are the Prime Minister's words, not mine. If hon. members get complaints, take it up with the Prime Minister. Some of those opposite who are interested in retaining the monarchy have an awful lot to say when someone on this side is interested.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' MOTIONS
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December 4, 1978

Mr. Corbett:

Who said that?

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' MOTIONS
Full View Permalink

December 4, 1978

Mr. Corbett:

Nevertheless I did become somewhat concerned when I heard the hon. member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr. MacFarlane) protest in a rather loud and inordinate way about the proposals introduced in Bill C-60. My feeling is that he is protesting too much. For what reason? I am concerned when members opposite and the government of this country begin to dabble in what we refer to as constitutional tinkering.

I am concerned that if there is no intention on the part of the government to dilute the authority of the monarchy in this country, why is it necessary to include any reference to this in Bill C-60? Bill C-60 very definitely states that the powers of the Queen are not to be diminished or diluted-words to that effect-while she is in Canada. That is absolutely contrary to my understanding of the constitution and the role of the monarchy in this country.

I intend to move along with my remarks and I will not take up the entire time allotted to me.

Canada has recently entered a period of reappraisal. Canadians feel that the time has come to reconsider what we are and to determine what we want to become. From the Atlantic to the Pacific we have been discussing our history and our future. We made a country out of a continent. It has been a great adventure. We built with our own hands a country stretching from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, from Point Pelee to the northernmost reaches of the Arctic Islands. It took scarcely longer than a span of a man's life to do it. Many Canadians still remember the era of new settlements, the clearing of the lands, the great beginnings, the time when there were only five million of us, when our major cities- there were a dozen or so-had populations of barely more than 20,000, and when the railway and a handful of newspapers were the only means of linking region with region.

In order to adapt to the new continent, discover its spirit and learn to survive in its environment, our ancestors had to borrow the ways and customs of many peoples. But no custom and tradition has had more influence on the peaceful and orderly development of our great nation than the Crown. The Crown and the concept of constitutional monarchy have never been easy matters to explain. And because there is a tendency among all people to dismiss what they cannot easily explain, the monarchy in Canada has frequently been tossed off as either an historical anachronism that should long ago have gone the way of knights and round tables, or a stale leftover of colonialism, the fact being that we are a sovereign, independent nation with a foreign-that is, British-head of state.

December 4, 1978

The Monarchy

I submit that such a description of the Queen of Canada is a highly simplistic explanation of her function which is used to advantage by those who wish to erode the functions and traditions of the parliamentary system of government in Canada. Elizabeth II is the personal expression of the Crown of Canada, not the Crown of England. She is the Queen of Canada as well as the Queen of England and is the constitutional monarch of Canada. It is this combination that explains her role as head of state and as an institution of the Canadian government.

We note immediately that the Queen plays the same role in many other parts of the Commonwealth, and we face the question of a shared Crown and head of state. What is the advantage in modern times of this arrangement? Does it limit or compromise the sovereignty of Canada as an independent nation? This afternoon, Mr. Speaker, I wish to examine these questions with you.

The Commonwealth serves 850 million people and includes huge nations and tiny states. Of its 33 members, all recognize the Queen as head of the Commonwealth. Sixteen new states plus India are republics with their own heads of state distinct from the Queen; 11, including Canada, are monarchies with the Queen as head of state; and five, all new states, are monarchies with monarchs other than the Queen as head of state.

Much has been written and said about the Commonwealth and 1 feel one particular attribute is worthy of mention this evening. That particular attribute is the ability of the Commonwealth to allow its member nations to participate in the orderly transition from colony to nation, the one singular force allowing such peaceful transition being the Crown.

Over the centuries many nations have conquered many other nations and developed lands into colonies. But they have rarely been inclined either to give easily the fruits of their conquests in development, or to admit to accusations of exploitation. The gaining of nationhood by dependencies has usually required a long process of negotiation, perhaps rebellion, and the aftermath may be bitter. As far as Britain's original dependencies were concerned, there were struggles but in the separation of the control of the mother country there was a stage which permitted a gradual, peaceful and face-saving change to independence under the Crown.

The British learned their lesson when the American colonies broke away, and since then they have followed a natural process comparable to the experience of any child who grows beyond dependence upon his parents, becomes able to support himself and handle his own affairs, and maintains an independent family relationship. Other empires disintegrated leaving little friendship either among the parts or between them and the original mother country. Such was not the case with the British Empire.

Canada, being a member of that British Empire, was able to weaken and then sever all governmental connections with Britain until she had complete control of her own affairs. Colonial status changed to dominion status and then to

independent status when conditions in Canada justified the change.

The existence of the Crown permitted face-saving on both sides. The provinces got all the trappings, symbols and ceremonies early to make them appear more grown up, even when there was little else to justify their identities. The government of the mother country saved face every time it gave up some power because the old links appeared at first to remain. But the old links did not remain and when everyone on both sides of the Atlantic realized it the Crown became a symbol, not of colonialism but of nationhood.

The Queen and the Crown therefore represent, among other things, the origin and growth of government. It was the Crown that gave out the original letters patent which gave the colonies their official status and served as a mark of sovereignty when they desperately needed to provide legitimacy, and this remained as a constitutional umbrella under which they grew to maturity. This shared heritage of the Crown was very important for it was in the midst of this tradition, even before colonies were politically stable, that the Crown helped to bring three of them together as four provinces in 1867 when they had little else in common besides their allegiance to a common sovereign. On their own initiative and terms they set up another central system with the same structure they had known for so long.

Then the new structure developed further on a national scale and this system was continued or set up in six new provinces. Meanwhile the constitution remains stable in a century when constitutions elsewhere were created and destroyed in reckless fashion, until now Canada's government is one of the oldest in the world and, as we have noted, her people have enjoyed, by global standards, a remarkable freedom from real political trouble.

All this did not take place because Canadians were superior people. They have a system that transplanted well in their environment and then worked. The question which we must now ask is what attributes of constitutional monarchy have made it work so well once it was transplanted in Canada. 1 suggest that a prime minister in Canada or a provincial premier is made to know from the start of his administration that he is advising on the use of the Queen's power, not wielding power that he actually possesses. There is an enormous practical difference between these two concepts. However much the Prime Minister can do on advising on the use of power, and even though he is among the most powerful, responsible heads of government in the world, he is always in the democratic position of being merely a trustee; and he knows it because of frequent and colourful reminders. He is a trustee to whom much responsibility can be entrusted but also readily taken away. It clearly puts the Prime Minister and his cabinet on the defensive at election time in an era when several heads of government elsewhere possess so much power that they are able to control elections or abolish them altogether.

The Crown has therefore a means of meeting a difficulty- so evident in history and contemporary politics throughout the world-that of preventing officials at the summit of govern-

December 4, 1978

merit from becoming too powerful, irresponsible and perhaps immovable.

This brings us to a definition of what the Canadian constitutional monarchy is all about. After centuries of political evolution we have arrived at the stage where all the powers of the state are vested, not in the state-that is, the formal governing structure-but in the community, with the person chosen to symbolize or personify those powers having no or scant powers to wield at all. That is, we separate the possession of power from the wielding of power. One institution, the monarchy, possesses the power without wielding it; the other institution, government, wields the power without possessing it.

Even though we may associate executive power with certain officials under our present constitution, we do not in law or in fact make it the personal possession of any of them. We put it outside the government structure, not in someone's hands but in an abstraction, and we call that abstraction the Crown.

The Crown, therefore, is not the monarch. The Crown is the people, and the monarch symbolizes the people, with all the dignity, stature, mystique and aura of her office. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) once told her at a state dinner, "I always like being seen in public with you; it's the only time 1 never get booed"!

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' MOTIONS
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