Hon. Jean Lapierre (Outremont, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to take part in this debate today, which need I say, is a debate that was born of a strategy, of a tactic on the part of the Bloc Québécois that does not seek to have the Quebecois nation recognized by the whole House of Commons. The Bloc Québécois thought by tabling this motion to divide the members of this House, the federalist parties, and, finally, to be able to say to Quebeckers once again how humiliated they were because the House of Commons refused to recognize the Quebecois nation.
Well, their firecracker has exploded in their faces; right in their faces. Thanks to their motion, they have united all the federalist forces in this House for the first time in a very long while. In that sense, that tactic of division—I would go so far as to say that treacherous tactic—enabled us yesterday to witness a great moment in this House.
I never thought that I would stand up to applaud the Prime Minister during this session! I never thought that I would delight in the presence of the leader of the New Democratic Party! The one person to whom I was ready to give a standing ovation was the leader of the Liberal Party. However, yesterday, because of the Bloc’s strategy of division; because the Bloc wanted to weaken Quebec and then have it humiliated, it went completely off track. As a result, we see now that they are skating on the edges of their skates, over on their ankles. They are proposing an amendment about a united Canada. They no longer know where they are going because their strategy failed miserably.
At the same time, this provocation gave each of us the opportunity to reflect, in our own hearts and consciences. In that sense, what happened yesterday, because of the motion by the Prime Minister, will enable us all to speak out, as Quebeckers and Canadians, with one common voice. It is the worst possible message that the Bloc members could hear.
They were convinced that the Prime Minister would say no to the Quebec nation. They were convinced that this party would be divided and that their motion would be rejected. Then, they would have travelled to Montreal, Quebec City and the regions to say how terrible this was. It is absolutely unbelievable to see that the Bloc, which claims it does not need to search for its identity, tabled a tactical motion to try to get recognized and to seek its Quebec identity here, while being convinced all along that it would not happen. However, it is precisely this provocation that led, yesterday, to a great moment of national unity, and I must pay tribute to that party for achieving that.
The Bloc Québécois' action resulted in some of my colleagues, who had reservations about this whole thing, to agree on a recognition. A vote will take place within the next few days to recognize that Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada. It is a very positive thing to see this change in views and mentalities.
I know that Quebeckers are pleased to see that this House recognizes their difference. This quest for recognition goes back many years. I remember that, during my career, at the 1980 referendum, Quebeckers were told that if they voted no, they would get a form of recognition and federalism would be renewed. I was also there when the Constitution was patriated, in 1982. That patriation was an unfinished business.
Obviously, the quest for the recognition of the Quebec difference was central to all these representations. This has been the case for a very long time. In that sense, the motion tabled by the Prime Minister is in itself a historic measure that will allow us to hold out the olive branch to Quebeckers, particularly federalist Quebeckers, and tell them that we recognize their existence and their difference within the great Canadian family.
At the same time, this means we recognize that we have more than one identity. We can be both proud Quebeckers and proud Canadians. We can be shaped by both of these identities. Together, all of our identities create the Canadian mosaic. By recognizing the Quebec nation, we are telling Quebeckers that they are more than just a part of our multicultural society and we are recognizing a historical reality. In that sense, I think this would make many of our fellow citizens feel better about being part of this country and feel accepted just as they are. Period, as the leader of the Bloc Québécois would say.
We are what we are. I think the Bloc Québécois' tactics have enabled us to see that, among ourselves, Quebeckers can define themselves. They have also enabled us to see that our colleagues from elsewhere in Canada accept and value our differences. Our differences are valuable. They do not hurt us; rather, they make us better and enable us to express ourselves in many different ways. Obviously, our ability to express ourselves in French strengthens Canada.
In the end, when we look at the message we are sending Quebeckers, it is clear that our colleagues in the National Assembly think this is one of the best messages we have sent in a long time. Those who boast about representing all Quebeckers should have listened to Premier Jean Charest last night. As the premier of all Quebeckers, he urged the Bloc members to vote for the Prime Minister's motion. He recommended that they do so graciously and recognize the existing reality. Oddly enough, today the Bloc members are turning a deaf ear to the Premier of Quebec. Very interesting. The people who were supposed to be speaking on behalf of Quebec are turning a deaf ear to the premier. Perhaps, if they do not want to listen to Jean Charest, they could listen to Mario Dumont, who says this is very good and a step in the right direction.
Then again, this broadened the consensus among the members of this House. I am very happy to see that we were not alone to send this message. We have reached out with this motion, and our colleagues at the National Assembly have responded. Personally, as a Quebecker, I am feeling much more in tune today with the majority at the National Assembly than the people in that corner. Together, we are shaping something that will let the Government of Quebec know that there are men and women in Ottawa who recognize their difference as well as the needs of a Quebec society that is a nation in our midst. That is obvious.
I am therefore pleased that the proponents of slash and burn tactics got burned, and it was their own doing. We responded to provocation by not letting ourselves be divided. We will not allow anyone to push us around just because they are using some tactic. They were so sure of themselves, with their prepared speeches saying that the Prime Minister said no and that we Liberals were all over the map. Viewing the country as much more important that our respective parties on this momentous occasion, we all came together and supported the motion.
The people of Quebec will not be fooled. They know full well that, on the eve of the Liberal convention, the Bloc Québécois was intent on driving a wedge between us. It did not do so in an effort to foster unity among Quebeckers or to give greater leverage to Quebec, but rather to weaken Quebec and then be able to cry humiliation. That is why I am criticizing Bloc members for not playing the role they purport to be playing.
They claim to be the defenders of Quebec and Quebec's interests. It was not in Quebec's interest to try to divide this House and send a negative message to Quebeckers. That is why I think that our fellow Quebeckers will sense a generosity of spirit, a harmony of spirit with other Canadians, and I really want to pay tribute to my own colleagues as well.
This is not an easy debate. For some, the concept of nation has a meaning that goes beyond words. In that sense, our colleagues on this side of the House have also made progress. I think it is important that their thinking has evolved. This is a step forward, and it will enable federalists in Quebec to say that it is not true that Quebec is isolated; it is not true that we have to accept the Bloc's version of history. It is not true because the rest of the country is reaching out.
There is still much to be done. Clearly, this has to be seen as an olive branch. Certainly, we are going to keep calling on this government every day to keep its promises to Quebec and the other provinces. For example, the government is saying that it is going to do more in terms of transfers to the provinces, but ultimately, it is doing less. We have noted that weakness. We will judge the government not only on its resolutions, but on its actions, and we will wage a partisan battle in due course.
I could have voted in favour of the motion, despite the Bloc's bad faith. I had nothing against the original wording of this motion, but I feel that the Prime Minister's version is far better. Moreover, we would have amended his version if we could. But since it was not possible for us to make an amendment, I think that the Prime Minister's version is far closer to reality. The National Assembly is very comfortable with it. The Premier of Quebec, their premier, is urging them to vote for the Prime Minister's resolution. They should listen to their premier.
Instead of listening to their premier, they want to play a little game with Mr. Boisclair, who has just reacted, 24 hours later, to what is happening here. There seems to be a disconnect between them.
We know this motion must be understood in its broadest sense. I have no intention of sparking a constitutional debate here today, but personally, as a Quebecker and a Canadian, I hope that one day, when the time is right, we can begin another constitutional round during which we can settled this unresolved issue that is the patriation of the Constitution and the Charter of Rights, the amending formula, and so on.
I hope that we will one day go beyond a mere resolution. But the day will certainly come when Canadians everywhere will be interested in exploring certain constitutional changes. Today, I do not see a consensus, nor is the official government in Quebec calling for changes. Jean Charest is not calling for constitutional changes, and this will not hinder his chances of winning the next election. At present, we must ask ourselves if we are ready to take small steps.
The Bloc's insipid provocation has forced us to take a step that allows us to reach out to Quebeckers. I do not believe that we have solved all the world's problems, but I feel good as a Quebecker and a Canadian. I feel somewhat more comfortable knowing that my own colleagues recognize Quebeckers as a nation and that our colleagues across the floor also recognize what makes Quebec different.
By allowing this recognition, we are probably contributing more to Canada as a whole, because we feel accepted and recognized for what we are. This is true for every aspect of the Canadian population. In order to participate fully in a society, we want to be recognized by our fellow citizens for what we are and what we bring with us.
As for Quebeckers, we bring the history that allows us to claim the title of nation.
The Bloc tried to fool us. You could say they were hoist with their own petard. In the end, the Bloc allowed us to collectively send a clear, unequivocal, non-partisan message to Quebeckers. For this, I am extremely grateful to the Bloc.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Business of Supply