Charles-Eugène DIONNE

DIONNE, Charles-Eugène

Personal Data

Social Credit
Kamouraska (Quebec)
Birth Date
May 7, 1908
Deceased Date
August 4, 1984
labour representative

Parliamentary Career

June 18, 1962 - February 6, 1963
  Kamouraska (Quebec)
April 8, 1963 - September 8, 1965
  Kamouraska (Quebec)
September 1, 1963 - September 8, 1965
  Kamouraska (Quebec)
November 8, 1965 - April 23, 1968
  Kamouraska (Quebec)
June 25, 1968 - September 1, 1972
  Kamouraska (Quebec)
April 1, 1971 - September 1, 1972
  Kamouraska (Quebec)
October 30, 1972 - May 9, 1974
  Kamouraska (Quebec)
July 8, 1974 - March 26, 1979
  Kamouraska (Quebec)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 52)

March 12, 1979

Mr. Charles-Eugene Dionne (Kamouraska):

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the previous speakers and on several occasions I followed the discussion of the bill in the House. I am however rather surprised to note that in our country where we have almost everything such as concrete, lumber and manpower, many unemployed, some carpenters, we often have to tackle housing problems. Considering that we are living in a system which I feel is all wrong, we are trying, I understand, to make the best possible use of a bad condition and this is why we are considering Bill C-29 this evening.

Following many studies and consultations with provincial governments, the Minister of Public Works and Minister of State for Urban Affairs (Mr. Ouellet) had already suggested some amendments to the housing policy of the federal government. Later on, the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Buchanan) announced some budget cuts which required amendments to the National Housing Act.

Amongst those changes, we note that the government, through the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, will no longer be a prime lender. It will delegate that task to the private sector. On the other hand, the corporation will guarantee loans of up to a maximum of $40 billion. That figure represents the total amount of loans for which insurance policies will be issued under the act and will absorb part of the interest costs through subsidies. The corporation will be a lender of last resort for public and conventional housing.

In a speech given by the Minister of Public Works and Minister of State for Urban Affairs at the convention of the Quebec Home Builders Association, on November 24, 1978, the government explained its housing policy. First, it would intervene progressively less. We believe that private enterprise can meet the challenge quite well, and meet adequately on its own future needs in the field of conventional housing. Our role will, in the future, be restricted to contributing to the maintenance of a stable market that is competitive and dynamic,

March 12, 1979

without intervening in fields which rightly belong to free enterprise.

Through this bill, the government therefore withdraws from the field of mortgage loans. It will subsidize housing projects of a social nature by reimbursing part of the interest. The government wants to put more money into housing for low-income Canadians and give more responsibility to the private sector in residential financing. Priority will no longer go to housing units intended for the average-income home owner. That will have a bearing on such programs as the assisted home ownership program and the rental housing assistance program since all subsidies are being cut to produce housing for people of average means. However, maximum sale prices under those programs, as well as the maximum guaranteed loans, will be supervised.

The federal government seems to want to simplify the complex workings of federal and provincial community housing and services programs. The administration of joint programs will be simplified thus, in practice, eliminating often costly and inefficient overlapping and duplication. The new non-profit housing program is aimed at the non-profit corporations, be they private, provincial or municipal, and at the non-profit housing co-ops. It is specifically geared towards low-income earners. The government wishes to make this program more attractive for users and to reach a greater number of low-income earners. The goal is the construction or renovation, but especially the renovation, construction being left in the hands of private enterprise, of some 30,000 housing units, compared to the present level of 19,000 units. This is indeed a praiseworthy effort and it is most desirable that these goals be reached. The federal government will be assisting the non-profit housing program through contributions. Eligibility for these contributions and the manner in which these can be allocated under governor in council regulations will be determined by clause 14 of the bill. In practice, the government will pay a large part of the interests charged on money borrowed from the private sector by means of grants, thus reducing the real rate of interest to 1 per cent on loans covering up to 90 per cent of the project's value, and to 2 per cent on loans covering 100 per cent of their value. Both types of loans will be amortized over 35 years.

Furthermore, the government will give subsidies up to $75,000, as a starting fund, to those who want to provide low cost housing, depending on the size and the complexity of the project. It will enable developers to make proposals which may produce viable projects. The accent will be put on the improvement of existing units rather than on the building aspect. Public, co-operative and non-profit units will be offered to low income people, the rent being a percentage, 25 per cent, of incomes or of market rents, whichever solution is the most advantageous. There will be a purchase option for people residing in non-profit and co-operative housing developments, all projects being subject to the standards and regulations of


the National Housing Act. The federal government will continue to deal directly with co-operative and non-profit organizations. Provincial and municipal non-profit corporations will no longer be under the responsibility of the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation as far as selection, review, approval and inspection of the projects are concerned. Instead, the corporation will accept a provincial certificate showing that the requirements of the program have been met in order to determine eligibility for contributions. I will turn to loans and insurances issued by federal authorities, the Corporation's information leaflets. The government will encourage a greater use of the rent supplement program under which the federal and provincial governments support occupancy of a portion of housing units in private sector projects by low income families. Up until now, mortgage insurance was available only for the purchase of a new home. It will now cover the purchase or improvement of a rental housing project and the conversion of a non-residential building into rental housing. Also, certain loans issued by approved lenders will be 100 per cent insurable. This policy will apply to non-profit corporations wanting to buy, improve, build or modify rental housing projects or home or pension type housing facilities, and also to co-operative housing associations wanting to buy, build or modify housing projects.

For the first time, private sector lenders will issue and insure loans to residents of Indian reserves, whether to an idividual or to an Indian band or group, but only with the approval of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (Mr. Faulkner). In this case, Indians are as defined by the Indian Act. This loan may serve for the building or rehabilitation of reserve housing. The Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation used to lend money to owner-lessors. In view of CMHC's new policy of opting out of the loans market, loans issued by the private sector to owner-lessors, under the residential rehabilitation aid program, will be insurable. Under clause 15, lenders will be able to obtain a rapid settlement of loans insured under the National Housing Act, in cases of default.

Clause 4 provides that insured loans can be made to co-operatives provided the majority of units are occupied or owned by the members or shareholders of the co-operative. Previously, 80 per cent occupation or ownership was required. Under clause 1, the corporation could insure certain loans based on other securities than a first mortgage. That security could be note for a second mortgage or any other security depending on the size of the loan. Clause 2 says that loans made or guaranteed by provincial governments under this law will be exempt for mortgage insurance fees. Let us remember that the total amount of all mortgage loans the corporation will be able to insure will go from $25 billion to $40 billion. The essence of the changes with respect to the rehabilitation program is contained in clause 7.

March 12, 1979


Private sector financing is made available to owners, nonprofit corporations and Indians as amended by clause 7. Furthermore, the need for designated areas is eliminated. All restrictions are set aside or withdrawn. As a result of the budget restrictions of the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, loans will no longer be made to landlords for rehabilitation purposes. They will have to get their loans from the private sector. As previously stated, these loans will be insurable under the act.

Clause 8 suppresses the limit of $500 per unit on the rehabilitation on homes for the elderly or boarding-house types of housing facilities. That program helps landlords or nonprofit co-operatives and associations. For an occupying owner, this assistance comes in the form of a loan which may be forgiven altogether. The maximum loan is $10,000. The borrower whose adjusted family income does not exceed $6,000 is entitled to a loan forgiveness of up to $3,750. If the adjusted family income is $ 11,000 or more, the loan must be paid back in full. Owners of rental housing can obtain loans of up to $10,000 per housing unit. Payment of 50 per cent of the loan, up to a maximum amount of $2,500 per housing unit, can be forgiven if the owner consents to rent control. Non-profit organizations can also obtain loans of up to $10,000 in which case forgiveness of payment goes up to maximum of $3,750. New projects involving purchase and repairs are not eligible under this program. When the assistance is granted for the creation or the improvement of the hostel or dormitory type of housing, this assistance can represent up to $4,000 per bed, of which payment of $500 can be forgiven.

There is also the graduated payment mortgages program. Clause 5 introduces the notion of graduated payment mortgages, which is rather complex. This aims at simplifying the acquisition of low-cost housing. What is it exactly? Simply an ordinary mortgage for which the monthly charges start at a relatively low level and go up progressively until they reach a certain ceiling. I have here some evidence about this type of graduated payment mortgages. Of course, this concerns public housing, or low-cost housing projects, and it involves a loan of $1,487,700 for the construction of a public housing building. I see here that the residents of the community where this project is being built will have to pay $5,856,206.32 in interests alone in a 50-year period. The amount that they owe is $1,487,700. This is what we must watch out for in graduated payment mortgages.

The payments for the principal and the interest charges of a graduated payment mortgage start at a lower level than for a conventional mortgage. However, these monthly charges will increase by 5 per cent a year until the end of the tenth year. They will then stabilize at this level for the rest of the repayment period, which means that during the first years of repayment of a graduated payment mortgage, you are not paying current interests on the borrowed capital.

This will increase the total debt on a 1014 per cent rate, $35,000 mortgage with 25 year term by $10,000, as compared to a fixed payment mortgage. If this be an advantage, this system will allow earlier ownership. So here is the option: Earlier ownership with a $10,000 larger indebtedness, or later ownership with more money in the pocket. Is it really worth it to get lower debt because one is anxious to own a house?

The difficulty, as always, is borrowing. There are a lot of poor people who have difficulty in obtaining a loan, and interest charges are much too high. If we calculate payments the owner will have to make in 20, 25 or 30 years from now, we often find he will have to pay the cost of two or three houses before he can get out of debt.

The only amendment to the Central Housing and Mortgage Corporation Act in part two of Bill C-29 is the change of name to "Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation." This comes within the Canadianization program of the federal government, and is aimed at stressing that the corporation is an arm of the Canadian government. Unless the minister is planning early amendments to payment arrangements with reduced interest rates, a better name in the circumstances would be "Canadian Mortgage and Debt Corporation," because the loans help getting people into debt for years to come. I have here ample evidence of that.

The housing co-operatives had this to say about the new federal housing programs: "The new federal housing programs are aimed at helping builders start with hard-to-sell houses rather than assuring the construction of a larger number of units": Le Droit, May 25, 1978. It will be remembered the federal government wants to stress renovation rather than construction. Co-operatives would therefore be "forced to use existing buildings rather than building new ones. Some buildings could not be sold because of poor design or poor location". Should it become almost impossible to build we must expect that people interested in co-operatives, as they make the management of building projects possible, will no longer be interested in that type of organization.

The CMHC is asking for total control over housing co-operatives by establishing in advance the type of restoration and the cost of rent. Those "electorally profitable austerity programs" make a complete farce of voluntary participation of members, one of the basis of co-operatives. The complete loss of autonomy is one of the most discouraging aspects for co-operatives. On November 13 1978, a press release from the Quebec City housing co-operatives urged the government to give priority to the needs of co-operatives by establishing special programs. According to that press release, the government should put directly at their disposal all funds required to finance their projects at a preferential rate compare to that of the private sector.

Housing co-operatives want tenant-co-operators to pay no more than 20 per cent of their gross income instead of 25 per cent as proposed by the government; that interests rates for

March 12, 1979

mortgage loans be fixed instead of variable; that housing co-operatives do not offer purchase options as it is a co-operative of tenants. The government, through the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, changes its position by supporting totally co-operative housing and abandoning the private housing market to concentrate on housing for low wage earners.

The Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program, RRAP, will mostly benefit Quebec: nearly 45 per cent of the $145 million earmarked for this program will be allocated to Quebec which is showing the deepest desire to rehabilitate its old houses. But the minister has been accused in this House of operating for electoral purposes in promising to expand housing programs whereas the government does not have the funds needed to implement them.

Indeed, ministerial advisers are concerned over the shortage of funds needed to meet demands under the promised expanded housing rehabilitation program. Moreover, the RRAP program is likely to change housing conditions in Quebec; but if money is not available, this might become an electoral commitment without foundation since the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program actually is almost starved of public funds.

Evidently, any housing rehabilitation program in Canada becomes a monetary problem in this unsettled financial system of ours. We have all the material required; millions of well disposed workers now without a job and many families who need decent housing. But too often budgetary restraints forbid construction. This results from a broken down financial system which we should change soon as it brings about many useless complications that, in my opinion, could be avoided.

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February 9, 1979

Mr. Charles-Eugene Dionne (Kamouraska):

The motion being debated today seems quite appropriate to me in this age of redefinition of the powers under our constitution. Given the present political instability and economic insecurity, there is no doubt that solving that problem could result in true national harmony which can still be achieved if we use the appropriate means.

Today I would like to draw the attention of the House to one of the priority aspects of the solution to the constitutional problem, an aspect that is unfortunately forgotten too often in the debate. To prevent errors of interpretation I will refer to

February 9, 1979

Canadian Constitution

the document entitled Coming to Terms released a few days ago by the Task Force on Canadian Unity.

Here are the terms used by the task force to define the word "constitution", and I quote:

(2) the definition of the principal organs of government in all four branches- the legislative, the executive, the judicial and the administrative-their composition, functions, powers and limitations:

(3) the distribution and the co-ordination of powers between the two orders of government if the form of government is a federal one;

(4) the definition of relationship between the governors and the governed, particularly the rights of the latter.

The Task Force on Canadian Unity does say that a constitution includes in particular the rights of the governed, the rights of the citizens. That is quite obvious and logical since the human being is the most important creature in any society and any society is there to serve the interests of the people it includes. When you talk about basic human rights, everybody agrees about the following definition: A society must be organized so as to allow the enjoyment of such basic rights as the right to decent standards of living, health and most fundamental freedoms.

All this is included one way or another in the Bill of Rights and other statutes. For its part, the constitution does not mention these rights even though they are quite important. For too many people, these rights have remained theoretical because they had no access to them, and this is the main thrust of my intervention. The use of these rights and their accessibility cannot be fully recognized in practice if the people do not have the necessary financial means. In proof of this, one only has to look at the figures quoted by the Senate Committe on Poverty in December, 1978 which showed a disastrous financial situation for a large number of people in Canada, In 1977, 882,000 single persons, or 42.9 per cent of people in this category, were below the poverty line, 1,288,000 families of two or more, or 21.5 per cent of Canadian families, were living below the poverty line. If one considers that the average Canadian family has four members, this means that 6,034,000 people were living below the poverty line in Canada.

To live below the poverty line means that you are deprived of all the required health services, the necessary food products, decent housing, proper clothing, and numerous services which are essential to the exercise of basic freedoms and to happiness, which means that you are denied basic human rights in a normal and modern society. I want today to emphasize the fact that if the constitution must guarantee basic rights, it must also guarantee the possibility to exercise these rights. Any constitution will remain theoretical and lead to the present confrontation if it does not guarantee economic rights for individuals, rights which are clearly set forth in the provisions of the constitution so that no member of society, and especially no government, can dismiss their basic commitments.

When we talk about the basic human rights, that is food, housing, clothing, heating, health, and so on, we are talking

about things that are essential to life and about the production of goods and services, and therefore about costs, prices, purchasing power and income. We are therefore talking about money and finance. It is quite easy to understand that the possibility to exercise these basic human rights is dependent upon the effectiveness of the financial system.

Fet us see in this British North America Act which is considered as our constitution, how the financial system is dealt with regarding its functions as an enabling agent of the exercise of our basic rights. Section 53 deals with appropriation and tax bills. Section 91 deals with the Canadian parliament's responsibility over the public debt, the raising of money, the currency and the coinage, the banks and paper issue of money, and the interest on money. Section 92 deals with the provincial legislature's responsibility over direct taxation, the borrowing of money on the sole credit of the province. A great many sections deal with interests, provincial public debts, consolidated revenue funds, the transfer of the assets and the liabilities of the provinces, the responsibility of Canada over the debts of the provinces and the raising of taxes and so on. In this document which we consider as our constitution, no mention is made whatsoever of the rights of the citizens and, above all, the latter are not even guaranteed a single way of exercising such rights.

There is reference to the right of the government to borrow, to tax, to transfer debts and therefore the right of the governments to last and ensure their own subsistence, and finance their administration be it good or bad through the taxpayers. The future constitution of Canada which will have to emerge from the current debates will have to acknowledge the sound organization of the financial system from which depends the access to basic rights. This financial system will have to be recognized as the first essential public service, the one which provides access to all the others. The constitution will also have to spell out the responsibilities within that system and the limitation of its field of action.

Secondly, this new association which will emerge from a new constitution will have to establish its true sovereignty, namely the right of the people to their existence, to fundamental liberties as compared to other countries, to decent living conditions and these rights as well as those of the individuals will only be exercised if the financial system makes it possible.

The words "borrower" and "sovereign" are tantamount to an antithesis the elements of which are incompatible. A borrower loses part of his sovereignty which he surrenders to his creditors. He no longer is his own master. We have all seen what happened in the case of the cities of New York and Cleveland. When they suddenly are on the verge of bankruptcy, their creditors dictated their own terms.

We in Canada are heading for the same bankruptcy. Our governments are overmortgaged, a situation which is creating similar problems for the public.

February 9, 1979

I have before me a list of public debts. Public and private debts of Canadians in 1977

Federal debt: $67 billion

Provincial debt: Consumer credit:

Credit to corporations: Residential mortgages: Total:

$16,000,825,000 $25 billion $31 billion $13 billion $152,000,825,000

It is to be noted that these figures do not include the debts of all municipalities in Canada. And we all know how deep in debt our municipalities are. The federal deficit alone increases by $822,000 every hour. This is ridiculous. Interest payable on total debt in 1978

Federal debt:

Provincial debt: Consumer credit: Corporations credit: Residential mortgages: Total:

This is where the present constitution has led us by giving us borrower status, debitor status, the status of seemingly prosperous people as in New York who owe the shirts they are wearing. Those figures show how much purchasing power deficiency our system generates relative to costs and obligations. The Canadian constitution should establish a Canadian financial system that would be responsible for the circulation of all the money and credit needed for sound economic performance. This implies that Canada must create a public financial service.

There is ample evidence of the current system's permanent divorce from current economic reality. Time has come to change that. And if an example were needed, we have the floating Canadian dollar. It is on a constant downslide.

I would now like to submit to the House proposals that should be included in the next constitution. A century and a half ago or even a century ago those proposals would have looked unreal. But modern times, our high degree of civilization, the high level of knowledge, the enormous productive potential, automation and cybernetics have brought us to the end of an old society concept and the eve of a new society. It has been proved that we now have the human and physical assets, the energy resources and productive capacity to enter into an age where the constant insecurity and poverty now rampant will be reduced to isolated cases rather than a system feature as is now the case.

The new constitution should include provisions for a national credit board responsible for determining the resources needed for the country to fulfil individual aspirations and for submitting from time to time reports on the efficient use of those resources. These reports would give an inventory of our society's assets and an evaluation of the percentage used. It is

Canadian Constitution

indeed important to know our potential, which can be made available to our citizens so that they can exercise their basic rights. And when we talk about public credit, we should really have a clear idea of its worth. Moreover, I think that the situation which makes Canadians run into debt with their government which is itself constantly borrowing from foreign capital should be reversed and that the Constitution should grant to every citizen the title of shareholder of this country. Therefore, in his quality as shareholder, every citizen would regularly receive dividends which would constitute an income supplement calculated on the basis of the net benefits of the economic association formed by Canada. This title and the privileges which would derive from it should be granted to every citizen simply because of his Canadian citizenship.

This provision would create a true economic democracy as the citizens would become owners of their share of the Canadian wealth and through the benefits they would realize, they would gain an ever-increasing ability to finance projects suited to their needs.

If this country belongs to its citizens and if this partnership is aimed at bettering the quality of life for everyone and providing more fundamental rights, it is only normal that every citizen benefit directly from this partnership. In the light of the foregoing, I should now like to make proposals which would enable us to achieve the goals pursued. The next constitution should provide that the primary role of a government is to guarantee by every possible means for every individual and family an adequate income so that they are reasonably well off.

The minimum income required to be reasonably well off could be determined on an annual basis. For instance, and this is one only example but a quite realistic one, it could be agreed in 1979 that the minimum "reasonably well off' income could be defined as the poverty line, as established by the Senate committee, plus 15 per cent. By the same token, the next constitution should provide that no person living below the "reasonably well off' line should pay any tax. However, it seems perfectly normal and in order. I cannot understand that the Income Tax Act should tax people earning $2,000 or $2,500 when they need at least $5,000 to $6,000 to live.

Those two proposals imply the setting up of an organization to set the minimum annual income required by single individuals and families to live decently and to exercise their basic rights. As a result of the present uncertainty, we have the opportunity of making our country the first modern nation with a constitution that really serves the interests of its citizens. Our country can lead the way for the whole world through a constitution based essentially on the respect of basic human rights and with very strict provisions defining the means likely to give access to those rights to everyone.

I would add that the new constitution should recognize that the government closer to the citizen can better serve him. In that spirit, with regard to equalization, a formula should be

February 9, 1979

Canadian Constitution

divised under which each entity (each province) would provide to the higher level of government on a voluntary basis the sums required for the administration of programs for which they have delegated the responsibility to the higher level of government for a period determined at their discretion.

The Canadian people can give themselves a constitution fashioned to human need. For hundreds of millions of people living in poverty and uncertainty throughout the world, we can become, by adopting an original constitution, a source of hope for a better future. Because of its international reputation, Canada is perfectly able to do this. In conclusion, I express the hope that all those who will participate at any level in the drafting of a new constitution will consider my remarks, because I am convinced, as well as my colleagues from the Social Credit party, that those proposals might prevent disputes and confrontations. It is our duty to prepare for our future Canada a system designed to ensure a standard of justice under which human beings will have precedence over financial interests. Then we might talk about a just society.

I am pretty sure that the procedure followed up to now with a view to drafting a new constitution could be improved. One only has to look at the result of federal-provincial conferences to be convinced.

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February 9, 1979

Mr. Dionne (Kamouraska):

I thank my colleagues, I shall be finished in a minute.

We should offer the Canadian people the advantage to participate through a referendum so that they have the right to decide whether one draft constitution or another is acceptable, no province being forced to accept the terms of a constitution on which it does not agree. However, if we proposed a model constitution which would guarantee everyone the "right to live", because it is an important right, there would be possible grounds for agreement in the best interests of the Canadian people.

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February 1, 1979

Mr. Charles-Eugene Dionne (Kamouraska):

Mr. Speaker, we have already heard many different comments on the bill respecting public referendums in Canada. First, let us look at the reasons for this decision by the government. We could dwell on some problems which most hon. members know and which are the reasons for the decisions the government made concerning this new piece of legislation. This formula of consultation has already been used in different countries. There are probably a few advantages to it, provided the many disadvantages which could arise in the style used in the drafting of the questions which will be asked are foreseen in the implementation of the rules.

The general organization of a referendum can be compared with the organization of a general election each time the elements are similar. For example, in both cases there is a national vote and the electors are the same, namely those who are on the permanent election list. The same officers will probably be used and they will probably have the same responsibilities. Finally, the details on the material organization will


have to be established in consideration of the experience acquired; it is a matter of convenience and of efficiency.

What gives value and usefulness to a referendum, advisory though it may be, is the attitude of the government of the day in relation with the issue of the referendum, namely whether or not it is prepared to give consideration to the will of the public and consider itself bound by such will. A government can always promise that it will accept the result of a referendum. That is what Mr. Wilson's British government did before the referendum on maintaining British participation in the European Common Market. In our parliamentary system, where the written constitution makes no reference to referenda, it is necessary to enact legislation concerning the holding of a referendum and the way it will be organized. That can be useful in certain circumstances. Everything depends on the events which occur and on the way in which it is used. That is what was done in countries where the parliamentary tradition is similar to ours, namely in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. In all those instances a bill was introduced respecting a referendum on a specific matter and even spelling out the question to be put to the voters. In the newspaper Le Devoir of December 17, 1976 there was an article entitled: "Spain Referendum Lesson" summarized somewhat the inconveniences and advantages that can result from a referendum. After having pointed out that, of those who voted, 94.2 per cent voted yes and 2.6 per cent of the population had abstained from voting, it said, and I quote:

This is where some truths must be grasped and the real question put. Might the watchword to abstain not be a strategic error, all the more unforgiveable that it fed-the success of the referendum has proved it clearly-on a false perception of Spanish realities? Ideologically speaking, some will claim great democratic ideals while rejecting compromise. That position could very well be justifiable. But does one defend democracy better when proving one's weaknesses?

I point out, however, that in these times of economic problems of all sorts it may not be as advantageous as some believe to make a permanent institution of a formula that has not been tried.

If we spent more time discovering the reasons which have led to our discussing this bill, we might discover that the most ingenious means would be to solve, beforehand the problems that are likely to crop up later. I remember full well that referendums have been asked for on various occasions in Canada, all bearing on very important topics. I shall mention the suggestion made to the government that a referendum be held before the bill on capital punishment was passed. For reasons that are difficult to explain, our administrators did not deem it wise to agree to those suggestions, but the fact remains they would have given solid reasons to the legislators and so enabled them to give a better orientation to legislation in that field.

In the last few years, we have noticed that polls of all sorts have become quite fashionable. Public opinion poll firms are developing very sophisticated questionnaires to submit to their


February 1, 1979


patients. However they are far from being ready to point out under the group "undecided" the increasing number of those who should be more properly included under the group "disgusted". I also remember reading somewhere what seem to me to be useful advice concerning referendums, namely that a policy of over-control could jeopardize the equal opportunities provided to the options involved.

In a report published in the newspaper Le Devoir on October 21, 1977, entitled "The Referendum War" by Robert Decary, the following could be read:

The campaign for the provincial referendum has hardly been launched in Quebec and already Ottawa has decided to organize its own referendum. It is fair play. Even if the contents of the bill have not yet been disclosed, it is possible that in the near future Quebeckers will be called to vote twice about belonging to the Canadian nation. No provision for the withdrawal of a province appears in the British North America Act, so it seems that Ottawa as much as Quebec could hold its own vote.

It is a clear indication of a sick political system when two levels of government can in turn and each in its own way legislate in the same field; and this is no doubt a further reason to treat the "patient" and to make sure that under the new system, such a situation cannot be repeated. But for the moment, we will have to live with the system and submit to the rules of the game.

In 1942, we had some kind of public consultation in the form of a plebiscite. Many certainly remember the reactions to the announcement of that plebiscite.

The "yes" won nationally by 63.7 per cent to 36.3 per cent. So the country as a whole agreed to release the government from earlier promises. The kind of crisis that followed stirred many Canadians and changed several ideas. It is often when two nations are fiercely opposed that one can measure their vitality. I mentioned that kind of consultation, which was not a referendum strictly speaking, in order to show that one must be careful when holding a public consultation in a country like ours. Since the events that took place in Canada in 1976, all citizens and their governments were led no doubt to reconsider carefully their convictions and their position.

In an article published in Selections du Reader's Digest for the month of May, 1977, and entitled "Confederation in Danger" I read the following by the hon. member for Halifax (Mr. Stanfield) who sits in this House, which I think is quite relevant and I quote:

We must choose between the blind pursuit of our individual interests and the common good. We must give up the narrow-minded visions we have of Canada at times and consider everyone's needs and desires.

And he went on:

The direction taken by political leaders will be of prime importance because it will provide leadership; yet, they can do nothing without the support of every Canadian. The federal government will have to consider the consequences of its actions in the various areas of the country; Canadians for their part will have to try to ponder the effects of their statements, their actions and their individual reactions.

The article ends on this:

Maintaining Canadian unity always had a price. We must be prepared to compromise, to make concessions, even reluctantly. The fate of our country depends above all on our moderation and our will to survive. We are now going through a difficult test and we will know shortly if we are worthy of our heritage.

I have already stated in this House that our duty as legislators would be to allow all Canadians to live as heirs instead of

being perpetually indebted. If the government would really try to find an effective remedy to cure that sickness called fear of the future instead of legislating on referendum issues, we would avoid many difficulties, most of which result from our ineffective financial system. When we consider the damage caused by this system which produces indebted heirs, we find many causes which should be understood so that we can put some order in the present confusion.

However, I recognize that in the history of some countries many referendums have been held, sometimes on constitutional issues or to find a solution to controversial matters. Between 1911 and 1928, six referendums were held in New Zealand on prohibition and the sale of alcoholic beverages. Since then they have used that kind of popular vote many times.

In the United States, they held referendums at the very beginning of that nation. At the declaration of independence in 1776, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island had their constitution approved by a direct vote. In 1778, Massachusetts was the first state to have recourse to that practice for its constitution which was rejected in public meetings across the land. Some authors maintain that it was the first time legislation was subject to a popular vote by way of a referendum.

On November 12, 1933, Adolf Hitler held a plebiscite at the same time as a general election. This election was held to obtain approval for a unique list of candidates to the Reichstag and the referendum to get approval for the withdrawal of Germany from the League of Nations. As a matter of fact, Hitler often used a referendum to gain support for his foreign policy. After his rise to power, he used the referendum essentially to show the other countries that his teams had the general support of the population.

We could ask ourselves this question: Of what use would future referendums be? Of course, they would be used to answer or to try to answer questions or problems about which the government must make decisions, but which could cause electoral embarrassment among a large sector of the population. We must recognize that a government must often take certain action which goes against the interests of certain groups. The concept of referendum could therefore be used to justify unpopular policies. Thus, in certain conditions, a referendum could become a strategy much more than a democratization of power. There are many problems too complex for a referendum to solve.

Let us consider for instance our energy problems; they are so complex that the experts themselves do not agree. Should we use a referendum to determine whether or not to develop nuclear energy? The citizens would not know what to decide because they are all more or less afraid of radiation. It would be difficult to use the results of a referendum to develop a long term energy policy. Just as if doctors asked their patients to choose their own therapy and medication.

In summary, referendums are political strategies much more than they are an effective means of popular participation in

February 1, 1979

the affairs of the state. Even if white papers are published on the subject, this does not necessarily mean that the intentions of the government are as pure as driven snow. We sometimes hear about separation and even subdivision. We must not forget that there are citizens with separatist ideas throughout the country. Fortunately, there are not that many of them at the present time. Flowever, at the proper time, it would be wiser to keep the debate on a conversational level, which could eventually lead to a Canadian union based on new and realistic concepts.

It is too late to rewrite the history of our country but we could find a formula of agreement in our modern Canada which would allow us to carry on together, to work in harmony and to develop our enormous potential of resources. Perhaps we could try to develop a few minds which appear to me far too proud to recognize the rights of others at the appropriate time. It is not because we lack legislation in our country, we might even have too much of it. The referendum bill might just be one more law out of many which, most of the time, are written in such a way that they cannot be understood.

Lately I had the opportunity to read in Le Devoir of March 29, 1977 an article about the new government in France and I want to quote an extract of a speech which was given by the French president on that occasion where he attributed to the new government the two following tasks, and I quote:

-First of all, our economy being on the way to recovery, we must pursue in that direction as it is vital for France and for the French. Your standard of living and your jobs depend on that recovery.

Then we must launch a 12-month action program accompanied by specific objectives. This program will have to meet the concrete areas of concern of the French and contain simple measures, explained in plain words easily understandable by everyone."

That is what we forget to do here when we write our bills. They are always very complicated. I remember drawing the attention of the members of the House to the fact that our laws are written in style which is far too complicated. We would need to seek formulas easily understood by everyone.

On April 4, 1978, Le Droit of Ottawa reported the first part of a speech made by Mr. Gerald Beaudoin, a member of the Pepin-Robarts Task Force on Canadian Unity. He was invited to comment on the constitutionality of the referendum. I quote a part of his speech on constitutional jurisdiction:

In 1969, under the Bertrand government, the Quebec legislature studied an organic bill on a consultative referendum. The Levesque government tabled its referendum bill in 1977. The constitution definitely grants a legislative assembly as well as the central government the authority to pass legislation respecting referenda on issues which come under their respective jurisdictions.

In the last few years much has been said about the constitution of Canada, now to amend, now to repatriate and more recently to renew it, emphasizing what it should be and seldom what it was, stressing the distribution of powers and educational and linguistic guarantees without realizing that we were reducing the 147 initial clauses of this act down to 4 or 5.

The constitution is more than a cluster of powers or rights which may be amended, repatriated or reformulated. It also means a political way of life, a choice of institutions, an almost


invisible structure within which every citizen exercises his rights and without which he might have no right at all or exercise them differently. The constitution is the basis and the guarantee of social order.

We should take a more comprehensive and concrete approach to this and provide a more specific framework for the discussions which have been at a standstill for far too long. Our institutions have been set up only to serve the people that founded them and when they have become obsolete it is time to amend or replace them so that they get closer to their objective.

After 110 years of Confederation, Canada is facing the vital need and the moral obligation created by the parties concerned to reassess its attitude and position in a modern world. Our task now is to build the kind of Canada we would like to live in, not one which is imposed upon us from the outside, this does not imply a rejection of our past, but rather a positive, forward-looking attitude and a progressive, humanistic outlook.

Our past is gone by. The present quickly ebbs into the past. We must build the future, not only our own but that of our country and our fellow citizens because only in the future shall we be able to find gratification for our present yearnings and desires. History has decided that Anglophones and Francophones should share the same country as partners, albeit unequal, who have survived in the midst of many difficulties. All Canadians, within and without Quebec, can overcome their fears, prejudices, frustrations and resentment and learn to live together in a true spirit of brotherhood. In our country two races, two glorious histories are living side by side with just one common future. Every Canadian has the duty to make sure that our hopes will be fulfilled.

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June 7, 1978

Mr. Charles-Eugene Dionne (Kamouraska):

Mr. Speaker, while I listened to the various speeches made by the previous speakers, it was obvious that Bill C-56 was presented to solve a fiscal problem due to a defective distribution of taxes, since the relations between Ottawa and Quebec have been constantly mentioned during the debate on the bill. Although it includes a good many things, we will no doubt be compelled to vote against it, because the procedure used to make that distribution makes no sense. Unfortunately, that bill has not succeeded in restoring order in the confusion we have witnessed for a couple of months.

For almost two months now we have been hearing in the House of Commons a debate where the speakers are inconsistent. It reminds me a remark made by the Speaker of the House of Commons on October 27, 1971 when he said, as reported on page 9086 of Hansard. He said:

If hon. members take five minutes of the question period to say that what the minister said is not what he said, and the minister replies that what he said was what he thinks he said, we might go on for a long time.

Then, we did not get any significant result. We have seen that occasionally and we saw it at the outset of this afternoon's proceedings. I would like now to get back to the bill. Since the beginning of that fight between the federal government and the provincial government over the tax issue, we have heard, as I said earlier, various speeches from the representatives of both Quebec and Ottawa governments. Here in this House, a publicity-seeking hon. member has succeeded in getting what he wanted, that is a one-day-out-of-the-House penalty. However, this is far from being a solution to the problem. Governments are so used to taking money out of the citizens' pockets through all kinds of taxes that they have forgotten the way to give that money back to the people. It is a pity to watch their performance.

In his statement in the House on May 17, 1978, the Minister of Finance (Mr. Chretien) mentioned, on page 5525, second column, and I quote:

The tax is very important.

June 7, 1978

Income Tax Act

It certainly looks like it, judging by the disputes it leads to. He goes on to say:

If I had decided just to pay by cheque, the increase in the expenditures of the federal government would have been more than $800 million. Everyone would have said that the Minister of Finance is increasing his expenditures, while in fact it would have just been a matter of transferring cash to the provinces to reduce their taxes.

In order to be imaginative and to do what I wanted to do without creating the false impression that we are spending money-and the ministers of finance agreed with me-I said we would reduce our taxes and they could increase their taxes. As we are collecting taxes, nobody has noticed what is happening.

People are so used to paying taxes that they hardly know what is going on.

-The federal tax in Ontario and elsewhere has been reduced by $100. The legislatures of Ontario. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the maritimes have introduced legislation increasing their income tax accordingly. However, as we collected it, nobody noticed.

That is curious. What I am reading is in the proceedings of the House.

The ways our governments use in the field of taxation, income tax and other forms of draining the taxpayers' pockets are so varied and complex that wage earners, especially, wonder what is happening with the leaders of the country or the provinces when they cannot understand why there are so many deductions on their pay cheque at the end of the week.

Further in the same speech, the Minister of Finance (Mr. Chretien) said and I quote:

The other provinces have increased their taxes already and we have effectively decreased our taxes for them since the night of the budget by collecting them for them.

This is the kind of formula that reduces taxes by increasing them. It is quite ludicrous but ludicrous things often happen here. The bill to amend the Income Tax Act and to authorize payments related to provincial sales tax reductions submitted on May 15, 1978 by the Minister of Finance of Canada includes amendments to the Income Tax Act and creates as always some implementation difficulties that force the large majority of taxpayers to hire an accountant to file their returns and those costly services are always paid by those whose salary or income has been reduced by the taxation, deduction, adjustment and readjustment system and we could also mention tax transfers, according to the whim of our corrupt provincial system that forces governments to Find all kinds of ways to collect taxes under various forms in an attempt to balance an adverse budget.

We should not forget that this bill is submitted in particular circumstances following a strategic error that contributed to create a climate of uncertainty, hesitation and indecision with the result that the people of Canada and particularly the people of Quebec are watching the reactions of the members of the government and some of them try to figure out the number of mistakes made by the servants of those who really control

[Mr. Dionne (Kamouraska).l

our political puppets. In an editorial of the Wednesday May 17, 1978 issue of the newspaper La Presse, we can read comments that cast some doubts about the real value of the federalism proclaimed by politicians of various stripes. I quote:

Since November 1976 the federal government has been proclaiming everywhere the superiority of federalism over the separatist option but its behaviour is often a parody of true federalism. It resorts to trickery and overwhelming political clout in cases where only good faith and co-operation between the two levels of government should be the rule of the game. Is it not showing it quite clearly once again by choosing to override a provincial government which resists its interference in order to deal directly with the taxpayers?

It will undoubtedly justify its behaviour by suggesting that one cannot reach an understanding with a separatist government which is bound to prove that federalism cannot work. Yet could it not be that the only way to counter such tactics is to rigorously apply the federalist principles: absolute respect for the jurisdictions of each level of government, untiring patience in the quest for dialogue and consultation, constant desire to reach an honourable political compromise? Just as the value of democracy cannot better be demonstrated than by always introducing more democracy in the field of social relations, the superiority of federalism cannot be better demonstrated than by applying it with absolute respect for its rules.

In the Ottawa-Quebec dispute should the federal government not be the first to set the example of the virtues of federalism?

Yet, if the central power suspects the PQ government of acting in bad faith, why does it not try to let everyone be a judge of it by acting itself in an irreproachable manner in this respect?

In another article in Le Devoir of Wednesday, May 17, 1978, one could read, and I quote:

Far from alleviating concerns, the recent decision by the federal government with respect to the sales tax will have only managed in Quebec to throw oil on the fire and cement the solidarity of parliamentarians of all parties around the position being defended by the Levesque government.

So, for the second time in less than a month the National Assembly once again denounced yesterday by a unanimous vote Ottawa's attitude in this dispute with Quebec, and specifically asked federal members of Parliament to defeat the bill tabled on Monday in the Commons by the Minister of Finance.

It goes on to say:

In a quasi-solemn atmosphere that is usually reserved for important occasions, the Assembly unanimously reiterated its support to Mr. Parizeau and asked the federal government to "stop its foolishness before it is too late".

We were so used to reading articles by reporters, a strong percentage of whom seem to go out of their way to criticize the social credit doctrine without having studied it properly, that particular events were needed to bring them to comment on the adverse effects of the financial system which are the cause of that tax war which broke out at the time of the presentation of a federal budget a few days before that of a provincial government, at a time when it is costing Canadian taxpayers over $100,000 a day to support the floating dollar.

However, it is easy to see that the record current account deficit which reached $4.2 million last year was a capital factor in the depreciation of the Canadian dollar. Most of those problems could have been avoided if the government of Canada had decided to adopt a financial policy more in line with the needs of Canadian taxpayers.

For over a month we have been reading varied comments on that famous tax fight between the federal government and the

June 7, 1978

provincial government. I could quote a series of newspaper articles but in view of the time I am allowed I would like to give perhaps someone else the opportunity to speak for a few minutes before the debate ends. Before I sit down, I would like to add that it will be impossible for me to support this bill as it does not contain what is required to straighten out the present disorder that was created precisely on a matter of bad tax distribution among Canadian taxpayers. The government of Canada did not have to take away their power of taxation from the provincial governments. There are so many federal taxes weighing on the people of Canada that it could have eliminated taxes in its own departments.

Subtopic:   INCOME TAX ACT
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