26 MAI 1998 ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
The House met at 1830.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
NATIONAL UNITY / UNITÉ NATIONALE
Mr Harris moved government notice of motion 10:
Be it resolved that the Legislature of the province of Ontario hereby endorses the following:
All Canadians are equal and have rights protected by law.
All provinces, while diverse in their characteristics, have equality of status.
Canada is graced by a diversity, tolerance, compassion and equality of opportunity that is without rival in the world.
Canada's diversity includes aboriginal peoples and cultures, the vitality of the English and French languages and a multicultural citizenry drawn from all parts of the world.
In Canada's federal system, where respect for diversity and equality underlies unity, the unique character of Quebec society, including its French-speaking majority, its culture and its tradition of civil law, is fundamental to the wellbeing of Canada. Consequently, the Legislature and government of Quebec have a role to protect and develop the unique character of Quebec society within Canada.
If any future constitutional amendment confers powers on one province, these powers must be available to all provinces.
Canada is a federal system where federal, provincial and territorial governments work in partnership while respecting each other's jurisdictions. Canadians want their governments to work cooperatively and with flexibility to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the federation. Canadians want their governments to work together particularly in the delivery of their social programs. Provinces and territories renew their commitment to work in partnership with the government of Canada to best serve the needs of Canadians.
On September 14 of last year, I had the pleasure of meeting in Calgary with eight other premiers and two territorial leaders to talk of ways in which we could strengthen the Canadian federation. After much discussion, we agreed on a framework. We also agreed on the importance of asking people across the country to speak to that framework. We agreed to ask them to gather together in large and small groups to talk about their vision of Canada. We asked them to write letters, to answers questionnaires, to make submissions and to discuss national unity in a spirit of cooperation and of hope for a stronger country.
Over these past eight months, these discussions have taken place. They have taken place without the intervention of partisan politics. Following the tradition of my predecessors, I consulted with the opposition leaders before and after my participation in the Calgary declaration.
We agreed to work together in a spirit of non-partisanship, which has characterized the efforts of all Ontario premiers on these important issues. I believe I've been privileged to serve with Premiers Peterson and Rae in a very direct and meaningful capacity in discussions on the national unity front.
I now want to thank Mr McGuinty and Mr Hampton for their input and for their contribution to this nation-building exercise. I also want to thank the members of all parties who participated in the public consultation process. There were approximately 80 MPPs from this House who were privileged to attend public meetings and listen directly to the views of Ontarians on the very important subject of national unity.
I particularly mention the time and the effort put forth by the member for Algoma and the member for Downsview, and of course I am equally grateful to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the members of the Ontario Speaks coordinating committee for their role in coordinating and facilitating these discussions.
Today, as a Legislature, we're presented with quite a remarkable opportunity, an opportunity that lets us take that first step towards articulating a vision of Canada that includes ideals, beliefs and principles shared across the country; a framework that agrees to equal rights for all, that agrees to independent yet equal status for each province that is tolerant, that is compassionate, that is multicultural, that proudly accepts the diversity of all the people who call this great country home; a framework that recognizes the unique character of Quebec society and respects its French language, its culture, its system of civil law; one that vows to protect and develop that same unique character.
Within this framework, Ontario would renew its commitment to work in partnership with the other provinces and the territories and with the government of Canada to best serve the needs of Canadians. That is what we all want - a country that works together, a country that is strong together, a country that recognizes and serves the needs of its people together.
J'ai été élevé à North Bay. Nous étions pratiquement voisins des habitants de Témiscamingue au Québec, de l'autre côté de la rivière de l'Outaouais. Mais cette rivière qui nous séparait ne nous a pas pour autant divisés.
Pendant toute mon enfance j'ai joué au curling, au golf et au hockey avec d'autres jeunes du nord-ouest du Québec. Nous étions amis et rien n'a changé. Encore aujourd'hui, je maintiens de bonnes amitiés avec eux.
Ensemble, nous sommes Canadiens, et je tiens à ce que nos enfants et leurs enfants continuent de bénéficier de la richesse d'une telle expérience. J'en avais la conviction à cette époque et je la maintiens encore aujourd'hui : en travaillant ensemble, les Ontariens et les Québécois peuvent grandement favoriser l'épanouissement de ce pays.
Certes, ensemble nous pouvons nous appliquer à créer un climat propice à la création d'emplois, à améliorer notre économie et à préserver les rêves de nos enfants.
Ensemble, nous pouvons chercher à rendre meilleure cette fédération d'un bout à l'autre du pays.
Certainly among my fellow premiers, this is the goal.
There is also a genuine interest in making the federation work better for all taxpayers and all citizens across this great nation. There is a desire to streamline and eliminate duplication in the interest of all. My colleague the NDP Premier of Saskatchewan first coined the phrase "80-20" in reference to the Calgary framework and in reforming our federal system of government. I think the phrase is important.
Let's take the 20% first. While important, and of particular importance to our friends in Quebec, constitutional issues are not the whole picture, because 80% of the reforms necessary in our federation lie in practical administrative changes to improve the way our governments work together. In September we received a solemn commitment from the Prime Minister of Canada to work cooperatively on that 80%.
As a follow-up to that, all first ministers met in December of last year. At that meeting we agreed to enter into serious discussions about reforming the social union - policies and programs like medicare, training and employment insurance - and to do it in a way that respects the jurisdiction of each level of government.
We started negotiations with several thoughts in mind. We wanted to reduce the overlap and duplication between the federal government and the provinces. We wanted both orders of government to be more clearly accountable to their voters. We wanted to reduce federal-provincial squabbles by establishing clear rules for settling disputes between us. We wanted to ensure that social programs are adequately funded by governments.
I want to say that these negotiations are about improving services to Canadians. They are not about shifting powers between governments. They are about improving services to Canadians. In my view, and being party to those discussions both as premiers and as first ministers, that was unanimous among every leader of this country.
I have made it clear that we support the Canada Health Act, that we want to strengthen rather than weaken the federal-provincial partnership that makes our medicare system possible. I've also assured other premiers that Ontario remains committed to the principle of equalization. We're committed to building Canada and strengthening its unity in all aspects.
The public consultations on the Calgary framework supported the goals we've set out in the social union negotiations. We were pleased that Ontario Speaks proved such a strong and vital forum for hearing the opinions of the people of this province. Indeed, the opinions were as diverse as the population itself. Taken together, the results bode well for the future of this country.
Some 84% of participants supported the approach to strengthening Canada as outlined in the Calgary framework. Tolerance, compassion, freedom, equality and a sense of fairness were seen as the common values important to Canadians. Multiculturalism, the presence of both the English and French languages, and the important contributions of our aboriginal peoples and cultures were cited as the diversities that make Canada special.
Some 76% agreed with the acknowledgement of the diversity of Canada as it was described in that Calgary framework.
Some 89% agreed that powers available to one province should be available to all, and greater accountability and better partnership between governments were stressed as keys to improving service to our citizens.
We all want what is best for our country, and of course we all want what is best for our children and their generation and generations to follow. We all want economic growth and jobs. We all want superior, responsible systems of education and of health care. We all want safe communities in which to live and to raise our families, and led by the economic growth of this province, we are seeing progress towards our collective goal of a prosperous and a united Canada.
Governments across the country are turning the corner on budgetary deficits and, after years of making difficult financial decisions - all governments across this country - they are now reinvesting in the primary resource of this country: our people. We now have an opportunity to work together towards a renewed federation, a federation in which all orders of government work in partnership to serve all of the people.
The Calgary declaration represents a positive first step in helping to change our federation. It's not a constitutional amendment, nor does it pretend to be a constitutional amendment. None the less, this declaration is a very real signal to the people of Quebec that other Canadians are ready to recognize its unique identity. That is one of the fundamental things the Calgary declaration does.
It says there's no contradiction in being both a Quebecker and a Canadian - no contradiction in that. It says to all Canadians that we want this country to work together to preserve and build on all the traits that make it the best in the world.
Seven provincial governments and two territorial governments have already endorsed the Calgary framework in their legislatures. Along with them, we believe it is an important step towards encouraging governments from across this country to build a strong and a prosperous Canada together.
Before I begin, I want to take the opportunity to thank Annamarie Castrilli, my caucus colleague, the member representing the riding of Downsview, for her capable and diligent work on this file and for the assistance she provided not only to me but to all of our caucus.
I also want to thank our caucus, all of whom I can assure you are proud defenders of a united Canada. We had some considerable discussions within our caucus, all members being involved, and I can assure you that the country and its future mean a terrible lot to all of us.
It's a privilege for me to stand here today, not only because I'm a member of the Legislature and because I'm leader of the party, although those are both privileges that I greatly value; it's a privilege simply to stand in this Legislature as a Canadian.
La raison pour laquelle je me sens privilégié de participer à ce débat est que je le fais bien simplement en tant que Canadien.
I think it's important to remember the words of Thomas D'Arcy McGee, words delivered in the last speech he ever made in the federal Parliament, April 8, 1868, when he said, "I speak here not as a representative of any race or of any province but as thoroughly and emphatically a Canadian, ready and bound to recognize the claims, if any, of my Canadian fellow subjects, from the farthest east to the farthest west."
I look at this debate as an opportunity for all of us as proud Ontarians to recommit ourselves to our country, Canada. At the outset, I want to take just a few minutes to remember some of our history. I do this because I believe that in matters like this, where we are trying to shape our future, it's very helpful to first understand our past.
In the 1830s, two men, one from Upper Canada and another from Lower Canada, led movements that struggled against British rule. These men, William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis Joseph Papineau, had a common vision of responsible, accountable government for their constituents. Each led a rebellion in his own province in 1837. The rebellions failed, but the special relationship between the people of Ontario and Quebec had its birth in their common struggle for responsible government, a government that would respect people for who they were.
Listen to what the Reformers of Upper Canada said in their declaration of July 31, 1837: "Warmest thanks and admiration are due to the Honourable Louis Joseph Papineau and his compatriots for their noble independence in favour of civil and religious liberty and for their opposition to the attempt of the British government to violate their Constitution without their consent. The Reformers of Upper Canada are called upon by every tie of feeling, interest and duty to make common cause with their fellow citizens of Lower Canada."
What's important to understand here is that already back in the 1830s the people of what would later be known as Ontario and Quebec felt they needed each other, that they could be stronger and better by working together.
Their common cause brought two other important leaders together at this time, in the 1840s, Robert Baldwin, the member for York, and Louis Hyppolyte Lafontaine, the member for Terrebonne. These men in their mid-thirties were also inspired by what I call the Canadian dream. When Lafontaine was prevented by the British from seeking re-election in Lower Canada, now Quebec, Baldwin urged him to run in Upper Canada where, amazingly, he won. Now think of that: A francophone in the 1840s from Lower Canada ran in a riding stretching from Uxbridge to Lake Simcoe and won. This man couldn't speak any English. He won because his friend Baldwin here in Upper Canada pleaded with voters to support his friend because they could "make a substantial pledge of our sympathy with our Lower Canada friends and form the bond of union between us."
A year later, Baldwin lost his seat in Upper Canada, and this time, with the help of Lafontaine, was elected in Rimouski. I don't know about the Premier, but there are some days when, as leader of my party, I feel that Rimouski looks quite appealing.
Baldwin and Lafontaine had the kind of courage and vision that could only be inspired by the Canadian dream. Lafontaine once said, "It's in the interests of our two provinces to meet each other on the legislative terrain in a spirit of peace, union, friendship and fraternity." As for Baldwin, he committed to working together for "justice for both provinces upon precisely the same footing in every particular as ourselves."
Lafontaine and Baldwin, like Mackenzie and Papineau before them, had only some basic notion of what this country would become, but their common vision made one thing crystal clear to them: that the future prospects of their respective provinces depended upon their future being a shared future, one where they could somehow be together, different and equal all at the same time. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Two founding partners, Ontario and Quebec, led to a new country, Canada, 10 provinces and two territories strong, offering its citizens the best quality of life in the world.
La relation spéciale entre l'Ontario et le Québec a grandi. C'est un des plus grands partenariats économiques et culturels de l'histoire. Cette relation les rend, tous les deux, plus forts. J'aime penser qu'à cause de notre histoire, nous les Ontariens et Ontariennes comprenons les raisons du succès de notre pays, le Canada.
Because of our special history and special relationship with Quebec, we in Ontario know why Canada, our country, is so successful. We are successful quite simply because we believe in the power of accommodation, mutual respect, compassion and diversity. We believe that it is better to grow together than it is to grow apart. We understand that every Canadian, like every province, has to give up a little so that we all might gain a lot.
The Calgary framework speaks to these values and that's why I support it. To confirm something the Premier said, the framework is not a constitutional document, and it would be premature to even contemplate a constitutional amendment of any kind until such time as we had a provincial government inside the province of Quebec that was committed to our country.
For me, the Calgary framework is a light in the window for the people of Quebec. By voting in favour of this resolution, we are, in perfect keeping with our history, telling Quebeckers that Ontario greatly values the unique nature of their province in terms of its French-speaking majority, its culture and its tradition of civil law.
Pour moi, la déclaration de Calgary est une manière de montrer à la population du Québec qu'il y a toujours une place pour elle au coin du feu. En votant en faveur de cette résolution, nous disons aux Québécois et Québécoises dans le plus grand respect de notre histoire que l'Ontario apprécie grandement le caractère unique de leur province, sa majorité de langue française, sa culture et sa tradition du Code civil.
We're telling Quebeckers that Canada is a better place because of them and that Quebec, like all the other provinces and territories, is a better place because of Canada.
Now, I know that our ongoing constitutional struggles have been trying for many Ontarians and some may have grown tired, but I have not. Some may have grown impatient, but I have not. Some many feel dejected because of recent failures to move forward. I do not. I believe that it would be a mistake for us to allow our regrets over yesterday and our frustrations with today to rob us of tomorrow. As leaders in our province, we, the members of this Legislature, do not have the luxury of acting in any way except as committed and vigorous defenders of a united Canada.
The people of Quebec need us to help make the case for Canada to them because daily they are besieged by a provincial government that makes the case against Canada. I, for one, am prepared to make that case time and time again.
Like many of us, including the Premier, I believe, I went to Montreal in October 1995. My wife and I put the four kids in the car and we drove down. We made the decision partly out of fear for the future of our country and partly out of fear for how we would answer the question if things didn't work out and the kids later said, "So, tell me about Canada again."
"It offered the best quality of life on the planet to its citizens. It was a wonderful country."
"And what did you do when it was about to break up?"
We got in the car, drove down and we met with many Quebeckers in Montreal - met them in the streets, met them in the subway - and you could easily tell by the look on their faces that they were more than pleased to see us. They were more than pleased to know that there was somebody out there, together with the thousands and thousands of others who visited Montreal on that day, who was prepared to put the lie to the separatist insistence that the rest of Canada just didn't care.
I won't forget the looks on the faces of those people and I won't forget our responsibility to continually make the case for Canada to them. I won't forget that the majority of Quebeckers are proud to be Quebeckers and want to be Canadians too. I won't forget. Je me souviens.
As I said earlier, the Calgary declaration is not an amendment to the Constitution. When the time comes to enter that phase, my party will have more to say about some subjects which do not form part of the framework. As pointed out in the final report of the public consultation on the Calgary framework, Ontarians told us that the framework should not derogate from Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We agree. Neither should the framework lead to constitutional change without a guarantee of full public consultation. We agree there too.
I hosted a meeting in my own riding and it was attended by people who were both well-informed and passionate about their country. There were strong differences of opinion, but these people were all connected by their strong belief in Canada.
Les Franco-Ontariens et Franco-Ontariennes ont clairement exprimé leurs inquiétudes à propos de la protection de la culture et des droits linguistiques des francophones vivant à l'extérieur du Québec. Mon parti partage ces inquiétudes.
To be perfectly clear, my party's support for the Calgary framework does not in any way restrict our right and indeed, our responsibility to raise these and other concerns at the time our province sits down at the constitutional table.
The Calgary framework also speaks of the equality of the provinces. Ontario respects and values each of its partners in Confederation, but we would not support any future attempts to accommodate the partners by disabling the partnership. In other words, my party and the province it serves believe in a central government that is strong enough to serve all Canadians.
En d'autres mots, mon parti et la province qu'il dessert croient en un gouvernement central suffisamment fort pour servir tous les Canadiens et Canadiennes.
When all is said and done, I am optimistic that there is so much more Canada can do, so much more Canada can be. It may even be that a new generation of Canadians will not look to words on paper to define themselves and how they live together.
Think of that possibility. It's possible that the majority may some day choose to look at our trade, our prosperity, our compassion, our friendship, our common interests and the fact that we are simply better off growing together than growing apart as the glue that holds the country together. People may some day in this country decide that endless debate over words on paper only serves to weaken the glue. But until that time has clearly come, I will continue and my party will continue to work for a strong and united Canada.
Just prior to concluding, I want to take the opportunity to read a passage, something written by one of our new Canadians, somebody who moved to Ontario from Grenada in the West Indies. The man is a poet. All too often it seems to me that our country seems to sparkle most brightly in the eyes of our new Canadians, as opposed to the rest of us who have been here for a longer period of time. They seem to have a deeper appreciation of all it is that our country offers.
I just want to read a part of a poem that he wrote. It's called, "I'll See You Pretty Maple, My Adopted Home, Sweet Canada." The poet's name is Joseph Bain:
Where first I saw rainbows of men, Clans and bands from northern territories to the prairie lands. Where first I saw cities bursting at its seams, And customs grow from lands unknown as from the pages of a dream....
My heirs must learn the songs of this land, Let that river flow into their souls. Shake hands with its newness its innocence enriched. What a country, what a song, Beauty to behold.
Preserve it, oh Canada as much as you can. Speak of its beauty in foreign lands. Seek fortune in gold not buried beneath, But in rainbow eyes on your street.
Just say good morning, how do you do? Love thy neighbour one once said. Bonjour mademoiselle, bonjour. We both shiver alike, we are the children of the sap and ten thousand lakes....
It is with a spirit of undying optimism for the future of Canada that I choose to vote in favour of the resolution before this House.
I won't say for a moment that anyone has a monopoly on patriotism or that anyone can wrap themselves in a flag more effectively than others. There are those who don't understand why this agreement was made or don't understand how the conclusions came about, and that is why it is our responsibility to communicate the dynamic and the balance that goes into the discussion of this accord.
Let me also say that we are not here involved in the delicate work of Constitution-making. Our work is rather to send a message to the people of Quebec that we in Ontario want to find accommodation with those in Quebec, accommodation that will result in Quebec remaining and continuing to be a part of a wonderful country we call Canada.
Quebec is an integral part of our Canadian fabric and we know that while diversity can be challenging, and indeed it has been challenging, celebrating our differences is a vital key to meaningful nation-building. We should not strive to be all the same and I say it would be a mistake to strive to be all the same. This framework has been described as a gesture of goodwill to Quebec, a statement of our intent to address the dissatisfaction of many Quebeckers towards the way Canada works.
Ce document a été écrit comme un geste de bonne volonté envers le Québec, une affirmation de notre intention de faire face au mécontentement de beaucoup de Québécois envers la façon dont le Canada fonctionne. Cela ne satisfait peut-être pas tous les Québécois, mais c'est certainement un pas dans la bonne direction. En adoptant l'accord de Calgary, nous disons aux Québécois qu'ils ont leur place au Canada, que nous les acceptons tels qu'ils sont. Nous reconnaissons que le Québec est un avantage pour le Canada, pas une menace.
I want to say that my colleagues and I support this framework.
Je le dis dès maintenant : nous appuyons ce document.
Is this document perfect? No, not by a long shot. We need to remember, however, that building social policy, building economic policy, building countries is not an exercise in perfection. It is an exercise in accommodation, it is an exercise in compromise, it is an exercise in finding the willingness to do things together, even if that sometimes means we don't get it all our own way.
My colleagues and I see gaps in this declaration and I want to discuss some of those gaps even as we talk about our willingness to accept it and to promote it. We need to be sure that in any negotiations that come after this, if those negotiations fail to take into account fundamental concerns that the people of Ontario, Quebec and the rest of Canada have, and if we try to gloss over any of those fundamental concerns, then we are probably headed for trouble. We are not here tonight to debate those fundamental concerns, but it seems to me we need to take note of them.
Our country and our province were built on the values of cooperation, compassion and tolerance. We are communities that share, and some would say in that Conservative Ontario today we need to re-emphasize those values, those values we share. I think we need to recognize that within the values of Canada, within the framework of Canada, we have to continually emphasize the value of sharing.
People have asked us some questions about the Calgary framework: When the government of Ontario agreed to the Calgary framework, did it commit to the principle of preserving and developing the Canadian social union? Did the government commit to provincial and territorial equality? If so, how will the government work to uphold these principles and what will they mean in this context?
Or will the government use this framework to achieve what many have said has unfortunately been achieved by some of our recent international trade agreements, that is, we trade down our social and economic programs? Will the government use this framework to achieve the lowest common denominator in services and programs developed for the protection of our nation's citizens?
It is too early to answer this question now, but if there a notion anywhere that we will trade down on some of what we have achieved in terms of our social safety net and our social investments, then I suggest that there will be trouble down the road.
In the development of this framework, did the government consider the rights of aboriginal peoples? Section 4 of the framework originally contained the phrase "gift of," and almost patronizingly included the aboriginal peoples as one of the gifts without any consideration of the fact that aboriginal peoples are the original inhabitants of this land. We are glad to see that this original phrase contained in section 4 was removed from the proposed resolution, because that certainly would have created difficulties down the road.
Will governments in the future approach any discussions about the diversity and vitality of our French and English languages and the multicultural citizenry of our province, of our nation, with the understanding that we are a country that is changing, growing and evolving every day and that our structure needs to adapt to that change, not the other way around? It seems to me that if we can approach the discussions which come after this from that perspective, we may head off difficulties down the road.
There are a number of questions put forward by Franco-Ontarians. Franco-Ontarians want their place and their rights in Ontario protected. Franco-Ontarians will not sit idly by if they believe that their rights and their services are being left unprotected or are being diminished in a process that goes forward from here.
We need to recognize that it was through government that we built the partnership between French-speaking Canada and English-speaking Canada, that it was through government we created this distinct society we call Canada, a place where our governments used to have very strong tools to utilize in terms of establishing and solidifying our social and economic values, values which made us unique in North America. I say again that people would not sit idly by if through this declaration or through something which flows from this declaration we want to give some of those tools away or diminish some of those tools.
Nous avons un défi devant nous. Je sais que nous pouvons y faire face. Notre travail est de trouver des façons de continuer à construire ce pays. L'accord de Calgary est un pas dans la bonne direction.
We have a challenge before us. I believe we are up to that challenge. Our work is to continue to look for ways to build this wonderful nation called Canada. The Calgary framework is one step in this direction. We must continue to build our nation based on our values, our accommodations and our mutual desires. It is only through our continued determination that Canada will remain the best country in the world in which to live.
I want to say to those who may be inclined to vote against this declaration tonight what I said at the outset: Please let us all keep in mind that we are not involved here in the fine work of constitution-making. As someone who was in this Legislature when the Meech Lake accord came before this Legislature and who saw the negotiations, the discussions, the tough arguments that took place, we are not at that stage yet. As someone who sat through the Charlottetown accord and all of the discussions that went back and forth, sometimes the interminable discussions that went back and forth on the Charlottetown accord and the referendum that was called after the Charlottetown accord, let us recognize we are not at that stage yet.
The stage we are at is, frankly, a very hopeful and a very promising stage, a stage where we can say to our brothers and sisters in Quebec that we are willing to do much, that we are willing to work hard to find a road, to find a way where mutual accommodation may win the day and where Canada as a result may continue to be one of the best countries in the world in which to live. I thank you all.
During the past few months we have been coordinating a province-wide public dialogue for the people of Ontario on national unity, Ontario Speaks, and the people of Ontario have definitely spoken. They have passionately and strongly expressed their support for a united Canada.
Modern democracies are searching for better ways to meet the needs of their people. We can do no less.
Here in Ontario, Ontario Speaks has been a thoughtful exercise for families and individuals, some older and some very young. They took the time to let us know what they want for Canada's future. They filled in questionnaires in their schools, in their church halls, in public buildings, some when sitting around their kitchen tables, some when having wide discussions with family members and their colleagues. They let us know that they sincerely love their country. They let us know that they strongly want Canada to remain united.
They told us that they want the people of Quebec to stay with us, to work with us and to be proud, with us, of being part of the best country in the world. They told us they want us, their elected representatives, all of us, to work hard with our friends and our fellow Canadians to make this country an even better place to raise our families and to cherish and to take care of our elders.
They support changes that will require our leadership, our vision and our determination.
After these years of intense soul-searching in Canada, we're seeing the kind of togetherness that no royal commission or political debate could really have predicted. Canadians are making every effort to find new ways to listen to each other and to work together, to turn their hopes and their dreams for our future into reality. Canadians are moving from those debates of the past and finding their own voices for the future. They are setting out the building blocks for creating and managing a renewed Canadian union.
In Ontario there is new optimism, with new jobs, for a brighter economic and social future. The last 12 months has seen more new jobs created in Ontario in the private sector than in any year in our history. We owe it to all our young people, to everyone, to the heads of families, to men and women, to people who want to work, to work together and have jobs.
Governments across our country, governments of all political persuasions are finally conquering the deficits and wasteful spending that threatened the hopes and aspirations of our future generations. Of interest are the studies that balance opportunity and several measures of the quality of life. They consistently find Canada at the top of the list of the best countries in the world in which to live.
Our leaders are working to change the way our country works so that our social programs will work for people so that they will become more effective and more efficient, that they will provide our families with good health care, good educational programs and social programs that will really make a difference to their quality of life.
We do, however, as a Canadian family worry about our future. Will we stay together? It's a real concern. I don't think, in the last 20 years, there has been a young person or an older person who hasn't asked themselves every day at some time during a thoughtful moment, "Will our country stay together?"
What will we tell our youth if we don't manage to support this wonderful country called Canada? Will we make the changes that require our governments to re-evaluate our roles and responsibilities at all levels, our relationships with each other and our responsibility for providing the best possible services to the millions of constituents we represent who count on us, who depend on us, who trust us and who put their faith and their confidence in our ability to do the very best we can?
Experiencing the confidence that's growing in our country, it's exciting to envision the possibilities, the successes, the dreams that could be achieved if only the uncertainty surrounding Quebec's future is settled. When our dollar can jump on the mere suggestion of a new federalist force in Quebec, you get a sense of what could be achieved when the debates of the past are put behind us, replaced by a new understanding and a focus on the common threads that bind us.
That was the rationale when nine premiers and two territorial leaders met in Calgary last September. It was an important, a timely, a productive effort, focused with a clear recognition of the fatigue that many Canadians feel when they continue to contemplate the breakup of our country. The premiers developed not a plan but a set of principles that came to be known as the Calgary framework.
I'd like to publicly recognize a person I worked very closely with, our Premier, Mr Harris, and his leadership in this regard.
This framework, as our leaders in this House today have stated, is a starting point. I noticed that they all stressed, because we're here together in a non-partisan way, that we start differently. We've all gone through campaigns when we've knocked on doors and people said, "No, not another constitutional round." Therefore, I know, Madam Speaker, you yourself will recognize the need to try something different, and that's what it is.
It's a starting point to express a national commitment to diversity, equality and working together to serve people better - not that we didn't try before, but for some reason it didn't work, and now we'll try a different way - a statement of beliefs, of values, of the principles that should govern a united Canada. Each province chose to develop its own method for consultation in Ontario.
The Premier set out very basic ground rules: The people of Ontario must have every opportunity, many different means, to express their views; their opinions would be directly represented in the final report on the consultation, as far as we possibly could; and MPPs should take every opportunity to listen - which some days we don't get a lot of practice doing. So we did these things.
We endeavoured to avoid the results of past attempts at reconciliation, the travelling bands of politicians holding formal hearings, producing mountains of briefs and reports. With a lot of - I underline - careful thought and ideas from many sources we arrived at our consultation process called Ontario Speaks: A Dialogue on Canadian Unity.
We're proud to say that we all worked together. With the cooperation of my colleague the Liberal MPP Annamarie Castrilli and my New Democratic colleague, who has been through this with me on more than one occasion, MPP Bud Wildman, we offered a wide variety of choices for the people of Ontario to make their voices heard: toll-free phone and fax line and Internet access; brochures mailed to over four million Ontario households, and I would add not always delivered; advertisements placed in all Ontario daily and weekly newspapers; brochures sent to our MPP constituency offices, French community and health centres; brochures distributed in French-language weekly newspapers in south and central Ontario and Ottawa's daily French paper, Le Droit.
We made a special effort to reach out to young people through Ontario's secondary schools and our colleges and our universities. Chambers of commerce, senior citizens groups and colleges and universities hosted public meetings. Public meetings with facilitators involved close to 80 of our MPPs.
Over a period of six months we heard from tens of thousands of people from across the province. They spoke to us, they wrote to us, they faxed and phoned our toll-free line, and they sent us messages over the Internet. In all, approximately 75,000 Ontarians participated. Approximately 65,000 completed questionnaires were received. Over 330 written submissions or letters were received. The Web site attracted over 35,000 hits. Over 2,400 people called our phone lines. Over 2,000 people attended meetings, and many schools, universities and colleges held discussions. Over 1,000 people were surveyed for a March 1998 public opinion poll.
With the range of options we offered, I'm pleased to say that we set a new standard here in Ontario for public consultation, a different way of public consultation, a way of consultation that many perhaps were not aware of, but I think in the future this kind of format will be provided again, and we who can will take advantage of that opportunity.
The people of Ontario did have the opportunity to respond in ways that best suited their busy lifestyles, which we all understand and respect. Whether it be on the Internet, by telephone, by fax or a public meeting, what was important was the many people who took the time to tell us that they truly care, and why they care, about the future of Canada. We are grateful to everyone who participated in this non-partisan dialogue and we thank them for their input.
We also appreciate the work of many dedicated MPPs who sometimes attended or supported more than three or four activities within their own constituencies. We also are appreciative of the educators who held public meetings, who worked with their students and who provided additional opportunities for the people of Ontario to participate in this dialogue.
I'd like at this time to add a special word of thanks to the MPPs who took the issues so seriously and who worked so hard to ensure that the voices of their constituents were heard, sometimes individuals, sometimes people with disabilities, sometimes people who needed very much to have someone listen to them, especially because they cared so much about their country. I'd like to thank the dedicated team of officials who worked and breathed the consultation process: Jane Courtemanche, Rachel Simeon and Charlie Bigenwald. I can't go without mentioning my former deputy, Judith Wolfson, and our assistant deputy minister at the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs, Bill Forward, whose good advice added so much to the process.
We have all of us worked together on this project for a very simple reason: the love of our country and our sincere desire to keep Canada united. As former Premier Bob Rae said just this past weekend on Global Television, "On the big issues of the province, we've never been divided."
Many of us here in this House this evening have experienced this wonderful opportunity in the past. It's always taken a combination of hard work and vision to make Canada succeed, but the results have been well worth it. We have a country to be proud of. We have a country that our children will grow up to know and to learn to say, as our parents and our grandparents have said to us: "We are so very, very fortunate. Keep working hard to preserve what you choose to cherish - your country."
As one of the participants in Ontario Speaks stated about the Calgary framework: "I think this is one very positive step in the evolution of Canada; our concept of what Canada is cannot remain static." Countries move forward, they change, they respond to the times, but more than anything they respond to the needs of their people.
It has been such a pleasure for me personally to listen to the people of Ontario. They spoke with eloquence, with compassion and with heart-wrenching clarity. I attended many public meetings, as did my colleagues, and heard from hundreds of people who care deeply about Canada's future. But I know that in some of the meetings concerns were raised, obviously concerns about future constitutional change, about protecting the rights of francophones outside of Quebec, concerns about the changing face of Ontario society.
Those concerns prompted one facilitator to share this story with the people attending a public meeting in Mississauga. She said she had been working that day with grief counsellors at a downtown Toronto public school. She was helping a grade 6 class deal with the loss of one of their classmates, a little boy who had just died of cancer.
The counsellors asked the children what they would like to do to celebrate their friend's life, and the kids suggested singing the boy's favourite song. That song was O Canada. The children sang O Canada so loudly and with such passion that teachers and students came from all over the school to see what was going on. What they saw was a classroom full of children, their faces shining with tears and with hope; faces that reflected backgrounds from around the world; faces of children who knew exactly what this country means and what it must mean in the future.
That is what the premiers hoped to define with the Calgary framework. That is what the people of Ontario believe was accomplished in the framework.
We heard from Ontarians a clear message of endorsement: 84% of the respondents agreed with the approach to strengthening Canada that was taken in Calgary; 76% agreed with an acknowledgement of the diversity of Canada; 89% agreed that if any future constitutional amendment gives powers to one province, these powers must be available to all provinces; 73% of Ontarians agreed that the unique character of Quebec society, including its French-speaking majority, its culture and its civil law tradition, is fundamental to Canada. That's a message that we hope here in this assembly this evening will be clearly articulated to the people of Quebec.
This level of support was echoed in a public opinion poll conducted in March of this year. In a survey of over 1,000 Ontarians, 87% supported the framework's approach to strengthening Canada. Ontarians who responded to the questionnaires made a real effort to provide input, not only checking off answer boxes but also adding thoughtful, heartfelt, sincere, real, true comments. It was a pleasure for those of us who had the time to take a look. Sometimes members of the media would browse through those questionnaires. It changed your life for just a moment, because it said that that person, those people, took the time to far expand what we had anticipated from our questionnaires.
Sometimes they wrote a whole story about how they came to this country and what it means to them. The people talked about a clear sense of the bonds that unite us as Canadians. Those people placed a great deal of value on developing a culture of generosity and compassion. That general umbrella extends to cover so many areas of our society, from an economy that gives everyone a better chance at a brighter future to modern and reliable services that our government is dedicated to protecting.
You told us that you felt pride in our country, those of you who took time to speak to us, a country built by people from all over the world. You told us that multiculturalism and the vitality of the English and French languages were among the important characteristics that make Canada so very special. As one person said: "We seem to share deeply held views for justice, decency to others, tolerance for people who appear different from ourselves and concern for those who are less fortunate. By and large, I see that most people in Canada are willing to listen, learn and understand." That was a direct quote.
You told us that you want more accountability in government and better partnership between governments to build a federation that works efficiently and effectively to deliver programs and services to all Canadians. Those are big words. They mean a lot to all of us. What the public is expecting, what the people of our country are expecting, is that we'll all work hard to do something about those words.
As I mentioned, some people did have some concerns; for example, that the framework should not lead to constitutional change without further consultations in Ontario.
While the government has proposed legislation, as other provinces have already done, on our referendum we'll guarantee that Ontarians be polled on questions of constitutional change. Some French-language respondents told us that although they supported the Calgary framework and its recognition of the vitality of the English and French languages in Canada, they want specific constitutional recognition for minority language rights. This House continues to show non-partisan support for minority language rights, as it has since the entrenchment of language rights in the charter in 1982.
National aboriginal leaders raised their concerns with the framework at a meeting with the premiers and territorial leaders in November 1997. We're all pleased that Ontario Speaks was able to address one of these concerns by recommending that the words "gift of" be removed from point 4 of the English-language version of the framework. We can never, ever take the first inhabitants of our country for granted and we will continue to work with them to make this county a better place for all of us.
Ontario Speaks made every effort to give people the chance to speak out on this important issue. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to listen to Ontarians' views on the future of their country. The people of Ontario have done their part to show that they care very deeply about the future of this great country, including Quebec.
Today, it is the members of this House who have the opportunity to demonstrate to the people of Ontario that we have listened to their views on strengthening Canada. It is our privilege, as members of this Legislature, to participate in many ways and to show our support for the Calgary framework.
People across Canada are watching us tonight and they're listening very carefully to what we say. I have a sense that they will not be disappointed. Our message is a message of support for a strong, renewed and united Canada.
L'importance de ce soir, c'est que nous avons l'opportunité de parler de notre pays, de notre province, de tout ce que nous partageons, de ce qui nous distingue comme Canadiens.
This evening we consider a resolution endorsing the framework for discussion agreed upon by nine premiers and two territorial leaders on September 14, 1997. The framework was intended to structure a dialogue on Canadian unity and seek the views of Canadians. There is no question that the framework as written is imperfect and that the process to elicit dialogue has been faulty.
Yet those people who responded in writing or attended the public meetings told us much about their views and experience of Canada. They told us of a Canada that needed to make all Canadians feel part of the national fabric. They told us of the importance of addressing the needs of the first peoples of this country. They told us of the historic role played by the linguistic duality of French and English and of the recognition of the value of our citizenry drawn from all over the world.
They told us that, as Ontarians, we cherish the specific reality that is Quebec. We value diversity, tolerance and justice. We are passionate about freedom and equality. We have a deep and abiding faith in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And they told us that Ontarians want a united Canada.
The future of the Canada that shines through in the responses is a Canada that is vibrant, inclusive, just and tolerant. It is a land of opportunity. It is a country that cherishes and fulfils the potential of all its citizens. It is a nation to inspire the world.
It may be trite to say that as Ontarians and Canadians we have long been involved in the shaping of this country, yet I hope you will indulge me, because we so seldom take the time to speak of and take pride in our history.
Ontario was at the table of Confederation. Ontario has been an exceptional partner in every constitutional discussion. Ontario has a long history of partnership and alliance with Quebec. In Ontario, political parties have traditionally set aside their partisanship in the national interest. Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats have always worked together for national unity, and today it is no different.
Canadians also have a long history of exploring and debating what it means to be a Canadian and what types of institutions give expression to their vision. Recent history has seen the creation, in 1963, of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which not only proposed the necessary restructuring to give due importance and recognition to the French reality in this country but, in book IV, also explored for the first time the phenomenon of multiculturalism that also characterizes this country.
In 1979, the Task Force on Canadian Unity, co-chaired by John Robarts, a former Premier of this province, and Jean-Luc Pépin, once again explored the partnerships existing in the federation and how they could be improved through respect for diversity and unity.
After the patriation of the Constitution in 1982, the debate of course intensified as the Constitution Act was adopted by all of the provincial assemblies except the Quebec National Assembly. Since then we have seen two rounds of constitutional discussions, from the Meech Lake accord of 1987 to the Charlottetown accord of 1992. Both accords were approved in Ontario but failed elsewhere.
So Ontarians have always played their part and Ontarians are being polled again. The process of consulting Ontarians this time, to be fair, however, has been far less than satisfactory. The start was not auspicious. A committee was announced. Consultation by brochure and mail followed shortly before Christmas. There was a postal strike. French translations were lacking. There was little publicity. The response was naturally not overwhelming. The process was not designed to obtain maximum input.
Those who responded, however, endorsed in general the principles set out in the framework, but they also felt strongly about issues not covered in the Calgary framework, principally that the Calgary framework should not derogate from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that the rights of native peoples need to be respected and that the culture and language of francophones living outside of Quebec must be safeguarded.
This is all the more important for us in Ontario. A Liberal government introduced legislation that would guarantee French-language services in Ontario some 13 years ago. These rights may well be undermined as the province plans to download some provincial offences on to municipalities, which are not governed by the French-language legislation.
C'était le Parti libéral de l'Ontario qui a premièrement introduit la loi qui garantit le service en français. Je vous rassure que nous allons insister, sous la direction de notre chef, Dalton McGuinty, que la langue et la culture françaises soient maintenues en Ontario.
Finally, the respondents told us that what we have had during the Calgary framework does not amount to real consultation. They do not see this process as one that leads to constitutional change, and they have therefore asked that there must be some specific and meaningful dialogue if the government wishes to proceed with any constitutional changes in the future.
The principles set out in the Calgary framework have received broad support from those who answered because they are general, and because they are general, they may be open to different interpretations. In order to be clear, let me state what the principles mean to me and precisely what I'm agreeing to this evening.
The first principle is that of the equality of citizens.
That principle is entrenched in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That means that all Canadians, irrespective of sex, race, religion, social and economic status, are equal before the law.
But equality is not the same as uniformity. In a democracy like ours, nothing forces us to have the same beliefs or preferences as anyone else, and we all have different needs. Therefore, we are both equal and different. Where needs may differ, our respect for equality may in fact require different treatment for individuals to achieve their full potential.
The second principle is that of the equality of the provinces.
As with individuals, the same principle applies to the provinces. They have equality of status, but this does not mean that they cannot be different from one another. Each province is shaped by its own history, heritage, culture, geography, institutions, and sometimes language. This therefore results in different needs. Again, as with individuals, particular needs identified in particular circumstances should be dealt with without jeopardizing the principle of equality.
Our federal system of government has always made room for differences and should continue to do so. Our Constitution explicitly recognizes this principle of differing needs within the framework of equality. Section 36 enshrines the necessity for equalization to ensure that the provinces and their residents are treated equally while their unique needs are respected.
As Canadians, we must ever be mindful that it is important to ensure that all Canadians from sea to sea to sea have reasonably comparable levels of public services and access to same. Nor should this ever jeopardize the importance and the role of a strong central government.
The third principle is that of diversity, tolerance, compassion and equality of opportunity.
Canada is touted far and wide as a model for achieving diversity, tolerance, compassion and equality of opportunity. While our history may have been on occasion less than exemplary, overall, compared to most nations in the world, our history has been marked by openness and as embracing the new.
We began as a nation shaped by few influences. We are now home to the world. No more is this true than in Ontario. This has in turn made us a stronger province, a stronger nation. It has made us more receptive and has instilled in us a spirit of compassion. It has led to the creation of social programs that unite us and that define us.
The fourth principle is that of Canada's identity which includes aboriginal peoples and cultures, the vitality of the French and English languages and a multicultural citizenry.
This is a cornerstone of every single constitutional discussion we have had. It is a fact of life in Canada. We are a blessed country in which our collective lives are enriched by the aboriginal peoples who welcomed us all to these shores. The differences among them in language and culture are part of the heritage that we all share as Canadians.
We must continue to work together with the aboriginal peoples to respond to the challenges they face and are striving to address in order to achieve self-government and a higher standard of social and economic wellbeing.
We are also fortunate to share a linguistic duality which is part of our identity and our history.
Une des forces du Canada, c'est notre bilinguisme, qui fait partie de notre histoire et de notre identité. Nos deux langues officielles ont nous ont enrichis chez nous et partout dans le monde. C'est essentiel que nous continuons de protéger cette richesse. De façon particulière, il est absolument nécessaire de garantir la langue française ici en Ontario. Il n'y a pas question que mon parti est préparé à faire justement ça.
Let us not forget that sections 16 through 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect the linguistic rights of French and English minorities.
We are also blessed with citizens who have originated in virtually every corner of the world. In my own riding of Downsview alone we speak 85 different languages other than English - imagine, 85 different languages - yet everyone lives and works together in what the United Nations has called the most multicultural city in the world. Our multicultural heritage is of course enshrined in section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We Canadians and Ontarians have set a world standard of which we can be proud, yet we must continue to work for equal opportunity for all our citizens. We must give real meaning in practice to the laws we have on paper. Our culture, our social fabric and our economy will benefit a thousandfold from our efforts.
The fifth principle is that of the unique character of Quebec society. Given our country's stress on respect and equality, it should go without saying that we endorse the principle of recognition of Quebec's differences. The recognition of Quebec's linguistic and cultural differences is perfectly in keeping with the equality of the provinces and individual Canadians.
There is no question that Quebec is different from other provinces in Canada. The majority of its people speak a different language than the majority of people in other provinces. It has a different culture, although it also has, more and more, a population of people drawn from all over the world who are united by language alone and not culture. Of course, it is the only province to have a tradition in civil law.
If the principle of diversity within equality is to be respected, recognition of the unique character of Quebec society as fundamental to national unity and the Canadian identity is essential. This need not imply more powers, only different ones. As one of the respondents to the Calgary framework stated so well, "No province should be blatantly different but there are diverse cultures...and there should be some allowances made for differences." Another said, "Canada is a country of freedom and equality, all provinces should have the same opportunities." A third said, "I think that all provinces should be treated completely the same and have the same rights, but with the understanding of the provinces' diversity."
The sixth principle is that if any future constitutional amendment confers powers on any one province, those powers must be available to all provinces. We understand the Calgary framework not to make any provision for any amendments in or additions to the division of powers among governments. Still, Ontarians were asked about such a possibility. The vast majority who did respond indicated that there could be no amendment that does not take into consideration the equality of the provinces.
We take this to mean that all provinces must have tools to promote their own development. If a tool is made available to one province, it must be made available to all.
Still, I wish to make it clear that the Ontarians who responded were adamant that this, the Calgary framework, does not give the authority to seek a constitutional amendment. Far from it. It is merely a dialogue. Let me state again that Ontarians told us over and over again that if there is to be any change to our Constitution it will require a full consultation process.
The seventh principle is that of greater partnership among the two levels of government while respecting each other's jurisdictions. Ontarians want their governments to work cooperatively together in the interests of their citizens. The respondents to the Calgary framework said it better than any of us could. They don't want dismantlement of the federation. They want national standards in health care. They want partnerships but they want leadership, and they want a strong federal government.
I would like to cite one of the comments we received: "The Parliament and the government of Canada and the legislatures and government of the provinces should strive, in a spirit of cooperative partnerships, to achieve, step by step, a range of national goals that would strengthen Canada." Let me say that the people of this province are indeed very wise.
The people of Ontario know that the Calgary framework is a first step, and they, like us, will be watching very carefully.
I was not born in this country. My parents made a conscious choice. They chose Canada, a land that was open to immigration, that afforded opportunity, but not without hard work. They came to a land that respected their diversity, that allowed them and their children to flourish, but not without sacrifices. As someone who chose Canada, I am fiercely loyal to it. Vous savez, je ne suis pas née au Canada, mais le Canada, c'est le pays que j'ai choisi et c'est un pays pour lequel je suis prête à me battre pour protéger son caractère, sa noblesse et son identité.
I am grateful for this opportunity to engage in the debate here this evening. I'm grateful to Canada and to the people of Ontario for the opportunity to be here. Lastly, I'm grateful to my leader, Dalton McGuinty, for the confidence he has shown in me. It has been a unique privilege to be involved in this exercise. May I say, long live a strong and united Canada. Vive le Canada fort et uni.
We live in a Canada that recognizes our linguistic diversity, that values the diversity of cultures and peoples who have come to these shores who helped to build us into a great nation. We celebrate the multicultural and multiracial diversity of our province as well as of our country. We appreciate that we have a well-educated, skilled workforce, that we have enormous resource wealth, both in Ontario and in Canada.
We recognize that in a democracy we have responsibilities as well as rights. We have a responsibility to manage our economy to ensure a quality of opportunity for all of the people of our nation, to ensure the quality of health care, education and community services for all people no matter what their station in life. We have a responsibility to manage our resources for sustainability for future generations, to husband and to act as stewards of the great wealth we have been endowed with.
I want to say though, as someone who has participated in these debates in the past, that I recognize fully that my country, Canada, is more than the sum of its peoples and its resources, it's more than the sum of its parts. Canada for me is an experience; it's a united and uniting experience; it's an experience of struggling against the elements, elements which were often harsh and difficult at times. Canada's an experience of building community and building a nation. It's a shared experience. In my view, Canada is indeed more than the sum of its parts.
Canada is a concept, an idea. It's an idea and a concept that is worth struggling for to ensure that we are able to maintain a united nation that we can pass on to our children and their children. We look forward in this debate but we also look back. We, as descendants of the aboriginal peoples and pioneers and immigrants from all over the world, owe it to our forebears who endured these hardships of the past, to do as much as we can, not only for ourselves, but for future Canadians.
It's our responsibility to strive to maintain and strengthen our nation which is united in diversity. I think that the Calgary framework is an expression of opinion. In a sense, it's an attempt to describe the idea of Canada, to express, in some words on a piece of paper, the vision and hope for Canadian unity that we all share. As my leader said, this is not constitutional language. It's not even proto-constitutional language.
In the original framework as it was negotiated, we recognized that the people of Ontario have a vision for a Canadian federation, one that reflects a shared commitment to equality and diversity and to working together to keep Canada strong and united. I think all of us in this assembly this evening share those views and I think it's appropriate for us to give expression, in passing this resolution, to this vision and to the values that unite us as Ontarians and Canadians.
The framework, as moved by the Premier, makes a number of statements that can be interpreted in a number of ways. The first point I think on the face of it no one could argue with, at least I hope no one could argue with: "All Canadians are equal and have rights protected by law." I suspect that means what it was intended to mean, that all Canadians are equal before the law and the rights that are provided for in the Constitution are protected by the Constitution and laws of this country.
But I think we have to also recognize that in the Canadian federation, in our nation, as great as it is, a country that is recognized by the United Nations repeatedly as the best place in the world to live and to work, for all the efforts of people throughout our history and governments throughout Canada, in terms of condition, we do not have economic equality. Many would say we have, and should have, and maintain equality of opportunity, but all of us have to recognize that we do not have economic equality.
I've been coming to this place since 1975. I remember when I first arrived in Toronto as a young, newly elected member of the Legislature. Coming from northern Ontario, I used to walk around this large metropolis, the downtown area in particular, and on those few occasions when I used to see someone sleeping on a grate, I was appalled. I was alarmed. On a couple of occasions, I called a policeman because it was winter and I was afraid this individual might indeed freeze to death.
You would think as we've developed and grown as Canadians, as a nation, with all of the resource wealth that we have, the tremendous ability and capacity for economic growth that we have, those few people who are down and out that I used to see when I first came to Toronto in 1975 would no longer be seen on the streets of this metropolis. Instead, in most recent years, there seem to be more and more of those homeless people sleeping on grates in the wintertime, ironically sleeping on grates of some of the most expensive pieces of property in Canada. Right there when you see the bank towers in downtown Toronto and someone sleeping on the grate to keep warm outside of a bank tower, we see exemplified an increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots in our society rather than a decreasing one.
Some would say, "Yes, indeed, this is shameful," but I would say that it must inspire all of us, whatever our political view, whatever our ideology, as legislators, as elected representatives of the people of Ontario, as elected representatives in Canada, to do all we can to ensure that that gap is decreased rather than increased. So when we talk about what our vision of Canada is and what Canada means to us, it must mean, yes, all Canadians are equal and have rights protected by law, but it must also mean that not only are all Canadians, we hope, treated equally by courts in this country but all Canadians do indeed have equality of opportunity and hopefully we strive for the day when all Canadians have equality of condition.
Another point in the declaration states, "Canada's diversity includes aboriginal peoples and cultures, the vitality of the English and French languages, and a multicultural citizenry drawn from all parts of the world." There are those in this country who look at the diversity of our nation, whether it's the duality represented in the main linguistic groups in Canada, the French and the English, or whether it includes all of the ethnic groups that have come to make up what is such a diverse and multicultural society that we have and which is celebrated here in Toronto in particular, but throughout Canada, and say that diversity means that we cannot be united.
In my view, those people who take that position are most shortsighted. They don't understand the tolerance that we have and we celebrate as Canadians. Despite the fact that we celebrate the diversity of the many cultures that have come to be represented in our society and that make us such an interesting place to be and a place which, as we say in the declaration, is graced by diversity, tolerance, compassion and equality of opportunity that is without rival in the world, obviously there are some in our society, I hope a small minority, who seem to resent the immigrants who come to our country, who seem to see them as people who take away economic opportunity for Canadians who have been here before.
Surely, as the UN has said, we are such a wonderful place to live based on our educational levels, based on the health care that we have, based on the kinds of programs that we have for social services, based on our ability to work and live together, based on the quality of life that we have, we recognize that the reason there are so many immigrants coming to Canada is that indeed it is such a wonderful place and that we benefit from their contributions to our society, all of us; indeed that Canada is more than the sum of its parts.
It's unfortunate, however; if we say in one breath that we have equality of opportunity that is without rival in the world, we must not forget those homeless people sleeping on the grates. What have governments done in recent years in Canada - I mean governments of many different stripes - to help those who are vulnerable in our society and ensure they have equality of opportunity? What have they done to ensure that they are given an extra leg up to make it possible for them to take advantage of the opportunities that the rest of us have been able to benefit from? Unless we make a commitment, as my leader indicated, to a true social union in this country, then that statement that we enjoy equality of opportunity that is without rival in the world somehow sometimes rings hollow, and I regret that.
I've mentioned the linguistic duality of this country. One section of the framework says:
"In Canada's federal system, where respect for diversity and equality underlies unity, the unique character of Quebec society, including its French-speaking majority, its culture and its tradition of civil law, is fundamental to the wellbeing of Canada. Consequently, the Legislature and government of Quebec have a role to protect and develop the unique character of Quebec society within Canada."
Sometimes there are voices raised in this country that are not very generous, voices that express themselves in both English and French that perhaps would take issue with the statement I've just read from the declaration. We have a federal system partially because of a deadlock that developed in the 1840s in this province, which was then Upper and Lower Canada, which led to divisions and a political deadlock that was resolved by various colonial leaders meeting together and deciding that they should form a united dominion which also reserved for the parts of that dominion rights and responsibilities for governing.
Central to that was an understanding between what then were Canada West and Canada East or Upper and Lower Canada that we had two majorities represented in those provinces and that those majorities must be able to survive - not just survive but flourish - and be protected, but also an understanding that the minorities within those societies would also be able to live and to flourish and continue to be protected and have their rights protected. We chose to do that through a federal system.
Who can argue that in Canada Quebec is unique? Who can argue that in North America Quebec is unique? Who can argue that we in Canada have benefited from that uniqueness? Who can argue against the basic fact that one of the things that makes Canada special in the world is that we respect and celebrate the culture and language of our province to the east? Who can argue that? Yet sometimes there are less generous voices who don't celebrate that.
I think in voting for this resolution this evening, the Calgary framework, we, as a Legislature, are saying that we reject those ungenerous voices, and that we accept and celebrate the diversity and the duality of Canada.
I think it's important that we recognize that in this statement we are saying that since Quebec is unique, a French-language majority in a sea of English speakers in North America, we understand that the government of Quebec and the Legislature of that province have a unique and special role to protect the language, culture and law system of that society. In recognizing that uniqueness, it does not diminish Canada but rather it celebrates again that Canada is more than the sum of its parts.
I recognize, as we've said before, that this is not a constitutional amendment before us, that we are trying to express a description of the vision of Canada, the idea of Canada, our concept of the country. But I do want to say that two sections that say, "All provinces, while diverse in their characteristics, have equality of status," I accept that. Obviously, in our constitutional framework, all provinces have equal status as provinces.
I must also state that all of us recognize certain provinces in this country are large, have tremendous resources, tremendous wealth and potential, while others are smaller and perhaps do not have the same opportunities for economic growth and development, and that we recognize that as Canadians in all of those province we owe each other and we respect the need in our federal system to assist those who may not have the same opportunities as others.
Having said that, one of the parts of the framework says, "If any future constitutional amendment confers powers on one province, these powers must be available to all provinces." Of course that doesn't mean that all provinces will in fact avail themselves of those powers, but it does state that all provinces can avail themselves of those powers.
I suppose you might argue that the devil is in the details. There are many - not those who are not generous, not those who do not celebrate the diversity of this country - who do not appreciate the duality of this nation, who do not understand the importance of Quebec and its uniqueness, who also might have some difficulty in how this plays out in the future.
All of us recognize that we are a federal system, that the provinces have powers to ensure their citizenry is governed well but that we also have a federal government which has responsibility to all Canadians and for all Canadians and must represent what all Canadians' aspirations are together. In accepting this statement, we must also make clear that we believe in a strong central government that can set standards and ensure that all Canadians benefit from our wealth, our resources and our social programs throughout the country, no matter in which province they reside.
I suppose I've developed a bit of a reputation in this House for having perhaps certain hobby horses and I don't apologize at all for that. I would say, though, that there is one area I want to emphasize, and I've emphasized this over the years as a representative of my area of the province, of northern Ontario, and of the whole province. In saying yes to Quebec, which I think is one of the central things we are attempting to do here tonight, we are not saying no to the aspirations of anyone else. We are not saying no to the aspirations of the many, many divergent ethnic and racial groups that make this metropolis such an interesting place to live and to visit.
We are certainly not saying no to the aboriginal peoples of Canada. We say Canada's diversity includes aboriginal peoples and cultures. I'm glad that the resolution or the framework was changed to get rid of what was considered the patronizing comment about the "gift of" the aboriginal peoples that the chiefs raised concerns about.
Having said that, I regret that we just state, "Canada's diversity includes aboriginal peoples and cultures," that we don't recognize that the aboriginal peoples of this country are the original people of this land, that they have inhabited these areas we now call Ontario, Quebec and all of the other provinces of Canada and the territories of Canada since time immemorial, that frankly the ancestors of the Europeans who inhabit this country would not have survived when they arrived on the shores of North America except for the assistance, compassion and goodwill of the Amerindians of North America, and of Canada particularly, that there was a vibrant, living community and culture in this nation, in what is now Canada, long before Giovanni Caboto sailed to Newfoundland, or there was Samuel de Champlain or Jacques Cartier or any of the other European explorers who we often were taught in school discovered North America.
In fact a lot of those people were lost and they showed up on these shores, struggled ashore from their ships half starving and wouldn't have survived - sometimes, unfortunately, didn't survive - without the assistance of the people who were already here.
I hope that the reference to the aboriginal peoples and cultures is not just a perfunctory reference. I hope it does not in any way diminish what I believe to be a genuine commitment of the majority of Canadians to recognizing the inherent right of self-government for aboriginal people in the Constitution of Canada at some point, because whether we as Canadians recognize that right or not, it is indeed inherent, and no matter what we do to try and take away from the ability of our aboriginal peoples to govern themselves and to determine their own destinies, it is doomed.
We've got to make that one statement and ensure that aboriginal peoples can aspire to the equality of opportunity that we talk about in this framework and that we celebrate. When we say we celebrate the diversity of Canada, we should be celebrating those many cultures of the aboriginal peoples. So I believe that we must restate our commitment to aboriginal self-government and our commitment to ensuring that those governments, as they are established and grow, have the resources to ensure aboriginal peoples will be able to benefit from the wealth they have shared with us.
Also, I think we all must recognize that in celebrating and saying yes to Quebec, we are not in any way taking away from the rights of francophones who live outside of that province. As a matter of fact, in recognizing and saying yes to Quebec and the unique character of Quebec with its language and culture, we are also saying yes, saying oui, to the francophones who live in Ontario and every other part of Canada.
The last point of the declaration says:
"Canada is a federal system where federal, provincial and territorial governments work in partnership while respecting each other's jurisdictions. Canadians want their governments to work cooperatively and with flexibility to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the federation. Canadians want their governments to work together particularly in the delivery of their social programs. Provinces and territories renew their commitment to work in partnership with the government of Canada to best serve the needs of Canadians."
All of us of course agree with those statements. Obviously all Canadians want our governments to work in cooperation with one another. They want to ensure that we have social programs, that we maintain our social programs, that we enhance our social programs, that we respond to the needs of the vulnerable, the sick, the elderly and the poor throughout our nation, whether they be in this rich metropolis of Toronto, in the outports of Newfoundland, in the small communities of the Yukon, on the Prairies or in the rural communities across Canada. We all agree with this.
I suppose this is what the Premier referred to when he quoted our colleague from Saskatchewan Mr Romanow. He said, "This is an 80-20 business," that 80% of this problem is making the federation work for the benefit of Canadians.
All of us expect that and accept it, but I want to make sure that all of us understand that we do not believe in our party that flexibility, ensuring efficiency and effectiveness, means the flexibility to diminish the social safety net in our country or the flexibility to ensure that the protections we have for ensuring equality of opportunity are somehow limited in our nation.
We've seen the negotiation of agreements across the world: the North American free trade agreement and its expansion into wider trade agreements, and now the proposal for the multilateral agreement on investment that would essentially make it possible for multinational corporations to operate in this country with rights that would make it very difficult for governments, whether they be federal or provincial governments, to use the tools available to them to ensure our country remains sovereign, that will give rights to multinational corporations that will make it very difficult for governments to take action to ensure equality of opportunity and to ensure the protection of the safety net.
I want to say categorically that we in this party reject such agreements, that we stand for not only flexibility and efficiency and effectiveness in the federation but for a sovereign Canada, a Canada that can determine its own destiny and that is not limited by international agreements such as the proposed MAI.
Overall, what does the passage of the Calgary framework resolution mean for our country? I'm not sure. I don't think any of us can be certain. It means that we as a Legislature, as representatives of the people of Ontario, are sending a positive message to Quebeckers. It is saying that we support the protection of their uniqueness. It says that we believe in cooperation. It says that we stand for the unity of our nation.
But as I said a number of times, it is not constitutional language. We celebrate Canada, we celebrate our diversity, but the devil is in the details. There are difficult negotiations ahead of us to answer a number of the questions that have been raised in this debate, and many other questions that will be raised by Canadians from coast to coast to coast. It will not be easy. Canada is a concept and an idea, but it has never been easy.
Some would say they want closure to this debate - many would say that, I suppose, in Canada - but I suspect that the whole history of this country is the history of this debate and that one thing that makes Canada unique is this debate. I think we can work together for the unity of our great nation if we have goodwill, if we have understanding and generosity, but I don't think the passage of this resolution will bring closure to this issue and to this debate.
The Calgary framework itself may be a beginning, a new beginning in the struggle for Canada, in the experience of Canada as we struggle together to ensure we continue to remain the best place in the world to live and to work. Thank you.
As I stand here today, I have a very strong sense of déja vu. We have been here before and in due course we'll probably be here again. I know some people may feel discouraged by that idea, but that is something we should guard against. This issue is too important not to take seriously. It may not, on the face of it, affect our day-to-day lives. However, the deeper issues like this one have the potential to shape who we are as a people for decades to come. As a result, it is our responsibility to decide on the principles that will govern us. Are we to be guided entirely by self-interest, or is our vision broader than that?
Whether we like it or not, there are real dangers in ignoring the question of national unity. I'm afraid the side that is most invested in the outcome of this ongoing debate will win. We must be involved if we care about the future of a united Canada and we must prove that we care through whatever means available. I believe the Calgary declaration is the necessary vehicle at this time.
A few months ago, my colleague Jean-Marc Lalonde of Prescott and Russell and I held a public consultation on Ontario Speaks. Participation was less than overwhelming but its outcome was revealing. We were very moved by what the participants had to say. They spoke about their love for Canada through their own individual stories. They have not given up on Canada.
Participants felt that our constitutional problems were not so difficult in comparison with the problems that people in other countries have to face. The overall feeling was that Canadians are a generous people at heart. As a result, constitutional debate should be conducted with the spirit of generosity.
The turnout was low at our meeting, as it was at others. I believe what that represents is simply a sense of helplessness on the part of Ontarians who care very deeply about the future of this country but don't know what they can do about it. We've been talking for a long time and nothing seems to get resolved.
The discussion about our future as a country should be a dynamic and engaging process and we should not get discouraged. For as long as we are reaching out to each other, as long as we are attempting to define ourselves through this process, our country is a living entity. We should be encouraged by that and take heart from it.
We must remember that Canada is a young country that is still evolving, and this process of change is part of the history of a great nation. Most countries are much older than ours and have suffered much greater upheavals. Ancient states like England and France matured over a period of 800 to 1,000 years while we have many years to go. Above all, we must not lose patience or turn away from our challenges. To become a nation takes time.
I hope we will come to be known in history as a nation that always believed in its future and in the vital importance of all its divergent aspects. We have a challenge like none other in that regard. A nation of solitudes in the most blessed land on the face of the earth, I hope that soon we come to understand and acknowledge our common heart.
I think we should commend the provincial premiers for coming together to draft the Calgary declaration. The premiers have shown genuine leadership in putting forward a statement of values that attempts to express what we believe as Canadians.
Those values include a recognition of Quebec as an essential element in the fabric of this nation. From everything I've heard over the years, I'm certain that, no matter how we may agonize over this prolonged debate, that sentiment is universal. Canada would be drastically diminished in spirit and in fact if we lost Quebec. To me, that outcome is inconceivable.
We have had other opportunities to assert outright the inclusiveness of our vision, but we let them slip away. I was a member of the select committee on constitutional reform when it was considering the Meech Lake proposal. We worked hard and long into the nights to try to secure an acceptable solution to the issue. We felt great excitement and hope that our work would make a difference. Alas, it was not to be.
I believe that Meech Lake and Charlottetown were honest attempts to resolve the constitutional dilemma but our courage failed us, to my great regret. I personally believe that we would not be in the troubling situation we are in if we had taken the chance with Meech Lake. Through fear of the unknown or through agonizing over details, we let the debate divide us and these divisions continue to cause us pain.
I speak today as a francophone who was born in Quebec and raised as a Canadian nationalist. Let me tell you that there are a great number of us, both outside and inside Quebec, who love this country passionately. The issue of the future of this country is of deep interest to most francophones who in their minority status continue to have a unique perspective on Canadian history, as do I.
My own experience proves to me how much we've changed. I must tell you that it was long ago when I began my career as a then unilingual officer in the Canadian armed forces eager to serve my country. Long gone too is the attitude of the anglophone officer who, on meeting me for the first time, told me to "speak white." Since that time my English has improved as I'm sure his tolerance of my exoticism has as well. He may even have learned to speak some French for all I know.
What I do know and what I am absolutely sure of is that we must continue to grow as individuals and as a nation, as we have done since those days of my youth. We must never give up on the dream of a strong and united Canada that embraces all of its peoples in all their diversity.
There is plenty of room for honest and lively debate and for disagreement, because the only thing that can destroy us is indifference. We have to be careful of the attitude of not caring any more. We really, really can make a difference. In recent years whole nations have been reborn and strengthened by the will of a majority of individuals who insisted it happen. We too can make it happen. Each time we engage in a debate we learn more. We come out of ourselves to embrace a wider view. That can only be to our long-term benefit as individuals and as a country.
I'm terribly afraid that if we don't remain actively committed to the cause of Canada we will one day turn around and it will be gone. What will we tell our children then when they ask us what happened at the close of what was supposed to be Canada's century? What responsibility will we be forced to carry for our country's destruction?
The responsibility does not rest with politicians alone. An involved public invigorates a discussion in a way that can lead to real breakthroughs, but this requires maturity and commitment from all participants.
Mistakes have been made in the past. They continue to be made today. However, if we wait for a perfect solution, we will be permanently stalled. The Calgary declaration is not a perfect solution. We have to face the fact that there are probably no solutions. But it is a beginning of perhaps the real solution: unity in Canada.
I don't believe that there is any way to turn away from a future that is necessarily unpredictable. There are no guarantees. But we must believe in our ability to face all challenges and to reach a just compromise. I am supporting the Calgary declaration because I believe it is our best hope for getting to the next stage of building this country. We have come a long way. The future is in our hands. Let's not squander it.
Il aurait été là trop facile de jouer à la bagatelle, de chercher une ou deux peccadilles, quelque raison bénigne pour dire Non. Notre parti, l'Assemblée, a choisi l'alternative : le positif, l'espoir au lieu du négatif, au lieu de la peur, au lieu de l'anxiété. Dans les quelques moments qui me sont accordés, on a pensé sur le papier. En faisant partie du texte, je cite, avec votre attention, avec respect, à la page 9 :
«Dans ce régime fédéral» - parce que la déclaration de Calgary, ce n'est pas plus, ni moins que ça - «où le respect pour la diversité et l'égalité est un fondement de l'unité, le caractère unique de la société québécoise, constitué notamment de sa majorité francophone, de sa culture et de sa tradition de droit civil, est fondamental pour le bien-être» de nous tous, pour le bien-être «du Canada. Par conséquent, l'Assemblée législative et le gouvernement du Québec ont le rôle de protéger le caractère unique de la société québécoise au sein du Canada et d'en favoriser l'épanouissement.
«Les peuples autochtones avec leurs cultures, le dynamisme des langues française et anglaise et le caractère multiculturel d'une population issue de toutes les régions du monde sont des éléments dont est constituée la diversité du Canada.»
Ce soir, encore une fois, on dit au Québec tout simplement, regardez la main de l'Ontario qui te salue, qui te fait signe de te joindre à tous les Canadiens et Canadiennes. Ne nous quitte pas. Chez vous, on se sent chez nous.
Last November 12, the Premier of Ontario, Mike Harris, wrote to each of us MPPs to launch Ontario Speaks, the public consultation process on the principles for future constitutional change contained in the Calgary framework.
He said: "We are encouraging input from all Ontarians on their vision for Canada and for Ontario's place in the federation. We also want feedback on the Calgary framework agreed to by the nine premiers and the territorial leaders in September.
"This process provides an excellent opportunity for all MPPs to serve their constituents in the most fundamental way by making sure their voices are heard on a subject that concerns every Ontarian and every Canadian."
Other provinces were engaged in the same exercise, and I naïvely thought we would be able to incorporate what we heard in Ontario's response into the framework. Apparently, I was rather naïve, for today, after seven provinces and two territorial governments have gone through their review, permitting extensive debate by all legislators and bringing their issues to the fore, we here in Ontario are being limited to a three-hour debate, with no opportunity to incorporate the concerns raised by the citizens of Ontario to give meaningful direction to those who would shape the future constitutional reform in our country.
This is wrong, because we heard concerns over the Calgary framework. We heard concerns about the primacy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We heard concerns about protecting francophone communities outside Quebec. We heard concerns about ensuring public consultation in the event of future constitutional amendments. But this government has decided not to incorporate these concerns in Ontario's response. Why?
Why can the Legislature of the Yukon Territory express its concerns over the viability of francophone communities outside Quebec, but Ontario, with the largest francophone population outside of Quebec, cannot? Why can Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick express their views through preambles, but Ontario cannot? Why can the Legislature of British Columbia introduce additional concerns that represent their community, but Ontario cannot? Why is it that in every Legislature across Canada all legislators can speak to what the Premier of our province said was a subject that concerns every Ontarian and every Canadian, but here in Ontario we cannot?
As you've heard, our caucus has had specific concerns, legitimate concerns, that we and others had heard from Ontarians which we wish to form part of Ontario's response. We sought to do this not by amending the seven principles of the Calgary framework but by adding language to a preamble which was previously introduced in this House, as was done in other provinces. We were refused by the government. Indeed, no amendments are to be considered tonight in this short, three-hour debate.
This is a fundamental error, because the framework, which is to provide direction for future constitutional amendments, repeats the same mistake as the failed Meech and Charlottetown accords. In replacing the "distinct society" clause of those two failed accords with new language that seeks to recognize the unique characteristic of Quebec, the framework would permit the differential application of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada, to be applied one way in one part of Canada and another way in another part. This, many Ontarians believe and I truly believe, is insupportable.
This is not meant to deny either the distinctiveness of Quebec or the uniqueness of Quebec within Canada, for truly it is - c'est evident, c'est clair, c'est vrai - but surely a right is a right is a right. Surely we all mean that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is to apply equally to all Canadians no matter who they are or where they live.
Let us be clear what the "distinct society" clause in the Meech and Charlottetown constitutional proposals was meant to do. According to the government of Canada in a publication produced in support of the Charlottetown accord, called Shaping Canada's Future Together, "The government of Canada proposes that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and promotion of a vibrant French-speaking society in Quebec." These are good words, but why would we do this to the charter? What is in the charter that could be interpreted one way in one part of Canada and another way in another?
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms covers such fundamental rights as freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media communication; freedom of peaceful assembly; and the freedom of association. It also covers democratic rights including elections to Parliament, to provincial legislatures; mobility rights; legal rights including the right to life, liberty and security of person; and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance to the principles of fundamental justice. It includes equality rights, in particular that every individual is equal before or under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. It includes rights relating to the official languages of Canada and minority-language educational rights.
These are the rights that our Constitution, through the charter, bestows on every citizen in our country. Surely we do not wish to create different classes of Canadians based on different qualifications or interpretations of the charter.
I have some familiarity with this. Let me give you two examples from our own history in Canada. These are landmark cases in civil liberties which will show you not only how fragile our liberties are in this country but will illustrate as well the potential effects of such an interpretative clause of our charter.
In the 1930s and 1940s in Quebec, Jehovah's Witnesses were forbidden to distribute religious material in Quebec City and elsewhere in the province. This prohibition was appealed through the courts. One of the arguments being put forward by the Quebec government of the day in favour of the law was that Quebec was then a predominantly Roman Catholic society and that Jehovah's Witnesses activity was anti-Catholic and therefore should be prohibited. The Quebec Superior Court upheld the law. One of the judges actually agreed with this argument. But eventually the Supreme Court of Canada, in a narrow decision in 1953, threw it out as violating civil liberties involving the freedom of religious belief. What recourse would there have been if the government of the day had invoked the unique character of Quebec's laws to defend its actions?
In 1941, the Duplessis government enacted the so-called padlock law, the Communist Propaganda Act, which gave authority to padlock premises suspected of being used to disseminate Communist ideology and propaganda. This too was appealed through the courts. Again, one of the arguments put forward by the government of Quebec in favour of this law was that Quebec was predominantly a Roman Catholic society, that Communism was atheistic and anti-Christian and should be prohibited. The Quebec Superior Court upheld the law, again, using that same argument. But eventually the Supreme Court of Canada in 1957 struck it down as violating civil liberties involving freedom of association and freedom of expression. Again, what recourse would there have been if the government of the day, PQ or otherwise, had invoked the unique character of Quebec laws to defend its actions? This is what we're talking about. Is this a path we wish to go down? I think not.
Here we are on a vote on the Calgary framework where the government asks all of us to support this latest effort in nation building. Yet we have a government that refuses to listen to the concerns raised by Ontarians, which refuses to permit all legislators to participate in this most important subject, which refuses to include statements to reflect the legitimate concerns raised by our fellow citizens. I can't support this. I believe, as do all of us in this place, in a strong, united Canada. I want my native province to remain in it. But I cannot concede to political expediency and see our Charter of Rights and Freedoms fragmented, for there a greater evil lies.
A right is a right is a right. We should not be afraid to remember that. My vote in opposition to this framework is to signal to those who would shape our future how important our charter and our liberties are.
Je veux faire un point très important. Il faut réaliser que ce qu'on a devant nous aujourd'hui, ce ne sont pas des amendements constitutionnels à ce point ; ce n'est pas un document constitutionnel. Ce qu'on a, simplement, c'est une vision, c'est un papier qui essaie de donner une vision de ce qui est notre pays, et de ce qu'on croît être les principes fondamentaux de notre pays.
Je suis en désaccord avec le député qui a parlé avant nous. Si on regarde cette déclaration de Calgary, on dit que «Les peuples autochtones, avec leurs cultures, le dynamisme des langues française et anglaise et le caractère multiculturel d'une population issue de toutes les régions du monde sont des éléments dont est constituée la diversité du Canada.»
Il y a certains dans la communauté francophone qui auraient voulu voir un amendement à cette section qui reconnaîtrait en Ontario les droits des francophones de la province. Je dis à mes collègues dans l'Assemblée, je pense que ce qu'on a besoin de faire, c'est de regarder, hors ce document, possiblement, une motion qu'on essayerait d'amener avant le gouvernement fédéral de la part de cette province d'aborder, finalement, cette question.
On a besoin de dire en Ontario, «Est-ce qu'on croît que les francophones de cette province ont des droits qui doivent être protégés sous notre constitution ? » Si la réponse en est oui, on a besoin de le faire, mais pas dans cette entente. On a besoin d'amener un amendement qui est séparé et qui est supporté par tous les trois partis pour venir en avant avec cette question.
On oeuvre toujours dans cette province - les derniers gouvernements, le gouvernement de M. Peterson, le gouvernement de M. Rae, et, j'espère, des fois, le gouvernement de M. Harris - pour trouver des manières de protéger les droits des francophones dans cette province. On regarde l'avance qui a été faite avec la Loi 8, qui protégeait et donnait certains droits aux francophones d'être capables d'aller chercher les services en français chez eux, où qu'ils demeurent, pour leur donner l'accès au gouvernement. C'était une avance très importante pour la communauté francophone.
On regarde ce qui est arrivé sous le gouvernement de M. Rae, la création du Collège Boréal et du Collège des Grands Lacs, les services nombreux qui ont été mis en place par le gouvernement de M. Rae pour assurer que les francophones dans cette province auraient les mécanismes et les institutions nécessaires pour vivre dans cette province en français.
L'Ontario n'est pas une province unilingue ; c'est une province, à mon avis, qui reconnaît qu'il y a des francophones, des anglophones et d'autres personnes dans cette province, et qu'on a besoin d'avoir les droits, les mécanismes et les institutions nécessaires pour s'y épanouir.
C'est avec cette idée que notre caucus a présentement la Loi 17, introduit juste dernièrement, il y a à peine trois semaines sous mon nom, qui dit simplement que n'importe quel service qui est transféré de la province aux municipalités doit être respecté sous la Loi 8. Je pense qu'il serait un recul désastreux si le gouvernement va en avant en transférant tous les services qui sont maintenant la responsabilité de la province, qu'on les dévolue aux municipalités, et qu'on ne donne pas aux francophones les protections sous la Loi 8. On commence à descendre une côte qui, à la fin de la journée, va être très méchante pour la communauté francophone.
C'est pour cette raison que notre caucus a mis en avant la Loi 17, et on dit au gouvernement que n'importe quel service transféré de la province aux municipalités doit être respecté sous la Loi 8. Si on ne le fait pas, si on ne donne pas ces garanties, à mon avis, c'est quelque chose qui n'est pas acceptable et quelque chose que notre caucus ne pourra pas accepter.
Je veux aussi dire que, quand ça vient à l'amendement de la constitution, quand on arrive à ce chemin - il faut réaliser aujourd'hui qu'on n'est pas là. C'est seulement un document qui essaie de donner des principes, notre vision de ce pays - on doit à ce point là regarder pour la communauté francophone ce qu'on a besoin de faire de concret comme amendements à la constitution qui donneraient aux francophones de la province les garanties dont ils ont besoin pour s'épanouir. Sur ce point, je peux vous garantir que notre caucus, le caucus NPD, avec notre chef M. Hampton et autres, va s'assurer que ces garanties seront données quand le temps vient. C'est pour ça que je veux prendre cette chance de parler pour un couple de minutes et donner ces assurances.
Que l'on aille en avant aujourd'hui avec ce document. Ce document n'est pas un amendement constitutionnel. C'est seulement une déclaration qui dit : «On veut que le Québec demeure dans le Canada. Le Québec est important pour nous tous dans le Canada, et ensemble on doit continuer à bâtir ce pays qu'on appelle le Canada, qu'on tient très proche à notre coeur.»
Mr Harris has moved government notice of motion 10. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?
All those in favour, please say "aye."
All those opposed, please say "nay."
In my opinion, the ayes have it.
This House is in recess until 9:25. The bells will be rung at 9:25, and it's a five-minute bell.
The House recessed from 2105 to 2125.
The division bells rang from 2125 to 2130.
Bradley, James J.
Brown, Michael A.
Cleary, John C.
Conway, Sean G.
Ford, Douglas B.
Guzzo, Garry J.
Harris, Michael D.
Jordan, W. Leo
McLean, Allan K.
Morin, Gilles E.
Ouellette, Jerry J.
Runciman, Robert W.
Sterling, Norman W.
Tascona, Joseph N.
Young, Terence H.
It now being past 9:30 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 2134.
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