[continued from Reply to the Speech From The Throne, 1999, Part 1, published on conservativeforum.org]
Switching to the positive, the official opposition has a vision of the proper relationship between parliament, the court and the executive. It is a vision that is rooted in our own Constitution and several hundred years of British constitutional convention and precedents. It is based on a simple principle, that parliament makes the law, the administration administers the law and the court interprets the law. In our judgement any delegation of law making by the executive to the courts by default, which is what this government does, or any proactive assumption of law making functions by the courts is a violation of this basic constitutional principle and it needs to be corrected.
Maybe the following explains why the government is not enthusiastic about correcting it. The root of the problem is that the BNA Act of 1867 founded Canada on a constitution "similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom". One of the founding principles is that parliament makes the law, the executive implements the law and the courts interpret it.
But in 1981-82 the Liberal administration of Pierre Trudeau, an administration in which the current Prime Minister was the justice minister, initiated and secured the passage of the Constitution Act, at the heart of which was a constitutional device similar in principle not to the constitution of the United Kingdom but to that of the United States. I refer of course to the charter of rights and freedoms. This law included for the first time in Canada a constitutionally entrenched guarantee of civil rights. It served the same function in Canada as the U.S. bill of rights but without any of the checks and balances on the three branches of government which are found in the American Constitution.
That is what happens when you transplant an idea from one constitutional system to another. You do not necessarily bring along with it the checks and balances that made it work in the original situation.
With the introduction of the charter to the Canadian Constitution a great departure began from the historic division of responsibilities between parliament and the courts which continues to this very day. The consequences of that departure include replacement of the supremacy of parliament with the supremacy of the Constitution as interpreted by judges. They include a transfer of power from parliament and the legislatures to the courts, including a transfer of the ultimate right of interpretation. The other consequence is the thrusting, whether they want it or not, of unelected judges with no direct accountability to the people into the realm of decision making and political activism.
The consequences of this great departure and the political activism of the courts are enormous. I suggest to members that they go far beyond simple legal and academic questions concerning the appropriate balance between the courts and parliament. Look at the list of things into which this great departure has taken the courts whether or not they wanted to go there. The Mahé decision of 1990 took the courts into the operation of school boards. The Eldridge decision of 1993 took the court into affecting provincial government budgetary decisions. The Singh case of 1985, as already pointed out, took the court into the administration of immigration and refugee procedures. The Therens case of 1985 created an enhanced role for lawyers in criminal proceedings that went far too far and which has had negative effects. We saw further evidence of political and social activism by the courts when they created the defence of self-induced intoxication, something parliament never ever dreamed about in any of its wildest moments. That was via the Daviault case in 1994.
There was court direction of public policy with respect to vagrancy via the Heywood case of 1994. There was the extension of the requirement for the use of warrants to unreasonable lengths via the Feeney case of 1997. It took the courts into the elevation of the protection of language rights ahead of the protection of citizens from criminal activity via the Beaulac case of 1999, and into the establishment of procedural delays as grounds for abandoning thousands of criminal prosecutions via the Askov case of 1990.
We saw further evidence of the great departure when the courts extended the democratic franchise to prisoners via the Sauvé decision of 1993. It legitimated the rights of adults to possess child pornography via the Sharpe decision of 1999. It imposed a limit on the sanctity of life by striking down provisions for the regulation of abortion via the Morgentaler decision of 1998. It interjected a court ruling on spousal benefits into the politics of a provincial election, which I find utterly inexcusable, via the M and H decision of 1999. It has triggered violent confrontations over diminishing fishery resources on the east coast via the Marshall decision of 1999.
I could keep the House here all night reading court cases, but on some future occasion I am hoping the Prime Minister will ensure this parliament addresses this issue explicitly. At such time it would be my intention to lay before parliament a number of measures for clearly delineating a line between ourselves and the courts. These measures include a number of things, of which I will mention three.
First would be measures to ensure that parliament specifies in each statute it passes the intent of that statute and that it obtains independent legal advice, because we cannot get it from the justice department, on the charter compatibility of bills before they leave this place rather than after. It is a process of pre-legislative review.
We would also recommend that these remedial measures include the establishment of a judicial review committee of parliament to prepare an appropriate parliamentary response to those court decisions that misconstrue parliament's intent, and include recommendations of the appropriate use of the notwithstanding clause which I remind hon. members is just as much a part of our Constitution as is the charter of rights and freedoms.
When we look at the Speech from the Throne we do not see any recognition of this even though it affects everything we pass here. Why is that? I suspect it is because on many of the issues affected by the political activism of the courts, especially in moral and social areas, the Liberal administration would prefer to have the hard decisions made by Liberal appointed judges rather than by the elected members.
If that is the case, we will not see a remedy to this problem until there are 150-plus members elected to this Chamber with a commitment to change and to draw the line crystal clear between parliament and the courts. I turn now to the state of our federal union, a subject on which the Speech from the Throne devoted about four specific paragraphs and yet is one which is central to everything we do.
As all members here know, Canada is the second largest nation in terms of territory on the face of the earth. It consists of ten provinces and three territories encompassing an enormous breadth of cultural and regional diversity. In order to unify this great diversity into one nation from sea to sea to sea, our forefathers rightly chose to apply the principles of federalism. Canada is therefore a federal state, but because of its size and diversity it is a federal state that cannot take its internal unity for granted even for a month.
This parliament has the right to expect that every Speech from the Throne would contain at least two things. One is substantive measures to address the particular concerns and aspirations of the great regions that make up this country. The other is something substantive with respect to the application, preservation and advancement of the principles of federalism on which our continued unity depends. Let us look at the present state of our federal union and the Speech from the Throne from this perspective.
This summer my wife and I spent several weeks in the west, two weeks in Quebec, two weeks in Ontario, and almost three weeks in Atlantic Canada. We attended some 80 different functions, many of them informal social functions which gave us a good opportunity to interact with people. We listened to the predictable concerns of people about taxes, jobs and health care. But we also perceived something else, something less defined and yet very real and something that is bigger than people's day to day concerns.
There are four big regional concerns and aspirations which I believe are abroad in our land and which this federal parliament must recognize and address in order to maintain the unity and progress of this country in the 21st century. Four strong winds are starting to blow with increasing velocity; four strong winds which, if we ignore or misread them, can put our federal ship on the rocks; four strong winds which, if properly harnessed, can propel this federal union forward with confidence and security into the uncharted waters of the next century.
Let me begin in the west. I like beginning in the west. In June, Sandra and I travelled to the Milk River country of southern Alberta. There we borrowed two horses and a tent from a long-time rancher in the Milk River area, Tom Gilchrist. For three days we joined the anniversary trail ride commemorating the 1874 march west of the original North West Mounted Police contingent; a great adventure which originally took 275 officers and men from Fort Dufferin south of Winnipeg all through the southern part of Saskatchewan and southern Alberta to Fort Whoop-Up 125 years before.
That original group of North West Mounted Police included Colonel James MacLeod who would lay the foundation for a treaty with the great Blackfoot confederacy on the basis of a simple principle: equality under the law. I wish James MacLeod had been around when they were putting together the Nisga'a treaty. That is how he made peace with the fiercest group of aboriginals left on the prairies. It was the last group to have a confrontation with the Europeans. He made it on a simple basis. A couple of RCMP walked into a huge camp. There was one law, the same law, for whites and Indians. He did a few things to back it up and that was the basis of that peace.
The fort he established on the Old Man River became home to F.W.G. Haultain a few years later. Haultain was a lawyer from eastern Canada who came out west. He became the greatest premier the old NorthWest Territories ever had. He was the one who negotiated the provincial terms of entry of Alberta and Saskatchewan in the federal union as provinces. What was the principle he insisted on, even though he did not get it? Equality for provinces. Equality between the new provinces and the old provinces.
Members of that same old Northwest Mounted Police contingent would soon establish another fort at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers, Fort Calgary, the place where over a century later nine premiers and two territorial leaders would meet and produce a declaration asserting the principle of equality of all Canadians and provinces under the law and that any power given to one province to protect and develop its uniqueness would be given to the others. Equality for individuals and provinces was as much a founding principle of the old west as accommodation to the French-English fact was a founding principle of central Canada.
That old west, including British Columbia, was wild and vast with enormous potential. It attracted people of enterprise and initiative who overcame all sorts of obstacles and hardships. Members should read the story of the original march west by the RCMP if they want a story of overcoming hardship.
That old west had all sorts of new ideas and convictions on how the west itself should be governed. But politically the old west had one huge problem. It was politically impotent. At the turn of the last century the west produced less than 10% of the GNP, had less than 10% of the population and had less than 10% of the seats in this parliament.
The old west lacked political clout to impress its concerns on the federal government, let alone impress its ideas. It quickly and unfortunately developed an underdog attitude that if it participated in negotiations with the national government or if it participated in political dialogue with people in other parts of the country it would rarely win the debate and would always be outvoted and outnumbered.
What struck me as I rode through that country commemorating the opening up of the old west was how far the west has come in a century and how different the position of the new west entering the 21st century is in comparison to what the old west was at the turn of the century.
In that Milk River country, if one stands at the right place, the Cypress Hills can be seen to the east, the Sweet Grass Hills of Montana to the south and Chief Mountain to the west. These were all sacred places to the Blackfoot. They were high places from which the Blackfoot believed they could see forever and from which they believed they could see the future. It was a place where the young saw visions and the old dreamed dreams. Could any of the people who mounted those heights at the turn of the last century, aboriginal or non-aboriginal, possibly have envisioned the new west of the 21st century?
The new west is no longer politically impotent. In the 21st century it will produce over one-third of the wealth of this country. It will have over one-third of the population of this country. British Columbia will become the second largest province in the country and the west will control over one-third of the seats in this parliament.
In the 21st century it will be impossible to implement any truly national policy without the west's concurrence or to form any truly national government without western participation. The great challenge for westerners is how to use this newfound influence.
There will be some, "little westerners" Haultain would have called them, who will advocate that the new west should use its growing influence simply to settle old scores and that the west should confine itself to addressing its own immediate regional interests. These people will prefer regional parties over national parties. There will even be some who will say, regrettably, that the new west should use its influence to separate from Canada. Fortunately there will be others, "big westerners" Haultain would call them, who will advocate a much more positive and inclusive course.
Reform is the principle and Reform is the voice of the new west. We say yes, the new west should use its influence to protect and advance regional interests, to raise the agricultural concerns of the prairies higher on the national agenda, to protect the oil and gas producing regions from another raid by the federal government, to prevent the west coast fishery from suffering the same abuse as the east coast fishery and to make B.C. Canada's gateway to the Asia-Pacific.
We also say that the new west should use its new influence in the federation to address and resolve the problems of the federation as a whole, to get the federal financial house in order by insisting that tax and debt levels be lowered for all Canadians, by advocating that national health care - medicare, after all, was born in the west - be reformed for the benefit of all Canadians, by insisting that federal institutions be made more representative and democratically accountable for all Canadians, and by insisting that the equality of all Canadians and all provinces under the law become a governing constitutional principle throughout the entire country and be pounded into the heads of members of parliament.
When we look at the Speech from the Throne from this perspective, what do we see? We see no evidence at all that the federal government even recognizes the existence or emergence of the new west, let alone a preparedness to accommodate its aspirations.
The federal government is at odds, in particular with British Columbia, on everything from the mismanagement of immigration and refugees to the mismanagement of the fishery to the mismanagement of aboriginal relations. It has negotiated a treaty with the Nisga'a which is based not on the principle of equality of all under the law, but on the divisive principle of one law for aboriginals and another for non-aboriginals.
Rather than offering tax incentives to reduce greenhouse emissions, the government has mused about imposing a green tax which would discriminate against the petroleum producing regions without proposing any compensatory measures or equivalent environmental taxes on competing energy sources. By failing to propose or mount a concerted international attack on European agricultural subsidies, it refuses to get at the root of the low commodity prices that are doing enormous damage to our farmers.
The Prime Minister has never followed up on that resolution we passed in the House one night, which members voted for, calling on the federal government to help communicate the real significance of the Calgary declaration to Quebec.
The Speech from the Throne and the Liberal government are completely oblivious to the spirit and the aspirations of the new west. This is a deficiency which is inexcusable in a federal system where the federal government must recognize regional aspirations and respond to them for the sake and well-being of Canadians living in those regions, as well as national unity.
I said there were four strong winds. The wind coming out of the new west is only one. In Ontario, the federal government must recognize and accommodate the aspirations of the common sense revolution. It has not done so and there is little in the Speech from the Throne that indicates it is prepared to do so.
In 1993 the people of Ontario elected the tax cutting, common sense government of Premier Harris to get that province's financial house in order. Premier Harris proceeded to do so by cutting taxes 30%, introducing programs like workfare as preferable to welfare, while still spending 50% more dollars on health care in that one province than this government spends on health care in the entire country.
In 1997 Mr. Harris asked the people of Ontario whether they wanted his government to continue on this common sense course and, in particular, whether they wanted him to continue to cut taxes. Despite the fierce opposition of both federal and provincial Liberals, the Harris government was returned by the people of Ontario with a solid majority. We offer them our heartiest congratulations.
There is a strong wind blowing across Ontario. It is the wind of the common sense revolution. It is completely counterproductive for the largest government in the country, the federal government, to pursue tax policies that are at cross purposes with the tax policies of the largest provincial government. People in Ontario are concerned, like people in Alberta, that tax and spend federal Liberals will move into the hard earned vacated tax room created by the provincial government. They want the principles of the common sense revolution to be respected and implemented in Ottawa as well as Queen's Park. Yet, there is not a flicker of recognition in the Speech from the Throne of that political reality. It fails to recognize, let alone respect, the principal fiscal interest of the largest province in Canada. I talked about four strong winds. I have two so far. There is an easterly wind beginning to blow in this country. The Atlantic provinces are bestirring themselves in a manner which is good for them and good for the country.
When I talk to business, labour and academic interests in Atlantic Canada I hear a desire to pursue new paths to economic growth; not the tired and discredited Liberal policies of trying to stimulate growth through patronage tainted subsidies, grants and handouts to the few, but new and more credible policies. I will list them: tax relief for the many to put more dollars in the pockets of consumers to spend and Atlantic business to invest; a concerted effort to expand trade between Atlantic Canada and the New England states, which was the basis of the old Atlantic economy before it entered Confederation and in which Atlantic Canada was stronger than it is now; a vigorous effort to expand Atlantic rim trade to make Atlantic Canada the gateway for European-North American trade; rebuilding the infrastructure of the whole east coast through public-private partnerships, but partnerships acceptable to the province and untainted by federal Liberal patronage; creating a tax and investment environment conducive to the growth of the knowledge industry in Atlantic Canada to take advantage of the many excellent institutions of higher learning and to create 21st century jobs for Atlantic Canadian youth close to home.
Some of these policies, and they represent a departure from what the federal government has done, were first proposed and pursued by Premier McKenna of New Brunswick, who has just denounced the federal Liberals' approach to regional economic development in the strongest possible terms. According to a Globe and Mail report, Mr. McKenna has unleashed a scorching indictment of the federal government's treatment of Atlantic Canada. The federal Liberals, he said, have nothing in the window for his region. He speaks of "their total ignorance of the issues of shipbuilding, their total ignorance of the very highly developed information technology sector which is taking place here, their disgraceful management of the fisheries issue and the resource issue having to do with the natives". All of these things, he said, are just more nails in their coffin.
Premier McKenna's initiatives were largely abandoned by his successor at the provincial level, who paid the price at the polls. In both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia two tired and discredited Liberal administrations have been turned out of office and replaced by the Conservative ministries of Mr. Lord and Dr. Hamm. In both elections the smell of patronage and federal political interference in provincial highway projects was a factor in the defeat of the provincial Liberal administrations, and both of these administrations are seeking to pursue new approaches to economic growth. We extend our heartiest congratulations to both.
The winds of change are blowing in Atlantic Canada. Yet, when we examine the Speech from the Throne, supposedly the speech laying out the legislative program of the federal government which claims it lies awake nights trying to figure out how to make this federation work better, there is no recognition of this regional fact at all, no new principles or visions that respond to the new wind that is blowing out of Atlantic Canada.
That brings me to the fourth wind. The fourth wind that a perceptive and sensitive federal government would be recognizing and seeking to accommodate would be the new wind that is stirring in Quebec. It is still a light breeze, but there are signs in the polls and the political discussion in that province that perhaps up to 15% of the Quebec electorate is open to a third way, une troisième voie: not separation for Canada, not the status quo federalism of the Liberals and the Prime Minister, but reform of the federation with a rebalancing of the powers between the federal and provincial governments for the 21st century, a rebalancing that would strengthen the federal government in some of its key areas of jurisdiction, strengthen the provinces in some of their key areas of jurisdiction, particularly health, education and social assistance, and include jurisdiction for the provinces over language and culture.
Yet, when we examine the Speech from the Throne and the application of the principles of federalism to the maintenance of national unity, what do we see? As I have said, we see nothing that truly recognizes the growing and diverse regional aspirations of the west, Ontario or Atlantic Canada. When it comes to addressing the concerns of Quebec we see nothing of the principle or the vision of a reformed federalism, only a continuation of the status quo plus a veiled reference to defining a federal position on the secession process and question.
I find it absolutely amazing that a government that prides itself on always taking the balanced approach - how many times have we heard it, always seeking the balanced approach between spending and tax cuts, between debt reduction and taxation - when it comes to national unity it takes a totally unbalanced approach. When it comes to national unity and adjusting federalism to accommodate the strains of regional-provincial interests, the government spends 90% of its time thinking about Quebec and 10% of its time thinking about the rest of the country. When it comes to Quebec, the government spends 90% of the time trying to defend and perpetuate an unacceptable status quo. When it comes to advocating something new to provide a way out of the constitutional box for either discontented federalists or for weary nationalists in Quebec, instead of presenting both plan A and plan B in balance so Quebecers understand all their options and the consequences of them, the Speech from the Throne contains no plan A and only a veiled reference to a plan B proposal for federal legislation on the secession referendum process and question.
The Prime Minister must come across in Quebec as the schoolyard bully. When the sovereignists show strength, as in the last referendum, he grovels and promises anything, like constitutional recognition of distinct society which he had opposed for 36 years. However, when he thinks his opponents are weakening, he plays the tough guy who is willing to go to court. On the question of national unity, Quebecers are used to seeing the Prime Minister playing the blowhard. That has been his style throughout his political career. The Prime Minister is brave when his adversaries are disorganized, but he makes himself scarce as soon as they begin to rally round.
If federalists are going to speak credibly to Quebecers we must be consistent and balanced. We should recognize that status quo federalism has little appeal in particular to the young. We should not risk a revival of support for separation as a reaction to clumsy miscalculations by status quo federalists. If plan A and plan B are to be presented they must be presented in balance, with plan A representing reform of the federation with the priority being given to communicating it to those who are searching for a third way.
Those are the four big winds that we see blowing across the country. We see nothing in the Speech from the Throne that shows any recognition of them whatsoever, that shows any preparedness to harness them for the benefit of the country in the 21st century and no adjustment of federalism beyond the status quo. In our judgement, this deficiency will not be remedied until there are 150-plus members of parliament from all parts of the country committed to that vision of a reformed federation for the 21st century.
One might ask why there is so much public interest and support throughout the country for things like tax relief, criminal justice reform, the strengthening of families, health care reform and the reform of federal-provincial relations to make them more cooperative and productive, and yet so little principled commitment or action on these fronts in the legislative program of the federal government. The answer lies in the fact that the federal political institutions of the country, in particular this parliament and this House of Commons, are defective in terms of their capacity to accurately assess and represent the public will and to respond democratically to public demands.
This is why Reformers want not simply to reform particular fiscal, social, economic or justice policies of the government. We want to reform the system itself whereby these policies are developed and implemented in the first place. We have a vision of a country and a system of government that is truly democratic, not simply democratic in appearance, not an autocracy where people get a chance to vote for the autocrat every four years, but a genuine democracy where the institutions are truly representative and accountable and where the first allegiance of members of parliament is not to their party or to themselves but to the people who elect them.
We envision a parliament where the upper house is a credit and a complement to democracy, not the disgrace to democracy that it is now. We envision a Senate that is democratically elected with equal numbers per province and effective powers to safeguard and represent regional interests. If the country had a workable Senate, in particular the way the Fathers of Confederation envisioned it to be, the first place where these four regional winds that are blowing would register in Parliament is the Senate. As it is, it is the last place. They could have a hurricane over there and they would not even recognize it as a wind.
We envision a parliament where there is genuine free voting in both the Houses, not just on private members' bills or on exceptional occasions when the government does not want to touch a moral issue with a 10-foot pole, but every day on issues of substance and on government bills and opposition motions of every description.
We envision a house of commons where a prime minister with genuine democratic convictions has risen to his feet. The Prime Minister might want to take some notes on this. We would like to see a prime minister stand in the House and say, "It is not the policy of my government to regard every vote as a vote of confidence in the government. If a government motion is defeated or an opposition motion is carried the government will not resign. It will respect that vote and only resign in response to the passage of an explicit vote of no confidence".
Can hon. members imagine even for a moment what a difference that one simple change would make to improve the democratic nature of this place? The capacity of every single member to more effectively represent constituents' interests would be increased, in particular when the constituents' will conflicts with the party line. The power of the leaders, in particular the prime minister, to coerce votes would be restrained. Committees would be more independent. They could initiate legislation. Debates would no longer be meaningless, sequential soliloquies because members would actually be free to change their mind or their positions as a result of something that some other member had said. Legislation would be enacted perhaps not in exactly the same form that it was originally introduced by the government, but enacted nevertheless by majority vote and in accordance with a broader cross-section of public and national opinion than would otherwise be the case.
We envision a parliament that regularly invites the public to participate in making major national decisions; a democracy where referendums on key issues are regularly held; where citizens can initiate a referendum if enough of them feel strongly enough about the need for a legislative measure; a democracy where elected officials who abuse their public trust can be fired for cause by an electorate itself through a recall mechanism; a democracy where parliament is willing to give the public a chance to vote in favour of reforms to the electoral system itself, inviting Canadians to choose from among such options as continuation of the first past the post system, adoption of some form of preferential balloting, a system of proportional representation or some combination of these measures.
In other words, we envision a democratic parliamentary system where the principles of genuine democracy, of effective representation, of true accountability, of free votes and of public participation are actually practised and reflected in the day to day operations of our institution.
This is the scale of the demand for democracy that is abroad in the land. We see it in British Columbia where just the prospect of a recall mechanism has the anti-democrats quaking in their shoes, as they should. We see it in Alberta where hundreds of thousands of people went out and participated in a Senate election knowing that the Prime Minister, in all his stubbornness, would not respect their wishes. They went out anyway. They went to the meetings. They marked their ballots in the spirit of democracy.
Perhaps the most encouraging thing for Canadian democrats this summer was a conference held at Bird's Hill Provincial Park in Manitoba by the First Nations Accountability Coalition, a group now representing grassroots aboriginal people from more than 200 first nations communities across the country. What were they talking about? They were talking about fiscal and democratic accountability for on-reserve governments and the department of Indian affairs.
The spirit of democracy is alive in the country. However, when we look at the Speech from the Throne what do we see? Not a flicker of enthusiasm for any of the great democratic principles and reforms that would make the country a model democracy for the 21st century.
People from emerging democracies, some from the former Soviet Union, from Africa and from Asia, visit the House and the Speaker's chambers. They sit in the balcony expecting to see a model democracy. If we handed them the Speech from the Throne they would not guess that there is a commitment to democracy, to democratic reform or to making this democracy work better. It is a shame.
I have devoted almost the entirety of my reply to the Speech from the Throne to demonstrating its greatest flaws: its deficiency in principle and vision. In order to be constructive, I have also endeavoured to outline by contrast the principles and vision to which the official opposition is firmly committed and which we believe should animate and direct the legislative program of the Government of Canada; principles of fiscal responsibility; vigorous encouragement of private enterprise and free markets; principles of social responsibility for law and order and integrity of the family; respect of the line between the courts and the parliament; principles of reformed federalism; and, principles of genuine democracy.
This brings me to my final point. The official opposition is deeply committed to these principles. We have left our homes and our normal occupations to fight for them in elections and in parliament. However, the official opposition is not naive enough or egocentric enough to believe that we have some exclusive monopoly on these principles.
For example, across the country there are hundreds and thousands of supporters and voters for various political parties who believe in the principle of fiscal responsibility, in particular the need for national tax and debt reduction. However, because so many of the people who hold these convictions are divided in their political loyalties between various political parties, between several federal parties, or between provincial parties that espouse these principles and federal parties of the same name that do not, it has not been possible to amass the political support required to elect the 150-plus members needed in this parliament to make real tax reduction and tax relief a reality.
Across the country there are millions of people who would agree in principle that Canada needs to make a new commitment to law and order, to preserving the family and to reforming federal-provincial relations. However, again, because the political loyalties of those people are divided among various political groups, the country ends up being governed by a party that is committed to none of these principles and elected with only 38% of the vote.
It could be argued that if only we could secure some of these democratic reforms I have enumerated, in particular free voting in the House or some change in the electoral system, it would then be much more possible to form temporary or permanent coalitions of members of the House who are committed to the same principles but find themselves currently divided by party lines and loyalties.
There is a catch-22 to that argument. In order to implement those democratic reforms, we need the 150-plus votes required to carry a motion or a bill and no such free voting or committed majority exists in this Chamber at the present time. What is this telling us? What is this telling Canadians? It is telling us that there is a need for a realignment of the party lines in the country in order to implement policies based on widely shared principles and values be they those that I have enumerated or some other set of principles that others may define.
It is to advance the principle of political realignment, the principle that party lines and party structures must be adjusted from time to time to better unite rather than further divide all those who share certain common principles essential to the implementation of public policy conducive to good government, that the official opposition has offered to work with others like-minded, regardless of past party affiliation, to create a principled united alternative to the current administration in time for the next election.
In this partisan House, I am well aware that arguments in favour of cooperation across party lines for the sake of the country usually fall on deaf ears. However, out in the real world where voters and taxpayers live this is not the case.
I believe that increasing numbers of Canadians are watching us with two questions in mind whether or not we as practising politicians want to recognize it. They are watching first to see whether any existing party is willing to make a sincere effort to define new common ground on which large numbers of Canadians could unite in new ways to lower taxes, to heal the health care, to democratize their institutions and to unite our country, all the things the status quo Liberal administration has been unable to provide.
Second, they are watching to see if any existing party is so committed to these principles that it is prepared to set aside its own partisan goals, even if for a moment, and work with others who are like minded, regardless of past party affiliation, in order to implement those principles at the federal level.
Two weekends ago the once great Progressive Conservative Party of Canada said no to both the idea of seeking new common ground and setting aside its own narrow partisan goals to work with others. It will have to live with the consequences of that decision, the kind of inward looking thinking that reduced its representation from 169 seats in the 34th Parliament to 2 seats in the 35th Parliament, that has reduced its party membership from 90,000 a year ago to 18,000 under the current leadership, at least half of whom reject the traditional conservative principles of both fiscal conservatism and free trade.
The Reform Party of Canada and the official opposition in this Chamber has said yes to both those questions. Over the next few months it will continue to explore whether it is possible to build a new principled alternative to the unprincipled and visionless administration in time for a new century.
The original Fathers of Confederation had a dream. We should remember this because a similar challenge was faced by a parliament long ago that created our country. The original Fathers of Confederation had a dream that could not be realized until there was a political realignment in the old parliament of Canada.
I too have a dream of a new and better Canada that requires a political realignment if it is to be fulfilled early in the new millennium. It has sometimes been asked how was it that the original Fathers of Confederation, a group which contained people who wanted to conserve certain old things like the French language and culture and the British connection and which contained people with radical new ideas on federalism and advanced democracy, were able or willing to work together to bring into being the new confederation.
The short answer which has meaning for us today is that the conservers of the old and the advocates of the new learned to bear with one another and to recognize each in the other the necessary complement of their one-sidedness. The defenders of the old need the challenge of new ideas. If they do not have that the old ossifies and eventually decays.
The advocates of change need the influence of the advocates of old principles to constrain them from going too far. If the two can ever bear with one another, one of the products of their doing that at the turn of the last century was the country of Canada itself.
I invite all Canadians who share in their hearts a vision of a better Canada where taxes are lower and government less intrusive; where law and order and the value of the family are enhanced rather than undermined by federal policy; where federal and provincial governments cooperate rather than bicker in a better federal union to provide better health, education and social services for our people; and where federal political institutions like the Senate and the House command a new respect because of their effectiveness and commitment to democratic accountability to work together. I invite all who share in this vision and the principles on which it rests to work together to remedy the deficiencies in principle and vision that characterize this last gasp throne speech from a tired and visionless administration.
In the meantime I move that the following words be added to the address: And that this House regrets that your Government has failed through a lack of vision and commitment to sound principles to adequately address the allegations of corruption against it, including the abuse of patronage; failed to bring integrity to Canada's immigration system by allowing organized crime to take advantage of Canadians' generosity and by undermining the standing of legitimate immigrants and genuine refugees; failed to seriously deal with the problems of drug trafficking, youth crime, and child pornography; rejected the common sense policies of other governments, most notably the Ontario and Alberta Governments, of lowering taxes to create jobs and prevent companies, young people, and capital from leaving the country; failed to maintain the supremacy of Parliament in relation to the court; failed to recognize the serious plight of Canadian agriculture and to provide a framework for reorganizing the airline industry; failed to provide for the democratic reform of federal institutions and the reform of federal-provincial relations through the rebalancing of powers; and therefore, having failed to demonstrate the capacity, commitment, and vision required to lead this country into the 21st century, has lost the confidence of this House and the Canadian people.