Tuesday, February 24, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the energy options paper.
I also have for tabling the final work plan for the Cabinet Commission on Energy.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have two documents for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Statements by ministers.
Alcohol and drug addictions treatment program changes
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to inform members about changes being made to the alcohol and drug addictions treatment program provided by alcohol and drug services.
Recovery from an addiction is not something that happens overnight or in a month or six months. It is a process that can take a lifetime and can involve family members, co-workers and the community as a whole. The changes I am outlining today reflect that awareness.
With the introduction of the new programming, people facing alcohol and drug abuse programs will now receive the kind of support that is most appropriate at different stages of the recovery process.
The new program will offer a 14-day medical detoxification process, a 12-day treatment program and an additional 14-day program for clients who require additional supports. Contrary to reports, there will be a residential component to this program for those who require it or for those who are considered at a greater risk without it.
The day programming component has been met with enthusiastic support. In the past, serious concerns have been expressed by individuals who could not or would not participate in a residential program for a variety of reasons, such as child care concerns or abuse issues.
I would like to assure members, however, that beds will be available in the facility for up to 40 days for those who require residential care.
By moving ahead with this new program on April 1, 1998, our government will be offering an enhanced continuum of services to those requiring treatment from addictions.
Mr. Speaker, an individual in need of treatment is primarily responsible for the success of this treatment. Still, no one can stand alone. In recognition of this fact, new components of the program include after-care and follow-up, including reintegration into the community following treatment.
Every three months, the focus will shift to a one-week relapse prevention program. After-care supports are being strengthened through the recovery process and links will be fostered with other social and health agencies.
The philosophy of alcohol and drug services is straightforward. The needs of the client determine the types of services most appropriate. The treatment should be flexible and as non-obtrusive as possible. The programs must be sensitive to the diverse and changing needs of the people they serve.
This new program also recognizes that addictions may be only part of the client's problem. ADS will now have a greater ability to work with other agencies and with the client to address personal issues that have contributed to the addiction.
Mr. Speaker, this change in programming came about as a result of a number of concerns raised during extensive consultations in Yukon communities last fall. One of the principal requests was for a treatment program that could be adapted for delivery at the community level. This new programming has that capability.
Research supports this changing direction. Other jurisdictions are also looking to making similar changes in their addictions programs.
We have provided information about these changes to all Yukon addictions workers, health care providers and social workers in the territory. We have met with First Nations agencies and organizations that could be involved in providing assistance in the future.
We're embarking on a new journey that will result in a better system for those who have the most need of it. By doing so, we are meeting one of our government's main commitments to foster healthy communities.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I rise today to respond to the minister's statement on the Government of Yukon's so-called new and improved alcohol and drug treatment programs.
There's an old saying that comes to mind, Mr. Speaker: if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Alcohol and drug abuse problems are alive and well in the Yukon today, and while we on this side of the House do not profess to know all of the answers, we do know that it is irresponsible of any government to play politics with this problem, its cure and its treatment.
There was in place a tried and true drug and alcohol program, which had been operating effectively for the past 26 years - namely, the Crossroads treatment centre. When you have a program like Crossroads, which has served Yukoners so well for so long, you don't end it with the stroke of a pen. If there are problems with the program, you correct them, fix them, then move on.
It would appear that the minister's playing a very dangerous political game, which will have a very serious impact on Yukoners who are trying to recover from alcohol and drug abuse addiction.
The decision to cancel the government's contract with Crossroads and replace it with a 28-day treatment program and a 14-day part-time program was done in haste and with very little consultation with anyone, despite advice to the contrary from the minister.
The jury was also still out on the changes Crossroads had made to its treatment program when the Minister of Health and Social Services terminated the program.
Back in September, I did call for a full investigation of the Crossroads treatment program by his department. This was never done and yet a decision was made to axe the Crossroads contract without giving it a fair and full appraisal and without proper or adequate public consultation.
Perhaps the minister could outline all those groups and individuals who enthusiastically supported his new, untried program. The minister is living in a dreamworld if he believes the Yukon government itself can provide the services that Crossroads did, at the equivalent cost. The Yukon government has no experience, whatsoever, in providing this so-called new and improved treatment program.
The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that this new program is going to cost much more to operate, and one can only hope that it will provide as effective a service as the Crossroads centre provided overall. It is also a fact that this shoot-from-the-hip minister saw an easy way for him to meet the NDP commitment to provide a homeless shelter, and unfortunately he targeted the Crossroads treatment centre. That is what he hit.
The minister talks about consultation, but what is the point of talking to Yukoners if you don't listen to them? Is this open government? Is this the better way, Mr. Speaker? Alcohol and drug abuse is a major problem in the Yukon, and this minister is playing politics with it at the expense of individuals and families afflicted by these dreaded diseases. I say, "Shame on you, Mr. Minister."
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, as the Liberal Health critic, I find this ministerial statement on changes to alcohol and drug treatment programs most disturbing. I find this statement disturbing not because of what it says, but because of what is not said.
Mr. Speaker, what ever happened to good decision-making? I have no problem with the department wanting to keep up to date on the latest and the greatest in the field of addictions. What I have a problem with is that the decision to change the department's approach to drug and alcohol addictions treatment was a totally non-inclusive process.
Mr. Speaker, over the years, I have had to make some pretty hard decisions on how to spend taxpayers' money. The decisions that stood the test of time and that were never changed were those that included the people who were most affected in the decision-making process.
Mr. Speaker, the way this decision should have gone would have been something like this: first of all, I would have gone to the rural communities and to those involved in Whitehorse, including the Kwanlin Dun and the workers at Crossroads, and asked their opinion on how drug and alcohol treatment programs should be delivered, as opposed to the general rural consultation that took place on a wide variety of alcohol-related issues. Secondly, if there was a widespread concern with the way the Whitehorse program was being run, I would have done a little research and gone to the board of Crossroads with two or three options for change to see if they were interested in coming onboard for any of those programs. Then, I would have gone back to the community to see if any other organization had expertise to add to the search for alternative drug treatment programs and to see if any other agency was interested in delivering alternative drug and alcohol treatment programs for the Yukon.
With the best alternative chosen, agreed to by both rural and Whitehorse community agencies, I would have implemented change that was asked for, agreed to and well-accepted.
Mr. Speaker, all decisions about health care in the Yukon have to have those critical elements to them. People are not afraid of change; they are afraid of not being included in the decision about the changes that affect them.
Mr. Speaker, the fact that the department is now embarking on a consultation process after the decision about the program being changed has been made can only be construed as disrespectful to those people - the people who have taken the time to voice their opinions to alcohol and drug services.
There is no question that alcohol and drug treatment programs need support in the rural communities, but this ministerial statement answers none of the questions about those programs, either. How much money is going to be spent on the training of alcohol and drug workers in the various communities? Who gets trained and who doesn't? Will there be any Yukon-wide standards for treatment programs and a universal way to measure their effectiveness? How many beds will be made available in Whitehorse for residential treatment?
In the past, over 20 beds have been filled at a time. What if the demand is greater? Will we send people outside for treatment and who will pay?
Why wasn't the Whitehorse alcohol and drug treatment program tendered out so that other agencies could at least get a kick at the cat on delivering updated ADS services? The treatment program that ADS picked off the Internet is only one program. There is nothing to say it is any more effective than any other new program. Why weren't other options examined? Will there be ADS positions made available to the Crossroads workers who lost their jobs in this debacle?
Mr. Speaker, is this the way we're going to make future decisions about health care in the Yukon? Is this the better way? Can we expect more of these king-like decisions from on high, with a little bit of consultation afterwards to make the peons feel like they actually have a say in these life and death decisions?
Mr. Speaker, I actually have a great deal of respect for the Minister of Health and Social Services and I hope, in the future, we can look forward to better and more inclusive decisions. I know that the minister will learn from this mistake.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, I guess up to now I've always assumed that the word "Luddite" applied to technological change; it appears it can be extended to social change as well. So I'm glad to see the social Luddite over there from Klondike saying his bit. I agree that he did do a bit of a mea culpa because he was one of those people who was calling for an investigation.
This was not a political decision. This was not a political choice. This decision was made after consultation. There was consultation with NNADAP workers, with community health representatives, with social workers, community justice workers, First Nations healing councils, community transition home workers, prevention workers, after-care workers, Yukon College instructors, ministerial representatives, school councillors, social development coordinators, and it goes on and on - in Carmacks, Pelly, Faro, Mayo, Ross River, Dawson, Watson Lake, Teslin, Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing, Destruction Bay and Haines Junction, and indeed in Whitehorse.
The consultations began at the end of September. We went out to get some ideas on how to best serve Yukon people. We wanted to find out if there were gaps in the programs, which we felt that there may be.
Communities told us very, very clearly that they wanted programs at home, that they need after care, relapse prevention and community integration.
As members of this House know, there have been concerns about the manner in which Crossroads was delivering service. We worked with Crossroads to address some of these insufficiencies, including issues surrounding staff, union charges, financial accountability and others.
It is a nonsensical argument to say that we haven't consulted with them; we did. I recognize that people have been helped by Crossroads over the years, and I respect the loyalty of those individuals to that organization. We've also determined that we can provide a program which responds to the needs of communities, which we believe is more cost effective and we believe is more flexible. Just this week we've begun to deliver the treatment program up in Kwanlin Dun.
This new system also allows us to empower First Nation communities in their own healing programs. Some of the money that will be redirected will go for per diems in treatment centres in communities.
We've been given a mandate to provide good, responsible government. Crossroads is a program that we felt was not meeting the needs in this case. We believe that we've found a good solution - not an Internet solution. Some of the document that came off there was drawn from Internet sources because it was a way to provide some research basis.
The Member for Klondike obviously doesn't know the program. He has obviously not availed himself of the opportunity to find out about the program. He's simply shooting from the lip, as is his normal custom. I would repeat to him and to all members of this House, the opportunity to take a briefing on this program, at their convenience, and I urge them to take advantage of this offer.
Energy policy consultation
Mr. McRobb: I rise today to inform the House about the plans of the Cabinet Commission on Energy for public consultation toward developing a comprehensive energy policy for the territory.
During the past year, the commission has met with a number of stakeholders, government departments, corporations and members of the public to discuss energy issues and listen to their concerns and ideas on how best to develop policies beneficial to all Yukoners.
Several public discussion papers have been produced. The one I tabled in the House today links all energy policy initiatives together into a comprehensive package.
The energy options discussion paper and its companion papers will be useful to stimulate discussion and provide options for improving government policies on important matters, such as community energy management, transportation management, supply options principles, investment risks, and utility regulation.
Mr. Speaker, last fall we heard from Yukon people, who said they wanted greater stability in their electrical bills. Now we want to hear their views on five options we're proposing to improve the rate relief program and help lower people's electricity bills.
These options include targeted relief for those who need help paying their electricity bills; winter relief, available to all residential electricity consumers at the time of year it is most needed; enhanced programs to help Yukon people reduce their energy consumption; a green power fund to encourage the use of environmentally-friendly alternative energy sources; and a rate stabilization fund.
Mr. Speaker, long-term electrical rate stability is a primary goal of this government. Our consultations will apply public input toward finding the best way to achieve stability, even during severe circumstances, such as the current mine shutdown at Faro.
As members are aware, rate relief was introduced as a short-term measure to offset rate shock when the Faro mine closed in 1993. Yukon people told us they want a rate relief program that is aimed at achieving long-term rate stability. Options are being developed now to deal with both the immediate situation and the future interests of the territory's electrical ratepayers.
A rate stabilization fund will help protect residents, small businesses and other non-industrial customers from future rate shocks.
Developing this fund with public input is a priority, and members can look forward to a more detailed announcement on this matter in the near future.
In keeping with our government's commitment to public participation, we will hold public meetings in Yukon communities in March and April to hear what Yukon people have to say about these and other energy matters.
There will also be more detailed discussions with groups that have much to say at the technical level about energy matters, including the Council for Yukon First Nations, individual First Nations, the Association of Yukon Communities, individual municipalities, non-governmental organizations and rate hearing interveners.
We will also be surveying Yukoners through a questionnaire to receive feedback and input on energy issues, concerns and priorities.
Next week, Dr. Mark Jaccard from Simon Fraser University will be in the Yukon to speak on community energy management. I encourage members to take the opportunity to hear what he has to say about this interesting policy approach that has worked well in many parts of Canada and elsewhere.
Besides the energy option paper I tabled today, six resource papers will assist the public review of supply options principles. These papers, which were prepared for the commission by the energy resources branch of Economic Development, provide valuable information about wind, wood, coal, hydro, oil and gas, and alternatives. There is also a public discussion paper and a technical paper on rate relief.
In advance of our consultations, we will also be releasing companion discussion papers on a rate stabilization fund, the green power fund, energy efficiency, investment risk, supply options principles and community energy management.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, the energy commission's consultations will be guided by the fundamental goals of energy conservation, protection of the environment and sustainable development of our energy resources. Our goal is to develop a comprehensive energy policy that helps provide Yukon people with stable, reliable and affordable energy. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: By my count, this is the third commissioner's statement from the commissioner, and while he doesn't lack for ideas, I think we'd all like to see some more product.
The idea of the rate stabilization fund, of course, is a very useful idea. But let me suggest to the commissioner that it's time to stop talking about talking about the issues and get some hard product on the table for this House.
The commissioner has indicated in the past to this House that he's prepared to tackle the issues in isolation - some of them anyway - segmentally rather than wait for the completion of the gestation period for this comprehensive energy policy he's been talking about. And the issues that come to mind are the governance issue that he talked about. He identified that for his work plan - the relationship between the government and the Yukon Energy Corporation - and I believe he talked about issues relating to the Utility Board. Then there was that new issue that was raised yesterday in the budget speech - the tie-in, the interconnecting tie-in with some of the neighbouring jurisdictions.
So let me suggest to the commissioner that he get some hard product on the table in the near future and that he give us his final, irrevocable, last work plan so that we know just exactly when these things are going to be done and when we're going to be in a position to judge whether he has done anything that's useful.
Mr. McRobb: I guess I had my hopes too high. I was expecting something more constructive from the opposition members.
May I remind the member that our government believes in consultation with the people. We do not make backroom decisions. We are taking these issues to the public. We have prepared papers in advance of our consultation in respect of the public, and the desire to hear their input - and constructive input - to help us find the best solutions to these problems.
Mr. Speaker, all of this takes time and considerable effort. If the Member for Riverside has ideas on how to expedite this, I'd certainly be open to hearing his suggestions. I've invited him on a number of occasions to meet with me in my office and listen to his input, but so far he has chosen not to take me up on the offer. At times I wonder why; at other times, I don't.
His reference to initiatives, such as the YUB and so on, are all dealt with in the paper and the workplan. These workplans are not chiseled in stone, they are just the best efforts of a future scheduling at a given point in time.
Already, in the past year, he refers to - I can recall several - newsclips, where the member got air time making an issue out of the fact that, apparently, we were somewhat late in delivering product. I can say that he made an issue of nothing. The commission is ahead of schedule. We have shortened our termination date. We have produced more documentation than originally envisioned.
All of this, Mr. Speaker, has been amidst a number of severe challenges, such as two shutdowns of the Faro mine, the direct management of the Yukon Energy Corporation - plus the fire, I might add, at the Yukon Energy Corporation - which all has made progress more difficult.
Amidst those challenges, we have done very well in meeting our workplan commitments. We look forward to our consultations with the public. I invite the Member for Riverside to attend, as I do the members of the official opposition. Thank you.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Phillips: Before I get into my question, I would like to take a brief moment, as is the tradition in the House, and recognize a couple of former members of the House. Bea Firth, from Riverdale South and Ken McKinnon, former member and Commissioner ,are both here. I ask members to make them welcome in the House.
Question re: Old Crow school
Mr. Phillips: My question today is for the Minister of Government Services. Yesterday, in the House, I asked the minister several questions about the contracts let for the Old Crow school that excluded Yukon manufacturers. The minister evaded the question, so I am going to ask the minister again. Hopefully, this time, I will get an answer.
The type of insulation that is specified for the Old Crow school is batt insulation and styrofoam panels. These all have to be shipped in from outside the territory. I am told that it will require 11.5 truckloads, at about $10,000 a load. If this local hire government had specified foam spray insulation, it could have reduced the number of truckloads to about one and employed several Yukoners who manufacture an equivalent insulation locally.
I'd like to ask the minister why his department issued contracts for insulation of the Old Crow school that excluded the participation of these local manufacturers?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would challenge the allegation that this type of insulation excludes Yukoners. I would remind the member that chapter 22 of the Vuntut Gwitchin final agreement does call upon us to try and maximize local content. What we believe is that the type of insulation that would be used in this school would maximize the number of local employment opportunities for individuals in Old Crow. As well, the nature of the construction of the school - the very type of construction - requires that this type of rigid styrofoam insulation be used.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that chapter 22 didn't envision us buying all the materials from southern Canada. I think there are people in the territory who produce an equivalent product. He would have saved about $100,000 in trucking, and it would have allowed Yukoners to have the jobs and to be employed in Old Crow. Why didn't the Government of the Yukon, with its local hire/local purchase policy that it's been heralding, why didn't it at least give these individuals an opportunity to bid? They didn't even have an opportunity to bid, because the specifications ruled out their product. Why didn't they do that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest, before the member gets too exercised about this - and I want to take a moment and lean over to his friend, the Member for Klondike, one of whose constituents, I believe, got the insulation contract, so perhaps he would like to say something on that - I should point out that my friends across the floor have been fighting us in advancing the concept of local hiring. Now they pretend to champion it.
As we indicated, the local content, the local hiring, also does not just apply to Whitehorse. It also applies to maximizing opportunities for the people of Old Crow, and that's what we've attempted to do.
Mr. Phillips: The minister misses the point. He misses the point completely. Mr. Speaker, the press release the government put out today is misleading, to say the least.
If you look into the -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order has been called.
Hon. Mr. Harding: The member saying "misleading" is unparliamentary.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, there's no point of order. The press release is misleading. I'm not accusing the minister of being misleading. It's the information provided in the press release that's misleading.
Speaker: There's no point of order. Continue the question, please.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The minister pointed out that one of the constituents of the Member from Dawson received the contract, but what he didn't point out is that if the contract for the trusses had gone to a local truss manufacturing company, Mr. Speaker, of the $240,000-odd, over $200,000 of it would have stayed in the Yukon.
The way the minister's awarded the contract, probably less than $10,000 will stay here, and it won't create any Yukon jobs. It'll create jobs in Alberta and British Columbia. That's what's wrong with what this minister's saying, Mr. Speaker.
This is the only large capital project that's happening this year. Can the minister tell this House why he didn't instruct his department to ensure that all the design specs would allow for the participation of Yukon manufacturers? Why didn't the department - they've been planning this for a year - have a list of Yukon manufactured products that could be used in the school, and why didn't they make sure that the specifications allowed those people to at least bid on the job - not get the job, but at least bid?
They excluded local hire, local purchase. They said forget it, Mr. Speaker. Why didn't they give them a chance to bid?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, the member is following his usual nonsensical route. As a matter of fact, the architect met with the business incentive officer prior to this. They spent an afternoon going through it. The design recommendations from the architect were reviewed with the manager and our technical staff.
Things such as truss joints and insulation passed the test of being available from local suppliers. Now, I understand that the member there doesn't want anyone here to be able to supply, only to manufacture, so we'll have to have to take that up perhaps with some of the companies that actually indeed supply.
As a matter of fact, part of the decision with regard to the Styrofoam, which is manufactured by Dow Chemical, is that it's an industry standard and it is supplied by all building suppliers in the Yukon.
Did consultations with industry take place? Yes, they did. The schematic design was forwarded to the Yukon Contractors Association for comment and review, and the YCA was specifically asked to make suggestions as to how Old Crow First Nation involvement could be maximized. So, the member is simply wrong.
Question re: Old Crow school
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister is wrong. With 11-percent unemployment in the Yukon and skyrocketing in the near future, it would have been a lot better to have it manufactured here than shipped in from outside, and the minister knows that.
My question is directed to the Government Leader. Yesterday, he said in the budget speech, and this is on trade and I quote, "One goal of this strategy is to help local businesses develop the capacity to sell their goods and services outside the Yukon. We believe this will make Yukon companies stronger financially and create more Yukon jobs."
I would like to ask the Government Leader: wouldn't the Government Leader agree that the best way to help local businesses develop the capacity to sell their goods and services outside the territory would be first and foremost to use and specify these quality products in our own government construction, and why didn't this government do that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, it probably would be too trite for me to say that I tutored too long under the Yukon Party government, which didn't even allow Yukon contractors to bid on the major capital projects of the day. So, that would be too simple an answer.
I would point out to the member that, when we indicated to the territory that we wanted to review the rules respecting local hire and local content, we indicated that we wanted to do this very deliberately through a proper procedure that involved the public - that did not simply involve some backroom thinking by a few backroom boys, but instead involved the public thoroughly in those public discussions.
We resolved not to break the rules, but to change the rules, and as the local hire commission has gone to some lengths to make some good practical suggestions on how the system can be changed, the Minister of Government Services will be responding in a very thoughtful, considerate way to those rule change proposals. When we announce our response to those many practical suggestions, I am looking very much forward to the Yukon Party support for the many suggestions that the Yukon hire commissioner has tabled.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, Yukoners have to be very disappointed with the answer that has just been given by our Government Leader.
This government has been in power for over a year and a half. In this budget, we see the building of the Old Crow school. They had total control over what happened to the building of that school - total control. In the election campaign, that minister, that Government Leader, and the Member for Whitehorse Centre said that in three months they would have a local hire policy in place. They haven't done that, but they had an opportunity in this job to ensure that Yukoners at least could bid the job. They didn't do that.
I'm asking the Government Leader: how the devil does he hope to promote the export of Yukon manufactured products if he doesn't buy them himself?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member will not be surprised if I disagree with him on virtually every point he's made, beginning with how long the government has been in office. I realize that sometimes 30-minutes' worth of Question Period can sound like two years in any normal person's life, but we have not been in office for over a year and a half, as the member I'm certain already knows full well.
In any case, with respect to the Old Crow project and any capital construction project, as I mentioned already to the member, this government doesn't break rules. This government changes rules very carefully and deliberately, and we've gone through the process of reviewing all the procedures that may add to local content and local hire, and we will very thoughtfully - very deliberately - look to changes to those rules to maximize local content. Until that time, we will follow the rules - the rules were embraced by the Yukon Party government in the years before.
That is our commitment to the people. We don't break rules. We change rules, and we do so thoughtfully and carefully.
Mr. Phillips: Well, we have 11-percent unemployment in the territory and it's going to go a lot higher now that 400 more people from Faro are out of work. We have a Government Leader rising in the House yesterday and giving this great speech, talking about capital construction projects of schools that are going to create all kinds of jobs in the territory and we have the Minister of Government Services handing jobs to Alberta and British Columbia - and a government that professes to be the champions of local hire and local purchase.
I would like to know from the Government Leader when - when - are we going to see the contracts come out on the only major construction project in the territory that're going to ensure that companies offering products that are presently manufactured in this territory at least have an opportunity to bid the jobs. They didn't even have an opportunity. It's shameful.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have to announce, for the first time in this Question Period, that there is one proposition that the member just made that I agree with - one out of all the things he has said so far - and that was that we both agree that yesterday's speech was a great speech.
We do not, as I mentioned before, under pressure even from the Yukon Party, break the law when it comes to contract regulations. We, in fact, follow the law and seek ways to change it intelligently and thoughtfully.
I would point out to the member that a large portion of the work already associated with the Old Crow school is, in fact, going to Yukon contractors and suppliers. So, the technical points that the member is raising now with respect to one small feature of this particular contract, which could have been, perhaps, supplied by local suppliers - and would have been if we had had rule changes last year, but we were, of course, bequeathed of the Yukon Party's contract regulations - t
he fact will remain that the vast majority of the work on this project and the vast majority of the businesses that will be working on this project will be Yukon-based workers and Yukon-based businesses.
And I can tell the member another thing: we did allow people to bid on this project. We did not do, as I pointed out before, as the Yukon Party did with the biggest capital project this territory has even known - the Yukon hospital construction project - prevent Yukon-based contractors from bidding on the project, as the Yukon Party did with the hospital.
Question re: Old Crow school
Ms. Duncan: My question today is for the minister responsible for Government Services.
Today, the minister has issued a news release stating that the supply of materials for the Old Crow school has been awarded to Yukon suppliers. While Yukon companies may be supplying the materials, it is a fact that a good deal of the products will be manufactured outside of the Yukon - say, Alberta, for example. The minister needs to ask some tough questions instead of just reading his briefing notes and his media statements.
Will the minister tell this House, of the million and a quarter dollars of revenue that Yukon businesses have been awarded, how much of this material is being manufactured in the Yukon and how much of this money is simply a transfer of funds to Alberta-based manufacturers?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the last time I checked I wasn't aware that we had a nail industry here, but maybe there's one that's out there fledgling. Pressure-treated wood - I suppose that's something that's out there. But when I look at this, when I take a look at the list, I'm sort of assuming that the member is opposed, then, to wholesalers, Yukon wholesalers - is that it? - not having the opportunity to be able to supply things? That would be my interpretation on that.
I can certainly break down and find out how much of the nail industry here is being supplied. I will attempt to try to get some information. I hear the chattering of my friend for Riverdale North there. I would suggest that maybe he wants to go through here and maybe discuss again with his colleague, the Member for Klondike, that perhaps Yukon suppliers in Dawson should not be allowed to bid on these?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the minister's forgetting that it's not me being called to task, it's that minister, for the way that this project's been handled.
Earlier, it's been mentioned in this House that the request for proposal states that the project will, at every stage, maximize the economic opportunities for the residents of Old Crow. We know that Yukon manufacturers have been excluded from the process to date. Can the minister state what opportunities have been provided for the people of Old Crow?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, we can provide that. We have been working with the people of Old Crow on trying to maximize opportunities. We have, for example, done work with the people of Old Crow in hiring a local project manager, with having individuals work on the foundations, having people work on the road. We are currently discussing with the members of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation ways that we can maximize those opportunities. In all of our contracts that we'll be letting out, we'll be seeking to maximize local content, local opportunities.
That's not only a requirement of section 22, but I think it's also a moral obligation for a community that has perhaps some fewer economic opportunities than other areas.
As a matter of fact, this week, our project manager is travelling to Old Crow to meet with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to discuss some of the things that we can be doing.
Ms. Duncan: We can only hope that the government will do a better job of fulfilling this - as the minister put it - moral obligation than they've done in fulfilling the need to put Yukoners to work - those who work for Yukon manufacturers.
The record of this government on this project to date can best be described as sad and pathetic. The most important next step is the key contract, that of the general contractor for the construction of the school. That contract has to be issued and awarded properly. What steps has the minister taken to ensure that the next major contract will be awarded, and it will maximize the opportunities for local hire for the people of Old Crow and for all Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I indicated, we have been discussing with the Vuntut Gwitchin the opportunities that would come out of this. We're meeting with them now, as we move toward tendering that contract, to see what kinds of opportunities we can build in there. It will be a requirement of anyone who gets the contract to maximize local labour as much as possible, as well as local training opportunities. I think this is an important opportunity for the people of Old Crow, and that's what we're attempting to do now.
We've begun the process already and will continue to do so.
Question re: Old Crow school
Ms. Duncan: My question is again for the Minister of Government Services.
In another media release, the minister has indicated that it is anticipated that most of the materials will be supplied to Old Crow over the winter road. The current closing date for the road is March 25, which is an ever-narrowing window of opportunity. Has the minister had a commitment from suppliers that they will be able to transport all of these goods to Old Crow in that time frame?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the indication is that we will be able to transport most materials. However, when the decision to move with the road was undertaken, it was also indicated that there would be some systems - for example, mechanical systems and things like that - that may have to come in in another manner, and even in the contract on the road, it was anticipated that approximately 10 percent would have to be moved in by air.
Ms. Duncan: Well, this project - the new Old Crow school - should be shining as the key capital project for Yukoners. However, the only thing that's shining so far is the NDP minister's red face over the fiscal mismanagement.
Given that there are various scenarios - the minister has just started to indicate some of them for how much material may or may not get to Old Crow - can the minister tell this House whether this project will be on time and whether or not it will be on budget at $8.5 million?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm a little surprised. The member seems to be indicating a severe lack of faith in both the people of Vuntut Gwitchin and in the contractors who would possibly get the job. We hired a local company, Pelly Construction, to build the road, and not only did they complete the road in good time, they actually completed it ahead of time.
Incidentally, all of the contracts so far that have been let have come in under what we had anticipated, so we are on budget or, in fact on a couple of the major components, actually under budget.
Can we do it on time? Well, I would presume that if the building of the road is any indication, yes, we can do it on time, and I happen to have a little more faith in the people of this territory than perhaps the member opposite has.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it's not a matter of faith in the contracting community or in Yukoners, and I have a lot of faith in both. I don't have a lot of faith in the Minister of Government Services.
The minister has just committed that this project will be on time and somewhat under budget. In the event that weather conditions are favourable and that the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation agrees, has the Government of Yukon applied for or considered an extension to the permit for the Old Crow road?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't know, Mr. Speaker, but looking outside I believe it was zero or plus two this morning. I would anticipate that there are some things that are even outside my domain and I cannot predict weather. I cannot anticipate weather - I believe it's a federal responsibility, as a matter of fact - but I can say that, given good cooperation, given some weather cooperation, we will be able to complete the project. I would be very, very leery about anticipating pushing this project into April, simply because of the conditions on the road there, and as well such things as creeks and things of that nature. We are committed to trying to complete this project in the most expeditious manner possible and I have faith in the people that we have in the territory to be able to do that.
Question re: Team Canada trade mission
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, yourself and members of this House will recall that the Yukon NDP government recently participated in and supported Team Canada's trade mission to South America, which was led by the Prime Minister of Canada. The Yukon was represented by the Government Leader. The trade mission concentrated on promoting trade and investment opportunities.
My question is to the Government Leader. Would the Government Leader tell this House why he openly supports the Team Canada trade mission and the trade that it was supposed to encourage, yet the representative that he sent to Ottawa on the internal trade agreement refused to support that agreement?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have said consistently from the beginning of our mandate until today, and will into the future, that we do believe in trading opportunities with other jurisdictions, both domestically in Canada and also outside Canada. We also believe in fair trade with those jurisdictions, a subject that we have raised, along with some provinces, when the Team Canada missions have offered that opportunity. Fair trade ensures that all of us can ensure that local laws, which protect our people and protect our environment, will not be compromised.
Mr. Speaker, in the first instance in the member's question, the Member for Whitehorse Centre did not speak to the subject of internal trade, but spoke to the subject only of the multilateral agreement on investment which, incidentally, is not only opposed by most provinces, it's also opposed by the Republicans in the U.S. Congress, who have been considered to be free traders and supporters of NAFTA.
So the position that the Member for Whitehorse Centre took on behalf of the government with respect to the mulilateral agreement on investment was, first of all, consistent with the position that this Legislature took last fall; secondly, perfectly consistent with our trade policy.
Mr. Ostashek: The representative that was sent by the Government Leader clearly spoke on the agreement for municipal - the MUSH sector, as it's called - spoke on seeing that Yukon businesses were treated fairly. That was part of the internal trade agreement that was left to be signed off yet, when it was signed several years ago by myself, as representative of the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, the internal trade agreement already provides safeguards for the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Those were part of the initial negotiations of the agreement, where there is a minimum for procurement of goods and a minimum on the size of the contracts that have to be advertised Canada-wide. So there is protection built in.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon public was well-alerted to the refusal of his representative to support this endeavour, long before the meeting. In fact, the representative was publicly opposing the agreement prior to even seeing it and discussing it in Ottawa.
Would the Government Leader tell the House if he is working to eliminate trade restrictive practices in the Yukon, or does he have one agenda when he travels with the federal Liberals and yet another for Yukoners and Yukon businesses?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, no, of course the position that the government's been taking has been consistent everywhere we've gone, anywhere on the face of the globe, and certainly makes a lot more understandable the position that his own caucus is making with respect to local hire and local procurement.
But let me point out this, first of all. The Member for Whitehorse Centre did not speak at the meeting at all on the subject of the internal trade agreement. That position will be determined by Cabinet shortly. The member spoke only on the subject of the multilateral agreement on investment, and not only took a position in this Legislature, but also was supported by the majority of the people in this Legislature.
So, the message has been consistent: fair trade for Yukon, fair trade for Canada. We will be pursuing trading opportunities where they make sense to us and our economy.
Mr. Ostashek: The representative may have taken a position if a motion was debated in this Legislature, but the Government Leader is fully aware that it wasn't a unanimously supported motion.
I have in my hands a letter that was written by the Minister of Economic Development to yourself, Mr. Speaker, on July 3, 1997, in which he states, "All parties to the agreement also agree to eliminate trade-restrictive practices and to treat businesses and residents of other jurisdictions the same as they treat their own businesses and residents." That was a letter signed on behalf of the government by the Minister of Economic Development.
So, I would like to ask the Government Leader this question: the Government Leader and the NDP have publicly agreed to support eliminating trade barriers and restrictive practices, yet they flip-flopped. We were noted in the paper as one of two jurisdictions that has refused to sign the trade initiative. I would like to ask the Government Leader, at this time, to honour the position that was outlined in the letter by the Minister of Economic Development and to sign this deal, or will he choose to sit on his hands while the rest of Canada takes steps that will positively impact their businesses and jobs in their areas?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I realize that this may be somewhat complicated for the member, but let me suggest this. When we've talked about wanting to eliminate unnecessary barriers - and the NDP governments in the past have worked to eliminate unnecessary barriers in the whole trucking de-regulation has been an element of that - we did not say at the same time that we could not pursue, for example, training opportunities or even mandatory certification for apprentices on government projects. We did not say that we couldn't pursue the whole notion of consulting with local manufacturers, such as people have been suggesting here, with respect to building projects that are coming forward. In the future, I'm certain that those reforms will certainly take place. Certainly I assume from the member's discussion so far that he has no problems with that kind of recommendation that has been put forward by the local hire commission, because he spent the first half of Question Period talking about it. So I'm certain that when we adopt probably most of the good, practical suggestions made by the local hire commissioner, I'm certain we're going to get enthusiastic support from the opposition benches.
Now, with respect to the internal trade agreement, Mr. Speaker, we are going to be making a decision with respect to the internal trade agreement, and we will do so in the interests of Yukoners, consistent with the consistent policies that we have taken all along supporting fair trade for this country and fair trade for this territory.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members' business
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of government private members to be called on Wednesday, February 25, 1998. They are Motion No. 96, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and Motion No. 95, standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Unanimous consent requested
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to an agreement reached by the House leaders, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to waive the provisions of Standing Order 27(1) in order to debate Motion No. 97 respecting national unity, standing in the name of the Government Leader. This motion, the text of which was reviewed by the House leaders earlier this day, was sent to the table by the Government Leader during Daily Routine this afternoon.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Motion No. 97
Clerk: Motion No. 97, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Speaker: It is moved by the hon. Government Leader:
THAT this House accepts the recommendations of the Yukon Commission on Unity;
THAT this House supports the Principles for National Unity in the Calgary Declaration as follows:
1) All Canadians are equal and have rights protected by law.
2) All provinces, while diverse in their characteristics, have equality of status.
3) Canada is graced by a diversity, tolerance, compassion and an equality of opportunity that is without rival in the world.
4) Canada's rich diversity includes Aboriginal Peoples and cultures, the vitality of the English and French languages and cultures and a multicultural citizenry drawn from all parts of the world.
5) 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 well-being of Canada. Consequently, the legislature and Government of Quebec have a role to protect and develop the unique character of Quebec society within Canada.
6) If any future constitutional amendment confers powers on one province, these powers must be available to all provinces.
7) 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.
and supports continued efforts by Canadians and their elected leaders to seek a resolution to this issue;
THAT this House endorses the Framework for Discussion on Relationships presented to the premiers and territorial leaders by the leaders of the five national Aboriginal organizations in Winnipeg on November 18, 1997;
THAT this House's support for the Calgary Declaration does not compromise the future constitutional development of the Yukon;
THAT this House supports minority rights of French communities outside Quebec and English communities inside Quebec; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to continue to involve Yukon people in the unity processes, and to continue to fully contribute towards the renewal of a healthy and vibrant Canada.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. I'm proud and pleased to speak to this motion this afternoon, not only because Canadians need to acknowledge and stand up for what Canada stands for, but also for what Canada has to offer, and also because the legislative motion this afternoon is timely.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, that we must speak to all other Canadians at a time when there are those who would see Confederation disintegrate, those who would tear us apart.
Mr. Speaker, most of Canadian history has been all about a diverse, spread-out population fighting against geography, fighting against socio-economic forces that would pull us apart.
It's been widely spoken of in this Legislature that the United Nations has acknowledged Canada as the most livable country on earth. Time after time, we are reminded by an international organization that what Canada has to offer its citizens is the envy of the world.
Most of us don't need to be told that. On Heritage Day, this last week, people who came to the ceremonies at the federal building in Whitehorse spoke of cooperation, compassion, freedom and democracy, tolerance, respect, taking care of each other in time of need, the beauty of the country, and the diversity of the country. All these words tripped off people's tongues so easily and so naturally, because they reflected what Canadian truly do believe about themselves.
What was also obvious was that for Canadians to really understand and appreciate what they have, they have to work to keep their country together. Somebody at the ceremony told me that the problem is that Canadians never know that they've had it so good. Mr. Speaker, that is a big problem. Quite often, people do take for granted the freedoms, the institutions that bind us, the diverse character of our country that makes it so rich, so cosmopolitan, so livable and so exciting - these features of Canadian identity are often truly taken for granted.
When I was growing up in school, the joke among the children at school was that Canadians could never really identify themselves unless they were comparing themselves with somebody else; that Canadians themselves were presumably so tedious a people that they couldn't even reflect on what they had that was so wonderful. That is less so today than it was when I was a young man and a boy.
More and more, today, we are able to see the character that makes this country so attractive. So when someone says we don't know that we've had it so good, it is time that those of us who do care, and do realize how well we have it - it's time that we speak to protect the country and to raise awareness about what this country has to offer.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier of Saskatchewan, who has been a noted statesman on the subject of Canadian unity, and who for many years has provided good leadership and participated in many different constitutional conferences - in fact, if you can believe this, he participated in a pre-1970 constitutional conference on behalf of the Government of Saskatchewan, and he participated in the Calgary meeting last summer - he has spoken, often eloquently, of what he refers to as the 80:20 solution to the salvation of this country.
The 80-percent:20-percent solution refers to 80-percent work trying to preserve and promote the institutions and the understandings between people that bind us together, such as protecting universal education and health care - those national initiatives, those national programs and those national services that reflect who we are, which takes up most of the work, and the 20-percent solution, which refers to the constitutional discussions; discussions that frame the legal network and the constitution that bind us together, as well as identifying the important symbolic messages that make us feel good to be part of a country.
It is the latter that I will speak to now, the symbolic messages that we must issue to each other to ensure that we all feel that we're part of this same family.
Last year, there was a concern that those who would have the country separate were gearing up for another round of constitutional debate and leading discussions internally in Quebec to try to seek another mandate to negotiate full or partial separation of Quebec from Canada. It was to be billed as another internal discussion only inside Quebec, without care or concern for the English, the French, the aboriginal, the multi-ethnic communities that lived not only outside Quebec, but the minorities who lived within.
Mr. Speaker, there was a feeling, a strong feeling - not only among the first ministers of this country but also the Council of Canadian Unity and other national organizations - that we must do something, we must say something to all Canadians and to residents of Quebec that we want to fight to keep this country together; that we want to express the values that are the bond that has made this country work.
Mr. Speaker, we knew that people needed to speak out. We all knew that to simply leave the future of this country to an internal debate led by a separatist government in Quebec would put us close to the brink of disaster that we nearly experienced during the last round of discussions in that province.
It is commonly said, Mr. Speaker, that without a last-minute show of love and respect by people from across Canada, we may have lost the last referendum - the federal cause may have lost the last referendum in Quebec - and no one wanted to see that performance repeated.
Mr. Speaker, people said that they wanted to speak. The first ministers realized that it was not their place to simply speak out on the people's behalf, but that the voice had to emanate from the grassroots of this country, that the people themselves had to speak and that governments should act as a catalyst for those discussions.
So, last year, the first ministers met in Calgary to determine what they could do to encourage public discussion and a voice of support for Canadian unity. At the time, Mr. Speaker, the federal government was most definitely interested and involved in those discussions and, though they were not present at the meeting in Calgary, they were most present over the phone, they were most present in terms of their interest, and there was unanimous agreement that there must be some grassroots public consultations that would encourage the strengthening of the Canadian federation.
It was agreed, Mr. Speaker, that the guidelines for the process of the public consultation would be open to the general citizenry, that in every province and territory creative ways of engaging Canadians would be employed. It was agreed that there should be a coordinated time frame, that all jurisdictions should explore public opinion on the subject of Canadian unity and report, preferably by the spring, and that each territory and province was free to decide on the range and scope of that consultation.
In the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, after the meeting, I had the pleasure to meet with the leaders of the opposition parties - both the Yukon Party and the Liberal Party at the time - and we agreed that the approach taken by Yukon should be a non-partisan public consultation process. It should be as broad based as possible, and it should raise the issues identified in the Calgary framework for discussion.
It was concluded that not only should there be a 1-800 number to encourage consultation, there should also be a questionnaire, and that a unity commission should be formed to lead the public discussion so that the public would be reassured that this was not an attempt by partisan forces to co-opt the process.
We had the pleasure of asking a number of very respected Yukon people, each of whom has a well-respected reputation of their own, to participate in the process. The commissioners that were asked to participate, and who ended up participating, included Pam Buckway, who was the chair of the commission, Doug Bell, Bob Charlie, Michèle Guèvremont, Joyce Hayden and Ken McKinnon. The commission, I will say at the outset, took the task to heart and put a lot of creative energy in pursuing the basic objective, which was to seek public opinion on the Calgary framework for discussion.
Mr. Speaker, as members know, they pursued a very innovative consultation process, which I'll describe in a minute, and ultimately made a report, which I will also briefly describe. They made a report to our Legislature of their findings.
Now, in the intervening period, another event took place that I would like to report to the Legislature about, and that was a meeting that was held in Winnipeg last November between the leaders of the five national aboriginal organizations and the first ministers, where they presented the ministers with a framework of principles for discussion of relationships between federal, provincial and territorial governments and aboriginal governments and peoples. That framework was designed to ensure appropriate respect between aboriginal peoples and all other peoples who have come to the land which is now Canada, and that that respectful relationship would be sustained in future constitutional discussions and processes.
The first ministers of the provinces and the territories took the framework of principles designed by the aboriginal leaders back to their respective jurisdictions and, in the Yukon, those principles were delivered to the unity commission.
Now, the unity commission, as members know, undertook a town hall simulcast meeting, a technical marvel by most estimates. It was simulcast on Television Northern Canada, CHON-FM and CKRW.
It was held on November 26 and there were 300 direct participants, and many more viewers, of course. That evening was a memorable evening in many respects, not only for the production values associated with the event, but also with the wise advice that was provided by so many Yukoners, as well as the participation of the federal Minister of Intergovernmental Relations, who was able to provide the national perspective on those discussions.
There was also a questionnaire that was distributed, Mr. Speaker, 13,000 in total, also published in the Yukon News and the Whitehorse Star, as well as l'Aurore Boreale, as well as on our unity website. This questionnaire had 209 respondents who responded directly to the MLAs of the ridings where they lived. Those responses were delivered to the MLAs and were also compiled as part of the report from the unity commission to the Legislature.
Beyond this consultation, Mr. Speaker, there were also some direct consultations, three times in total, with the executives of l'Association Franco-Yukonnaise. I understand that those consultations were conducted in French.
Mr. Speaker, the findings of the unity commission are both encouraging, from the perspective of Canadian nationalists, and also compelling. A large majority of respondents supported the seven principles for unity in the Calgary declaration. Many people expressed a strong desire to preserve Canadian unity. A substantial majority wanted their elected leaders to continue to pursue a resolution to keep to Quebec in Confederation.
The commission concluded that the Calgary declaration be regarded as a first step in a process of reconciliation and renewal.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not say that there were, of course, those in our community who dissented with the vast majority view and expressed some concern about some elements of the declaration. There were some people, of course, who felt quite exhausted by the constitutional debate of the past decade and somewhat resentful that the political leadership of the country was still attempting to send messages to Quebec and to those who would break up the country that the country was worth saving. While I respectfully disagree with those comments, I am pleased that those people took the trouble to express their opinions to the commission and to the MLAs directly through responses to the questionnaire.
I think it's important, Mr. Speaker, that we have a good broad view of the sentiments of the general public.
Given the thoughtful and considered comments that many people made on Canadian unity, the unity commission recommended that the Legislative Assembly support the principles for national unity in the Calgary declaration and support continued efforts by Canadians and their elected leaders to seek a resolution to the issue. They recommended that this Legislative Assembly endorse the framework for discussion on relationships presented by the national aboriginal leaders in Winnipeg on November 18, 1997. They recommended that the Government of Yukon continue to involve Yukoners in the unity process and provide information on the content of the Calgary declaration and the rationale behind the principles for national unity. They asked that the Legislative Assembly affirm its support for the Calgary declaration and that it be without prejudice to the aspirations regarding the future constitutional development of the Yukon, and they asked the Legislative Assembly to confirm its ongoing support for French language minority rights outside Quebec and the English language minority rights inside Quebec.
Mr. Speaker, the motion that we have on the floor this afternoon fully embraces all of the recommendations the unity commission makes and goes a step further.
As has occurred in other jurisdictions, we have fine-tuned the wording of the Calgary declaration in our motion to better reflect critical concerns raised during the consultations. I'll point out, Mr. Speaker, that these concerns were raised by the community unity commission with the leaders when they presented the report on the morning of the formal announcements of the conclusions of the commission.
We, in the motion, have replaced the reference of Canadian diversity as a gift in recognition of aboriginal people's unique place in Canada, which is a truer descriptor of our nation. And we have added the reference to culture with respect to French and English linguistic diversity. We also acknowledge in the motion this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, that the linguistic minority rights of the French and English outside and inside Quebec, respectively, also include their rights and unique cultural communities.
Mr. Speaker, this motion and the grassroots public expression it represents embodies all that citizens expressed as the values they most love about their country. If passed - and I'm trusting that it will, of course, be unanimously endorsed by all members - this motion will be sent to all provinces and territories and to the federal government to add our voice, our Yukon Canadian voice, to the cause of national unity.
I would like to end, Mr. Speaker, this afternoon by saying that I would particularly like to thank the people of the Yukon Territory for expressing their views. I would like to thank very much the members of the unity commission who put so much heart and soul into this project, and I would like to thank the members of the Legislature who have provided so much constructive comment about the process to date, and thank everyone for standing once again and speaking up for Canada.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure and an honour to rise today to speak to this very important motion on endorsing the Calgary declaration.
I want to say at the outset that when we have a motion like this presented - with the negotiations and the talks that went on between the three political parties that are represented in this Legislature to try to reach a consensus as to how we deal with this motion, how we endorse the Calgary declaration, and how we give our Government Leader the support that he needs from the Yukon people to be able to continue on a course of keeping Canada united and lending our support to that - it is one of those rare occasions where we, as political parties of different philosophical beliefs, all have the same goal in mind and don't resort to playing partisan political games with it, because I believe it is far too important.
Although our Legislature itself is set up to be an adversarial forum for expressing views on behalf of our constituents, this is one of those rare occasions when we can work together for the betterment of all Canadians. I'm glad to be a part of that.
I want to thank the Government Leader for the leadership that he's shown in bringing together a consensus to bring forth a motion to this Legislature that we can all support and we can all speak to. I'm sure, as he has stated, we will have unanimous consent of this legislative body, which is a representation of the people of the Yukon, for the Calgary declaration.
I, too, would like to thank the unity commission, some of whom I see are in the gallery with us today, and thank them for their hard work and for the dedication that they put in to seeking out the views of Yukoners and then tabulating those views and passing on their recommendations, as they were instructed, to the Government Leader.
They did this in a very timely manner. It's not one of those issues that we could have dragged out for a long time, and I'm glad to see that they responded and worked very, very hard bringing it together. There were some very diverse people on the commission itself - different political parties and some very diverse views, I'm sure. But again, I believe that they were a group of people who all had the best interests of Canada at heart.
I don't want to spend time today repeating what the Government Leader has said. He's covered off a lot of how we came to be at this point in time, where this motion needs to be debated in our Legislature and the decision that the Yukon people passed on to Canadians in general in promotion of a stronger Canada.
There is no doubt that the debate on the future of Canada will continue for some time into the future. I know that I, as would many other Canadians, would like to see this issue put to rest and come out with a conclusion to it that keeps a strong and united Canada.
There are other people in this country who would like to see this country torn apart, and on one of those rare occasions in this Legislature, I can wholeheartedly agree with the Government Leader. I am not one of those people. I believe that this is an issue that is worth fighting for and fighting very hard for, because I believe that a divided Canada would be a much weaker Canada.
We have watched over the years the numerous attempts to try to finding a resolution to this issue. We have seen political leaders who have worked very diligently in the past, and very hard, who are no longer with us, have moved on. The issue is still here. The issue has not changed.
What do we need to do to be able to have all Canadians say, "We are proud to belong to a united Canada"?
I think it's important for members of this Legislature, and any of those in the Yukon public who are listening to this debate or will be reading it in Hansard later on, those of us who believe in a united Canada, that when we hear the people who are working to divide this country, that those people - some of our own citizens - who don't feel it's that important an issue. We have all heard people say, "Well, if they want to leave, let them leave. It isn't going to affect me." I think it's our responsibility as elected people in this Legislature to talk to those people and to point out to them the weaknesses of their argument.
While that may be the feeling of the person at the time - and we all get frustrated with this issue; we all say, "Why do we have to deal with this again?" - I think it's fundamentally important that we provide the leadership to convince those Canadians, Yukoners and otherwise, who don't have the interest and won't speak out in support of this issue and keep Canada united, and to point out to them what we would lose if, in fact, we were to allow this country to be separated.
Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very, very clear that I believe we would all lose - and we would all lose big time - if we do not win this issue.
As I said, this discussion has gone on for many years. There has been so much consultation held on this issue, it makes people's heads spin. It makes people not want to participate. As I stand here today, I'm very, very proud of Yukoners - all of those Yukoners who took the time to present their views to the unity commission and who felt it was important that their views were heard and taken into consideration when the unity commission was going to make its recommendations to the Government Leader.
I think that one of the things that makes our country so strong is that we do have diverse views and diverse positions, but we need to be able to pull together in the final analysis and find that balance that is going to be supported by a majority of Canadians. We haven't been able to do that with this issue yet.
We saw Meech Lake fall apart when we thought we had an agreement that was reached by the leaders of our provinces and territories and the federal government. We saw the hard work that went into the Charlottetown Accord and we saw it rejected out of hand by the people of Canada, overwhelmingly.
So, as a result of having had the opportunity and the privilege of sitting in that chair opposite to the one that the Government Leader is sitting in now and representing the Yukon and knowing how gun shy politicians across Canada are, we're dealing with a constitutional issue of national unity again.
It has burned some politicians and burned them badly.
So there has been a reluctance. I know that in the four years that I was Government Leader, it was an issue that came up at almost every conference I went to. Yet, nobody really wanted to sink their teeth into it. We all knew we had to. We all knew the day would come when we would have to face this issue again, no matter how unpalatable we found it.
I do agree with our Government Leader that the Premier of Saskatchewan has been a strong voice for national unity and has provided strong leadership in the national unity debate for many, many years. I find it remarkable that he still has the energy, the enthusiasm, the drive and the dedication to continue his work after he was part of Meech Lake, Charlottetown and the whole ball of wax that goes around national unity and constitutional issues in this country. Nevertheless, I respect him for his tenacity in dealing with this issue, and I know that he'll provide strong leadership in the future.
I think the way I would like to sum up my opinion today is by sharing with the Legislature the views of some of my constituents who answered the questionnaires that were sent out by the commission on the seven principles of the Calgary declaration. I believe that the views of some of my constituents who answered this are views that are shared by most Yukoners and most Canadians.
Number one was: "Do you generally support the principles of national unity as a basis for renewing Canada?" Of all of my constituents who answered, all but one agreed with the majority of the principles. "Quebec is not fundamental to the well-being of Canada, but it adds to the well-being, or, it adds interest to Canada." "All Canadians are equal," was a view that was expressed, "French, native and all other minorities."
"Wishful thinking that Canadians are equal and have rights protected by law and that Canada is graced by diversity, tolerance, compassion and equality of opportunity that is without rival in the world, if we could implement them."
I think that's a great statement. We have a greater strength in numbers in our diversity, culture, origin, and freedom in this country. Those are views that were expressed.
The second one is: "In your view, what is best about Canada and being a Canadian?" Some of the views of my constituents were space, reasonable economics, a reasonably clean environment, federal/provincial division of responsibilities, a good-looking future, a peaceful democracy and unity. Some expressed its diversity in lifestyle, its medicare and its resources. Others expressed being treated like a human being in other countries once they realized that we weren't Americans. I think that's a great view to have, and Canadians can be proud of that - that we are seen by other areas of the world as different from Americans, even though we sometimes don't believe that ourselves.
Diversity, freedom, which we take for granted and do not appreciate, as well, and our social programs, which are eroding. Our medical health care system. However, there were expressions of the Prime Minister's denial of a free vote on Bill C-68. So, there are issues of many, many sorts but we, as Canadians, pull together when we're asked to in the issue of national unity.
And number three: "Should your elected leaders continue to try to find ways to make Canada work better?" One person expressed, "They always do that anyway. This is leading." They considered it a patronizing question to get a desired response. Another person said, "Yes, but how? Leaders do not listen." There's a lot of truth in that statement. A lot of times as leaders we don't listen, or we have selective hearing, and we're all guilty of it. I don't think anybody can blame anybody else any more of that. We're all guilty of that at times, in that we hear what we want to hear, and that may be the problem with the national unity issue in Canada. One part of the country is hearing one thing from the same statement that another part of the country is taking a totally different interpretation of.
Another person said, "We need to take constitutional discussions out of the hands of the premiers and the Prime Minister. They failed twice already - Meech Lake and Charlottetown - and they will screw it up again." Well, they may be right, but this is a question that I don't know the answer to. I wish I did, but the premiers and the Prime Minister of Canada couldn't reach an agreement on it, and when they did reach an agreement on it, Canadians dismissed it out of hand in almost every jurisdiction in Canada, I believe - it was dismissed; the vote was against the Charlottetown Accord - and all for their own specific reason, not for the package. Maybe it wasn't sold well enough. Maybe that's what happened. Maybe our politicians didn't do a good enough job of selling the package. I don't know, but I know that because of the fact that we were unable to reach an agreement at Meech Lake and we were unable to reach an agreement at Charlottetown, we ended up in a referendum that we almost lost. I believe that it woke up many people in Canada.
So, Mr. Speaker, these were comments made by my constituents - and many more, I won't go through them all - but from what I've said here on that, I think they are basically comments that are no different from my constituents than they are from other constituents in Canada. They all had a similar response and a very diverse response as to how we should resolve this issue.
We have today in Canada a question in front of the Supreme Court of Canada. Whether we agree with the Prime Minister taking it to the Supreme Court or not is not the issue. The issue is that it's there, and it is open for debate across this country.
There are many approaches. There are many views as to whether Quebec can separate or cannot separate. My fundamental belief is that it's not a question that ought to be answered in the courts. It's a question that has to be answered in the political forum. The court may set out a procedure, in my opinion, as to how separation would take place if there was a democratic vote for it. I'm going to be very interested in seeing what the Supreme Court comes up with. I think they've been handed a very hot political football and it's going to be interesting to see how they rule on it.
Mr. Speaker, I, for one, never did have any difficulty with the Calgary declaration. I have no difficulty with the changes that have been made to the motion in support of the Calgary declaration as laid out by Yukoners and as a result of the meeting that the Government Leader attended in Winnipeg with First Nations people.
This is an issue that we all have to work together on. I know that we, in the Yukon, have always taken the position in conferences that we were in favour of national unity. We did not want to see Quebec leave and we would work very diligently and do whatever was required of us to help keep it in Canada.
I believe that the Government Leader touched on this in his presentation, but I believe it is worthy of further comment, and that is about the number of Yukoners who were quick to jump on an airplane and go to Montreal in the dying days of the referendum when all Canadians who wanted to see this country stay together were getting very, very worried and very scared that we were going to lose that referendum.
I take my hat off to those people who took the time to go and let Quebeckers know that we supported them and we wanted them to stay in Canada.
The unilateral separation of any province, or any part of this country, would fracture the very foundation that Canada was built on. We are a nation that was built by two founding peoples, both French and English. We are a nation of aboriginal peoples. We are a nation to which many minorities have emigrated and taken out Canadian citizenship.
We are a very diverse nation, and I believe that, as a diverse nation, it is a nation that gives us more strength.
One of my constituents also mentioned that the power is in numbers. Quebeckers and Canadians benefit from unity, and the mathematics speak for themselves. I'd like to quote Keith Spicer, who was head of the citizens' forum on unity in 1991, and as a former official language commissioner, summed it up:
"Are you better off together, with 30 million against 250 million? Or are you better off with six million against 300 million anglophones, who are surrounding you and, out of those, 24 million who, yesterday, were your allies, and are now, putting it mildly, not very interested in defending your interests?"
I think that's a very powerful statement, and one that I hope we never have to deal with. I hope that this country will stay together. I know I will do all that I can to convince those people who believe that it shouldn't stay together that they are wrong, that there are many opportunities for Canadians, for our children and our grandchildren, in this great country, and that we do enjoy a very high-quality lifestyle. We only enjoy that because we are such a diverse nation and can draw on the different cultures of many, many nations from around Canada - from their people who have come and settled in this great land of ours because they believe in the democratic system that we have set up here and that respects the people of this nation.
Mr. Speaker, I support the Calgary declaration, I support the motion as presented by the Government Leader, and I sincerely hope that the role that we play in this will help to keep Canada united. Thank you very much.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to rise today to speak to the motion before us. I'm honoured that the people of Porter Creek South have asked that I represent them here and that the Yukon Liberal Party has selected me to lead their views in this Chamber.
I would like to begin by expressing my thanks to the fellow leaders in this House, fellow legislators, the Yukon unity commission and its staff members, and most especially the people of the Yukon for their contribution to this discussion and to the Yukon unity commission report.
I would like to express also my appreciation to the government's director of public communications services who has diligently recorded and enclosed the comments from the people of our constituencies to each of us.
The debate on national unity began for me in a very personal way almost 20 years ago. I was asked to help represent the Yukon at the interchange on Canadian studies in Quebec City. This group of Yukoners, including a principal from Faro, students from Dawson City and from Watson Lake, decided among ourselves that each of us would make a presentation about the Yukon, and I was asked to give the address on how we in the Yukon were governed. I opened those remarks by saying how sad it was that I was explaining to the assembled students, largely from Quebec, how badly we wanted to get into the country and they were explaining to me how badly they wanted out.
That was the beginning of my understanding and my appreciation and true understanding for the people of Quebec. It also, I believe, speaks to the fundamental underpinnings of what we now refer to as the Calgary declaration. The Calgary declaration has done what no other constitutional effort has done. It has set out for all Canadians principles of national unity.
My, we do have difficulty defining ourselves as Canadians and as a country, don't we? I remember reading the transcripts of the Berger inquiry - again, 20 years ago - and I believe it was then that the then mayor of Calgary, who is now the Premier of Alberta, said at the hearings, "Canada is the only country in the world that's continually ripping itself up by the roots to see if it's still growing." That attitude was prevalent in the '70s, and I believe the Government Leader has already referred to that attitude as well. We do, thank goodness, define ourselves by more than our prowess at our national game, hockey.
We, as Canadians, are lucky, and we consider ourselves not just lucky but truly blessed to be born in or to emigrate to a country of such opportunity, of such high standards of health and education, a country with room for all, with resources to support ourselves, and the will to help others in nations less fortunate than our own. This is a land that is rich in history and in possibilities. We are part of the best country in the world.
Year after year, by the standards measured, Canada comes out on top as the best nation to live in. Our lifestyles and the rights and freedoms we enjoy are not to be taken for granted.
It is incumbent upon us all - politicians, citizens, old, young, First Nations immigrants - to work to ensure that this great nation continues to function to the benefit of all Canadians. We must make this federation strong and responsive to the needs of all Canadians.
It was interesting that my colleague, the Member for Porter Creek North, also chose to note and quote from the views of his constituents. I was particularly interested in this response from one of my constituents. In answer to the question, "Should your elected leaders continue to try to find ways to make Canada work better?" this constituent said, "If Canadians worked harder at keeping Canada working better, it would be less important for separatists to separate."
We need to work harder. We needed to seek out and establish principles for keeping this country together. The "we" needed to be not simply the political leaders and politicians. Yukoners themselves needed to speak to this issue and needed to be heard.
I'd like to particularly note the unity commission and other leaders, in their efforts to ensure that Yukoners were heard: Don Taylor, tracking down those Yukoners not normally reached by cell phone as they would be in some other parts of this country, but tracking those who are out in the bush.
The electronic town hall was truly Yukon history in the making.
Leadership that was demonstrated by the Yukon unity commission must not be forgotten. The Yukon unity commission has summarized the views of Yukoners and has recommended five key points to us.
I think it's important to review those five points: that we support the principles for national unity in the Calgary declaration; that we endorse the framework for discussion on the relationships that was presented to the premiers and government leaders by the leaders of the five national aboriginal organizations in Winnipeg in November of last year; that we continue to involve Yukoners in the unity process, and; that the Yukon Legislative Assembly affirm that its support for the Calgary declaration is without prejudice to its aspirations regarding the future constitutional development of the Yukon.
We tend to forget sometimes, as Yukoners, just how much history and how much work has gone into even the legislative structure we enjoy today, and that the Legislative Assembly confirms its ongoing support for French language minority rights outside Quebec and English language minority rights inside Quebec.
I wholeheartedly accept the recommendations of the Yukon unity commission, and I accept, as well, that this is a majority viewpoint, and it's not shared by absolutely everyone. That, too, is part of the diversity, the tolerance and the compassion that we, as Canadians, extend to one another.
Although there are often differences in opinion in this House, and between Canadians - not this time. For perhaps the first time today we, as Yukoners, I trust, will agree on some very key principles. We accept that all Canadians are equal, and that we all must have rights protected by the law, and that all provinces must have equality of status. I accept that the largest part of Canada's grace lies in its diversity, its tolerance, its compassion and its attention to equality of opportunity. We accept that.
We accept that our rich diversity includes aboriginal peoples and cultures, the English and French languages and our multicultural citizenry. We accept that the unique character of Quebec society is fundamental to the well-being of Canada and that the Legislature and Government of Quebec have a responsibility, a role, to ensure that that society's unique characteristics are defended, protected and promoted within Canada.
We accept that powers conferred on any one province must be available to all other provinces - we have especially noted that here in the Yukon - and we accept that federal and provincial governments must work cooperatively.
We accept these principles. We accept them, and I as a member of this Legislature am proud to offer my vote and my support for this motion.
I would like to again express my thanks for the leadership that the Government Leader has demonstrated in bringing forward this motion, in seeking all-party agreement, and for the work of the Yukon unity commission, and I would like to close my remarks by expressing my fond hope that this unprecedented expression by Canadian legislators of the desire and support for the principles for national unity, this leadership that has been demonstrated over the past few months, will truly point to a nation united.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, as the leader of the opposition noted, it is rare in this House that we have an opportunity to speak on something that is as important and profound as the future of this country, the future of Canada. It's a privilege that is not to be taken lightly, and for a person like myself, a person who came from elsewhere, Canada is and always will remain a rare and unique place.
I grew up in a place where sectarianism was the rule and where communities for generations had been divided by barriers of religion and class. It was a society that for years and centuries had been based on exclusion. Seamus Haney, the Irish poet, once called it the ministry of fear.
At the age of nine, I came to Canada with my family, and from a narrow, parochial society of Protestant Belfast, I found myself in a country where most of the kids I went to school with were from very different religious, ethnic and social backgrounds. I remember at the age of nine this being a revelation, a stunning revelation, because I discovered at that time that Canada not only represented a place - was not only a physical, political state - but, like many immigrants who have come to this country, I discovered that it also represented freedom - not only a political freedom, but a freedom from old prejudices, hatreds and ancient grievances.
Too often we define nationalism as who we are not, a closing of the door against people who are outsiders or people who are different, and I believe that much of the tragedy of the 20th century can be seen in this narrow nationalism.
Canada to me has always represented inclusion rather than exclusion. It is a country that embraces people because of their diversity. The very nature of this country is the acceptance of diversity and our ability to accommodate our differences.
Mr. Speaker, because of this, I believe that Canada is not and never will be a finished product. It is a country that will always be in transition.
In a very real sense, the dynamic tension that's existed in Canada for the past 130 years has led to a nation that has truly evolved in the treatment of its citizens. In a sense, that's why I'm so profoundly disturbed at those who would seek to reduce my country: in Quebec, the narrow nationalists who lay claim to my heritage, saying it's theirs; those who say I have no claim to Dollard des Ormeaux, Louis Hebert, Cartier, Champlain, Henri Bourassa, and, yes, Louis Joseph Papineau, to those who say that I don't have equal claim to Place Royale, Ile D'Orléans, Outremonte, Grand Bergeron and the Gaspé.
At the same time, Mr. Speaker, what can we think of those people who say there is no difference, those who deny that people in other parts of Canada have legitimate aspirations?
Mr. Speaker, this country has survived and flourished because of differences. We're better in this House because we are Tlingit, Tutchone, Gwichin and European. We are better in this territory because we are German, Vietnamese, Tagish, Czech, Ukranian. We are better in this country because we are Scots, Poles, Chinese and French.
Mr. Speaker, the Calgary declaration is a recognition of that fact and a recommitment to the basic principles of fairness, tolerance and civility that characterize this country.
It is often joked that we are so polite, so civil, it's said that Canadians are the only people who say thank you to an ATM machine.
But, really, in a world that's based on conflict and self-interest, is civility such a bad thing? Frank Scott, the great constitutional scholar, poet and lawyer, once wrote a brief poem that, in its gentle, jibbing way, I think says a great deal about this country and its virtues. It's called "Bon Entente" - Scott taught at McGill and lived in Montreal:
"The advantages of living with two cultures
Strike one at every turn,
Especially when one finds a notice in an office building:
'This elevator will not run on Ascension Day';
Or reads in the Montreal Star:
'Tomorrow being the Feast of the Immaculate Conception,
There will be no collection of garbage in the city';
Or sees on the restaurant menu the bilingual dish:
Deep apple pie/tarte aux pommes profundes."
Mr. Speaker, what Scott was saying is that a culture can embrace differences, a culture can be encompassing, a culture can bring together people from diverse backgrounds who can live together and flourish together.
In my travels in Quebec, I have never, on a personal level, felt any animosity. I have never felt anyone question me as to what they felt was any kind of oppressive nature of the rest of Canada. I have expressed to my Quebec confrères, as recently as last September, some of my frustrations with the kind of narrow nationalism I see.
I had dinner with David Payne, a Parti Québecois MNA from the south shore, and I expressed my concerns about the narrowness of the Quebec vision. When the ice storms struck the south shore, I sent a note to David expressing our concerns, and I was surprised to see the expression of surprise that came from many people in Quebec over the generosity of the rest of Canada.
I think unity has been a preoccupation of Canadians for so many years. I am reminded of the Trudeau years, repatriation of the Constitution, Meech Lake, Charlottetown and the "kitchen accord". I think the first political book I ever read was when I was a teenager reading Trudeau's Federalism and the French-Canadians and was rather awed by Pierre Trudeau's logic and his brilliant dissection of the separatist arguments.
I think sometimes here in the Yukon we have felt, because of our distance, that we're immune to some of these national problems and I think probably many of us think that if we just sort of ignored it, it would go away. But the problem of Canadian unity hasn't gone away. It continues to haunt us. We continue to struggle with what it means to be a Canadian and the importance of retaining Quebec as part of our society, the value of each region of this country, the contribution of each ethnic group, the multicultural element, the many languages. It's ironic sometimes that the very characteristics that make our country special, unique and the envy of the world - such qualities as the variety of languages, multiculturalism, ethnicity - are the very things that cause us tensions.
The problem of finding a solution has been so Canadian. The qualities of democracy, consensus, politeness, inclusiveness have all pervaded this process.
I believe that the recent consultations around the Calgary declaration have solidified the general feelings of Canadians toward their country, toward what they see as valuable in this country.
Other members in here have referred to reactions that they've received from their constituents. I can tell you that the people from Whitehorse West, in their response, have echoed many of those: freedom of speech, social safety net, cultural diversity, understanding, human rights and fair laws are, in their views, some of those characteristics that make Canada great, and they generally support the basic principles of national unity in the Calgary declaration as a basis for renewing our country.
They challenge us as elected leaders to try and continue to find ways to make this country work better.
Mr. Speaker, I don't believe for a moment that we've articulated all the possible solutions to the unity problem, nor do I believe we ever will. We will always be in a struggle to make this country work. We will always be in a struggle to make this country better.
I think what's happened is we've somehow been sidetracked by some narrower issues and have forgotten why we have such faith in this country.
I believe that we will be able to find the strength to draw us through this difficult time. I think we've got tremendous resources to draw on. We have the minds, we have the unique thinkers, we have the constitutional experts, but more than that, we have the will, we have the desire and we have the fundamental decent nature of Canadians to carry us through. We're not the only country to face these kinds of difficulties of unity, and there will be struggles. They will be tough, tough struggles, but I can tell you from personal, bitter experience, there is no other way.
I have the experience in my own life of coming from a nation where people could not reconcile differences. We must make this work.
I support the Calgary declaration and this motion, but even moreso, I support Canada. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will be short in my response.
I rise in support of this motion. I believe that the Yukon Commission on Unity has done a good job and has done good work, and that it has listened carefully and respectfully to the people of the Yukon and what they have to say about national unity. Their work deserves the endorsement of this Assembly.
It comes as no surprise to me that Yukoners support the principles outlined in the Calgary declaration. They seem like common sense to me. They recognize what we are as a country, the values that have united us and the diversity and tolerance that are our strength. I think it's very important that efforts to keep this country together will not be left in the hands of politicians alone. I believe that we, as politicians, have the responsibility to involve people. I suspect that far fewer people would have commented on the principles of the Calgary declaration if the debate had been left in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats.
I would like to thank all the members of the Yukon Commission on Unity and their staff for their efforts to reach out and encourage participation in the national unity debate. It struck me as I was reviewing the suggested principles of the Calgary unity declaration that the principles of cooperation, to which it speaks, are certainly practised here in the Yukon.
In the Yukon scale of things, we are doing our best to work cooperatively within the social framework established by the land claims agreement. I think of Mayo as an example where the renewable resource council brings together people representing much of the diversity of the community. The council's recommendations to Yukon, federal and First Nation governments are helping us work together to meet the needs of the people, the wild lands and the wildlife on which the Yukon people put such high value.
The message that came across loud and clear to the unity commission, and within the national context, too, the Yukon has supported initiatives, such as the national accord on the environmental cooperation that lays out a cooperative, flexible framework to ensure that efficiency and effectiveness of the federation as laid out in the principle 7 of the unity declaration.
In these times of tight resources, we need to work together to make the best use of what we have. I was pleased to see that the commission both listened to and heeded the advice of those who spoke of the need to more explicitly address the constitutional concerns of First Nations and their unique status within the federation.
Mr. Speaker, the aboriginal people of Canada have always spoken about keeping their land and water clean and they've always spoken of the importance that the land provides for us, and now, putting greed aside, have reflected, and people are speaking out for the protection of our land. At times it seems to define who we are.
We have always known that the land provides for us and we have always said and expressed, as Canadians, a lot of pride in our land, much as we have, unlike most countries, reflected this right in our Canadian flag in having a maple leaf representing the land in which we live.
At times, the aboriginal people in Canada are forgotten or not looked at as closely as we should be. During the federation talks, when Canadians felt that our country was about to fall apart, one thing they started to focus on was the aboriginal people in Quebec. What about the land and the outstanding issues that are out there?
In the Yukon, since the influx of non-native people, I think that we've come a long way in living together and working together, and it's reflected in our governments today and the First Nation agreements that are out there. The Yukon is a good place to live.
I strongly support the commission's recommendations that the Legislative Assembly should endorse the framework for discussions on relationships presented to the premiers and the territorial leaders by the leaders of the five national aboriginal organizations. I believe that some progressive principles were advanced by the framework, and that the recommended approach is consistent with what we have tried to achieve here in the Yukon. I believe that the final agreements negotiated here are important instruments to resolve the issue of resource sharing and management in a manner that will promote economic and social development with certainty and public acceptance.
As I have already mentioned in passing, they also open the doors for greater public involvement in the decisions that affect all of us and our common resources. I think that it's also important that the framework for discussions document notes that any rebalancing of federation should not diminish the fiduciary and constitutional responsibility of Canada in its capacity to honour its commitments and obligations to all Canadians.
Too often we have seen the Government of Canada attempt to retreat from its obligation in its pursuit of deficit reduction. It is very important that that goal not be achieved at the cost of the country itself.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that we are privileged to live in a country that is the envy of the world, and in a territory that is sometimes the envy of that and, in my view, should be the envy of our country.
We have demonstrated that we can live and work together and prosper together through cooperation - First Nations, French, English and all of us who have joined the people in this founding nation from all corners of the planet. We have something special here, and I support the motion and the direction it gives to government to continue to work together and toward a renewal of a healthy and vibrant Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's an honour and a privilege today to rise in this House and speak to the motion before us - the motion of Canada's unity - and to accept the report of the Yukon Commission on Unity, and to support the principles for national unity that were outlined in the Calgary declaration.
Mr. Speaker, I go back a number of years - and probably I'm somewhat unique as to how I view this issue before us today. I was born, raised and educated in Montreal, and grew up in a bilingual environment. I grew up where there existed two different systems in language and two different systems in education, both based on the religion that you had. There was always a friction between the English and the French, and there was always a friction between the Catholics and the Protestants.
When one grows up in that environment, one becomes acutely aware of what the separatists in Quebec are seeking - their language paramount and one distinct society - but it goes much beyond that. It goes much beyond the issue of language. When one looks at the laws in Quebec, civil law is still the Napoleonic code, criminal law is based on the British system. The only other place in North America that that exists is Louisiana, where their civil law is based on the Napoleonic code. And it's interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that there are more French-speaking residents in Louisiana than there are in Canada. Yet we don't hear of the difficulties that they have of being part of the United States of America versus what people living in Quebec have of being part of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, the Calgary declaration has succeeded in involving Canadians at large in discussions regarding Canada's future and keeping Canadians together, and indeed Canada together, as one country. This process was not as exhaustive an experience as previous forums were. It was very painless and non-partisan. My thanks go to the members of the unity commission for the time and the hard work they spent seeking the views of Yukoners on the principles outlined in the Calgary declaration.
The time constraint of the window that they had was quite narrow, and yet they did a wonderful job, and again my congratulations to those members.
Thanks to their efforts, I believe the unity commission has been successful in coming up with a set of recommendations for keeping Canada united, based on the views and opinions of Yukoners. Each member has brought with them their own thoughts, beliefs and their opinions, while sharing a common commitment toward keeping Canada as one. I reflect back on the questionnaires submitted to me by my constituents in the Klondike, and there was a general consensus that they were pleased with the process, and they were pleased with the forums that were held and, of all the issues that the questionnaires were sent out on, I received the most back on the unity question of any of the questions posed to my constituency.
So, again, it is an issue that we all hold dear to our hearts, and overall, they supported the framework of the Calgary declaration. They felt it was a very broad-based representation of how they perceive Canada, and they also thought it was flexible enough to keep Canada together. There were those who felt passionately about Canada as a country, but there's also that growing feeling of cynicism among a lot of people in my riding, and indeed in Canada - a cynicism about what is the use of trying to reach a consensus given the number of times that we've tried. We've tried in the past a number of times and failed - failed almost to the point where the referendum has taken hold in Quebec, and they receive the majority.
It seems that we Canadians, since time, have been trying to find a way of defining Canada and what it means to Canadians in words and then enshrine them in a formal constitution. While the Calgary declaration is not another constitution but words of support for Canada, I believe the words are solely not enough. As Canadians from all walks of life, from all corners of the nation, it is imperative that we take action, not just action as politicians and governments, but actions by Canadians at large to work together in the spirit of unity.
The timing of the Calgary declaration was no accident, Mr. Speaker. Provincial elections in Quebec are expected in the not-so-distant future, in the spring of this year. Current polls indicate that the Parti Québecois government under their Premier Lucien Bouchard will win again. And it's no deep, dark secret that Mr. Bouchard intends to hold another referendum on independence. The growth in support for sovereignty over the last 30 years, which fell just short of 50 percent in the 1995 referendum, suggests that a majority in the next referendum could occur.
Just regressing, Mr. Speaker, growing up in that environment, it's very close to me as to how the people in Quebec view separatism. I still have family that live and reside in Quebec. I still have business interests in that province - somewhat more profitable today than business interests in the Yukon, I might add. Given the bilingual nature of the Province of Quebec, I know my first job came about as a result of my ability to speak English to my boss and speak French to the workers that I was associated with. English was our language at home, French was our language on the street, yet I failed French miserably in high school.
The message we have to send to Quebec - to the people in Quebec and, specifically, the Bloc Québecois - is that Canada is a much better country with them. Canada is probably one of the best countries in the world to live in. I believe that. It's a position affirmed by the United Nations. It is a position that, when one who resides in Quebec looks outside their boundaries and then goes back to Quebec, will also believe. Yet, a lot of Québecois do not look beyond their boundaries. They do not go beyond their boundaries.
Education, as to the global economy that we are involved in, would do much to foster Canada as one country.
One of the other areas that I believe we have to concentrate on if we're going to keep Canada together as one is that we all become one Canadian: we are not of this descent or that descent or English-Canadian or French-Canadian; we are a Canadian. As soon as we subscribe to that concept, we will be much better off.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I and my constituents endorse that Canada includes all that it is today. It includes the aboriginal people; it includes the multicultural citizenship from all across the world who have chosen Canada as their home. Indeed, Canada has chosen them. It includes a strong Yukon - strong provinces and territories.
I support this motion, my constituents support this motion, and we support this dialogue as a basis for future discussion and action toward keeping Canada together.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I stand in support of this motion, and I'd also like to extend my thanks to the people from the unity commission that worked on this, as well as their staff and also all the people of the Yukon that participated. When I say "all people of the Yukon that participated," I mean beyond the submissions that were given, because many people that I know participated by dialogue with other people who did submit. So, it goes beyond the amount that we received in response, and I think it was indicative of the attitude throughout the Yukon in support of the declaration and the work that the unity commission did.
I also attended the last part of the town hall meeting - yeah, I think it was what you can call it, the electronic town hall meeting - and I found it quite a fascinating process and was really encouraged by the input and the excitement that people approached it with. There were still a fair amount of people there when I got there, which was late, but my understanding is that there were a lot of people wanting to get on the line, that wanted to participate that weren't able to, but hopefully their comments were captured through other means.
I join with other Canadians in asserting that all Canadians are equal, have rights protected by law, that all provinces have equality of status, and that Canada is graced by an equality of opportunity that is without rival in the world. Now, it could be argued that if you're a francophone and living anywhere outside of Quebec, except New Brunswick - if you're living in Newfoundland and used to fish for a living, if you're an aboriginal and struggling with the legacy of cultural imperialism - that equality of right and opportunity may lie well outside your experience, your personal reality.
But putting all that aside, there are laudable sentiments - and these are laudable sentiments - that if we were to undertake a journey toward renewed Canadian unity, we need to embrace these principles that are being articulated and commit ourselves to making them a reality for all Canadians. We have to sometimes rise above concerns that are immediately in front of us, ones that affect us day by day and look at a larger picture, a bigger picture, and I think the picture is Canada.
So, what makes us Canadian and gives us a sense of our uniqueness in the midst of all this diversity that we have within this country? How are we different from our neighbours to the south? Well, some people in the south say that they are a melting pot and in Canada we are a tossed salad, and that's how they describe our cultural differences, our ethnic differences. In some ways, if you like food a lot, that's not a bad description.
I know the member just previous to me, the Member for Klondike, talked about how he views Canada being a greater country because of the diversity, because of the francophones that are part of it, because Quebec's part of Canada, and I wholeheartedly agree with that statement.
I've lived in Quebec. I've lived on the west coast - I started in the north and now I have returned to the north, but I have lived in most parts of Canada and have to truly say that I've been enriched by every region that I have lived in, and especially by Quebec because there is a uniqueness there that I value greatly.
I think most Canadians would agree that it's about values that we hold, the values which over the years have governed the way our federation works. Many Canadians and many Yukoners have identified them as the most important unifying force we could point to and have spoken about the critical need to reassert them. While many of us, especially northerners, take pride in our independent nature, our unique character, we don't embrace the brand of rugged individual that is so often seen with the Americans.
We care about our neighbours. That's not saying that they don't, but they have a different approach to the individual aspects of their country. We don't blame the poor and sick for their misfortunes. We take pride in having built a more compassionate and caring society, one that believes that everyone should have equal access to adequate health care, to good education, to good working conditions and to income supports when jobs aren't available. We've taken pride in our universal programs, our pensions and our UIC - what's left of it anyway - and those are comments that were reflected from my constituents. One of them here is, "universal health care, peaceful co-existence, tolerant society, decent standard of living". That's what they see are of great value. Peaceful co-existence I find is a wonderful statement, and tolerant society, and I think that's what Canada is seen in the world as being. We are known throughout the world as peacekeepers,
Within our own country we can have this debate, and maybe people are tired of it. Maybe they're tired of the unity debate, but it is our debate and I'm not ashamed of it. I'm not ashamed to say that we can openly discuss what makes up this country, how it's united, the differences within our country, and be proud of it and try to work to find the commonality and strength that we have and the values that we hold dear.
In many other countries you can't do that. You can't discuss this matter. I'm reading The Long Walk to Freedom right now, Nelson Mandela's book - his autobiography - and it's absolutely impossible in South Africa to have this kind of discussion on the differences of equality without being put in jail, being beaten and being suppressed. That's one thing that Canada, more than any other country in the world, I believe, can do - have this kind of debate - and in that regard I'm very proud of it.
I may get tired of it, but I'm very proud of it. We haven't resorted to violence to solve our differences within our own country and we do have that tolerance for each other and different opinions.
Unfortunately, over the last few years, we've witnessed massive erosion of so many of the programs and services that I just mentioned. They give our country its unique character, which bound us together as Canadians, but I fear that if the process continues, we run the risk of becoming little more than a loosely associated bunch of semi-sovereign states - some of them haves and some of them have-nots. I think it's pretty easy to figure out who would be the haves and who would be the have-nots in the states right now.
An article in July 1996, in the Globe and Mail, stated, "As the debate over Canada's political union grinds on, Canada's economic union has almost, unnoticed, been dissolved. It has not been a cataclysmic, traumatizing disintegration or political breakup. Rather, there has been a slow unravelling at the hands of two relentless forces over the last decade. One is the economic integration fusing the Canadian economy to that of the United States. Another is the federal bankruptcy and regional self-assertiveness tearing the provinces from one another." That was in 1996, and I believe it's continuing. I believe that has exacerbated some of the problems that exist between the provinces and territories.
How did we get into this position? We can talk about certain governments, such as Mulroney years, the Trudeau era, federal laws that were passed, statements that were made that have caused harm, anger and bitterness. That is part of it. We can talk about massive cuts to federal-provincial transfer payments. That sure hurts. That creates inequality and resentment within our own country. We talk about what's going on now and the continuation of cuts - the pain that we feel there - and the block funding transfers, especially up here.
Our national standards have been eroded, and that has an impact on how Canada is viewed by each other and if we feel equal and united across the country. As you get that pressure in each region, you become very insular and you become very individualistic. You start to look after what is your own. You start to resent what other people have - what other provinces or territories have - and you get this division, and you see B.C. and Alberta at odds with each other, and you get Alberta and Quebec at odds with each other. You get Ontario and Quebec border fighting over work rules, and it goes way beyond trade deals and interprovincial agreements. That's allowance of cash. That's not how people feel about each other.
Are we looking at each other as a Canadian, the whole body, and not as "I'm from B.C." or "I'm a Yukoner" or "I'm from Alberta," but how we are as Canadians? I feel that with these changes, we have begun to look at ourselves more as "I'm from the Yukon" or "I am a Yukoner," and not "I am a Canadian," because we don't have the universal programs that we had historically, and there may be very good reasons why not, but we don't have them as we did historically to attach to and stand up and be proud of. Now we find we're being separated inadvertently by them.
Most Canadians believe in federation. I think that's what our unity commission has found, and a federation by definition implies a strong federal government to manage our common affairs - those areas of shared concern, like health care, education, social welfare - and it's a role of the federal government, and I am a very strong supporter of the federal government maintaining those roles, maintaining that control and distribution of wealth and programs throughout Canada.
We can't approach the question of Quebec's separation apart from the question of Canadian economic and social union as a whole. To paraphrase Larry Brown, the Chrétien government may have its plan A and plan B, and I'm not sure which one the court challenge fits into, but I'm going to speak to that in a second, because I do have a concern about that. There may be a plan C, where we neither fight Quebec's separation nor accommodate it, but make it irrelevant by restoring Canada to the way we used to have it, where people in Quebec can look at Canadian programs - social programs, the safety net, incentives - and say, "that's what being part of Canada is; we share across this country, we have that unity", and having a federation that no one would ever care to leave.
I think that this is a message I've heard from constituents. This is the message that I read in a lot of this work that's been done. It talks about the federal government, the programs, our universal programs from coast to coast to coast. I hope it's a message that can be sent back, that to keep this country together, we have to have those universal programs. We can't partition everything off in bits and pieces all over the country and let people fight by themselves for what little there is, now that it's been partitioned off.
A couple of other concerns I have - a big concern I have and I think it has been mentioned. I have this letter, and other people in here might have it as well. It's from Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Québecois. It's in regard to the direction government has taken by having the Supreme Court rule on Quebec's right to decide its own future.
It's really interesting because, reading The Long Walk to Freedom, that's exactly what the apartheid government tried to do with the aboriginals, the many ethnic and aboriginal people of South Africa. They tried to do it through the courts to put them in a different class, and though we're different countries and we have a tremendous amount of freedom here, there are some patterns that we see around the world that we should learn from.
In this case, it distresses me that there's been a direction toward getting a legal opinion on whether Quebec can separate. Do you really think that the people in Quebec are going to respect that? Do you really think that they're going to stop this debate if the courts come down with a ruling that says, "Oh, no, you can't separate." Do you think that's going to stop it? Or, like myself, do you think that this is going to incite it, that this is going to cause anger?
If I were a Québecois living in Quebec, I would feel angry that this has gone to the Supreme Court. Like the leader of the official opposition, I do not believe that this is a legal question. This is a political debate. This is a political question. This is one that all people of Canada have to be involved in and it should not go to the courts. I really am disturbed that this may cause a backlash that threatens the country even more at a time when Mr. Bouchard may move forward with another referendum vote and could jeopardize this country - something that is totally unnecessary and is distressing.
I called my sister-in-law, who is from Quebec, and you can call her a separatist. I asked her about this, how she feels, just off the cuff.
"How do you feel, Jacqueline? How do you feel?" And she said, "It's an insult. This is our question. This is our right to decide. This is what Canada's about. This is not something that a court should rule on how I should be, how my country should be, how my province should be. This is my question. I want the debate here. I don't want the debate in the Supreme Court in Ottawa with a bunch of lawyers."
So, Mr. Duceppe has sent a letter. I suspect it's been sent to many of the politicians around the country and I would recommend everyone read it and I'd recommend you respond to it. In it he says, "The time has come to remind the federal government that Quebec's future is a political matter and must be resolved through political means. The Supreme Court has no legitimacy in the area. We cannot let ourselves be governed by judges." And I have to support him in that regard.
I believe this movement kind of contradicts the tremendous work that's been done by the unity commission because the unity commission went to the people in the Yukon - and I believe they're doing it in other provinces and in the Northwest Territories - and got the opinions of the people, and that's stronger than anything that the courts can ever come up with, or any politician out there speaking on behalf of the people, but not consulting. In this case, we have a commission that went out and consulted and has got some responses.
I have got a couple of excerpts I want to go through on the Canadian unity issue because I was reading through this and I found a lot of them quite strong.
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you.
These are the ones that just leapt out at me in a quick read on these comments. Many of them I don't agree with, but most of them I do agree with.
Do you generally support the principles for national unity as a basis for renewing Canada? One of the excerpts was "Yes, I have no problem with recognizing Quebec's unique character, and I see no reason why Quebec should not have control over its language and culture." Wonderful statement. What possible injustice or harm could this do to me? I agree. What harm can it do to us? It enriches us.
Another one - in your view, what is the best about Canada and being Canadian? Tolerance of other points of view, respecting the individual, common social values to better the community.
And the last one - should your elected leaders continue to find ways to make Canada work better? The comment was in French. I will read it in English here. Giving is not necessarily losing. I think that sums it up.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to speak as long as some of the other speakers have, but I feel it's an extremely important issue to say a few words on. First of all, I would like to thank the members of the unity commission for their commitment to this issue and the hard work that they have put in over the past few months, and I know working to a pretty strict deadline to put the report together, and I appreciate all the hours that they have put in, and the many, many meetings that they've had listening to Yukoners from all walks of life in the public forums and by way of the questionnaire. I want to thank, as I said, the commission and, as well, the secretarial support for the commission that I know probably worked to a lot of deadlines to get everything ready for the next meeting so that the commission could do the good job it's done.
I also want to express my appreciation to the Yukoners who took the time to make presentations to the unity commission and, as well, to the Yukoners who we've spoken about earlier today, who took the time - and their own money, in many cases - to rush off to Ottawa and the east when the referendum was happening, to express their views over the need to keep our country together.
You know, other members have spoken here today and talked about Canada being the best country in the world to live in, as stated by the United Nations. Four or five years in a right-of-way now, I think, the United Nations has issued that declaration.
I've lived in the Yukon just about all of my life, except for a year and a half. I've been here over 50 years now in the territory. You get somewhat isolated, I think, living in the Yukon. Our main outlet for information is usually CBC Radio or CBC Television, or the media that we get from time to time. Years ago, we didn't get a lot of that, and many of us from the Yukon thought we were not very well treated by Ottawa. We were sort of left out in the cold. We were sort of a last-minute concern of the federal governments, no matter who they may be, about changes to policy that might affect us, and we expressed our concerns.
I remember vividly. I was about 30 years old, and I was a member of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. It was the first time that I had an opportunity to travel outside the Yukon and go to Ottawa as a Yukoner. All I'd ever seen in my life were pictures of it, and I'd read about it in the school books, and that kind of thing.
I remember that night, when the meeting was over that I was at, and I took a cab to the Parliament buildings, because I wanted to see them. I'll never forget the feeling I got, standing in front of the flame in front of the Parliament buildings and looking at the House of Commons, how proud I was to be a Canadian. All of the things that I thought, about the way Ottawa treated us before, and all those other things, were forgotten completely.
The next day, we had some time off and I did a tour of the Parliament buildings and I think I even got in to see Erik Nielsen, who was our Member of Parliament at the time, and he showed me around the Parliament buildings and it really was quite a thrill to be there. I'll never forget that. I know there was another fellow with me from one of the other provinces who was kind of laughing at me because he couldn't believe how thrilled I was to be there at the time.
If I could do one thing, and make one suggestion and have it come true, I guess, it would be that all Canadians and all Quebeckers would have an opportunity in their lifetime to travel to other parts of this great country and spend some time in the homes and with the families of other Canadians. I've done that a couple of times and I've had Quebeckers come and stay with me and visit our part of the country, and you always learn so much more when you're right there on the ground with the people. You understand much more about the way they think and why they are different. You appreciate why they are different, and you understand why they come to the conclusions that they come to on some issues and why we come to the conclusions we come to. It's a big country. It's a huge country and it's a great country.
Like I said, if there was any way I could accomplish that - I don't know if I'd want to suggest that you use some of the surplus of the budget that we have to send us all around the country - but I think that it's a useful exercise for Canadians to travel throughout this country and understand more about what we're all about.
I do have a problem, though, with this unity debate. Not this debate we're talking about here. I fully support the position that the Government of Yukon's taking, but the problem I have and the concerns that I'm hearing from many of my constituents - and I know the unity commission probably heard some of the same concerns - was that it almost feels like it doesn't matter what we do, it doesn't matter how hard we try- and we have to try hard to accommodate the needs of Quebec - there are some in Quebec who will never be satisfied with whatever we do.
They are separatists. They want to separate from our country, and there is a sense of frustration that I feel and that I see among my constituents from the reaction we're getting from some of the leaders and current leaders in Quebec who are not prepared to - they are going to dismiss, I think, some of the things that are happening in this unity debate, which is unfortunate. What we can hope, I guess, is that the general population of Quebec and the general population of this country will understand how important it is to keep Canada together.
I guess we can only hope that when it comes down to the final vote, when it comes down to the final decision, that the options will be clear, that Quebeckers and Canadians will both know the positive things that will come out of a separation vote and the negative things, so that people are clear on it, that the question is clear in everyone's minds about where we're going to be when it's over with, because I have a sense of frustration building, and it came most recently with the constitutional question that was raised in front of the Supreme Court, where all of a sudden there seems to be some ammunition that's been given to these separatists who want to split our country up.
There seems to be a lot of frustration coming out in some people that I've talked to about here we go again, what's going to happen this time? There's a real fear.
So I guess that this motion that we have in front of us is timely. It's a motion that I think will be useful to appeal to the commonsense people of this country who are willing to listen. My concern, I guess, is how we get this message to those Quebeckers, how we get through the barrier of the media blitz that both sides are trying to play right now, where the separatists are using everything from off-hand remarks by sportscasters to off-hand remarks by politicians to anything else to generate animosity toward staying in Canada.
I hope we get through this. What I'm hearing from a lot of Yukoners is that we have to bring some finality to it. We have to come to some conclusion down the road, where Canada can get on with being Canada.
I guess that's what this debate is all about. We're here today expressing the strong views of Yukoners who want to see this country remain united. I want Quebec to remain part of Canada. I'm sure there are a lot of people in Quebec who also want to remain part of Canada. I hope we can reach them.
I would like to read into the record, if I could, some of the comments that constituents of mine made with respect to this issue. I think you'll see by the comments I will read into the record that the views I've expressed today are consistent with the views that my constituents have expressed to the commission.
One of the questions was: "In your view, what's the best about being a Canadian?" The comments are: "The fact that we're a peaceful country." "A strong social welfare system." "Health care." "Tolerance." "Openness." "Willingness to include others; readiness to work together and for others." "A caring country." I think we saw an example of that in the recent ice storms in eastern Canada, where Canadians all across the country put aside any differences or any concerns they had and responded quickly to assist our fellow Canadians in Quebec. That in itself said a lot about our country.
But again, we saw some people who want to separate take such positive initiatives from Canadians, from the federal government and from individual Canadians and try and turn it around in a negative way to suit their political agenda. We see it being played out all the time now in the eastern media, and that's really unfortunate.
That's the frustration that I feel and that some of my constituents feel - that the leader of the Quebec government at the present time and many of the people in his government are not interested in what we're saying here, are not interested in any kind of reconciliation, are not interested in anything we can do to accommodate some of the needs that have been expressed in the past. The only thing they're interested in is becoming an independent, sovereign country, and they will take every opportunity to promote that agenda.
So I think we have to be somewhat cognizant of that and somewhat careful of what we say and how we respond to some of the baits that they may lay out for us.
Mr. Speaker, many members in this House have spoken today and I know there are others who want to speak on this issue. I'm one who, as I said earlier, has lived my whole life here, as you have, Mr. Speaker, but I'm also one who has had an opportunity through this job and other roles that I've played in my life to travel from coast to coast. You know, the United Nations is right. This is the best country in the world. There's no doubt about it. I wouldn't want to raise my children in any other country in the world.
And it's interesting. I have a lot of friends in the United States and in Europe who I talk to from time to time and they're somewhat puzzled by this unity debate.
They don't hear all the facts and the figures and all the things that go back and forth, but they look at us and say, "What's going on over there? Why would anybody want out? It's a pretty good place to live." I think that, in general, most Canadians know that and most Quebeckers know that, and I think it's partly our role to convince Yukoners and others to keep up the battle, to keep telling our Quebec friends and fellow country people that we do care, that it is important to keep Canada as one and that it's more beneficial to us to do that.
So, Mr. Speaker, having said that, I support the Calgary declaration. I certainly support the motion before us today and I wish the federal government and the premiers, the provincial governments and the Canadian people all the success in keeping this country as great as it is and keeping our country together.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm pleased to rise in support of this motion as the members before me have done.
As we've been debating the unity motion this afternoon, we've been referring to our support for the principles of national unity in the Calgary declaration, and I want to highlight some of the contents of that Calgary declaration for us so that we can understand why it is that we're supporting it.
All Canadians are equal and have rights protected by law. All provinces, although diverse in their characteristics, have equality of status. Canada's rich diversity includes aboriginal peoples and cultures, the vitality of the English and French languages and cultures and a multicultural citizenry.
The unique character of Quebec society, including its French-speaking majority, its culture and its tradition of civil law is fundamental to the well-being of Canada.
Canada is a federal system, where federal, provincial and territorial governments work in partnership while respecting each other's jurisdictions. We have seen an increase in the Yukon's jurisdiction over the years, and in the formal recognition of First Nations' jurisdictions.
Canadians want to see their governments particularly working together in the delivery of social programs that best serve the needs of Canadians.
Also in this motion, we are endorsing the framework on relationships presented to the premiers and territorial leaders by the five national aboriginal organizations in Winnipeg in November 1997. That framework, Mr. Speaker, spoke to resolving the issues of resource sharing and management in a way to promote economic and social development with certainty, without extinguishing or diminishing aboriginal rights, treaty rights, and aboriginal title.
It was in June 1898 that the Yukon Act was given assent and created the Yukon Territory as a legal entity and part of the Dominion of Canada. In the unity report, we heard citizens of the Yukon stating clearly that Yukon's voice and role in future constitutional developments is of primary importance. As a government, we have a responsibility to advocate the interests, not only of Yukon citizens today, but the interests of future generations of Yukoners. Because, in the future, Yukon may develop to the point where we would like to get into Confederation.
The Yukon Territory participated in the recent Supreme Court reference regarding the right under the constitution to secede. We cannot necessarily rely on the federal government to attend to the needs of Yukon people in matters of state, as we saw during Meech Lake.
Yukon has a place in Canada and a right to participate in the national agenda. The legal arguments of the Yukon government set out our view that the way of getting into Confederation and the ways of getting out of Confederation should be similar. We need to ensure that necessary legal and political actions are taken into account when we look at the future of our country.
Canada cannot be maintained against the clear expressed will of Quebeckers to leave Confederation. However, the law is essential for democracy. The law is necessary in order for political action to take place democratically and not in anarchy. Governments must act in accordance with the Constitution and the law.
Secession, if that is what a majority of Quebeckers would like to see, must be negotiated within the legal framework.
As MLAs, we have a responsibility to continue to try to make Canada a better country to live in and a more effective country. We therefore need to demonstrate our respect for the rule of law and seek ways to support Quebec and keep Canada united.
Mr. Speaker, when I read through the Yukon unity commission's report published earlier this month, I was struck by the sincerity and the wisdom of the Yukon public. In a time when the cynical view of the world is often highlighted in the media, it is heartening to see the level of participation on another public consultation process about a strong and united Canada.
The Constitution is not a dull and dreary issue. It's one that Yukoners, as Canadians elsewhere, hold strong views on.
I agree with my constituents who stated unequivocally, "I support national unity." My constituents also recognized that Canada is different today than it was yesterday, and it will be different tomorrow. Our challenge is to ensure that the future of the Yukon and that the future of Canada is a healthy future for all of our citizens.
We have seen Yukon First Nations establish land claim agreements and self-government agreements. Yukon First Nations are pursuing self-determination under an umbrella final agreement which offers sovereignty in most areas, yet is within the Canadian Constitution.
I hope that the process of doing that in the Yukon, as in other jurisdictions across Canada, will be a productive one for our future. I would like to thank the unity commission, the franco-Yukonnais community, First Nations and all Yukon residents who participated in the unity commission over the past few months.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, the simple fact of the matter is that I love Canada. Now, on a purely logical level, that doesn't make a lot of sense. A country is merely a construct or a series of lines on a map that represent area and space. Yet there are many Canadian men that went off to war and died for Canada, and my opinion is that they went off to war to defend their friends and their family. Our armed forces are defined by the uniform they wear, which represents Canada, but as people or as individuals, they are defined by who they are, where they have been, where and what they will do in the future. So what then is so unique about a Canadian?
We are known the world over for our ingenuity. Canadian engineers built bridges in World War II in unreachable places and in unbelievably difficult circumstances. We were known for that. If we were asked to do the impossible, we would quietly do what we were asked.
And we are a polite and a gentle people. Probably the difference between an American and a Canadian is that if an American were in a car crash and he was reaching out to his rescuers, he would scream, "Help me." A Canadian, on the other hand, would yell, "Help me, please."
We don't do it intentionally, but at the end of many of our sentences, we say "eh". I've often thought that that's because we need to have a general agreement or approval of the last sentence. We don't just declare things to the world, we ask the world politely whether our statements might be acceptable. We are a creative and healthy people. Though our numbers are small, we have given the world some of the best musicians and artists: the Group of Seven, the Rankin Family, our weavers, our quilters and our architects. We do play the best hockey in the world.
We have virtually eliminated most childhood diseases through national immunization programs, and we are taxed considerably to support those initiatives, as well. We are strong and mature people. Though Canada is a relatively young country, we have the resources that few other nations have, and this makes us strong. This has allowed us to mature at a faster rate than some nations, because we have not yet had to fight each other for our limited wealth.
We are rich. Anyone who has travelled to a Third World country knows that. Because we do not have to do the scrambling to survive, we have been able to turn our attention inward.
The diversity of Canadian culture - whether that is from immigrants from the eastern rim, from the Mennonites, the First Nations, the French, English or the refugees of war-torn Africa - this very rich diversity has enabled us to create a loosely knit and future-oriented society, and with this has come the ability to laugh at ourselves. You have to be relatively sure of yourself in order to see humour in your own foibles. Secure in that self-definition, we have built a society that works, and we know that.
So in our best, understated, but completely off-the-wall way, we poke fun at ourselves and others. As the leaders of this country, we have been asked to deal with the issue of national unity. As an elected representative of this territory, I find that request challenging. I can understand why this task has been delegated to us. Tackling things that affect our constituents' everyday lives with a torrent of words is what we do, but there are people out there who, quite frankly, are so sick of the whole national unity exercise that they don't care any more how things turn out, and we represent those people.
There are people out there who are without jobs, can't make the rent and have their own worries and they aren't spending any time worrying about national unity, and we represent those people. There are people out there who are angry with the minorities in their country, and we represent them. There are people out there who want us to deal with the issue of national unity definitively and completely, and we represent those individuals as well. Lastly, there are those people out there who have come from other countries where life is not as good as it is here and they think we are crazy to be spending so much time thinking about separating.
In my mind, the greatest political event of this century was the tearing down of the Berlin wall. A people divided tore down the wall that separated them. Brick by brick, that wall came down. We're spending a lot of time in Canada today building barriers between the provinces and the territories, between anglophones and francophones, between the First Nations and minorities. We don't even sing the national anthem in most of our elementary schools any more and that was the only song that all Canadian children used to know the words to.
Well certainly, we must acknowledge that we're different from each other, but we should be rejoicing in that diversity. As leaders of our nation, we need to refocus our energies. Let's move on from this point. Let us, as leaders, try to give people back the hope we need to get to the next set of challenges. We have to stay together to survive. Anyone who has benefited from the military aid during the ice storm in Quebec or the flood in Manitoba can tell you that.
This is a vast and unforgiving land and it belongs to us and we are fortunate. Blessed be the ties that bind us together as Canadians.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Indeed it does give me great pleasure and it is a privilege to be able to speak in support of this motion and to express some of my feelings. I've been somewhat restricted in the time frame by people on my side of the House, but I'll try and use my five minutes as best I can.
I believe in Canada. I think that, as all of us in this room are representative of what Canada is. I always call myself a Yukoner. I call myself a Canadian, but I'm pretty much a Heinz 57 type of person, and that is, in essence, the spirit and the blood of Canada. Many, many people coming together from different nations, from different backgrounds, and seeing and forging forth into a new future. And Canada is that basket, and it makes me feel very proud to be a Yukoner and a Canadian and a part of that.
I'd especially like to thank the unity commission for the hard work and the time they gave up in their everyday lives, because I know most of them personally and I think you've done a very, very fine job and you've taken the time to listen, and that is what's so important about the process that we've put together. It's not people telling people what to do but people telling leaders that this is what they want to see and this is how they expect us to be. Hopefully, Pam, as you said as the chair, it's a first step. It's a very critical first step and now it is up to the rest of us to be able to speak and to follow through and to mend the fabric and to bring it together.
Let me speak about Kanata. Kanata is an Algonquin word and it means and describes the land from which the people have come in that one particular area. European settlers thought that it was all of Canada and they expressed it as Canada. Myself, I think it's an appropriate name for this wonderful country because it's an indigenous name and it speaks to the actual usage and presence of the land.
As an elected official, I cannot speak from my own personal thoughts. I have to speak from the collective group and the understanding that the people have given us, and I'm very pleased to see that people from my riding have answered the questions. I'd like just to start about that. They say, "In your view, what is it about being a Canadian?" And people have said it's a nice country in Canada, it's peaceful.
Asked, "What should your elected leaders do?" The only negative one really that was here, and I'll just start with that one, said, "That's why you're paid the big bucks, to make a decision."
I thought about that, and I said, "That's not really a negative thing." They are saying that we expect you as a leader to go out there and make these decisions ourselves. So, as I calmed down from that, I thought that is not a negative. It says that it's such a beautiful place and it's easy to get along. "We should work together," people say. These are the comments. "
We have a free country and no war in Canada." You've heard one of my colleagues speak about the upbringing and the country that they have come from and where they had to be and what they had to do to make a family grouping.
"Do your best, and I will be happy." That's so reminiscent of a Tlingit saying - so reminiscent - because they're not saying, "Do this, and you fail." They are saying [Tlingit language] and it means to do your very best, do your very best, and that was all that can be expected.
"It's a good place to live." "We should stick together and be a strong country." "The best part is the wilderness and the animals." "It is a nice country." Again, "no war." "A lovely place," and again, [Tlingit language], "do your best and be happy." "Because Canada is a beautiful place." "Because it's a free and beautiful country." "Because I like wildlife." "Because I love living in a clean and free country that's the largest country in the world, and there is freedom and lots of wilderness."
This is what I can speak from, Mr. Speaker. I can speak from that background.
Others have had the pleasure of travelling the world and Canada. I also, in a very limited fashion, have been able to do that also in the promotion of my Yukon, my Canada. I've had the chance to talk and speak to many people, and as I have travelled across Europe and different countries such as in Europe and places like that, I can see why they would want to, because we do have a clean country. People want to come here, not just for the country but for the people, because they know that people can shed their inhibitions and come together. They know that we can be a principled and value-driven country, and that they have a right to speak and they have the right to absolutely declare their feelings, and they will not be thrown or cast into jails, or they will not be taken away in the night as so many people in this world are.
Mr. Speaker, as I speak and think about the people I have met just in the last four years of my life, war is still being declared on the indigenous people across the world. War is still being declared on the people that have moved to those countries for political gain, and that is all it is. Mr. Speaker, Canada does not have that.
Mr. Speaker, I was born and raised in the Yukon, as many here have been, and I feel as strongly as the others, and I will try not to repeat what they have said, but together we must stand, singly we will fall. I feel that is reminiscent, and should be reminiscent.
In every one of our Canadian hearts, it should be there. For gosh sakes, we're only 30 million people - 30,000-some in the Yukon and 30 million-some in Canada - and if we can't get along, and if we can't continue to be the star of the nations - I guess you might be able to say, and the United Nations say that - well then I don't know who can.
So it's an important first step to declare this, and now it's going to take the people working together and coming together under the same goals, for the same goals.
I'd just like to reiterate a little bit here about some of the things that I've heard, and what makes Canada so beautiful and the Yukon such a beautiful place to live in, is that we can share the goals and we can recognize that we can aspire to the same goal, but we can actually recognize and respect people that have different ways of getting to that same goal.
So Mr. Speaker, you can go up the Wolf River Valley, you can come down the Nisutlin Valley, you can come from the south end or north end of Teslin Lake, but you're still going to get to Teslin. I guess what I'm saying is that we must have great respect for each other, for different political beliefs, and must continue to work that way. Yes, I do have my geography right. I see others in this room trying to say maybe I don't, but what I'm saying is that we can get along if we try to get along. We must do it on a very respectful basis. We should not be posturing for political gain, but looking and using the vast natural resources that we have. We have a clean and beautiful country, and we should be willing to share the wealth and the resources with one another, but still maintain and recognize that the resources have to be replenished and have to be looked after.
So, Mr. Speaker, I will step down from here, but I would like to also say, again, that I support the resolution, the declaration, the motion and the work that has been. I hope that, as the first step, we'll all continue to work together and to make Canada an even better place to live. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. First of all, I'd like to say how pleased I am that we're all speaking with one voice this afternoon. We've sheathed our swords and seem to be working in the same direction. That makes me feel good.
I'd like to give my compliments to the unity commissioners - our participants in the unity debate. It's an issue that's been before Canadians with some intensity since Premier Lesage of Quebec back in the early 1960s - over 30 years. I think the commissioners are to be commended for willingly and, I believe, happily, having gone into the national unity trenches to deal with the matter.
If I could make an analogy, the Canadian Confederation is much like a marriage that has gone on for a long time and has developed stresses. Now is not the time to stop communicating. It's the time to restore and develop communications. Our Canadian marriage has gone on for 131 years, or even longer, if we talk about the partnership between the Upper and Lower Canadas. The parents, if we can refer to the Upper and Lower Canadas, have taken in other members of the family. They've taken in the Maritimes and the Red River colony part of Manitoba and British Columbia, and then in 1949, Newfoundland. We have created the Prairie provinces.
These children of Confederation, if we can call them that, have grown up. There are other provinces that are, perhaps, a gleam in the Confederation eye: the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories. But, as in all families, the relationships have to be worked on. We have a country over 4,000 miles wide and many hundreds of miles in depth from north to south. We have a southern boundary south of northern California and we have a western boundary near Beaver Creek, several hundred miles west of Vancouver.
We have a southern area that is full of lush vegetation, and we have a northern boundary that's permanently under the ice cap. We couldn't think of a country that is more diverse, geographically or people-wise.
It's not a country that runs well without constant attention to our governance, and we need to come to terms with the way we govern Canada. We need to decide whether the thinking of the fathers of Confederation needs to be updated. We need to review our carefully constructed checks and balances to bring them into the electronic age of the 21st Century, and we need to fully acknowledge our aboriginal governments and incorporate them into our new checks and balances so that the aboriginal persons in our Canadian society have their fair share of democracy's bulwarks We need to recognize the alienation many people feel from their government, and the corollary, that the government must be moved closer to the people.
But most important of all, Canadians need to be participants in the debate, not bystanders to those demagogues trying to drive the debate, nor the separatists in Quebec, or those that interpret accommodation as a sign of weakness in the rest of Canada. We need to recognize that we don't have a Quebec problem. We have a Canadian problem, a problem that the Canadian family needs to talk about.
The Calgary declaration is a step in having those Canadians who are reasonable drive the debate and, as such, I will be supporting the motion brought forward by the Government Leader.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'll be brief in my comments. I'll follow up by thanking the people who participated in putting this report together - both the Yukoners who spoke on the issues and those who organized the forums were very important.
I believe very strongly, Mr. Speaker, that this is an issue that demands leadership from elected people. I guess that differentiates somewhat from the more populist view of politics today that you go and you survey your constituents and you take your marching orders and, if a majority of them stick to one side of an issue, then that's what you support.
I would hazard a guess that if I spoke or if I queried the constituents in my riding about the issue and, depending on how you asked the question, you could elicit quite a negative response toward the whole issue in general. That, if I was to take the more populist view of politics today, would be a signal to me to come and oppose any bringing together or any compromise for any bringing together of different views that make up this country.
I differentiate from that position in most of what I do in politics. I believe we have an obligation to lead, to listen and to lead, because we have to present to people all of the facts surrounding issues. I remember during the Charlottetown accord my constituency rejected it by some 70-plus percent. After it was over, they came up to me and said, "Well, I supported the deal with Quebec, but I didn't support the inherent right to self-government" or, "I supported one issue surrounding the Senate, but I didn't support the issue surrounding some kind of special status or distinct status for Quebec."
What those people didn't realize is that the accord was the result of some significant give and take and negotiation by differentiating portions of this country; people from the west who felt strongly about the Senate, people from the First Nations governments who felt very strongly about the inherent right and, of course, French-speaking people from Quebec who felt very strongly about the distinct nature of their culture and their need to protect it.
It came as a package; there was no selection of one over the other or to select one and to omit the other. The whole arrangement would never have materialized without it.
So, I say we have to lead as elected officials in this debate and we will encounter a lot of people who are tired of the debate, who don't want to speak to it. We will encounter a lot of people who easily say . . . Just the other day, I heard it at the hockey rink during Rendezvous. The issue of the Constitution came up and many said, "Well, let's let Quebec go," and those kinds of comments. "We'll be better off without them."
I don't think those people are considering all of the facts surrounding what makes up this country, all of the unique cultural diversity that has created something very special that is our nation. I think that we have a responsibility to make sure that people do understand the whole picture and what the ramifications of any kind of a dissolution of our Confederation would have on this country.
Originally coming from the east coast - I've only been in the Yukon for 13 years - I know to the Maritime provinces, for example, what the issue of Quebec separation would do in terms of cutting this country in half: increase our regional disparity, increase the feelings of regionalism that we now have in this country. Mr. Speaker, I accept the view, as one legislator, that Canada is a coming together of different nations, of First Nations, of the French, of the English, and that there is diversity that has to be recognized. Yes, we are all Canadians. But we also have important cultural differences that must be respected. We all have different backgrounds that must be respected.
Surely, Mr. Speaker, we can find the right recipe to compromise for the good of all citizens of Canada, regardless of what particular nation they originally came from, to be Canadian, and get over this debate, and move forward as a country both economically and socially so we can improve the quality of life of all of our citizens and move ahead to some more productive, some more encouraging, some more visionary and futuristic-looking debate.
So, I certainly support the Calgary declaration in this motion, and I look forward to concluding this with unanimous support and hopefully reaching accommodation with our brothers and sisters across this land.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour and, more than that, a duty, to speak in support of this motion before us today. I would also like to thank the commission members and their staff for the good work that they have done on such a vital issue for this country.
One of Canada's greatest strengths is the multicultural nature of our society. When we look around the world, we are doing very well compared to other industrialized countries. We are indeed a rich, diverse country and have managed to live in a united way despite our differences.
We live in a vast, beautiful country, Mr. Speaker, with a quality of life unmatched around the world. We have many reasons to be proud to be Canadian. Canada is a universal model of openness, tolerance and generosity that is the envy of the world. Nevertheless, we must not take our country for granted. We must continue to work together and pool our efforts to ensure our future - a future that includes a united Canada.
Everything is not perfect. There is poverty, there is unemployment, but these things can certainly be improved. But in spite of these challenges, historically Canadians have been able to work together to help to overcome them and we should be proud of that.
I wholeheartedly endorse the Calgary declaration and support the efforts of our leaders all across this country to continue to work together to seek a resolution to this issue, to continue to promote a dialogue and to come to a mutual understanding among Canadians in all regions of this country.
I, myself, am very fortunate, Mr. Speaker. I'm a second-generation Canadian. My grandparents were immigrants who migrated from a small village called Slobitka in the Ukraine, near the Moldavian border. They came to a small community in Alberta, named Andrew, much like the area they left in the Ukraine. They were farmers.
My grandparents escaped a country where its citizens were deeply oppressed and where freedom was just a dream. The Canadian way of life was very attractive to them. In Canada, they had freedom of movement, freedom to decide how and where their children would be educated, freedom to practice their religion and, most of all, freedom to raise their family in a new country, yet a country that would allow them to keep their rich traditions and culture alive.
Canada is a great example of what the world must become in terms of open-mindedness, compassion and the capacity for harmony between different communities. I think back to last week, during the Olympics. Although it was a terrible blow that we lost the hockey, we still did a tremendous job - more medals than ever won before by Canada at this Winter Olympics. I think that's an expression of what it really means to be united and to have a common goal.
Whether they are francophone, anglophone, First Nation, recent immigrants, easterners, westerners or northerners, I think most Canadians favour solidarity and a reconciliation instead of division and breakup.
Mr. Speaker, I'm a bit of a history buff. When we look back over the years that this country has been together, we can see many instances where we have overcome great obstacles in order to stay as one country. Reconciliation always requires compromises, just as any relationship needs compromise, and our history shows that we can solve our differences while recognizing our uniqueness. Let's keep working on keeping our country great, free and united. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise in the House today in support of the recommendations of the Yukon Commission on Unity. I'd like to thank the members of the unity commission for their tremendous effort, as well as all Yukoners who gave their input.
The commission asked Yukoners what they thought about the seven principles in the Calgary declaration, what was best about being a Canadian and whether elected leaders should continue working on finding ways to make Canada work better. I'd like to focus my short time on the responses the commission received from constituents in Kluane.
Over 300 Yukoners participated in the discussion through the various consultative methods employed. Of the approximate 300 Yukoners, 209 filled out questionnaires. I am pleased to say that 33 of the questionnaires filled out were from my riding of Kluane. Of those 33 respondents, 32, or 96 percent, generally supported the principles for national unity as a basis for renewing Canada. Mr. Speaker, of those, a significant number, 96 percent, believe in our country of Canada.
A number of my constituents who supported the principles for national unity not only suggested a clause addressing both the Yukon and Northwest Territories, but also the assurance that aspirations of provincehood not be jeopardized by any constitutional amendment. Thirty-one of 33 respondents agreed that elected leaders should continue to try to find ways to make Canada work better. Speaking in support of the Yukon Commission on Unity recommendations demonstrates my desire to make Canada better.
Of the 300 or so Yukoners who participated in the unity discussion, it is evident Yukoners believe in Canada and the renewal of Canadian federalism.
Reports released state that Yukoners spoke passionately and eloquently when asked what is best about Canada and being Canadian. They spoke of the cultural diversity, acceptance of other cultures, political freedom, the security of our social programs and the beauty of our vast land. In Kluane, many of those who responded to the question reiterated the same message.
I'd like now to quote a few of the respondents from Kluane on their views on what is best about Canada and being a Canadian.
These will be in quotes, Mr. Speaker: "Landscape and cultural diversity; tolerance and equal opportunity because of our country's richness; geography and demographics; to be free in a rich country with a strong central government that respects regional differences; recognize diversity; acceptance by other countries as a positive influence; our informed worldly perspective; our modesty; a credible, diverse, immense and wondrous landscape, much of it still pristine; rich cultural diversity; tolerance, care and compassion of all; and finally, the good old hockey game."
Question number four, which states ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Maybe the Canada/U.S. hockey game is what they're referring to.
Question number four, which states, "Should your elected leaders continue to try to find ways to make Canada work better?" evoked the following comments from my constituents: "We cannot expect to remain still while things around us change; we must adapt and flow; this includes giving up outdated ways of thinking and viewing our nation; this has to be seen as an ongoing process, not a final goal; I worry about Canada, if it can continue as a real democracy, example, gun control and the real agenda of government; utilize the media in Quebec to share the views of other Canadians; Canada is not or cannot be Canada without Quebec; Canadians outside Quebec must hear the voice of more Quebec citizens, not just the leaders, this includes the native population; make final reports available at government agencies throughout the Yukon."
That wraps up the comments from constituents that I felt were particularly relevant to this motion.
In the hopes of seeing a vote on this before closing today, I'll end my comments there. Thank you.
Mr. Livingston: One Canada, one nation from sea to sea to sea - that's really what this debate is about and I suppose from one who might be a little cynical, the question might be asked, why bother? Well, I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker, what some of the citizens from Lake Laberge had to say to the unity commission, the good work that the unity commission did.
In response to the question, "What is best about Canada and being a Canadian?" one citizen talked about Canada representing tolerance, understanding, peacekeeping, potential for a healthy environment. Another talked about the vastness of the wilderness and the diverse landscapes and about Canadians being tolerant and peacemakers.
Another one talks about toleration, the quality of life, the Canadian landscape, freedom. And another one talks about many of those things and education is added as well. Another one talks about a caring nation.
You can talk to Canadians from one sea to another sea to another sea in this land and you hear them talk about many of the same common things, whether they're from Quebec, whether they're from the Yukon, Nova Scotia or Saskatchewan.
You know, it's interesting, I think, to look at the results of the work that the unity commission did and I won't go through that. I know many members in the House today have made reference to it, but there was overwhelming support for the principles for national unity as was worked out among the provincial and territorial leaders. There was tremendous support for elected leaders to continue to find ways to make Canada better.
It comes as no surprise, if we look at how far Canada has come over the last 150 years. There is no question that we've had our own difficulties with things like racism and inequities. Those are challenges that we face as Canadians, but I think that what gives all of us some strength is the way that we have been able to work together on those kinds of issues.
We have many things to treasure as Canadians. We have many shared values such as those contained in our Charter that outlines the rights and freedoms of citizens. Others such as relative tolerance, a good public education system, and the kind of kinder, gentler society where health care is available according to need and not according to the size of your pocketbook. And many Canadians share those kinds of values.
Also, the diversity that sometimes tears us apart is also one of our greatest strengths. Visualize, if you will, all of the immigrants who have come to Canada along with the first peoples. Think of the skills imported from around the world to Canada and imagine all the different ways of approaching problems and looking at the world that can enhance our perspective and can add to our understanding of this world and its growing complexity. Think about how this can contribute to our ability to be citizens in what is coming to be known as this global village, and indeed we can see why Canada is poised for the 21st century. It's a nation that we want to preserve so that we can proceed together.
I had the privilege of being a participant at the constitutional conference in Calgary during the phase of institutional reform at the beginning of this decade. It was 1991. I was struck by both the diversity of Canadians sitting around that table, but also by the willingness to accommodate, as I heard from people once again from places across Canada. It was stimulating to learn about Canadians from other parts of the country, but also to see them in action, trying to find ways of fashioning the kind of model that would help us to continue together.
Tolerance is one measure of society. We need to learn to be more tolerant probably, but the richness of being Canadian comes from our diversity. We should celebrate it. We have many blessings as Canadians, and we want to count them.
When I look at the federal accord that was pulled together by the provincial and territorial leaders and by the resolution that's before this House today, I'm impressed really with the rights and the freedoms - the rights that are protected by law that Canadians have - supporting equal status for provinces and equal treatment for various provinces and the rich diversity that Canadians enjoy.
I think that one of the real keynotes in this particular resolution is the support for a federal system where different orders of government work in partnership while respecting each other's jurisdictions because, at the end of the line, citizens want to know that governments are there to serve them, and I think that we need to support these various orders of government working together, not in turf wars, but working cooperatively with some flexibility to ensure that our governments do work efficiently and effectively.
Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to be able to support the resolution before the House today, and I'm pleased to join with all the members of the House. Thank you.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank all members of the Yukon Legislature for their constructive and inspired remarks this afternoon. Yukon people have spoken clearly about what it would take to promote and preserve our country, and the unity commission, to whom we owe our thanks, has transmitted the people's views in their report to the Legislature. The voices from our important corner of this country will go forward now to the ears of Canadians everywhere.
Motion No. 97 agreed to
Motion ordered removed from Order Paper
Speaker: At this time, the Chair would like to inform the House that Motion No. 88, which is standing on today's Notice Paper, will not be placed on the Order Paper as it is very similar in intent and subject matter to Motion No. 97, which was debated and decided upon just now by this House.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.
The House adjourned at 5:22 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled February 24, 1998:
Energy options for the Yukon (McRobb)
Cabinet Commission on Energy final workplan, 1997-99 (McRobb)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled February 24, 1998:
98-1-34 Contracts provided to the Member for Klondike by the Department of Government Services (Sloan)
Contracts provided to the Member for Klondike by the Department of Health and Social Services (Sloan)