Preston Manning, Leader, The Reform Party of Canada
THE CASE FOR A NEW FEDERALISM
Chairman: Julie K. Hannaford Second Vice-President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Mary Byers, Author and Historian and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Peter Cook, Economics Editor and Columnist, The Globe and Mail; Joyce Kofman, Past President, The Canadian Club of Toronto; The Rev. Kim Beard, Rector, St. Bede and St. Chrispin Anglican Churches; John H. (Jack) Yocom, Past President, The Canadian Club of Toronto; Wayne Taylor, Vice-President, Corporate Relations, Canadian Chamber of Commerce; Gareth Seltzer, Vice-President, Private Banking, Guardian Global Bancorp Inc., and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Andrea Lang, grade 13 student, Humberside Collegiate Institute; John Wright, Senior Vice-President, Angus Reid Group; Brian Segal, Publisher, MacLean's Magazine and a Director, The Canadian Club of Toronto.
Thank you for the invitation and opportunity to speak to you at this critical point in the federal election and the development of our country.
Under normal circumstances, I would have preferred to talk to you today about Economic Recovery For Canada In Three Dimensions--deficit reduction, tax relief, and more jobs. We've been finding as we go across the country that economic recovery in these three dimensions is the defining issue that Canadians would like this election to address and to some extent resolve.
But 10 days ago this platform was occupied by Mr. Lucien Bouchard, leader of the Bloc Quebecois and a separatist from Quebec. He used that opportunity to present the case for the separation of Quebec, arguing that such a constitutional development would be in the best interests of both that province and Canada.
I am not a separatist. I am a federalist from the West. I have a deep emotional and intellectual commitment to a united Canada including Quebec. I am a new breed of federalist, seeking election to the House of Commons under the banner of the Reform Party of Canada. And so I am here today to argue the case for that new and better federalism which I believe is in the interests of all Canadians.
Reform Perspective On The Separatist Challenge To Federalism
Reformers accept the legitimacy of the aspirations of the Quebec people to preserve and enhance their culture and language, and, like other Canadians, to enjoy the benefits of a prosperous economy and democratic society. The separatists--the PQ provincially and the BQ federally--argue that these aspirations can best be met by the separation of Quebec from the Canadian federation and its entrance into a looser association called Sovereignty-Association.
Arrayed against the separatists in Quebec are what we call the Old Federalists of the traditional parties. As an alternative to the separatist constitutional model, they offer Quebeckers the Old Federalist model of Canada as an equal partnership between two founding races, the English and the French, in which special status may be granted to groups of citizens based on race or language or culture.
The Old Federalists' constitutional model is of course embodied in the 1982 Constitution Act, which they sought unsuccessfully to further enhance through the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords. The Old Federalists also see the Federal Government as the primary guardian of the French language in Canada, a concept which finds expression in the federal Official Languages Act, supported by all three traditional parties.
The Old Federalists Are Losing Their Battle Reformers believe that the Old Federalists are losing the battle for the minds and hearts of Quebeckers. Whether Quebec separatists are any stronger today than they were at the time of the 1980 Sovereignty-Association Referendum may be debatable, but what is not debatable is that the Old Federalists are weaker. Mr. Trudeau is gone, Mr. Mulroney and now Mr. Bourassa are gone, and Jean Chretien (whether one agrees with this assessment or not) is seen at least in Quebec as yesterday's man. And there are as yet no young, vigorous champions of a new and invigorated federalism in Quebec--only tired Old Federalists with a faded vision. A March 1992 Gallup poll showed that 64 per cent of all Canadians, including 61 per cent of Quebeckers, consider the federal official bilingualism programme a failure. It is apparent that Quebeckers see the Quebec Government, not the Federal Government, as the primary guardian of their language and culture.
One year ago, Quebeckers rejected the Charlottetown Accord as promoted by Old Federalists in that province, 54 per cent No to 45 per cent Yes. According to the recent polls, the Old Federalist parties are trailing the BQ in Quebec by a wide margin in the current federal election campaign. So if the next Quebec provincial election, followed by another sovereignty referendum, is simply a continuation of the current contest between Quebec separatists and Old Federalists, the probability now is that the Old Federalists will lose.
On the other hand, if something could be done to turn the contest into a contest between separatism and a vigorous New Federalism, we could have a different story with a different ending. In fact, what we would really have is a new beginning for the 21st century. So examine with me, therefore, the prospects for the emergence and growth of a New Federalism in Canada.
It is our contention that there is a New Federalism struggling to be born in Canada, and that the Reform Party of Canada is the political vehicle for its expression. Its origins are in Western Canada, the youngest part of the country constitutionally--the part least wedded to the old founding--races/special-status constitutional model.
That New Federalism has begun to find supporters in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. It was on the winning side in the 1992 constitutional referendum. And after the 1993 federal election that New Federalism may well be strongly represented in Parliament, and in a position to present itself vigorously to Canadians living east of the Ottawa River.
What are the distinguishing characteristics of that New Federalism represented by Reform? Let me just mention four:
1. A commitment to the concept of equality--the concept that all provinces and all citizens should be treated equally in the Constitution and federal law regardless of race, language, culture, creed, gender, or place of residence.
2. Recognition of the right of all Canadians to the preservation of cultural and linguistic distinctiveness, but that right to be exercised as follows:
Let individuals, private associations, and lower levels of government (including provincial governments) be responsible for preserving cultural and linguistic distinctiveness.
Let the role of the Federal Government be the prevention of discrimination--by individuals, private associations, or provincial governments--on the basis of race, language, culture, creed, or gender.
3. This New Federalism should be nurtured and sustained by an internationally-competitive economy in which governments live within their means, social services are sustainable, and job creation is seen as primarily the responsibility of the private sector.
4. Finally, this New Federalism must be characterized by more representative and accountable political institutions in which elected members, no matter what party they come from, are more obligated to genuinely represent the views and the interests of those who elected them.
What Role Will Reformers Representing This New Federalism Play In The Next Parliament?
First, Reformers will advocate fiscal and parliamentary reforms that will benefit all Canadians no matter where they live in Canada including Quebec. Getting the federal deficit under control so that social services can be sustained, so that some day before all of us pass on we could have a genuine discussion in this country on tax relief, and so that private sector job creation can be stimulated--these are matters which are in the interests of every Canadian in every province. Changing the rules of Parliament so as to provide for freer votes, and democratic reforms to make politicians more accountable to electors, are in the interests of all Canadians regardless of race, culture, language, creed, gender, or province of residence. These are reforms that, if they are pushed in the Canadian Parliament, can strengthen the country as a whole and can unite us.
Second, on the issues that divide--the Constitution, language, and culture--Reformers (New Federalists) will bring fresh approaches. We will vigorously promote on the national stage (and this has yet to be done) the equal provinces/equal citizens constitutional model. This model is not only growing in popularity outside Quebec, but the 1992 year-end Maclean's/Decima poll showed it now has more support in Quebec than the old founding-races model, if only it had a champion there.
We will vigorously promote on the national stage a new division of responsibility between the federal and provincial governments for the preservation of cultural and linguistic distinctiveness, one which we feel is more compatible with the views of Canadians including Quebeckers than the current Official Languages Act or the multiculturalism policy of the Federal Government.
Third, if a significant block of Reformers are elected to the next Parliament we would pursue our stated intention of seeking New Federalists in Quebec to join with New Federalists across Canada in making our vision of a New Canada a reality.
This is how big systemic improvements in Canada's constitutional arrangements have occurred in the past. Baldwin, the Upper Canada Reformer, found Lafontaine the Lower Canada Reformer, and they worked together to achieve representative and responsible government in the old united colony of Canada. Macdonald and Cartier worked together with other Reformers to bring about the Confederation of 1867. Why is it so impossible to believe that New Federalists from west of the Ottawa River linking up with New Federalists east of the Ottawa River can bring into being the New United Canada of the 21st century?
Fourth, Reformers in the 35th Parliament of Canada make one further pledge, and that is to speak the plain truth to Quebeckers on the state of constitutional opinion outside Quebec. That plain truth is this: that for those Quebeckers who want to separate, the choice is between Independence and Canada.
We want to take away from the separatist forces in Quebec that soft, mushy intermediate ground of Sovereignty-Association which they offer to Quebeckers as a halfway house between Independence and Canada. We take that ground away simply by speaking the truth--by making clear that there is no market outside Quebec for Sovereignty-Association of the type proposed by Parizeau and Bouchard.
We try to make the choice of Canada over Independence more compelling for Quebeckers by offering New Canada vs. Independence rather than Old Canada vs. Independence. But we also make clear that any federal government obliged to negotiate Quebec independence would have only one objective in mind--to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs to the Rest of Canada.
Implications For The 1993 Federal Election
How should these factors--the faltering of Old Federalism in Quebec, the separatist challenge of the BQ and the PQ, the rise of New Federalism and Reform--influence your vote in the federal election of October 25, 1993?
The analysis that I have just gone through should make clear to you the dangers of a weak majority government headed by Jean Chretien: If you make Chretien prime minister of Canada with a small majority, you will make a well-meaning but burned-out Old Federalist the chief salesman for federalism. Canada would be putting its weakest foot forward in trying to sell federalism to a new generation of Quebeckers, not its strongest foot.
If you make Kim Campbell prime minister of Canada with a small majority, you will be putting Canada's constitutional future back into the hands of the party which botched both the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords, the party which bought Lucien Bouchard of the Bloc Quebecois his current seat in Parliament. Canada is now paying the price for the federal Conservatives' attempt to build a national party by flirting with separatists in Quebec.
If Canadians do not trust either of the old parties enough to give either a majority, then it is absolutely imperative that the balance of power in any minority Parliament be held by federalists (we would argue New Federalists) rather than separatists. The parliamentary reforms which Reformers advocate (freer votes, fixed election dates, referendums, and recall) are designed to make a minority Parliament more effective and responsible than an unreformed majority Parliament.
At present, if Reformers work very hard we have the potential of electing more members to Parliament than the BQ, and establishing a solid and substantial presence there for the New Federalism we represent. This is the way we can help "beat the BQ" even though we are not present in Quebec. Such a Reform presence in the Parliament would also prevent the Old Federalists of the traditional parties from compromising the constitutional interests of the rest of the country by making unacceptable concessions to Quebec separatists.
Finally, regardless of what I or others say about the merits of majority parliaments or minority parliaments, may I encourage you, whatever you do, to vote in this election out of conviction, for what is right, rather than from the fear of secondary consequences. Some people (unfortunately many Canadians) tend to vote out of fear, and those fears are played upon by the politicians of the old order and their spin doctors. Such people say, "I want to vote for Party A but if I do I'm afraid Party B will get in, so maybe I'd better vote for Party C whom I don't trust." Only in Canada would such an argument carry weight. What a convoluted, backward-looking approach to exercising your democratic right to vote!
My appeal to you--no matter what your party background--is to vote with the courage of your convictions. Don't let the "defining moment" in this election be some 10-second clip from the leaders' debate next week, which some TV editor has decided is the pivotal moment of the campaign and Canadian history. In other words, let the "defining moment" in this election be that moment when you walk into the polling booth--alone, without a television, without a radio, without a newspaper--and vote with courage of conviction for what you consider to be right for yourself and for your children and for your country.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Brian Segal, Publisher, Maclean's Magazine and Director, The Canadian Club of Canada.