Canada, Senate Debates, “Motion for an Address to Her Majesty the Queen—Motion in Amendment—Debate Continues”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (2 April 1981)

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Date: 1981-04-02
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Senate Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 2227-2228.
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April 2, I981 SENATE

The Senate resumed from yesterday the debate on the
motion of Senator Perrault that an Address be presented to
Her Majesty the Queen respecting the Constitution of Canada,
and on the motion in amendment thereto of Senator Yuzyk.
Hon. Edward M. Lawson: Honourable senators, I want to
say at the outset that I appreciate Senator Flynn’s intervention
to allow me to speak. By way of reciprocation, I should like to
say that I shall be very brief in my comments. I was starting to
get a complex, first of all on account of the sunshine coming
in, and secondly because of all the points of order that appear
to disallow my right to speak. I was just going to ask, “Where
is Senator Godfrey when I need him?”
Here are just a few passing remarks by someone from
British Columbia on the Constitution and the proposed
I think the first thing I should mention, very brie?y, is this.
We hear all kinds of talk about western separation, as if it
were some kind of orderly group that is ready to pack up and
leave. As a British Columbian, I can tell you unequivocally
that that is not in the minds of the overwhelming majority of
British Columbians. There is a small handful in the west of, I
think, misguided persons who feel that way, and have sincere
beliefs about it, but it is certainly not in the minds of the
people I talk to and associate with on a regular basis. I do not
think you can even talk about western separation, because
there are some very strong views in British Columbia that are
significantly different from the views of Alberta. In particular,
with regard to the concerns that are expressed by Premier
Lougheed in his opposition to the federal government’s energy
policy, I am satisfied, from listening to the people I have
talked to, that there are just as many British Columbians who
are unhappy about Peter Lougheed‘s arbitrary act of cutting
off oil to the east as there are easterners who are upset about
it; because whatever we are in British Columbia, we are bright
enough to understand that it costs usjust as much, as individu-
al British Columbians, to pay the extra prices that people are
being subjected to here in the east as it does in any other part
of the country; so there are just as many British Columbians
who are angry at Peter Loughecd as there are Canadians
anywhere else in Canada. As a matter of fact, many of the
people I associate with in trade unions are asking, “If Peter
Lougheed can get away with simply shutting off the rest of the
country and forcing us to spend millions and millions of dollars
more, how come the trade unions haven’t tried that?“ This is a
new idea, a novel idea, as to how to deal with problems and
find solutions to them. They are looking at the situation very
carefully, to see if he gets away with it, and then they feel that
perhaps the unions should be more imaginative and try to get
away with such actions themselves. We know that if they tried
anything like that themselves, and they have certainly been
involved in many disputes—’
Senator Flynn: They have been doing pretty well.
Senator Lawson: Well, in the many disputes that they have
been involved in, they have not been able to do that, and if
they were to try something quite as drastic as that, then,
without question, they would be before the courts or they
would be legislated against; but it is something they are
watching very carefully,
In British Columbia my friend, Premier Bennett, expresses
his concerns about the Constitution, about the unfairness of it,
and so on, and I do not quarrel with his right to try to use his
bargaining leverage, which is something that I, and the people
I associate with and know something about and represent,
understand. But what troubles me most is Premier Bennett
saying that one of the things he wants in particular is a House
of the Provinces. “We must scrap the Senate and get it
changed, “he says.“ We must have a House of the Provinces,
because regional interests are not being properly represented in
the Senate.”
Senator Flynn: Occasionally they are,
Senator Lawson: I asked Premier Bennett, “When was the
last time you called all the B,C. senators together, regardless
of party, and said, ‘This is the position of the Province of
British Columbia. Can you support it in the Senate’?” Any of
the B.C. senators will tell you that on no single occasion has
Premier Bennett ever utilized the federal senators from his
province to represent the geographical interests of British
Columbia. What they do they do as individuals, on their own,
based on their sincere belief that what they are doing is in the
best interests of British Columbia.
I say to Premier Bennett, and to any other provincial
premier who wants to talk about restructuring this body or
changing it, “If you have not utilized the federal representa»
tives in your area who are members of the Senate so that they
can represent your provincial interests, you have forfeited your
right to complain, and you have forfeited your right to tear
down this place.“
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Lawson: Out of the respect I have for Senator
Flynn, I will not cover all the other provinces that I might
ordinarily have covered. But I want to talk about the concerns
that I hear being expressed more and more in talking to many
ordinary working people across the country, both men and
women. I ask them about their position with regard to the
Constitution, patriation, the Charter of Rights, and so on, and
it seems that before they respond to that they want to talk
about, for example, house prices in Vancouver. They say,

2228 SEN ATE
DEBATES April 2, 1981
“What about not being able to buy even a lot in a dormitory
city like Burnaby, near Vancouver, for less than $100,000‘?
What about ordinary working people not being able to rent an
apartment for less than $1,000 or $1,200 a month?” They
want to know what we are going to do about those things.
“Where are your priorities’?”, they say to me. Because of this
in?ated, run~away market we have in British Columbia, in
housing, with houses increasing in value at 100 per cent, 200
per cent, 300 per cent, a thousand per cent in a relatively short
period of time, it seems that there are two beneficiaries: the
mortgage companies and the land wheelers and dealers. The
only other beneficiaries, it now appears, are going to be some
of the maritime provinces.
There was a special feature in the media just last week
indicating that many people are saying, “We invested in these
older homes years ago. Now we find we can’t afford to live in
British Columbia, so we are going to sell these homes, take our
money, buy a house at 20 or 25 per cent of the B.C. cost in the
maritimes, and use the surplus to live on.“ There is therefore
going to be a migration from west to east, which is going to
turn the country upside down as a result of what is taking
place. They say, “Perhaps it will be in the best long-range
interests of the country if we do that.”
Then they ask me, “What about interest rates, with regard
to mortgages, that are running at 14, l5, 16, and on up to 20
per cent?” They say, “How can we do this? How do we buy a
home? How do we pay for it?” We try to explain the need for
this war on in?ation that is being generalled by some of the
leaders in the government, but they find great difficulty in
understanding it all.
Then they read in the newspapers that the lowest increase in
profits by the major chartered banks was obtained by the poor
old Bank of Nova Scotia, that only got a 24 per cent increase
over last year-I guess we are going to have to send CARE
packages to them—the highest increase being in the case of
the Royal, at something like 79 per cent. Ordinary Canadians
are finding great difficulty in understanding how, on the one
hand, we have these huge inflated interest rates, and high
costs, and, on the other hand, these exorbitant, almost usurious
profits being taken down by the banks.
They want to know about those kinds of concerns. They ask,
“What about energy prices? What about inflation? What
about unemployment in many areas across the country?” They
are saying that they understand, to some degree, the concern
about the Constitution, and the need for a Charter of Rights to
protect equal rights for men and women, women’s rights,
aboriginal rights and language rights; but after all the discus-
sions and meetings I have had with various people from
various walks of life right across the country, and particularly
in the west, they say, “Let us get on with this, let us get it done
with, and let us then get to more important economic matters
affecting the people and the country as a whole.”
I have to ask myself: Would we be better oft” with the
Constitution patriated? Would we be better off with it here,
with a Charter of Rights included in it‘? Would we be better
off with an amending formula‘? When l examine all of that,
and the views that have been expressed, I come to the conclu-
sion that, yes, we would be better off.
ln concluding my brief remarks, however, let me say that
what we need, in my view, is to have this whole matter
concluded as rapidly as possible, having regard to all the rights
of those involved. We should have the proposed resolution and
the amendments adopted and referred to the Supreme Court,
to have the matter tested, so that we do not have to go through
a duplication of the whole action again, and then refer it to
Westminster in order to bring it to Canada. Then let us get on
with the very important concerns that have been expressed by
the many ordinary Canadians I have talked to, who say that
there are many important matters that need to be addressed.
Q (I540)
Senator Austin: Honourable senators, I should simply like to
direct one remark to Senator Lawson. l have to express some
skepticism about the likelihood of many British Columbians
moving to the Atlantic provinces, for the reasons that Senator
Lawson gave, or, indeed, for any other reason. It would be very
confusing for British Columbians to do so because in the
Atlantic provinces, as Senator Lawson obviously knows, the
ocean is on the wrong side.
Senator McElman: But the people are on the right side!
On motion of Senator Frith, debate adjourned.
The Senate adjourned until Tuesday, April 7, l98l, at 8

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