SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Would the honourable members take their places.
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Please rise.
Honourable John Hamm and Honourable Russell MacLellan, Co-chairs, Democracy 250.
Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Honourable Peter Milliken, Speaker of the House of Commons.
Honourable Cecil Clarke, Speaker of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly.
Her Honour the Honourable Mayann Francis, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.
[The Royal Salute was played.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Please be seated.
MR. SPEAKER: Your Honour, Speaker Milliken, Premier, former Premiers Hamm and MacLellan, Leader of the Official Opposition, Leader of the Liberal Party, Minister MacKay, colleagues, Members of the Parliament of Canada, veterans, service personnel, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen.
C'est un honneur pour moi de vous recevoir à Province House aujourd'hui.
Nous considérons souvent la Nouvelle-Écosse comme étant une porte d'entrée au Canada. Par exemple, nous célébrons le rôle du Quai 21 comme point d'entrée pour des milliers de personnes qui ont contribué à faire de ce pays un endroit où il fait bon vivre. Nous considérons souvent le term "porte d'entrée" dans le contexte du commerce international et de l'expédition.
Mais nous ne nous rendons pas toujours compte que la Nouvelle-Écosse est également une "porte d'entrée" pour la démocratie parlementaire représentative au Canada. Au cours de la prochaine année, nous allons changer ce point de vue.
Le type de démocratie qui a débuté ici il y a près de 250 ans mérite une attention et une reconnaissance à l'échelle nationale. Cette démocratie mérite également d'être améliorée et d' être préservée. Voilà le message qui, je l'espère, sera transmis aujourd'hui et dans un avenir assez rapprochè .
It is my honour to welcome everyone to Province House today. We often think of Nova Scotia as a gateway to Canada. For instance, we celebrate and cherish the role of Pier 21 in providing the point of entry for countless thousands of people who have helped make this nation a better place. We hear the word "gateway" of late in relation to international trade, commerce and shipping, but little thought is given to Nova Scotia as a gateway to representative parliamentary democracy in Canada. We are now, and for the next year and a half, about to change that.
The form of democracy that started here nearly 250 years ago deserves national attention and recognition. It also deserves enhancement and preservation. That is the message that I hope will be delivered today and into the foreseeable future.
I would now call upon Her Honour, the Honourable Mayann Francis, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, for opening remarks.
THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Mr. Premier, Speakers of the House of Commons and provincial Legislature, Leader of the Official Opposition, Leader of the Liberal Party, co-chairs of Democracy 250, members of the Legislature, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Today we announce celebrations marking the historic rebirth of an ancient idea. Two hundred and fifty years ago, representative government was born in Nova Scotia, the first vitally important step towards the democracy we enjoy today.
From that tiny acorn a mighty oak has grown, but the roots of democracy go back much further, more than 2,000 years, to the city states of ancient Greece. It is there that the democratic idea was born as free men sought to decide their own lives. But what does democracy mean? I believe we need to look no further than the word itself. Democracy comes from the Greek compound word, demokratia. Demos means the people, kratia means rule. In short, the people rule. In an age of gods and goddesses, it was an intellectual leap forward and one that was reborn in Nova Scotia centuries later.
For the people to rule, however, all the people must be involved. In ancient Greece, as in the Nova Scotia of 250 years ago, democracy was limited to a select few. Entire populations were excluded from the process. Even as they were creating the first democracy, Athenians worried about who should be part of the great experiment. The philosopher Aristotle gave voice to these concerns when he said, "If liberty and equality, as is thought by
some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost."
We are wise to remember these words today, for as people who live in this democracy, we are not just voters or taxpayers. We are citizens with both rights and responsibilities. The people do not rule if the people do not participate.
As our own democracy has evolved over the last 250 years, the one constant has been the presence of the Crown. As represented by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Lieutenant Governor in Nova Scotia, the Crown is the thread of historical continuity and unity, linking past, present and future.
I invite all Nova Scotians to celebrate and embrace this anniversary. Let us truly understand its significance. Let us never take it for granted. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: At this time I have indeed the pleasure and honour of welcoming and introducing the Honourable Peter MacKay, Privy Council and now Queen's Counsel, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Cabinet Minister responsible for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and the Member of Parliament for Central Nova. It is my pleasure to call upon the Honourable Peter MacKay to bring greetings on behalf of the Government of Canada.
HON. PETER MACKAY: Thank you very much, Speaker Clarke. Your Honour, Speaker Milliken, former Premiers Hamm and MacLellan, Premier MacDonald, members of the provincial Legislature, federal colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I am truly honoured to be here to bring greetings on behalf of the federal government.
Your reference, Speaker Clarke, to my affiliation to Prince Edward Island leads me to make another analogy - and that is while Prince Edward Island may claim to be the cradle of Confederation, Nova Scotia is truly the deliverer of democracy for our great country. This is, as previous speakers have alluded to, a very auspicious occasion.
Nous sommes très fière dans notre province de la fierté de les origines de démocracie. Cet une occasion, cet une anniversaire tellement importante pour notre province. Ça représente les origines de démocracie pour notre grand pays.
Seeing so many of you here reminds me, again, of how privileged I am to represent the people of Nova Scotia in Canada's federal government. What I consider to be a great honour, being democratically elected from this province, also underscores the great importance that we place on democracy at all provincial levels across this country, and what we do together at the provincial and federal level remains, as well as with our municipal colleagues, a great responsibility. It's simply wonderful to see the place that I call home bursting with confidence and dynamism and an irresistible optimism about the future - some of the same feelings, I'm sure, that were shared by the Founding Fathers and our ancestors
at the critical time of Confederation. So much took place on these hallowed grounds, in this Province House, and I have had the good fortune of being here a number of times just in the recent days - and I understand that there is a desire for me to be here more often.
Nova Scotia has given so much to Canada over so many decades. When we look at the roster of the national and provincial Leaders, when we look at famous jurists, scholars and teachers who built and strengthened the right of all Canadians, and when we look at the brave men and women who defended this country against its enemies - a tradition that continues to this day - when we look at the artists, the writers, the musicians, the athletes who have helped to define the personality of the country, we see Nova Scotians, Nova Scotians who have acted as giants in the creation of this great country of ours. The gateway to Canada, Pier 21, as mentioned by Speaker Clarke, was the portal to enormous opportunities that awaited those who came to our shores.
The greatest gift of all, however, is the role that Nova Scotia played in the development of democracy, the development of democracy not only in Canada but throughout the British Empire. We were the first home of representative democracy. For 250 years, Nova Scotians, by their example, have helped to spread that ideal everywhere, that governments must truly represent the people and be accountable to the people for their actions. Democracy is not a given, it is not a product of history that we can sit back and admire with detachment or even take for granted. Democracy is achieved through the hard work of ordinary men and women who make their stand over the centuries on the side of fairness, equality, and the rule of law. That is why we have made democratic development the central priority of our country's foreign policy. It is a vital component of a series of Canadian values that include freedom, human rights, and the rule of law.
We do not accept that democracy is a luxury reserved for wealthy nations - democratic countries like India and Senegal demonstrate the hollowness of that claim - nor do we accept that democracy is a western system that we are trying to foist on sovereign nations to suit our own ideology or moral preferences. There is no national monopoly on democracy and it comes in many forms, none perfect, but all leading to a better quality of life and self-determination and confidence. That is why we continue to support democratic efforts around the globe, programs designed to promote freedom, human rights, the rule of law - the principles that are the very foundation of democracy.
Afghanistan, of course, is a very special case on the democratic front and it is our leading foreign policy priority and fostering democracy is central to our efforts there. We are opposing the forces of violence, intolerance and oppression in Afghanistan, as in other places, that plague democratic institutions. We have and we will currently promote those principles not only for the preservation of democracy in those far-off places, but those that pose a threat to Canadian security as well.
There is no doubt that progress will continue to be made in other regions. We must ensure that hard-fought gains are protected and projected forward because they can be undone by instability and negative conditions just as quickly.
Promoting the spread of democracy in the world is always daunting and sometimes dangerous, but one that we will not shy away from or leave for others to do. Democratic development is a vocation of which all Canadians can be proud, it is a vocation of which we Nova Scotians can feel especially proud because this province, our province, is one of the wellsprings of democracy throughout the world.
Democracy triumphed in Canada because generations of Canadians believed human rights, freedom and dignity were worth fighting for and defending; as they did so before with vigor and determination, we continue to do so to this very day. With your help, with the help of Canadians across our country, we can ensure that the dream that began here in Nova Scotia 250 years ago will be a reality for countless millions of people who need our assistance today in every corner of the world. Merci beaucoup. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you very much, Minister MacKay. Today as we gather at the Commons of Nova Scotia, historic Province House, we are very pleased to welcome the Speaker of the Commons of Canada.
The Honourable Peter Milliken serves as the Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, he also has a distinguished educational background at Queen's University, Oxford University and most notably and importantly, Dalhousie University and as such he has practised in the profession of law. He was first elected to the House of Commons in the 1988 general election and has served in a number of roles prior to becoming Speaker. He has been elected three times now as Speaker of the House of Commons and we welcome the Honourable Peter Milliken as our esteemed guest and now invite the honourable Speaker to address us. Speaker Milliken.
HON. PETER MILLIKEN (Speaker, House of Commons): Your Honour, Mr. Speaker, Premier, Leader of the Official Opposition, Leader of the Liberal Party, co-chairs of Democracy 250, members of the Legislature, Minister MacKay, colleagues from the Parliament of Canada, ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs. Such is my level of trepidation in rising to speak in such an historic place, it might be wise to follow the advice of a particularly hapless English Speaker by the name of William Lenthall who, in 1642, in order to protect five members of the House from arrest for high treason, responded to King Charles I when he barged into the House of Commons saying, "May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here." Notwithstanding the fact that neither this House nor the House of Commons has directed me to say anything, I will carry on, but as the Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, Ontario, not the Valley, though I did spend some
time here as mentioned by the Speaker in my younger days - quite a while ago now - attending Dalhousie University and had a wonderful time in Halifax.
C'est tout un honneur d'être dans cette place, cette "cathédrale de la démocratie" comme l'a appelé le très honourable John George Diefenbaker lorsqu'il a prononcé un discours dans cette chambre en 1977, et j'avoue que je me sens quelque peu intimidé.
Looking up at the Speaker's Gallery a mere few feet away and realizing that the great Charles Dickens sat there in the 1840s gives one a distinct sense of the significance of this jewel of a building. As an aside, Dickens said about this place that "it was just like Westminster but looking through the wrong end of the looking glass."
It is, as I said, an honour to be standing here in this very Chamber where, in 1848, responsible government was born, ultimately for the benefit of all those who became citizens of a country called Canada. This building, the oldest legislative building in Canada where freedom of the press, and indeed, freedom of speech was established, is awe-inspiring.
Mais peut-être que l'événement historique le plus important qui ait eu lieu ici est l'établissement en Nouvelle-Écosse, il y a près de 250 ans, soit en 1758, du gouvernement représentatif, le premier dans ce qui deviendrait éventuellement le Canada. Tout a commencé au seuil de cette Chambre, dans ce qui était la Cour Suprême et qui maintenant abrite la Bibliothèque législative.
I am gratified to be here at the launch of the Democracy 250 initiative, especially as this is not just a Nova Scotia story but one of national significance. It also occurs at a time when attention cries out to be given to participation in the democratic process, as mentioned by Her Honour, meaning at the very least the exercising of the right to vote. I'm pleased to note that Nova Scotia has taken the lead in this matter.
It is undoubtedly distressing to witness the low voter turnout in this province and indeed in this nation. It is, however, not just Nova Scotia's or Canada's problem but one of almost pandemic proportions in democratic societies generally. While we have of late been involved with timely and important issues, such as the issue of global warming, not enough attention is being devoted to the cooling of voters.
Voting percentages in Canada have slipped 10 per cent or more in the last 20 or so years. Entry-age voting, meaning those voting in the age group which has just become franchised, is in the 20 per cent range. The younger people in our society must learn the value of participation. Fortunately, older citizens are still voting at a more reasonable level, but we need participation from all age groups in the democratic process.
That being said, I'm not at all pessimistic. As Winston Churchill said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." The opportunities are there waiting to be exploited and much can be done in an attempt to
restore voter participation. I strongly believe that education, especially of our young people, provides one of the keys. We must enhance the curricula in our school systems, not only to improve students' understanding of and appreciation for Canadian, national, provincial and territorial history and the struggles and triumphs associated therewith, but also to establish an understanding and appreciation of our system of democratic governance.
I applaud the Democracy 250 committee in its effort to initiate new curriculum changes which will, I hope, serve as a national model. If there is a change in focus for youth, even to a small degree, the efforts expended will have been worthwhile. We must instill in our citizens a sense that obligations and duties go hand in hand with the cherished rights that we enjoy as a people. We must also promote the sense that service to one's fellow individual citizens, municipality, province, territory or country - whether by way of the military, police, elected office or other public service - form some of the more noble pursuits known to mankind.
L'éducation peut revêtir une variété de formes utiles - l'instruction en classe, comme de raison, mais ne négligeons pas d'autres approaches possibles, telles que les forums pour enseignants, les programmes de stages législatifs, les sites web interactifs des législatures, les parlements modèles, les publicités à la télévision nationale ou régionale, les visites d'écoles de la part d'anciens politiciens ou de hauts fonctionnaires, ou, tout bonnement, des visites aux législatures de la part de groupes étudiants.
Society, in general - and here I include the media and politicians - can do much to dispel voter complacency and cynicism. I have no doubt that there are many reasons why the electorate is complacent. Many voters undoubtedly harbour the mistaken belief that their vote doesn't really matter, and those who do vote will look after things in any case. Others will mix cynicism with complacency, or substitute one for the other. Studies have shown that the cynical believe politicians to be an untrustworthy and selfish lot, that they lack credibility or are otherwise unaccountable. This is most disturbing, and I think it is fuelled, in part, by failing to understand a generally well-functioning federal system and generally dedicated and effective parliamentarians at both levels.
Il est absolument essential que ceux et celles qui sont actifs dans le domaine politique ne doivent pas eux-mêmes devenir complaisants, ou, encore pire, cyniques.
La démocratie n'est pas taillée dans la pierre; elle est organique, changeable, nous sommes capables de la former et de la mouler. La démocratie peut s'adapter au plus haut de nos idéaux. Cependant, puisqu'elle est une chose vivante, elle new peut s'adapter au délaissement, à las négligence, et nous devons en conséquence prendre action afin de nourrir et de promouvoir la démocratie dans nos provinces, tout comme dans notre nation
So permit me once again to congratulate the Democracy 250 Committee for its efforts to nurture and promote citizen appreciation for our parliamentary democracy not only here in Nova Scotia, but, indeed, throughout Canada. I want to express my profound thanks to the
committee, and to you, Mr. Speaker, for your kind invitation to permit me to be here to participate in this historic event and to have a chance to visit the Legislature of Nova Scotia on this very happy occasion. Merci beaucoup. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, Speaker Milliken.
The honourable Premier.
HON. RODNEY MACDONALD (The Premier): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Good afternoon Her Honour, Speaker Milliken, co-chairs former Premiers Hamm and MacLellan, Leader of the Opposition, Leader of the Liberal Party, Minister MacKay, colleagues, our veterans, our honoured guests, Members of Parliament, and ladies and gentlemen.
Speaker Milliken, on behalf of the Government of Nova Scotia, I would like to thank you for participating in the launch of Democracy 250, and welcome you here once again to our beautiful province, a province that is extremely proud of all that it has contributed to our great country.
As you will see from today's proceedings, the members of the House are just as - I'm sure you have been accustomed - well-behaved, neither raucous or ill-tempered. I think my colleagues on both sides of the House would agree that on the rare occasion, the rare occasion, that sometimes that's not the case. Such is the nature of parliamentary democracy. I think my honourable colleagues would also agree that, to a person, they come here today as proud Nova Scotians and proud members of this House, proud that Nova Scotia is the birthplace of parliamentary democracy in our country, proud that through the democratic process they won the confidence of the their fellow citizens, and take their place in this historic Chamber.
Almost 250 years ago Canadian democracy began to take its first tentative steps with the introduction of representative government. Next came freedom of the press and, soon after, responsible government, three of many proud firsts for our province, three important milestones for our country, a country that embraces and staunchly defends its freedoms and the freedoms of others.
Today is a day of celebration. We celebrate the foresight of the 22 men who formed Canada's first Legislative Assembly and their successors. We celebrate our ties through the monarchy, our rich culture, our proud history and our strong values. We celebrate our veterans and the Canadian men and women in uniform today for defending our freedoms. We celebrate the grand potential of today's youth and tomorrow's leaders. Most of all, we celebrate being Canadian with all the rights, the privileges and the freedoms Canada affords her people.
In closing, I would like to quote what Lieutenant Government Fraser said 100 years ago during the ceremonies marking the 150th Anniversary of representative government: "Here first in the great Kingdom now forming the homeland and beyond the seas, men met to deliberate as a parliament on questions affecting the land on which they lived. Not, it is true, with the same power, freedom and responsibility as now, but still a meeting of free men representing free men. That they and all who came after them played their parts honourably, unselfishly and patriotically til the fullest responsible government became ours, none will now deny. In the future our children, our grandchildren, will certainly again celebrate this great epoch in our history."
Speaker Milliken, Your Honour, colleagues, co-chairs and guests, today with the launch of Democracy 250, we once again celebrate that great epoch in history when Nova Scotia introduced Canada to parliamentary democracy. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Thank you, Speaker Clarke. Your Honour, Speaker Milliken, Mr. Premier, Leader of the Liberal Party, Minister MacKay, former Premiers Hamm and MacLellan, former members who are in the gallery, Members of Parliament, members of the judiciary, veterans, members of the Armed Services, and ladies and gentlemen.
The definition of democracy is government by the people. The people are considered the source of power and the government has only that power given to it by the people. It is that simple, yet it is that grand. Democracy isn't always about getting your way or getting what you want all the time. Sometimes, democracy isn't even about getting what you really deserve. Democracy is about having a voice. Democracy is about being free and safe to share one individual voice with another or with the entire world. Democracy in Nova Scotia has come to mean that your voice is the equal of mine or my neighbour's because on election day we each have one vote to cast.
Democracy isn't about money and it isn't about class, race, gender or political stripe. In fact, nothing can bring people of all religions, races and genders together like democracy does. Democracy is a tie that binds us all together. For myself and for many Nova Scotians every single day is an opportunity to celebrate democracy and to practise it. The vitality of Nova Scotia democracy is evident in the fact that Nova Scotians have increasingly reserved political power for themselves by electing Legislatures in which no Party has a majority, where all Parties are expected to co-operate for the common good. The people of this province rejected any notion that democracy just happens on election day.
We MLAs on both sides of the House have been kept very aware of who truly holds the reins of power in our province's lively democracy. Next year, Nova Scotia will celebrate 250 years of democracy, we will celebrate bringing democracy to Nova Scotia and to Canada. Democracy 250 will celebrate and highlight many achievements in Nova Scotia's
democratic history, heritage and institutions. We will look to further educate and to empower our youth and all Canadians as to the value and importance of democratic government and, for me, we will do this for one real reason - for the people. After all, 250 years of democracy isn't about the many governments it has seen, it is and always will be about the will of the people. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.
MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Your Honour (Applause) Maybe I should sit down. (Laughter) Your Honour, veterans, Speakers, Premier, Leader of the Opposition, co-chairs of Democracy 250, fellow members of the Legislature, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I am always honoured to stand and speak in this Chamber but I am especially proud today because it is with the awareness that I carry on a tradition that is 250 years old, one of individuals who have represented their neighbours, their peers and Nova Scotians.
That first meeting of an elected Nova Scotia Assembly convened for the first time in a small wooden structure that housed the courts on the corner of Argyle and Buckingham Streets. On October 2, 1758, for the first time, Nova Scotians elected members to represent them in that courthouse. It was an historic moment, one that we are celebrating today and we will continue to celebrate over the course of the next year. Representative government is something that many of us take for granted, but it is something that our forefathers had to fight to achieve. At that moment, Nova Scotia became the example for other jurisdictions to follow.
I am proud to stand here today in Province House, the oldest home to a General Assembly in Canada, the birthplace of responsible government and the courtroom that granted freedom to the press, to recognize this historic first. As our keynote speaker, the Honourable Peter Milliken, pointed out during his remarks, we cannot take our democratic rights for granted. Government by the people, for the people, is the cornerstone of our political system. We must recognize the importance and the values of that system and endorse and exercise the privileges that that system provides.
We do not have to look too far to feel how fortunate we are to be Nova Scotian and Canadian but democratic rights come with responsibilities. Not only do we have to protect them at home but we also have to show the world that democracy is embraced and it affords us rights and liberties that allow us to live freely and fully. As Nova Scotians and Canadians, we have the right to hold our elected officials accountable and demand fair representation. In fact, that collective responsibility is the only true way for our democracy to have strength.
There is no greater time than now for us, as elected officials, to ensure that we are as representative and responsible to Nova Scotians today as our forefathers were 250 years ago. Thank you very much. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The Pictou District Honour Choir is the legacy of music teacher Sister Blanche Gillis and her colleagues who founded the choir in 1985 as a flagship for the
music programs of the then Pictou District School Board. Now, under the auspices of the Chignecto Central Regional School Board, this 80-member choir is open to any student, from Grades 1 to 12 in Pictou County schools, who loves to sing. The choir has performed in Ottawa on July 1st and on the stage of Carnegie Hall, New York. Their director since 1991 is Monica George Punke and their accompanist is Sandra Johnson. The 35 singers who are here this morning are students from Grades 6 to 9. They will perform We Are the Children of the World, by Nova Scotia musician and composer Donna Rhodenizer Taylor. Please join with me in welcoming the Pictou District Honour Choir. (Applause)
[We Are the Children of the World was sung by the Pictou District Honour Choir.] (Standing Ovation.)
MR. SPEAKER: Indeed, a very special thank you to the Pictou District Honour Choir for that very moving song here today and very appropriate to Democracy 250 and, indeed, everything we do is about empowering the next generation of our youth to become the leaders of tomorrow, through their leadership today.
At this time, I would now like to invite Her Honour and the Official Party to come forward for the unveiling of the Logo for Democracy 250. I invite everyone to come forward.
I now invite Her Honour and Speaker Milliken to unveil the logo for Democracy 250. [Applause]
[The Democracy 250 logo was unveiled.]
MR. SPEAKER: Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes the formal launch of Democracy 250. Please rise for the national anthem, which will be sung by the Pictou District Honour Choir and please remain standing for the departure of Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor, Speaker Milliken and members of the Official Party.
Joining us for the National Anthem are Mr. Norman Crewe, a veteran, and three members of the Armed Forces who have been deployed in Afghanistan: Sergeant Ralph MacDonald, representing the Army; Petty Officer Second Class Luc Champagne, representing the Navy; and Sergeant Lou Penney, representing the Air Force. We also have Flight Sergeant Christine Bérubé, a Cadet with the 615 Bluenose Air Cadet Squadron. Together they represent the past, present and future of democratic protection.
[The national anthem was sung by the Pictou District Honour Choir.]
MR. SPEAKER: I would now welcome the members and guests to a reception celebrating the launch of Democracy 250 in the Red Chamber, following the departure of our Colour Party and official guests.
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Please be seated.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. I invite one and all to the Red Chamber to continue our celebration of Democracy 250. (Applause)