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Banner: First Among EqualsCharles Joseph Clark banner

Declaration, December 13, 1979


The opposition parties have decided to disrupt the nation's business. That was not our choice; we wanted to get on with governing the country.

But the decision has been made by the Liberals and the NDP. I, of course, accept it. I will be calling on the Governor General in the morning.

Only six months ago Canadians voted to change the government of Canada because they wanted to change the direction of our country. By their action tonight, the opposition parties are saying Canadians were wrong to make that decision.

The budget introduced Tuesday night by the Minister of Finance and rejected tonight by the Liberals and the NDP was in keeping with that decision. It offered fundamental change in the direction of both economic and energy policy for Canada.

All Canadians know the economic mess we inherited  --  the largest budgetary deficit in our history and the worst deficit in international dealings among Western nations. The budget faced those problems squarely and honestly. The string of large deficits produced by the Trudeau government had led to higher inflation and higher unemployment. Our budget sought to reduce the deficit to ease pressure on interest rates, to free capital for job-creation by the private sector, and to end any suggestion that the national government believed it could continually spend more than it earned.

Our budget offered significant new tax benefits to lower- and middle-income Canadians, to working spouses, to farmers, to fishermen, to small business, and to the less-developed regions of our country. It now seems certain those benefits cannot be legislated into law  --  nor can our program to provide mortgage interest and property tax relief to the 3 ½ million Canadian families who own homes and to the countless thousands of other Canadians who would like to be homeowners.

We inherited an energy situation in which more and more Canadians were becoming ever more dependent on oil from foreign sources to fuel their cars and heat their homes. This in a country with more energy potential than virtually any other nation in the world. We were determined to change that by providing, for the first time, a comprehensive national energy policy for Canada. Our goal was to make Canada energy self-sufficient by 1990  --  to ensure that within a decade every Canadian could depend on Canadian sources for his or her energy needs. That policy is right; Canadians have only to watch TV every night to see how dangerous and foolhardy it is to depend on foreign oil suppliers over whom we have no control. Our thrust toward that essential policy for Canada now has been interrupted for partisan reasons.

So, too, has our effort to renew our federal system. Since becoming the government, we have taken concrete action to show Quebeckers, indeed all Canadians, that there is an effective alternative between the unacceptable status quo and unacceptable options like sovereignty-association. Because of tonight's action by the Liberals and New Democrats, we have no choice but to cancel next week's First Ministers' conference, next month's National Economic Development conference and other specific steps we were planning to show there was a better way than "gunslinger" federalism.

My colleagues and I very much wanted this 31st Parliament to work for Canada. One of our first acts was to bring forward proposals for parliamentary reform, including a Freedom of Information Bill, so that members from all parties in the House could serve you more effectively.

Unfortunately, from the first day, opposition parties showed no interest in making Parliament work. Instead they have systematically obstructed its business. Now they have brought it to a complete halt.

The opposition parties refused to make this minority Parliament work. I remain committed to the mandate Canadians gave us last May. My party and I intend to get on with governing Canada.


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Source: Clark, Charles Joseph. Prime Minister's statement. Ottawa: Office of the Prime Minister, 1979. 4 p.


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