Bill C-20 (Historical)
An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission
An Act to amend the National Capital Act and other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
John Baird Conservative
Committee Report Presented
(This bill did not become law.)
November 24th, 2011 / 11:35 a.m.
Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC
I've done the calculation for the NDP—I'm disappointed that you haven't done it yourselves. If we add your recommendations to Bill C-20, you don't even reach half of the adjustment proposed by Bill C-20 or the Liberals with regard to Ontario's under-representation.
For example, let's take the case of Alberta. Based on the current formula—I'm saying this for Ms. Barbot because she doesn't know it—there wouldn't be 308 seats, but rather 315 seats following the next election. If we don't amend the current act, there will be 15 seats, that is to say 75 out of 315 for Quebec. Alberta would therefore have 9.84% of the 315 seats based on the current formula. Based on yours, it would have 9.88% of the seats, and the House would comprise 344 seats. So we would be adding 36 seats, and for nothing, since the three under-represented provinces would still be almost as under-represented as they are today. The act would therefore still be unconstitutional. Your motion would condemn the House of Commons to pass an unconstitutional bill.
November 24th, 2011 / 11:35 a.m.
Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC
However, you say the province of Quebec must retain representation of 24.35%, and you say that's constitutional. Have you calculated what that means for the three provinces that are experiencing strong growth, if we follow the premises of Bill C-20 for which we are meeting here today? Have you done that calculation?
November 24th, 2011 / 11:10 a.m.
Vivian Barbot Interim President, Bloc Québécois
Good morning. I appreciate this opportunity today to outline the Bloc Québécois' position on Bill C-20, which proposes a fundamental change to Quebec's representation in the House of Commons.
The Bloc Québécois, like Quebec's National Assembly, vigorously opposes Bill C-20 because what it proposes is the marginalization of the Quebec nation. The federal government has unilaterally advanced a new formula to amend, but especially to reduce, Quebec's political power in the House of Commons. It is proposing increasing limits on the Quebec nation's influence and ability to defend its values and interests in the Parliament of Canada. It is also another tool to form a majority government without any need for members of Parliament from Quebec.
In fact, with Bill C-20, which essentially constitutes an attack on the Quebec nation, the masks are off. The pseudo-federalism of openness, in which the Conservatives wrap themselves in an attempt to charm Quebec voters, is over. With Bill C-20, that has become a closed federalism, a federalism of break-up and abandonment of Quebec. We see that the principles that led to the creation of Canada, particularly the union of two founding peoples, no longer mean anything for the current government. We also see that the recognition of the Quebec nation by the House of Commons in November 2006 is an empty shell. Nearly five years to day after that acknowledgement, we are now compelled to note that it will never result in real action, as though mere recognition had closed the debate for good.
Bill C-20 dispels the last illusions. The only place that Quebec could occupy in Canada is a place of promises among others in a country that is not like it and does not take that fact into account, in a country that seeks to limit its distinct voice, that wants and is trying to build itself without it. The Bloc Québécois is not the only group that has denounced the bill. On three occasions, Quebec's National Assembly has unanimously spoken out against the federal government's wish to marginalize the Quebec nation in the House of Commons. That was a denunciation by all the elected members of the National Assembly, federalist and sovereigntist, on the left and on the right. The most recent unanimous motion dates back to April 12, 2010. It reaffirms that Quebec, as a nation, must be able to enjoy special protection of its relative representation in the House of Commons and asks the elected members of all political parties sitting in Ottawa to refuse to pass any bill that would reduce Quebec's relative representation in the House.
It is clear that this call has been deliberately ignored by the majority of members in the House of Commons. The Conservatives justify their bill by hiding behind the screen of fair democratic representation. They argue that it is normal for Quebec to lose its influence as its relative population has declined within Canada. They are now pretending to do Quebec a favour by granting it three more seats. That favour obviously conceals the real issue because, even with three more seats, Quebec's influence will be reduced within the House of Commons. Even worse, Quebec will not even retain a percentage representation equal to its demographic weight.
In fact, the Conservative members have conveniently forgotten that the principle of fair representation allows for exceptions to promote real representation. They have also conveniently forgotten that the Constitution of Canada provides mechanisms that enable minorities to have more representatives than their mere demographic weight would permit. We need only consider Prince Edward Island, which has four seats in the House of Commons. If subject to a rule based solely on population, it would likely have three less. Should we therefore reduce the political weight of Prince Edward Island? I don't believe so. The Bloc Québécois believes instead that this situation clearly shows that a democratic institution such as the House of Commons must not be a mere mechanical and arithmetical reflection of relative population size. Other fundamental factors must be taken into account, and recognition of the Quebec nation is one of them.
The Quebec nation has its own language, culture, values and interests, and therefore has distinctive interests that it must assert and specific characteristics that the federal government must take into account. For those reasons, the Quebec nation must have adequate political weight in Canada's Parliament. Reducing Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons violates that fundamental principle; it proves that the Quebec nation can expect nothing further from Canada.
November 17th, 2011 / 11:50 a.m.
Former Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual
Mr. Chairman, committee members, I'm very pleased to be appearing once again before you. This is the second time that I have made an appearance since leaving my position. I can recall some very interesting exchanges during my previous appearance. As always, I feel that it is a privilege to be able to appear before the people who represent Canadians after an election. This is, in my opinion, a very great honour.
I was eager to accept the invitation that was extended to me on Tuesday at noon. I would like to point out that I may not be able to answer all the questions that you may have. If that is the case, I would like the clerk to note them and I will provide you with a response in writing, if you wish, or in person if that is of greater interest to you.
The documents that I have had the opportunity to read, without doing so on an in-depth basis, obviously include Bill C-20, with its many scenarios, depending on the date of adoption, as well as the testimonies provided last Tuesday when Minister Uppal and Mr. Marc Mayrand, my successor, appeared before you. I also had an opportunity to read my 2005 report and I looked at seat distribution for 2001 and 1991.
I would also like to remind you that when I worked at the office during the 1990s—I do not recall the exact date—the chief electoral officer had suggested that the number of seats be limited to about 300. At that time there were 301 ridings and people were worried about this number rising. Moreover, yesterday, someone quoted Mr. Harper at the time.
In addition, the redistribution exercise was put on hold at one point, effectively disrupting all of the work. This is something to be avoided if at all possible. Once a committee has begun its work, it should continue without interruption, without new data, without any change in data, until everything has been completed.
In my view, with respect to the bill that is before you, with respect to three matters, with respect to the shorter timeframes, the seven months instead of the year to get ready, we did it. I remember well Mr. Martin, the Prime Minister at the time, wanted to do an election within six months. I had to tell him I couldn't do it before seven, even though the law allowed me 12. Seven was the shortest, and we were able to achieve it.
The 30 days instead of 60 and the 10 months instead of 12 came out of presentations, representations made by the commissions themselves, because we had post-mortems and we had questions. The 30-day minimum is a minimum. It does not mean that you've cut everybody else off.
These were ideas emanating from the commissions themselves that we wanted to act on.
I will just mention that one of the reasons why all of this becomes very possible is the very high-performing computers that now exist for cartography, for example, for utilizing StatsCan data, skimming off what you need in order to help the commissions. Whereas it used to take two months to prepare a series of maps, it can now take half a day. With respect to the formula itself, we've heard what the chief statistician said. It's obvious to me that a new number has been designed in order to do the in-between provinces. The way the indexing formula for future redistribution exercises works is that it will be the average of provincial population growth.
That will have the impact of slightly lowering the quotient, compared to if you used the total population, the average Canadian population overall, which means then that the seats will remain slightly higher, which is what is sought by this exercise.
The resulting allocation from Bill C-20, in my view, with Ontario getting 15 seats, Alberta 6, B.C. 6, and Quebec 3, is exceedingly good.
The west, in essence, and Ontario, while not getting exactly what they should, will certainly be much better represented, in terms of what democracy is about. Insofar as Quebec is concerned, Quebec will remain right on, not overrepresented, not underrepresented, based on the total number of seats. This has been one of the objectives for a very long time. I think Mr. Reid was alluding to this in his testimony yesterday. It has been around for a long time that Quebec was a pivotal province. There are those that are underrepresented. There are those that are overrepresented. Quebec is right there. This approach is one, certainly, that I am in agreement with.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
November 17th, 2011 / 11:05 a.m.
Chief StatisticianStatistics Canada
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity to address the committee in relation to its study of Bill C-20.
Today, I am accompanied by two officials from Statistics Canada who are experts in census and population estimate methodologies, namely Mr. David Dolson, Director of Social Survey Methods, and Ms. Johanne Denis, Director of the Demography Branch.
As I think you know, Statistics Canada's role in the readjustment of electoral boundaries is in the supply of population data to support, first, the application of the formula for allocation of seats to the provinces and territories, and, second, the delineation of electoral districts within provinces and territories. For the purpose of delineation of electoral districts within provinces and territories, there is only one source of population data that provides the necessary detailed geographic breakdowns, and that is the census of population, which is conducted every five years.
For the purpose of allocation of seats between provinces and territories, there are two alternative sources of population data that could be employed. The first source, and the one that has been used in the past, is the unadjusted population counts from the decennial census of population. Statistics Canada will publish counts from the 2011 census of population on February 8, 2012. The second alternative source is Statistics Canada's population estimates program. This program produces annual and quarterly estimates of the populations of the provinces and territories. Estimates in this program reflect at any given point in time all of the information that Statistics Canada possesses in order to provide the best possible evaluation of those populations.
Bill C-20 proposes, in a departure from previous practice, to use the currently available estimates of provincial and territorial populations at July 1, 2011, for purposes of calculating the allocation of seats between provinces and territories. These estimates reflect results of the 2006 census adjusted for net undercoverage, augmented by births and immigration since the census date and reduced by deaths and emigration.
Given that the objective of Bill C-20 is to launch the readjustment process at this time, the relevant statistical issue for consideration by the committee is which of the two alternative measures of the populations of the provinces and territories is likeliest to be the closest to the true value: the currently available population estimates or the unadjusted 2011 census of population counts that will be released in February. To answer this question, the census counts and the current population estimates need to be compared to the definitive estimates of the 2011 population that Statistics Canada will produce in 2013. These will reflect estimates of net undercoverage of provincial and territorial populations from the 2011 census of population to be generated by studies that are currently under way but not available.
Let me explain briefly the key notion of net census undercoverage. Official statisticians in all countries know that a census of population, however well conducted, will miss some people while counting some others twice. Statistics Canada, after each census, conducts a statistical study of these two effects.
Estimates from the 1996, 2001, and 2006 censuses indicate that net undercoverage, because we miss more people than we double count, is typically on the order of 2% to 3% of the population counts in the Canadian census. We cannot know at this time what the level of net undercoverage will be for the 2011 census of population—the necessary study, as I said, has not yet been completed—nor can we definitively know whether estimates of natural increases and migration that underlie the population estimates will be confirmed.
The best guide, therefore, to answer the question of which of the currently available population estimates or the unadjusted 2011 census population counts will be closest to our definitive estimates is to look at what has happened in previous censuses. Having done this work, I can inform the committee that the population estimates for the provinces and territories available at the time of the release of the census counts have typically been substantially closer to the definitive estimates than the unadjusted census counts themselves.
To demonstrate this, I have prepared a table, which I think you have in front of you, based on the 2006 census, that looks essentially at the situation as it unfolded for the 2006 census. The table compares the unadjusted 2006 census population counts and the population estimates published in September 2006, which is essentially the same generation of estimates that we're talking about right now for 2011, to the adjusted 2006 census population counts that were published in September 2008.
At the Canada level, the population estimates published in September 2006 were 0.3% higher than the definitive population counts, while the unadjusted counts were 2.8% lower. As at the Canada level, at the provincial and territorial levels, the population estimates were invariably significantly closer to the definitive population counts than the unadjusted counts were.
In summary, even with the release of the 2011 census unadjusted population counts on February 8, 2012, it is Statistics Canada's view that the currently available estimates of population at July 1 represent the best available evaluation of the population of the provinces and territories that is available at this time or that will be available on February 8. It is therefore appropriate, in our view, that they should be used for the purposes of Bill C-20.
March 8th, 2011 / 9:10 a.m.
Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC
I would hardly call it offensive when I said before that the Bloc Québécois was going to vote against your bill. It is certainly not what we would do—and that is what our party was trying to tell you in the beginning—despite your position on Bill C-20 regarding the change to the development of Gatineau Park. Quebec would have really liked to be able to count on your support when the committee you were on was dealing with that bill. That being said, clearly, we will be supporting your bill. We asked our Bloc Québécois colleagues to respect your position, which we do not share, on Bill C-20. However, Bill C-530, which you put forward, is extremely important, and we will of course support it.
Furthermore, Mr. Bevington, I would like to know what will happen with the taxes and all the royalties. For instance, who gets the taxes payable by a mining company operating in the Northwest Territories? Does the part of the country you represent, the Northwest Territories, get a share or does it all go to the federal government?
Business of the House
March 3rd, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.
John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, before I respond to the member's question, I would like to, on behalf of the government, add my voice to the voices of the member for Toronto Centre and the member for Winnipeg Centre who spoke about the passing of a distinguished member of the parliamentary press gallery, Jim Travers of The Toronto Star. He was a long-time member of the parliamentary press gallery and a former editor of the Ottawa Citizen. Jim would have been just 63 years old next month. His passing in the hospital was completely shocking and unexpected.
Jim was a top national journalist and a columnist who never was afraid to make his views known on the printed page and on the airwaves as a frequent guest on panel shows and talk radio. He was a passionate Canadian. He loved this country and he was incredibly committed to his craft. Canada has certainly lost a legend.
On behalf of all of us in this place, I offer our sincere condolences to Jim's wife Joan, his sons Patrick and Ben, and to the rest of his family and friends, and his colleagues especially from The Toronto Star who, I know, are deeply saddened by this loss, and, indeed, all of his colleagues in the parliamentary press gallery at this very difficult time. The thoughts and prayers of all Canadians are with Jim's family and many friends.
In terms of parliamentary business for the coming week, today we will continue debate on the NDP opposition motion. I thank my NDP counterpart, the member for Vancouver East, after our difference of opinion. We have worked to make Parliament work and we have come to an agreement that has been satisfactory to both sides. I also thank my opposition colleagues from Ottawa South and Joliette for their assistance and agreement in this matter.
Tomorrow, we will resume and hope to complete debate on Bill C-55, the enhanced new veterans charter that our colleague, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, has introduced. Following Bill C-55, we will move to call Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons).
Next week, we will continue with the business on Friday and, in addition, we will call Bill C-20, the action plan for the National Capital Commission; Bill C-54, the child sexual offences; Bill C-8, the Canada–Jordan free trade agreement; Bill C-12, the democratic representation; Bill C-46, the Canada–Panama free trade agreement; Bill C-57, improving trade within Canada, brought forward by the Minister for Small Business; and Bill C-50, improving access to investigative tools for serious crimes, which is an important bill sponsored by our colleague, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
My friend from Ottawa South and the member for Vancouver East mentioned a solicitation for financial funds on parliamentary letterhead.
Mr. Speaker, as the chair of the Board of Internal Economy, I think it would be wise for you to place this issue before the Board of Internal Economy. There have been several complaints about opposition members soliciting campaign funds on government websites and perhaps the board could discuss that at the same time.
With respect to Bill S-10 and Bill C-49, we continue to make our case to Canadians and are working hard to convince the Liberal Party of the wrong decision it has made on these important piece of legislation. We will call for further debate in due course.