Evidence of meeting #11 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was seats.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Andrew Sancton  Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Western Ontario, As an Individual
  • Michael Pal  Fellow, Mowat Centre, University of Toronto - School of Public Policy and Governance
  • Nelson Wiseman  Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, As an Individual
  • Kenneth Carty  Professor of Political Science, University of British Columbia
  • Ned Franks  Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University, As an Individual
  • Louis Massicotte  Professor, Department of Political Science, Laval University, As an Individual

11:55 a.m.

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, As an Individual

Dr. Nelson Wiseman

I was just going to say that what we're dealing with here are just a number of different variables. You have to decide and you have to prioritize them. We're trying to take into account the pressures that you face, the very real pressures as an MP in representing people, and the differences between rural and urban regions, and then the difference between representing Brampton West and Davenport—which I think has perhaps even half the population of Brampton West. So that's different. You have to reconcile those principles.

But it seems to me that the principle that's been driving this committee's work is the notion of proportionality among provinces. And it hasn't been about compensating rural members for their issues in terms of the differentials from one district to another district, and so on. If you want to somehow incorporate that into the act, I guess you could. Or you could try to take, as I'm suggesting, administrative measures to accommodate that through greater resources.

When I hear about constituency offices, does it have to be the case that everyone gets that same number of people in a constituency office? Maybe the people in rural constituencies need two or three constituency offices with more resources, and maybe that would be the case for the north or suburban regions.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Thank you, Professor.

We have a couple of minutes left.

Mr. Albrecht, one quick question and answer; and then Mr. Toone, one quick question and answer.

November 22nd, 2011 / 11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

I just want to follow up on the point that Ms. Charlton raised. It was addressed briefly in terms of members of Parliament. Not only are we elected by a certain number of votes, but we also have a job to do in representing our constituents. It's fine to say, just add more administrative services, but my experience is—and I'm sure my colleagues would back me up on this—is that the people say they want to talk to the MP. They voted for him; they didn't vote for their staffer. We know it's not that possible and most people are reasonable.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

What is your question, Mr. Albrecht?

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Okay. How can we possibly continue with the amazing difference between a riding like Brampton West with 170,000 people, and ridings in P.E.I. with 40,000 people, and still have the same services offered to constituents? Regardless of what province they are from, we need to provide the services they are demanding of us.

11:55 a.m.

Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Western Ontario, As an Individual

Dr. Andrew Sancton

I have one quick—

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Very quickly, Professor Sancton.

11:55 a.m.

Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Western Ontario, As an Individual

Dr. Andrew Sancton

I would like to make a quick defensive comment, as an electoral boundaries commissioner for Ontario. When we're talking about the population in Brampton West, or these ridings, I wish people would look at the populations as they were in 2001, not as they were in 2006, or as they are in 2011. The point is, we drew those boundaries equal in population back in those times. That's why we're having another process to fix them. We would be doing that even if you were not debating Bill C-20.

It is true that in northern Ontario, we made special provisions. It's also true that in Prince Edward Island, they have many smaller constituencies. You cannot do anything about that. That's entrenched in the Constitution, which cannot be changed unless you have unanimous agreement of the provinces. What I'm asking you to do is to fix the things that you can deal with. You can make it more equal. The electoral boundaries commissions will make the individual constituencies more equal the next time around.

Noon

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Mr. Pal, we're going to give Mr. Toone a question. Hopefully you can help him with that.

Ask and answer it as quickly as you can, please? We're past our hour, and we need to go on to the next group.

Noon

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Thank you. Very quickly, then, as fast as I possibly can.

A lot of the debate today has been based strictly on the numbers, on the populations of the different ridings. Also, we talked of how the debate is happening on a provincial level versus a pan-Canadian level. I want to focus on that.

We had a court decision, the Saskatchewan decision in 1991, that I think clearly illustrated that the problem of representation in Canada was not simply a numbers game, like it is in the United States, but about representing communities. I didn't hear that a lot today and I'm a little disappointed because of it. I want to hear more about how we, as MPs, can represent the communities across Canada, and how electoral reform can bring forward those communities. The beauty of our system is that it is truly non-partisan. We really should be focusing on that. I think we should try to get away from the inference that this is a partisan game, and talk about how we can better represent the populations. There are so many of them in Canada.

I want to ask you, as quickly as I possibly can, what is a community of interest?

Noon

Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Western Ontario, As an Individual

Dr. Andrew Sancton

Believe me, I do not believe that the Carter decision from Saskatchewan was very helpful in telling us what a community of interest was. As an electoral boundaries commissioner, I've found no guidance from that. Regarding which constituencies should get special treatment, if any are going to get special treatment, I really believe it's up to Parliament to decide that.

I was never elected to anything. All I was supposed to do was to work with the numbers and to try to take into account some idea of communities of interest. If Canadians want certain parts of Ontario, or certain parts of Newfoundland, to get special treatment, it should not be decided by one judge and two electoral boundary commissioners. You people should be deciding what those areas are.

Noon

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

May we have your comments, Mr. Pal?

Noon

Fellow, Mowat Centre, University of Toronto - School of Public Policy and Governance

Michael Pal

Whatever the definition of community of interest is, it has to be applied equally. The way the boundaries commissions have traditionally applied it has often been to look at smaller communities with less population. Why don't visible minorities or suburban voters also constitute communities of interest? Their interest should be taken into account. When they're underrepresented, are their interests being taken into account? I don't believe so.

Whatever the definition is, it has to apply equally across not just geographic groups, but other kinds of groups as well.

Noon

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Thank you very much. We're going to suspend for just one minute while we change the witness panels.

I thank the witnesses we've had so far today. Thank you very much for coming and helping us with our study.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Professor Carty, we thank you for joining us from British Columbia today. It's good to have you.