House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was riding.

Topics

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I did not ask the hon. member to withdraw. I asked him to be more careful, and I believe those are two different things. We can still proceed with your point of order if you wish. I did not ask the member to withdraw, I just cautioned him. If you do not mind, we will forgo this kind of language, which is unacceptable in the House of Commons.

The hon. member for Lotbinière—L'Érable.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, instead of saying coward, perhaps I should say “lack of fortitude” or “lack of leadership”? A man who has been waiting for 10 years to become prime minister and is unable to face his responsibilities is a man who lacks fortitude, lacks leadership, shirks his responsibilities and uses the Liberal majority to change, through Bill C-49, a process provided for by an act that normally should be a most objective and non-partisan act.

By moving up to April 1, 2004, an order that was supposed to come into force on August 26, 2004, the future prime minister is obviously showing that he has trouble facing his responsibilities.

Earlier, my colleague from Champlain said that the way the democratic deficit has been increasing in this House, we might sit for only 3 out of the next 12 months. In the meantime, there are problems in our society and people are counting on the future prime minister.

As I said before, it is a real competition among advertising agencies. They show him from every angle, but when the time comes for him to say something, he seems to be at a loss for words. We are facing a real democratic deficit.

You will understand why I said at the beginning of my speech that I was deeply disappointed to see my riding disappear. When I learned the news, I was confident, because under the Canada Elections Act that governs the approval of new electoral boundaries, I would have a year to meet with the new people and to get them to know me. These 12 months seemed to me like a reasonable time frame for those members who were greatly affected by the changes to the electoral boundaries.

But no, Bill C-49 brings us back to a five to six month time frame. I do not want to engage in a direct attack against the future leader of the Liberal Party, but I doubt that there will be a democratic process for the nomination of the 308 Liberal candidates in Canada.

The way things are shaping up, once the order comes into effect, there will be a partisan nomination process like we have never seen before in Canada. That shows that there is a democratic deficit and that Parliament is currently paralyzed. Nothing is getting done.

We have one king who is on his way out, and another who is anxious to take his place on the throne but who looks for opportunities to greet his loyal subjects without saying anything to convince them that he deserves to accede to the throne.

I would have liked Bill C-49 to be a little more democratic, with an appeal process for the people of Quebec and for all the ridings that were greatly affected by the new electoral boundaries.

What happened is that bounderies were imposed and a committee process was put in place, and then the commission decided that there was no recourse available any more.

How can we go visit our constituents to tell them that we live in a democratic country, that we are sensitive to the needs of the people and that we live in a country where consultation is allowed, when the government shows no respect for such a fundamental issue and for the sense of belonging that exist in a riding?

All this is part of a plan developed by the member for LaSalle—Émard in June 2002, when he was fired by the Prime Minister. This is a plan to ease him into power. Not only will it take him there, but it will also allow him to stay quiet, letting this series of images convince the general public.

It is too late, but I would have liked Mr. Kingsley at Elections Canada to put off the decision, and I wrote him about that. We all know how it went with the report; we waited and waited, not knowing when it would be presented and, finally, it was released on August 26. I wanted those of our colleagues hard hit by the readjustment to be able to run in the election using the current boundaries.

There could have been eight more seats. Of course, none were assigned to Quebec. Western Canada and Ontario got some, and the four in Prince Edward Island were maintained. The population of Quebec is larger, but the number of ridings remains the same, at 75. Once again, there is a political will not to treat Quebec right.

Why should we keep quiet when there is a democratic deficit in this place? Why should we not condemn this approach in this House? Why should we not worry about an adjournment, perhaps as early as November 7, to allow the future king to be crowned in Toronto in November? There will be a pre-election, but most members affected by the readjustment will be torn between the services they must provide to the public and the efforts they will have to make to get re-elected.

In making my decision, naturally my priority will be those who put their trust in me on November 27, 2000, but at the same time, understandably, I ought to intensify my efforts to try and convince the 50% or 60% of new voters I will have in my riding. Is it right that we should have another election now? Normally, we should be asking the public to assess and justify our work, which will not happen in my riding. Wherever I go, I will end up with about 30% or 35% of my riding. That makes no sense, and it is undemocratic.

In closing, I want to say that Bill C-49 des not solve anything. It is only the result of the future leader of the Liberal Party working with the House leader in order to be able to call an early election and especially to avoid his responsibilities as prime minister in this House.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member raised a number of interesting points. I would like at least to make a comment about an impression that I received from his speech, and to quote him “the boundaries that we are creating here”.

The House of Commons, the members of Parliament, do not create the boundaries. The member knows there is a process which is established under existing law. It is the Chief Electoral Officer and the commissions that have been established who, based on the census information, provide a distribution of ridings across the country. They will adjust them to take into account the growth in the average population per riding. They also take into account that pursuant to our Constitution, a province like P.E.I. regardless of its population is guaranteed to have four seats. There are some exceptions, and I am not sure if the number is the same in these provinces, but by and large in Ontario the average population would be something like 116,000.

The census was completed some time ago. The commissions initially came forward with proposed boundaries based on the assessment of the population distribution of the census. That process then went through very extensive public consultations. The member and the public at large had an opportunity to appear before the tribunal to make representations to ensure that communities of like-minded interests were not divided, et cetera.

I understand that many members will have a situation where even though Quebec's population may have increased, the population of a member's riding may not have increased to the same extent. Therefore that member will find that his riding now has been attached to another riding which has not grown to the same extent.

The point is that although we had an opportunity through this legislation and we had an opportunity through our own committee to make final representations, those representations were not binding on the commission. The commission could consider them but this place had no say in the final boundaries. We had an opportunity to make suggestions either at hearings or through our committee.

Having said that, does the member feel that he needs the year to find a new riding? Maybe he could explain to the House when he found out that his riding did not have a sufficient population and that it would have to have a significant change to its boundaries. I suspect the answer is that it was at least two years ago and therefore, his argument about needing a full year to figure out what he might do about it simply is not a valid argument.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I have proof once again that members on the other side do not see things the way we do.

I said it before and I will say it again, if the order were to come into effect on April 25, 2004, as planned initially, instead of April 1, my new constituents would have had 12 months to get to know who I am.

Second, I never said that the government and the House of Commons were creating the boundaries. What I pointed out, and I think my hon. colleague is a democrat, is that there is no appeal process. Once the commission has made a decision, if the people do not agree, it would be interesting to have an appeal process.

Or is this like the pre-budget consultations, which I call bogus consultations, since they are for naught? Is this what we are aiming for, bogus consultations that distort the truth and reality?

I do not play those kinds of games. I represent a riding. I represent my constituents. I want to be able to clearly express their needs and their expectations, which is more than can be said of members opposite.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I often meet with Canadian and Quebec women's groups. I heard a comment this week and I would like to hear what the member for Lotbinière—L'Érable thinks about it.

First, people told me that if the House adjourns because of an election and if we in fact move up the implementation of the new electoral map, that will mean that what they have said to their members before the election will get lost. To them, this means that it will take almost a year before they can get an answer or a solution to their problems.

Somebody else asked me: “What do we do about Bill C-22 to amend the Divorce Act? What do we do about Bill C-25 on labour relations in the public service? What do we do about victims of harassment? What do we do about same sex marriage? What will happen with all these bills that people are waiting for? What will happen with poverty and social housing?”

That is what the women's groups were asking and it is also what I am asking my colleague.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, the answer is quite simple: everything is done here to please one man, the member for LaSalle—Émard. He wants to become the prime minister and he does not want to talk, to take his—

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

An hon. member

He is already the prime minister.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Not yet officially, but he pretends to be the prime minister: he holds caucuses and organizes meetings. What is happening here is amazing. Imagine the image of Canada that we are projecting internationally.

Nothing has happened in this Parliament for the last year. The American president, Mr. Bush, even refuses to meet with the current Prime Minister, because he knows that the Prime Minister does not make the decisions, that it is not him who is the Prime Minister, but the member for LaSalle—Émard.

All the bills that are ongoing, everything that has been done in committees will be lost. We will go backwards. We have been wasting our time for the last year and we will lose another year for just one man. We are waiting for this man in the next election campaign. You will see.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I would simply like to reiterate the point that the office of the Chief Electoral Officer goes through this process not to accommodate the wishes of members of Parliament but rather to structure the boundaries so that it can efficiently run an election with ridings of relatively equal size.

That is the way it is. It is not a subjective thing. It has guidelines to take into account communities of interest, et cetera. It has to be an efficient configuration based on natural boundaries and so on. The member has to admit that the process is not for the benefit of that member or any other member in the House, but rather to run an efficient electoral campaign.

Let me conclude simply by also noting that half of the member's time was spent talking about the member for LaSalle—Émard. Let me assure the member that he will never get ahead of the member for LaSalle—Émard as long as he keeps kicking him in the backside.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member for Lotbinière—L'Érable has almost 30 seconds to answer.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, the decision is really not complicated. On the issue of Bill C-49, if you, the Liberals, are so democratic, why do you want to pass Bill C-49, whose purpose is to change the normal process, which is to wait one year before applying an order?

If you are great democrats, you should propose today to maintain the date of the order at August 25, 2004, instead of moving it forward to April 1, 2004. Then you would prove that you are democratic. Currently, the only thing you are proving is that you are fiddling with democracy.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, once again I have to apologize for my rather weak voice, however, it is excellent because it prevents me from yelling at people. I will be sure to be extraordinarily gentle today.

I am very pleased to speak for a few minutes to Bill C-49, the bill which would advance the time at which the changes to the new boundaries take effect. I am very much concerned about this. Realistically speaking I should be voting against the bill but I will be supporting it when it comes to the vote. The new prime minister will be able to call an election whenever he chooses. It could be soon after his inauguration or at least as soon as the present Prime Minister resigns. It is a very interesting dilemma that faces the country politically at this time. He could call the election as early as February or March, but we are pretty sure that will not happen.

If he does wait until after April 1, which is the date proposed by the bill, then the question is whether it will be done under the old or new boundaries. If this bill does not pass, then we will live with that total uncertainty. For me it is a huge uncertainty. As I have mentioned previously in the House, I will no longer be called the member for Elk Island, nor will anyone be called the member for Elk Island because under the new boundaries, Elk Island will cease to exist. It will evaporate.

Of course, we want to believe in the total impartiality of the commission that made that decision. I have serious questions about that, but it is a real change in the way we are organized politically in Alberta. The commission has chosen to annihilate several of the rural ridings, one of which is the riding of Elk Island, and to use a hub and spoke approach. The new riding will now include part Edmonton, a major city and in fact Alberta's capital. The boundaries go out in spokes from the city in order to include larger numbers. I think that is an error.

I know it will be manageable. If elected to one of the new ridings, I will serve to the very best of my ability. It is going to be more difficult because of a serious mismatch in the community of interest definition, which is in the legislation and which the commission was duty bound to observe but which it deliberately chose to ignore. As a result, parts of the city will now be competing for the attention of their member of Parliament on issues which will be quite diverse from those which affect the rural parts. However, as I said, this is a reality and we have to live with it.

In that sense, I would like to vote against the bill. Personally I would like the election to be called using the old boundaries because we have a very good, closely knit riding. We all get along very well together. We have an extremely high degree of connectivity among the members of the communities that are involved. It would be much more effective to continue under that. However, as I said, I will be supporting this legislation because, among other things, this increases the representation of Alberta to within one seat of the number that it should have.

In listening to the speeches when this bill was debated previously and at third reading today, one of the things I have observed is that Bloc members are opposing this bill. They say that they are now being under-represented. According to the Constitution, Quebec has 75 seats regardless of its population. It is my understanding that the population of Quebec has increased at a much lower rate than the population of Alberta and British Columbia. As a result, the fact that they remain the same, relatively speaking, is still giving them a numerical advantage.

If we were to check the numbers I believe we would find that the number of voters per constituency in Quebec is lower than the number in either Alberta or British Columbia. In fact, an argument could be made that Alberta should have had three more seats instead of two, although I will concede that the strict application of the formula, as it exists, results in the two additional seats.

I will be supporting Bill C-49 because I believe Alberta should have additional representation. I also believe British Columbia should have additional representation because it has grown a lot in the last number of years and is certainly entitled to two more seats as the new boundaries would provide. That is the reason I want the next election to be under the new boundaries but I wish the boundaries readjustment procedure could be reviewed and changed so there would be fairness.

What has really distressed me is that the commissioner in Alberta, instead of addressing the issue of commonality of community interests, gave reasons why he should not listen to that.

Alberta has two major cities, Edmonton, which is the capital, and Calgary, which is probably a more major industrial and business centre. Calgary, which has grown more within its boundaries, was entitled to two more seats. However, the commission, instead of just saying that its mandate was to provide for equal representation based upon population, said that if Calgary received two more seats then Edmonton should as well. I totally disagree with that. That is not the case. If Edmonton's population had grown within its boundaries, then yes, but the fact is that it did not.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member for Elk Island will have 12 minutes and 52 seconds remaining when we resume debate this afternoon.

World Teachers' Day
Statements By Members

October 21st, 2003 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, October 5 marked the 10th annual World Teachers' Day, to which Education International has given the theme “Opening Doors to a Better World”.

When we reflect on the role of teachers in our society, we cannot restrict our notions of teaching to the mere relaying of facts and figures to students. Teachers accept wholeheartedly the responsibility of inspiring, guiding and developing values of tolerance, equality, peace and respect. Our teachers are, indeed, pillars, not only of education but of citizenship.

Our teachers, from pre-school onward, are invaluable to our society and to our citizenry. What happens every day of the week in classrooms across Canada must be appreciated in terms of how our democratic society has benefited. How many among us say that the choices we made were made because of the influence of a teacher?

In recognizing World Teachers' Day, we celebrate the courage and dedication of our teachers in expanding our minds and understandings. We thank all teachers for opening the door to a better world.

Aboriginal Affairs
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, imagine a country where your race determined your treatment by the justice system. Such a country would be violating the most fundamental tenet of justice. Only one such country exists and we are in it. It is Canada.

The appalling truth of the 1996 Liberal amendments to the Criminal Code and the 2000 Youth Criminal Justice Act is that they require sentencing judges to treat aboriginal offenders differently than other Canadians.

That is wrong. It is an insult to law-abiding aboriginal people. It is an insult to the victims of aboriginal crimes, most of whom are aboriginal people. It sends a sickening, perverse message to aboriginal young people. Most important, it fails to address the causes of higher aboriginal crime rates: the deplorable socio-economic status of aboriginal Canadians.

On behalf of aboriginal Canadians, I urge all members to support my private member's bill, Bill C-416, which will restore a true and equal justice system to our country.