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 election.

Topics

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the information provided in the Order Paper question that was referred to in the first instance by the member for Medicine Hat, I am not aware of the specific allegation he is making. I repeat my first answer and that is, when I have had a chance to review those facts, I will provide him with the information.

Auditor General's Report
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to leaks of the Auditor General's report, the federal government paid for polls that might have been used for partisan purposes in the last election in Quebec.

Will the government confirm whether federal funding was used for polls that ultimately benefited Jean Charest during his last election campaign in Quebec?

Auditor General's Report
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. gentleman is inviting speculation to be made on a report that is yet to be filed by the Auditor General. When her report is made available, there will be full and ample comment on all sides by the government.

Ethanol Industry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural Resources recently announced new measures on ethanol production that will address climate change and bring economic opportunities to rural Canada.

Will the minister tell the House how investment in an ethanol expansion program will both assist world communities and meet the objectives of gas emissions?

Ethanol Industry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Vancouver South—Burnaby
B.C.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me congratulate the member for Chatham—Kent Essex on his great work on the ethanol file. Both he and the rural caucus spent a lot of time looking at programs to expand ethanol.

We were happy yesterday to announce $100 million for the ethanol expansion program over and above our announcement in the past of $140 million in loan guarantees as well as reducing the excise tax by 10¢.

This is a great announcement for Canadians. It is a great announcement for ethanol and for the good work that the Liberal caucus has done.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, everyone in the government knows that the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs voted unanimously that the war widows who were cut off their pensions as recipients under the VIP should be reinstated.

Will the government reinstate these war widows into the program so that they can continue to be treated with the respect that war widows deserve?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul
Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Science

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge that the motion was passed unanimously by the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs and National Defence. I thank the member for Nipissing for introducing that particular motion.

We will continue to do more for our veterans and their families.

Canadian Grand Prix
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, the owner of the Montreal Canadiens, George Gillett, maintained yesterday that the federal government had promised funding to save the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

Can the government tell us if this is indeed the case and how much funding it promised?

Canadian Grand Prix
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I have no knowledge of the matter raised by the hon. member, but I will do my best to determine the facts and come back with an answer.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, An Act respecting the effective date of the representation order of 2003, be read the third time and passed, and on the motion that the question be now put.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Before question period in debate on this matter, the hon. member for Elk Island had the floor. He has 12 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

October 21st, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to continue my speech on Bill C-49. As I was saying before question period, personally I would like the bill never to be enacted. I wish that there were no realignment of the boundaries because of the terrible, horrible job that has been done on it in the Edmonton area, including the annihilation of the Elk Island riding.

The commission totally missed the point on putting together in an equitable way people with community of interest. It totally missed it. Furthermore, the organization of ridings in Alberta now, the geography of the different ridings, is such that the work of members of Parliament will be made much more difficult due to its inefficiency.

The boundaries have been changed so that instead of having several members of Parliament with large ridings, it has pretty well been arranged so that every member of Parliament in Alberta will have a large riding. That is simply going to put us into vehicles. We will have to sit for hours in cars while we drive from the middle of the province to the boundary of the province. That is how long three of the ridings are. It is totally not needed.

The whole press to move this forward, to advance the date from the point of view of getting a better situation for the representation of our constituents in the House of Commons, and better work on behalf of the constituents by their members of Parliament in the riding, will be made much more difficult by these new ridings.

I am not going to complain. My riding disappears. I have already announced that I will be seeking re-election in a new riding for Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan and part of Edmonton. I will do my very level best to continue the tradition that we have in this party, and which I have personally, which is to represent the people of the riding to the best of my ability and show them here the capability of having a government which is honest, shows integrity and is fiscally responsible, accountable and transparent.

It is atrocious that the commission in Alberta rejected every representation that was made to it. I sat the whole day at the commission hearings in Edmonton. I sat and listened to every one of the presentations. Every presentation, with the exception of one, said that what was being done was not acceptable and that it was not the way to realign the boundaries.

Even the City of Edmonton itself said in its presentation that it would rather have six members of Parliament with undivided interests in representing its cause than eight with divided interests.

The commission said that it would not listen and it would do it anyway, and it did. It went ahead and totally messed up the organization of the ridings. It is now going to be mandatory for members of Parliament to serve these combination constituencies with the result that many more hours will be spent driving. There will be a huge increase in costs to the taxpayer to pay for the mileage for the trips of members of Parliament as they travel throughout their ridings.

It is a matter which deserves the attention of Parliament. I do not know how we could get together with the Liberals in a non-partisan way but we ought to do that with all of the parties in the House. We must look at how the process can be revised so that members of Parliament who actually do the work can somehow have a real and meaningful influence on the way the boundaries are created.

I will simply conclude by saying that I will be supporting Bill C-49 because I do want to have the next election under the new boundaries. I also want to have the certainty as we plan for the next election that we can plan for the new boundaries. It is better to have that than to have two simultaneous organizations going without knowing with certainty what is going to happen at the next election.

Although this should increase it, we know that in our archaic system in Canada the Prime Minister can still call an election whenever he wants. Presuming it is the member in waiting, who everybody recognizes, he could, anytime after he becomes the leader of the party, call an election and he may in fact still do that. Maybe the ridings will still remain the same. If that is the case, so be it, but the fact is that it is good to have the certainty of knowing what the riding boundaries will be at the next election.

I should also add that I am happy to be part of a party that has always had, since its beginning here, when I was first elected in 1993 as a member of the Reform Party and later on as the Canadian Alliance, the policy that we should have fixed dates for elections, fixed intervals so people can plan. There are many ramifications to that. Returning officers need to rent office space sometimes months before it is needed because they have to be ready even though they do not know when an election will be called. It is a weak part of our democracy to allow the sitting prime minister or the leader of the party that has the most seats in the House, for one individual, without being required to tell anybody else in advance, to call an election on the day it starts happening. That is very inadequate and I wish we would find that kind of parliamentary reform. If the new prime minister believes there is a democratic deficit in this country, that is one of the aspects of it.

Even though I will be voting for the bill, it increases the certainty that the next election will be held under the new boundaries. At least we will know what we are working under. There still is no 100% certainty because anything could happen. We have the Liberals opposite who have shown us on more than one occasion that they are ready to call an election way in advance of any technical necessity of doing so, just simply for the case of increasing the probability of them winning. I sometimes fear, out loud, that the new prime minister may call a quick election because he will think that our party is still not organized. I assure members that we are doing our very best to be ready for whenever that election is called.

I will be supporting the bill on that account only and not because I am eagerly looking forward to serving the constituents in my area under the new boundaries and under the new conditions which are being spelled out for us. However, we will do our very best.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my Canadian Alliance colleague, who says that he believes in democracy and disagrees with the bill on which we will soon be voting. However, he says that he will vote in favour of this bill.

I do not know exactly what his real democratic values are. Indeed, if there is something that calls for democracy in this country, it is the electoral process, the exercise of the right to vote.

How can he vote in favour of a bill in which he does not believe, that he believes is fundamentally bad and undemocratic? He says that, indeed, this will force him to travel more by car to represent his constituents.

As a matter of fact, the change being imposed with the new redistribution represents more than kilometres by car. There are people who are left out. There are people who have the right to be heard. There are taxpayers who are increasingly further from the centre of decisions, from our Parliament, who have less and less access to a member of Parliament. I believe that, in this bill, the real democratic values are being violated.

How can he vote, how can he say that he is a democrat, that he believes in democracy and disagrees with a bill such as this and, at the same time, say that he will vote for it? I have a lot of problems with this interpretation.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good point. I, in fact, said that there were parts of the bill with which I disagreed. I disagree with the way the boundaries are being rewritten. I do not care whether they are enacted on August 25 or on April 1. Inevitably, they will be in place and I disagree with that profoundly. That is not the purpose of Bill C-49.

Bill C-49 does not in any way change the boundaries. What it does say is that Alberta, which now has 26 seats, would have 28 seats if the next election were held under the new boundaries. I feel that having those additional members of Parliament in our province outweighs the disadvantages that affect me personally in the annihilation of the riding of Elk Island. Therefore, even though I am personally affected, I am putting my own personal preferences aside for the benefit of the larger good.

As I mentioned, I will be supporting the bill because, hopefully, as we plan for the next election, it will increase the certainty of knowing what the actual ridings will be. Otherwise, there will be uncertainty. I also will be supporting it because of the additional seats that will be provided in British Columbia and in Alberta, as well as in Ontario, to reflect the change in our demographic distribution in the country.

I have adequate reasons to vote in favour of the bill. However, the redistribution itself, which is not the issue of Bill C-49, which only has to do with the date of implementation, causes me a lot of problems, and I object to that, but that is not the object of this vote, so I am not being inconsistent.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member made an interesting point and I would be interested in his comments. It had to do with his current situation whereby, with the boundaries expanding, the geographic size of the riding would expand enough that travel within the riding would be a little more difficult. Quite frankly, I think the member was basically saying that it would be a lot more difficult to provide the same level of service to constituents.

I am sure that fact concerns a lot of members but I suspect very few members in this place would make the argument that every time the population goes up by 100,000 people we should add another member of Parliament in perpetuity. It really is problematic. Eventually we have to get there.

To the extent that a riding may not be an urban centre but a more rural or remote riding, there comes a point in time when travel within the riding becomes significantly greater than the average travel time of a member of Parliament. Does the member not think that consideration should be given to that riding so it is not based totally on population targets but on a combination of population and geographic space?