House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was representation.

Topics

Supply
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate supply day motion put forward by the NDP.

The motion under consideration today calls upon the government to hold a referendum within one year to determine whether Canadians wish to replace the current electoral system with a system of proportional representation, and if so, to appoint a commission to consult Canadians on the preferred model of proportional representation, with an implementation date no later than July 1, 2006.

The motion deals with two things: the electoral reform process and whether to replace the current system.

I agree that there is something fundamentally wrong with our current electoral system. As a result of our current first past the post system of electing representatives, both in provincial and federal elections, millions of votes do not count.

Let us look at the 1997 election results. With only 38% of the popular vote, the smallest mandate in Canadian history for a majority government, the Liberals clung to government and the power to rule. In the last election in 2000, with a minority of popular vote, that is 40.8%, the Liberals won 172 out of 301 seats in the House of Commons. With just 40.8% of the votes, they won 57% of the seats.

During the last election, the Canadian Alliance received more than one million votes in Ontario. That is 24% of the total votes. One out of four people in Ontario voted for the Canadian Alliance. What did we get? We got 2 seats out of 103 total seats in Ontario. Something is fundamentally wrong.

Meanwhile, the Liberals got 2.3 million votes, about twice as many as Canadian Alliance votes in Ontario but 50 times as many seats as the Canadian Alliance. Based upon the total vote, there should be about 25% Alliance MPs from Ontario.

In a fair voting system, no one could credibly say that the Alliance is merely a western party. In our system, some votes count more than others. The Liberals received 5.2 million votes to win 172 seats in Parliament. That is an average of 30,000 votes per MP for the Liberals. The Alliance on the other hand needed an average of 49,000 votes to get one MP elected.

The cost of seats was even higher for the NDP and the Conservatives, the smaller parties in the House. They needed on average about 84,000 votes for an NDP MP and 130,000 votes for a Conservative MP to win their 13 and 12 seats in the House respectively.

If seats from the 2000 election were allocated based upon a pure proportional model that we are debating today, the Commons seat tally today would be: Liberals, 123 seats instead of 172; Alliance, 77 seats instead of 66, we would gain 11 and they would lose many; Conservatives, 37 seats instead of 12; Bloc, 32 instead of the 38 they have now; and the NDP, 26 instead of 13. Other smaller parties would have won some seats in the House. The composition of this House would certainly change if we had a modern proportional representative system in place.

Since World War I or, let us say, out of the 16 majority governments in Canada, only four of them were legitimate majority governments. The remaining received a minority of votes but a majority of members in the House. As a result, they have held unchallenged and unaccountable power even though the majority of Canadians voted against them. The last election again represented a dramatic distortion of what voters said at the ballot box and created yet another phony majority government for Canadians.

In the single member plurality system, also called the SMP system, parliamentary seats go to the party that receives the most votes in a riding. Votes cast for losing candidates become completely irrelevant, no matter that they expressed the democratic wishes of, very likely, the majority of voters in that riding. They will not be represented. In effect, some people win the right to have their voices represented and everybody else loses.

It is the same story in the provinces. In British Columbia, the previous NDP government had a majority even though it received fewer votes than the opposition Liberals. Similarly, Mr. Lucien Bouchard became Premier of Quebec in 1998 with an overwhelming majority of seats although the Parti Québécois got fewer votes than Jean Charest's Liberals.

Internationally, 33 of the world's 36 major democracies use forms of proportional representation for national elections. Only Canada, the United States and India do not use such systems. Proportional elections have taken place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In fact, Canada, the United States and India right now are the only holdouts in the move to have some form of proportional representation.

Suddenly, proportional representation has become all the rage. B.C. is in the process of appointing a citizens committee to examine ways to better translate votes into seats in the legislature. Similarly, the new Quebec provincial government has announced plans to introduce proportional representation legislation next year. The front-runner in the current Ontario provincial election is promising a referendum on proportional representation. We also know that the idea is being considered by the newly re-elected Premiers of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. It is the federal government that does not have the will to reform the current electoral system because that will not favour it anymore.

The worst aspect of our electoral system is that it exacerbates regional differences. If we look at an electoral map, we will see that everybody in the west seems to be Alliance supporters, which I am proud of. Everybody in Ontario is perceived to be Liberal. Everybody in Quebec is perceived to support the Bloc, but that of course is not true.

As I said earlier, Canada is one of few modern industrial democracies, so-called democracies, that still uses this outdated system. This system was invented even before the telephone was invented. We can imagine how much we are lagging behind. Even Great Britain has started to abandon the old system, which we have been following.

Under proportional representation, the distribution of seats and power is a function of the popular vote cast for respective candidates and/or their political parties. Different versions of proportional representation systems are employed in more than 90 jurisdictions and can be tailored to reflect the needs of different countries. There should be no hesitation in having an electoral system that will work for Canadians and will work for Canada.

The most common suggestion is that proportional representation would be a mix of the existing and new systems where members of Parliament elected in ridings across the country would be joined by a number of “at large” MPs, or “top-up seats”, chosen on the basis of the number of votes parties received and nominated by their parties.

A party that wins far less than its fair proportion of seats through the first past the post system would be entitled to extra compensatory seats. This is the type of system being considered for British Columbia and Quebec, which I mentioned earlier and which looks to a smaller model that has worked well in the Greater London Assembly in Britain, where 11 of the 25 members are elected at large.

We call Great Britain's parliamentary system the mother of parliaments. If Great Britain has adopted that system, what is the problem with adopting a similar system in Canada?

The principle of allocating proportional representative seats on a compensatory basis is also already in use in New Zealand, Germany and many other countries. It allows parties to flourish that have a national appeal but suffer from being too regionally dispersed.

Proportional systems are employed around the world. With the possible exceptions of Israel and Italy, they produce governments that are no less stable than our own. We have had elections after three and a half years for the last three elections. We know that the government is using political opportunity to call elections rather than have a fixed election date. There is the argument that proportional representation does not produce a stable government as good as the system we currently have; parties have to combine forces in order to rule, some people say, but it yields governments that are both more representative and more accountable. Moreover, there would be more representation from women and minorities depending on the percentage and population.

In proportional representation, there is no such thing as a wasted vote since even small parties can make their presence felt. Strategic voting is of much less interest. There is more opportunity to vote for a political party rather than against a political party.

Perhaps the greatest proof of the success of proportional representation is in voter turnout. Voter turnout is very important. It is a significant problem, a major problem, of our electoral system. Canada has seen a disturbing decline in voter turnout over at least the past four elections.

Canada's voter turnout in federal elections is among the lowest in all western democracies. In 1984 and 1988, about 75% of eligible voters cast ballots. In 1993, the number dropped to 69.6% and, in 1997, it fell again to 67%. In the 2000 election, it fell further to 61%. It is very discouraging.

Even the 61% figure is an inflated figure. I will explain how. In Canada we count those who vote as a share of people on the voting list. The list misses a fair number of Canadians, perhaps about 10% to 15% of eligible voters. If we counted those who vote as a share of all those eligible to vote, turnout would be around 53%. It is shameful that in a democracy the turnout is something like 50% to 60%. The biggest drop has been among the youngest voters.

While more than 3 million Canadian voters, mostly young, clogged the telephone lines to vote for our new Canadian idol, few seem to place the same importance on selecting our prime minister. Only 25% of people between the ages of 18 to 24 voted in the last federal election.

The chief electoral officer, Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley, is so concerned about low voter turnout among young Canadians that his office has commissioned a number of studies and has begun holding forums to examine the problem. If political scientists are right, a new electoral system such as proportional representation may not entice completely uninterested young people into voting. However, it will certainly help, judging from international experience, where countries using variations on proportional representation have slightly higher voter turnouts than those using Canadian style, first past the post systems.

Opponents of proportional representation argue that it encourages the creation of small parties and makes it very hard to elect a majority government. They say that politicians end up deciding after the voting is over which parties should combine to form a coalition government.

After 20 years of arrogant majority rule by Liberal and PC governments, we think a little uncertainty in those holding the reins would be a good thing. Canada desperately needs a new voting system. In proportional systems, coalition governments are more common. Successful coalitions respect the diversity of opinion articulated by voters on election day. Once the Liberals, the governing party in this case, win by the first past the post system, they are loath to change it.

The Canadian Alliance and the NDP are two different parties from opposite ends of the political spectrum. They disagree on most issues but they agree on one thing: that changing our electoral system to better represent the wishes of voters is an urgent necessity.

With this motion, the NDP has almost taken a page out of the Canadian Alliance policy manual. Canadian Alliance policy number 85 states that “to improve the representative nature of our electoral system, we will consider electoral reforms, including proportional representation, the single transferable ballot, electronic voting and fixed election dates”, where each Parliament is elected four years from the previous federal election, except when it is defeated by a confidence motion. We will submit such options to voters in a nationwide referendum.

To conclude, the principle of proportional voting is simple: that like-minded voters should be able to win seats in proportion to their share of votes they get. Its mechanisms range from party based systems, which allow small parties to win seats, to candidate based systems such as cumulative voting, which would simply widen the big tent of the major parties.

Either way, proportional voting would help to reinvigorate Canadian politics, encouraging more policy making and giving voters a greater range of choice and of course more accountability and transparency in the way we govern ourselves.

Therefore, I would like to state that I support electoral reform. As to whether it should be proportional representation or some other form of reform such as the single transferable ballot, we need to debate that.

Of course we know that the electoral system is not fair now, as we see in the redistribution of ridings across Canada. I made a presentation before the procedure and House affairs committee. In its report it had the strongest recommendation for the proposal I made to the committee and it sent that recommendation to the B.C. elections commission. But that commission ignored the recommendation, the strongest recommendation from the procedure and House affairs committee. Therefore, we know that the system is not working perfectly.

There are 190,000 people living in my riding whereas the average riding in Canada has 95,000 electors. I know, Mr. Speaker, that you will not allow me to, but I should have two votes in the House based on the number of people I represent. If we compare it to Prince Edward Island, maybe I should have five votes in the House.

I know the system is not working. The voice of my constituents is not represented as much as the voice of the constituents of a member of Parliament who is representing 40,000 people. Therefore, I am the right person to state here in the House that we need electoral reform to completely reform the system that exists. Therefore, this evening I will be voting in support of this motion.

Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

There is not enough time to indulge in questions or comments. I will suggest that after question period the hon. member for Surrey Central will be entitled to his 10 minutes of questions or comments.

Firearms Registry
Statements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, an April 2003 report by the justice department's own evaluators found major weaknesses in the ability of the billion dollar gun registry to provide crucial information to firearms officers and police.

Last week when I raised this matter in the House, the Solicitor General said that his February action plan addressed all 90 problems identified by the April evaluation of the firearms program, but in today's newspapers the Solicitor General is being contradicted by an official in his own department.

Last week, one of my 380 access to information requests revealed that the RCMP failed to check CPIC before they registered thousands of stolen guns.

Why does the new minister of this mess continue the culture of secrecy? Where is the openness and transparency we were promised last December? When will the minister finally tell this House how much it will cost to fully implement the gun registry and how much it will cost to maintain?

Wilfrid Lemoine
Statements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gilbert Barrette Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that we learned this weekend of the death of Wilfrid Lemoine, one of Quebec's finest reporters. Mr. Lemoine passed away Saturday night, at the hospital centre in Granby. He was 76.

A culture buff, Wilfrid Lemoine had taken on the mission, so to speak, of bringing the big names of his generation into the homes of millions of Canadians. He interviewed such illustrious people as Salvador Dali, Simone Signoret, Georges Simenon and Juliette Gréco.

He is considered by many as the inventor of the television interview in Canada. His secret was to keep in the background, giving the interviewee the prominent place he or she deserved. In fact, his style remains as influential as always.

I take this opportunity to extend my most sincere condolences to Mr. Lemoine's family and loved ones.

Police and Peace Officers
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, this past year, six Canadian police and peace officers were killed in the line of duty.

They are Senior Constable Alan G. Kuzmich, of the South Simcoe Police; RCMP Constable Jimmy Ng, of Richmond, B.C.; Corporal Antonio Arseneault, of the Sûreté du Québec in Laval; Walter Ceolin, a conservation officer from Ontario; Senior Constable Phil Shrive, of the Ontario Provincial Police in Renfrew; and RCMP Constable Ghislain Maurice, from Alberta.

Yesterday, it was with compassion that thousands of police officers, civilians and parliamentarians honoured them on Parliament Hill. To attest to their courage and dedication, their names will be added to the Memorial Honour Roll.

On behalf of myself and all the citizens of the riding of Laval West, I acknowledge their sacrifice and extend my deepest sympathy to their families.

National Defence
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, time has run out for Canada. The 100 days are up. Canada must move our defence policy beyond a series of talking points to one of serious commitment to the collective security of the western hemisphere.

The indecision by Canada on whether or not to participate in the North American missile defence program has jeopardized 13,000 to 20,000 jobs in Ontario and Quebec. The benefit of restoring the Canada-U.S. relationship goes beyond the safety and security of the continent.

Between the U.S. ban on our export of live cattle to penalties on U.S. imports of our softwood lumber, it is time to repair the relationship with our largest trading partner.

The U.S. house of representatives and senate are currently in conference over defence spending bill 1588 for the fiscal year beginning October 1, which if passed as is will mean the loss of thousands of Canadian jobs.

In the interest of Canadian sovereignty and security, jobs investment, it is time the government made a clear decision regarding missile defence.

Ethnic Diversity Survey
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday Statistics Canada officially released the results of the ethnic diversity survey which was conducted by Statistics Canada in 2002.

The survey represents an important milestone in the study of ethnicity in Canada. The survey provides policy makers and researchers with unique information on ethnocultural minorities and will allow researchers and policy makers to better understand these communities and therefore Canada. The survey provides us with groundbreaking research about people living in Canada, especially ethnocultural minorities, with respect to their cultural heritage, their family background, their knowledge and use of languages, their participation in Canadian society and their economic activities.

It also provides information about perceived discrimination and unfair treatment based on ethnocultural and ethnoracial background.

Initiatives such as the ethnic diversity survey will give us a better understanding of the role diversity plays in Canadian society and how it affects the lives of Canadians. It will also assist decision makers in developing policies and programs that better meet the needs of all Canadians.

Winter Sports
Statements by Members

September 30th, 2003 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, inspired by a love of winter sports, an appetite for international competition, a pride in community and a commitment to the state of Israel, many Winnipeggers gathered at a hall in Winnipeg on Thursday, September 25, in support of the Israeli bobsled team; certainly not the first thing one thinks of when one thinks of Israel.

For the first time in history Israel has such a team, sanctioned by the Israeli Olympic committee and the Federation of International Bobsled and Tobogganing.

It is a team composed of two Americans, John Frank and Aaron Zeff, and one Canadian, David Greaves of Winnipeg. All three have dual Israeli citizenship. They are coached by the former captain of the New Zealand bobsled team, Ross Dominikovich. It is truly a global partnership.

The team is now focusing on next season's world cup, with the ultimate goal to be selected to represent Israel and compete among the elite teams of the world at the 2006 Olympics.

The team will showcase new options for the youth of Israel. It hopes, in the manner of the Olympic tradition, “to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport”.

This is indeed a story of hope and inspiration for a beleaguered country. We offer our best wishes to these ambitious and purposeful pioneers.

Royal Canadian Army Cadets
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, this year the Royal Canadian Army Cadets are celebrating their 125th anniversary.

The cadet program is the largest federally sponsored youth program in Canada. Some 55,000 young men and women are members in 1,100 corps and squadrons across Canada, including three in my riding of Cambridge.

Cadets participate in a number of activities, including ceremonial drills, marksmanship, map and compass reading, first aid, sports and citizenship events.

The program fosters leadership, responsibility, discipline, good citizenship, physical fitness, communication skills and an interest in the Canadian Forces.

I encourage all members to actively support the cadet movement as it evolves and adapts to meet the needs of our youth and prepares them to become the leaders of tomorrow.

International Day of Older Persons
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, October 1, we will celebrate the International Day of Older Persons.

Older people play an important role in our lives and their contributions enrich our communities. They are present in all our local volunteer organizations and are always ready to reach out a helping hand. They are the foundations of our families and the embodiment of wisdom and, as such, deserve society's gratitude.

It is essential that the government ensure that all rights of the men and women who have built our society are respected.

I invite all Quebeckers and all Canadians to take this occasion to celebrate the important contribution of older persons to our society and to encourage relationships based on respect and mutual assistance between the generations.

Canadian Women's Soccer Team
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, last Saturday the Canadian women's world cup soccer team scored a crucial victory over the team from Japan to become the first Canadian team, men's or women's, to make it out of the first round of a world cup. The Canadian team played a fast paced, hard-hitting game to win three to one over Japan.

The women's world cup team has now won nine out of its last ten games. Now that they have advanced to the quarter finals of the world cup, the Canadian women's team will play China on Thursday.

Veteran player, Charmaine Hooper, thinks the team can go all the way. As she said after the game on Saturday, “If we have such a great goal in our minds, I feel we can go far”.

I am sure the House will join in wishing the players and coach, Even Pellerud, the best of luck for their second round game on Thursday.

Veterans' Widows
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to believe that a country as wealthy as Canada could turn a deaf ear to some 23,000 war veterans' widows who are crying out to the government to restore their independence program. This small monthly amount would bring a tremendous measure of financial relief to these destitute and often lonely people.

My offices have received hundreds of tragic stories that depict the hardship as well as the injustice caused by the loss of the veterans independence program. This is a national plea from our war widows from coast to coast.

This House has been told that there is no money for these aging veterans' widows but Canadians will not accept that because they know there is lots of money, and it shows up in incompetence and even fraud, that would more than meet the daily needs of these widows to whom we owe so much.

Hurricane Juan
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, now that Hurricane Juan has passed through Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, it is time to assess the damage and clean up.

Hurricane Juan reached the eastern shore of Nova Scotia Sunday night, bringing with it heavy rain and winds up to 139 km per hour.

Worse yet, Juan took two lives. First, a paramedic who was responding to an emergency call died when a tree fell on his vehicle near the Halifax hospital. Later, at Enfield, another person died. These are very sad events.

I invite the House to join with me in thinking of the victims and their families and everyone who has suffered in the storm.

Progressive Conservative Party
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a great day to be a Tory.

I want to congratulate Premier Pat Binns and the PC Party of Prince Edward Island on the election of their third majority government. Obviously the PC Party is alive and well in Atlantic Canada.

I also want to wish Danny Williams and the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador success in the general election called for October 21. The PCs have held a solid lead in public opinion polls since Danny Williams became party leader a couple of years ago. I have every confidence we will soon see another PC government take the helm in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Obviously, reports of the PC Party's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Day Care Program
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, in recent years the Government of Quebec has had a $5 a day day care program, which makes Quebec the envy of all of the Canadian provinces.

The federal government did not contribute to it, but has managed to deprive the taxpayers in Quebec of pretty close to $1 billion since the program was inaugurated in 1998.

Since families pay only $5 daily per child, rather than $25 or $30, their child care tax deductions are reduced accordingly.

Who is mainly responsible for this injustice? The former finance minister, the very same one who masterminded the 1993 Liberal platform and proposed major investments in daycare. A promise that was not kept.

The masks are beginning to fall away, and we can now see that, despite his efforts to show he is different, the future Liberal leader is no more than a carbon copy of the present Prime Minister.