House of Commons Hansard #29 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nation.

Topics

Question No. 81
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

With regard to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and their Social Development Partnerships Program (SDPP): (a) which organizations have received funding over the last three years; (b) in the latest distribution of funds, what percentage of funding went to each province and how was that distribution determined; (c) what are the criteria for deciding what organizations are funded; (d) how much funding has been given to each federal riding over the last three years; and (e) why was there a budget cut for SDPP in 2006 and how has that affected the funding of new programs and the renewal of funding for current projects?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 90
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

With respect to the Expert Review Panel on Medical Isotope Production: (a) what were the criteria and rationale to choose the four members of the panel; (b) who declined to sit on the panel; (c) how many times did the panel meet; (d) who did the panel consult; (e) what was the formal mandate of the panel; (f) did the panel have the technical expertise alone to be able to understand the proposals and make recommendations; (g) what is the relation of Dr. Alexander MacEwan, the Special Advisor on Medical Isotopes to the Minister of Health, to the panel; (h) did the panel recommend to the Minister that she implement the four recommendations of the Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine mentioned at the November 23rd meeting of the Standing Committee on Health; (i) what was the process for the panel to consult with provinces and territories; (j) did the panel consult and meet with each public and private consortium that made a submission to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of their proposal; (k) will the government release the 22 submissions on ideas for isotope supply that were received and reviewed by the panel; (l) what was the role of the firm SECOR in the production of the expert panel report; (m) who, from SECOR, was assigned to this task; (n) what were the recommendations of the panel’s November 30th report to the government; (o) will the panel be dismantled or will it continue its advising role to the government following its November 30th report; and (p) what will be the outcome of the panel and the government’s next steps including, but not limited to, recommendations to proceed with projects, funding recommendations, or another phase of evaluations?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of Commons
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

moved:

That the House denounce the fact that the government seeks to marginalize the Quebec nation by introducing a bill to decrease Quebec’s political weight in the House, and that it affirm that Quebec Members of Parliament, who represent a nation, must hold at least 25% of the seats in the House.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

I would like to begin by saying how proud I am to rise in the House today to move the Bloc Québécois motion, because I feel that we are doing the work for which Quebeckers have elected a majority of Bloc members to the House six times since 1993.

In 1993, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2008, a majority of Bloc members were elected in Quebec to represent and defend the interests and values of the Quebec nation.

Today, we are opposing the Conservative government's Bill C-12, which is designed to further marginalize the Quebec nation in the House of Commons. This reduction in the Quebec nation's political weight in the House is completely unacceptable to Quebeckers.

When the Canadian Confederation was created in 1867, Quebec held 36% of the seats. If Bill C-12 were passed, that proportion would decrease to 22.4%, which is less than the Quebec nation's current demographic weight within Canada. That is an unacceptable decline compared to Quebec's current representation of 24.3%.

This bill is a direct attack on the rights of the Quebec nation. That is why we are putting forward the following motion, which the Speaker already read, but which I will reread:

That the House denounce the fact that the government seeks to marginalize the Quebec nation by introducing a bill to decrease Quebec’s political weight in the House, and that it affirm that Quebec Members of Parliament, who represent a nation, must hold at least 25 percent of the seats in the House.

This motion is our response to Bill C-12, which is the latest manifestation of a Conservative obsession. The Conservatives are almost aggressive in the way they keep introducing legislation to marginalize the Quebec nation.

Bill C-12 is the latest example of this obsession, but the government previously introduced Bill C-56 and Bill C-22, not to mention the ones it introduced to amend the terms of senators, in violation of the Canadian Constitution, which requires constitutional negotiations with the provinces, particularly Quebec.

The Quebec minister responsible for government affairs was very clear when he said that Quebec would never agree to unilateral changes, even to the Senate. We would like to see the Senate abolished, but that must be subject to constitutional negotiations. The government can open up this Pandora's box if it wants to, but it cannot act unilaterally. The House of Commons is not able to amend the current rules, particularly those governing the Senate.

Bill C-12 is another example of the Conservatives' obsession. Every time the federal government has introduced such bills, the Quebec National Assembly has unanimously adopted a motion denouncing the Conservative government's actions and calling on the government to withdraw its bills. I have these motions here, and I think it is worth reading them.

Regarding Bill C-56, on May 16, 2007, the National Assembly unanimously adopted the following motion:

THAT the National Assembly ask the Parliament of Canada to withdraw Bill C-56, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, introduced in the House of Commons last 11 May;

Bill C-56 essentially had the same objective as Bill C-12: the political marginalization of Quebec.

Regarding Bill C-22, another example of the Conservatives' obsession with marginalizing Quebec's political weight, the National Assembly adopted the following motion on October 7, 2009:

THAT the National Assembly demand that the Federal Government renounce the tabling of any bill whose consequence would be to reduce the weight of Québec in the House of Commons.

The National Assembly unanimously spoke out against these two previous bills and called for the government to withdraw them, and we are sure that it will do the same thing with Bill C-12 as soon as it has the opportunity.

We want to align our motion as closely as possible with the last motion I just read, which was passed on October 7, 2009, so we will amend our own motion on this opposition day. The amendment will be presented by my colleague and friend, the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, to make it clear that it is out of the question for the Quebec nation to lose any political weight in the House of Commons. We want to maintain our current weight. However, we know that some members of the House indulge in intellectual dishonesty. I will not name names, but I do have several members—nine or ten at least—in mind.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of Commons
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Daniel Paillé

A lot more than that.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of Commons
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

I was thinking of Conservatives only, but if I were to add several Liberals, that number would go up. We want to make it perfectly clear that maintaining the current political weight refers to the relative weight of members representing Quebec in the House, which is 24.3%, not the absolute weight, which is 75 seats. I have heard some Conservative members claim that they are maintaining Quebec's weight because there will never be fewer than 75 seats. Clearly, they do not know how to count. If the Canadian nation gets 30 more seats, that will unquestionably reduce Quebec's relative weight in the House.

That is totally obvious to Quebeckers and the Quebec nation. Of the Quebec members who have spoken to date in the House, 49 have condemned any reduction of Quebec's political weight. In the Conservative caucus, the token Quebeckers, including the members for Lévis—Bellechasse and Beauce, have defended the indefensible. As token Quebeckers, who do they really represent? They represent the Canadian nation, the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party.

Unfortunately, I have not heard from Liberal members, but I hope that they take this opportunity to speak up and ensure that Quebec's rights are upheld in the House.

Forty-nine members of the House spoke in favour of maintaining the current political weight, Quebec's relative weight, as did the 125 members of the National Assembly. That means that two-thirds of Quebec's elected representatives in both the House of Commons and the National Assembly condemn the Conservative government's proposal and call on it to withdraw Bill C-12. There is a very strong consensus in Quebec when it comes to this issue.

An Angus Reid survey taken April 7, 2010, indicated that 71% of Quebeckers are opposed to Bill C-12. That is a very broad consensus; Quebeckers are practically unanimous. Only 15% of Quebeckers support the bill, and that number is approximately equal to the current Conservative vote. It is a very small number that continues to shrink.

It is understandable that all of Quebec wants Bill C-12 to be withdrawn and wants to keep Quebec from being marginalized in the House, especially given that the House of Commons recognized the Quebec nation in 2006. In fact, there are not 10 provinces and territories represented in the House, but two nations—Canada and Quebec. But Bill C-12 gives Canada another 30 seats and does not give Quebec a single one. This is completely unacceptable.

We have been recognized as a nation, so we need to be given the means to be heard. The current relative weight of Quebec's members must be maintained. If we simply took the demographic proportions into consideration, it is obvious that there would only be 75 of us in a sea of Canadian members who would be defending the interests of their nation, which is completely legitimate. But our voices would never be heard in the House.

However, proportionality is not the rule. If it were, Prince Edward Island would not have four members. Other factors come into play and the Supreme Court has said this many times. One of these elements, which is new, is the House's recognition of the Quebec nation in 2006.

It is unfortunate to see the Conservative members defending the indefensible, but again, they are simply the mouthpieces for their party, which has refused to make businesses under federal jurisdiction accept French as the working language and refused to adopt Quebec's integration model for newcomers. If the House does not acknowledge and pass this motion, Quebeckers will have only one choice, that which the Bloc Québécois stands for, Quebec sovereignty. Then we would have 100% of the power, not the 24.3% that the Conservatives are proposing, but 100% of the power to make our own laws.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of Commons
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, I can honestly say, and I hope most people in the House will say the same thing, that we in this country, and people in most democratic countries on this globe, believe in representation by population.

That is what the motion is all about. My colleagues from the Bloc are trying to say it is something else. It is not something else. It is all about creating fairness in this country. If it is left the way it is, it is not fair for at least three provinces: Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. It continues to be fair for the province of Quebec, notwithstanding what my friend from the Bloc Québécois has said.

The population of Quebec is currently 7,841,400. The population of the province of Ontario, the province in which my riding is located, is almost twice that, 13,374,700. The seat allocation for those two provinces will be 75 for Quebec and 124 for Ontario. That is based on representation by population.

Does my friend believe in the principle of representation by population or does he not?

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of Commons
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, there is the finest example of the fiction of Canadian Confederation. It is not provinces that are represented in this House, but nations. The Quebec nation has the right to its political weight. It is false to say that we have representation by population in this House.

I mentioned that Prince Edward Island has four members in this House when that province has the population of a large neighbourhood in Montreal. We know that other reasons were taken into consideration and we are arguing that recognition of the Quebec nation be a similar reason for maintaining our political weight because of what it represents.

We are not opposed to adding 30 seats to the Canadian nation. They can divide them up as they wish. That is their problem. However, we must maintain our political weight. That means that if 30 seats are added, Quebec must be given additional seats to maintain its representation at 24.3% of this House.

This is so obvious to everyone in Quebec. The member for Hochelaga corrected me. I said more than two thirds, but he did the math, which shows that 87% of elected representatives from Quebec, whether they sit in the House of Commons or the National Assembly, are opposed to Bill C-12 and are asking that Quebec's political weight be maintained.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of Commons
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Madam Speaker, I have a few questions I would like to ask the member with regard to the question raised by the member from Ontario. I believe it is important to recall the history of this country. When Canada was founded, there were four provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario. At the time, it was clear that other provinces could join. However, the country was founded with those four provinces.

I would like to ask the member if it is important to highlight and remember the fact that this country was founded by four provinces, with the sensibilities, ideas and hopes of that era and with rights that would be preserved through the years.

Does the member think that the idea of proportional representation means that our territory should have no MPs whatsoever, maybe half an MP, or a quarter of an MP?

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of Commons
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is arguing himself that we must take something new into account and that is the fact that the House of Commons has recognized that the Quebec nation exists and that the basis of discussion can no longer simply involve provinces. It has to be between nations. The point we are making is that in order to be heard, the Quebec nation needs to have the same political weight in the House that it has right now.

I want to remind the hon. member that things have evolved. When Upper Canada and Lower Canada joined to form a united Canada, Lower Canada, which was most of the region of Quebec, had agreed to equal representation between the two regions even though the population of Upper Canada was smaller. This was agreed to. What is more, at that time we were the Canadians. We became French Canadians and now we are Quebeckers. We have a House of Commons that has recognized the existence and the political reality of this nation and that must be reflected—

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of Commons
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.