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

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

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the government bill is really the subject of this motion. It seeks to increase House seats by 30, which would probably give an advantage to some provinces because they have grown and they would have a larger number of seats.

The principle of representation by population, that everybody's vote should count the same, either has to be a pure principle followed exactly to the letter, or it has to take into account variations that come from our foundation as a nation, our special interests within a nation and the aspect of geography, which is one of the key components of our country.

If we were to have representation by population purely, then some vast regions of our country would be impossible to represent because the number of people required to make, let me say 108,000 electors, would be so vast that it would be half of northern Canada. We have already de facto decided that we will make exceptions to the representation by population principle.

Therefore, when I hear members, including the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, talk about it being a pure principle and how could anybody be against it, I want to remind them that we have already made exceptions to it. We have to take into account that there are special circumstances to special regions, special populations, special language groups and special historical facts.

I was attempting to outline that people as eminent as Donald Savoie in my region have talked about the diminution of the influence of Maritime Canada within the federation. I am sorry that defending where I come from upsets people. As a Maritimer, I hearken back to the days when the Maritime provinces were the economic engine of this great federation, and that day will surely come again. If Danny Williams has his way, it could come tomorrow or the next day.

If this federation is a give and take relationship, then we all have to be respectful. I am being very respectful when I say for my members from British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta that it is a wonderful thing that their communities have grown and contributed to the economic engine that is Canada. It is a wonderful thing to support representation by population. It is also a wonderful thing to respect the old partners of Confederation, special language groups and the geographical fact that we are a dispersely populated country.

If we have already made exceptions to the rule of representation by population, the government saying that an exact principle has to be followed in every case does not hold water.

Let us look at our neighbour to the south. Would we say, as a characterization, that Americans are overly generous when it comes to the democratic representation principle, that they would say on the larger stage that they do not care about democratic equality? They have fought wars on these issues. Yet in the United States of America, Rhode Island has two senators just like the great state of California. The House of Representatives is a pure representation by population body, but the senate, which some would argue is the more powerful body, is not representation by population.

Perhaps we have to go back to the drawing board and decide what we want in this bicameral state we call Canada. We know the Senate is either something that the government really wants to get rid of totally, or it is something that it wants to reform into an elected representation by population body, so we would have two of us, as if one is not enough, or we decide we will have one rep by pop body and one Senate representing regions, ethnicities and languages, a historical fact upon which our great country was founded.

That is the real debate we should be having in the House. We should not be debating some government drive-by bill written in a Tim Hortons somewhere with a camera on saying that the government is doing democratic reform now. The government is doing it because in 19 Conservative ridings out of 30, the Conservatives would be gaining an advantage.

The bill that this motion is the subject of is nothing but political opportunism. For that reason, we want real democratic reform from that side, not just another press conference.

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

1:50 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for wasting 10 minutes making the most obvious and unoriginal observations about representation by population I have ever heard. He talks about being respectful. Of course there is a debate to be had about democratic reform. However, over 13 years, the Liberals did not offer any solutions to representation by population or about any kind of democratic renewal reform of this Confederation.

My hon. colleague fails to recognize that while my province of British Columbia has six Senate seats, his home province of New Brunswick has 10 seats. Of course Labrador, with a population of about 30,000 people, has its own seat in the House of Commons. Of course that will be a fact. Of course the territories, which have smaller population bases, will have their own seats.

The question is how we get better balance. Pure representation by population per riding happens on a province-by-province basis as administered by Elections Canada, but the goal of our bill and of our government is to get us closer to where we have parity and representation in the House of Commons. We cannot have absolute pure. That is obvious. The hon. colleague does not have to waste 10 minutes of the House's time saying something that a grade 6 social studies student knows. We know that.

The question is this. When will the Liberal Party stand up against the Bloc Québécois and ensure that people in my home province of British Columbia, the fastest-growing province, can come closer to having a fair share and a fair set of voices in the House of Commons to represent their needs, just like other folks do?

What we do not need in the House is the member standing up and saying that we should be respectful. He started off his comments saying that the reason why they wanted to have more seats for British Columbia was so they could have less of a voice from people like Acadians and official-language minority Canadians. Shame on him for using those kinds of tactics.

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

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, they are not my words. Donald Savoie has characterized the concerns of many Maritimers. If he does not respect Donald Savoie, then he does not deserve to get into grade 7. Mr. Savoie said:

As a Maritimer, I’m deeply offended and if we keep going down this road, I’m worried about the future of my country.

I know Donald Savoie well enough to know that he could be taken out of context. Maybe he is not against the principle of the bill. Maybe he is saying that we have to look at democratic reform and ensure that all the regions are respectfully represented in this nation. That includes the Senate and this place. No one wants to deny British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario the reward for the fact they are growing.

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

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Where is your bill? Thirteen years and no bill.

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

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have been here four years and I have only been in opposition, so to pin that on me is not even a grade 6 antic. That member is typical of the other side. As good a person as he is, those members have an inculcated sense to insult people from the Maritimes or Quebec and imbue them with the culture of defeat that they think they have.

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

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see that this member from New Brunswick is wedging a fight for the same reasons we do. The difference between him and I is that I am part of a nation that was recognized by this Parliament and this government. A nation should not be considered on the same level as just another region within Canada.

As a recognized nation, are we going to accept that our weight should be decreased in the House of Commons? Does the hon. member agree that the Quebec nation should keep 24.35% of the seats, something that should normally be a vested right?

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

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I know that, for historical reasons, Quebec is considered an important partner in the Confederation, but this motion has been moved by the Bloc, and the Bloc is against Canada. It does not want a single seat more for Quebec, because it does not want Quebec to have any seat at all in this federal institution.

Obviously, we are opposed to this motion, but at the same time, we are also against the attitude of the government that keeps going against the regions of Canada, therefore against me, and against the Maritime provinces.

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

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue in the same vein as my colleague from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe and say that we reject the premise of the Bloc’s motion itself, in that the Bloc is opposed from the outset to any seat for Quebec in the House of Commons.

Since they formed a party, their primary objective has been to eliminate all trace of Quebec in the federation. We know that some provinces have expressed concerns in the past about their representation in the House of Commons. We are very sensitive to this and we do want, as my colleague said so clearly, to work toward finding the best way of representing the provinces and regions in the House of Commons.

What we do not want is to give the Bloc an excuse to try to divide us in this House on a particular point, without going through a complete study in committee of the overall situation of the provinces of the federation. The committee is supposed to give us an opportunity to put forward the various positions of the regions of Canada and see how we can maintain equity in all the provinces. We are talking not about equality, but about equity. All regions of Canada need to feel that they are represented in the House of Commons.

We are concerned by the Conservative bill because it will result in under-representation of Quebeckers, based on the population of Quebec. We would like to make sure, in committee, that Quebec is represented fairly in the House of Commons.

But this problem—and we come back to this—is not limited just to Quebec. The federation is composed of provinces that are very distinct and very different from one another, with an unequal geographic distribution of the population. However, in order for all regions to be reflected in this House, it is absolutely necessary for exceptions to be made. Our colleagues from Newfoundland and Labrador, our colleagues from the Maritimes and our colleagues from the north have a job to do here for their constituents and their fellow citizens that is entirely honourable and necessary. It is therefore extremely important that this regional disparity, this geographic disparity, the immensity of this land, be taken into account, and that each region of the country be allowed representation that makes this diversity a concrete reality in our legislative debates.

Representation per person is in fact a fundamental principle of any democracy, and that principle ordinarily applies to the lower chamber. In our case, that is the House of Commons of Canada. But regional communities are often also represented in the upper chamber, which is our Senate, the Senate of Canada, where 25% of the seats are currently guaranteed to Quebec.

The Bloc cannot really believe in its motion, because when it was proposed during the Charlottetown referendum that this be entrenched in the Constitution, the Bloc opposed it. To the Bloc, the solution was simply to add no new seats to the House of Commons. As for the Senate, the Bloc does not even want it to exist. They are opposed to the principle of the Senate.

Every election, we have a party that fights to have Quebec get no seats in government at all. We must speak out against this feigned indignation, because they would like to convince us they are fighting today for Quebec to have a place in Ottawa. Well, the leader of the Bloc Québécois has just completed a tour of Canada so he could once again promote independence for Quebec, even though independence for Quebec would mean eliminating every seat Quebec holds in the House of Commons, which is what we want to avoid at all costs.

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

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I have to interrupt the hon. member, but she will have six minutes to complete her remarks after question period today.

Auditor General of Canada
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order. I have the honour to lay upon the table the spring 2010 report of the Auditor General of Canada with an addendum on environmental petitions from July 1 to December 31, 2010.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(g), this document is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

National Victims of Crime Awareness Week
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to share a story of tragedy.

More than a month ago now, a good, honest, hard-working gentleman in my riding left his office to go home late on a Friday evening. At 12:35 a.m. the police received a report of an unconscious man lying on a street corner. When the police arrived on the scene, they found Bob Florence, a loved and respected reporter for The StarPhoenix conscious but unable to communicate. Bob has been in the hospital since the attack. His prognosis is unclear.

After spending his career chronicling the accomplishments of others in the community, Bob fell victim to a senseless and barbaric act of violence. This is only one tragic story of many, and one more example of why it is so important for us to move forward with National Victims of Crime Awareness Week and work to make our community safe for everyone.

Snowmobiling Ultimate Rider
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize a young man from my riding.

Justin House from Stephenville was recently chosen as the Bombardier Recreational Products ultimate rider. Justin received this honour after going through a rigorous selection process that saw him chosen as a finalist from nearly 1,400 candidates from across North America. The final stage of the selection process involved a trip to Florida, where he had to speak about his passion for snowmobiling.

Through Justin and the distinction he has received from Bombardier, the Stephenville area of my riding will receive invaluable exposure among snowmobiling enthusiasts from across Canada and the United States. Snowmobiling is a big part of Justin's life. He is a past president and director with the Bay St. George Snowmobile/ATV Association and a current active volunteer. Justin's spare time is spent with his wife, Nancy, and children, Adam and Abbi.

I ask members of the House to join me in applauding Justin on achieving this notable title and the positive impact it will have on the Stephenville area.

Millennium Summit
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, for a fourth year, the theme of poverty will be addressed at the Millennium Summit, specifically in the context of climate change and its devastating effect on populations. The fight against poverty is everyone's fight.

I would like to draw attention to the commitment of teachers from Vaudreuil-Solanges, specifically Marie-Andrée Fournier, Thomas McCue, Annie Perrault, Suzanne Vallée and Benoit Tousignant. All through the school year, these teachers and their students have, on a human level, experienced international cooperation, community assistance and sharing. Every little counts and they have carried out a number of projects reflecting Quebec values.

Because of its values, Quebec cannot identify with a Canadian vision. This is why we condemn the lack of will of the Liberals and the Conservatives to make adequate investments so that the millennium development goals can be achieved.

Young people from our high schools are the future leaders of our society; as such, they will be accompanying me to the summit. My Bloc colleagues join with me in saluting their initiatives as citizens and in encouraging them to keep pursuing their social involvement.

G8 and G20 Summits
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the G8 and G20 summits mark a prime opportunity for Canada to show leadership on the world stage by taking bold action to combat poverty and inequality, by making real progress on climate change, and by transforming global economic and financial systems for a fair and sustainable world.

However, with this opportunity comes a responsibility to local residents and businesses in Trinity—Spadina. My constituents are saying, “Everyone I know is dreading the G20 summit. We all feel like the Conservative government has zero respect for anyone in this city. How is the city supposed to function when the police plan on barring people and residents like myself from a big chunk of the downtown core during key festivals? Do armed guards and razor-wire fences say welcome to our city?”

The government must provide a bond now so that there will be speedy access to financial compensation for businesses that lose revenue, and for residential owners if their properties are damaged.

Police Officers
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand and recognize the 100 police officers from the Canadian Police Association who are on Parliament Hill from Monday until Wednesday representing the 41,000 police personnel across Canada.

Police officers are the front line in the fight against crime, and we recognize their importance as we implement this government's safe streets and safe communities agenda.

These men and women serve their communities and their country with pride and dedication. Every day they demonstrate their courage as they strive to protect us and guarantee us the safety that we, as Canadians, so greatly cherish.

In the past twelve months we have lost eight valuable members of various police forces across Canada. I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to the family members of these fallen officers who made the ultimate sacrifice serving their country and their communities.

On behalf of all parliamentarians, I salute these brave men and women who serve their country enforcing the laws made by this Parliament. Canadians are all very grateful.