House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fair.

Topics

Second Reading
Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I point out that the Conservative government is very responsible and is concerned about all Canadians, regardless in which part of the country they may live.

I talked about Brampton—Springdale because I am responsible for representing it. However, I used that as an example. There are examples such as Brampton—Springdale all over Canada. That is the reason we are adding 15 new seats in Ontario, 6 new seats in British Columbia, 6 new seats in Alberta and 3 new seats in Quebec. Under the bill, I feel this is the best formula we could have.

I am very thankful and I appreciate the hard work the hon. minister, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, has put into the legislation. I would encourage all opposition members to support the bill and its speedy passage as soon as possible.

Second Reading
Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the very talented, eloquent and hard-working member of Parliament for Edmonton—Strathcona and I look forward to hearing her speech on the bill.

This is a technical bill that has ramifications for the whole country and I am pleased to rise to speak to it. It is something we have expressed concern about before. In the time I have, I will give a bit a background to the bill itself and the issue of seat redistribution in the House of Commons.

As members are well aware, this has been part of the growth and development of Confederation and Canada. Over time, we have tried to maintain a couple of principles in the House of Commons. One is to ensure that provinces with fast-growing populations get more representation. At the same time, we have also had a tradition in the House of Commons of providing support and a floor level representation from regions across the country. That floor has been the story historically for Atlantic Canada, and I will come back to that in a moment. It creates some differences, but it is something that Canadian accept as part of the nation-building exercise. That type of floor has also been in place for the territories.

Members who have had the opportunity, as I have, to travel to the northern territories know they are vast areas of Canada. Unbelievably large portions of our three northern territories do not meet the population criteria of the House of Commons, but clearly Canadians believe those areas of the country should be adequately represented. Therefore, we have put floors in place for them as well.

This has been the development over time. The nation-building exercise has always been to look at those two components and ensure that both the historical representation and the floors for ensuring clear representation and adding additional seats come into play. What has developed over time is that system of great Canadian compromise and nation-building of working on both aspects to ensure Parliament's representation is clearly representative.

I come from British Columbia and it has historically grown faster than its representation in Parliament. When we look at the figures, clearly there is a need for increased representation in British Columbia.

Coming back to what I mentioned earlier about Atlantic Canada. My riding of Burnaby—New Westminster, because there are many new Canadians who are not yet Canadian citizens and are who not on the voters list, has a population of about 120,000 or 130,000. That is slightly under the population of Prince Edward Island. Historically, P.E.I. has strong representation with four seats in the House of Commons. The system of ensuring historical representation for areas that are faster growing has always been part of the dynamic in play. There is no doubt that British Columbia needs additional seats.

In my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster and the riding of Newton—North Delta, the number of constituents is very great and there needs to be more seats in British Columbia to ensure that B.C. is adequately represented and members of Parliament can properly represent their constituents.

As we know, the job of being a member of Parliament is far beyond speaking in the House of Commons and having other members listen attentively. The job of being a member of Parliament for the most part is in the riding. As members of Parliament are intervening on behalf of their constituents with federal agencies and federal ministries, the machinery of government sometimes does not work effectively. Members of Parliament are there to ensure that our constituents are fully and adequately represented and we go to bat on their behalf.

If we have more members of Parliament in British Columbia, that means we can focus on slightly fewer constituents and ensure that we do that strong, necessary advocacy work on their behalf with the federal ministries, federal agencies and on federal programs where constituents may have applied, or intervened or made application and were not treated in the fair and just way that they should have been. We are advocates first and foremost. Therefore, having those additional seats plays an important and key role.

That is where we get into some difficulty and have some concerns with Bill C-20. In looking at how the various iterations of the bill have played out and the various formulas that have been applied, we have gone through three different formulas to calculate representation in British Columbia. What we have seen in B.C.'s case is a smaller number of seats through this process. That is of some concern, not so much the fact of having a seat in the House, because even that is an important aspect of our work, but having that representation out in the community and being able to effectively represent and advocate on behalf of the 120,000 or 130,000 constituents, which is a different order than advocating effectively on behalf of 110,000 or 115,000 constituents.

That is very clearly where seat distribution and MP distribution in the House of Commons comes to play. It makes a fundamental difference when we have that balance and we have those additional seats. Because we have seen the various iterations and the number of additional B.C. MPs brought down, this is where I see some real concerns about the latest formula that has been brought forward at this time.

Members may say that the bill will go to committee. Certainly, we on this side of the House have always been ready to work with the Conservative government in a way that we expect it to work with us. One day the NDP will be in government and the opposition parties will get the opportunity to see not only lively debate but what healthy, transparent, effective representation and working with opposition parties will bring. There is no doubt that many Canadians look forward to that date in 2015 when the NDP steps forward.

Our concern is the practice of the government in committee has not been good to date. It has often bulldozed and steamrolled opposition parties rather than listen to the healthy points of view that we bring forward, particularly on this bill.

This is a nation-building exercise. This is a point which shows how the government and we as Parliament respect all regions of the country. It talks to the historic representation of Atlantic Canada and the northern territories. It talks to the historic and important representation of Quebec that we have brought forward in our bill. It points to the representation of Saskatchewan and Manitoba despite population changes there. As well, it points to additional seats in places such as Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

We have brought forward and supported legislation for the healthy, nation-building establishment of a consensus. We certainly hope the government will start listening, consulting and really working with the Canadian public and with opposition parties so a bill such as Bill C-20 can appropriately be part of a nation-building exercise. To date, that has not been the case, but I hope the government will change in this regard.

Second Reading
Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is nation building legislation. It is legislation I would like to support. I regret very much the limitation on debate, which has made it difficult for smaller parties to be part of the debate and discussion.

I would like his thoughts, though, on whether we can continually, in the future, beyond the bill, add new members to the House of Commons every time we see Canada's population grow. At some point do we not have to bite the bullet and go back and revisit those areas with sparser populations?

Second Reading
Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think there are two parts to what the hon. member is asking.

First is the issue of seats in the House. Can we keep adding members to the House of Commons? I would like to say that in other parliaments on this globe there are no seats, there are benches.

As I have mentioned earlier, the important work that members of Parliament do is not so much the speaking. I certainly do not need to have this desk. I can sit on a bench, and stand and speak. It is what we do in our ridings across the country, serving our constituents that is absolutely vital.

The important aspect of additional representation means that there are more members of Parliament to advocate strongly on behalf of their constituents. If they are not advocating on behalf of their constituents, they do not deserve to be in the House.

The second component she raises quite rightly is the issue around rural-urban representation, and certainly on this side of the House, the NDP has always seen this as a very important, careful, national building exercise.

That is why we have talked about seats for Quebec. We have talked about seats for areas like my province of British Columbia along with Alberta and Ontario. We have talked about ensuring a floor for Atlantic Canada and the territories. This is a nation building exercise and that means rural representation being adequate and effective in the House of Commons as well as urban representation in the House.

Second Reading
Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about representing constituents and that it was the most important part of his job. If he believes that, then last night when two members voted for the wishes of their constituents on the long gun registry, why would his party punish them if coming here and representing their constituents is first and foremost after being in the House, as he suggested?

Second Reading
Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, this party takes no lessons from Conservative members who have not, since they were elected, stood up on behalf of their constituents a single time.

We have seen with the Canadian Wheat Board that a promise was made to consult with farmers across western Canada and the Conservatives broke that promise cruelly after their election. They promised farmers a consultation on the Canadian Wheat Board and on May 2 they said, “To heck with western farmers. We will not consult them. It does not matter if 60% of western farmers want to keep the Wheat Board, we will do away with it”.

I respect the member, but there is not a single member in this House from the Conservative Party who has done anything on behalf of their constituents on issues like the Wheat Board and the gun registry. Time and time again, the Conservatives betray their constituents. That is unfortunate and it is wrong.

Second Reading
Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member in terms of the Canadian Wheat Board. The government has not been listening to what our prairie farmers have been saying.

Having said that, with regard to Bill C-20, does the NDP have any limit as to what it believes the size of the House of Commons should be?

Today, it does not have a problem with 338 which is being proposed by the government. Do the NDP members have an optimum number, or do they see this as a thing in progress, that as the years go by, the House will just continue to grow and grow?

Second Reading
Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member had been to Britain, he would see that its House of Commons is a smaller House with twice the number of members. The House of Commons in Britain has simply done away with desks. We can sit on benches. We can vote from benches. We can speak adequately on behalf of our constituents, but the most important issue is representing an advocacy on behalf of our constituents.

If there are more members of Parliament doing that work on behalf of their constituents, and certainly that is the case on this side of the House. That is one thing that NDP MPs do very well, which is why we have grown from 19 to 29 to 36 to 103. We did that because we have been very strong and effective in advocating for our constituents.

Second Reading
Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for graciously sharing his time with me. It is regrettable that we could not have heard more of his eloquence.

It is my pleasure to rise to speak to this bill. Nobody believes more in representation of constituents than I do. As well, nobody believes more strongly than I do that we have a responsibility in this House to ensure that we are actually representing the interests of all Canadians no matter what corner of the country they come from, no matter their diversity of background, and no matter their interests.

I just want to be clear, on the record, that there have been falsehoods reported by some of the members on the other side, to the public and the media in the past, that I would oppose additional seats for Alberta if there was going to be a seat distribution based on population. I have never said such a thing and let us just make it clear in the House today that if the only decision is based on representation by population and if we do that in the true way we should, based on a census, clearly my province of Alberta, and I am very proud to be a third generation Albertan, would have fair representation, and then there would be duly more seats for Alberta.

Our party in this House has said time after time, on the basis of what we have heard from our constituents and what we have heard from Canadians across this country, that Canadians want a more democratic system of federal governance. What we see from the government is little pieces here and there, an elected Senate that frankly is not representative. Now it wants a changed seat distribution based on what? It has three formulas and we are not sure what on earth the government is basing that on.

It is an important decision for our future. It is an important decision if we are going to incur further costs. Having heard from my constituents, I have to say very honestly that this has not been a priority issue in my riding. I do not think I have ever heard from a constituent demanding that we make the House of Commons larger. What they demand is that we better represent their interests in Ottawa and that we bring the federal government back to Alberta more often so we can actually hear from it directly.

Yes, we need to ensure we have fair representation in this House of Commons, but what does that mean? We have heard from some of my colleagues and they have said that we need to balance off the representation by population with the representation by region, and the representation by other undertakings and agreements that we have made in this House, including to Quebec, to our territories and to the maritime provinces.

I want to point out that if the Conservative side of the House truly believes that we need to make this move to provide fair representation to everybody in Canada, we need to recognize that 23 of 28 ridings in Alberta voted, as their second choice, New Democrat. My riding voted for me as their choice and so it is also important to keep in mind that even in our first past the post system, there are many interests that are not represented unless all of us in the House bend over backwards to ensure that all those perspectives, all of those voters, are being heard in committee and in this House, and that we reach out to them and ensure we hear from everyone, not just the ones who happen to step up to the plate and vote for us.

Should the decision for adding seats in this House simply be based on representation by population? We have heard many arguments stating that possibly that is not enough. If we look at the historical formula, it is not simply based on representation by population, it is also based on a certain percentage to Quebec, and to recognize, as the Prime Minister previously said, “Quebec as a nation within a unified Canada”. That was the decision made in consultation between the Prime Minister of the day and the leaders of all the provinces and territories.

I agree with my colleagues who have spoken on this and asked, where is the consultation with the premiers? Where is the consultation with the leaders of first nation governments? The government always likes to stand up and say it is representing the best interests of first nations people. Should they not be heard directly through their leaders as well?

Second Reading
Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona will have five minutes remaining when the House returns to this matter.

Statements by members, the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska.

Roger Béliveau
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to express my heartfelt congratulations to Roger Béliveau, of Warwick, on being inducted into Quebec's agricultural hall of fame.

For 50 years, Mr. Béliveau has owned a dairy farm along with his wife, Rita Jolibois, and their sons. He has earned an excellent reputation within the Quebec farming community. Mr. Béliveau has been active on several boards of directors for nearly 40 years and has made a mark particularly within the Coop fédérée, Agropur, Warwick Salt and Olymel. He was president of the Coop des Bois-Francs for six years.

As a mentor for members of the young farmers group, the Association des jeunes ruraux du Québec, he is also passing on his passion for agriculture to the next generation of farmers in our region and across Quebec. Mr. Béliveau has definitely earned this recognition. It is thanks to people like him that Quebec has become so renowned for agricultural excellence. Thank you, Mr. Béliveau, and keep up the good work.

Urban Environment
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House as the member for Winnipeg South Centre. Today it is my honour to recognize the dedication and generosity displayed by many of the families in my riding.

Winnipeg is famous for the elm trees that line its streets and boulevards, but elm trees need to be protected from Dutch elm disease.

A number of years ago families in my community started protecting those trees. These were concerned families, true leaders in community engagement. Now the youth of these families have taken over from their parents and these young people are learning valuable skills as entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

On behalf of all of my constituents, I would like to thank and to honour these young men and women for all of their hard work. The future is indeed in very good hands.

Food Banks
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, in my beautiful riding of Hochelaga, people working at food banks—Cuisine collective Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Bouffe-Action de Rosemont, Chic Resto Pop, CAP St-Barnabé, Maisons Adrianna and Centre NAHA—devote themselves body and soul to helping feed their neighbours. There are also community gardens and fresh fruit and vegetable cupboards at HLM Boyce-Viau, HLM La Pépinière, Jardins Guybourg, Petit marché de l'Est and Marché solidaire Frontenac.

Despite all the hard work, there is not enough healthy and affordable food, especially in winter. In poor neighbourhoods, food is less readily available, of poorer quality and more expensive. Convenience stores abound. There are four food deserts in Hochelaga.

In a rich country like Canada, why is the health of so many adults, children and seniors compromised because they do not have access to healthy and affordable food while the owners of banks and big oil companies make billions of dollars in profit? Something is not right.

Ukraine
Statements By Members

November 3rd, 2011 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, recent events in Ukraine have brought to light an unfortunate reality.

With the arrest and conviction of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, we are witnessing an erosion of democracy and human rights in Ukraine. The court showed bias and was politically influenced.

For the last number of years, the government of Ukraine has been waging a campaign to smother political dissent, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The result has been the intimidation and imprisonment of academics, journalists and human rights advocates.

Despite the abrasion of the rule of law in Ukraine, there is reason for optimism.

This year, 35 members of Parliament were fortunate enough to host Ukrainian interns in the Canada-Ukraine parliamentary program. These bright young interns represent a vibrant, principled future for Ukraine.

I had the privilege to speak with these future leaders, and they have demonstrated an unparalleled desire to learn and educate themselves about Canadian democracy and society.

I have no doubt that they will return home and lead Ukraine to a brighter future.

Family Doctor Week
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of Family Doctor Week in Canada, I want to acknowledge the critical role of family doctors in the health care of Canadians.

I would ask all members to join me in celebrating the College of Family Physicians of Canada's annual family medicine forum currently taking place in Montreal, as well as the Family Physicians of the Year for 2011, including Dr. Philip Hébert from Toronto.

In June we lost the brilliant Dr. Barbara Starfield, whose research proved that health care systems, in which 50% of the physicians are family physicians are the most cost-effective and provide the highest quality of care.

It is unacceptable that many Canadians do not belong to a family practice. The federal government must take strong leadership as soon as possible to ensure that there are no more orphaned patients in Canada.