House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seats.

Topics

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government's bill is principled, as is the Liberal plan, but it is principled in a way that it does not take seats away from slower growing regions of the country and does not reduce the provincial division of Quebec's proportionate representation in the House.

To answer the member's question, the reason I do not think it would be a good idea to reduce the seats for certain regions, even though the seats, as he has mentioned, do not belong to the provinces, is that we have seen in the past many federal issues of jurisdiction intra vires where provinces have managed to sway public opinion to such an extent that it ended up creating regional friction. Whether it is foreign direct investment policy in relation to the potash decision or other decisions concerning the apportionment of seats in the House, we have to be very careful to govern in the interests of national unity and all Canadians.

This bill squares that circle by restoring representation by population and upholding that fundamental concept while at the same time not taking seats away from other regions of the country and ensuring that the Quebec division's proportionate representation in the House remains in place.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills has done a great job in talking about the principle of representation by population and also iterating the three promises we made to Canadians about how we developed Bill C-20. In previous debate today we heard about the positive comments of the Chief Electoral Officer regarding this bill and its workability in framing the new divisions and being ready for the upcoming election in 2015.

My colleague mentioned taking seats away from slower growing regions. I would like to ask him about taking seats away from Saskatchewan which is growing very rapidly right now. It is a province that is experiencing great economic growth, not only population. How would it be received by the people of Saskatchewan if we went with the Liberal plan?

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised a very good point, that it would create a lot of regional friction. There is a second friction that the proposal from the Liberal Party would create. Not only would we be taking seats away from slower growing regions of the country and giving them to more rapidly growing regions, we would also be taking seats away from rural Canada and giving them to urban Canada. Not only would Saskatchewan lose two seats, but rural Saskatchewan, now down to 12 seats, would lose seats in order to ensure that there are more seats in Saskatoon and Regina. That is the second problem with the Liberal Party's plan. It is principled, but it would create too much rancour and division in this country.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the floor seems to really know his history. He seems to know a lot and appears to have done his homework, but I nevertheless have the impression that he is skipping over a few details.

Quebec has some concerns about this bill because we will lose some representation. If we look at history, at the time of Confederation, Manitoba's population was predominantly francophone. At that time, there were Lessards, Lemieux and Lamoureux, whose names were pronounced with a French accent. The same names exist today, except they are pronounced with an English accent.

From our perspective, when we look at a proposition like the one before us, we see a net loss for us. Incidentally, I would remind the member that the burning of the Parliament of Canada in Montreal was the result of a riot started by the Tories at the time.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the NDP member for his comments.

It is true that it was the Conservatives who destroyed the Parliament of Canada in Montreal, in the Old Port, downtown.

I need to point out that when it comes to the bill that is in front of us, we have agreed to add three new seats for Quebec. We are moving up the number of seats in the provincial division of Quebec in this House from 75 to 78 to ensure that its proportionate representation in this House does not fall below the average.

We are taking the concerns of Canadians in Quebec into account to ensure that their fair voice, their fair vote counts in this House. It is a good plan we are putting in place. It is a principled one. It reconciles a lot of difficult decisions that the government had to make. This is the third iteration of this bill. It has been over four years since we introduced the first bill in November 2007. I support the government's bill. It is time that we implemented it, in advance of the next election.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I must inform the hon. member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges that I will have to interrupt him at 5:15 p.m., since that will be the end of the time provided for government orders today. I will signal him when he has one minute left.

The hon. member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a bit upsetting that I will not be able to talk as long as I would have liked to about this bill, because I think this is an important time in our history.

I would like to begin by thanking the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. I have a great respect for this member because he believes strongly in representing his citizens. In this sense he is an idealist, and I respect that.

However, I also find it is a bit disingenuous, because he also represents his party, and there is a balance to be made there. As well, I do not necessarily agree with all of his historical analysis. I was confused when he referred to equality while guaranteeing seats for certain provinces; he seemed to say representation by population guarantees equality, but certain provinces would have guaranteed seats. I was a bit confused by his train of thought and argumentation.

I am new to this House. As members of the official opposition, every Wednesday we occupy a place called the Railway Room. This is where the NDP caucus meets. In that room there is a painting by Robert Harris depicting the Fathers of Confederation. The subject of the painting is the 1884 Quebec Conference, a conference held in the lead-up to Confederation.

There are two figures side by side, one standing and one sitting. They are John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier. These two figures, in the lead-up to Confederation, formed various coalitions to govern the United Province of Canada.

The member for Wellington—Halton Hills mentioned George Brown. George Brown formed a very short ministry during this union history. It was about nine months, I believe. George-Étienne Cartier spent his whole political life rallying against the concept of rep by pop in the worry that his people, the Québécois, would see a diminishing of their presence in the Canadian fabric.

Both figures, John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier, had a common fear of republicanism. John A. Macdonald and George-Étienne Cartier were afraid that eventually the American nation would take over Canada; as a result, they felt it was urgent to unite and form a new nation called Canada, a federal nation.

The traditions of this nation were based on peace, order and good government. Cartier was willing to go into building this new nation with John A. Macdonald because he believed that what is now Quebec would turn into Louisiana if the Americans were to take power here. Macdonald had similar concerns. He did not want Canada to become merely another American state.

The agreement they came to in Confederation, with all the other Fathers of Confederation, was not simplistically rep by pop. We see that in other provinces such as Prince Edward Island and other areas in the country. Those provinces were guaranteed a certain amount of representation that was not based upon population. George-Étienne Cartier had a similar belief that it was not just simply representation by population in this country; it was more complex.

That is what we are talking about when we refer to having 24.35% of the seats in this House for Quebec. It is in recognition of this historical reality and the compromise that was made.

There is a problem if we increase the seats in this House. I made reference to the fact that we balance representing our citizens with representing our parties.

A troubling development in our system of governance has been recognized, and it is this increasing power in the Prime Minister's Office. We could multiply lots of members in this House, but if the Prime Minister's Office remains as powerful as it is, it does not matter if we add 30, 40, 50 or 60 seats; the Prime Minister's Office has the power to determine the way members vote, what they are going to say in the House, what questions they are going to ask.

The member for Brossard asked the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, “Why don't you recognize what we did here in 2006?” Well, in fact that member did not recognize the idea that Quebec was a nation. He voted against his party. He was in cabinet, and now he is no longer in cabinet.

I ask Canadians why that happened. Why was he thrown out of cabinet for going against the wishes of the Prime Minister's Office?

I would like to end with a quote. It says:

In today’s democratic societies, organizations share power. Corporations, churches, universities, hospitals, even public sector bureaucracies make decisions through consultation, committees and consensus-building techniques. Only in politics do we still entrust power to a single faction expected to prevail every time over the opposition by sheer force of numbers. Even more anachronistically, we persist in structuring the governing team like a military regiment under a single commander with almost total power to appoint, discipline and expel subordinates.

Who said that? It was the Prime Minister of Canada.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

It being 5:15 p.m., pursuant to an order made on Wednesday, December 7, 2011, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of the bill now before the House.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #103