House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was women.

Topics

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I must interrupt the hon. member. There are only 30 seconds left for the member for Etobicoke Centre.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the anger quotient in that corner of the floor seems to be rather high today. I would remind the hon. member and his party that Canadians did speak and that is why they placed the Liberals in the corner.

We on this side of the House believe in Canada. We do not talk about what other countries do. We talk about what Canadians do. This government focuses on what Canada and Canadians need and—

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member is out of time. I would ask hon. members to be mindful of the fact that only one member of the House is supposed to be talking at a time.

We will move on with the debate. The hon. member for Davenport.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise and speak to Bill C-20. As we know, representation and the redistribution of seats is a delicate balancing act. It is a vital exercise in nation building and we need to balance many issues. We need to balance the fact that we have huge northern ridings that are having a hard time—

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. If hon. members want to carry on a discussion, I would encourage them to do it outside of the chamber so that the member for Davenport can be heard.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is Friday morning and everyone wants to speak on this important piece of nation building, which is what it is.

We have rural ridings that are large geographic areas that currently are struggling to gain access to their member of Parliament. We have large northern ridings that span the size of the United Kingdom. We have, of course, fast growing suburban ridings and more and more densely populated urban ridings.

In other words, we cannot accurately and fairly redistribute the seats just by looking at lines on a ledger. That is not what nation building is about. Nation building is about listening to the different voices in our country, listening to and responding to the different needs, realities, struggles, and hopes of the various regions in our country.

Oftentimes we say there are several different regions, but within those regions there are other regions. I would argue that the rural-urban dichotomy is one which we really need to think about and research, and thoughtfully proceed with more fair and balanced representation in this place on the basis of not just population numbers.

On our side of the House, we agree that these fast growing provinces need better representation. However, we on this side of the House also acknowledge and believe that the weight that Quebec currently holds in this place should be maintained. We believe those things. This bill does not achieve any of that. It does not go far enough for Ontario, Alberta or British Columbia, and it certainly does not go far enough for Quebec.

The government likes to bring in the bean-counters and we cannot build a nation with bean-counters. That is not how we have ever done that in this country. This is a living, breathing thing, and we need to respond to the realities of this country in a similar fashion.

In this current Parliament, we have seen the government run roughshod, essentially, over democracy in this place. We have seen it invoke time allocation nine times. Now we hear the Conservatives talk about how it is important for Canadians to have their voices heard in the House of Commons when at every opportunity they try to curtail that voice from actually being expressed here.

The Conservative members often talk about having discussed these bills ad nauseam and it being time to pass them. Meanwhile, we have 50-60-65-70 new members in the House of Commons. I think that the communities that these new members represent would like to have their voices heard in this place. We need to set this bill in the context of the government's propensity, whenever it feels it is in its favour, to run roughshod over parliamentary democracy.

We have several different, sometimes competing, interests. It is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians and it is incumbent upon the government, if it chooses to take that responsibility, to actually try to balance all of these concerns and to move forward in a way that builds this nation. The Conservative government likes to pit groups against each other. We saw that very early on when it tried to pit young workers against older workers in the lockout of CUPW workers.

We have seen time and time again that the reflex of the government is to divide. The reflex of the government is to play. As my hon. colleague over here said in his question/speech, it likes to come up with winners and losers. That is not what we are here to do.

We are here to bring people together, so that we create winners in this country, not some winners and some losers. That is what we on this side of the House believe in. That is why this bill does not go nearly far enough. It does not go far enough at all.

One of my colleagues opposite has said that Canadians deserve to have representation that is fair and balanced. We agree that Canadians do deserve that.

However, we have a system of first past the post, which has created a scenario where, on the government side, 39% of Canadians voted for the government and, on this side, 61% of Canadians voted for other parties.

When we are talking about how we are going to fix the democratic deficit in this country, certainly the conversations that Canadians are having, and I think the hon. member opposite would agree, are more about the issues and distortions that first past the post create in our country than they are about the redistribution of seats.

We have several questions before us. The Senate is another example. I do not see many people in this country storming my office, pleading with me to advocate on behalf of Senate reform. They are wondering why we are spending $100 million on a non-elected Senate that actually shuts down bills that this democratically elected House passes. That is shameful. That is why more and more Canadians question the validity of the Senate; that is not to question the validity of those good senators who do some good work. We are talking about the institution here.

We have significant issues before us. The reason that we are here is to advocate for fair representation. We have no disagreement that there are some issues that need to be solved here. There is no question about it.

Fast growing provinces are not accurately represented here. There is no question about it. However, at the same time, we as a country have passed a unanimous motion that the Québécois form a nation in a united Canada. It is incumbent upon us to maintain the weight that Quebec has in this House.

We need to move beyond the divide and conquest approaches of the government to actually truly fix the democratic deficit in this country, which certainly includes seat redistribution, but it also includes a real examination of our electoral system and first past the post.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I understand the Conservatives' position on this particular bill. The Prime Minister has had a flip-flop. At one time, he used to believe that we should be reducing the number of members of Parliament. Today, for whatever reason, he is going against what public opinion really wants. He has made the decision to increase the size of the House of Commons. I understand the Conservatives' and the Prime Minister's position today. I wish it would change, but I understand it.

It is with regard to the New Democrats where I am a little confused, and I think many viewers would be confused. All we really get from them is that the province of Quebec should not have to respect the principles of representation by population. I understand that aspect of it. Where I fall short, and I think viewers fall short, is just how many more members of Parliament should be added in order to accommodate what it is that the New Democrats are advocating for?

Do they want to see 350 members of Parliament? Do they have a plan like the Conservatives have put forward. The Conservatives are saying 338. The Liberals are saying 308. How many MPs does the NDP want to see in the House?

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member heard me say that this is an exercise in nation building, not an exercise in partisan one-upmanship or, in my view, dangerous populism. We are talking about fair representation. Speaking of which, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville in June was quoted as saying that his party is not against the idea of Quebec getting more seats, but will wait to see the whole picture.

Canadians really wonder where the Liberals are on this issue because they seem to be all over the place. It bears mentioning that we are the only official party in this place that advocates for proportional representation. That is a key issue here.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the thing that troubles me in conversation with my constituents is that all the attention is adding more members of Parliament and somehow that is going to serve the needs of constituents across Canada.

We have witnessed over the past two years the Prime Minister freezing the budgets of constituency offices. There are rumours afloat that there may be even further cuts if we increase the number of members of Parliament. That is one of the greatest discoveries I made in getting elected, is how important members of Parliament and their staff are in the constituencies.

We have cuts to the civil service that delivers EI and services to seniors. In my constituency there are three university campuses. I have many community leagues who are struggling to deliver the services that the government is not delivering.

I wonder if the member could speak to why it is that we are pushing for an answer being proportional representation and proper financing, so that constituencies can deliver the needs of the people of Canada.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, democracy is not just about seat redistribution. When the member opposite talked about all the people coming into his office with EI issues and immigration issues, maybe the member opposite should start talking to his cabinet colleagues about why we are flooded with these issues. This is about democracy too.

I think my colleague on this side speaks to a very important issue which is that if we are going to actually serve our constituents better, many things need to be in place and this conversation around seat redistribution is an important conversation, but it is not the only one that is going to solve the democratic deficit here in this country.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South
Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-20, the fair representation act, as it would provide much fairer representation for my home province of Ontario. What the bill addresses is the serious and increasing under-representation of our fastest growing provinces, especially Ontario.

This under-representation is a serious problem that requires an immediate solution. Something must be done. This problem is only going to get worse if we keep the status quo. Happily, we have a solution to fix this problem and a government that is interested in fixing it, not just using the problem to score political points.

Our government is committed to addressing this problem with the fair representation act. Bill C-20 provides a principled update to the formula allocating House of Commons seats that is fair for all provinces. This is an important point. Increasing representation for the faster growing provinces should not be done at the cost of pitting region against region, or Canadian against Canadian. What we have seen from the opposition parties on this issue is quite the opposite. Their proposals, both in their own way, compromise the democratic representation of some Canadians in the name of making political statements.

The NDP, on the one hand, would guarantee a province a fixed percentage of seats in the House regardless of its share of the population. That is not in keeping with our formula that moves all provinces closer to representation by population. The fact is the NDP proposal would introduce a new factor that would cause further under-representation of the faster growing provinces, like Ontario, provinces that we need to treat more fairly. The change proposed by the NDP is not something this House and our Parliament can do on its own.

The Liberals, on the other hand, present a proposal that would be a recipe for provincial anger and conflict. The Liberals propose taking seats away from the smaller, slower growing provinces and giving those seats to the larger, faster growing provinces.

We make no apologies for addressing the significant and increasing under-representation of ordinary Canadians. Our bill does that, just as we promised it would. We also make no apologies for believing that this problem should not be fixed by inflicting seat losses on other provinces.

Just as we are ensuring that no province can move from being overrepresented to under-represented as a result of this formula, we are also ensuring that no province would lose seats through this formula. That is why we made three distinct promises on House of Commons representation in the last election to ensure that any update to the formula would be fair for all Canadians in all provinces. First, we said we would increase the number of seats now and in the future to better reflect population growth in places like British Columbia, my home province of Ontario, and Alberta. Second, we would protect the number of seats for smaller provinces. Third, we would protect the proportional representation of Quebec according to its population.

We would have to move away from those promises in order to implement either of the opposition parties' proposals. We are not going to do that.

Our government received a very strong mandate in the last federal election to deliver on the commitments we made, and we are doing exactly that with the fair representation act. It is important that these three commitments be taken together. When taken together, the update to the formula allocating House of Commons seats would be fair across the country. The practical result of Bill C-20 is that every single Canadian moves closer to representation by population.

Our first commitment is the importance of introducing a seat allocation formula that is more responsive to population size and trends. This legislation would move the House closer to fair representation for Canadians living in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, while maintaining the number of seats for slower growing provinces, and ensuring Quebec's representation is equal to its population. By introducing a seat allocation formula that is more responsive to population size and trends, the fair representation act would move the House closer to representation by population both now and well into the future.

The practical effect is that Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta would be entitled to new seats under the fair representation act. Ontario, with the largest population, would receive 15 new seats. Historically, we have always been under-represented in the House. I believe my residents deserve equal voice in the House. Alberta would receive six new seats rather than only three. British Columbia would receive six new seats rather than only one. Quebec's representation which will equal its population means that it will receive three new seats.

This is the best formula to move all provinces toward representation by population in a principled manner. This fair representation would have a direct effect on my riding in Mississauga and on the greater Toronto area as a whole. Canadians, especially new Canadians and visible minorities, would be much more fairly represented than they are now. Ontario residents are entitled to fair representation, and the populations of our ridings would be much more manageable.

Our second commitment is that the government will address under-representation in a way that respects the representation of smaller provinces. This is a long-standing commitment of our government and our party. Canadians have given us a strong mandate to deliver in this regard.

The fair representation act is fair for all Canadians, not just for some provinces. It is a measured investment that brings every single Canadian closer to representation by population. We have committed to protect the seat counts of the smaller provinces and we will keep that promise.

Finally, our third commitment under the fair representation act also provides that the seat allocation formula would apply a representation rule. If a province becomes under-represented as a result of the application of the updated formula, additional seats would be allocated to that province so that its representation would equal its share of the population. Based on population estimates, Quebec would be the first province to receive new seats in order not to become under-represented by the application of the updated formula.

Quebec has 23% of the provincial population and will have 23% of the provincial seats in the House of Commons. My colleagues have said that before and I will repeat that again. Quebec would be fairly represented under this bill. That said, the representation rule is nationally applicable and applies equally to every single province in the country that enters the scenario.

This representation rule is a principled measure that ensures smaller and low-growth provinces would not become under-represented in the future. They would maintain representation that is in line with their share of the population. That is fair as well.

In conclusion, this bill, the fair representation act, is the best formula to address the under-representation of Canadians living in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia without causing undue conflict. It is reasonable. It is principled. It is nationally applicable. Most importantly, it is fair to all Canadians. It will achieve better representation for Canadians living in faster growing provinces while maintaining representation for smaller and slower growing provinces. It is eminently more fair for Ontario. It brings every single Canadian closer to representation by population. It delivers on our government's long-standing commitment to move toward fair representation in the House of Commons.

The fair representation act is principled and reasonable legislation that needs to be passed as quickly as possible. I encourage the opposition to work with us on this important piece of legislation for Ontario and for all Canadians.

Fair Representation Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have five minutes for questions and comments after question period.

Fred Page Cup
Statements By Members

December 9th, 2011 / 10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to congratulate the Truro Junior A Bearcats in my hometown. The team will host the 2013 Fred Page Cup.

The Fred Page Cup is the eastern Canadian junior A hockey championship. It will showcase the best junior A hockey players from Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

I congratulate Stu Rath, Keith MacKenzie, Shawn Evans, and the rest of the Bearcats organization for being awarded this tremendous opportunity.

I would like to let members and all Canadians know that this event will be held in the Central Nova civic centre, a brand new facility which is under construction right now, thanks in part to a $10 million federal government investment announced by the Prime Minister himself in February 2010.

The Fred Page Cup is going to be a tremendous event. I cannot wait to drop the puck at centre ice with the Minister of National Defence, who is also a great Truro Junior A Bearcats fan, and then see the Truro Junior A Bearcats hoist the cup in victory.

I invite everyone to come and see the Fred Page Cup in Truro and enjoy some of our world-class hospitality.

SOS Richelieu
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely shocked and disgusted today by the theft that took place on December 7 at SOS Richelieu.

This assistance organization, which was created in the aftermath of the disastrous flooding that devastated a large part of the Montérégie region in the spring and summer of 2011, surprised everyone with its quick response and incredible effectiveness across the Haut-Richelieu region.

A total of $17,000 in gift cards was stolen. These gift cards, donated by extremely generous business owners in the riding of Saint-Jean, were to be handed out to the flood victims' children at the children's Christmas party organized by the Fraternité des policiers et policières de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. I commend this association for its solidarity.

On September 25, I even personally invited these people from SOS Richelieu to congratulate them.

I want to reiterate my support for the entire SOS Richelieu team and especially its president, Michel Fecteau, and to let them know that they can count on me, the members of the NDP and my colleagues from Chambly—Borduas and Brome—Missisquoi to help boost morale among the families affected by the flooding.

Government Priorities
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, last spring Canadians elected a government that is listening and keeping its promises.

Canadians told me they wanted a government that would make keeping their children and communities safe a priority. As promised, within the first 100 sitting days of Parliament, we will pass Bill C-10.

Farmers in my riding told me that they wanted the freedom to market their own wheat and barley. We are delivering by passing Bill C-18.

I regularly hear how wasteful the long gun registry is. I am very pleased that the government is passing Bill C-19 to end this discrimination against law-abiding citizens.

People across Canada have also told me of the need for increased transparency and accountability for first nations governance. I am proud that the government has introduced Bill C-27.

We have listened and we have acted.