House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-12.

Topics

The House resumed from December 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation), be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

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10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-12, which has to do with democratic representation and which would reduce Quebec's political weight if it were passed. My Bloc Québécois colleague from Joliette proposed an amendment urging all of the parties to oppose this bill, which would reduce Quebec's representation to a level below its proportion of Canada's population.

This is not the first time, since 2006, that we are voting on this issue in the House. Here, in this House, we passed a motion that had to do with the recognition of the Quebec nation. The government is intent on bringing forward bills that would reduce Quebec's political weight. First, we had Bill C-56, then Bill C-22, and now we have Bill C-12. The consensus in Quebec is that this bill must not pass.

Bill C-12 would amend the formula set out in the Constitution to determine the number of seats allocated to each province. There would be a considerable increase in the number of seats in the rest of Canada. We are talking about five seats in Alberta, seven seats in British Columbia and 18 seats in Ontario, for a total of 30 new members of Parliament in the rest of Canada, not to mention the fact that Quebec's number of seats would not increase.

I would simply like to remind the hon. members that Quebec's electoral map is being redrawn. We are trying to strike a balance and resolve the dilemma between urban and rural communities. We want to give special status to rural communities that, by and large, are being threatened. We need only consider the Magdalen Islands or the Gaspé, where there are communities whose populations are dwindling with the passing years. We would like to see a balance: one person, one vote. We would also like to see the specific character of communities reflected in the National Assembly. Accordingly, a number of constitutional experts, including Benoît Pelletier, a former minister in the Liberal government, are working on just that. The Parti Québécois put forward a proposal to keep segments of the population from disappearing and to ensure that they are represented during votes in the National Assembly or where their priorities are concerned. We know that the economies and realities are different. We are trying to find a solution to strike a balance.

I can see today that we are looking for that same kind of balance that the Bloc would like to see, to ensure that all votes are equal and that there is effective representation. That is what all of the parties in the National Assembly are trying to do in Quebec so that there is a balance between urban and rural communities.

Here in this House we are not talking about urban and rural communities. We are talking about a nation, the Quebec nation, which has been recognized, and the nation of Canada, which is the rest of Canada's reality.

We can see that there are not many members in this House who will speak today, be they from the party in power—the Conservative Party, which introduced the bill—or from the opposition parties. We hope that they will explain to the people what is pushing the different parties to vote for this bill. They wanted to recognize the Quebec nation, and it must be recognized for what it represents, for the consensuses in the National Assembly, for the polls showing that 61% of the people are opposed to this bill. And when push comes to shove, we will see how this House really feels about recognizing the Quebec nation.

Many seats would be added: 30 new members would sit here in the Canadian Parliament.

As I was saying earlier, one person equals one vote. The government claims this bill is based on that principle. In a moment I will show how this principle has often been ignored over the years, since the Constitution was first created.

The Bloc Québécois, which represents Quebeckers, opposes this bill. The Bloc Québécois defends Quebec's realities and we are consistent in our commitment. We are the voice of Quebec and we oppose this bill.

It shows a lack of respect for democracy, and the recognition of the Quebec nation is therefore a sham. We were promised open federalism, but instead, muzzling seems to be the norm when we vote on bills in the House of Commons.

The principle of one person, one vote has been breached several times since Confederation. That is why we are seeking absolute equality, in terms of each vote and effective representation. For instance, certain commitments have been made to the maritime provinces and the Northwest Territories. Thus, the fact that they have been granted special protection goes against this very principle.

Now why does Bill C-12 not grant special protection to the Quebec nation regarding its potential for representation in the House of Commons, which will be reduced by about 2%? Over the years, Quebec has never been granted this special protection. Since 1976, I believe, our population has been under-represented.

Bill C-56 and Bill C-22, which were introduced in the last two Parliaments, were very similar to Bill C-12. There was a consensus in the National Assembly and among the population on this issue. The government has introduced Bill C-12 most recently—with an election campaign probably right around the corner—in order to please Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

The proposed amendment to the Constitution determines the number of seats in the House of Commons allocated to each province after a decennial census. That is set out in Bill C-12.

Readjusting the number of seats, as set out in Bill C-12, would give only three provinces more seats: Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. There would be 30 new seats. The total number of members in the House of Commons would increase from 308 to 338.

This new reality would diminish Quebec's presence, even though some would have us believe that Quebec will still keep its 75 seats. Quebec will keep its 75 seats, but 75 seats out of 308 does not represent the same percentage of the population as 75 seats out of 338. That is easy to understand. There will be 30 additional MPs and the same 75 MPs representing Quebec in the House. Quebec's current representation is 24.3%, a percentage that would decrease to 22.9% if Bill C-12 is passed.

I invite the hon. members from the other political parties to speak in the House and tell us where they stand on this. I realize that it might be difficult for the Liberal Party or the NDP to speak in favour of Quebec, but we expect hon. members to rise in the House and tell us what their party's political intentions are.

The Bloc Québécois is disputing this bill that is unfair to Quebec for three reasons. The first argument has to do with one person, one vote. In fact, this principle has never been applied. Historic fact proves that this statement being used by the Conservatives is false. Historic fact proves the contrary. Why not look at what is already happening in the Maritimes and in the Northwest Territories?

The second argument is the harmful consequences of under-representing Quebec in the House of Commons. Many people in Quebec are echoing the fear of this bill being passed.

The third argument has to do with the false impression of democracy that Bill C-12 gives. What the government is saying does not hold water, and the bill does not recognize the nation of Quebec. If the Conservative government wants to move forward with this bill, then it does not recognize the nation of Quebec. Once again, consensus in Quebec on the political intentions of the Conservative Party is being ignored.

In a democracy, there is the very simple principle of one person, one vote. The principle is very straightforward: each voter has the right to express himself or herself by exercising the right to vote, and each vote has the same worth, the same weight. We agree on that. However, in reality, this is not exactly the situation because of the nature of our electoral system. But that is an altogether different debate. One person, one vote. Since Confederation, as I was saying, the rules have been bent to reach compromise and to find a balance between absolute equality and effective representation.

I said I would give a brief historical overview. Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1867 stated:

The Number of Members of the House of Commons may be from Time to Time increased by the Parliament of Canada, provided the proportionate Representation of the Provinces prescribed by this Act is not thereby disturbed.

That is not the case here. We have seen deviations from the principle of one person, one vote in the Maritime provinces. The Constitution was amended to ensure that each province would have a minimum number of members at least equal to the number of its senators. This is known as the senatorial clause. The Northwest Territories have had the right to representation in the House of Commons although, under the rules, their population would not justify it. If, for example, the number of people living in the Northwest Territories had been taken into account, they would not have had the right to be represented here in the House. Therefore, the one person, one vote principle was ignored.

Other changes to section 51, governing the distribution of seats, have been made in order to prevent a loss of more than 15% of the seats in a province with low population growth and to prevent one province from having fewer representatives than a less populated province. We have the examples of the Northwest Territories for the former scenario and the Maritime provinces for the latter, the 15% situation.

The approach set out in the bill, which involves increasing the number of seats in the House of Commons without compensating for the dilution of representation for provinces with low demographic growth rates, puts the government at risk of violating section 42(1)(a) of the 1982 Constitution Act. When the Constitution was repatriated in 1982, Parliament was given the right, subject to section 32, to amend the provisions of the Constitution relating to the House of Commons. Under section 32(1)(a), any amendment to the principle of proportional representation of the provinces set out in the 1867 Constitution Act is subject to the constitutional amending procedure with which we are familiar, namely, the agreement of at least seven provinces that have 50% of the population or the 7/50 formula.

It is also important to remember that section 52 of the Canadian Constitution states that:

The Number of Members of the House of Commons may be from Time to Time increased by the Parliament of Canada, provided the proportionate Representation of the Provinces prescribed by this Act is not thereby disturbed.

We know that such would not be the case were this bill to pass.

In an effort to demonstrate that the “one person, one vote” principle has practically never been respected in the House, I would like to close by citing a study conducted by a political scientist at Laval University, Louis Massicotte. Based on a study comparing our country to other federations, he found that Canada has the highest rate of violation of the principle of proportionality. Clearly, the Conservatives violate this principle when it works to their advantage.

The Conservatives introduced Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation) when it suited them. As everyone knows, this draconian approach is all about winning votes, without considering Quebeckers and their reality. Let there be no mistake about it. Bill C-56 and Bill C-22 were introduced during the last two Parliaments. And the impact of Bill C-12 on Quebec, if it passes, is clear: it would marginalize Quebec even further and diminish its political weight. I have heard the arguments of some members here, including the member for Lévis—Bellechasse. They say there would be more Bloc members if the Bloc members did not sit here in this House. They are giving us another wonderful lesson on democracy. Here is what political scientist Louis Massicotte had to say:

Under the Harper government's new approach, whereby the provinces experiencing population growth would be given fairer representation, Quebec's representation would fall below its proportion of the Canadian population.

We will see how the other parties react to this bill. As we know, for the Conservatives, recognizing the Quebec nation is a sham. They have no idea what issues are at stake in Quebec's reality. I think it is obvious that we will be undermined here, in terms of Quebec's representation compared to the increased number of members from the rest of Canada.

Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons has diminished considerably since 1867. In 1867, 36% of the seats here in the House of Commons were held by members from Quebec. That dropped to 26% in 1976. And under Bill C-12, it would drop to 22.4%.

So why is Quebec trying to strike a balance between rural and urban communities? If our nation were truly being recognized, this same balance could be reproduced, that is, between what it represents, what it is and what it has to defend. It is a province that is mainly francophone, the home of the Quebec nation, and Quebec must maintain a fair proportion of the seats in the House of Commons in order to address its distinct character and particular needs. As we know, the Conservatives often scoff at the particular needs of the province of Quebec, even though they are the ones who recognized it. How hypocritical.

All of the federal partners agreed to what is in the 1992 Charlottetown accord, a guarantee of 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. Today, it is a whole other story. The Conservatives' lack of good faith here is quite clear. They are proposing this to please the rest of Canada. They are abandoning Quebec and could not care less about its reaction. We need only look at the harmonization of the QST and the GST: there is a consensus in the National Assembly and among the public. And I think that in today's budget, the government will ignore Quebec's demands regarding the harmonization of the QST and the GST. We have seen a number of examples where a consensus in Quebec has been completely disregarded here in the House.

Many people are voicing their opposition and believe that Quebec is being muzzled in the rest of Canada. The National Assembly is a credible voice; its members were elected democratically to represent the interests of Quebec. There are 125 members in the National Assembly. There are 48 members of the Bloc Québécois in the House of Commons accounting for two-thirds of elected members from Quebec. This means that 87% of elected members from the Quebec nation are opposed to Bill C-12 and are calling for it to be withdrawn.

I mentioned earlier that Benoît Pelletier, Quebec's former minister of intergovernmental affairs, has spoken out against this bill and is calling for it to be withdrawn. He does not understand why there were no special measures to protect Quebec, which is home to Canada's main linguistic minority and a founding province of Canada that is losing demographic weight. This was done, for example, with the Maritimes and the Northwest Territories. We wanted to create a balance. Why could it not be done with Quebec?

In addition, the National Assembly has adopted a unanimous motion calling for this bill to be defeated.

We would like to see the bill defeated today at this stage.

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10:30 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments. I just want to point out some of the logical inconsistencies. First of all, Quebec's seat count remains constant. It is protected under Bill C-12. We know that if that member and her party had their way, Quebec would have zero seats in the House of Commons. So, there is obviously a contradiction there.

The member spoke of one person, one vote. In fact, under Bill C-12, even though other provinces are gaining more seats, the votes per person still has greater weight in Quebec because the number of constituents in a constituency in Quebec is still less than the national average of 108,000. We could argue that votes will have more weight in Quebec.

I also find it interesting that just a few weeks ago the Bloc supported a motion to eliminate the Senate. The Senate has 24 senators from Quebec, and surely reducing the number of senators in Parliament would reduce the influence of Quebec in Parliament. So on one hand, the Bloc members say one thing and on the other hand they say something else for the other chamber.

This is a nation-building exercise for Canada and Quebec, and we know that the member does not want to build a strong, united Canada. That is really the agenda of the Bloc Québécois.

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10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to reply to the question from the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. If there are contradictions in what I say, there were contradictions in what the National Assembly says as well. There are federalist members of the National Assembly. Benoît Pelletier is neither a Péquiste nor an avowed sovereignist, far from it. He was a cabinet member with the Liberal Party of Quebec. He says he is opposed to Bill C-12. So there are a number of people in Quebec who, like us, are opposed to the House passing this bill.

The contradiction really comes from the Conservative Party. It wants to recognize the Quebec nation, but it takes away the means for it to be better represented or represented according to its population. The Conservatives are exhibiting bad faith. They are free to tell the members of the National Assembly that they are contradicting themselves. If there is a contradiction in what I say, it exists elsewhere, because I speak for the majority of Quebec's population, who object to this bill.

A moment ago the member referred to the partisan Senate, where a large number of representatives from Quebec also sit. Over 75% of Quebeckers are opposed to this partisan Senate. It is not a Senate that represents the entire population, because it is not elected. We are opposed to this unelected Senate, which the Conservatives have made partisan, too. Senators are not even able to look at a bill because the Prime Minister forbids it. The Senate is the long arm of the Conservative Party, and we oppose it.

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10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for her argument against the bill. I understand where she is coming from and her logic. However, I want to give a different perspective on this.

I believe that there is no constitutional principle that ensures that the Quebec division in this House has a certain percentage of the seats in this House. In fact, some of the members of the Bloc have mentioned that there is a guaranteed percentage of a quarter of the seats. In fact, they are below that level right now. There are 308 seats in this House and the Bloc has 75 of the 308 seats. That is, in fact, less than one-quarter. So clearly, there is no fundamental constitutional provision there.

There was a fundamental constitutional principle that guaranteed the Quebec division a certain percentage of the seats, but that was in the Act of Union in 1840. Between 1840 and 1867, Canada East was guaranteed half of the seats in the legislature of the day. That changed with Confederation in 1867, in part because the then leader of the Liberal Party, George Brown, argued in favour of representation by population.

That has been the fundamental constitutional provision since 1867, albeit modified by two minor provisions concerning the senatorial floor and the grandfathering of the seats in 1986 that guaranteed no provincial division would fall below that number. Nevertheless, the fundamental constitutional principle that governs the federal chamber here in the House of Commons is representation by population.

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10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, he says there has never been an exception to that principle, and that is totally false. There are in fact exceptions to the principle of one person, one vote, or the principle of increasing and decreasing population. We need only look at the Northwest Territories or the Maritimes. The Northwest Territories did not have a large enough population to be represented, and an exception was made to the principle.

I note that section 52 also provides that the number of members of the House of Commons could be increased, as long as the proportionate representation of the provinces was not disturbed.

I would like to tell the member that 75 members out of 308 is not 75 members out of 338. I know that the Conservative Party dreams of the day when it will form a majority government and can do as it likes. Today we have seen a charge of contempt of Parliament against the Conservative Party. Now imagine how the Conservative Party would govern if it formed a majority government. We know perfectly well that it wants to get all the votes in the rest of Canada and work to make sure their candidates get elected in all ridings in the rest of Canada.

During that time, Quebec’s political weight in the House of Commons will decline. This is important when you want to defend a nation.

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10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for Québec. Her very interesting speech presents a number of arguments against this bill, which does not respect democracy. If this bill were applied, Quebec's political representation would be less than its demographic weight. What is more, this bill rejects the recognition of Quebec as a nation.

Does the hon. member find that this bill is a departure from the historical consensus? In the past there has been a modicum of recognition. It seems to me a certain Canadian consensus has already been mentioned, regarding political representation of roughly 25% of the MPs here in the House of Commons.

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10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. In the Charlottetown accord, it was agreed that this representation would never go below 25%. We are far from that. With this bill, Quebec's representation is being reduced to 22.3%.

There is cause for concern. Since 1867, Quebec's representation has decreased over the years. It was 36%, then 26% in 1976, and if this bill were to pass, our representation would drop to 22.3%.

If I were the Conservative Party, I would wonder about the contradictory thinking of the Conservative Party's detractors with regard to my party's vision. That is what they are called and that is how they are viewed and perceived. Why are people like the constitutional expert Benoît Pelletier and Louis Massicotte from Laval University studying what the representation should be and how our people and nation should be represented here in the House of Commons, regardless of the party in power or the political party that wins the next election?

That is not how this should be viewed. I know they are practising short-term politics, but while Quebec is represented here, its representatives have to be spokespeople for what is happening in Quebec. We see how the spokespeople seated on the Conservative benches remain seated when it is time to speak for Quebec.

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March 22nd, 2011 / 10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in opposition to Bill C-12.

From the outset, I would like to say that this bill on democratic representation is a deliberate affront to the Quebec nation. The bill is an attack against the Quebec nation launched by the Canadian federalist parties because it is an attempt to reduce the Quebec nation’s political weight in the House of Commons. Reducing the Quebec nation’s political weight in the House of Commons is unacceptable to Quebeckers.

When the Canadian federation was created in 1867, Quebec held 36% of the seats in the House of Commons. I remain hopeful that Quebec will leave this federation. I am a staunch sovereignist and when I see a bill like this before the House of Commons, I feel an even greater urgency. I believe that it is even more pressing for Quebec to leave the Canadian federation. That day will come, I hope, and that is what I am fighting for.

This bill is unacceptable to Quebeckers. In 1867, Quebec held 36% of the seats in the House of Commons. 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. There is an attempt to lessen our political weight within the Canadian federation. This is another great contradiction from the Conservative Party; a party that boasts that it has recognized the Quebec nation. And yet, it is quite clear that it does not recognize the Quebec nation, Quebec’s identity, Quebecker’s culture or their language. The Conservative Party even wants to see Quebec’s political weight diminished. That is a pity. It is an unacceptable step backwards in light of the current representation we enjoy in the House.

Many people will say that it is a Conservative Party strategy aimed at attaining a majority. That may well be true, but this bill is not democratic and in no way respects the Quebec nation. As a number of my Bloc Québécois colleagues have already stated in the House, the Bloc Québécois unanimously opposes this bill. We will do everything in our power to prevent it from passing.

This is a minority government and an election may be triggered within days or weeks. Our objective is for this attempt to further marginalize and diminish Quebec’s culture and identity to become an issue in Quebec in the coming election. Imagine every Conservative and Liberal member of Parliament and candidate for election telling Quebeckers that when there was an attempt to reduce Quebec’s political weight in the House of Commons they sat on their hands and went so far as to vote in favour of a policy to diminish the political weight of the Quebec nation. I am referring here to the Conservatives and Liberals from Quebec. It is truly shameful.

Make no mistake. This bill is a direct assault on the fundamental rights of the Quebec nation. That is why we moved the following motion in the House on April 20, 2010:

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.

This motion was our response—the response of Quebeckers—to Bill C-12. It was defeated by the Conservatives and by the Liberal Party of Canada, a party that continues to oppose Quebec, as evidenced by all the action it has taken against Quebec for generations.

On November 22, 2006, the Conservative government tabled a motion of which it was very proud. Clearly, it was an attempt to win votes. They wanted to win seats in Quebec. The Conservatives wanted Quebeckers to believe that they recognized the specificity of the Quebec nation, its language, culture, identity and differences. The Conservatives therefore tabled this motion that recognized the existence of the Quebec nation. Our nation does not need this recognition to exist but it was still a kind gesture and it was interesting to see the House of Commons vote on the existence of this nation and to officially recognize it.

However, everything went downhill from there. The government should have followed through on this recognition and should have walked the walk by introducing a series of measures to respect the language, culture and identity of the Quebec nation. Clearly, Bill C-12 does not walk the walk when it comes to recognizing the Quebec nation. On the contrary, this bill denies the existence of this nation and marginalizes its representation in federal institutions and here in the House of Commons.

The Bloc Québécois then tried many times to introduce bills that would solidify the recognition of this nation, for instance, to have the French language charter apply to federal institutions. Once again, Quebec was recognized as a nation but everyone in the House voted against the bills. These bills would have solidified the recognition of the Quebec nation and ensured that the nation, as well as its language, culture and identity, were respected. Now Quebec's political weight is under direct attack. It is shameful.

Our opposition to this bill is also based on a consensus in Quebec. All elected members of the National Assembly of Quebec oppose Bill C-12. What are the elected Conservative representatives for Quebec doing? They are not even here in the House. None of the Conservative members for Quebec are here to debate a specific issue—

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10:50 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I am sorry to have to cut you off.

The hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills on a point of order.

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10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Madam Speaker, I apologize to the hon. member, but it is contrary to the rules to say whether or not members are in the House.

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10:50 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I would like to thank the hon. member. He is correct.

It is against the rules to point out the absence of members. I would ask the Bloc member to refrain from such comments.

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10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I will continue with my speech. Our opposition to this bill is also based on the consensus in Quebec. The only people who do not agree with the general consensus in Quebec are the Conservative and Liberal members from Quebec who sit in this House.

Quebec's National Assembly unanimously voted on three occasions, and again in May 2010, to ask that this bill not be passed in the House. Members from the Liberal Party, the ADQ, Québec solidaire and the Parti Québécois unanimously voted against Bill C-12. Conservative and Liberal members from Quebec who vote in favour of this bill are voting against the interests of their constituents as well as the National Assembly.

All of the members in the National Assembly unanimously demanded that this bill be withdrawn, and all of the Bloc Québécois members condemn, without hesitation and without compromise, the reduction of the Quebec nation's political weight in the House. There seems to be a lack of representation from the other parties.

It is important in this debate to emphasize that the House of Commons or any other democratic institution can never be a purely arithmetic reflection of various proportions of the population. One criterion, which should be central to this debate, is that the recognition of the Quebec nation means that it should get the political clout necessary in federal institutions to make its voice heard.

Bill C-12 is a step in the opposite direction. Its effect will be to increase the number of seats in the House of Commons for representatives of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, while leaving nothing for Quebec, which is now a distinct nation within Canada, so long as it is not sovereign. In 1867, Quebec had 36% of the seats, but in 2014, it would have only 22.7%. Quebec’s share of the seats in the House of Commons would be even less than its demographic weight would suggest. We think that the standard should be a minimum of 25% of the members from Quebec so that they can defend its interests in the House.

We should all agree on that. What we have here, though, is very far removed. For the Bloc Québécois members of this House, recognizing the existence of a nation is more than a symbolic gesture or fine words, like what the Conservative Party has offered since it was elected in 2006. The Quebec nation should not be at the mercy of the election strategies of Canadian governments that want to increase their share of the vote in Quebec. We are more than that. We are a people, a nation, a culture. We are different, and we deserve to have our differences recognized. Nations have basic rights, like the right to control their own social, economic and cultural development. This bill is an insult to all the proposals made by the Government of Quebec and the National Assembly.

I would remind the House that the members of the Bloc Québécois and of the National Assembly are all opposed to Bill C-12, as was previously stated by the hon. member for Quebec.

The vast majority of members are opposed therefore to this bill, just as they were opposed to the previous Bill C-56.

More than 85% of Quebec members, whether of the National Assembly or the House of Commons, are opposed to this bill. How can the other parties explain the fact that under the current setup, a voter in Prince Edward Island has three times the political clout of a voter in Quebec? How can the Conservatives and Liberals explain that?

The Bloc Québécois is fighting to ensure that at least 25% of the seats in the House of Commons go to Quebec. For a nation like ours, 25% of the political weight is still not very much. It is not enough. What we need is 100% of the political weight. Until that day, we will content ourselves with 25%. That is what is called political freedom, or in a word, sovereignty.

There are Quebeckers who have not chosen the path of sovereignty. Nevertheless, Quebec is entitled to this substantial amount of political representation.

After a lot of pressure, Quebec was recognized as the Quebec nation by the House of Commons. However, the fact that this House now refuses to recognize the need for Quebec to have a special status regarding its political weight shows that the Conservatives, like the Liberals, care very little about this recognition.

The previous rejection by the House of the Bloc's motion and the support for this bill illustrate the adverse impacts of federalism for Quebec.

These federal parties want to increase the number of seats for Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia in the House, but they do not provide anything for the Quebec nation.

This Conservative legislation will marginalize the Quebec nation within Canada by reducing its political weight in the House. Indeed, back in 1867, Quebec held 36% of the seats, but by 2014 that percentage will be down to a mere 22.7%.

Lastly, the proposed legislation shows that federalist parties get along extremely well on at least one issue: they will stop at nothing to make the recognition of the Quebec nation meaningless.

The Prime Minister promised us open federalism, but with this bill he is proposing a token federalism. It is obvious that Quebec is perceived as the guest spoiling the party for Canada, because it has its own set of values and interests, which are not recognized by the House. This nation and its culture, its language, the specificity of its social, economic and political development, as well as its institutions, are not recognized by federalist parties.

The Bloc Québécois continues to maintain that the government must immediately withdraw its legislation and guarantee Quebec 24.3% of the seats in the House of Commons. That is a minimum, given the repeated concessions made by Quebec over the past 150 years, and particularly because it needs the tools that will enable it to protect its distinctiveness, its culture and its language.

I conclude by asking all members of this House to vote against Bill C-12.

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11 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Madam Speaker, I listened to the member's comments with interest.

The Parliament of Canada is a bicameral system: we have the House of Commons and the Senate.

Just a few weeks ago, the member's party voted to eliminate Quebec's representation in the Senate, where it has 24 out of 105 seats, or almost 25%. It wants to eliminate all seats that Quebec has in the Senate. Then in this chamber, it is demanding a guaranteed percentage of the seats, on the one hand, yet on the other hand its objective is to separate and, therefore, to have zero seats in the House of Commons. There is a contradiction in its position on the Senate and on the House.

I would also like to point out to the member that a vote in Quebec compared with a vote in Ontario, Alberta or B.C. will still has a greater punch, because the average constituency under Bill C-12 will be 108,000, and in Quebec it will be just over 100,000. Therefore, a vote in Quebec will still carry more weight than a vote in Alberta, B.C. and Ontario even after Bill C-12 is passed.

I think that is a fair balance. We will never get everything perfect in Canada, but this bill will help to ensure that under-represented provinces that have grown faster over the last few years will be better represented in this House, and Quebec voters will still get a greater punch per vote.

Let us face it: this bill makes Canada stronger and the Bloc Québécois wants to make Canada weaker. We are for Canada on this side of the House, and I think the other federalist parties are as well.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I was listening to my colleague talking about the contradictions in the Bloc Québécois position on the bill before the House. The greatest contradiction that we have here, in this House, is that the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party are voting in favour of Bill C-12. I will explain.

In 2006, the Conservative Party moved a motion recognizing the Quebec nation. If you recognize the Quebec nation, you should strengthen this nation and give it more rights. The opposite has happened, and that is the contradiction.

From that point forward, the Conservatives have voted against any bill that sought to ensure respect for the French language, to ensure that the French language would be used in federal institutions. They rejected the bills introduced by the Bloc Québécois. Here, in this House, they recognized the Quebec nation. The major contradiction is that they now want to diminish the political weight of Quebec in the House of Commons. That is the fundamental contradiction.

The parliamentary secretary should admit that he is wrong, or at least think about what the recognition of the Quebec nation means. If you recognize a nation, then you ensure that it is given rights.