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 quebec.

Topics

G20 Summit
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative G20 photo ops cost Toronto businesses tens of millions of dollars. Just the restaurant industry alone lost $84 million in sales. These businesses desperately need to be compensated. First, the Conservatives mired them in red tape and then stiffed them with a complicated system that is neither fair nor transparent. Downtown Toronto businesses desperately need compensation. They are fed up.

To get the compensation they deserve, do they need to hire a Conservative insider like Bruce Carson?

G20 Summit
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I take note of the member's question. There is a formula in place and a process in place for compensating those who made claims. If a claim is made, it will be properly considered in accordance with those guidelines.

Research and Development
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dona Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, every year, nearly one million people die from malaria. It is especially serious in Africa, where one in five childhood deaths is due to the effects of the disease.

Would the minister of state inform the House how our government's investments in research and development are contributing to the fight against malaria and supporting Canada's maternal, newborn and child health initiatives?

Research and Development
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, our government is very committed to improving the health of women and children in developing countries.

I would like to congratulate the NRC scientists in Saskatoon, who have discovered a way to produce a treatment for malaria that is safe and affordable and will help save the lives of millions of women and children in Africa.

This new malaria treatment represents a major development in the fight against this disease. I congratulate our Canadian scientists. It will strengthen Canada's position as a world leader in health research and provide a reliable and affordable treatment.

Taxation
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Independent

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I continue to advocate for family-friendly policies like income splitting. Research shows that income splitting can have a positive impact on families, providing tax savings and increased birthrates as more parents have the freedom to choose whether to go to work or stay at home with their children.

Research predicts that family income splitting could address growing concerns over labour shortages and rising social program costs.

There is still time before the budget is tabled this afternoon. Would the finance minister please consider this very important family-friendly tax policy?

Taxation
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the question. As everyone knows, I am thrilled to talk about the economy, finally, during question period.

I want to assure all members here that consultations were held across the country and with members of the House of the Commons and senators alike. The budget will be released by the finance minister at 4 p.m. today, and we will await his answer to any further questions in that regard.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the recipients of the 2011 Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts: Geneviève Cadieux; Robert Fones; Michael Morris; David Rimmer; Barbara Sternberg; Shirley Wiitasalo; Nancy Tousley; and Kye-Yeon Son.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Main Estimates--Speaker's ruling
Privilege
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on March 1, 2011 by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh concerning the premature disclosure of information contained in the main estimates for 2011-2012.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh for having raised this matter, and the President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the members for Winnipeg North, Hochelaga and Mississauga South for their submissions.

In presenting his case, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh pointed out that specific information about the main estimates was published in a newspaper article, as well as in a web blog and Twitter postings by QMI reporter David Akin. It was clear, he stated, that Mr. Akin had had some knowledge of the contents of the main estimates before they were tabled in the House on March 1, 2011.

The member argued that the Speaker had ruled on a number of occasions that the House had an absolute right to expect the government to provide information, whether on a bill or on the estimates, to the House before it was disclosed elsewhere. For him, it was a matter of being able to respond, as a member of Parliament, to enquiries in a meaningful and intelligent way.

In his response, the President of the Treasury Board admitted that the untimely release of the material in question was improper and not in keeping with past procedures and practices of this House. Furthermore, he committed to taking steps to prevent it from happening again. The minister went on to cite House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 894, thus quite rightly pointing out that, in the past, similar matters, namely of budget secrecy, have been treated more as matters of parliamentary convention rather than matters of privilege.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh is certainly not misguided in his expectation that members of the House, individually and collectively, must receive from the government particular types of information required for the fulfillment of their parliamentary duties before it is shared elsewhere. However, in such instances when there is a transgression of this well-established practice, the Chair must ascertain whether, as a result, the member was impeded in the performance of parliamentary duties.

While in the matter before us there may be a legitimate grievance, as admitted even by the President of the Treasury Board, there has been no specific evidence to suggest that any member was impeded in the performance of his or her parliamentary duties, and thus there can be no finding of prima facie privilege. Further, the minister has recognized the seriousness of this matter and given his assurance that measures will be in place to prevent a recurrence.

Consistent with the manner in which incidents of this kind have been viewed by my predecessors in the past, and given the prompt assurances provided to this House by the President of the Treasury Board, the Chair is satisfied that appropriate steps will be taken. In the circumstances, therefore, I will consider the matter closed.

I thank the House for its attention on this matter.

The House resumed 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.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-12. This is the kind of bill where we tell ourselves how lucky we are that the Bloc is here. We represent the people of Quebec when we stand for election. In its hateful advertising, the Conservative Party is preparing for an election and attacking the Bloc Québécois from all sides. It is appropriating the foremost quality of the Bloc Québécois, being the representatives of their regions. When this kind of bill is introduced, one party stands up for Quebec in the House of Commons, and that is the Bloc Québécois.

There is a consensus in the National Assembly of Quebec, where no fewer than three motions have been passed by all parties—the Liberal Party, the Parti Québécois, the ADQ, Québec solidaire—to oppose this bill. Only one party here will rise to say no to Bill C-12: the Bloc Québécois.

As well, according to a survey, over 70% of the population of Quebec, no small proportion, is opposed to Bill C-12. And still only the Bloc Québécois rises in the House to reject this bill. It is always quite bizarre to see the Quebec members from other federalist political parties trying to justify the desire to marginalize Quebec by imposing Bill C-12. We are quite shocked to have before the House a bill like this one.

Bill C-12 is not a tangible expression of the recognition of the Quebec nation. The Conservative Party said that it recognizes the Quebec nation within Canada, as the Bloc Québécois called for, but after that came nothing. No measure has been agreed to in the House to truly recognize the Quebec nation. Insult is then added to injury by presenting a bill like this.

Bill C-12 is a flat denial of the existence of the Quebec nation, which marginalizes its representation in federal institutions, in the House of Commons. Proportion of the population cannot be the only factor in determining the representation of each of the regions of Canada. If that were the case, Prince Edward Island, where there are four members of Parliament, could not have that many members, because its population is approximately equivalent to the population of the Central Quebec region, where I come from. The Bloc Québécois is not opposed to Prince Edward Island having representation in every area. That is reasonable. That province can have four members, even though its population is not particularly large.

In Quebec, they do the same thing. Of the 125 members of the Quebec National Assembly, one represents the Magdalen Islands. They are not very big, Mr. Speaker. I hope you have had a chance to visit this magnificent area. Not a lot of people live there, but the countryside is absolutely fabulous. These are islands, and Quebec decided there would be a member to represent the people living there. If only mathematical considerations were taken into account, there would certainly not be a member for the Magdalen Islands, or four federal members for Prince Edward Island. The mathematical argument to increase the representation of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia and reduce Quebec’s political weight does not hold water.

One factor that ought to be crucial in this debate is the recognition of the Quebec nation, which means it should have the political weight needed to make its voice heard in federal institutions. I could also mention the two founding peoples argument. Everyone knows it, but the only party that recognizes these facts is the Bloc Québécois.

The Quebec nation was not really recognized in the House of Commons, despite all the pious wishes and attempts to pretend they did so. In actual fact, the federalist parties in the House attach very little significance to this recognition. I remember the defeat of the Bloc motion in the House criticizing the harmful effects for Quebec of the Conservative government's Bill C-12, which would increase the number of seats for Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia but provide nothing for Quebec.

The Bloc motion was debated on its opposition day in April 2010.

The Conservatives’ bill will have the effect of marginalizing the Quebec nation in the Canadian whole by reducing its political weight in the House of Commons. From 36% of the seats in 1867, Quebec’s representation in the House would be reduced to 22.7% in 2014, which is just around the corner. Statistics show that if Quebec has only 22.7% of the seats in the House, it will actually be below its demographic weight within Canada.

As I was saying earlier, the members of the Quebec National Assembly have voted unanimously for the withdrawal of this kind of bill. They have done so three times because the message was not getting through. It was not because they enjoy adopting unanimous motions saying the same thing. It was because the message was not being heard by the Conservative government.

If the recognition of the Quebec nation has any real significance for the federalist parties in this House, they should have opposed this disastrous reform and supported our motion. The Bloc Québécois continues to say that the government must withdraw its bill and guarantee Quebec that it will have 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. That is a minimum, given the numerous concessions made by Quebec over the past 150 years or so, and particularly since Quebec must have the tools that will allow it to protect its distinctiveness.

As I said, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously demanded that this legislation be withdrawn. I think it is worth revisiting the issue. At the time, it was Bill C-56, which became the legislation that is now before us, namely Bill C-12, and which, if passed, will give 26 additional seats to English Canada and none to Quebec. That is why all elected members of the National Assembly and the then 49 Bloc Québécois members, who accounted for two thirds of elected Quebec members in the House of Commons, demanded that this bill be withdrawn. In all, 87% of the elected members of the Quebec nation demand this withdrawal.

As I mentioned, there are other members of the House who are Quebeckers and who represent other parties. That is what happens in a democracy and I have no problems with that. I am asking them to stand up for Quebec, to ensure that Quebec's voice is heard. Again, 87% of elected representatives from Quebec are opposed to this bill, more than 70% of Quebeckers are also opposed to it, as well as all the members of the National Assembly. What more does a Quebec member of Parliament need to oppose this type of legislation?

In Quebec, a former Liberal minister of intergovernmental affairs, Benoît Pelletier, expressed his government's position in 2007, at Maisonneuve en direct, a well-known radio show in Quebec, regarding the reforms to the number of seats in the House of Commons. I will quote him. I know that other colleagues have also quoted him, but since I have some time left, I think it is worth repeating.

Mr. Pelletier said:

I appreciate that the House is based on proportional representation. But I wonder whether there might be special measures to protect Quebec, which represents the main linguistic minority in Canada, is a founding province of Canada and is losing demographic weight...Why could Quebec not be accommodated because of its status as a nation and a national minority within Canada?

In conclusion, as I mentioned just a few moments ago, Quebec's weight in the house keeps decreasing. In 1931, Quebec had 65 seats and its population accounted for 27.70% of Canada's. Even then, we had fewer seats by percentage, 26.53%, and it is the same story now. Now, Quebec has 75 seats and our population is not proportionally represented in the House. Any self-respecting Quebecker who is sitting in the House of Commons must rise and declare loud and clear that he or she plans on voting against Bill C-12.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Madam Speaker, I want to address a few points the member made, particularly his opening comments.

What is fortunate is the people of Quebec have Conservative members of Parliament here to represent the interests of Quebec. In fact, any federalist member does more for Quebec than the entire Bloc has done in 20 years. Voting for a federal member, particularly a Conservative member, is in the best interests of Quebec, because it is only a federalist party, particularly the Conservative Party, that can bring anything to Quebec.

Moreover, the member talked about representation in Parliament. It was just a few weeks ago that his party tried to take 24 seats away from Quebec with the abolition of the Senate because the Bloc supports its abolition. Thank goodness we have Conservative members to ensure that Quebec is well represented. We are protecting the seat count in Quebec. This means that Quebec not only will keep its seats, but a vote in Quebec will actually mean more than a vote even in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. after this change.

This government stands up for Quebec and I wish the member would stand up for Quebec as well.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, the minister's remarks illustrate exactly what I am saying. He says that it is fortunate that there are Conservative members in Quebec who represent Quebec well. I do not think he heard the numbers that I read out. Regardless of party, 87% of members from Quebec, be it members in the National Assembly or here in the House of Commons, said no to Bill C-12. But what do the Conservative members from Quebec do? They stand up to try and feed us the minister's lines and make us believe that reducing Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons is a good thing.

He is telling us that the Conservative members from Quebec are in favour of the Senate. Ask Quebeckers what they think. In fact, that has already happened, and the vast majority of Quebeckers want to see the Senate abolished. Senators are appointed, not legitimately elected, and they represent no one and nothing.

If the Conservative members from Quebec want to come to Quebec during the election campaign and say that the Senate is wonderful and that it does a great job of representing us, they are welcome to do so. I would like to see that happen. The problem is that they do not represent Quebec's opinion. The Bloc is standing up for Quebec here.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

March 22nd, 2011 / 3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I hope the hon. minister responsible for this bill will have the opportunity to ask me the same question he just asked the member for Richmond—Arthabaska. He probably would not like my answer. It is time he read something other than newspapers from the west.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. We are still on questions and comments. The member may ask a very brief question, for we are running out of time.