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

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-12 is basically an attack on the Quebec nation. It shows a lack of respect for the Quebec nation. My question is for the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain. If Bill C-12 passes, what would be the consequences for the Quebec nation?

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that there would be disastrous consequences. When a nation loses its political weight in a place like Parliament, where Quebeckers send half their taxes, when it is deprived in a single stroke of a certain amount of balance in its representation, and when its weight is not recognized in Parliament, it is being told that it is not important and decisions can be made without it. That is the very negative message that Quebeckers are getting. According to the polls, the vast majority of Quebeckers totally disagree with a bill like this.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the past there were historical agreements recognizing Quebec’s political representation as 25% of the total. If Bill C-12 is implemented, would it break the historical agreements over the Quebec nation? What does the hon. member think about that?

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, there were major historical agreements going back to the very beginning, to 1867. This bill breaks these agreements despite the disapproval of 87% of the Quebec members of the House of Commons and the National Assembly. This bill is an assault on a very strong position held by all elected members who represent their constituents.

The federalist parties that support this bill do not want the Quebec nation to prosper. They do not want us represented any more. Instead of helping us to emerge and become an even more productive nation, a bill like this smothers us.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe in the promotion and protection of the French language. I think we should have francophone members in the House.

If we look at the number of francophones in the House, it is proportionate to the francophones in the Canadian population, and it should be. However, one of the reasons for this bill is many Canadians are under-represented in the House. In particular, the 30 most populous ridings in our country are disproportionately made up of visible minorities in cities like Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto. If we are to give these new Canadian citizens a better representation in the House, where they are only currently about 10% of this chamber and they should be double those numbers, we need to apportion more seats in those four large city regions. That is the purpose of this bill.

I think we can accomplish that while, at the same time, ensuring the number of francophones in the House from across Canada is proportionate to their numbers in the population and through other measures, ensuring the protection and promotion of the French language in Canada.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is part of the problem with Canada. In any case, it is not by reducing the representation of some in order to improve it for others that we can succeed in ensuring that everyone is well represented.

The hon. member said there is a problem with the representation of the more populous ridings. We do not think the solution is to reduce Quebec’s political weight. They should find other solutions.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I wish to inform the House that the first five hours of debate are completed. Therefore, now speeches will be 10 minutes and questions and comments will be 5 minutes.

The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-12 on behalf of the Bloc Québécois and to discuss the amendment proposed by the Bloc Québécois, which we are presently debating. It reads:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation), because the Bill would unacceptably reduce the political weight of the Quebec nation in the House of Commons and does not set out that Quebec must hold 25 percent of the seats in the House of Commons.”

As far as we know, the Bloc Québécois is the only party that rises every day in the House to defend the interests of Quebec. That is the case again today. It is the only party that has speakers constantly rising in the House. The Bloc Québécois, with the strength of its members, will continue this debate in the House for as long as possible.

This is symptomatic of the Canadian federation and of the Conservative government. There is a reason why Bill C-12 has come around at this time. I would like people watching to know that we are debating a bill that will go nowhere if an election is called in the next few days. A similar bill, Bill C-56, died on the order paper when the Conservatives prorogued Parliament.

Why are we debating this bill today? The Conservatives want to send a political message, which hearkens back to their throne speech of November 19, 2008. I would like to read a tersely worded excerpt from that Conservative Party speech.

Our Government will introduce legislation to move toward representation by population in the House of Commons for Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.

This is a political choice. And naturally, today the members from the Liberal Party and the NDP are more or less silent, complicit in this political strategy that would give more political power to Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, as laid out in the 2008 throne speech. They are defending their Canada, but we are defending our Quebec.

It is income tax time, and the people watching us are quite aware that they are paying their hefty share of taxes, half of which is going to Ottawa. As long as they are paying taxes to Ottawa, they will be entitled to elect members from the Bloc Québécois to defend their interests and their values. That is what we are doing, and that is why we have put forward this amendment. I will reread our amendment to Bill C-12: that “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-12,...”.

This is what we will be demanding as long as this bill does not stipulate that 25% of the members elected to the House of Commons are to come from Quebec. We want this because the Canadian Constitution has guaranteed and protected proportionality in Quebec. Since the beginning of the history of Canada, Quebec has not always had a number of seats proportional to its population—far from it. Quebeckers have adapted well to this situation. I will give a few figures. In 1976, Quebeckers represented 27% of the population and had 26% of the seats. In 1941, they represented 28.96% of the population and had 26.53% of the seats.

Even though Quebeckers have not signed the Canadian Constitution, they are always respectful of the enactments that govern them. The Canadian Constitution applies to Quebec and it has always been respected.

I do not think there is a political party in the House that can find fault with the work of the members of the Bloc Québécois. These men and women rise every day in the interest of Quebec, but they respect the House of Commons, the work that is done there, and the British parliamentary system. As long as Quebeckers pay taxes to Ottawa, they will have the right to send the members they want to Ottawa. They mostly choose members of the Bloc Québécois because they know that these members rise in the House to defend their interests on a daily basis, without ever changing their minds.

In this case, it is crystal clear that the National Assembly of Quebec passed motions for the withdrawal of Bill C-56, which, as I was saying, died on the order paper. It was the forerunner of Bill C-12, which is before us today. The National Assembly was unanimous in calling for the withdrawal of that bill.

At the time, even Benoît Pelletier, who was the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, had asked that this bill be withdrawn. I will not quote the transcript because my colleagues have already done so, but he was a Liberal and federalist minister. There are still some of this ilk in Quebec. Federalists in Ottawa do not even honour the requests of federalists in Quebec. That is why things are going so poorly in the Canadian federation. Indeed, aside from the fact that the Conservative Party recognized the Quebec nation, there is no desire to safeguard Quebec’s political strength within Canada. I repeat, it is clear: in the 2008 Speech from the Throne, the Conservatives, for purely partisan reasons, wanted to give British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario greater representation. It was a political choice. They made no attempt to conceal this. They enjoy the tacit support of the other political parties in the House, which do not really dare to stand up for Quebec for the simple reason that Quebec is more of a bother than anything else for the Liberals and the NDP.

And yet we are still here, steadfast throughout, standing up for the interests of Quebeckers. There was an Angus Reid poll on April 7, 2010, that revealed that 71% of Quebeckers were against legislation such as Bill C-12, which would diminish Quebec’s political strength within Canada. Moreover, only 37% of those Canadians polled were in favour of this amendment. Federalists in the House do not even have the support of all Canadians.

There is a good reason Bill C-12 is being discussed. It is for purely political and partisan reasons. The government could have chosen to discuss other bills, but this particular bill is being discussed right now because in a couple of hours we will know the answer to the question: will there or will there not be an election? This bill has no chance of being passed before the next election. The government should not be trying to confuse people by having them believe that because this bill is being discussed today, British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta will be better represented and have more members. That is not true. The same electoral map will apply whether an election is triggered in a couple of hours or a couple of days.

The Conservatives are again trying to make people believe that they have given it their best shot. They fail to mention, however, that Bill C-56 died on the order paper when the government prorogued the House. The Conservatives themselves killed a similar bill that would have given those provinces greater representation.

The Bloc Québécois is calling for the same thing as Quebec’s National Assembly: that Quebec’s political representation within Canada not be modified while hard-working Quebeckers continue to pay taxes to Ottawa. Quebeckers are generous. Every year, they pay their taxes and that is why they choose those who represent them in Parliament. It is why the majority of Quebec members are from the Bloc Québécois and will continue to be, regardless of any election held in any place, at any time.

Federalists must try to respect Quebeckers in the House and not modify their political representation. That is what the Canadian Constitution says. They must honour the pledge they made in 1867.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no principle in the Constitution Act of Canada that gives Quebec division 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. We had a principle under the Act of Union, 1840, but that act was cancelled in 1867.

We had a principle of equal representation between Canada east and Canada west for 27 years under the Act of Union, 1840. However that act was cancelled with Confederation that took place in 1867.

Once again I say that the proof is in the pudding. The number of seats accorded to the division of Quebec today in the Canadian House of Commons is not 25%, it is 24.4%. So if it were a constitutional provision, we would have at least 25% of the seats in the House accorded to the provincial division of Quebec. That is not the case today, it is 24.4% and that is proof that this is not a constitutional principle.

The fundamental constitutional principle is representation by population. That has been the case in this country since 1867, and that is what this act purports to do, restore representation in the three fast growing provincial divisions of this country.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my Conservative colleague knows very well that British Columbia's Court of Appeal has already ruled on section 42. Any amendment to representation must be approved by seven provinces that represent 50% of the population. That is in the Constitution Act, 1982. I can understand that he does not want to abide by it, since he is a Conservative who does not abide by any laws, even those enacted by the House of Commons. That is what the Conservatives do.

Once again, we will never go along with this. Quebeckers are too proud.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my friend and all Bloc members through him, if he thinks that a much larger problem is not the redistribution or the increase in numbers in this House, but empowering members of Parliament to be able to represent their constituents and to deal with the democratic deficit that has been around for a few decades but worsening over the last few years?

Does the member think that empowering members of Parliament would enable us to invigorate our public, to get them engaged in the public process, to improve public engagement on the development of policy? Does the member not think that is a much more fundamental challenge to the democracy of our country than changing the number of seats we have in this House?

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that is another debate. My colleague is partly right. We need only look at how the Conservative Party is making changes to parliamentary democracy. That would be worthy of a debate.

However, one thing is certain: Quebeckers, represented by the Bloc Québécois and the Quebec National Assembly—which passed a unanimous motion calling on the government to not change electoral representation in Canada—deserve to have all parties in this House respect the will of the Quebec National Assembly, which is asking the government not to tamper with Quebec's representation in this House.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi has the floor for a very quick question or comment.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to ask my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel if he thinks this bill is only about the numbers. Is this democracy based on numbers, as in the United States, rather than on values, nations and communities, as in Europe?

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

March 22nd, 2011 / 1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right, especially given that Quebec's representation has not always been based on its population. I mentioned years in which Quebec had a far larger population than its number of seats in this House reflected, and we accepted that. Now, it is time that the rest of Canada respected Quebec, as Quebec has always respected Canada. We are asking the members of the other parties in this House to respect Quebeckers and not reduce their political clout.