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

11:35 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Madam Speaker, first, I thank the member for his contribution to this place. As he touched on in his earlier remarks, there are some constituencies that have up to 160,000 people per constituency and one MP. Under this bill, we are trying to bring it to about 108,000 people as an average. Could the member comment on the challenges of an MP to represent 160,000 people? It seems quite a lot.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for all of his work as a leader in so many ways in the House and beyond.

The way to resolve that is changing boundaries so there is not only a redistribution of voters, but also greater resources to members of Parliament to represent the constituents relative to the number of people. We have that provision now, but a lot more has to be done. An example of that is what the United States has. A congressperson represents up to a million or more people and there are two senators per state.

There are provisions and abilities for an individual to represent a very large number of people, but that person needs the resources to do that.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this debate, which gives us an opportunity to further reflect on our democratic institutions.

When an opportunity to debate such an issue arises, it is our duty to participate in it. There are several issues that are typically raised, including representation by population, enhancing the electoral process, and access to information.

It should be universally acknowledged that traditional democratic representation is currently in crisis in Canada, Quebec and the entire world. This crisis of representative democracy is specifically embodied in Canada by the completely archaic institution that is the Senate. It is also reflected in this Conservative government’s lack of transparency and its unrelenting attempts to systematically attack the Quebec nation by rejecting any and all proposals to give concrete expression to its recognition.

The bill entitled Democratic Representation Act amends the formula set out in the Constitution that alters the number of seats allocated to each province in the House of Commons following each decennial census. Unfortunately, this bill is one of a long list of bills that aim to drastically modify the system of representation by population in the House of Commons and amounts to a rejection of the heterogeneous system of representation that developed to take into account the successive addition of provinces and territories to the federation. The disproportions are not as great as in the Commons, but every territory and province enjoys some degree of representation, except for the three provinces whose populations are growing.

The Conservative government can legitimately attempt to correct this distortion, but it must guarantee real protection for the provinces whose populations are in decline. What is striking about this bill is the narrowness of the principles it sets out. By focusing too heavily on attaining pure representation by population, the government is at risk of violating paragraph 42(1)a), which enshrines a modified form of proportional representation. The Bloc Québécois is not afraid of the debate on proportional representation. Clearly, the Bloc has no firm position on the issue and would be very much open to considering a variety of proposals. In a sovereign Quebec, we certainly will not have an archaic institution such as the Senate. We will perhaps have a system of proportional representation or a chamber representing the regions; that remains to be determined. This allows me to keep an open mind as I take part in this debate regarding the need to improve all democratic institutions.

When dealing with such a crucial issue, constitutional law experts and court rulings must be consulted. In the opinion of constitutional expert Guy Tremblay, this unremitting and avowed insistence on continuously increasing the number of seats may be unconstitutional. Mr. Tremblay first quotes Campbell v. A.G. Canada in the first instance and refers to notation 4 on page 657, where Justice McEachern repeats the objectives set out by the then president of the Privy Council. First there is the limited ability to increase the number of seats in Parliament; then there is the guarantee that no province will lose any seats; and finally there is the bias in favour of increasing the number of seats for Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, as set out in this bill.

This bill would have the effect, even according to the ministers who advocate it, of disposing of the guarantees that Quebec currently has. Some things the Conservatives said in 2008 and have said several times now in the House are tainted with a certain malevolence toward Quebec. The Conservatives’ position is quite clear because the Minister for Democratic Reform at the time said it would “render the guarantee that Quebec enjoys today meaningless and ineffective”. That is why we are centre stage today in this debate. That is why we want the House to defeat this bill. We will stand up for the rights of the Quebec nation and oppose any weakening of its presence or reduction in its relative political weight.

The Bloc Québécois proposed an amendment to this bill to express its opposition and highlight the particular needs of the only province with a francophone majority. Our National Assembly wants us to abandon any idea of passing a bill that would have the effect of reducing Quebec’s political weight in the House of Commons. With respect to the debate on the redistribution of seats in the House, there is a set and established rule that Quebec’s political weight could not be any less than it currently is.

This stems not only from Quebec’s traditional demands but also from the spirit of the Charlottetown agreement of 1992. At the time, all parties agreed that Quebec’s representation within federal institutions should be about 25%. So that is nothing new.

We are opposed to Bill C-12, which would add 30 seats for the Canadian nation, because the representation of the Quebec nation within federal institutions—essentially the House of Commons—would be less than its current demographic and political weight, something that is totally unacceptable to us.

The second point is to ensure that, regardless of the model that is decided upon, as long as Quebeckers are part of the Canadian political landscape, their political weight within the current institutions, especially the House of Commons—there could be proposals to create a chamber of regions—and any future political institutions will be the same as it is now: we want about 25%. That is not only the spirit but also the letter of the amendment moved by my colleague from Québec, our democratic reform critic. That should be very clear to everyone.

My colleague from Joliette was quite right to remind us of the historical record. It is true that the high and mighty in this world have always distrusted the people. When the House of Commons was created, they wanted a counterweight, like the one in London, of representatives from what was considered the social elite to give some sober second thought to the decisions of the great unwashed, which might be less thoughtful and rational than those of the elite. At the time, the elite consisted of the nobility and the grand bourgeoisie. Now, unfortunately, it is more political organizations, Conservative organizers and friends of the government. That is how it was under the Liberals and how it is under the Conservatives. It is a kind of anti-democratic counterweight to the House, where the democratically elected representatives of the people can be found. It is totally archaic.

At the time, this fear of allowing the common people to make decisions was reflected in large American institutions as well. Tradition dictates that the electoral college votes according to the way the people in the various states have chosen their presidential electors. If, in the state of Massachusetts, for example, the majority of voters decide that the Democratic candidate should become president, then the presidential electors of that state will not vote against the choice of the people of their state. However, there have been times when the presidential electors did not agree to vote for the candidate that had received the most support. That system was put in place after the American revolution, with the independence of the United States. It created a sort of second class. After the popular vote, there were these presidential electors who chose the president. This goes back to a time when the emerging democracy frightened the ruling elite.

The Canadian Senate is a legacy of that; it is a counterbalance. A few weeks ago, the Senate still agreed to the decisions made by the House of Commons. Now, the Conservative-controlled Senate has decided to block bills adopted in the House by the majority of the members elected by the people. This is totally unacceptable. This only further proves the importance of getting rid of this archaic institution.

We have been in favour of abolishing the Senate for a very long time. However, let us not forget that the Senate is part of a constitutional agreement. We can certainly hold a consultative referendum on abolishing the Senate—and I hope the yes side wins—but there will have to be constitutional negotiations with Quebec and the provinces to determine how the Senate will be abolished and what will replace it.

The second element, a proportional voting system, or some of its aspects, will also require constitutional negotiations with Quebec and the provinces. Obviously, the special committee could make a number of recommendations and outline some options, but all decisions would require constitutional negotiations. As I have said from the beginning, we have one immutable condition: Quebec's political representation cannot be lowered, and Quebec must maintain its current political weight, at about 25%.

The House of Commons recognized the Quebec nation some time ago. Unfortunately, none of the federalist parties has wanted to implement measures to give tangible expression to this recognition.

The Bloc Québécois member for Joliette introduced a bill on the use of French in corporations and by the 250,000 workers under federal jurisdiction in Quebec. We wanted Bill 101 to apply to these 250,000 workers. But once again, all the Liberals and Conservatives opposed this measure. The NDP was divided, but the majority of its members voted to not apply the Charter of the French Language to Quebec corporations under federal jurisdiction.

Although the Quebec nation has been recognized by the House, all the federalist parties have always banded together to prevent this recognition from having a tangible expression.

The federalist parties have not yet wanted to give tangible expression to the recognition of the Quebec nation. However, the political representation of Quebec regions in the House of Commons, and in any future institution, will have to be 25%. We believe this is imperative and it must be even clearer because the House of Commons has recognized the Quebec nation.

I would like to close by saying that, for us, the best way to guarantee higher democratic standards in Quebec would be for Quebec to become a sovereign nation with full authority. That is our first priority.

The Bloc Québécois has proven time and time again that it is not here to reform Canadian institutions or to prevent reform. We will bring the mandates given to us by the Quebec people and the consensuses of Quebec's National Assembly here to Ottawa.

In other words, we will defend our assembly, our constituents here in the House of Commons. We will protect their democratic rights.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Madam Speaker, members of the Bloc keep suggesting that the provincial division of Quebec in this House is guaranteed a certain percentage of the seats in this chamber. We did away with that in 1867.

For 27 years, between 1840 and 1867, Canada east, Quebec, was guaranteed half of the seats in this chamber and Canada west was guaranteed the other half. However, we did away with that in the debates that led to Confederation. We went to a federal system of government. We did away with the unitary state which guaranteed both sides, in the division of Canada east and west, an equal number of seats and we went to a federal system where this chamber would be representative of the population.

Where in law or in the Constitution Act does it say that the provincial division of Quebec in this House is guaranteed a certain percentage of the seats in this chamber? It has been suggested that it was guaranteed 25%. It is below that right now. Where in law or in the Constitution Act does it state that the Quebec division is guaranteed that percentage?

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, the bill attacks certain sections of the Constitution and could leave room for interpretation of some of these sections, including the one I quoted in my speech.

The member opposite is free to defend positions concerning his province. We in the Bloc Québécois will defend the positions of the National Assembly of Quebec, and those of our citizens, in order to guarantee a demographic weight of 25%. That is our position, and it is for that reason that we will be voting to prevent this bill from making it through the House.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Madam Speaker, I note that the previous Bloc speaker was defending 24.3% and that the present Bloc speaker is defending 25%. Hopefully they will figure out exactly what they are trying to represent.

I find it interesting that the member talked a lot about the Senate. This is a bicameral system. We have a Senate in which 24 seats belong to Quebec. However, the member's party wants to eliminate the Senate.

We have legislation to democratize the Senate, to have Senate elections and to have eight-year term limits. It would be much more productive, if the member has a problem with the Senate, to support our government's legislation to democratize the Senate.

On the second point about the seats, the member misrepresented my position. I said that the government would protect the seat count of Quebec. Quebec will always have at least 75 seats. If the population grows in Quebec at a fast rate, it will have more seats. It is really a function of how many people live in a province.

The member is advocating a position where Quebec, in the end, would have zero seats in the House of Commons. We are trying to make Canada a stronger country ensuring representation by population. Will the member accept representation by population?

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish the minister had listened to the speech I just made. He commented on the number of seats that Quebec is guaranteed. I agree, but this objective must not be considered on its own, but as part of the whole. There are three objectives and the others seek to decrease the democratic weight of Quebec in the House of Commons and in democratic institutions.

As for percentages, I find it ironic and disconcerting to see a minister joke about democratic weight. The National Assembly was clear and adopted a motion in this regard on April 23, 2010, asking members of the House of Commons to abandon any bill that would result in the reduction of the weight of Quebec's representation in the House of Commons. It is in that context that we accepted amendments proposing a guaranteed threshold, that is, the current weight of Quebec in the House of Commons.

Consequently, if colleagues in the House wish to present such a subamendment to our amendment, we would be prepared to support it.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges on her excellent speech.

If Bill C-12 were to pass, Quebec's political representation would no longer match its political weight, which is completely unacceptable. This bill also does not recognize the existence of the Quebec nation. The Bloc wants representation based on historical consensuses, which establish Quebec's political representation at 25%. That is why we are calling for Bill C-12 to be withdrawn.

Does Bill C-12 appear to go against a certain number of historical consensuses in Quebec regarding the political representation of the Quebec nation here in the House of Commons?

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

March 22nd, 2011 / 11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his excellent question. In fact, the bill does go against a number of Quebec nation consensuses that were established in the National Assembly. This bill also goes against consensuses in the House of Commons.

In 2006, the Conservatives put forward a motion recognizing the Quebec nation. Unfortunately, to date, no concrete action has been taken to solidify this recognition. That is why it falls to us to use all the time allotted to this debate, to protect the rights of Quebeckers, to ensure that they are fully represented and to defend their political weight here in the House.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Madam Speaker, it is important for members of the House to understand that the 308 seats in this chamber, as well as the new seats that are to be added, do not belong to the provinces of Canada. They are simply provincial divisions for administrative purposes. These seats belong to this chamber. These seats are apportioned on provincial divisions. Therefore, the opinions of the provinces with respect to the number of seats that each provincial division should have is taken with respect and taken into account but are not relevant to the matter at hand. These are provincial divisions created for administrative purposes to decide how to apportion the seats in this chamber. They do not belong to the provinces of this country.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, in this House, we vote laws that affect the people in our ridings. I represent citizens of Quebec, citizens of the Quebec nation, and no member will tell us to be silent. We have here a certain percentage that must be representative of the Quebec nation. The member opposite would have us believe that his party's policies are in keeping with representation by population, but there is a danger in that—the danger of failing to recognize the Quebec nation. That is why we will stand in this House to defend the rights and interests of Quebeckers.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a quick question for the hon. member. What would be the consequences to the nation of Quebec of applying Bill C-12 on political representation?

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, in essence, Bill C-12 would weaken Quebec. The problem is that this bill comes from a government that, over the past few weeks, has shown us that every democratic rule can be broken.

A bill like this one has no place at this time. As Canadians and Quebeckers observe how this government behaves with regard to democracy, we need to very careful about adopting this type of crucial and major change to reduce the demographic weight of Quebeckers here in the House.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

Noon

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to begin by thanking my friend, the hon. member for Hamilton Centre for his work on this very important matter.

It was a revelation for me to discuss this bill within the New Democratic Party caucus. We are in favour of adding more seats for British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, but it is possible to achieve these increases without going against the unanimous recognition of the House whereby Quebeckers constitute a nation within Canada.

I find it interesting that the Conservative government is pushing the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills out to the forefront of this debate today. Indeed, that hon. member was rather famously against recognizing the nation of Quebec when he was a member of cabinet. He has never gone back on that stance. From this I gather that the Conservative government is again going to play petty partisan politics instead of considering that, in a country like Canada, a broader perspective might be required for dealing with these complex issues.

Let the government play petty politics. What we are trying to say is that if we want to be consistent about recognizing the nation of Quebec, then Quebec's political weight in the House must never be any lower than it is at present.

In its motion, the Bloc Québécois cites the 25% that was in the Charlottetown accord. Obviously, it would be overly ambitious to want more, especially since, as history reminds us, the Bloc Québécois fought tooth and nail against the Charlottetown accord. To attempt today to pluck the best element out of something they fought so hard is a little like asking to have their cake and eat it too.

I am very attentive when my colleague says that the Bloc Québécois is open to amending its proposal, and that it now considers that the proposal has been made, as was attempted previously, to change the 25% to 24.3%, which is the exact current percentage of Quebec’s seats here in the House of Commons. This is a slight but important difference, because they cannot have fought against the Charlottetown accord and now say they want it back again. On the other hand, and my colleague from Hamilton-Centre continues to insist on this date, it is the date of recognition of the Quebec nation that is now important to us, and therefore, if the political weight of Quebec ended up being reduced, that would prove the extent to which that recognition is hollow, empty and meaningless.

My colleague from the Bloc Québécois who spoke earlier said that Bill C-12 was an attempt to weaken Quebec. Allow me to express a slightly different opinion, in the following sense: I am not attributing unworthy motives, but simply making an observation of fact. Contrary to what seems to be the understanding of the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills, we are not in the United States here. It is true that our American neighbours have a very rigid approach to the idea of one person, one vote. Every time they get the data from their latest census, the lines are redrawn, and there are exactly the same number of voters in every electoral district.

This question was debated up to the Supreme Court of Canada, and in a decision most remarkable for its nuance and for the fact that it took account of the historical and geographic reality of Canada, it was agreed that, contrary to the American model, which allows no exception to one person, one vote, here in Canada it was necessary to recognize the existence, and this is the expression used by the Supreme Court, of different communities of interest.

This is a very interesting notion. It could be a community of interest which is regional, or geographic, or historical. What could be a more important community of interest in Canada than one of the two founding peoples? The only province with a French-speaking majority, Quebec, is now recognized here as a nation.

I respectfully submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that because its effect is to reduce the demographic weight of Quebec in the House of Commons, this bill is taking a wrong turn, and is a danger for all of those who, like me, have always fought to keep Quebec in Canada.

I would like to explain to the member from Wellington—Halton Hills that, unlike him, I did not spend my career on my sofa, watching the news on television, to find out what was happening in Quebec. I was there, experiencing it first-hand, in the trenches, during the 1980 referendum. I was a member of the Quebec National Assembly for nearly 15 years. I was there to defend Quebec's place in Canada in the 1995 referendum. I do not have any lessons to learn from the Conservatives on that. However, if there is one thing I have always known, it is that Quebeckers and their inclusion in Canada must never be taken for granted. In August 1998, the Supreme Court ruled that if Quebec obtained a clear answer to a clear question, it could separate. Personally, I always keep those words in mind.

Unlike the brilliant member for Wellington—Halton Hills, I understand that it is in our country's best interest to continue working to respect Quebec and its specificity, as well as its democratic weight in the House of Commons.

Let us look at the facts and what the Conservative government has done since recognizing Quebec. My hon. colleague from Acadie—Bathurst introduced a bill that would require that in the future, in order to be appointed to the Supreme Court, judges would have to have a sufficient grasp of the French language to understand the arguments being presented in French.

By sheer coincidence, I saw the chief justice yesterday evening. She recalled a time when she had to rein in a litigant. Perhaps “rein in” is too strong. She had to ask a litigant to speak more slowly in French, to accommodate one of the justices, who did not understand a word of it. The interpreters were having a hard time keeping up.

When a case is being argued before the Supreme Court of Canada, everything is regulated and timed to the last minute. Apparently, at present, when francophone lawyers are arguing cases before the Supreme Court, they have less time, because they have to speak more slowly. I have experienced this in a parliamentary committee. What is interesting is that I have never seen the Conservatives ask an anglophone to speak more slowly, but I have seen them ask francophones to slow down, so they can understand the translation. The 10 minutes allotted are therefore cut short when the witnesses are speaking in French.

Yesterday evening I saw a Conservative member of Parliament, the minister for the Quebec City region, receive the highest honour of the Ordre de la Pléiade from La Francophonie. Yet she voted against the requirement that Supreme Court judges understand a sufficient amount of French to be able to hear cases in that language. Everything else is always done in writing and they can have help.

These days, someone who is old enough to be appointed to the Supreme Court would have necessarily completed law school after the Official Languages Act was passed in 1968. That is a part of our national identity and character.

If the individual did not understand the importance of this institution well enough to see the need to learn enough French to be able to understand it in his work, that could be a good indication that this person is not right for the Supreme Court, because this individual will be called upon to defend the institutions. But we are living in a fantasy land if we want the Conservatives to respect Canadian institutions, our constitutional institutions, the institutions of our Parliament. They cheated with political party financing, which was unanimously confirmed by the Federal Court of Appeal. They were found in contempt of Parliament. Once again today, they are strategically leaking information that is supposedly—note that I said “supposedly”—in the budget. At 1 p.m. we will find out whether that is true. This also has to do with respect for the institutions, but they could not care less. That does not apply to them.

With respect to Bill 101 and education in French, we currently have a rather centralizing Supreme Court. It rendered a very tough judgment last year opening the doors to English school. I had moved a motion in this House to recognize that the children of anyone choosing to settle in Quebec—to immigrate to Quebec is a choice—must learn French first and foremost.

It would have been nice if the government had supported us when we wanted to extend to federally regulated businesses the guarantees provided in the Charter of the French Language since 1977. The NDP put forward a bill to provide that protection without undermining the Official Languages Act, but of course the Conservatives are publicly opposed to the idea.

Why on earth should a woman working for the Royal Bank in Montreal have fewer linguistic rights than a woman working for the Caisse Desjardins? Those are simple issues: the right to receive communications in French from one's employer; the right to receive one's collective agreement in French, and the right to work in French without being required to be fluent in another language, unless that is necessary to perform the tasks at hand. More specifically, if you work for a cell telephone company, which is a telecommunication business and is therefore governed by the Canada Labour Code, your employer, who is arriving from another province and who does not speak a word of French, can demand that you speak English when working with him. And that is the reality on the Quebec territory today, in 2011. The NDP put forward a bill dealing with this issue, but the Conservatives are opposed to it.

As for the federal spending power in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction, the Conservatives were supposed to do something about it, and they have said so more than once in their Speech from the Throne. One big zero. As regards securities, the passport system is working well. The Autorité des marchés financiers in Quebec does a great job.

The Conservatives are centralizing everything. They fought all the way to the Supreme Court to have exclusive authority or jurisdiction in the area of competition. That is typical of the federal government. It fought all the way to the Supreme Court, and it won its case of course because that area came under its exclusive jurisdiction. The result is that we now have the Competition Act and the Competition Bureau.

Oddly, collusion is a subset of the Competition Act. That is rather strange. In all the collusion cases that have surfaced, there was a strong element that came strictly under federal jurisdiction. And what did the Conservatives do? Nothing. But now they want to go at it again: they want to fight all the way to the Supreme Court to gain another area of jurisdiction, which could eviscerate a critical sector of the economy, job creation and expertise in Montreal's financial community—to the benefit of other regions of Canada—and they claim that this is in our own best interests. We happen to disagree.

Similarly, they promised to reform the Senate. The hon. member for Hamilton Centre has suggestions about how to conduct consultations concerning the Senate and proportional representation in order to finally make changes. This year, we witnessed something that had not happened in the past 70 years: a bill was introduced by the leader of the New Democratic Party, duly adopted by the House of Commons, and defeated by the Senate, which was packed with the Conservative Party's friends. Some of them are now facing very serious charges that could have dire consequences. They are proud of that. Time after time, the Conservatives present the same defence.

I was again surprised last week when I watched them talking, as panel members, primarily on English television. The only defence they offered for the fact that they were spending tens of millions of dollars of public money in anticipation of a possible general election this spring, is that the Liberals did it before them, and they named the Liberal Party member who did it. In the minds of the Conservatives, two wrongs make a right. That is their moral standard; that is their logic.

When we analyzed this issue, we discovered that the Supreme Court had provided the theme of communities of interest. What can be more important in Canada for the largest linguistic minority—which must continually fight for its institutions, its language, its recognition and respect—than to ensure that, in the place where laws are made in the interest of all Canadians, Quebec does not lose its democratic weight?

It is always a revelation for us too, to learn that the Liberal Party, which loves to talk about openness toward Quebec, is in fact never there every time that something can be accomplished. When we presented our bill to extend the guarantees in Bill 101 to companies under federal jurisdiction, we saw the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine rise to veto it and say it was not a good idea. When we tried to talk about subjects that might be under provincial jurisdiction, like securities, the Liberals were always opposed. And here the same old reflex on the part of the Liberal Party of Canada, to vote systematically against Quebec, is going to play out today as well.

We can do both. We can give British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario the number of seats it is important to give them here in the House of Commons. But to be able to decode what is going on here today, we need only understand that we are in fact very possibly standing on the threshold of a federal general election. If this issue were of such great concern to the government, why the devil has it waited until the last second to put it forward? This is neither credible nor plausible. It is obviously a repeat performance of what we have seen in the past, trying to tick as many boxes as possible, the better to divide the country. This is the Prime Minister who, every time he comes to Quebec, puts hand on heart and swears that the Quebec nation is important, but who, every time he is faced with a concrete choice involving doing something real to give meaning to that recognition, cops out and sends his backbench puppets to tell the same tall tales, to vote against their own language.

I hear them talking about the judges of the Supreme Court, and it is unbelievable: they say we should not prevent a very good unilingual francophone lawyer from sitting on the Court. I have news for them. Never but never in the history of Canada has there been a judge of the Supreme Court who came from Quebec who did not understand English. That is not where the problem is. They are using that as justification.

In closing, the motion is proposed as a friendly one to the Bloc. It would change the 25%, which is more than the political weight at present, and set the proportion at 24.3% as of the date the Quebec nation was recognized. If it agrees, who knows, perhaps the Liberal Party will be able, for once, to do something concrete in recognition of the importance of Quebec here in this House. But you will forgive me if I do not hold my breath.

Democratic Representation Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a couple of observations on the member's comments.

The NDP is in favour of abolishing the Senate, but I would point out that would reduce the number of seats that Quebec has in Parliament by 24. That is a very significant number. In fact, that is the same number of seats held by Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia.

I wonder if the member would agree that Bill C-12 would help increase representation in faster growing provinces, those provinces containing predominantly new Canadians? Would he agree that a vote for a person in Quebec would still be worth more than a vote in each faster growing province because of the number of people in the riding?

I wonder if the member would at least recognize that aspect of what he is proposing.