Constitution Act, 2007 (Democratic representation)

An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

Peter Van Loan  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of Nov. 14, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the rules in the Constitution Act, 1867 for readjusting the number of members of the House of Commons and the representation of the provinces in that House.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

February 12th, 2008 / 10:50 a.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. I think I was very clear when I spoke: the Bloc Québécois believes that the Senate is an institution that is no longer relevant. In my opinion, it never really was relevant. I closed my remarks by stating that it was a counterweight that the elite had put in place at the time to minimize the role of the House of Commons. In this regard, we are for abolition.

Having said that, we must realize that abolishing the Senate will require starting up constitutional negotiations. Quebec and the sovereignists in particular will not debate just the issue of the Senate. When the Senate was created, there was a balance created between Quebec and Canada by the composition of the Senate. When the Senate no longer exists—and I agree with the member's criticisms—we will have to ensure that the Quebec nation has effective representation within the federal institutions of the House of Commons. That is not necessarily the case with the presence of Quebec senators in the Senate. We will have to ensure that this nation, with the proposals of Bill C-22, will not have its representation drastically reduced.

Therefore, we say yes to abolition, but we have to realize that constitutional negotiations will be required and that these will deal with many more issues than just the Senate. I wish us good luck. As we know, all constitutional negotiations in the past 30 years have ended in failure. As a footnote in history, the Bloc Québécois was born out of one of these constitutional failures, that of Meech Lake.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

February 12th, 2008 / 10:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, right off the top, I am not very happy to speak in a debate about Motion No. 3, which would send a message to the Senate about its work on Bill C-2. I would rather have spoken about a bill that the government had introduced to increase its assistance to the manufacturing and forestry industries. If they had done that, we could have been dealing with problems that are much more urgent for our fellow citizens than Senate reform.

In any case, though, this reform does not pass muster in our view. As I said yesterday in the debate on Motion No. 3, we think the Senate is a political institution that is not only undemocratic but in the modern era has lost its very reason for being. It is simply a vestige of colonial times and the British monarchy. For these fundamental reasons we will oppose referring it to committee before second reading.

I think we would have opposed it even after second reading because we are opposed to the very principle underlying this bill. Its purpose is to reform an institution that, in our view, is no longer relevant if it ever was. There is no point trying to amend a bill in some way when it is so unacceptable in content and form and when no amendments could possibly make it acceptable. We will therefore vote against referring this bill to committee.

We disagree with the very principle of this bill because it is obvious in our view—and Canadian and Quebec history make it crystal clear—that Canada’s institutions cannot be reformed. By trying to reform the Senate through bills rather than a constitutional amendment, the Prime Minister is confirming something that was already evident to many people in Quebec. For Quebec sovereignists, of course, it is impossible in any case to make significant changes to the Canadian constitution, even more so when taking into account the national reality of Quebeckers.

It is also deeply shocking to see the Conservative government and the Prime Minister bring in bills with which not only the Bloc Québécois but also the National Assembly of Quebec have said they disagree. This is true of both Bill C-20 and Bill C-22, the latter dealing with a redistribution of seats in the House of Commons.

Each time, it is clear that behind these changes—I am not even talking about reforms, because I think the word “reform” has a positive connotation—there is never any will to take into consideration the existence of at least two nations within the current Canadian political space: the Quebec nation, which was recognized by this House, the Canadian nation, which we readily recognize, and, of course, the first nations and the Acadian nation.

I think this has been the problem since Canada was created, and is why Canada's political institutions cannot be reformed. I am obviously talking about the lack of will from the majority of this political space, meaning the Canadian nation, to recognize, and not just by a motion in this House, the existence of several nations within the Canadian political space.

I could talk about the history, but not this morning. At certain points in the history of Canada and Quebec, it would have been possible to mutually recognize two nations and to recognize the first nations and the Acadian nation, in order to build a political structure representative of this multinational space. Unfortunately, the past, and also more recent history—for example, the Charlottetown accord and the Meech Lake accord—has shown us that there was not a broad enough will, yet alone a majority, within the Canadian nation to change the political balance and reflect this reality.

Unfortunately, the current Parliament seems to be the perfect example of the crisis in the Canadian system. I am not talking about the Bloc Québécois, because we chose to represent the Quebec nation in the House of Commons. I am talking about the political parties that call themselves national, but should call themselves pan-Canadian, the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party and the NDP.

Those parties all have essentially regional foundations: the Conservatives, more in the west; the Liberals, in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces; and the NDP, a bit everywhere. They are not yet sufficiently entrenched in a region of Canada to claim to be pan-Canadian parties. It is not their fault. Quite simply, no one has wanted to recognize this multinational dimension in the past.

The Quebec-Canada relations crisis is not a crisis for the people of Quebec. It is a crisis in the Canadian system, with ups and downs, since history is never linear. It is very clear that, as long as people fail to grasp this reality—and in the case of the Bloc and Quebec sovereignists, we will take this reality into account as soon as Quebec decides to become a sovereign country—we cannot resume discussions with our Canadian neighbours to reorganize an economic space, at least, and perhaps a political space between our two nations.

That being said, within the existing political space, considering the mindset of Canadians, it is obvious that Canadian institutions cannot be reformed. This situation will certainly not be corrected by trying to reform the Senate, especially since Bill C-20 is aimed primarily at marginalizing the Quebec nation more than anything else.

I was saying that we are against the bill because Canadian institutions cannot be reformed. Indeed, in our view, the very spirit of the bill is unacceptable. Nevertheless, there is also the fact that Parliament cannot reform the Senate unilaterally and without making constitutional amendments. As many constitutionalists have said, the National Assembly has confirmed, and Quebec's Minister for Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs, Mr. Pelletier, has said on many occasions, any attempts to change the composition or the method of appointing senators would require a constitutional negotiation. Obviously, for us as Quebeckers, and especially for sovereignists, a constitutional negotiation will not be held on the Senate question alone, since it is far from our primary concern. We often even forget that that institution exists.

It is therefore very clear to us that the bill as it now stands cannot be acceptable to Quebec or to anyone who wishes to abide by the Canadian constitution.

I often find it amusing—it should make me cry, but I tend to be an optimist—to say that the only people who try to ensure that we abide by the Constitution in this House are the Bloc Québécois. For example, when we talk about respecting the jurisdiction of the provinces or combating the federal spending power, we are unfortunately the only ones who stand up for what was set out in a document that may, in fact, be too old, because it does not reflect the present-day reality of the Canadian political space.

The fact remains, however, that as long as the Constitution has not been amended and as long as we are within the Canadian political space, Quebec, Quebeckers and the Bloc Québécois will stand up for the idea that there can be no amendments relating to the specific method by which senators are appointed without constitutional negotiations. Once again, on the question of constitutional negotiations, when that door—some would say that Pandora's box—is opened again, very clearly there will be other matters to be brought in besides mere questions about the Senate.

There is a fourth point that I think it is important to make. Even if it is reformed, the Senate is a useless institution, as I said earlier. It is a legacy of the monarchy, a legacy of British colonialism; it is the fear that the founders of the Canadian political space had of seeing a sovereign people make decisions through elections and elected representatives.

So they appointed these wise and elite people, who are often conservative. I am not speaking here to Conservatives as such. We are talking about elites who often wanted to oppose the desire for social and economic progress felt by a majority of the population. That is true for Quebec and it is also true for Canada.

I will conclude on that point because I have been told that my speaking time will soon be up. The bill itself is full of problems, even though it might have been thought to have some value.

Under Bill C-20, given that indirect election of senators is not going to make the Senate democratic, we are creating senators whom it will be virtually impossible to unseat. This is a non-binding consultation and it is full of holes.

Senate Appointment Consultations ActGovernment Orders

February 12th, 2008 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I were to answer all of those questions, I believe I would be well through the next speaker's time. However, I will try to address the first two.

The first was a question regarding the consultation with stakeholders. It was whether we have consulted the stakeholders. I obviously have a very different view of how democracy works than my hon. friend on the other side.

I happen to think that the most important stakeholders in Parliament and in democracy are the people of Canada. Those are the true stakeholders, not elected officials, not bureaucrats, and not people who happen to be holding seats in the Senate or even those in the House of Commons. It is the people of those provinces.

The very essence of the bill is to go to the people of those provinces and consult them every time there is a decision made on who should be appointed to the Senate, so that they get to choose who represents them, not some of the other stakeholders, not a prime minister, not a cabinet, not a provincial premier but the people of that province. That is what we consider to be consultation, the most genuine consultation. That is the essence and purpose of this bill.

I know there are those who wish to see the Senate remain unchanged. There are many members in the Liberal Party who want to see it remain unchanged because it has served them very well over the years as an institution dominated by appointed Liberals. However, we believe it should be an institution that serves and represents Canadians in the provinces and that is why our structure is that Canadians in each province would be consulted to select their representatives.

On the question of underrepresentation, he talked about the need to change the distribution of seats in the House of Commons so that the western provinces that are underrepresented could have better representation.

I take it from that point that my friend will be supporting our democratic representation by population bill, Bill C-22, which will be coming up for debate later in the week because that is the objective of that bill: to move toward representation by population, to give them their fair share, to give Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and underrepresented provinces, more seats than they are entitled to under the existing formula.

I know that because Liberals really do not want that to happen, they will talk about it, say they support it, and then vote against the principle and the bill or obstruct it because that is the way the Liberal Party always works.

It has built institutions that primarily serve the partisan interests of the Liberal Party and does not want to see those institutions change one bit. Liberal members will say one thing and do the other. It has been seen back to the time of Confederation. I do not expect it to change in this Parliament, though I will be delighted if they surprise me by supporting Bill C-20 and Bill C-22 to allow some kind of reform and change to actually happen.

Tackling Violent Crime LegislationGovernment Orders

February 11th, 2008 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this morning's debate. Throughout 2007, I was the justice critic for the official opposition. And throughout 2006, I served as deputy House leader of the official opposition, which is also my current role.

Thus, since the Conservative government's Speech from the Throne in 2006, I have been listening to the Conservative rhetoric, which I have weighed against the actions put forward by this government.

The motion we are debating today is:

That, given the government has declared the passage of Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as a matter of confidence, and, that the bill has already been at the Senate longer than all stages took in the House of Commons, and that all aspects of this bill have already been the subject of extensive committee hearings in Parliament, and that in the opinion of this House the Senate majority is not providing appropriate priority to the passage of Bill C-2, a message be sent to the Senate calling on the Senate to pass Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, by March 1, 2008.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General is applauding. Well, I wonder. The Minister of Justice made a big point about how in the 2006 throne speech the Conservative government made tackling crime a priority. It is one of five priorities of the government. Let us look at the record of the government prior to when it prorogued the session that began in the winter of 2006 after the 2006 election. Let us look at that record.

The Liberal record is that we supported the vast majority of the Conservative government's justice bills. The fact is that the Conservative government has needlessly delayed its own legislation. The fact is there has been no opposition obstruction, not from the official opposition, not from the Bloc Québécois and not from the NDP. The only obstruction has been from the government. Let me give an example.

The government talks about the age of consent legislation. In the previous session, the age of consent legislation was Bill C-22 . It is now found in this new tackling crime bill, Bill C-2.

Bill C-22, the age of consent legislation, was originally tabled by the government on June 22, 2006, some four and a half months after the government came to this House and opened Parliament with a throne speech. The House adjourned for the summer months one or two days later. I do not have the exact date with me but at the most, it was two days later. We came back on the third Monday in September 2006.

Did the government then move second reading of the age of consent bill? That is the bill that would raise the legal age of consent from 14 to 16 years. The government had an opportunity, its very first opportunity to move second reading. For Canadians who are listening, no one but the government can move government legislation from one stage to another.

The government tables its bill under parliamentary rules, House of Commons rules. It moves first reading and the motion is automatically deemed to have been adopted. The bill then goes on to the order paper and it stays there until the government moves second reading. We waited through the month of September 2006 and into the month of October 2006. The government did not move second reading.

That is the same government with a Minister of Justice and Attorney General who says that he is concerned, who says that victims, particularly our children who are victims of sexual predators, are among the Conservatives' first and main priority, and the government did not move second reading on the age of consent bill in 2006.

What did the Liberals do? Because that was a bill that we supported unconditionally, our House leader, who speaks on behalf of the official opposition, offered to fast track it.

Again, for those who do not understand the rules of procedure of the House of Commons, and possibly some of the government members who may not understand the rules of procedure of the House of Commons, the Standing Orders, when there is a majority in the House of Commons, whether it be the government only, or the government and another party, the government can fast track a bill.

We offered to fast track the age of consent legislation in October 2006. The government did not take us up on the offer. It ignored our offer. It did not even deign to officially respond to our offer. However, what this did was bring pressure to the government and several days later the government finally moved debate at second reading on the age of consent bill.

For a government, a Prime Minister, a Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, his parliamentary secretary and every single Conservative sitting on the government benches in this House of Commons to say that children, our children, are a priority and then to refuse to fast track the age of consent bill is unconscionable.

That bill could have been law by December 2006. We would have now had 13 months of better protection for our children and that government refused. This is what the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is not telling the Canadian people. That bill could have been law.

Let us look at another bill that we find in Bill C-2. Let us look at the bill about which the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada attempted to eloquently dis the official opposition. That bill used to be Bill C-35, regarding reverse onus on bail for firearm related offences.

That bill received first reading on November 23, 2006. Guess what? It sat. The government did not move second reading debate through the end of November 2006, the entire month of December 2006 and the entire month of January 2007. That government did not move second reading of the bail reform bill until February 13.

Is it not a coincidence, that is a bill which we offered to fast track. That is a bill that could have been law. It could have been law for over a year now, and that government did not take us up on it.

That is a government that sends ten percenters into ridings of my colleagues in Manitoba, in Ontario, in British Columbia, claiming that the Liberals are obstructing the government's justice agenda. The government obstructed its own agenda.

I have to ask myself the following question: is this simple incompetence on the part of the government or is this government being wilfully incompetent?

Is that pure incompetence on the part of the government or is it wilful incompetence in delaying its own legislation?

Those are just two things that we find in Bill C-2 which could have been the law for over a year now had the Conservative government actually been truthful to its claim about victims being its main priority. Had that been the truth, the government would have taken the Liberals up on our offer to fast-track the bill and the age of consent would have been 16 years old December 2006 and reverse onus on bail for firearm related offences would have been the law over a year ago.

However, it gets even better. The government says that the Senate has now had Bill C-2 longer than all stages in the House. The government is counting on the fact that most Canadians will not know the parliamentary agenda and calendar. Bill C-2 was sent to the Senate on December 12, 2007. Parliament adjourned December 14, 2007. Parliament did not resume until Monday, January 28, 2008. The government tabled this motion claiming that the Senate was wilfully obstructing the government's tackling crime agenda.

Had the government been so concerned with Bill C-2 and so concerned about victims and about getting the legislation that it claims is the cornerstone of its priority and agenda, why did it not table a motion last fall for a message to be sent to the Senate informing the Senate that when it receives Bill C-2, we expect it to be reported back to us by x date? The government had all the authority and power to do that last fall but it did not.

Again I must ask whether it was mere incompetence. Is it because the government after two years still does not understand the Standing Orders, which is what we call the rules of this House? Is it wilful incompetence? The government understands full well the authority and powers it has under the House of Commons rules but chooses not to use them in the hopes that most Canadians will not know that it is the government that is actually obstructing its own agenda.

Let us talk about another obstruction. I mentioned how most of the bills, except for Bill C-27, which is the dangerous offender piece of Bill C-2, had already moved through the House and had been referred to the Senate late May, early June, late June of 2007. The Senate only had a couple of days, according to the parliamentary calendar, before Parliament adjourned for the summer. We were scheduled to come back the third Monday of September 2007 but the Prime Minister, in his wisdom, or in his incompetence or in his wilful incompetence decided to prorogue Parliament.

What does that mean? Under the rules and procedures and Standing Orders, it means that every piece of legislation in front of the House of Commons or in front of the Senate automatically dies. The government killed its own age of consent bill, its reverse onus on bail bill and its impaired driving bill, which is interesting because that is the bill we supported wholeheartedly.

I wonder if MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, understands that if the impaired driving bill is not the law today it has absolutely nothing to do with the official opposition or with the Liberal senators, but has everything to do with the government's own decision to obstruct its own legislation, not to move its own legislation through the House of Commons in a timely fashion and then to prorogue and kill its own legislation. That legislation could have been the law for almost a year now had the government not wilfully obstructed its own legislation.

Let us take the dangerous offenders bill. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada talked about how that legislation would ensure that Canadians who commit violent, egregious crimes will not be free on the streets because of the changes that it brought to the dangerous offender system.

One of the things that the government is not telling Canadians is that the way the system worked before the government brought in Bill C-27, the crown prosecutor had full discretion as to whether he or she would apply for a dangerous offender hearing. The government has done absolutely nothing to change that with its tackling crime legislation. The crown will still decide. It does not matter if it is someone who has committed heinous crimes one time, been sent to prison, served the sentence, comes out, does it again, is found guilty and serves another sentence, the crown can still decide whether it will apply for a dangerous offender hearing.

What was the Liberal response to that? The Liberal response was that there should automatically--

Age of ConsentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 5th, 2008 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am also rising to table a petition signed by dozens of people on the subject of the age of consent.

The petitioners are aware that Bill C-22, which raises the age of consent to 16, is currently languishing in the Liberal dominated Senate. They are calling on Parliament to pass the bill without further delay.

Electoral ReformOral Questions

December 11th, 2007 / 2:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we want what is right for Ontario.

Yesterday the Ontario provincial legislature passed a unanimous motion calling on the government to amend Bill C-22. The Premiers of Quebec and Manitoba both agree that this bill is unfair. Editorials from papers such as The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and Montreal's Gazette agree that this legislation must be fixed.

What will it take for the minister to admit that he made a mistake, fix this legislation and ensure fairness for all Canadians?

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

December 7th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents of Mississauga—Brampton South, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-28.

I do have some fundamental problems and concerns with the bill because it revolves around the economic policies and concerns that I have with the Conservative government.

When I recollect last year during the budget discussion, I was reminded by many of my constituents, who I know very closely watched the debate, of how shocked they were to hear one of the worst tax policies to come out of Ottawa in 35 years, which was the interest deductibility measure. That is just one example.

I want to speak to two key themes today regarding the bill. One is that it is a reflection of the government's lack of understanding of creating a plan, of setting forth an agenda that looks at promoting prosperity and productivity. The government's ideas, strategies and policies are driven by polls and, as we have seen, it has spent a lot of money on polls.

The second issue I will be discussing is missed opportunities and what this particular bill misses and the opportunity on which it could have capitalized.

First, before I get into the specifics, if we look at where we are today as a country and look at our fiscal capacity at the federal level, it is a reflection of sound Liberal management over the course of many years, as they recite, over 13 years of hard work to turn around this country's fiscal position. We were in huge deficits, which created huge debts and put a tremendous burden on our future generations.

However, through sound Liberal management, sound government policy and the hard work of many Canadians, we were able to eliminate the deficit and ultimately start to reduce our debt.

Today we have surpluses, as we have had for many years now, and that is a reflection of hard work and good management. It is so important that we recognize how we want to spend this money.

It is unfortunate for the government, for example, when it comes to two particular issues in the bill.

First, I want to thank the Conservatives for reinstating the personal income tax reduction that we put in place when we were in government and that they reversed. I also want to applaud them for their efforts of copying our corporate tax policy. Those are two specific examples that stand out.

However, if we look at the bill we see that it pits province against province. We have seen what the Conservatives have done with the Atlantic accord. Just recently, if we take into account what they have done with respect to Bill C-22, they attacked the Premier of Ontario by calling him the small man of Confederation. They insulted not only premiers and put provinces against one another, but they also attacked mayors. We do not run a country by calling our mayors grumpy.

My mayor has served proudly for many years and is one of the most well respected mayors, not only in Canada, but across the world. She has received numerous awards for achievements, hard work, fiscal management and running a good city.

The bill also reminds us of a legacy of a government of broken promises. The one that stands out, which was mentioned in a petition just a few minutes ago, is the income trusts.

Many hard-working Canadians, many seniors who have worked really hard, invested their money in income trusts because they were led to believe by the current government, in a commitment it made in its platform, that it would not change the rules to income trusts. What did the Conservatives do when they came to power? They broke that promise. That cost seniors and many other Canadians millions, if not billions, of dollars of investment opportunities and it has really hurt their fiscal and financial situation.

As I said before, I do have concerns with regard to the prosperity and productivity agenda laid out by the government. The GST example is a clear indication of where it is driven by polls and by gimmicks as opposed to trying to promote this prosperity and productivity agenda.

If we look, for example, at my constituency of Mississauga—Brampton South, it has many manufacturing jobs. We have the Pearson International Airport, which has become a hub of economic activity, but we need to ensure we remain competitive and, in order to do that, we need the government to show leadership and put in place a regime, an environment and policies that will ensure we are not only competitive in Canada, but we can also compete with the world. That is something this particular bill lacks.

I want to speak to missed opportunities, which is something I can speak to from my personal experience of living in my constituency of Mississauga—Brampton South. My constituency has a $123 billion infrastructure deficit, which is a substantial amount. The mayors and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities have mentioned this on numerous occasions. They had a protest here and mentioned that their deficits needed to be addressed.

What bothers me is that in March, the Prime Minister and his entourage came to the GTA and made an announcement about rapid transit funding for not only my constituency, but for surrounding regions as well. The announcement was made in March and yet we have not received the cheque. The province has put forward the money and the mayor and our councillors have the money there, but the federal government has not written a cheque.

That is something that is profoundly disturbing because these announcements are made and it is a missed opportunity. The longer the delay in this funding, the more gridlock continues to grow in that region.

I was very fortunate to become the father of a baby girl about eight weeks ago and I understand now, as a new father, the importance of spending time with one's family. However, if individuals are driving to and from work and are spending an additional 20, 30, 40 or 50 minutes in traffic because of gridlock, that is less time with their families.

If the government professes to care about families, why is it not giving us a cheque for our city? Why is it not helping us with our huge deficit? It is not the fact that it is not contributing more money. It is the money that was committed in the past that it is not honouring.

As I indicated, it was a missed opportunity, not only when it comes to the cities agenda, but manufacturing is a key area for the constituents of my riding, for my province of Ontario and for my neighbouring provinces. This is the economic hub that drives our country's economic wealth. It is unfortunate that high value jobs are being lost.

I can cite a quick example from a question I was asking in question period with regard to the forestry sector. The jobs in the forestry sector in northern Ontario and even the spin-off jobs in my riding are directly impacted by the fact that the government cannot do anything because it signed a flawed softwood lumber agreement that prevents it from actually playing a role with industry. I am talking about provincial governments because, in the absence of federal leadership, the provincial governments had to play a role. However, any time the federal or provincial governments play a role, they will be sued by the United States because of the flawed softwood lumber agreement signed by the federal Conservative government.

That is an example of how there is not only a lack of initial investments when it comes to this bill that has prevented assistance for manufacturing, but it further compounds it by preventing other levels of government to play a meaningful role.

We saw the latest census a few days ago and it showed a tremendous amount of immigration to this country in the past five or six years. Immigration is another key area where we need to find a way of integrating new Canadians and allow them to utilize their skills to ensure they are able to perform and reach their potential that not only benefits them, but it benefits our communities and our economies. Again, the government has made no substantive investment there, which is another missed opportunity.

The leader of the Liberal Party has demonstrated our position on poverty. When we look at the poisonous debate on reasonable accommodation in Quebec, it is a reflection of the fact that people's fears are perpetuated by fear and ignorance and they assume that certain ghettos are created. Those ghettos or those concentrations of people is a reflection of communities being segregated because of lack of opportunity, low income earners and people who lack opportunity. We need a strong poverty agenda to ensure all Canadians have equal opportunities to succeed and we need to stop segregating people based on income.

Another concern in my riding is health wait times. We could have invested much more money in this area. We could have invested money to reduce wait times. Every day I hear of instances in waiting rooms and the problems it is causing.

Going back to the first point I made on prosperity and productivity, education is another lost opportunity. If we want to build a productive society and a society that is prosperous, we need to invest in education.

I have fundamental problems with the government's economic policies. These are lost opportunities, wasted opportunities and missed opportunities. With such a large surplus, the Conservatives could have done so much more.

December 3rd, 2007 / 6:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, apparently my friend opposite, as most Liberals, does not listen to answers. They only read the script which someone else has written for them and speak it by rote.

Under the current formula, the province of Ontario would only receive four additional seats. Bill C-22 proposes to increase Ontario's by ten seats. Again I go back to the fact that in Ontario itself, within its own provincial boundaries, the premier of Ontario introduced Bill 214 which actually disenfranchises certain ridings. It causes a huge gap between northern Ontario ridings and southern Ontario ridings, so large that sometimes there is a difference of over 100,000 citizens in those ridings.

That is the approach taken by the premier of Ontario. It is not going to be the approach taken by this government.

December 3rd, 2007 / 6:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the people of Ontario are not asking for more seats in the House of Commons at the expense of other provinces. I have noted that Ontario is legally entitled to 21 additional seats according to the Canadian Constitution.

Similarly, a minimum number of seats in the prairie provinces or those in the Atlantic regions are in fact protected by the Constitution. Even the premiers of Manitoba and Quebec have come out in support of Ontario simply because it is the right and fair thing to do.

What is the justification for disenfranchising Ontario? Once again I am compelled to ask the parliamentary secretary why Bill C-22 will contribute to the democratic deficit in the country and deny just representation to the people of Ontario in the House of Commons, to which the province of Ontario is legally entitled under the Constitution Act of 1867. I would like to know why.

December 3rd, 2007 / 6:30 p.m.
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Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand and answer the question posed by my hon. colleague.

The first thing I should point out is that in contrast to what the hon. member said, the Liberals clearly do not believe in representation by population. If they truly did, I am sure that sometime in the 13 years they were in government they would have attempted to bring in some form of legislation to address that growing issue, yet, of course, we saw nothing. As we see in most cases when the Liberals complain about something in opposition today, we point out that they did nothing to address those concerns while they were actually in government.

I would also point out that true representation by population is clearly something that the member opposite does not believe in, because if there were true representation by population, some of the smaller growing provinces would actually be adversely affected. In other words, our Constitution preserves an intractable right from some of our smaller provinces that they cannot have less members than they have now. Under a true representation by population formula, in fact they would lose seats. We do not believe in that. We believe that the fairness aspect must be addressed to all provinces in Confederation.

The member spoke of the premier of Ontario thinking that the bill we are bringing forward, Bill C-22, is somehow inherently unfair. I argue just the opposite. Under the current formula, if we did nothing, as the Liberals did for 13 years, to change the existing formula, the next time there would be an increase of seats for the province of Ontario, it would only increase by four seats. We are increasing it by ten seats, yet we hear nothing but complaints from the premier of Ontario suggesting that somehow this is unfair. I cannot for the life of me understand why, if Ontario is getting ten more seats as opposed to four more seats, the premier thinks that is unfair.

I would point out that the premier of Ontario himself has addressed the issue of representation by population, but has done so in such a way he gerrymandered certain seats in Ontario that actually disenfranchised certain voters. Bill 214 introduced last year by the premier, whom the member says is so hard done by, actually caused 13 MPPs to end up representing constituents ranging in population from 130,000 per riding to 170,000 per riding, yet in northern British Columbia the MPPs in that region only represent 76,000 constituents. This was a clear attempt to gerrymander and it is not even close to representation by population. That is the track record of the premier of Ontario.

I would suggest that the member opposite should not use him as a shining example of a determinant of what is right and what is wrong. Clearly what the premier of Ontario has done in his own province is gerrymandered to his own political purposes and he has absolutely no intention of enacting something that is fair in principle. That is something we believe in, something clearly the Liberals opposite do not.

December 3rd, 2007 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents of Don Valley East and on behalf of the province of Ontario, I am pleased to further debate on Bill C-22, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation).

These adjournment proceedings follow a question I posed to the government following the announcement that Ontario would receive far fewer seats in the House of Commons than it was legally entitled.

At the outset, the Liberal Party does not view the legislation from a partisan perspective. We view it from a constitutionality and fairness perspective. We are simply upholding the Constitution, which guarantees representation by population in the House of Commons.

Under the proposed legislation, Bill C-22, the number of seats in the House of Commons would rise from 308 to 330. British Columbia would get seven additional seats, Alberta would get five and Ontario would receive ten. However, this turns out be 11 seats short of what Ontario deserves simply due to the increase in population. The people of Ontario are quite right to stand up and question why the Conservatives are shortchanging them in Confederation. This is a typical example of yet another broken promise made by the Conservatives in the last election.

Page 44 of the Conservative election platform clearly states that it will “restore representation by population for Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta”. However, when the Premier of Ontario raised this issue based on the principle of fairness, what was the response from the government? The Minister for Democratic Reform called the Premier of Ontario “the small man of Confederation”. Rather than engage in a meaningful debate, the Conservatives sink down to mudslinging and name calling. This is disrespectful and only belittles Parliament. The Canadian public would be better served if the Conservatives apologized for this inappropriate remark.

I am glad the parliamentary secretary will have an opportunity to explain why the Conservatives are shortchanging Ontario 11 seats in the House of Commons. Would the parliamentary secretary also explain why, if Bill C-22 is adopted in its current form, members of Parliament in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario will continue to represent 10,000 more constituents than MPs in other federal ridings?

Quebec NationStatements By Members

November 27th, 2007 / 2 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, one year ago today, the House of Commons listened to the arguments put forward by the Bloc Québécois and finally recognized the existence of the Quebec nation. One year later, it must be said that this motion was meaningless to the Conservatives. In fact, by introducing Bill C-22, which seeks to change electoral representation, the Conservatives are trying to reduce the weight of Quebec and the Quebec nation in federal political institutions.

The government cannot recognize the Quebec nation one year and reduce its political weight in the House the next. If recognizing the Quebec nation means something, the government must ensure that any reform of electoral representation and the distribution of seats maintains the relative representation of the members from Quebec, so that this nation can be heard within federal institutions.

If the government sincerely wants to recognize the Quebec nation, it must grant the unanimous wish of the National Assembly of Quebec, which is calling on the government to withdraw its bill.

Tackling Violent Crime ActGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2007 / noon
See context

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure, at report stage of Bill C-2, to deliver some comments to the omnibus crime bill.

I have had the experience of serving on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and also the legislative committees that were involved with the former Bills C-10, C-22, C-27, C-32, C-35 and C-23, which is not part of the omnibus bill.

I speak with experience at least with respect to the bills and I understand how we came to be here today to speak about what the bill contains. A lot of discussion took place in the debates of the House and in committee with respect to the direction we should take with respect to our criminal justice.

It is important for us, as parliamentarians, to consider what we do when we amend the Criminal Code and its corollary acts. We are dealing with the Criminal Code. It is an organic document. It changes with the times. It is copied and exemplified by one of Canada's justice ministers and prime ministers, Sir John Thompson, from eastern Canada. It has certainly changed with the times as has our society.

In the 1890s the crimes that were top priority might have been things like cattle and horse theft, murder and some common ones. However, with the changing times, we have seen a proliferation of gang related violence, e-crimes, things that would not have existed at the turn of the century.

The point of raising that is as our society changes and the code changes, we owe it to this place, to the committees, to the law enforcement official, which include prosecutors, policemen, probation workers, corrections officers, people in the correction system and judges, quite a fraternity of people involved in the criminal justice system, to say that we looked at these various laws. We looked at how Canada was changing and at the end, we did the very best we could to keep track of what tools would be best to tackle the new problems that exist in society. It is not as if we are inventing new aspects of law. Many of these bills represent an evolution or a progression of laws that already exist.

Just briefly on the guts of the bill, if you like, Mr. Speaker, Bill C-10, which is now part of C-2, was of course dealing with the mandatory minimum provisions which were increased by the introduction of this bill, but they were not increased as much as the government had wanted them to be originally.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the opposition Bloc Québécois critic on the committee as well as the Liberal members on the committee who fought very hard to have some sense reign over the debate with respect to the evidence that was adduced at the committee hearings regarding the efficacy of mandatory minimums in general.

A review is in order. Mandatory minimums existed before the Conservative government was elected. Mandatory minimums were in place for serious crimes with the known aspect of repeat offenders and with some hope, which studies will show one way or the other, that there might be a deterrent and a safety to the public aspect of mandatory minimums.

At least on this side we joined with the Conservatives who, I would say, were very sparse in their acknowledgement that mandatory minimums existed before they came into office, but we joined with them and said that these are good tools for the law enforcement agencies and good tools in the realm of criminal justice.

It is a matter always of how far we go. How far do we go in disciplining our children? Do we take away their favourite toy? Do we ban them from seeing their friends for two weeks? Are we less severe or more severe? Many of us are parents and we deal with this every day. It is our form of the justice system that rules in our own house.

With respect to mandatory minimums, it is a question of calibrating to what extent the mandatory minimums are useful, to what extent do they work, and to what extend should they be increased, if at all.

During the debate process we were very successful in getting the government to get off its basic premise, which is if it is good for the six o'clock news and sounds robust, steady and law and orderish, then it has to be good in the Criminal Code. That is where the slip from the cup to the lip occurred, where it was obvious 90% of the witnesses were saying that the severe mandatory minimums that the government side were proposing would be inefficacious.

We can be as tough as we want, but if it does not work, if it does not make society safer, then we have not posited a good solution to the problems that face our community, and that was the case when we looked at mandatory minimums.

The happy medium that exists in Bill C-2 I think will be borne out, but it is very important to remember that this is an organic process and we could be back here some day soon, perhaps, looking at mandatory minimums in general.

How more timely could it be than in today's Ottawa Citizen, a report called “Unlocking America” is reviewed. In this report, it makes it very clear that the mandatory minimums, one of the many tools used by the American government from the 1970s on when it was felt that the rise in criminal activity was abhorrent, was not as effective as the Americans would have hope it would have been. It left the United States with 2.2 million people behind bars, more than China. The nine authors, leading U.S. criminologists, said that they were convinced that they needed a different strategy.

I am happy to report that as a result of the efforts of the NDP, Bloc and the Liberal Party in general at committee, we did not go as far as the Conservative government wanted to, which was close to where the United States had been which now New York State and New York City admits, is ineffective.

The three effects of imprisonment, and emphasis only on imprisonment, at the cost of crime prevention dollars, if you like, Mr. Speaker, is that the heavy, excessive incarceration hits minorities very hard. In the United States, 60% of the prison population is made up of Blacks and Latinos.

We heard evidence at our committee that there is a preponderance, an over-exaggerated percentage, of first nations and aboriginal people in our jail system, according to their population, which is deplorable. It is overwhelming and undisputed that the negative side effects of incarceration outweigh the potential. That is the two bits on Bill C-10,

On the other bill, Bill C-22, the close in age exemption, was never brought up. Despite all the rhetoric from the government, nothing would save Bill C-22. The issue of sexual consent being given by a person of tender years has never been put forward by any member of the opposition while the Liberal Party was in power.

The close in age exemption was never put in there, so for members of the opposite side to say that finally we dealt with the issue of sexual exploitation of 14 year olds is simply not accurate. The close in age exemption, five years between a person of the age specified, will save many relationships that should not be criminalized.

Lastly, I noted that Bill C-23 was not included in Bill C-2. I have to wonder why.

I live in Acadia. And Bill C-23 included many improvements with respect to choosing the first language of prosecutors during a trial. French is the language spoken by most people in my province. That element was very important to us in Acadia, but the government overlooked this fact.

Why did the government turn its back on the francophone people of New Brunswick in this country?

Constitution Act, 2007 (Democratic Representation)Routine Proceedings

November 14th, 2007 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-22, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)