Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure and honour to rise to discuss Bill C-20, an extremely important bill about our right to representation at the federal level in this magnificent country of ours, Canada. This is not an easy thing to achieve. This is not the first Parliament called upon to consider the matter, and it most surely will not be the last.
I do not know of any perfect formula, a formula that everyone agrees with, unless every Canadian were to have their own member, but even if that were possible, I am not sure that everyone would be satisfied. In any event, there are basic principles that must be applied. I have consistently listened with interest to the remarks made on this matter. Although I commend the government to some degree for its efforts with Bill C-20, once again, they have missed the boat. There are general principles, principles that must be adhered to in such situations, and in that sense, there is something lacking.
I am sorry to say that I am far less welcoming of the stance taken by my Liberal friends. My colleague from Saint-Laurent—Cartierville gave an extremely interesting speech that attempted to make the Liberal proposal seem logical and give it some oomph. In spite of this, the Liberals’ position appears to be an attempt to win votes.
Allow me to elaborate. In 2004, when I previously held a seat in Parliament, I sat on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I remember my colleague, who was a political adversary at that time, but with whom I shared a vision of democratic reform. Indeed, reforming the manner in which people are represented in Parliament is fundamental to the very concept of reform and of democracy. When I sat on the committee with the honourable Ed Broadbent, he proposed—as part of the review of our democratic life in Canada—that we consider the concept of proportional representation: our electoral process as a part of our democratic life, the type of representation we have, whether we should have one or two chambers, and how many representatives there should be. That is all part and parcel of our democratic process.
I remember that, at the time, it was a glorious thing to behold. In fact, the Liberal party was in government and some parties with numerous representatives in the House had no intention of even considering the possibility of reforming our electoral process, or even of reviewing the electoral process and proportional representation. Over the weekend, I was quite surprised to read that the honourable acting leader of the Liberal Party started to make a number of proposals regarding proportional representation.
What that tells me is that when a party is strong and has a stable and solid majority government, that is the time to think about such reforms if the party really cares about them. But that is clearly not the case, because it is when a party is not well represented in the House that, all of a sudden, it remembers that proportional representation is perhaps a really good idea.
I take with a grain of salt the criticism levelled at us by our friends on my far left. They often rise in the House to propose one thing or another, but having had numerous discussions with all of these members, I know full well that they do not believe in these proposals. If they were sitting on the other side of the House, if they were in the majority, I am not sure that they would be similarly concerned about this issue.
Although it may be a human instinct, quite often we examine what impact an issue will have on us, as members, and that is not necessarily democratic.
The beauty of the proposal we made at the time in Bill C-312was the fact that it re-established or put some teeth and substance into the concept of the Quebec nation, which, in my opinion, should be part of Bill C-20.
As I said when I gave my speech on Bill C-312, we cannot redistribute seats without going the extra mile and asking what was meant by the unanimous motion in the House that Quebeckers are a nation within Canada.
The most important way to reflect a concept in a country like Canada is through its representation.
Over the years, whether my colleagues believe it or not, if the political weight of Quebec is steadily and slowly diminished as a result of demographic or other factors, there will be no need for a referendum to leave because, at some point, Quebec will no longer exist within the federation. I do not believe that we want this to happen.
I repeat that it is not easy to find the best formula. Bill C-20 gives a number of provinces the right to better representation, and in no way am I denying the western provinces' right to better representation. However, I am not necessarily saying that having more members of Parliament will result in better representation. Basically, we should stop focusing just on the numbers and instead get together and recognize that there are things fundamentally wrong with our Canadian democracy when members of Parliament, even on the government side, no longer have any importance at all.
In my opinion, it is a waste of time and money to add 3, 10, 15 or 150 members if we do not change the way we are currently doing things. We will not satisfy the people in western Canada who do not feel as though they are well represented here in Parliament, the people in Quebec who do not feel as though they are being given the political weight they deserve, or the people in the Atlantic provinces who often have to fight to be heard. We will not make anyone happy. Basically, what it comes down to is how we represent Canadians. The work of members has been irrevocably eroding little by little over the years. There are party lines, a Prime Minister who makes all the decisions, a cabinet that often is not even aware of what is happening, members who have to follow the party line and the members opposite who must oppose.
That is what the public is telling us when we visit communities. Canadians no longer feel as though they are being represented. And yet, here we are, adding more seats so we can tell the public that they will be better represented thanks to a mathematical calculation and a complicated formula that gives results x, y and z.
Will that comfort people? Some ridings have 140,000 people while others have 30,000. But we must remember that some members have vast territories to cover, that some cover rural areas and others urban areas. Some are close to the Hill and some are far from the Hill. All of these factors must be taken into consideration.
I think we are going at it wrong if we limit ourselves and simply use mathematics to resolve something as fundamental as representation, which should be something to which all citizens are entitled.
In conclusion, first, I have a number of problems with Bill C-20 because it does not address the issue of Quebec's political weight at all. Second, this bill does not resolve the problem of representation in the west if what we want is to have a semblance of fairness in terms of the size of ridings. Third—and I will leave all my colleagues in this House to think about this one—I have no problem representing 200,000 people, as long as I have time to meet with them in their communities. That is our job. All 200,000 people do not communicate with us. We must be realistic. But we would have to re-examine the job of member of Parliament to truly find the notion of representing the people, which I sometimes have a hard time seeing in this House with all of the gag orders we have had.