Fair Representation Act

An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and the Canada Elections Act

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Tim Uppal  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now 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.

It amends the time periods in several provisions of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and requires that electronic versions of maps be provided to registered parties.

It also amends the Canada Elections Act to permit a returning officer to be appointed for a new term of office in certain circumstances.

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.

Votes

Dec. 13, 2011 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Dec. 12, 2011 Passed That Bill C-20, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and the Canada Elections Act, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
Dec. 12, 2011 Failed That Bill C-20 be amended by deleting Clause 8.
Dec. 12, 2011 Failed That Bill C-20 be amended by deleting Clause 1.
Dec. 7, 2011 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-20, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and the Canada Elections Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
Nov. 3, 2011 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
Nov. 3, 2011 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-20, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and the Canada Elections Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, just for clarification, it is not my electoral district that has 200,000 members. I represent a riding that is admittedly larger than the average. I was referring to the member for Brampton West. Certainly my riding is not as ethnically diverse as a riding that has 51% new Canadians, as my friend from Brampton West represents.

With respect to the member's question, the issue is not only one of cost. I have a difficult time accepting the cost defence of maintaining the House at its current size. We see all over the Middle East and all over the world that citizens are clamouring for democracy. People are clamouring for the right to vote in free elections.

In Canada we have free elections, but the weight of each constituent is disproportionate, depending on whether the constituent lives for example in the GTA or in northern Ontario. To give some sense of parity or some sense of relative equality to the weight of the individual citizens to maintain democratic equality, the bill increases the number of seats for faster growing provinces without getting into the very acrimonious and divisive debate of taking seats away from certain provinces and giving them to under-represented provinces such as mine.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join the debate on this bill. Perhaps I could keep my remarks very brief, as all that really needs to be said here today is that this bill is not ready for a third and final vote.

We have not come to a national consensus on what direction we need to go on this thorny subject. We have not had the consultation that is necessary. In fact, the actions of the members on the government side serve as a graphic illustration that this is an idea that has not reached gestation. This is an idea that has not matured fully. It has not had the requisite exchange and the requisite participation and consultation. The illustration is that the government itself has introduced three different bills on this subject. In fact, this is the fourth effort, and each one has changed in its formula and its makeup.

Through the 39th Parliament and the 40th Parliament and the 41st Parliament, the government could not and cannot make up its mind what the picture should look like. Do we need any more evidence that we are not ready to move forward with this bill?

As with every other bill that the government has introduced in the 41st Parliament, it has shut down debate, consultation and any opportunity to add value to a worthy notion so that we could craft something that deserves the pride of the Canadian people. Instead of a nation-building exercise, we are being divisive and dismissive of the many legitimate points of view that are not going to be heard on this debate.

My colleague from Edmonton just said that there has been consultation and that the Premier of Alberta herself likes it. However, there has not been a national consultation and consensus. The minister for intergovernmental affairs for the Province of Quebec has stated openly that it is not meeting their expectations. They reject it; other provinces do as well.

We should consider a very important point. We banter around the word “consultation”; the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled numerous times in recent years on what the definition of consultation is. It means far more than simply asking somebody their views on the matter.

True consultation, to meet the legally recognized definition of consultation, means that you have to accommodate some of the legitimate concerns brought forward by other parties in the process of that consultation. To simply listen and ignore all the points brought forward does not meet the test of consultation, and that has not happened here, nor has it happened with previous bills in this 41st Parliament.

I have been here for six different Parliaments, and I have never seen anything like it in my life, nor has any veteran member of Parliament in this chamber. We have never seen such a disregard for the legitimate opposing views that make up Parliament, which consists of government and opposition.

The father of the member for Papineau once said that MPs are nobodies once they are 50 feet off of Parliament Hill. I hate to say it, but he might want to revisit that popular expression. Members of Parliament are nobody even when they are sitting in this chamber if they are sitting on the opposition benches, because there is such a distinct lack of respect for every one of us that it offends the sensibilities of any person who calls himself or herself a democrat, never mind a New Democrat. It is an insult to the intelligence of everybody here.

Sometimes, in their missionary-like zeal to ram their agenda down the throats of Canadians, the Conservatives are being dangerously ignorant of what a fragile construct and what a precious thing we hold here in our hands as a Parliament in a western democracy.

I wonder if the government is aware of the irreversible damage it is causing. I say “irreversible” because once it lets that genie out of the bottle, it will never get the toothpaste back in the tube, if members do not mind my mixing a number of metaphors.

Once we go there, we cannot get back. Once they have let the pendulum swing so wildly to their ultra-right-wing neo-conservative agenda, it is going to cause a backlash. Normal progressive-thinking Canadians, the majority of progressive-thinking Canadians, are going to have no alternative but to respond; the pendulum will swing wildly the other way, and they will have started to create instability throughout the land. That is the direction we are going.

The Conservatives no sooner won their majority than they started to abuse their majority. That is the danger here. In the spirit of Christmas, that is what I am here to caution. In all good will, I am here to caution my colleagues on the other side not to go there. Mr. Speaker, through you, I tell them not to open that Pandora's box, because they will regret it. It takes a while for these things to resonate throughout the land, but people are starting to take note.

The farmers in western Canada are starting to take note. They thought the vote that was guaranteed to them by legislation would occur and that the government of the day would uphold the rule of law. That is another graphic illustration of the blatant disregard the Conservatives have for everything that is good and decent about our parliamentary democracy. They cut a swath through everything that is good and decent about everything we stand for. The very foundations, the very fundamentals upon which we built this great nation, are being struck down one after another by a bunch of ultra-right-wing neo-conservatives who are tantamount to despots when it comes to living up to any semblance of parliamentary democracy.

I accuse them of being not only ignorant, but dangerously ignorant, of what a fragile construct democracy is. They themselves should read a book. They themselves should look at the history of Canada. They themselves should look at the founding nations that built this fragile construct that we call our parliamentary democracy, and they should know that it needs vigilance to nourish democracy.

We cannot treat it with a cavalier disregard. If we do away with any one element, it is like pulling a thread on a sweater. Pulling that string of wool makes it all begin to fall apart. The very fabric of the consensus that built this great nation needs to be cultivated and nourished and watered and developed. It cannot withstand a full majority term of the Conservative government and its blatant disregard for everything that our parents went to war to fight for and to build up. This great nation that our fathers and forefathers built is now vulnerable.

Let me give an example. This is something I learned from a great statesman named Gordon Robertson, who was active in the Liberal era under Trudeau.

In a speech he gave in the time of the Charlottetown Accord, he reminded Canadians that there are fewer than 20 federations in the world. Of all the hundreds of countries in the world, fewer than 20 are federations, because by definition that is the most difficult form of government to put together. It cobbles together diverse interests from diverse regions that accommodate one another's concerns to create something greater than the sum of its parts. That is what a federation is, and it is tough. The largest and most successful is the United States, and it blew itself apart in a bloody civil war after only 75 years.

Of those 20 federations in the world at the time of Mr. Robertson's speech, three were in the process of blowing themselves apart. The Soviet Union is now gone. Yugoslavia is now gone. The third one he cited was Canada. Believe me, there is nothing to guarantee that we will be here in 20 years if we do not nurture and cultivate and nourish the fundamental principles upon which this nation was founded. To be ignorant of them is, again, playing with our children's future.

That is the very core, the nucleus, of what we are dealing with here today.

If members think I am overstating things, I challenge any one of them to rise and contradict me, because it is not just this bill, it is the whole experience since May 2. Every single thing the Conservatives have done has been an affront to the spirit of democracy, an affront to the institution of Parliament. Conservatives have shown a blatant disrespect for all of our parliamentary institutions and the spirit of goodwill that made them and brought them about.

That is what offends me most in the spirit of democracy. We are being denied our fundamental right to do the oversight, the scrutiny and the due diligence that is our role and our job as the other half of Parliament.

Parliament may have two chambers, but each of those chambers has two constituent parts, the government and the opposition, and nobody has a monopoly on good ideas. It takes an ignorant man to think he knows it all. In fact, that is the best proof that somebody is stupid: he thinks he knows it all. There are good ideas and ideas of great merit on this side of the chamber as well, and the way we test the strength of our positions is to subject them to vigorous debate. If they can stand up to the challenges of legitimate debate, the devil's advocate, then we have tested the mettle of our principles, but along the way we may learn that we did not know it all and that maybe there were points of merit that the other side could contribute.

I was here in previous majority governments. This is my sixth term. I did not just fall off the turnip truck. I cannot believe I am calling it the good old days, but in the good old days of the Liberal majority government, we used to have amendments succeed at committee and in the chamber and at third reading. We had many amendments. A bill might be at committee for six weeks, and in that process tour the country and get input from people from all walks of life. Someone at some point might say, “By golly, that guy had a really good idea; we should fold it into this bill as an amendment.”

Do I have to spell it for these guys? They have not allowed a single amendment on a single bill in the 41st Parliament, except the two the Conservatives themselves put forward to amend their own bills. They have been in a fast-track mode, trying to ram stuff down the throats of Canadians with such missionary zeal that they themselves forgot some of the things they meant to put into bills.

I have seen the Minister of Public Safety stand and try to introduce six amendments to his own bill at third reading, the very things that he himself denied at committee. That is an example of the mistakes that can be made through haste. These things are too important to screw up. We have to get it right, because we are stuck with the consequences for a long time.

This is the appalling thing, and it really does worry me. We will not recognize this country with these guys in charge for four years. God help us if we leave them there for eight. If we have to wait until 2019 to relegate these neo-conservative, obsolete, outdated, ideological zealots to the trash heap of history, we will not recognize what is left of this country.

The rest of the world is waking up. These guys are still with Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney. They are neo-conservative zealots. We are the only country in the developed world that is still suffering under this outdated Conservative ideology, and progressive Canadians are having it rammed down their throats without even the opportunity that is guaranteed by the Constitution to participate in the governance of this country.

This particular bill is perhaps one of the most glaring examples and graphic illustrations of everything that is wrong with everything the Conservatives do.

It is almost the end of the year. It is almost the Christmas recess. It has been five long weeks, and it has been truly an exhausting and demoralizing experience to watch the Conservatives revelling in glee as they destroy our parliamentary institutions. They are doing enormous damage to our democratic process and everything we hold dear about this country that we love.

I have heard some thoughtful, refreshing, energetic, enthusiastic participation from the opposition benches and it is all for naught. It is falling on deaf ears. It is falling on the ears of people who have only thing in mind, and that is to re-create Canada in the image of George Bush's America. Piece by piece and incrementally, the Conservatives are well on their way, in everything they do, to create their little neo-conservative nirvana with our country. It is really appalling.

What should have been and could have been an opportunity for nation building, as I get to the substance of Bill C-20, has been a missed opportunity.

In fact, I enter this debate with full disclosure that the formula would leave my home province with the exact same number of seats that it had. I am not here to ride any particular regional hobby horse. I am here to emphasize that the very magic of a country that cannot possibly work on paper, but actually works very well in practice, the very magic to this fragile construct that I referred to earlier is the accommodation of the legitimate concerns of the constituent regions that make up our country. Simple math, and I emphasis “simple”, is not going to cut it without the consideration of the legitimate role that the founding nations played without some reasonable debate.

Because the Conservatives have moved closure yet again and shut debate, we will not even be able to raise something that I am very excited about. I was recently in New Zealand and I spoke with the Maori Party there. The first nations in New Zealand are guaranteed seats in the New Zealand parliament. That country does not have a constitution. The treaty it signed with the Maori people constitutes its constitution.

These are exciting progressive ideas that deserve to be at least entertained and considered when we deal with representation and the seats of the House of Commons. We will not get a chance to do that. We will not hear a single witness at committee speaking to that as an option. I am not pushing it, but it is an option that is worthy of our consideration as members of Parliament. If we are at all thoughtful and considerate about the representation, perhaps we would acknowledge that there were more than two founding nations that created Canada, that, in fact, first nations, Inuit and Métis people are not as well represented as they could be.

It is only one of these things. We could go on and on. In fact, we should go on and on, at least in the consultation process. As I say, the true consultation, which includes the accommodation of some of the things that we hear in the process of consultation, is what would make it a meaningful exercise. That is what Canadians are being denied by the ramrod tactics of the current government as it rams through its agenda, without the consideration of the majority of Canadians.

The Conservatives do not have all the answers. I argue that they are not doing it right. None of the bills that we have had rammed down our throats are fully matured to the point that they should be given royal assent. They are not finished. They are immature, like the people who drafted them. It is an immature process. They have not reached their gestation. In fact, they are not ready.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the rather colourful performance from the member opposite. He did not really get into what the bill is all about. The fact is the bill would move Canadians closer to representation by population.

My province has ridings that have 150,000-plus constituents. I represent about 99,000 constituents. I come from a rural riding. Rural ridings would be larger. I, in fact, operate three satellite constituency offices outside of the main centre of Brockville, which serve my constituents very well. If the riding were larger, it might be even more difficult to serve those constituents.

However, getting back to what the hon. member was saying, I did not hear from him how we would do this bill differently. How long does the member think we need to talk about this? How many days, how many months do we need to talk about it before he would be prepared to vote on something that Canadians really want to see passed by Parliament?

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Leeds—Grenville has not even had the decency to identify the real incentive on his party's part. There is a Trojan Horse element to the bill. By ramming the seat numbers down our throats, what the Conservatives are really trying to achieve is stripping out the per vote party financing so they can smash their Liberal enemies. That is really their priority. When they talk about electoral reform, it is always about doing away with the opposition entirely.

No one denies that there needs to be a regular reorganization of seats based on the census. We all know what Conservatives think of the long form census, but the mathematics associated with the census are imperfect. One of the previous speakers to this bill talked about what an imperfect mechanism it was because it was only one of the elements we had to consider when we talked about fair representation.

I would like us to consider in that same context some of the other elements. There already is a special budget subsidy for members who have unusually large geographic areas. I would like consideration to be made on socio-economic lines as well. Over 50% of the families in my riding—

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Winnipeg Centre for his, as always, impassioned and enthusiastic presentation to the House. I tend to believe that Canada is a little stronger than he worries it is. I think we will do just fine after 2015 when there is a reorganization of the seats of the House, which will be quite radical after the next election. However, we shall see about that.

My question for him is more specific. He does not like this bill because it has not had enough consultation. We have pressed him and his party before for a specific number of seats in which the NDP proposal would result. If he feels there has not been enough consultation, how does he feel about the fact that the Conservative Party has fixed an arbitrary number of 24% for the representation of Quebec, a number that will exist into perpetuity and that his worries about the pendulum not swinging back come from locking something in that will bind us for generations to come in a way that is probably unfair to the rest of Canada?

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate some of the thoughtful, considerate and even refreshing speeches put forward by some of my colleagues in the opposition. I believe it serves as an illustration of how seriously we on this side of the House take this opportunity to show not only respect for the various constituent regions that make up the fragile construct of the nation state of Canada. I am also proud, in the context of this debate, that many of the members on the NDP side have put forward the first bill they believe is a reasonable consideration of the thorny question of representation in the House, which is private member's Bill C-312.

It is the first party to introduce a bill that would give addition seats to the fastest-growing provinces and would recognize the legitimate concerns of the province of Quebec. That is why we have been proudly stating that we view this as a nation-building exercise, not divisive or dismissive of the legitimate concerns brought to the table but accommodating both of those legitimate issues under the auspices of one private member's bill, which I hope will have full debate and even be approved and passed by the House of Commons.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP vision is of a two or perhaps three-nation concept, but what I fail to hear in this debate is any vision from either the government or the third party in the House. Would my colleague elaborate a little more on the NDP vision and where they have missed the boat in terms of this debate?

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the time when we can consult with the provinces and with Canadians to ask whether our bill or the Conservative's bill does the better job in achieving representation by population, while at the same time accommodating the realities of our country. To deny the unique role that Quebec plays in the configuration of Canada is to be wearing blinders and, in fact, I believe adopting a dangerous stance if we are talking about the well-being and the future of what I consider a fragile federation.

I am surprised my colleague for Papineau is so confident that all is well under the rule of the Conservative majority government. Frankly, if we do not get our act together on this side of the House of Commons, the Conservatives will not just be here until 2015. My colleague for Papineau is deluded if he thinks his party is going to somehow rise from the ashes and defeat the Conservatives in 2015. I do not know what is in the water in Papineau, but the man is clearly deluded. If we do not do something united and unite the progressive vote in our country—

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly think that in getting a little closer to Christmas, a little levity does not hurt. Let me congratulate the hon. member across the floor. In my mind, he gets an A-plus for bombast and puffery. That is really about the extent of it though.

We are talking about a very serious issue. When I talk to my constituents, they say that it is important that we do not just talk, but that we make a decision and move on it.

However, I have heard the hon. member many times in the House and I have heard him filibuster at committee. Quite frankly, a positive contribution with ideas and thoughts on privileges would be welcome. There have been many opportunities.

We have been discussing this issue for over three and a half years now in various forms, but I have yet to hear one solid word of recommendation from the member opposite. Perhaps today he could give us his description of what he believes should take place in the House. I have not heard it in the past three and half years.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, in fact, my colleague made my arguments for me by saying that we have been trying to arrive at the right formula for three and a half years with four separate bills. The Conservatives, as the ruling party, keep introducing these bills and keep changing the formula. It is different every time. They cannot get it right. They do not really know what the right formula is. Therefore, they have decided that they are fed up with trying so they are just going to ram this one through, even though we all know it is imperfect, we all know it is flawed and that is what I caution about.

We should not go into this kind of thing lightly because we will be stuck with it for a long time. There is nothing funny, bombastic or puffery about it. The Conservatives are making a serious mistake in ramming through this stuff because it is not ready to be given royal assent. We are going to have to put it back together when we finally get rid of the government. It will fall on us to try to fix everything it has done. That is what we are cautioning Canadians about now.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to stand in the House and speak to this important bill. It is important to my constituents.

My colleague from Winnipeg Centre had some important points to make. He had a number of minutes to bring forward some facts or suggestions in terms of changes to the bill. Unfortunately, he did not take the opportunity to do that. Instead, he simply criticized Canadians for the government they chose to elect, the Conservative government.

It is the government that is leading the strongest economy in the G8. It is the government that is leading this country during very difficult times to a place that Canadians have long desired it to be as a leader. It is a country where Canadians, regardless of where they are in the country, are represented in the House of Commons more fairly.

That brings me to my comments. In the House I have the privilege of representing the highest number of constituents in the province of Alberta. The last census pegged the riding of Peace River at just under 140,000 constituents. We have had significant growth since 2006. As a matter of fact, members will find that in the constituency of Peace River today the population has significantly grown. The cities, the largest of which is Grand Prairie, have grown substantially over the last number of years as a result of the economy that has developed and continues to develop in that region. The outlying areas as well have grown.

In many parts of the country we see small towns reducing in size or diminishing. As a matter of fact, I am proud to report to the House that across my constituency, which is one of the largest in geography in the province of Alberta, the second largest being my colleague's for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, which is in fact the largest, and who also represents a riding with significant populations, no matter where one goes people are continuing to move and develop the local economy, and continue to make their home there. These are people from across the country.

As a matter of fact, we have significant numbers of people who are locating in the Peace Country from Newfoundland. We have people who are coming from Ontario, from throughout the Maritimes, as well as British Columbia and Saskatchewan. However, many of the people from Saskatchewan are now returning to that province because of the economic growth that province is seeing.

I am very proud to represent the large population in my constituency. Some members in the House have talked about the difficulty of representing large populations. It is in fact a difficult issue when we have a large population in a large geographical area. It sometimes makes it more difficult to serve my constituents. Because of the diversity of my constituency, in terms of its economic makeup and the driving economic industries located there, I have a whole host of folks living and working in the oil and gas sector who have their sets of concerns.

Right now, one of the biggest issues is actually trying to find enough people to fill the jobs. Therefore, if there are Canadians out there who are looking for an interesting opportunity, I will put in the plug right now that we are looking for people and would be happy if they would locate to the Peace Country. Those folks right now have major issues with respect to that. They are actually utilizing the temporary foreign worker program significantly to try to fill some of those labour shortages.

In my office we actually deal a fair bit with immigration. That is actually one of the major issues that we deal with within our constituency office. We deal with folks that are trying to come here on a temporary basis. We are working with employers to make that happen. We also work with families who are coming from other parts of the country who were able to locate in Canada permanently. We work with those individuals and their employers to try to bring, in many cases, families together with those who have located in the Peace Country to work.

We also have a large agricultural sector. In the area of agriculture, certainly manpower or the resources in terms of the labour force are major concerns for those folks as well because of the constraints that we are seeing across the labour pool in my constituency. These folks are also very concerned about a number of things in terms of trade opportunities. They are constantly coming to my office to talk about some of the government programming, as well as some of the trade opportunities for exporting their commodities. We deal with those folks and it is quite a divergent group of programs that we often work with on those files.

In addition to those, we also work with the lumber and pulp industry. We have a significant pulp and paper industry, as well as a lumber industry in my constituency. There are a number of challenges on that front with regard to our trading partners. We sometimes have challenges exporting wood to different countries, including our largest trading partner, the United States. We also have issues with innovation in that field, so we work with the industry on some of the regulatory issues. My constituency office is also very involved on that file.

We also have an emerging mining industry that is locating in my constituency. We are very proud of the exploration that is happening, and we are looking forward to the great opportunities and the potential that that may lead to. My office is, of course, involved with those folks.

One of the largest population centres in my riding is the city of Grand Prairie. I am very proud to inform the House that this year Grand Prairie has been the leader and has been recognized as the most entrepreneurial city in the country. That is a significant milestone. It really speaks to the innovative nature of the people in the Peace Country, and Albertans in general, in driving the economy forward and always looking for innovative and creative ways to really develop our community and foster opportunities for jobs and economic development.

With entrepreneurs though, as we can well imagine, there are a whole host of situations that we often intervene on, on behalf of our constituents. For those people who are starting up small businesses, there may be issues with the Canada Revenue Agency, or in making patent submissions, or a whole host of other things. My office is involved in those. I referenced all those points because they are part of the responsibilities of members of Parliament. If MPs are doing their jobs effectively, they are addressing those challenges.

However, that is not the argument for bringing a fair system of representation to the House. I am happy to do additional work because I have a larger population, if that is the fact. However, what is important is not that I have an easier life, it is the principle of my constituents having equal say, or as equal as possible, to their counterparts in other parts of the country. That is the primary root of the necessity for the change that is being proposed in the legislation.

For the first time, we are seeing some of the largest efficiencies in terms of representation by population beginning to be addressed in this bill. We are seeing a movement. We have heard a whole host of different suggestions from my counterparts from other parties in terms of different mechanisms or different tweaks that could be undertaken, but I am not sure that any of them really speak to the necessity and the challenge that needs to be taken on; that is, bringing fair representation to those people who are currently under-represented.

My colleague from Winnipeg Centre referenced aboriginal people in another country. I believe it was New Zealand. I am a proud representative of 32 first nations, folks in my constituency. Those people currently are under-represented to the extent that they have less say in the House of Commons than other people do in other parts of the country, so I am speaking for those people who are located in ridings that are currently under-represented in the House.

It is a real challenge anytime we take on a piece of legislation like this. It has been referenced. My colleague who spoke before me, who was a much more eloquent speaker than I am, spoke about the necessity of ensuring that it is right. There have been a number of different attempts to rectify the obvious problems with the larger populations moving to other parts that do not have the representation.

Over the last three and a half years these have been debated in the House, and every single time there have been opportunities for members of all parties to make their contributions, to make their opinions known.

The minister has brought forward a piece of legislation that we can all endorse. First of all, it addresses the major issues with regard to the population and where it has grown over the last number of years. It does not get into the trenches and the unwinnable arguments with regard to going after what are constitutionally protected provisions with regard to seats specifically in P.E.I. and a number of other provisions.

We do not need to bring forward divisive discussions, as some people have suggested, with regard to taking members of Parliament away from certain provinces because their population has not grown as fast as other parts of the country. That has not been a practice in Canada. I am not certain Canadians could endorse that.

I hear my colleagues from the Liberal Party saying that it could be done. P.E.I. has not actually indicated that it is going to give up seats in the House of Commons, and I am not asking it to do that. That is not reasonable.

I clearly think that while the Liberals continue to make their voices heard, let us just recognize that in their 13 years of government they did not tackle this field at all. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons why I am sitting in the House today is because I saw that the former government was unwilling to address the challenges that many Albertans really were sensing, and this was one of the irritants.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I hear the Liberal chorus rising louder and louder when I start to speak about Alberta. There is something they find offensive about the province of Alberta, but that is no surprise. When Albertans hear about the Liberal Party, they are also offended. It is a mutual relationship that probably will be long-standing if the Liberal Party continues to oppose Alberta's right to be represented in the House of Commons based on a more fairer system. I do appreciate that people are passionate.

It is necessary for us to have this legislation passed expeditiously because if we do not we will not see any changes reflected in the next general election. I have heard a number of people calling on the government to shelve this legislation, quit with this legislation, and shut down this effort to bring equality to Canadians from coast to coast. I do not subscribe to that.

I actually believe that now is the time to move forward with this to ensure that Canadians, no matter where they live in this country, know that they have a fairer system when it comes to representation in the House of Commons before the next election. It is a principle that I hear from my constituents.

I travel around my constituency regularly even though it is larger. This is an issue that Canadians in my constituency--

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, Liberal members keep chastizing me for bringing up the issue that Albertans have in the House. I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to allow the voices of Albertans to be heard in this chamber and not only me as a member of Parliament but through this change with regard to seat allocation to ensure that Albertans have fair representation in the House of Commons.

I do appreciate that there are passions. I would ask members of Parliament to work with this government to bring fairness to the electoral system, to bring additional seats to those people who are currently under-represented in the House of Commons, to ensure that aboriginal people are more equally represented, to ensure that new Canadians are more equally represented, and to ensure that minority communities within my constituency, my French speaking communities and communities of Ukrainian descent, are more equally represented in the House of Commons.

This is something that we as a government have been working on for a number of years. A commitment has been brought forward by our government in successive elections.

The time has come for this House to recognize that something has to be done, that the work needs to be brought forward in this bill to ensure that the non-partisan commissions can begin the process of readjusting the seat boundaries as we look to the next election. If we do not pass this legislation now, it will not be passed in enough time for the commissions to undertake their work to redistribute seats in preparation for the next election.

It is an issue of fairness to my constituents that this legislation be passed as quickly as possible. I call on my colleagues in the NDP and my noisy colleagues in the Liberal Party to join me in bringing fairer representation to my constituents.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, we hear over and over again from the other side how important this piece of legislation is. Yet time and time again, when it comes to important legislation, the Conservatives bring in time allocation which prevents us from discussing and looking at the bills to ensure that, as it is something we are going to be living with for a long time, it will be the right thing to do.

The member thinks this is such a great piece of legislation. I have one of the largest ridings in Canada, the third largest. I am very concerned that this bill will not even address the fact that my riding is such a huge riding. If anything, I am concerned that northern Ontario may end up losing a seat. I do not believe that he would be able to guarantee that will not happen.

Given that the Conservatives' legislation in the previous Parliament had 18 seats for Ontario and now it only has 15, what has changed? My understanding is that the population certainly has not decreased that much to warrant a difference of three seats.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague asked a question with regard to why we need to move this forward now. This has been an ongoing process. The member can appreciate that over the last three and a half years, there has been a number of efforts to bring forward this legislation to bring fairness for constituents across this country.

The member talked about her home province of Ontario. For the same reasons that I want to bring fairer representation to the province of Alberta, she should support bringing fairer representation to the province of Ontario. I am looking at this list of the census populations of the nine most-populated ridings in the country. Other than mine, the rest are Ontario ridings. If the member believes in bringing fairer representation for her province, she will work with our government to pass this bill expeditiously so that we can actually see these seat changes by the next election.