Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Chair.
Let me just say that as a first-time member of Parliament, it's been my honour to serve as an official member on—I was just counting—four committees to date, including my current one, but this is the first time that I am appearing as a witness. It's really a thrill. Thank you so much.
Of course, it's about my private member's bill, Bill C-377, An Act to change the name of the electoral district of Châteauguay—Lacolle to...well, you'll soon find out. We've got to keep a little suspense here.
Today marks an important milestone in my first initiative after my election, to change the name of our riding from Châteauguay—Lacolle to Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville. I have undertaken this initiative at my constituents' request.
The reason behind the initiative is that the name Châteauguay—Lacolle is inaccurate. If you consult the map of our constituency that you have before you, you will see Châteauguay. On the border to the south, you will also see that the municipality of Lacolle is located outside the constituency of Châteauguay—Lacolle.
I have a theory to explain why the commission chose the name at one time. The fact remains that, for people who live in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, which is a completely different municipality, there is a major difference between Lacolle and Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle. The municipality located in our territory is Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle. That municipality has its own history, its own institutions and its own raison d'être.
Even before I took office, the residents of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle had talked to me about this concern, and I pledged to do whatever I had to do to remedy the situation. It is not easy when one is new in politics, given that one doesn't know the system through and through. Nevertheless, I did my research. With that in mind, I am honoured to present my private member's bill for study in committee.
As if it were not enough that the name “Lacolle“ is being erroneously used to designate Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, we have also noticed several times that, even today, for the constituents of both ridings, the name Châteauguay—Lacolle leads to confusion. It also creates misunderstandings for certain stakeholders. The names “Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle” and “Lacolle” are often used interchangeably by various stakeholders, including the national media. This is mainly because the Lacolle border crossing, Quebec's busiest crossing into the United States, is located in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, not in Lacolle.
Many citizens of Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle have told me that they do not like the name Châteauguay—Lacolle. It hurts their municipal pride and their sense of belonging. We can all understand that.
After much thought and many conversations with citizens and stakeholders in the region, the name Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville emerged as a logical and meaningful choice for a number of reasons.
First, Les Jardins-de-Napierville is the name of a regional county municipality that includes nine of our 15 municipalities. Yes, there are 15 municipalities in my constituency and nine of them are in the RCM of Les Jardins-de-Napierville.
Second, all citizens could identify with the name Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville because the residents of Châteauguay and the five surrounding municipalities in the northwest of the riding can identify with the Greater Châteauguay area. The municipalities of Mercier, Léry and Saint-Isidore are in that Greater Châteauguay area.
Third, the RCM of Les Jardins-de-Napierville is the most important region in Quebec for vegetable production. Vegetables—such as lettuce, carrots, and onions of all kinds—grow very well there. That makes it relatively well-known.
Lastly, the name “Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville” is a good representation of the semi-urban, semi-rural nature of our riding.
I must remind you that I am sponsoring this bill for my constituents. A petition calling on the House of Commons to make Châteauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville the new name of our riding is also circulating in the region. People are happy that I am already working on the project.
The petition already has several hundred signatures, including those of the mayors of Napierville, Saint-Cyprien-de-Napierville, and the neighbouring towns.
As elected officials, those mayors are happy to support my initiative on behalf of their citizens, as are my colleagues from the neighbouring ridings: Jean Rioux, MP for Saint-Jean, who is also happy that Lacolle is in his constituency, Anne Minh-Thu Quach, MP for Salaberry—Suroît, and my colleague Jean-Claude Poissant, MP for La Prairie.
As indicated in my bill, Châteaguay—Lacolle was created in 2013, following the redistribution that came into effect with the dissolution of the 41st Parliament in 2015. The current riding was formed from the former ridings of Châteauguay—Saint-Constant and Beauharnois—Salaberry.
Those who were here during the last Parliament may well know and understand the system much better than I do. That said, it seems that the Quebec electoral boundaries commission made an error in naming the new federal riding in the province of Quebec. The fact that Lacolle was already in the constituency of Saint-Jean at the time of the last redistribution probably went unnoticed.
I'm now going to get to the more technical part. The committee has heard my reasons for changing the name of my riding. Let me outline a bit how name changes for federal ridings come about in the first place, and the criteria that any name change must meet.
First of all, given the practice of reviewing electoral district boundaries every 10 years following a new national census, Elections Canada provides the 10 provincial electoral boundaries commissions with guidelines on riding name conventions and best practices.
While Elections Canada will enact any name changes legislated by Parliament, there are practical and technical issues, such as the limited capacity of databases, that must be considered. Thus, riding names must be limited to 50 characters. That may come as a surprise to my colleagues, because we certainly have some with quite interesting and long names. As long as it's 50 characters or less—including hyphens, dashes, and spaces—it meets the criterion. That's so they can fit it onto databases and maps and so on.
“Chateauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville”, I'm happy to report, has 38 characters, including hyphens, dashes, and spaces.
As well, the names selected for ridings should reflect the character of Canada and be clear and unambiguous, and I believe that these criteria are met in the bill, as the names refer to a municipality and an MRC region.
A distinction must also be made, in the spelling of names, between hyphens and dashes. Hyphens are used to link parts of geographical names, whereas dashes are used to unite two or more distinct geographical names. This convention has been respected: a dash is used to separate “Châteauguay” and “Les Jardins-de-Napierville”, with the hyphens in “Les Jardins-de-Napierville”.
On the map, we see that Châteauguay and Les Jardins-de-Napierville are two geographical names that correspond almost entirely to the territory and also conform to the reading of the map from left to right. That's for simplicity and clarity and to respect the geographical locations.
Moreover, the name of an electoral district must be unique, meaning the components of the name are to be used only once, which is indeed the case for the elements of the two names in question.
The guidelines also contain negative characteristics to be avoided, and this is also the case with the name that we have chosen. For example, the name of a riding should be clear in both English and French and, as much as possible, be acceptable without translation into the other official language, so that you don't have multiple versions of multiple translations of the name.
The other characteristic to be avoided is the use of cardinal points, such as east or west. You may think, “It seems to me that we do have some names using those cardinal points”, but again let me remind you that Parliament is the ultimate authority in passing these name changes. The guidelines say it is to be avoided because of clumsy translation.
Lastly, the use of actual names of provinces, personal names, and names that are imprecise or contrived from non-geographical sources is also to be avoided.
I think I've raised all the relevant arguments for requiring the name change as proposed by my private member's bill, Bill C-377, as well as demonstrated how the new name respects the guidelines as laid out by Elections Canada.
I'm honoured to have the trust of my constituents in ensuring that a wrong will be righted. I'm confident that the bill will find the support of all my colleagues for our new name, Chateauguay—Les Jardins-de-Napierville.
I'm now delighted to take your questions. Thank you.