Preserving Provincial Representation in the House of Commons Act

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

Sponsor

Dominic LeBlanc  Liberal

Status

Second reading (House), as of April 7, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-14.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2022 / 4 p.m.
See context

Ajax Ontario

Liberal

Mark Holland LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am always happy to stand and answer a Thursday question, even when the member opposite is not excited to ask it.

This evening, we will continue, and hopefully complete, debate at second reading of Bill C-13, concerning official languages.

Tomorrow, we will commence debate on Bill C-18, an act respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada. We will return to this debate next Wednesday.

At noon on Monday, we will resume debate on Bill C-14, which deals with electoral representation in Quebec.

Next Tuesday and Thursday shall be allotted days.

Finally, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), I would like to designate Thursday, May 19, for consideration in committee of the whole of the main estimates for the Department of Public Works and Government Services. Furthermore, the debate for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will take place on the evening of Monday, May 30.

If the member opposite has any ideas on how to make this place work or has any ideas on how we can improve legislation, I am always here to hear it. Unfortunately, to this point in time, nothing has come forward.

Opposition Motion—Change to Standing Order 30 Regarding the PrayerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 10th, 2022 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kody Blois Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, today I have the opportunity to speak to an opposition motion regarding the text of the religious prayer we say before starting our business in the House.

I must admit that I was surprised when I received the text of this motion last night. As other members of the House have said before me, there are many problems in the world, such as the war in Ukraine, the importance of fighting and addressing climate change, and the importance of ensuring that our social programs meet Canadians' needs.

My hon. colleague from Drummond has put forward a motion that I do not think addresses a very important problem today.

I had the opportunity to review the text, and let me start by saying it also gave me the opportunity to look at the history of our daily prayer. If nothing else, the motion has allowed me to look at some of the history of this place, and again, kudos to the House of Commons team that helps provide some of the history. I thanked them for their work on electoral boundaries and, when we were having a conversation on Bill C-14, the extensive history of the House in this place. I will also give a tip of the cap to them in terms of their history and understanding of how the daily prayer has come to pass.

It is important for the House and for the Hansard to reflect the fact that this is a practice that was started in 1877. This is something that parliamentarians decided was important at the time, and pardon me but I think that tradition in this place carries a lot of importance. Yes, we have to look at ways we can modernize and meet the realities of today. We will undoubtedly have a conversation about the nature of virtual Parliament, the ability for parliamentarians not just to do their work here, physically, in this place, but indeed to use some of those tools virtually, to make it more modern and perhaps even more friendly for our colleagues, particularly for under-represented groups in the House.

It is important to note that the prayer has evolved over time. It has not stayed static since 1877. It is something that has constantly evolved when parliamentarians have had the opportunity to make it better reflect the variety of religions that we worship and respect here in this country, and that is extremely important. The member for Nepean touched upon that just before me, about that particular dynamic.

At the end of the day, the House of Commons has to balance those members in the House who might have religious beliefs and those who may not believe in a particular god or follow a particular religion. When I had the time to reflect about how we conduct ourselves in the House, my thoughts were as follows. When we actually look at the text in question, as I mentioned it has been amended over time through the PROC committee to try to reflect the broad range of religious diversity, but it is also relatively short.

The speakership therefore has about 30 seconds to say the prayer in the House. That is very little time. After that, we have a moment of silence and reflection.

I feel that doing it that way in this place, we can recognize people with certain religious values, while also showing respect for those who would rather think in a non-religious way.

The text of the motion talks about diversity and inclusion. The way the House of Commons works right now is that we have a short prayer for those who might have religious beliefs, and then we have a moment of reflection for all members, such that they are able to reflect and perhaps give strength to whatever might drive them in their daily pursuits. By getting rid of it, I do not think we are giving that same respect for those who might actually hold religious beliefs.

Let me add this. I do not want to seem discomforting or saying that this is the only fashion in which we can work, but if someone is really disrupted by the fact that we have a 30-second daily prayer, perhaps they could step outside of the House and not be part of it for the short 30 seconds it takes, then reconvene and stand here for the minute in which we all reflect in silence, such that they do not have to be part of the prayer. I think that right now there is a healthy balance between the two.

Let me also say that I started my speech speaking in French intentionally, because I dare say there are very few Quebeckers, indeed very few Canadians, whose top priority is the prayer right now. With respect to my colleague from Drummond, who brought this forward, which it is well within his right to do, this is an entire day that we are going to spend on this subject, when there are very pressing, important problems of the day and opportunities that we as parliamentarians should be working collectively to encourage the government to pursue. We are going to be spending time, as I am doing right now, trying to find 10 minutes to rationalize some type of argument on something that I think is quite frivolous.

Let me also say that this is not the place for this debate.

My hon. colleague has the opportunity to present this idea and change to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is responsible for the parliamentary work essentially involving review the actions of the House.

Why is my hon. colleague not presenting his motion to the committee?

Why is it that we are having this debate here, when that could already happen at PROC if it was the will of a majority on the committee to move forward with a particular study? I know there is already a lot of good work that goes on to talk about the issues of the day and how we can improve aspects of this place.

I am going to wrap up with this. We have the war in Ukraine; we have climate change; we have affordability for Canadians, and we have a whole host of issues on the heels of a pandemic. Indeed, we are not completely through the pandemic. I am a little disappointed, I will use that word, that the member for Drummond chose this forum to move this forward. I recognize that it is his parliamentary privilege and that the Bloc Québécois has chosen this forum to bring this forward, but I think that most Canadians, indeed most Quebeckers, if they are watching this, are scratching their heads and asking why this is a good use of parliamentary time. I think most would come to the conclusion that it is not a great use of parliamentary time; it is not the best method; it is not the place where this should be introduced and, unfortunately, we have lost time to discuss and debate other issues that are prevalent to Canadians and more pressing. I will leave it at that.

May 5th, 2022 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Okay.

Would you be able to provide to the committee—through you, Madam Chair—what you think the costing will be for this?

I know it will come in future supplementary estimates, but is that something you could provide to the committee ahead of time? I think that should be something for the committee to consider.

I support Bill C-14. I'll vote for it. I said so publicly on the floor of the House too, just so we're clear. It's nothing new, but I'd like to know the costing.

May 5th, 2022 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

There's legislation before the House right now, Bill C-14, on a change to the distribution of seats.

I would like to know whether you've taken into account in these estimates the possibility that the House might pass this legislation on to the Senate and that the Senate would pass it, and then the electoral boundaries commission in Quebec would have to redo its work.

In the anticipation of this possibility, are additional resources being set aside for this task?

Extension of Sitting Hours and Conduct of Extended ProceedingsGovernment Orders

May 2nd, 2022 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, if I am saying something that is unparliamentary or inappropriate, I would expect the Speaker to call me out on that and tell me to discontinue. I did not hear that in what you said. I understood that you are personally concerned about some of the things I was saying, but I do not think I did that.

Nonetheless, I think I am only feeding back what I get. This is the Conservative Party, whose members have called the Prime Minister a trust fund baby in the House. It causes me to be critical, and if they cannot take it, I am sorry, but this is the reality of the situation. They had better learn how to do that.

I will get back to the motion. This motion is about making sure that we have the proper tools in place for legislation to get through. We are talking about the budget. We are also talking about Bill C-11, the modernizing of the Broadcasting Act; Bill C-13, an update to the Official Languages Act; Bill C-14, on electoral representatives; and Bill C-18, enhancing fairness in the Canadian online news marketplace. These are the pieces of legislation this government has deemed to be the priority moving forward. What we are seeing from the other side are Conservatives not wanting to let the legislation go through.

I am sorry if my saying that is offensive to anybody, but the reality is that on Bill C-8 alone, there have been 12 days of debate since report stage was introduced. Two Green Party members have spoken to it. Two NDP members have spoken to it. Three Liberals have spoken to it, and five Bloc members have spoken to it. Does anyone know how many Conservatives have spoken to it?

It is more than four or five. Do members think it is ten? No, it is more. Do members think it is twenty, thirty, or forty? No, it is more. Fifty-one Conservatives have spoken to Bill C-8 since the report stage of that bill was introduced. They cannot tell me that this is not a political game for the Conservatives to be obstructionist. That is exactly what they are doing, and they do it day in and day out.

The NDP has finally seen beyond it. New Democrats do not want anything to do with it, and they want to actually work on behalf of Canadians. Then they get criticized for not following along with the games the Conservatives are playing. That is literally what happens.

When the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman was talking about closure being put on this motion, he said something very interesting, and I would like to read it from the blues. He said, “We [already] just voted on the closure motion to ensure that there is a vote on Motion No. 11. Motion No. 11 is going to be coming into force whether we like it or not. The government, with [their] unholy alliance with the NDP, will get its Motion No. 11 through and we do not feel like it is necessary to sit there and debate this...long, drawn-out process.” Then why are they going to put us through this? They will make every single second of debate go on. They will not let this collapse.

The member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman just said himself that he knows this is going to pass and that debating it is absolutely pointless, yet he wants it to go on. Why is that? It is because he wants to push this on as long as possible, along with the rest of the Conservatives and the Bloc, so that we cannot get legislation debated and ultimately passed. That is not our job here. Our job here is to work on behalf of Canadians. The Conservatives' job is to criticize the legislation, to try to improve the legislation, not to put up roadblock after roadblock at every single opportunity they have, which is what they are doing.

I find it interesting that the Conservatives have on a number of occasions talked about how this government does not want to work. This is not a new motion. The timing of it is slightly earlier than normal, but we always have a motion like this to extend sitting hours. I would like to read some quotes.

The member for Mégantic—L'Érable said, on May 28, 2019, to a similar motion, “We are not opposed to working late every evening. We want to work and make progress on files.” In a similar debate two years earlier, on May 30, he said, “We want to work late, and we are prepared to do that and to collaborate with the government”.

The member for Lethbridge on May 1, 2017, said, “The Liberals would like to stop sitting in the House of Commons on Fridays. They would like to move us to a four-day workweek.... The Liberals want Fridays off. They [want to have] a four-day workweek [and that] is more than enough.”

The then leader of the opposition on May 29, 2017, said, “We know they want Fridays off and we know [that this] is a big deal to them. They do not want to be working Fridays. They do not realize that Canadians work five days a week, and many times [they work] more than five days a week.”

We are asking to work more than five days a week, which is exactly what the then leader of the opposition said in May 2017. That is the interesting part about all of this. One cannot help but wonder why, if they want to speak to all of this legislation at great length, and if they want to put up 51-plus speakers on every piece of legislation, they would not be interested in sitting into the evenings to do that. We certainly are. They accused us of not wanting to do it.

Constitution Act, 1867Government Orders

April 7th, 2022 / 4 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

That will finish our discussion of Bill C-14. We will come back when we have the opportunity. We will take a few moments for the minister to arrive in the chamber.

It being 4:06 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Ways and Means Proceedings No. 3, concerning the budget presentation.

Constitution Act, 1867Government Orders

April 7th, 2022 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Edmonton Manning for sharing his time with me, and I also want to say hi to him from Yosef, who just cut my hair. I know they are good buddies, and I think they sing together, or something like that, so I just want to say hi to him from Yosef.

I will say off the top that I will be voting in favour of Bill C-14. I want to make that clear to the member for Winnipeg North, so that he does not have to stand and ask me that question. This particular bill would clarify that we would be, from now on, using the current number of seats in every province as the floor for this country going forward. That said, I would like to talk a bit about representation, and particularly regional representation. These are issues that have motivated my interest in politics, and they motivate a great many Albertans' interest in politics, and none more so than a fellow from my riding named Edward Goodlife.

I always wish I had Edward Goodlife's last name. I think he has lived a good life. He is a good friend of mine. He moved to Canada from England. He chose Canada. He moved to a little place called Granum, Alberta, and started a nail factory there. He was driving across western Canada through the Prairies and he noticed that all the houses in our part of the country were built out of wood. He said to himself, “All these houses need nails to put them together,” so he decided to start a nail factory in Granum, Alberta.

One of the reasons we know each other is through politics. His motivation for getting involved in politics was a whole litany of issues he had when getting his nail factory started and profitable in Canada, such as issues of regulation and taxation and issues of regional disparity. The story he told me was that it would cost him something like $23 to ship a pallet of nails on the railway to Ontario, yet his competitors in Ontario could ship that same container of nails to Alberta for $8. This is something that I think is called a mill rate on the railway, and I am not 100% sure of all the details of how that worked, but one of the things that really grated against him was the fact that the system seemed to be set up against him.

In order for him to compete with folks who were manufacturing nails in Ontario, he had to pay three times more in shipping costs than people in Ontario shipping their goods in this direction, particularly nails. He could compete with them here, but he had to work fairly hard. When he tried to break into new markets, particularly in eastern Canada, he was up against that.

It is these kinds of stories and sentiments that bring the frustration we have whenever we get talking about representation in this country. The Bloc members have brought into this debate, and I am not sure where they got it, the idea of proportionality and that somehow Quebec should own 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. I am happy to see that the government did not put into this legislation the maintenance of one particular seat. I am supportive of that, but this idea of proportionality is very interesting and comes up very often in my conversations around northern Alberta.

This idea of proportionality comes up often, and people show me graphics all the time. I see them on Facebook and places like that. People have made graphics showing the proportion of the seats based on regions of the country, and they come to my office and are very upset about this. I will say to them that there is nothing in our system that says anything about proportionality of seats.

Our system is based on having the House of Commons and the Senate. The House of Commons is based on the number of electors, and the Senate is supposed to be a representation of the landowners, provincial interests or those kinds of things. We could perhaps say that, in the case of the Senate, there should be some redistribution of the Senate seats or an addition of new Senate seats so that provincial representation was perhaps weighted equally or on percentage of land mass, percentage of taxation income, resource revenue or something. We can have that discussion, but that is not what this bill is about. Those are some of the things that come up often. Proportionality is not something that comes into the seating in the House of Commons.

The other thing that is fascinating, and that many Canadians, particularly from either Quebec or Ontario, do not think about, is how close they live to Parliament and Ottawa. I have the privilege of touring school groups through the House of Commons. They come up from southern Ontario to have a tour of the House of Commons, and I am happy to oblige by doing that. I note and tell them all the time that they are fortunate that they live a four- or five-hour drive from Ottawa. Growing up and in my high school years, in grade three and grade six we went to the legislature buildings in Edmonton, but I never had the opportunity to do a field trip to Ottawa with my class. That is something that, being from Alberta, we just did not have the opportunity to do.

We see that borne out in lobbying efforts and the way that these systems are set up. Ottawa is a distant place for Albertans. Ottawa is not something that we think about. It is not in our lives every day, and because it is far away we do not necessarily have access to that place as somebody who lives a lot closer has. Sometimes we, who are from northern Alberta, realize that the decisions made in Ottawa are often influenced by the people who live near to it. That makes sense because they are closer. They have access. They can drive there in an afternoon and make their case, whereas people in northern Alberta do not. It is a 3,600-kilometre tour from my house to Ottawa. It takes three and a half days to drive there, and it is an expensive endeavour.

All of these things lead to the sense of a lack of representation in Ottawa. It is not even necessarily that we have more people voting for fewer people, which is the case, but also the distance of it. That is just a reality. Other than perhaps moving the Parliament buildings to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver or Peace River, that is going to be the reality.

The member for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon was making some great points around this as well, and the fact that the representation in our part of the country feels quite a bit different than it does for people who live close to Ottawa. We want to make sure that representation happens. Having a hard and fast rule on representation by population is just a matter of fact, in the same way that Quebec and Ontario being close to Ottawa is a matter of fact. I am happy to support this particular bill, but I would just point out that there are other things that are matters of fact that we cannot change and that we should not necessarily worry about. The same thing goes for representation by population. That is the way the system is set up, and we should work hard to maintain that principle here in this place.

With that, I am looking forward to the budget this afternoon and to having Alberta's interests represented, in particular northern Alberta's. One of the major reasons that I got involved in politics was to represent Alberta in Ottawa, and I am pleased to do so today here in this Parliament.

Constitution Act, 1867Government Orders

April 7th, 2022 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I too want to reassure my colleague.

Bill C-14 was not introduced by the Bloc. That is not what we were asking for. We were asking to maintain Quebec's political weight. It is not about the number of seats, but a proportion of the total number of seats.

He will be pleased to hear that I agree with him on several points. The Constitution is outdated. The Senate is outdated. I have a solution for that: Quebec independence. Unfortunately, that will not happen here.

My colleague raised some very good points, particularly regarding the proportionality of votes, which is important, but has he forgotten the notion of nationhood?

Is he telling me that the country we are talking about is not that of Quebeckers? If so, the concept of a founding nation would no longer be taken into account.

Constitution Act, 1867Government Orders

April 7th, 2022 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak about Bill C-14, the preserving provincial representation in the House of Commons act.

The seat allocation and electoral boundaries readjustment process is an important part of our democracy. Its purpose is to ensure that the House of Commons reflects the changing nature of Canada's demographic profile and that all Canadian voices are heard.

I will admit that this bill is a small change. It is a small compromise to an elaborate electoral formula that has a long history of compromise, competing regional interests and vigorous political debate.

We can debate about tinkering with the formula to appease political interests, but at the end of the day, most members of the House would likely agree that baked into the redistribution is systemic unfairness. This exists because the redistribution formulas were created for a country that no longer exists. The current formula was made for a country that did not see people living in the west at the numbers they do today.

At Canada's founding, the fathers of Confederation had a vision for Canada, how it would be a place for freedom-seeking people around the world and how it would be a place of economic development and prosperity, but I do not think the fathers of Confederation could have foreseen the tremendous growth and prosperity of western Canada. As a British Columbian, I am proud of the contributions my province and the people I represent have made to our country.

While Canada has changed and grown, we continue to be bound by rules for electoral redistribution that are and always will be systemically unfair for Canadians living in certain regions of the country, namely Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.

Let me share an example to highlight this, but first, to preface this, it is important to note that, in 1991, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that representation by population is fundamental to electoral redistribution. My riding of Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon currently has 101,216 people. The average riding size of the four ridings—

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (electoral representation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

April 7th, 2022 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Ajax Ontario

Liberal

Mark Holland LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let me say to my colleague opposite that I hope he and his family are able to enjoy this time and enjoy Easter. I know we will be celebrating. I will say Ramadan Mubarak to those who are recognizing Ramadan and wish everybody a joyous Passover.

This afternoon, we are going to be continuing with the second reading of Bill C-14, the Quebec electoral representation bill. As members know, at 4 p.m. the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance will be presenting the budget.

When we return after the constituency weeks, we will continue debating the budget for a number of days, which will be Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then after that, it will be the budget implementation act.

Constitution Act, 1867Government Orders

April 7th, 2022 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon.

I rise to speak on Bill C-14, an act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867. More specifically, what this bill would do is amend what is known as the grandfather clause. By way of background, the grandfather clause has been part of our Constitution since 1986, with the passage of the Representation Act, 1985. Very simply, what the grandfather clause does is establish a floor in terms of the allocation of seats by province in terms of the redistribution process that takes place every 10 years. The floor that the grandfather clause sets is that no province shall be allocated fewer seats in future redistributions than that province had in 1985.

Bill C-14 is a fairly straightforward piece of legislation in that it amends the grandfather clause by establishing an updated floor, a floor of 2015 as opposed to 1985. More specifically, it would ensure that no province will receive an allocation of fewer seats than that province had in 2015, in the 43rd Parliament, in any future redistribution. What that means for my province of Alberta is that it increases the floor in terms of the minimal number of seats that Alberta will be allocated in any redistribution by 13, the 13 seats that Alberta gained between 1985 and 2015.

When we look at the issue of allocating seats across Canada, a foundational principle of our democratic process is representation by population. Representation by population is based upon the notion that the weight attached to the vote of each Canadian should be equal, regardless of what region of Canada they live in. It is a principle that was adopted by the fathers of Confederation in 1867, and it is a principle that is enshrined in our Constitution.

While it is a principle that is foundational, achieving pure representation by population is not practical. Indeed, it is not entirely desirable in regard to a number of factors, including the vastness of Canada. With respect to the impracticability of achieving pure representation by population, one need look no further than our Constitution. For example, the senatorial clause of 1915 guarantees that every province shall have at least the same number of seats in the House of Commons as it has senators. That is why, for example, the province of Prince Edward Island is guaranteed four seats in the House of Commons because it has four senators, notwithstanding the fact that the province of Prince Edward Island has fewer than 160,000 people.

Indeed, my riding of St. Albert—Edmonton is almost as large as Prince Edward Island. My friend and colleague down the road in Edmonton—Wetaskiwin represents a riding of more than 200,000 people, 40,000 or 50,000 more people than Prince Edward Island. One might say to simply rescind or repeal the senatorial clause, but of course that requires the unanimous consent of the provinces. Prince Edward Island, I am sure, will be in no hurry to offer its consent.

Achieving pure representation by population is not practicable, but it is also important to take into account what the Supreme Court of Canada provided for in the Saskatchewan boundaries reference case of 1991. That case dealt with the boundary redistribution in the province of Saskatchewan that tended to disproportionately favour rural areas at the expense of more populous urban areas. The court looked at section 3 of the charter, which guarantees the right of every Canadian to vote, and in the context of the redistribution of boundaries in the province of Saskatchewan, the Supreme Court determined that the overriding principle is one of effective representation.

In terms of effective representation, the court recognized such factors as geography, communities of interest and so on. However, that being said, the court did stress the importance of representation by population. To that end, I would cite Madam Justice McLachlin, who said:

What are the conditions of effective representation? The first is relative parity of voting power. A system which dilutes one citizen's vote unduly as compared with another citizen's vote runs the risk of providing inadequate representation to the citizen whose vote is diluted.

In order to have effective representation, what we must have, to the greatest degree possible, is representation by population. That is where we have moved significantly towards, thanks to the leadership of Prime Minister Harper and the previous Conservative government with the passage of the Fair Representation Act.

The Fair Representation Act replaced the 1985 formula that established an electoral quotient, which is the first step in terms of determining the allocation of seats, with a new formula that sets a new electoral quotient. The problem, very simply, with the 1985 formula is that, although it was thought to be fair in 1985, it did not allow for the allocation of seats by province to keep up with population growth among the fastest-growing provinces. As a result, the fastest-growing provinces were denied their right to fair, proportionate representation in the House of Commons. It created, over time, a representation gap.

Take, for example, my province of Alberta. Alberta gained nearly one million people between 1988 and 2004, yet in the span of nearly 20 years with one million new Albertans, Alberta only gained two seats in the House of Commons. So significant was the representation gap at the time that the Fair Representation Act was introduced, some analysis established that the three fastest-growing provinces in Canada, namely Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, were among the most under-represented provinces or states in the industrialized world, according to analysis at the time from the Mowat Centre.

The Fair Representation Act addressed the representation gap significantly by establishing a new formula that better takes into account population growth, all the while respecting the overriding principle of effective representation. What that has meant in the last two redistributions is an increase in representation for the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.

My province of Alberta has gained nine seats in the span of 10 years. Ontario gained 18 seats in the first redistribution. The province of British Columbia gained eight seats. That gap is being closed thanks to the legacy of Prime Minister Harper and the formula provided in the Fair Representation Act.

In closing, I will say that this legislation, I am pleased to see, would not in any major way impact the Harper formula. It would maintain the Harper formula, and in that regard it maintains a significant step forward in achieving something much closer to representation by population, which the Supreme Court has said is essential for having effective representation.

Constitution Act, 1867Government Orders

April 7th, 2022 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kody Blois Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise today to talk about Bill C-14, an act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 regarding electoral representation.

As the member for Calgary Shepardmentioned, this is a bit of an “inside baseball” bill, in the sense that the bill itself and its implications are relatively simple, yet important. I am going to use my time today to talk about the bill, the reasons behind it, and other political implications and choices related to representation.

Every 10 years, the Chief Electoral Officer reviews demographic changes and allocates the number of seats for each province. He determines whether electoral boundaries should be readjusted to reflect population shifts within a province. Section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867 sets out the formula for the distribution of seats in the House of Commons among the provinces after each decennial census. The Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act provides for drawing the boundaries of electoral districts in each province.

Electoral boundaries must be readjusted whenever a province's representation changes, or when there have been significant population fluctuations in a province, such as a shift from rural to urban areas. The redistribution of electoral boundaries is a federal matter controlled by Parliament.

In October 2021, the Chief Electoral Officer, based on population trends over the past 10 years, set the distribution of seats. The number of seats in the House of Commons was increased from 338 to 342, with British Columbia and Ontario gaining one seat each, Alberta gaining three and Quebec losing one.

This legislation being introduced today amends that decision, as is the ability of Parliament, by creating a constitutional floor: The number of seats any province or territory had in the 43rd election will be the new constitutional floor. The practice of maintaining a certain number of seats in the House of Commons for provinces whose populations were declining in comparison to the national average has been done before.

First, in 1914, the senatorial clause was introduced to ensure that no province would ever have fewer members of Parliament than its number of senators. The second constitutional protection is what is known as the grandfather clause, which came into effect under the Representation Act of 1985. It amended the formula for determining seats and guaranteed that, regardless of what the population of a province or territory might be in the future, it would be constitutionally protected by having no fewer than the seats it had in the House of Commons in 1986.

I should add that a series of adjustments were made between 1914 and 1986 to protect and attempt to ensure equal treatment of the provinces and territories. Initially, the total number of seats was calculated by dividing the population of each province by a fixed number called the electoral quotient, which was itself calculated by dividing the population of the province of Quebec by 65.

The one exclusion to this was called “the one-twentieth rule”, under which no province could lose seats in electoral redistribution unless its share of the national population had decreased by at least 5%, or one twentieth, between the last two censuses. This was appealed in 1946 on the basis of Quebec's desire for representation by population. I may just add that I find it a bit ironic today that we are here debating and driving legislation that would have been a completely different narrative from what those Quebec MPs would have taken in 1940.

All members of Parliament go and research before we come before the House to talk about the principles of the legislation before us. I want to give a tip of the cap to the folks in the House of Commons who have a very detailed history of electoral redistribution and the dynamic of how the number of seats in the House of Commons has changed over time. I give a tip of the cap to the researchers and the folks involved with the House of Commons.

This bill simply does what has already been done many times, which is amend the formula in the Constitution to grandfather the number of seats that existed during the 2021 election. We have already had debates during this session about the possibility of Quebec losing a seat. There seemed to be a consensus about the importance of Quebec's representation and the preservation of its language, culture and identity within Canada.

I am not opposed to the legislation before us, but I want to take this opportunity to put it on the record that I have concerns about the number of MPs that will be added to the House of Commons and to speak to Bill C‑246.

I asked this of the last Conservative member when I stood to ask a question on his remarks. At what point do we consider limiting the number of seats in the House of Commons? I did some research coming into this and found that, historically over time, there was contemplation that by 2001 we would have 400 members of Parliament. Today, we have 338. It is an open question that will inevitably have to be explored beyond the physical dynamics of the House of Commons and how many members of Parliament we can have in this space. It will also be about parliamentary privilege, and allowing individuals to have the space to bring forward issues to debate. Sometimes it is crowded to get on the agenda and to bring remarks forward in this place, because members of Parliament are doing that job.

It is interesting. Right now, in the House of Commons in the U.K., there are 650 members of Parliament. Is that something we want to see in Canada? Is that something that Canadians expect? I do not have the answer, but I pose it as a question here today. It also has a dynamic for how Parliament works. Relatively, when a government forms, whether it be a minority or a majority situation, there might be 150-odd members of Parliament in the government caucus or maybe just over 170, in today's dynamic. If there all of a sudden were 300 government caucus MPs, what would that mean for the dynamic in terms of independence for members of Parliament, their ability to speak and their ability to support the government, but also their ability to bring forward important issues? When we look at how the House of Commons operates in London, there are similarities to here but there are also differences. I raise that for consideration.

I also want to talk about rural members of Parliament. I have a riding that I am very proud to represent. It is 5,000 square kilometres. It is by no means small, but I consider myself lucky compared with other members of Parliament. My good friend in Central Nova has about 10,000 square kilometres to cover. My hon. colleague for Bonavista—Burin—Trinity has a 16,000-square-kilometre riding. That is a lot of territory to cover. We have to be mindful, with respect to all of the electoral redistribution, of the point at which a member of Parliament just becomes too far stretched to adequately represent the communities they are expected to represent in this place, in terms of their presence in the riding, their ability to connect and their ability to physically drive or travel.

Indeed, I have given a couple of examples. I know there are even more challenging circumstances for other members of Parliament, particularly in northern Canada as well.

I want to talk about Nova Scotia's proportionate share. Indeed, I have a colleague beside me from Newfoundland and Labrador. I have the member for Malpeque, Prince Edward Island, as well. As we continue to add seats in this place, yes, some provinces are protected constitutionally in the number of members of Parliament that they will have in the House. In Nova Scotia's example, we will never have any less than 11 members of Parliament, but 11 members of Parliament out of 338 is a certain dynamic and 11 members among 500 members of Parliament is a much smaller proportionate share of the voice that we can bring forward as a province in this dynamic.

We had an opposition day motion from the Bloc Québécois, and I will take the opportunity to speak to Bill C-246 in a moment. The Bloc and the House were strong on maintaining the seats, but they want to make sure that 25% of the House of Commons seats would always be preserved for Quebec. My question is, and I have said it to the Bloc, why do we not look at capping eventually, maybe to 360, 380, or 400? Let us actually look at eventually capping the number of members of Parliament in the House of Commons. Every province and territory in this country has their constitutional protections in force. This would allow there to be a stable footing for some of the things we have talked about.

Yes, the Bloc members want 25%, but as I pointed out to them, if they would have pushed to say let us cap it at 350 members of Parliament, they would have their constitutional floor from today's legislation, assuming it passes, which I am confident it will. They would have been protected at 22%, and that could have been a way to ensure that we do preserve Quebec language, culture and the unique identity within Canada.

I want to speak to Bill C-246. The member of Parliament for Drummond has brought this forward. In essence it not only protects Quebec's 78 seats, but also mandates a requirement that Quebec never have any less than 25% of a proportion of the seats in the House of Commons, regardless of what happens and regardless of the population of the province.

To my sovereignist colleagues across the way, their job is not to protect the identity of Canada. Indeed, they want to separate from Canada, so I would never expect them to do something that is actually beneficial for bringing Canadians together. In fact, sometimes I would argue they would like to wedge and drive divisions in Canada, but we have to understand what this actually represents.

This would not just be a change that could be done within Parliament. This would require a constitutional amendment that would mean a 7/50 formula. For those Canadians who are at home and wondering what the heck the 7/50 is, it essentially means that on constitutional changes such as this, we would have to get the approval of seven of 10 provinces that represent at least 50% of the Canadian population. That is a very high threshold to be able to achieve. That is what we expect to be the legal standard on Bill C-246 if it were to move forward. It is an open question about whether it will, but again in principle, this is problematic.

That type of bill would open up a lot of division in this country, and I think we are all standing here today recognizing Quebec's unique identity within Canada. I do not want to say we are all committed, but I know on this side of the House we are committed to keeping 78 seats in Quebec. In fact, we are protecting everyone right now with a new constitutional floor on the basis of population in 2021, including in Nova Scotia.

Again, this is a continuation of where we already were, but the idea of saying absolutely, regardless of population, despite population decline, they will get 25%, is not ever going to work in this country. It will never pass. It is being introduced in a way to create divide and to try to, I would argue, re-establish the argument about separation in Quebec, which frankly, the Bloc Québécois will know right now is not really high on the agenda, but they are trying to drive that type of narrative.

I think this Parliament understands the importance of Quebec and its political representation in this place. As I have said before, looking at the number of cabinet ministers and their influence, whether they be the Prime Minister or key ministers in the government, Quebec plays an important role in the government of Canada, in this place and, indeed, within the country.

I want to make sure that all members of Parliament get the opportunity to speak on this. It was an absolute privilege to be able to do some of the research and look into the legislation.

I will just take an opportunity to thank the minister of intergovernmental affairs for bringing this forward. He, of course, also holds the portfolio of the minister for communities and infrastructure. What a tremendous job to balance two very difficult portfolios, so I thank him on the record for his leadership within the government and for his continued advocacy for the people of Beauséjour. I do believe that he is going on 20-plus years in Parliament, which is, I think, a tremendous commitment to public service.

Of course, my predecessor Scott Brison also served for 21 years in this place. It shows that these individuals are committed to making a difference for their constituents, Canada and the world.

I look forward to taking questions from my colleagues, who I watched today as they listened with utmost curiosity, having detailed questions for me to answer in just a moment.

Constitution Act, 1867Government Orders

April 7th, 2022 / 1 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, that is an excellent question, to which I would reply that responsibility for the progress of parliamentary work in the House lies with the government and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

I hope the government will do everything it can to ensure that this bill is passed very quickly, so that we can then work with the Commission de la représentation électorale du Québec.

The parliamentary secretary should put that question to his colleague right in front of him. This would give us an idea of the importance he wants to attach to the passage of Bill C-14.

Constitution Act, 1867Government Orders

April 7th, 2022 / 1 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the member has been very positive in his words with regard to Bill C-14, and we look forward to seeing its passage. I am somewhat curious about recognizing the importance of timing, because there is a timing element to this. As I said, I believe Manitoba and maybe a couple of provinces are already starting to draw their boundaries, with the idea of providing a report and allowing for public consultation all the way up to October.

The quicker the legislation passes, no doubt the easier it will be for Quebec's electoral commission. I wonder if the member could provide his thoughts on when he would ultimately like to see the bill pass.