Constitution Act, 2022 (representation of Quebec)

An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (representation in the House of Commons)

Sponsor

Martin Champoux  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (House), as of March 24, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-246.

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.

Preserving Provincial Representation in the House of Commons ActGovernment Orders

May 18th, 2022 / 5:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak to this very important issue, which, in a way, was brought forward by the Bloc Québécois. People can say what they will, but the fact is that we devoted an opposition day to this very subject on March 2.

It was the Bloc Québécois that got a motion adopted, with an overwhelming majority, calling on the House to reject any federal electoral map redistribution scenario that would result in the loss of one or more electoral districts in Quebec or a reduction in Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons. The motion called on the government to take action to change the seat distribution formula for the House of Commons.

At the time, some people were surprised that the Bloc Québécois was using its opposition day to discuss the issue. We were told that we were wasting our time, that we could not change anything because it was up to the Chief Electoral Officer to make such decisions and that it was a mathematical formula, so why bother.

I rose to revisit the redistribution planned a decade ago that eliminated the riding that I represent today. Some may say that it is superficial, but that is one of the speeches that has garnered the most attention on my Facebook page. I think that shows that people in Quebec really care about this subject, especially people back home in the Gaspé and the Lower St. Lawrence.

When the Chief Electoral Officer made the announcement, I did not hear a lot of parties in the House of Commons cry foul or say that that they wanted to protect Quebec's political weight at all costs. I only heard members from the Bloc Québécois. In Quebec, we heard the Government of Quebec, who agreed with us.

Finally, I think that the Bloc MPs, with their speeches, ended up raising awareness because, a few weeks later, the government showed up with Bill C‑14. It seems like good news that the government is finally interested in this and is offering a solution. However, when we take another look, we see that something is missing.

The government wants to protect what we have gained and Quebec's 78 seats in the House. That is very good. That is good news. The kicker is that the math is off yet again. The focus is on the number of seats instead of on the political weight, and there is a fundamental difference between the two.

What we understand from this bill is that Quebec will never have fewer than 78 seats. That becomes a minimum of sorts. However, we also understand that the legislation will do nothing to prevent seats from being added in other provinces based on the results of demographic calculations. It is great that we are not losing any seats, but one seat could be added in Ontario, one in British Columbia and three in Alberta, which would mean that Quebec's political weight would drop anyway.

The House has already recognized that Quebec is a nation unto itself. In order for Quebec to take its rightful place and in order for its voice to be heard and taken into account, it needs to maintain its political weight. That is essential, particularly at a time when we have to once again fight to defend and protect our French language. In Quebec, we are accustomed to fighting for our values. Unfortunately, it has practically become a way of life for us.

Members should understand that the representation of a nation and a people goes beyond a simple demographic calculation. Its plans, desires and unique characteristics must be taken into account, as must its language, environmental concerns and intrinsic values. Of course, we would prefer it if Quebec were free to make its own choices, but in the meantime, we cannot allow it to gradually lose its say in the decisions that affect it.

I believe that meaningful political representation is a key part of a healthy democracy. However, in this bill to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, there are some oversights and vagaries that a calculator just cannot take into account.

Earlier I mentioned that Quebec is starting to get accustomed to always having to fight to defend our language and our political weight. During the last electoral redistribution in 2012, my riding of Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapedia was directly targeted. At the time, the Chief Electoral Officer determined that this nearly 15,000-square-kilometre riding should be eliminated because of declining populations in the region. He proposed splitting the riding in two and merging part of the riding with Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques and the other part with Gaspésie—Les Îles‑de‑la‑Madeleine. That move would have created two of the largest ridings by area in all of Quebec.

The proposal was to eliminate my riding without regard for its particularities, for the people who live there, for its uniqueness or for the hours that the member of Parliament would have to travel to meet with their constituents.

As I have said before in the House, my four riding offices are hours of driving away from each other. For example, last Saturday I had to drive four hours to see my constituents and participate in two different activities. This huge riding was supposed to be divided and two even larger ridings created. I think that is the sort of thing that should be taken into consideration. This should be about more than a simple accounting exercise.

Finally, 10 years ago, reason prevailed. A way was found to keep this riding intact. However, 10 years later, even with Bill C-14, we are still at the same point, because I do not think we are approaching the issue from the right angle.

Every region has its own identity that makes it unique; it is not something that can simply be tallied up. It can be seen in special regional traits, in local expressions, in one-of-a-kind communities. I would venture to say that Quebec's representation and political weight is not just something the Bloc cares about. In 2012, when Quebec was about to lose a seat, those who ardently defended it were regionalists. It did not matter what party they belonged to. In fact, one Bloc member and three New Democrats from eastern Quebec fought to defend the weight of their region, and therefore of my region. This March, 262 members of the House supported the Bloc Québécois motion. Unlike Bill C‑14, this motion called for Quebec's political weight to be protected, not just its number of seats. I hope that my colleagues will be consistent when it comes time to vote, and I hope that those who voted against it will change their minds. If Nova Scotia's political weight were under threat, I am sure that Nova Scotian MPs here would stand up for their region. That is exactly what we are doing for Quebec.

Call me an idealist, but I believe that the people of Quebec, especially those of Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, deserve better than to be considered a mere ballot-box accounting exercise.

I said that we are not approaching the issue from the right angle and that there are other solutions to consider. The Bloc Québécois offered one up. My very good friend, the member for Drummond, introduced Bill C‑246 to add a new criterion to the seat distribution formula. Basically, it suggests going by a percentage rather than a number of seats. That may seem complicated, but it is easy as pie and, more importantly, realistic. It is called the nation clause. It is similar to the existing Senate clauses and grandfather clauses. Given that Quebec is a nation, this bill would guarantee Quebec 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. In other words, one-quarter of the seats in Parliament would go to one-quarter of the Canadian population, the population of Quebec. This is a simple, sound and clear proposal that establishes a solid base for Quebec's representation in the House.

What I am trying to say is that Quebec's nationhood cannot be quantified. Nationhood can be described, discovered, experienced. Nationhood is language, it is culture, it is the people who live there. It is our desires, our goals, our aspirations.

For Quebeckers, there are some values that are non-negotiable. We believe that gender equality is essential in a society that considers itself to be egalitarian, and that climate change must be tackled now for the generations that will follow us, so all can live in a healthy environment.

We believe that everyone has the right to receive dignified and proper health care; that seniors have the right to the respect they deserve; that first nations must be treated with dignity and respect, be considered as equals and be dealt with on a nation-to-nation basis. We believe that our vibrant and sustainable businesses are the driving force in an economy that addresses our environmental concerns; that all individuals, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, have the right to love and live as they choose; that women have the right to choice, to any choice.

Quebec is all that and more. These are values that are not exclusive to the nation that we are, and I realize that. However, they are the values that we stand up for in the House. They are the values that make us who we are. In order for us to represent them, to defend them well, and to ensure that they are heard in this place, Quebec's political weight deserves to be maintained.

Preserving Provincial Representation in the House of Commons ActGovernment Orders

May 16th, 2022 / 8:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Battle River—Crowfoot on his speech. I am not disappointed at having voted in favour of the motion so that he could be heard.

Let me draw a parallel between Bill C‑14, which we are debating this evening, and Bill C‑246, which I recently introduced in the House of Commons. There is a link, a parallel between the two bills. Bill C‑14 obviously stems from the Bloc Québécois bill that I introduced regarding Quebec's political weight within Canada.

My colleague voted against the March 2 motion moved by the Bloc, which said more or less the same thing as our bill. The goal is to recognize that Quebec is a nation and that, as a nation, it must be given the tools to be able to properly represent itself for as long as it chooses to be part of this Parliament.

Does my colleague agree that Quebec is a nation and that, notwithstanding the inequities, injustices or inequalities there may be between the provinces, Quebec should have the tools to protect its unique identity?

Constitution Act, 1867Government Orders

April 7th, 2022 / 1:10 p.m.
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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 / 11:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Alain Therrien Bloc La Prairie, QC

Madam Speaker, the Liberal member who just laughed thinks it is funny to hear me say that we are a unique nation. Each nation is unique. What has he just figured out? I would like to know.

We tabled Bill C-246, which would finally solve this aspect of the problem. Quebec would be guaranteed 25% of the political weight. That would halt the decline of Quebec's political weight in the House.

Trying to prevent a decrease in the number of members while allowing for an increase in the total number of members is like drowning someone in a bath. We can take the person's head and shove it under water, or we can turn on the tap and get the same result slowly. That is what we are proposing.

What people need to understand is that Quebec and Quebeckers want to be better represented here. I will give an example. In 2011, Mr. Harper was elected by a majority, without Quebec's support. That is how bizarre things have gotten. It is possible to form a majority government in Canada with only five members from Quebec. That is crazy. Say that our political weight decreases. A member from any given party could stand up and say that he or she does not need what Quebeckers are asking for. Things are different where this member lives because Quebec is a nation, but he or she does not care because it is possible to form a majority government without Quebec's support. That is a serious problem.

People need to understand that Quebec is a nation, and that it is only by guaranteeing its political weight that our needs will be listened to, our desires will be heard, and the decisions made by the government will always take Quebec's desires, wants and needs into account. That is what is important.

I will say this in conclusion. We tabled a motion, and the Bloc Québécois's position is very clearly illustrated in the motion. We are not hiding anything. We are saying that we cannot have fewer members, and we do not want less political power.

That is why we are saying that we should be discussing the bill we worked on, Bill C-246, rather than Bill C-14. Our bill is in keeping with the motion adopted by a large majority in the House.

I hope that the members will understand that we need to go further and we need to work better.

Constitution Act, 1867Government Orders

April 7th, 2022 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the outstanding member for Timmins—James Bay.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C‑14 in the House today. I take pride in it because of the negotiations that the NDP, my party, conducted with the Liberal minority government. This is one of our very tangible wins, a victory we achieved by negotiating and getting things for people. In this case, it is a net gain for Quebec and Quebeckers.

That is not all we gained from the agreements. I could go on at length about dental care, prescription drug costs and housing, but Quebec was in danger of losing seats because of a mathematical calculation and dropping from 78 to 77 seats.

There was a consensus in Quebec that, at the very least, we had to hang on to all the seats we have, so that is what the NDP got. By applying pressure and negotiating, we protected Quebec's 78 seats for good. I am very happy about that, and it is one of the good things we achieved thanks to this agreement. The NDP achieved a significant victory for Quebec.

Could we do more? Obviously, we can discuss that at some point, but for now we are not losing any seats, and that is thanks to the NDP. I am not sure if everyone is aware, but I wanted to point that out, because the agreement is quite long. It is three pages long, and that was the last item on the third page, so it meant reading the document to the end, and I am not sure everyone did that. Representation in this Parliament is very important to us and to Quebec in general.

Any discussion about democratic rules is an important debate to have. As parliamentarians, as representatives of the people, we must be fully engaged in these discussions, because this has implications for the vitality of our democratic life, the ground rules, and the justice and fairness ensuing from those rules.

In these troubled times, especially in eastern Europe, it is important to remember how vital democracy is. I would like to commend the courage of all the democrats in Russia who dare to protest the war and who oppose President Putin's autocracy.

When establishing the rules of democracy, it is important to remember that these rules must respect what used to be called, at the time, popular sovereignty, that is, the fact that it is the expression of citizens' choice to send people to represent them, with opinions, political agendas and ideologies, and that all these citizens are considered to be equal. That is the fundamental principle of democracy. Unlike an aristocracy, there is no individual who is above any other, who is appointed by God or who has greater powers than others. All citizens are equal, and that is how we start the discussion on democracy.

Are we all as equal as we think under the first past the post system? I will come back to that. There may be an opportunity to have that discussion.

In a federation, there is more than just the rule of the size and weight of the population. We have set other equally important rules. I will name a few of them because it is important to bear them in mind when having these discussions.

Another rule is the senatorial clause, which states that a province cannot have fewer MPs than senators. It could be called the “P.E.I. clause” for those four MPs.

The territorial clause is also quite easy to understand. It ensures that each of the northern territories has an MP, meaning one for Yukon, one for the Northwest Territories, and now one for Nunavut. Although their demographic weight may not justify it under Elections Canada's rules, it is important and essential to keep it that way.

Lastly, the grandfather clause guaranteed that certain provinces were protected and could not have their number of seats reduced. That is where Bill C‑14 makes a difference.

Quebec will be included in this grandfather clause, as will all the other provinces. For now, this protects Quebec, which was the only province at risk of losing a seat under the current redistribution. This measure will serve Quebec in the very short term, but also in future. We are pleased to see that, following the agreement we negotiated, a bill was quickly introduced to uphold this aspect of the agreement.

We have to ask ourselves if we can go further, and I know there have been discussions. Not so long ago, I had the opportunity to deliver a speech on Bill C‑246, which would maintain Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons at a certain percentage.

This is not a new idea; it was included in the Charlottetown accord that Mulroney's federal government negotiated with the Bourassa government in Quebec. The accord was not adopted, however, so it was not implemented, but the idea has been brought up again.

I think there should be some serious discussions on the possibility of another interpretive clause, a Quebec clause. Since Parliament has recognized Quebec as a nation, this clause could be included in order to protect Quebec's democratic weight in the House of Commons.

Furthermore, the House recognized that Quebec is a nation, and the NDP recognized it as well, in its support for the Charlottetown accord at the time, in its Sherbrooke declaration, in its internal documents and, obviously, in its votes in the House. There is this idea of formally recognizing the concept of two founding peoples, which helped create the vision and perception of a bicultural, bilingual federation. That is one of the reasons we still have the Official Languages Act. It is in keeping with that idea.

I must admit that I always feel a little uneasy talking about two founding peoples because this disregards the fact that the first nations and indigenous peoples were already here. Our French and British ancestors were not the first to set foot on this land. There had already been people, nations, communities and cultures here for millennia.

In our discussions of the quality of democratic life and the representation of peoples and nations in the House, I think that we should also take into account the place of the first nations, Inuit and Métis. Other countries do that. I think either Australia or New Zealand does it, probably New Zealand. Perhaps this should be part of our discussion.

Furthermore, in the interest of strengthening our democracy and upholding the equality of our citizens, we should really be discussing proportional representation. Unfortunately, this subject was dismissed by the Liberal government in 2016 when it buried the majority report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, of which I was a member. We are one of the few countries in the world without a proportional component to our voting system.

If we had proportional representation, the representation of political movements and parties would be based on a very simple rule: if a party gets 25% of the vote, it should get 25% of the seats. The winner-takes-all nature of the current system creates unacceptable distortions, because a party that wins just 40% of the vote can get 60% or 65% of the seats. That means that the majority who disagreed with the government end up in the opposition, and the government can do pretty much whatever it wants for four years.

We must therefore remember to consider the possibility of proportional voting, as well as the other elements of the agreement that the NDP negotiated to facilitate access to the vote, such as on-campus polling stations, the ability to vote at one of several polling stations on election day, and multi-day voting periods for general elections. These are other measures we should discuss in the future.

Constitution Act, 1867Private Members' Business

March 24th, 2022 / 7:30 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think I am totally on the topic of Quebec and what this might mean for Quebeckers. I will speak quickly. I would like to point out that, earlier, the hon. member for Drummond spoke for about eight minutes before he mentioned his bill, Bill C-246. He first outlined the entire history and digressed quite a bit. I think I am entitled to a little leeway, too.

The fact that the NDP has negotiated pharmacare, that there will be legislation in 2023 and this will help people in a concrete way, all this responds to a demand that comes largely from Quebec civil society. I am talking about the Union des consommateurs, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec and the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, which all want a universal public pharmacare plan.

When we talk about Quebec, we have to talk about its place. I think it is important to talk about Quebeckers, workers and tenants who are facing challenges, which we are trying to address as parliamentarians, with the tools we have to help them—

Constitution Act, 1867Private Members' Business

March 24th, 2022 / 7:25 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to participate in this discussion, this debate, this conversation, on an important bill, Bill C‑246, which has to do with Quebec's place, democracy, history and the recognition of the Quebec nation.

I do need to point out that the agreement that the NDP negotiated with the Liberal government includes the condition that Quebec's 78 seats be protected. That was one of our demands and one of the conditions we managed to secure, and I think that is a real victory.

Today, we saw a concrete result from that, in the form of a government bill introduced in response to the threat that Quebec could lose a riding and a seat. This gives substance to our efforts. We managed to secure this win for Quebec, and we are confident that it will be implemented.

That was not the only gain we secured for Quebec. We will hear a lot about Quebec this evening, but I want to talk about Quebeckers and about our work to improve their lives. We are using politics to improve people's lives and to create a fairer and more just society in which promises are kept and real action is taken.

I really must say that, for Quebeckers, dental insurance, the notion of being able to pay for dental care when one is poor and struggling—

Constitution Act, 1867Private Members' Business

March 24th, 2022 / 7:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to join this debate as a francophone from western Canada to speak to Bill C‑246, which the Bloc Québécois member has introduced. He certainly has the right to have a debate.

During his speech I heard him say that a nation clause would be added to our Constitution. It is always interesting to see a Bloc Québécois member make an amendment to the Canadian Constitution. I know that for several decades now it has been difficult for members of that party to be convinced that Quebec, as a province, is part of a united Canada. We are certainly united.

I would like to be perfectly clear that this country was founded on two cultures and two languages: French and English. That was the topic of great debate in colonial Parliament for 20 to 30 years before our country was founded. It is that linguistic and cultural duality that our country has been trying, for more than 150 years, to put into practice in the everyday lives of our constituents.

Quebeckers form a nation within a united Canada. A motion to that effect was adopted in a previous Parliament. I completely agree with that. I support that idea. I have said it many times in the House. I know that my Bloc colleagues have heard me say it. I know that they have also heard me say that Albertans form a distinct society within a united Canada.

There have been many debates with my Quebec colleagues in the House, in my party and in our caucus. When the British North America Act, which gave us our Constitution, was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1867, section 40 stated that the Province of Quebec would have 65 seats upon the founding of our nation. Since then, and on the basis of demographics, we have slowly increased the number of seats in our Parliament to ensure that representation by population would be the guiding principle for the number of seats in our Parliament.

Representation by population was the subject of great debate by the country's responsible government. It was the great debate in the colonial Parliament before our country was founded. Representation by population in every region of our country had to be ensured. The reality of our country is that there are francophones outside Quebec. There is a linguistic duality. Acadians in Nova Scotia are part of our country. Their identity is different from that of Quebeckers, the Métis, Franco-Manitobans and Franco-Albertans. In my caucus, I have colleagues from out west, such as the member for Fort McMurray—Cold Lake and the member for Calgary Midnapore, who speak French. They can hold a conversation in our country's other language, and they often use it.

There are three major issues with this private member's bill, three ideas that this chamber needs to seriously consider.

First of all, this matter has been debated before in a previous Parliament. Jean Rousseau, who was an NDP member of Parliament for Compton—Stanstead in 2012, moved a similar private member's bill, but it came to the same goal in a different manner. It added a different redistribution rule at the end. In that Parliament, members chose to vote against it, and it did not make it into law, obviously.

The Charlottetown accord in 1992 was rejected by Canadians. In the Charlottetown accord, one of the proposals citizens were asked to weigh in on, after politicians had debated it, was whether Quebec as a province should receive 25% of all House of Commons seats. That was rejected by the Canadian population. In fact, 58% of Quebec voters rejected that in the Charlottetown accord.

I was too young to vote, and members might be surprised by that. I was too young to vote in the Quebec referendum as well, but my parents were not, and as I remember, they did vote no in that referendum in 1995.

Another thing to consider is the Fair Representation Act of 2011 that was passed by a previous Parliament and ensured redistribution. It is part of Stephen Harper's legacy to this Parliament. He brought us back, as close as reasonably possible, to ensuring that we have representation by population.

It is part of the legacy that he tried to restore some greater representation to western Canadians, who have very large ridings. Most of us do. I represent the second-largest riding in Canada by population size. My colleague from Edmonton—Wetaskiwin has over 200,000 citizens residing in his riding, which is a huge number of people to represent. It is basically double what the average, the quotient, calls for.

The Fair Representation Act also created a rule, the representation rule, that ensured that any province that would lose a seat in a redistribution would then be made whole by having its number of seats made proportional to its demographic weight within Canada. That rule, at the time, applied to the Province of Quebec and ensured that Quebec was represented in proportion to its demographic weight within Canada. That was a new rule that was created. At the time, it added three seats, resulting in the 78 seats that the Province of Quebec enjoys today.

Lastly, I want to bring up this fact, because we Conservatives and our deputy leader, the member of Parliament for Mégantic—L'Érable, moved in this House a unanimous consent motion that was rejected. I want to read it back into the record, because it forms the position of the Conservatives.

The motion was “That the House oppose any federal electoral redistribution scenario that would cause Quebec or any other province or territory to lose one or more electoral districts in the future, and that the House call on the government to act accordingly.”

That is the foundation of the Conservative position. We believe, and I think it is a perfectly reasonable position to take, that no province should lose a seat in redistribution. It should not go backward when we are looking at this issue. There are smaller provinces that might face this situation if that was ever changed in the future.

I also recognize, as the parliamentary secretary on the Liberal benches mentioned, that the government has tabled Bill C-14 today as well, which I was combing through as we were voting to try to better understand the contents of that bill. If we look at it, we see that a majority of the content is our unanimous consent motion that was rejected by the House. That is our position: that no province in this country should lose seats in a redistribution.

We have a chamber of 338 members. This chamber used to house 308 members in our old building. I still see a lot of space where we could put more members if it was absolutely needed. I see the Speaker is looking at both sides of the House. There is, indeed, space in this House. Maybe we have to be a bit closer. We cannot do the social distancing rule. The pandemic will eventually be over, and we can do these things in a redistribution bill, so I will be looking forward to receiving a briefing and more information on exactly how Bill C-14 would work.

To return to the private member's bill, I think the mechanics of it are quite important in terms of how such a bill would function and how such a bill would work. Amending the Constitution through a private member's bill is unique, but this House has amended the Constitution. In this Parliament, we amended the Saskatchewan Act to make sure that one of the railway companies would pay its share of taxation in that particular province, so it is not unusual to be doing it in this manner. I know that other members in this House have amended the Constitution in the past, such as to make sure the Speaker's election would be done by preferential secret ballot. That was not the case over 25 years ago. This can be done in this particular situation.

Those are the three concerns I mentioned: the Charlottetown accord vote back in 1992; the history of the Fair Representation Act of 2011, which was part of Stephen Harper's legacy as our prime minister; and the unanimous consent motion that Conservatives pushed that was rejected. That forms the foundation of our position, and I hope to return to the House at some late point and have other members of our caucus join in this debate on this private member's bill.

Constitution Act, 1867Private Members' Business

March 24th, 2022 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, in looking at this particular piece of legislation, one can only ask why the Bloc has chosen to bring it forward knowing full well the government had intentions of bringing in legislation. I would attempt to answer that question by indicating that, from what I have witnessed over the years of the participation of Bloc members, their interest primarily seems to be that of playing a destructive force for Canada as a nation. I can already see some hints of that in some of the comments being made.

I say “a destructive force,” because I am a very proud Canadian. I recognize the wonders that Canada has to offer in all of its regions, and I am very proud of that. I have made reference in the past to my own ancestral heritage in the province of Quebec, to the number of generations that lived in the province of Quebec and to the expansion into the prairie provinces and so forth, as well as to how Canada as a nation is bilingual and to how important it is to recognize the province of Quebec, its uniqueness and the role it plays in society.

I know we currently have 35 incredible members of Parliament who advocate for the province of Quebec, along with other national interests, on a daily basis. In fact, earlier today we got a sense of that in the passionate delivery of the Minister of Canadian Heritage. My former boss, when he was the government House leader, would often talk with a great deal of passion about the people of Quebec and how important the French dynamic was to our country. I also go to my colleague for Mount Royal and other colleagues I have had who have spoken so eloquently about the important role Quebec plays not only here in Canada, but internationally.

I like to think that the legislation we brought in today, Bill C-14, deals with the concerns my colleagues have been raising within the government. It would ensure that the province of Quebec would never lose a seat in the future. I see that as a very strong positive, as we have made changes to the Constitution in the past and we have seen guarantees in the past.

Once again, through advocacy, we now see a very strong commitment to the number of 78 seats well into the future, and that would not limit it to 78. That would establish a floor. There are many in this chamber, including me, who believe that the province of Quebec will continue to grow. Ultimately, its population could even dictate a larger number than 78, so we are not saying it has to be 78 into the future. It would have the potential to go beyond that.

Why not recognize the value of Bill C-14? What is the need for Bill C-246, which is being proposed? The member already knows that members on the government side are committed to it, because we had the debate earlier this month, which the member even made reference to, where Liberal members from all regions of our country came forward saying that we need to ensure Quebec has that minimum number of seats going forward.

If somehow the Bloc was able to convince a majority of the people in this chamber to do what they are asking for, it would entail a constitutional change that would require the support of 50% of the population and seven of the 10 provinces in order to be approved.

I have been around for constitutional debates. I was a member of the Manitoba legislature for votes related to the Meech Lake accord and for the Charlottetown accord. I do not believe for a moment that the people of Canada, whether they are citizens of Quebec or citizens of my home province of Manitoba, want the House of Commons to be dealing with constitutional matters of this nature, which is what this bill is actually proposing. It would require approval under the 7/50 formula.

There are so many other issues that are out there today, yet the Bloc want to insist on having a constitutional change that would invoke the 7/50 formula. I would hazard a guess that, even if just the constituents of the members that are proposing this were canvassed, they might find that their constituents would not necessarily support a constitutional debate on this issue alone.

I do not say that lightly. That is what I truly believe. When I have canvassed constituents in the past, a number of years ago, on the issue of electoral reform, and the whole issue of numbers, I was very clearly told that this was not something that they want.

As a parliamentarian, we often have a sense of what the pulse of our community is like. I would challenge any member to clearly demonstrate where the political will is matched by the enthusiasm of their constituents for constitutional debates at this point in time, as that is what would be required under the legislation that is being proposed.

We could talk about issues. My friends in the Bloc often talk, for example, about health care and how important it is that the federal government be at the table when it comes to a wide variety of issues in regard to health care. The federal government is at the table. We have the Canada Health Act, which ensures that no matter where Canadians live or in whatever region, they will have a certain quality of health care delivered, based on the five fundamental principles of our Canada Health Act.

Given the pandemic, and the response we received from Canadians in regard to issues such as long-term care, the costs of medication and the issue of mental health, I believe that no matter where one lives in Canada, the debates and concerns of those issues alone would supersede and exceed the need for what is being suggested by members of the Bloc party today.

It is not to be insensitive, in recognizing the importance of the 78 seats. As I said, I personally voted in favour of that earlier this month. I know, as I said earlier, that not only the 35 members of the Liberal caucus who represent Quebec ridings, but also the entire Liberal caucus recognizes the importance of Quebec having those 78 seats, with the potential, as I explained earlier, for growth.

I really believe, and I would encourage other members of other political parties to believe, that there really is no need to even see this bill go to committee because, quite frankly, we would hope that the government's bill, Bill C-14, will make it to committee, at which point in time there will be even more opportunities for the public and stakeholders to provide direct input.

Constitution Act, 1867Private Members' Business

March 24th, 2022 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

moved that Bill C-246, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, regarding representation in the House of Commons, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking you for the thoughtful consideration you have given me by allowing the House to dissolve and those members who wish to do so to go about their business, thus enabling me to make a speech in a quieter setting.

I am honoured to rise this evening to speak to Bill C-246, an act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, regarding representation in the House of Commons, which I am sponsoring.

Despite what many Canadians and perhaps Canada would like, there are fundamental differences and some deep incompatibilities, I would even say, between Quebeckers and Canadians. There are fundamental differences in how Canadians see their future and how Quebeckers see theirs.

I am not saying that is a bad thing. Let me provide some context. I think it is important to put this in context because every time there are discussions around demands with respect to the status of Quebec within the federation, or about its culture, the values that are unique to the Quebec nation or its language—French is the only official and common language of Quebeckers—words always get twisted and the conversation turns into bickering, if I may borrow the word of the day, with claims that this is coming from a tiresome minority of Quebeckers who refuse to kowtow, drop their pants and hide their pride behind a maple leaf.

Those people know that by cleverly spreading misinformation, they are stoking the fire and stirring up hateful comments by certain fanatics who would like to see Quebec get crushed, give up its identity and join the melting pot of Canadian multiculturalism. I am not generalizing, but those people do exist. There is no shortage of them on social media. All one has to do is post a comment about the French language on Twitter to see the flood of hateful comments that follow.

I would like to give some context on the history of the people of Quebec. For decades, in the 19th and 20th centuries, honest French-Canadian workers suffered silently. The Catholic Church required them to populate Quebec by having eight, 12, 15 or 20 children, and to earn their place in heaven by bowing their heads whenever the boss came by. That was Quebec up until the second half of the 20th century.

Slowly, gradually, word got out that Quebeckers were more than just quaint characters, more than just people who got rowdy every night, that there was more to us than arrowhead sashes and fiddle playing, and that Quebec was rich in culture and talent. Little by little, Quebec stepped out of the darkness, not just the shadows, but out of the deep darkness, and Quebeckers started to rediscover who we are.

At that point, voices started to emerge, urging Quebeckers to stand up, respect themselves and demand the respect of others. This was the golden age of great leaders, orators and personalities who inspired past generations and who continue to inspire generation now.

There were great trade unionists, because we needed union leaders at a time when Quebec was a working-class nation, people like Pepin, Marchand, Charbonneau. There were also some great women, like Laure Gaudreault and Madeleine Parent, not to mention one of Quebec's golden couples, Michel Chartrand and Simone Monet-Chartrand, one of the most adored, respected and celebrated couples in Quebec history.

I have an amusing story about this. In Longueuil, on the south shore facing Montreal, there is a park named after Michel Chartrand that is overrun with deer. My young daughter, who will turn 11 next week, was talking about Michel Chartrand park. I told her about the union leader Michel Chartrand, and she thought he was the deer guy. That is why education is important. It is important to talk about Quebec's history so that my daughter's generation will know that Michel Chartrand is not just the deer guy.

All these men and women inspired Quebec's workers back then through passionate speeches. Chartrand was a passionate man, if ever there was one. We could listen to his speeches again and watch the movie where he was portrayed so well by Luc Picard. These people inspired others with their passionate speeches and unifying actions. It should be inspiring for this government, because passionate speeches and words must be followed up with action. Those people took action.

With their actions, they made Quebeckers realize what another great Quebecker would put into words years later: “We are not a little people. We are closer to something like a great people.”

In the meantime, along came the Quiet Revolution, bringing with it new ideas and inspiring new leaders who proposed social reforms that were more in line with our values. As I often say, our values are neither better nor worse than Canada's. They are just different in many ways.

That led to Quebeckers choosing a secular society because, for us, the only way to respect all religions is to ensure the state has no religion. That is an important nuance to grasp. That is what Quebec secularism means. In Quebec, religion is something personal practised privately that should neither interfere in nor influence the decisions made by the state. Contrary to what many Canadians think, including many of my House of Commons colleagues, Quebeckers welcome and respect people of all origins and all faiths. However, we want to integrate our newcomers while respecting their beliefs but without betraying our fundamental values. I admit there is a major conflict between Quebec state secularism and the idea of multiculturalism that is so dear to Liberals and Canadians.

Following our awakening, we witnessed the growth of a new movement in favour of an option that is appealing enough to have lasted to this day: Quebec independence.

As an aside, and this may not be news to anyone, but I will just say that my colleagues and I do not just carry this idea of becoming a country in our daily work; it permeates our lives. It inhabits us, much like oil inhabits our Conservative friends. We all hope that one day our project will become a reality. We try to discuss it at every opportunity, trying each time to break down prejudices, to avoid smear campaigns that get in the way of sound judgment and healthy conversation.

The idea of an independent Quebec has been around for a while now, so much so that in 1976 the Parti Québécois came to power with the great leader I mentioned earlier, René Lévesque. He is probably my number one idol. This too should come as no great surprise.

I think what happened next is fairly well known to most people here. There was the 1980 referendum, the patriation of the Constitution, the “beau risque”, the Meech Lake accord and the Charlottetown accord.

The Charlottetown accord contained a proposal that was written in black and white. Resolution 21, on the composition of the House of Commons, stated: “The composition of the House of Commons should be adjusted to better reflect the principle of representation by population.” Further on, it mentions a redistribution following the 1996 census aimed at ensuring that, in the next election, “no province will have fewer than 95% of the House of Commons seats it would receive under strict representation-by-population”. It goes on to state that “Quebec would be assigned no fewer then 25 percent of the seats in the House of Commons”.

I think it is very important to say so, because it is fundamental in Bill C‑246, which I am introducing today. It is fundamental because what we are proposing is to include a nation clause in the Constitution Act, 1982, so that Quebec does not have to keep standing up for its representation in the House of Commons, whether today, in 10 years, after the next census, or in 20 years, and so forth.

As I alluded to earlier, ideally, we would be having these discussions because Quebec would have made the choice, in the meantime, to fully take matters into its own hands and patriate to Quebec City, in our only national legislature, 100% of the seats we have here.

This morning, by extraordinary coincidence, the government introduced Bill C‑14, probably in response to the Bloc Québécois motion unanimously adopted on March 2, worded as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House:

(a) any scenario for redrawing the federal electoral map that would result in Quebec losing one or more electoral districts or that would reduce Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons must be rejected; and

(b) the formula for apportioning seats in the House must be amended and the House call on the government to act accordingly.

This motion was put to a vote and passed unanimously. Now, three weeks later, we have a bill whose only goal is to maintain Quebec's number of seats at 78. That is not bad, but it is a bit like agreeing to give a friend a ride from Montreal to Quebec City but then making, him get out in Saint‑Hyacinthe, not even in Drummondville.

I want to draw members' attention to the fact that Bill C‑14, which the Liberals introduced this morning, is nothing but a watered-down version of what Quebec, Quebeckers and the Bloc Québécois are calling for. Bill C‑246, however, addresses the urgent need to protect Quebec's political weight. Since Quebec is a nation, it should have the resources it needs to be represented so long as it decides to remain here in the House of Commons.

Opposition Motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2022 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by telling my colleague from Drummond how much I admire him and how much I appreciate his work as a member of Parliament. Sometimes we have to say these things to each other as colleagues. He works so hard, and he is so passionate about everything from his role as heritage critic to his sponsorship of Bill C-246, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (representation in the House of Commons), which he introduced on February 8.

He introduced the bill to promote and protect the interests of people in his riding, in mine and across Quebec, to protect Quebec's weight in the House of Commons by guaranteeing that 25% of the seats here will belong to Quebeckers because Quebec is a nation.

It is therefore with conviction, but also with the certainty that I am doing what is right for Quebeckers and Quebec, that I rise today to debate the Bloc Québécois motion. This motion also addresses Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons, and it reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House:

(a) any scenario for redrawing the federal electoral map that would result in Quebec losing one or more electoral districts or that would reduce Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons must be rejected; and

(b) the formula for apportioning seats in the House must be amended and the House call on the government to act accordingly.

Basically, what the Bloc Québécois is asking the House to do is to commit, as we have, to demanding that the government meaningfully protect Quebec's weight. I repeat, Quebec is a francophone nation within a country that is bilingual on paper.

The Bloc Québécois is certainly not tabling this motion by chance or on a whim. Like pictures, numbers are worth a thousand words. From 1867 to 2021, Quebec's weight in the House of Commons declined, shrinking from 36% in 1867 to 23.1% in 2015, and it is still declining. At the same time, the number of MPs from Quebec has very slowly and humbly risen, from 65 out of 181 MPs in 1867 to 78 out of 338 MPs in 2015.

In the next redistribution, which would take effect in 2024 at the earliest, Quebec's weight would continue to drop, eventually to 22.5%. Moreover, for the first time in history, Quebec would lose a seat, with its number of elected officials dropping to 77 out of 342. For the Bloc Québécois and Quebec, that is unacceptable.

Of course, the decennial process of electoral boundaries redistribution is not a surprise, nor are its mechanics. First, the Chief Electoral Officer determines the electoral quotient, that is, the population per electoral district, by assessing the population increase since the last redistribution exercise. Currently, with a population increase of nearly 10% in 10 years, the population per electoral district is almost 122,000. The number of seats allocated to each province and to Quebec is then calculated by dividing the total population of Quebec and the provinces by the electoral quotient of 122,000.

However, as the Quebec minister responsible for Canadian relations and the Canadian francophonie, Sonia LeBel, has said repeatedly, there is more to it than a simple mathematical formula. It is important to take into account the real weight of Quebec's representation in the House of Commons. We are francophones; we have a special status and a nation to defend. Quebec's specificity must prevent us from losing seats in the House of Commons.

There is more to redistribution than a simple rule of three. If that were the case, Prince Edward Island would have only one member in the next redistribution, and some Prairie provinces would lose members. That is why there are two clauses in addition to the electoral quotient: the senatorial clause and the grandfather clause. I just illustrated this by talking about the Prairies and Prince Edward Island.

The third and final aspect is the following. It is the last element for now, but I hope there will be another.

This third element shapes the electoral redistribution that the Chief Electoral Officer must adhere to. It is called the representation rule. In other words, when a province does not have enough MPs to represent a riding, then more ridings, more members, need to be added.

These clauses and rules were enacted over the past 150 years, roughly, but they are not immutable. I will quote the Canadian Encyclopedia, something I never imagined I would do. It concludes its article on the redistribution of federal electoral districts by focusing on the principle of balance:

Although at first glance, this would seem to be a straightforward mathematical exercise, the principle of political equality exists alongside the fact that Canada is a federal state and the idea that effective representation also requires the recognition of distinct communities. Balancing these principles is at the heart of the redistribution process.

Quebec is nothing less than a nation of more than eight million people who share a territory, a language, a culture and a vision. In 2006, the House of Commons recognized the Quebec nation. This is a nation whose official and common language is French, as the House of Commons recognized in 2021, when it voted in favour of the Bloc Québécois motion to that effect.

As long as Quebec is not a country, it will not have all the tools it should have for self‑determination, and this will necessarily have political consequences, namely respect for Quebec's autonomy and its national assembly, the signing of asymmetrical agreements, and the acknowledgement of Quebec's distinct character in federal laws and policies.

That is what Quebec is calling for today. It is calling on the House to take into account our nation and its corollary, in other words, the defence of its political weight.

The Bloc Québécois is waiting for a firm and unequivocal commitment from parliamentarians and wishes to clarify the position of parties in the House.

Let us remember the following. In 1992, the Charlottetown accord guaranteed that Quebec would have 25% of the weight in the House of Commons. The former Progressive Conservative Party was in favour of that. The Reform Party of Canada was against it. John Turner supported it, but Pierre Elliott Trudeau was against it. In 2006, the NDP supported it, but what about now?

Some Canadian political parties have disappeared, and others have transformed into something different, but the Bloc Québécois has remained true to itself: logical, consistent and always ready to defend Quebec's interests.

We want to know if, like Quebeckers, Canadian political parties are worried about the fate of Quebec, if they will reject any electoral redistribution scenario that reduces Quebec's political weight, and if they will act accordingly. To that end, why not add a “nation clause”? That is the role of parliamentarians.

To conclude, I would like to quote my leader, the member for Beloeil—Chambly, and the Premier of Quebec, François Legault, who have both made statements since October expressing how Quebec feels about this threat.

The Premier of Quebec said that “the Quebec nation deserves a certain degree of representation in the House of Commons, regardless of how many people live in each province”. He said that “this is a test for [the Prime Minister of Canada]. It is all well and good to recognize Quebec as a nation, but now he needs to back that up with action.” We are calling on the Prime Minister of Canada to “protect the proportion of members of Parliament from Quebec”.

My leader also pointed out at the beginning of his speech that Quebec's weight has been reduced. Quebec absolutely cannot lose a seat, since this so-called bilingual country cannot allow its institutions to diminish the relative weight of its country's francophone territory.

I want to echo what he said. Canada has no idea how big a fight the Bloc Québécois will put up if Quebec's weight continues to decrease while it is still in the federation. If anything, that will make us leave even sooner.

I cannot wait until Quebec is able to make its own decisions.

Opposition Motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2022 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, allow me to take a deep breath before I start my speech.

I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Manicouagan.

Not too long ago, an anglophone journalist asked me whether Bill C‑246, which I recently introduced and which would add a so-called Quebec nation clause to the Constitution, was just another frivolous request from Quebec. After a polite pause, she added that, according to some people, this was yet another temper tantrum by Quebeckers who refuse to embrace living in harmony the Canadian way.

In response to these comments, all kinds of words came to my mind, words that common decency prevents us from using in this place, as we speak on behalf of our constituents. Although my constituents would not hold it against me if I let loose an avalanche of words that would enhance Quebec's chrestomathy for my many Canadian colleagues looking to learn the language of Leclerc and Vigneault, I will refrain from dipping into that vast inventory of words learned over decades spent in the shadows of chasubles and cassocks. I would rather take a step back.

Once I stepped back and calmed down, I could see that the comments of this young journalist were not meant to be disrespectful of Quebec society but unfortunately reflected opinions and ideas that are widespread in the Canadian provinces. It is the fruit of decades of conscious and unconscious efforts to dampen the enthusiasm of the Quebec nation in its quest for autonomy and independence.

I cannot really blame that young journalist for her comments, because she was born at a time when the narrative was already well entrenched. The seed had been planted and when the fruit is ripe, we do not think about how it grew. We are living in a time of intellectual laziness where people swallow everything they are served without asking too many questions. In fact, I would go so far as to say that these are rather sad times.

What do we do about that? I think that we need to avoid confrontation and focus on education and awareness. We have to explain why Quebec is so focused on its uniqueness, its cultural differences and its different vision on so many issues. This rather reductive perception of the Quebec nation, its political and cultural heritage and its place in the history of this country is regrettable. We need not be surprised at this view and misunderstanding of Quebec, its historic weight and its resulting legitimate aspirations, because this is all built upon misperceptions throughout Canada's institutional and political evolution.

We can go all the way back to the origins of Confederation in 1867 to better understand the place Quebec has within the Canadian federation. Again, Quebec is not a province. It is the product and the standard-bearer of one of the two distinct national communities at Canada's very origin. This dualism that people would like to forget or reduce to so little is in fact the foundation of the institutions that we are part of today.

Over the past 40 years, almost all of Quebec's aspirations and claims within the Canadian federation have been rejected. After that night in 1982, when all of Quebec was betrayed, all attempts to remedy this situation have failed. Sometimes, these attempts have been symbolic, other times they have been mere administrative accommodations. There are numerous examples.

Does all this make the quest to affirm the autonomy of the Quebec people less legitimate? No, because, I would point out, Quebec is more than just a province. Quebec is a nation. That was officially recognized in this place in 2006, as my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount said earlier. Furthermore, as was reaffirmed not that long ago, in June 2021, Quebec is a nation whose only official and common language is French. It is the only one on the North American continent.

Our responsibility, as difficult as it may be, is to continue the discussion and the ongoing exchanges unabated, without partisanship, to ensure the message is heard and to have Quebec recognized for what it is.

Consequently, the Quebec nation must be much more than just a symbol.

Its recognition must be embodied in concrete actions and provisions that go well beyond declarations and intentions. This is what we will have the opportunity to do in a few weeks when we debate Bill C-246, which I mentioned in my opening comments. And that is what we are doing today as well, as a preamble, by debating this motion, which was moved this morning by my leader and colleague, the member for Belœil—Chambly.

At the beginning of the Quiet Revolution, Quebec accounted for nearly 30% of the Canadian population. Today, roughly speaking, it accounts for 23%, and this is not getting any better. Indeed, Quebec and Canada must make efforts to correct this trend, and this work must focus on immigration. There is talk of wanting to increase immigration levels. Quebec has its own vision. We want to be able to welcome immigration to Quebec in a coherent and intelligent way. We can say that welcoming 100,000 newcomers is unrealistic if we want to welcome them properly. It is up to Quebec to determine the appropriate number or rate for its immigration capacity. That said, we are also relying on the federal government to not hinder immigration to Quebec. For example, as my colleague from Saint-Jean mentioned earlier, the treatment of student visa applicants from French-speaking Africa and the way they are discriminated against are very concerning.

When Quebec declines, French declines. The presence of French in Parliament declines. I say that with the utmost respect and consideration for francophone communities across Canada, who, like Quebec, are fighting every day for the survival of their language and recognition of their language rights within the Canadian federation. It has been recognized that the Quebec nation is one of the two founding peoples. Well, that reality must push us to take action to preserve the French fact, to maintain the Quebec nation's influence here in the House of Commons and around the world.

Canada prides itself on having two official languages and we like to say that they are English and simultaneous translation, but we must recognize that French is one as well. The motion we tabled today is intended to protect Quebec's identity, to protect Quebec's political influence, to ensure that Quebec continues to be represented as a nation, here in the House of Comments and within Canadian institutions as long as Quebec does not decide to stand on its own.

Opposition Motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2022 / 11:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite‑Patrie for his speech. It is clear that he has a great deal of love for Quebec and the Quebec nation. I heard him refer to a Quebec clause.

I am the sponsor of a bill introduced by my party, Bill C‑246, which also focuses on Quebec's political weight and proposes a nation provision that seeks to preserve, as the motion we are moving today in the House of Common does, Quebec's political weight within the Canadian federation until such time that Quebec takes a decision on its future.

I would like to know whether my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite‑Patrie has read Bill C‑246, which I introduced a few weeks ago, and whether he recognizes the nation provision to be the same as the Quebec clause he proposes in his speech.

I would also like to take this opportunity to ask him whether he will or will not approve and support the bill.

February 17th, 2022 / 1:10 p.m.
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Stephanie Feldman Committee Researcher

Certainly.

The bill in question specifies in its preamble that it is invoking the unilateral federal amendment procedure under section 44 of the Constitution, which solely requires the adoption of an ordinary law by Parliament for matters in relation to the House of Commons.

I did a bit of research on this point and I would draw the subcommittee's attention to the Fair Representation Act, which was given royal assent in 2011. It amended the same provision of the Constitution that Bill C-246 would amend. This was done by way of the section 44 unilateral federal amendment procedure under the Constitution, so there is a precedent.

The subcommittee is not bound by that precedent, but it could be instructive to the subcommittee. The role of the subcommittee is really to apply the four criteria, one of which is whether the bill is clearly unconstitutional. Perhaps there's an argument to be made here that the bill in question does not meet that high bar, but it would be up to the subcommittee to determine.

February 17th, 2022 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

I'm sorry to be the wet blanket, Madam Chair.

I have one key issue that's come to my attention in relation to Bill C-246, an act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, on representation in the House of Commons. The issue relates to the amending formula that would apply to the bill.

The Privy Council Office and the justice department are advising that Bill C-246 does not clearly violate the Constitution Act, 1867 or the Constitution Act, 1982 because a credible argument can be made that the bill is the appropriate mechanism to effect the proposed constitutional change.

However, it is very likely that the bill is not constitutional because it engages the principle of proportionate representation of the provinces in the House of Commons and therefore would need to be effected by constitutional amendment under the general amending formula—for example, through proclamation by the Governor General following authorizing resolutions from the Senate, the House of Commons and the legislative assemblies of no fewer than seven provinces representing no less than 50% of Canada's population.

I want to raise these issues or concerns. If this bill should be found votable, it's anticipated that the government members will certainly raise some of these arguments during the debate.