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.