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Evidence of meeting #10 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was estimates.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Wayne Smith  Chief StatisticianStatistics Canada
David Dolson  Director, Social Survey Methods, Statistics Canada
Johanne Denis  Director, Demography, Statistics Canada
Jean-Pierre Kingsley  Former Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

12:15 p.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Jean-Pierre Kingsley

There were 301.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

And did you make recommendations?

12:15 p.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Jean-Pierre Kingsley

Yes, recommendations on how to go about it. But they were considered far too difficult to execute. So much so that the committee abandoned the idea.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Do you have a personal opinion on this? If you could have the same proportion of seats and limit the number of seats in the House to 308 instead of 338, would that option potentially be preferable?

12:15 p.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Jean-Pierre Kingsley

In my opinion, no. I'm not going to get into the issue of proportional representation. Anyway, it's impossible to answer that question without taking into account the circumstances in which this country was formed, the historical context. I know that this point was raised the other day. But if you tell a province that it is going to lose some members, but that it shouldn't worry about it because it will keep the same proportion... I don't know how such a thing could be done in this country.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

That is how it has been done throughout the world and that was the case for a very long time in Canada. Only recently have we felt the need to constantly increase the number of seats. In the history of the country, some provinces gained seats and others lost them until the 1970s.

12:15 p.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Jean-Pierre Kingsley

All I can say is that you asked for my opinion and I gave it to you.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Okay, and I gave you mine.

You said that Quebec now has its demographic share, regarding the number of seats, but that is only true if the territories' three seats are not taken into account. Otherwise, Quebec is still under-represented.

Do you not think that we should consider the reality in the House rather than leave something out? The House has 308 seats, not 305.

12:15 p.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Jean-Pierre Kingsley

I did not notice that in the formula. I will look into that. Each territory has a population of about 35,000 or 40,000, and it is a bit lower in Nunavut.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

In fact, my colleague Justin Trudeau did the math, and indeed if those three seats are added, Quebec would just lose one seat. You can check.

Thank you.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you.

Mr. Kerr, you have five minutes.

November 17th, 2011 / 12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

I won't need five, but thank you, Mr. Chair, for the consideration.

Thank you very much, Mr. Kingsley, for being here. It's been a real learning curve for those of us who are reasonably new to the process to know that we are heading in the right direction. I think you have agreed that we are.

I would like you to expand on the technology. That's a bit of an eye-opener always as we face the changes coming, particularly the younger people. Maybe you could expand on how it is either taking some of the pressure off or adding new opportunities to move this whole process along. You made reference to its speeding up many of the activities. I'd like to hear more about that.

12:15 p.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Jean-Pierre Kingsley

It speeds them up immensely. It makes them much more accurate. One must remember that tied with the geography tool, which is the reallocation of ridings, there is also the register of electors, which allows you to tie the names to the addresses after the exercise and easily have new polling divisions quite rapidly prepared within the ridings. It goes down to the StatsCan 600 count, which is their basic count; this tool allows you to do that.

In terms of the redistribution effort itself, the commissions were blown away by the computerized tool, the power of which, I understand, has been enhanced now because of the increase in technology since we built the tool to make it available for this purpose, probably in 1996-97.

All that much more powerful technology is there, so the results must be even faster, therefore allowing you to do even more things with it.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

There's no sense pursuing it further, so I'll pass it along now.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Lukiwski will take a bit of your time, then.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

We've dealt with the formula quite a bit, Mr. Kingsley. You also made several recommendations in the report with respect to boundary commissions and redistribution and solving the process there. And the legislation has adopted some of those, I am glad to see.

Generally speaking, would you have any suggestions for the boundary commissions themselves? Regardless of whether Bill C-20 is enacted, come early February, the process of boundary commissions being established and doing their work has to continue.

Did you see any problems in past years when you were administering this process? Do you have any suggestions you might be able to pass along, both to this committee and perhaps to some of the commissioners who will be appointed, in many cases, I'm sure, for the first time?

12:20 p.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Jean-Pierre Kingsley

The recommendations that I thought were pertinent were contained in that 2005 report, because that was the follow-up to the commissions' feedback to Elections Canada. We asked them to provide feedback to us so that we would have a consensus about what was going forward. The recommendations in there are essentially what we suggested.

If I were to advise a commission on anything, I would say that instead of aiming at the 25% variation, aim at the 15% maximum. If you look at the results, this is generally what they do. I don't think there were exceptions, except maybe in one or two small provinces that are geographically spread out.

The exception for very remote areas, which means they can vary by more than 25%, should be maintained, because this is Canada. This is the way it is. Northern Saskatchewan is northern Saskatchewan. That is true for Alberta as well. You can't change that.

As well, have a very meaningful discussion about communities of interest. We've tried to redefine that time and time again, and it's not easy. It's a matter of understanding how commissions interpret that.

Those are the best recommendations I would make.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

One of the options members of Parliament have, of course, as you know, is that following the initial reports by the individual boundary commissions, interventions can be heard. I know from past experience that on several occasions, perhaps more than just several, members of Parliament have had some concerns about the draft boundaries because of things like communities of interest and trading patterns, and so on and so forth.

What influence, generally speaking, do members of Parliament have if they have objections or suggestions for changes to the boundaries drawn up by these commissions and the commissioners?

12:20 p.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Jean-Pierre Kingsley

Mr. Mayrand indicated that there were two opportunities for members of Parliament. If you want to be forward thinking about it, there could actually be three.

First, one could signal something to a commission. A member of Parliament could write to a commission as it is being struck and ask it to please keep this in mind. That is worth the paper on which it is printed, or maybe a bit more. They will look at what they've received from anyone, including members of Parliament, in the way of concerns.

There is also the opportunity for a member of Parliament to go in person and make representation. None will be refused. From what I can remember, none have been refused. That's a very good opportunity, which members of Parliament should not miss.

The second main opportunity really is when you see the result. You're at the penultimate stage, and you have objections or real concerns. But you have to have nine others agree with you. Even if you sit on this committee, you have to have nine others. There seems to be a bit of confusion in the notes. You need 10 people to have this committee look at any kind of objection. This committee then makes its own views known to each commission, based on its concerns.

My recollection is that around 60% of the concerns expressed result in changes. It is a meaningful thing. Even if I have the two mixed up and it is 40%, it's still meaningful.

We can thank God that it's the commissions that make the final decisions and that they are independent.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Thank you.

12:20 p.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

Jean-Pierre Kingsley

I'm comparing this to the American system.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you, Mr. Lukiwski.

Is there no one else? Jump in if you hear something.

Go ahead, Mr. Williamson.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you.

Does that program you talk about kind of account for gun owners as well?

12:25 p.m.

Former Chief Electoral Officer, As an Individual

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

This is a joke. If it accounts for rural long gun owners as well, you can drag that line across and see how you're doing there.

I wanted to follow up. I was going to let it go because I thought the Liberal opposition was moving off Mr. Garneau's suggestion of holding the cap at 308 seats. We heard the other day in testimony that it could be done. Today it was suggested that maybe it could be done, and numbers are floating out there, but we have yet to see any numbers that would, according to the Liberal opposition, allow us to change the seat composition, maintain the 308, and land us where we are now with the rough distribution.

By our calculations, we would see Quebec, for example, losing six seats, which could be done without a constitutional amendment. I believe the 75 seats is a legislative change, not a constitutional one. We would see Newfoundland lose a seat, we'd see Nova Scotia lose a seat, and we'd see Saskatchewan and Manitoba probably lose four seats each, for 16.

Like myself, you don't have exact numbers. What do you think the effect of this would be? Do you think this is a reasonable solution given that Saskatchewan and Manitoba would fall to 10 seats each, for example, which is the same as the number in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, 10 each? The population in those two provinces is about half a million more, roughly, and those two provinces, of course, only have six senators and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia each have 10 senators.

What do you think the effects would be of this change if we were to keep the cap at 308 and make these changes that would see these provinces, including Quebec...which would lose its historic 75 seats and fall to perhaps 69?