Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's a pleasure for me to participate in your work, which deals with an issue I have been interested in for a long time. I followed from afar the 1974 reform, which produced the terrible amalgam formula. I was an undergraduate student at that time. I followed the 1985 reform much more closely. I was then a research officer at the Library of Parliament, and I was assigned to two parliamentary committees that studied that formula. I also appeared before your committee in 1994 when Parliament, in its wisdom, tried to put an end to the ongoing redistribution process. In addition, I also conducted a study more recently on electoral redistribution and Quebec for a focus group on federalism.
My opinions will not necessarily be shared by everybody around the table. My only defence, as the late Senator Forsey would have put it, is that whenever somebody honours me by requesting my opinion, he is in great danger of getting it.
I myself would prefer that the current formula for allocating seats be maintained, at least when it comes to the redistribution following the 2011 census. I think there are two advantages to maintaining the status quo. First of all, the current formula provides for a moderate increase in the total number of seats. That's a great improvement over what we had in the past. Second of all, that formula was not too bad for Quebec. It did not single it out on the basis of its cultural difference alone.
However, like everyone else, I recognize that this formula penalizes the three growing provinces significantly, a disadvantage that is likely to increase and is now deemed to be unacceptable by those provinces. It is also rather considerable compared with what is seen in other federations. The seven declining provinces have been unable to join forces to protect the advantage they gained through that formula.
Bill C-20 proposes a new level of interprovincial fairness in terms of representation. As it's been mentioned, the bill manages to do that by increasing the total number of seats considerably—by 30. I will discuss those two elements in succession.
When it comes to the proposed redistribution among the provinces, I feel that Bill C-20 is an improvement over the two related bills the government had previously introduced.
Henceforth, there will be three categories of provinces. The three growing provinces will remain under-represented, but to a lesser extent. The six declining provinces other than Quebec will continue being overrepresented, but to a lesser extent. As for Quebec, it will be represented in proportion to its population. That way, it can avoid becoming the only declining province to be under-represented. Any other province in the same situation will be treated in the same way.
Therefore, overall, we would be moving toward fair representation for Canadians, but not at Quebec's expense. That province is not to blame for most of the current unfairness.
Others are calling for Quebec's representation to be frozen at 25% of the total, or the level it is currently at. The motivation behind that request is the fact that a motion of the House of Commons recognized Quebec as a nation in 2006, and that a nation is given special treatment because of its status.
Personally, I'm uncomfortable with that kind of an approach. My research has made me realize that I'm not alone in feeling this way, as I have not seen similar special treatment in other democratic federations, even those that are multilingual or have a somewhat multinational nature.
I'm now getting to the second element, the proposed addition of 30 seats to the current 308. That's a considerable increase. If we do the math, that increase would be the most significant one, in real numbers, in House of Commons history. You may recall that the 1974 formula, also known as the amalgam formula, was dropped after being used only once precisely because it involved significant increases.
According to a proposal made public last Friday—and I will refer to it as formula 308 in order not to make it too personal or give it partisanship undertones—it would be possible to reach an almost identical level of interprovincial fairness as the one proposed in Bill C-20, but without adding 30 seats.
In my text, I had looked into that approach without achieving results I would consider to be satisfactory. Therefore, I was very skeptical and critical in my study of the proposal known as formula 308.
After some thought, I agree that you should give that proposal some serious consideration. I think it's a worthwhile solution. I had some concerns, especially when it comes to how Quebec would fair under that formula. I see that Quebec has not been forgotten and that a positive aspect of Bill C-20 has been carried over. I was also worried about Manitoba and Saskatchewan. However, I see that they are covered by the 15% clause. I think this solution should be explored.
In closing, I have a comment about the population figures that were chosen as the basis for the redistribution. That's something that was not covered by those who spoke before me.
Bill C-20 breaks with Canada's political tradition, despite that tradition having been followed in the two previous bills introduced by the government. In its readjustment of provincial representation, this bill uses—for the first time—population estimates or population projections prepared by Statistics Canada, instead of census figures.
You should know that, based on the 2001 and 2006 data, the projections will slightly decrease Quebec's portion and increase Ontario's portion of the total. This decision by the government seems to suggest that the census figures are unreliable for establishing the representation of each province, but that those unreliable figures will be used to draw constituency boundaries. I am not against that change, but I think it needs to be justified more adequately.
Thank you for your attention.
I'm willing to answer your questions in either language.