Mr. Speaker, I would just like to make a few remarks about the bill before us today. Of course, this bill raises fundamental issues that go to the heart of our democratic system and, as members of Parliament, we must admit the importance of these issues.
It must also be said that the process for redrawing the boundaries of electoral districts has been in place since 1964. On examining how the present system operates, we clearly see that it has several shortcomings. First, the commissions are not required to hold consultations before publishing their proposals. Second, the commissions are not required to give reasons for their proposals. Third, the criteria that the commissions must follow in setting the boundaries of electoral districts are very general.
Depending on the approach taken by the commissions, the results can vary considerably from one province to another. If we look at the proposals put forward by the commission for the province of New Brunswick, we see that the commissions can make recommendations which certainly do not represent the interests of the people of New Brunswick in this case. We received a map making really major changes, where we lose a riding in the north of the province and other ridings bring together communities that do not have affinities or common interests.
The criteria are so broad that one of the commissioners from New Brunswick told me what he thought of the proposed map for New Brunswick. He did not agree with the commission's proposal even though he was one of the commissioners, but the commission could only put forward a single proposal. He told us that he had been unable to influence the people on the commission to be a little more reasonable.
What we would like to do in readjusting electoral boundaries is just that, propose reasonable changes instead of turning the whole system upside down.
Finally, based on the existing formula, described in section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867, the number of seats in the House of Commons will increase from 295 to 301 as result of the 1991 census, and that concerns me in light of current fiscal restraints.
I have heard several members today express concern about the extra expenses the government and the people of Canada will incur if the number of seats does increase. Members from the Reform Party have indicated that this issue should be examined.
I will point out to the Reform Party members that the only thing to do about this steady increase in the number of seats is to suspend the procedure and review it, as we are suggesting.
I also heard members say that we are trying to prevent public participation in the process. On the contrary! We want to open it up, so that the people from all over Canada can speak on this 30 year-old procedure. I think it is justified.
In short, there is certainly no general agreement about the current procedure for readjusting the number of seats and electoral boundaries. The time has come to subject all elements of the present system to a thorough review, which has not been done, as I said earlier, since 1964. That is why the government has introduced the Act to suspend the operation of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. As mentioned earlier, this bill would suspend the procedure for twenty-four months.
Mr. Speaker, to give all members the opportunity to speak on this bill and go ahead and suspend the current procedure-
I therefore move:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 26, the House continue to sit beyond the ordinary time of adjournment for the purpose of considering the second reading stage of Bill C-18, an act to suspend the operations of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.