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House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was process.

Topics

Interest ActRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-227, an Act to amend the Interest Act (calculation of credit card interest).

Mr. Speaker, as you know, our contemporary society makes heavy use of credit cards and I am the first to admit that these financial instruments are very useful.

Nevertheless, I believe that consumers are poorly informed about the cost of the services provided by the issuing companies. I would even add that many consumers are charged what I would call an excessive rate of interest.

This bill proposes an amendment to the Interest Act, so that the consumer can better judge the costs of various credit cards by standardizing the calculation of interest.

I am tabling today not one but two bills concerning this matter. You no doubt have both of them before you.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Act To Provide For The Limitation Of Interest Rates And Fees In Relation To Credit Card AccountsRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-228, an Act to provide for the limitation of interest rates and fees in relation to credit card accounts.

Mr. Speaker, the second bill seeks to provide for the limitation of interest rates and fees in relation to credit card accounts, by means of a floating ceiling that would follow fluctuations in the bank rate.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions from citizens of the riding of Peterborough. All of them deal with the lowering of taxes on tobacco. Each makes a different point.

The first petition from 47 people of Peterborough stresses that the government should deal with smuggling in some other way.

The second petition which has 25 signatures says that the tax will cause between 175,000 and 350,000 more teenagers to smoke in Canada.

The third petition which also has 25 signatures stresses that the tobacco industry knows that lower taxes simply mean higher profits for it.

I present these petitions under Standing Order 36.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Shall all questions stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I wish to inform the House that, pursuant to Standing Order 33(2)(b), because of the ministerial statement, Government Orders will be extended by 12 minutes.

The House resumed consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

March 21st, 1994 / 3:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I believe the hon. member for Kamloops had the floor prior to question period. We will go directly to questions and comments.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

St. Boniface Manitoba

Liberal

Ronald J. Duhamel LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for my hon. colleague.

I was disappointed, assuming that I heard or interpreted the comments attributed to the Bloc Quebecois correctly, that it sort of washed its hands of this. It really did not matter because the Bloc did not expect to around the next time.

I have told the Bloc on several occasions that it has a responsibility to represent all Canadians. This bill is coming forward now and I would argue, and I would like my colleague's comments on this, that it has a responsibility to treat this seriously and not take its own myopic view and simply say it may not be around. It could go poof by the next election. That is my first comment.

My second is a question which is very simple and precise. In the 34th Parliament I had suggested that perhaps this Parliament, that is, l'ensemble des députés, should look at the possibility of significantly reducing the number of MPs. Would this not be a wonderful opportunity to see whether we could do with one-quarter or perhaps one-third fewer MPs?

I would like to get my colleague's reaction. I think that Canadians would applaud such a move. It would mean a significant saving. For the record, I did make that request in the 34th Parliament. Perhaps it will be more easily supported in this, the 35th Parliament.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will answer my colleague's second question first.

I believe there is some merit in the proposal he raised in the last Parliament. It brings to mind a private member's bill that was put forward by my colleague then, the member for Yorkton-Melville. My colleague for Regina-Lumsden spoke to me about that earlier. It would have reduced the number of seats by about 60, I believe, about 20 per cent.

Again, this idea of a political party open to at least the suggestion of not only capping the seats in the House of Commons but actually reducing the number is something that we pursued in the past. It is the kind of thing that we would certainly be open to now in the discussions, assuming that this bill goes on to committee.

In terms of the hon. member's comment regarding my friends in the Bloc, it was a good point. Over the past few weeks as this Parliament has unfolded one of the points I have noticed is there seemed to be a rather restricted geographic base of interest from my friends in the Bloc, tending to focus on issues that were more related to Quebec than perhaps to other parts of Canada. That seems to be a theme that has developed over a period of time.

The speaker from the Bloc made his points earlier and there seems to be almost a preoccupation with Quebec issues. It is not surprising for me, recognizing the mandate that the members have interpreted for themselves. I assumed that there was some inconsistency.

I take the suggestion by my hon. friend from St. Boniface seriously. Perhaps it is a reflection that the Bloc is widening its terms of reference as it interprets being the Official Opposition to represent issues far beyond the borders of Quebec.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, following the comments made by the hon. member for Kamloops, I want to say that we made no secret of our sovereignist option and of the fact that we constantly promote that option for Quebec. Also, we will never resort to the scorched-earth policy. The seats we occupy do not belong to us: we are trustees. I fully agree with that observation made by the hon. member for Calgary West. Until last October 25, we had a government which thought that the whole country belonged to it. Look at what is left of that government now.

It is in this responsible fashion that the Official Opposition intends to continue to work on Bill C-18, which deals with electoral boundaries readjustment. This legislation might be in effect for the next general election, whether Quebec is still present or not.

I think it is a matter of responsibility for parliamentarians, regardless of their political affiliation, to participate in the business of the House. In my opinion, given this notion of responsibility, a party which would sit back and refuse to take part in the work of the House because of a political option or some bias, would certainly deserve to be blamed.

As I said earlier, as long as we are here, we intend to defend the interests of Canadians from coast to coast, all the way up to the Arctic. This must be very clear, and if we have to repeat it, we will constantly repeat it, being understood of course that our primary objective is Quebec's sovereignty.

However, we are not the ones who will decide; the decision rests with Quebeckers. It is Quebec voters who, on referendum day, will decide their future, in the polling booth.

Whatever their decision, we must respect it. We believe and we hope that they will say yes, and in fact we will work for a yes vote for sovereignty, for empowerment, for the opening of Quebec to the world, to the francophonie and to the English-speaking world and all other cultures of course. If, unfortunately, we cannot reach our goal from the seat we occupy here and if others take over, we will have to work to ensure that it happens later, in the best possible manner.

We are here to promote Quebec's evolution in the context of a mature political context, and it makes me very sad every time I hear expressions such as "break up" or "collapse" in reference to Canada. We do not want to break anything other than political structures. Does the redefinition of Canada's political structures mean the breaking up of anything? Was there any mention of a "collapse" when the Canadian Constitution was rewritten in 1840, then in 1867, in 1931, and finally in 1982? No, rather we talked about affirmation. When Canada became sovereign, we celebrated. When Quebec becomes sovereign, we should also celebrate.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my friend with some interest. First of all he says he is a separatist and that he is promoting separatism or sovereignty association or whatever. That is fine. I think it is a moot point.

He says that he wants his party to act as the Official Opposition. I do not think there is any question that if we did a content analysis of the questions asked by my friends in the Bloc we would find overwhelmingly that those questions are focused geographically.

I do not recall many questions being raised about the west coast fishery, about the problems in the Arctic region, about agriculture on the prairies, about the Atlantic fishery, the fixed link with P.E.I, energy and mines. I hope this is a new trend that we will see. I would encourage my colleagues to take up the role of Official Opposition in a more appropriate way than they have in the past.

However, to listen to my friend talk about dismembering Canada as we know it and to say that this is not breaking up the country is mixing up our words somewhat. In a family when a piece of the family leaves, we talk about breaking up the family. When one loses a limb, one is obviously breaking up one's body somewhat.

To take a major part of Canada and separate it into a sovereign nation and say that is not breaking up Canada is a misuse of the term.

We should recognize that the fundamental purpose, as my colleague has indicated, of the Bloc in the House is to separate the province of Quebec from Canada, which in my terminology would be breaking up the country that we have known for the past 126 years in a formal sense.

It is a mixture of terminology. Perhaps some of it gets mixed up in the translation, but in my mind it is very clear what is going on. I do not support the Bloc in its fundamental mandate, but I do find encouragement in the fact that it says it is going to take on the role of Official Opposition in a more generous way in the future.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the thoughtful remarks of the hon. member for Kamloops on this subject.

I want to raise a couple of points with him. I appreciate the dissatisfaction that exists in interior British Columbia. I have had the opportunity, not in a great deal of detail, to review some of the proposed maps from the commission and certainly interior British Columbia has some of the stranger proposals. Some of them are unusual. Most are fairly standard types of proposals.

I am sure the hon. member for Kamloops would agree it would be appropriate in the interim to point his constituents toward the fact that the commission will be holding hearings in Kamloops on May 24. I am sure he will do that.

One thing he raised in his speech that I want to bring forward concerns the legislative program of the government. Does he find it unusual that we are discussing electoral boundaries when the budget is yet to be discussed, the omnibus budget bill, unemployment insurance concerns? Does he find that this is a strange example of parliamentary priorities in his long experience here?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, to my colleague from Calgary West I want to say that one of the very first things I did when I saw the map was call a press conference and urge my constituents to write, serve notice that they would want to be interveners during the hearings on the new boundaries because they were so odd and so peculiar.

In terms of priority, my hon. colleague from Calgary West pointed out that part of the theme of this new government is to consult, to discuss, to study, to examine and to review. As a matter of fact, all we have really done so far is initiate reviews, studies and examinations of just about every conceivable area of responsibility for the federal government.

I suspect this is part of that thesis, although when we consider the priorities of the country we would have to look long and hard to find Canadians that would say the process we use for determining the boundaries of federal electoral districts is something that ought to be reviewed and given some priority.

I find myself in agreement with my friend that this is an odd priority. What is perhaps more odd is that it has come so quickly and out of nowhere.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add some fresh thoughts on our debate about the proposed suspension of the operation of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.

I wonder if we should consider starting from the premise that this Parliament ought to interfere in due process set up by Parliament only for some clearly stated public policy purpose.

What concerns some of us in the House very much is that the purpose of this interference has not at all been stated. There is absolutely nothing in the bill that says what we are hoping to achieve by suspension of the process that has been in effect now for many months.

The proposed bill is entirely silent on important elements that would provide some direction and also that would allow the citizens we serve to evaluate the merits of the process. Other speakers have stated clearly, and I would agree, that the effects of the present process are somewhat undesirable.

I represent the riding of Calgary North. It is the largest riding in terms of voter population in the province of Alberta, with over 94,000 electors. It is growing very quickly. New communities are being built up rapidly and the boundaries of the riding are expanding.

This commission in its initial proposal which was mailed to the electors in my riding did not just take away a portion of the riding, which is the largest riding in Alberta and growing. Obviously part of it will have to go somewhere else. The commission ripped the thing in half and gave me a chunk of someone else's riding. Not only did this disrupt the sense of community that the riding has enjoyed for a while but it also took away a part of another sense of community that has been built up in another riding.

There would not be any problem with taking away from the largest riding in Alberta, but to do that on one hand and then give me part of another one does not make a whole lot of sense in my view and in the view of many of my constituents. The concern that has been stated on all sides of the House is the tendency of the commission to violate the sense of community that has been built up. I would suggest that this is a valid concern.

If we are going to have our citizens participating in the political process in a meaningful way then the provisions of the act that instruct the commission to respect the community of interest, to look at geographic criteria should have been more closely followed by the commission. I think that is a valid criticism.

The problem is that we have identified the problem but not the solution. What we are doing in this case is taking away an important element that would help us to identify solutions. That would be to proceed with the public hearings which have been scheduled to begin in a couple of weeks across the country for which many of our citizens are preparing.

The hon. member for Kamloops has just stated that in his riding citizens have already been preparing for those hearings. Here we are at the very last second pulling the rug out from under this process and not allowing the citizens of the country to help us move in better directions if we are agreed that we do need different directions.

I believe there is some real virtue in moving on to permit these public views to be heard, to assist parliamentarians who represent the citizens of the country, to look at the process, to adjust it so that the results are more desirable for all of us and to open the process up to that kind of input.

It could be very beneficial for us as parliamentarians to have the views of other citizens in the country who are directly affected by the work of the commission. It would also ensure that any future rules that were proposed were not open to the charge that has been made by other speakers in today's debate that the process has been interfered with in a partisan, unfair or inappropriate manner.

I believe that if we let the public speak on this situation the public would bring up the very same concerns that we in Parliament have, perhaps with an added perspective, definitely with a different credibility. I would urge the government to consider seriously whether this process should go ahead. I recommend that it does.

The process that is set up under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act is represented as being independent of political influence, and so it should be. Some speakers today have registered a concern that in stopping this present process and not putting in a clear process today that could be evaluated, political influence is a definite possibility in the future.

I would suggest that the House, if it wishes to maintain the confidence of the Canadian public, should protect that principle of independence by commissions that are engaged in these types of exercises and that we ought to affirm that principle of independence. Whatever we do in the House or whatever the government does to affect the process must clearly protect the integrity of the process rather than leave it open to even a suspicion that there can be partisan tinkering with it.

Unfortunately no safeguards are proposed in the legislation to address this very legitimate concern. That is one of the reasons, in spite of the disagreement that members of the House have with the commission's initial proposals, we feel that the present action of the government in simply putting a stop to the whole process without safeguards, without any clear direction, is inappropriate and why we do not support the bill that is before us today.

In Calgary hearings by the commission have been scheduled for April 20. We have urged citizens there to make their proposals known. We hope that this kind of participation can still take place. If the government, after today's debate, after hearing some of the concerns and suggestions from other members of the House, will allow those hearings to proceed it will encourage participation of the public in what is happening with redistribution.

There have been many suggestions made today that the people of Canada do not want to pay more members of Parliament. Some people have been so unkind as to suggest that some members of the public feel that the 295 we have today are not entirely worth their pay. I am sure that is not true but it has been suggested by some.

If it is true that the people of Canada do not want to see an increase in the number of members of the House, the number of members representing and governing them, we ought to give them an opportunity to air this concern. That would be another purpose of the public hearings that we feel should not be stopped but should go ahead.

The suggestion has been made in the House but there really has been no opportunity for the members of the public to make this suggestion. Perhaps if they were allowed to speak they would be happy to have more of us doing the fine job that we are doing. However, if they do not feel that way they should be allowed to say so clearly and to the proper body.

I want to emphasize that this exercise of electoral redistribution and the public hearings that accompany it really go to the root of the democratic principle of representation. In a democracy we abide by the principle of one person, one vote. That is a very important principle of democracy. That means that our proportional representation has to be unified across the country.

The redistribution that is necessary because of fluctuations in population is important and the exercise that surrounds this redistribution is important because it touches this very fundamental proposition of one person, one vote, a proportional representation.

I would emphasize that we ought not to interfere with this exercise lightly because of the very fundamental principles that it speaks to. I think the people of Canada would have a right to be concerned if a government used its majority against the wishes of all members of the House, of all representatives of the people, to interfere in a very fundamental democratic exercise without having the opportunity for people to speak themselves.

I would suggest that rather than exercising our power as legislators to pass judgment on the proposals of the commission, although we are certainly entitled to state our concerns and opinions and would be free to do so in the commission hearings, that instead we use our responsibilities as leaders to ensure full and fair public debate and review of the commission's proposals.

I think that would be the service that we should render to the public rather than simply using our own unilateral judgment to put a stop to the exercise of the commission's jurisdiction.

I think that we as legislators also have a responsibility to ensure that the commission respects the provisions of section 15 of the present Electoral Boundaries Redistribution Act which mandates that they look at community and geographic considerations and some of the things that we could argue have been violated in the initial proposals of the commission.

However, I would emphasize that these are initial proposals only, that they are not written in stone. They are, presumably and certainly ostensibly, open to public input and public influence. I would suggest that we allow that process to go ahead.

In summary I believe there are public policy reasons to re-examine the present process. It is clear that there is a lot of unhappiness both in terms of the growing numbers of MPs that have been suggested and in terms of the violation of community and the sense of cohesion that has been built up in many areas through political involvement.

However, I believe that this process should be carefully and thoughtfully considered and rather than just throwing out $5 million worth of work today that we give some clear direction when we do change the process and that the changes be proposed only when they have been properly framed and not just on "we don't like this, we don't know what we like, but we are not going

to go ahead with this", especially without the public being able to speak on this.

With that recommendation I urge members of the House to support our proposed amendment to this bill.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Liberal Carleton—Gloucester, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Calgary North has made an interesting speech based on the principle of public representation, arguing that the people should be able to make representations on how the new federal ridings would be redistributed.

I think this is an excellent point and it would be great if all the various communities within a riding were homogenous instead of having totally divergent interests as is often the case at present.

I would like to ask the hon. member for Calgary North the following question. You can see the size of this chamber. A few years ago, ten, fifty, a hundred years ago, there certainly were not 295 members sitting here. Not so long ago, there were about 250. There used to be 200 and, before that, perhaps 150. Today, we are 295 and we are about to add another six, at a cost of approximately $9 million, $10 million or $12 million.

So, I can see two problems. One is that, at this rate, there will come a point, in 2050 or 2090, where this chamber will no longer be large enough to hold all the new members. Walls will have to be moved back to make room for the extra seats that will have to be made. If you look to the south, in the United States, they have only 100 senators for a total population of about 250 million.

My riding is huge. It is currently the fourth largest of all urban and rural ridings in Canada, and I am not complaining. I am rather proud of it. I think that there is a way, when you how, to represent your riding well and not lose touch with the community.

I am sure that the hon. member has noticed that in Prince Edward Island, they have ridings-and I do not mean any disrespect; I am merely stating a fact-which are no larger than certain neighbourhoods in cities like Calgary or here, in the Ottawa area. They have four members of Parliament representing 135,000 people, and I do mean people as opposed to voters. There are probably no more than 20,000 to 25,000 voters in some of these ridings, and even that is generous. Now, there is a problem there, but the province and its right to be represented have to be respected. This is a case where we would have to refer to the Constitution.

For those of us from other parts of the country where there are no such guarantees, is this room not getting a little crowded? And have our national debt and public debt not grown so much that we should act to curb the growth of the number of elected members?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Before I give the floor to the hon. member for Calgary North, I know it is the beginning of the week and possibly I have been a little more generous with the time than I should be, but I do want to give the opportunity to each and every member who wishes to speak to this issue that opportunity in the next few hours or however long the debate might go on. I understood that members are sharing time in tens and fives and I think if we were to check the times we would find that we have rather extended those quite generously.

In all fairness to the very good question following an interesting intervention by the member for Calgary North, I would ask the member for Calgary North if she would not mind just giving the House at this moment the short version and possibly she may want to discuss the matter more fully with her colleague at a later time so that we can get the debate back on track within the confines of the time limitations we put on one another.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Reform

Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should have indicated to you a few minutes ago that Reform members are not presently sharing their time. I had indicated that in a discussion with your predecessor and I guess that information was not passed on. There was some lack of clarity on that.

I do not know how you want to proceed with this particular speaker, but after this speaker I do not think for the time being we will be sharing our time. We will not be sharing our time.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I apologize to all members in the House, and particularly to the member for Calgary North and the member for Carleton-Gloucester.

I understand now very clearly from the member for Calgary West that Reform members participating in the debate will not be sharing their time but in fact will take the full 20 minute complement followed by 10 minutes of questions and comments. Is that correct?

The member for Calgary North has more time than I had first indicated.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, we probably owe you an apology for not communicating directly to you on that point. I am sure that members of the House will be absolutely delighted to know that I can now give them the long answer to the hon. member's question rather than the short answer.

I believe his points were well taken. With respect to Prince Edward Island, now that the causeway is going ahead perhaps the population of that area of the country will increase to justify more representation.

I believe his comment with respect to other countries, particularly our neighbour to the south, is very interesting and very appropriate where a much larger population appears to be well served. In fact, some people think it is still over-served by a much lesser number of representatives than we have here in Canada. I believe that their Congress is not a whole lot bigger than our House of Commons even though they have 10 times the population. That is one argument I have certainly heard advanced by many Canadians against expanding the membership of this Chamber.

I would like to touch on another aspect of this in response to the hon. member's question as to whether we really need more representatives. I think this goes to the root and scope of our representation here in the Canadian Parliament. On this side of the House we have argued rather strenuously and will continue to argue that the scope of our representation in this Chamber is very circumscribed. In other words, we really do not have the freedom we think is necessary to represent the wishes and directives of our constituents as should be available in a representative democracy through things like free votes. Quite often we find in the House members are voting and acting in accordance with strict directives from their party.

If that is going to continue to be the case, I would suggest that indeed there could be fewer of us simply responding to directives from the executive portion of our party. If we are going to truly solicit and actively represent the concerns and wishes and directives of our constituents then we would have much more legitimacy, especially with respect to numbers than we do today.

Last, I would like to point out to the hon. member that although I agree with his contention that we ought not to increase the numbers in this Chamber, and as he rightly points out there are even physical limitations on that today, this bill makes absolutely no commitment to do that. There is nothing in this bill that says we are going to turn this back to committee with a view to ensuring that the number of members in this Chamber does not increase.

That is a real concern. I would say to the hon. member that for that reason I would urge him to support the amendment we have made to give a period of time so that those very specific directions can be built into the bill and then the bill can be brought back. We know where we are going and we know what we want to achieve. It is clearly stated and we can go forward on a much more solid basis that is open to evaluation and debate rather than just throwing the thing wide open again.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Reform

Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Calgary North for her comments. The hon. member for Calgary North and I and other members of the Reform caucus from Calgary have been co-operating on a submission to be made to the public hearings in Calgary on April 20. We certainly appreciate her efforts in that regard and also the fact that she has really been in the forefront of making sure that her constituents are aware of this and are able to participate in the process.

The question I would like to ask the hon. member for Calgary North flows from the previous comment from the hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester. So far today every speaker has indicated a desire to see the number of MPs capped or even reduced. Certainly nobody seems to be saying they want the number of MPs increased.

Blocking the public hearing process will not accomplish that. In fact, having the public hearing process will not accomplish it either because it is not a matter of the boundaries commission. It is a matter of the formula to which the House in conjunction with the Senate could make some alterations.

This whole process could be facilitated if we could agree on the issue of capping the number of MPs. I am curious as to whether the hon. member has observed the same thing in debate. Why does she believe the government is so reluctant to make this commitment if there seems to be support for this kind of measure from all sides of the House. I am sure she is hearing the same thing from some of her constituents.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, one of the points we have been making is that we want a commitment in this bill to cap the number of members of Parliament.

As the hon. member for Calgary West rightly points out this would be within the purview of the House of Commons through an amendment to section 51 of the Constitution. This House has the jurisdiction to make that amendment because it pertains to a federal matter.

In speaking with other members and particularly government members, we have urged a commitment like that to be built into this process or a review of the process. I want to emphasize that this has not been done. This is very disturbing to me as a representative of electors. I have no idea why this could not have been done and was not done.

It does raise the question as to how serious the government is about capping or committing not to increase the number of members. Rather than just taking a chance on a proper proposal or a commitment coming out of a new process, it would be far better to make that commitment right up front as a condition of going in a different direction with the process rather than hoping that somehow it comes out of talks within the House or in committees in the next few months.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Reform

Jan Brown Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, in the 1993 election Canadians from small rural towns to large urban centres told whoever would listen they wanted a reduction in the size and cost of government. They continue to expect their elected representatives to provide leadership on this issue. By not listening the government is failing yet again to provide that leadership Canadians are seeking.

The government as a minimum must review the process by which representation takes place if it is to demonstrate it takes the wishes of the electorate seriously. Most certainly the number of seats in this House must be capped.

I recognize that electoral riding boundaries are not frozen for all time, nor should they be. Changes in population distribution often render electoral boundaries obsolete requiring them to be changed. However, changes should be made with one important element in mind: This country cannot afford any more members of Parliament. What it needs are parliamentary reforms that will make the system and the MPs we do have more effective in carrying out their roles in the House.

One of the most important of those reforms is Senate reform. An elected Senate would ensure that regional interests are effectively balanced against the electoral distribution we now have, one that is heavily weighted in favour of central Canada. An equal, elected and effective Senate is what Canada needs, not more MPs. The long range interest of Canadian federalism, a reformed Senate, must be put ahead of short term expediency, more MPs. Reforming the Senate is the kind of long range planning Canadians expect from government.

The 35th Parliament must take a leadership role in demonstrating we are seriously heeding the wishes of Canadians and that we are acting on their advice. The bill before us today should therefore be rejected by all members who respond directly to the wishes of their electorate.

Like a number of other government programs the exact cost of yet another proposal to possibly add more members of Parliament cannot be calculated.

For example the government has yet to deal with the cost of MPs pensions. While we support the government's intention to review MPs pensions, we cannot endorse the mixed message this bill sends to Canadians. Where is the government's commitment to control and limit spending? Let us be clear and provide consistent messages to Canadians because they are not only listening but they are also watching.

We support a federal democratically elected government that provides equity to all regions through a reasonable alignment of boundaries. Equity is better served through downsizing than through upsizing.

Given that the government cannot fund all of our current expenditures out of revenues, it falls to our lenders to fund with interest these additional costs. It is becoming a very scary part of Canadian government that our lenders are funding with interest those activities and actions we wish to pursue in this House.

In recent years the trend in corporate communities has been to become more efficient. Companies in the nineties have become slim and trim to give better services with decreased overhead. When will the government learn to look to the private sector to see where it is going and what it is doing? There are many lessons to be learned there.

I do not understand how the government is going to create jobs for Canadians when it has no concept of what is going on in the private sector. I certainly met no one during the 1993 election campaign who felt that job creation meant more jobs for MPs.

We are clearly over governed. We have three levels of government. Among the three levels of government there are thousands of elected representatives. The House of Commons has 295 MPs representing some 28 million people. This works out to approximately 94,915 Canadians for every member of Parliament.

The Prime Minister likes to make comparisons between Canada and the United States. I agree with the Prime Minister that we look outside of Canada for comparisons to measure our own performance.

In the United States there are 435 congressmen in the House of Representatives and 100 senators. This totals only 535 representatives for some 250 million Americans. This works out to one elected representative for every 467,300 Americans. I have not heard of any support from Americans to increase their levels of representation by 497 per cent to bring them in line with the level of representation provided for in Canada. This per capita comparison clearly shows that we do not need more MPs; we probably could do with less.

Until there is a comprehensive review of Canada's electoral needs as we approach the 21st century and an accompanying strategic plan, there should be a moratorium on changes to electoral boundaries. The government should guarantee there will not be an increase in the number of seats in Parliament. The notion of simply adding MPs as the population grows lacks any vision regarding representation.

A move toward a downsized and elected Senate will stabilize representation at a lower cost. Making senators accountable to their constituents will allow a further reduction in the number of MPs required to provide greater voter representation than that found in most other democracies.

The government has suggested that a parliamentary panel should study the redistribution and size of Parliament. This suggestion causes the people of Canada, and I am one of them, great concern. They have been left out of the decision making process long enough.

It is time government recognized that Canadians are not satisfied to sit idly by and let politicians make decisions without consulting them. The government says it is committed to an open and honest style of governance. Yet at every turn it is calling for councils, panels and committees that do not include nor are open to the public.

It is not up to current members of Parliament to put forward proposals to alter constituency boundaries for future elections. When a redistribution takes place on a large scale the House of Commons frequently rings out with what one MP, Mr. C. G. Power, frankly described as an unseemly, undignified and utterly confusing scramble for personal or political advantage.

Since 1892 Tory governments have proposed committees to redistribute electoral ridings and the Liberals have opposed them. Conversely, Liberal governments have proposed committees to redistribute electoral ridings and the Tories have opposed them. The opposition premise was that the committees were only serving the interests of the government.

Remember the 34th Parliament and how the Liberals objected to an expanded Senate. The Senate has not brought any improvement to Canadian representation. The Liberal opposition of the day argued that electoral boundary changes would only benefit those on the committee deciding the changes. Why have the Liberals now so dramatically changed their position? They are now proposing yet another committee with a mandate to study electoral boundary changes which would likely recommend increases, not decreases, to the number of MPs.

I am not opposing out of my own self-interest. I oppose electoral boundary redistribution because I want to ensure there will be no new seats and preferably fewer than we have today. This is what the constituents I represent are telling me. Further, this exercise by parliamentarians does not include the public beyond broader based review nor does it have the popular support of the public.

We are calling for the government to adopt a procedure that cannot be accused of being partisan. Electoral boundary changes must only be implemented if they will benefit Canadians.

There were calls for non-partisan redistribution prior to the BNA Act, 1867. Those wishes still have not been satisfied. We in the Reform Party are bringing to the House those popular wishes, wishes that government in this country have failed to listen to for 127 years.

I ask the House to support our amendment.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Liberal Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the part of the hon. member's speech where she was comparing our system with the American system.

I have spoken to a lot of American congressmen and women in the last five years. I have often talked to them about the size of their constituencies.

The hon. member mentioned the American constituencies were about five times larger than ours. They are about 500,000 on average compared to our 100,000. What the hon. member failed to mention is that the size of their staff ranges from 18 to 25 workers. One will find that is an increase of 5 per cent.

In making a comparison therefore we should be comparing the whole picture. Sure their constituencies are larger in that they have 500,000 to our 100,000, but the size of their staff is five times larger as well. It is fair to mention that also. Maybe we could add that to the bill when we are considering it a bit later. Perhaps the member has something to say on that.