Mr. Speaker, this is the second time I rise on electoral reform. First I would like to apologize to our friends the interpreters for not bringing them my speech, as I usually do. Unfortunately, if the people listening to us could see the wilderness in which we are preaching today, they would understand that sometimes we must be ready to respond quickly.
So this is the second time I rise on electoral reform. I did so as chairman of the Montreal Island caucus. I questioned my Bloc colleagues and tried to gather information on this reform, and today we are discussing the amendments proposed after the report was tabled. The main amendment-the first one-would reduce from 24 to 12 months the suspension period for electoral boundary readjustment. The second and third amendments are a logical consequence of the first one and would let the readjustment proceed while the committee drafts its report so that the commission can do its job.
When I spoke-I will come back to my first speech on this-it was important to me, and many of my regional colleagues spoke of the importance of representing the socio-economic, socio-political communities in their ridings; in the regions, they talk a lot about regional county municipalities, while in the Montreal area, they talk about districts. It is important for members to represent these communities, to have a political representation as integrated as possible at the provincial, federal, municipal, or school level.
In fact, I think that when we talk about the opportunity for politicians to act with the increasingly scarce or limited resources at their disposal, such actions must be better co-ordinated at every level of government. In this respect, there are administrative units that must be represented.
In my first speech I spoke about a fuzzy mathematical logic because, in my opinion, the proposed reform has nothing to do with real life. I told you about problems in the eastern part of Montreal, in Mercier, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Papineau-Saint-Michel, the riding of the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs, that will disappear, the riding of Saint-Léonard that will expand considerably, as well as the riding of Saint-Denis and my own riding of Ahuntsic. By the way, "Ahuntsic" is an Indian word that dates back to the beginning of the colony. Mr. Ahuntsic was a young ferryman with the first settlers and it is
the Iroquois who gave him this nickname. So, that name goes back to the very beginning of the colony.
I re-examined the map and discovered another problem with the riding of Bourassa-Anjou-Rivières-des-Prairies, which seems to me quite significant when you consider only the figures.
The riding of Bourassa encompasses the city of Montreal North, a developing area facing hard times and trying to regroup its community organizations as well as its political demography. The area is pretty well integrated.
Given the proposed readjustments, from a mathematical point of view only, we will add to this riding, which encompasses a whole city, about ten streets taken from the riding of Anjou-Rivières-des-Prairies. Now, Rivières-des-Prairies is a neighbourhood in the city of Montreal. In other words, we will be adding to a politically and economically homogenous entity a tiny area, made up of ten streets, only to respect some mathematical criteria. I will come back later to the spreads, because there are some things which are totally absurd.
I thought I would address the issue of "juggling" figures, and since our friends, the translators, do not have copy of my speech, I am looking forward to seeing how they will translate this nice Quebec French expression, zigonnage , which says exactly what I mean.
In my hands, I have a map which I want to show you. I want to talk about the population spreads. In Quebec, there are about 91,500 constituents for every seat and the ridings are drawn according to this average ratio.
If you look at the previous map, in the area of Montreal made up of 23 ridings, 11 ridings were below the average ratio. Now, on the new map, we have 17 ridings which are 5 per cent over the average ratio. So, we went from a minimum scale which we were not following to another scale which we are still not following, since the variations are very large.
In fact, on the former map, the spread was of 20 per cent in three ridings and 10 per cent in four other ridings. With the new map, the spread in 17 ridings on the island of Montreal is over 5 per cent. We even have some pretty obscure spreads, some incredible turnabouts. In Laurier-Sainte-Marie, the spread went from minus 13 to plus 4, for a difference of 17. In Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, we went from minus 14 to plus 10, a difference of 24 between the two maps. In Rosemont, it varied from minus 5 to plus 12, a difference of 17. The two champions in this respect are Anjou-Rivière-des-Prairies, which changes from +20 to -0.54, a spread of 21, and the riding of Vaudreuil, which will go from +20 to -8, a spread of 28.
Why do we have these wide swings? I do not know where the riding of Vaudreuil will be on the next maps, because it will no longer be part of Montreal Island.
In my first presentation, I assumed that the riding of NDG no longer existed, which is not the case. NDG is now Lachine-NDG. The riding of Lachine-Lac-Saint-Louis is now Pointe-Claire-Dollard; Pierrefonds-Dollard will be Pierrefonds- Beaconsfield and Saint-Henri-Westmount will be Westmount-Ville-Marie. Ridings that ran east-west will now run north-south, which creates a juxtaposition of small towns on the West Island, which consists of medium-sized towns. It takes two to make a federal riding, but instead of the usual east-west twinning, they now run north-south.
It is rather messy, and I think we are just perpetuating a system that did not make sense to start with. We have had the same system for the past 30 years, and it led to an incongruous situation that to us in Montreal was really incredible, and I am referring to the riding of Laval-des-Rapides which straddled the Rivière-des-Prairies, being half on the Island of Laval and half on Montreal Island. When you realize, as I do, that the people of Ahuntsic often wish the metro would be extended to Laval, so that the people of Laval could leave their cars at home instead of polluting our neighbourhoods, I find it hard to understand why we should group two communities that so often disagree on major political issues.
So far, four ridings in the region have not been affected: the three ridings of Laval, where Laval Centre is at +11.52, Laval East at +12 and Laval West at +18. A subsequent readjustment would normally create a fourth riding on the Island of Laval. However, considering existing figures and population growth, we can assume that for the next census, a fourth riding would have to include more than just the north shore, on Île Jésus.
Are we to assume, after seeing what it means to have a riding straddling two islands, that according to the same system, we will get another incongruous situation when the next readjustment creates another riding straddling the shores of two islands?
That sounds rather far-fetched, but in any case, I would like to point out that the riding of Saint-Laurent-Cartierville will not change. This is the only riding out of 23 on the Island that will not be affected in any way. Therefore, if we can presume the member is thinking in electoral terms when she talks about the map, we can certainly presume that our hon. colleague, the Acting Speaker, will have no partisan motivation whatsoever when she votes.
This brings us to the amendments. I see myself having to defend this in front of the commission simply because we could not meet the deadline, because here in the House we follow a very peculiar kind of procedure to say the least. To the commission I will say: According to the present rules, you should do this for my riding and according to other rules, you should do that.
It is somewhat incongruous when you think that, whatever happens, this whole process will and must disappear because it is not logical for me to defend bits of Montreal districts that will be taken away to be added to another riding for socio-demographic reasons. One thing is sure: if I win, my neighbour will lose; according to demographic and mathematical criteria, someone somewhere has to lose.
On that point, I agree with the bill and I disagree with the amendments because 12 months will not be enough. I agree with the member for Beauséjour that we need 24 months and that, after the committee has tabled its report, we will need time to come back to the question and analyze it thoroughly and not in a rush as I have to do it today; we will need to take the time to study the issue properly.