House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was drugs.


Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

An hon. member

On division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed.)

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ProcessGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario


Allan Rock Liberalfor the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons


That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to prepare and bring in a bill, in accordance with Standing Order 68(5), respecting the system of readjusting the boundaries of electoral districts for the House of Commons by Electoral Boundaries Commissions, and, in preparing the said bill, the committee be instructed to consider, among other related matters, the general operation over the past thirty years of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, including:

(a) an assessment of whether there should be a continual increase in the number of Members of the House of Commons after each census, as now provided in section 51 of the Constitution Act;

(b) a review of the adequacy of the present method of selection of members of Electoral Boundaries Commissions;

(c) a review of the rules governing and the powers and methods of proceedings of Electoral Boundaries Commissions, including whether these Commissions ought to commence their work from the basis of making necessary alterations to the boundaries of existing electoral districts wherever possible;

(d) a review of the time and nature of the involvement of the public and of the House of Commons in the work of Electoral Boundaries Commissions;

That the committee have the power to travel within Canada and to hear witnesses by teleconference; and

That the committee report no later than December 16, 1994.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ProcessGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Winnipeg North Centre Manitoba


David Walker LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise and speak in favour of the motion to refer the issue of the electoral boundaries readjustment process to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

The current process of adjusting constituency boundaries by independent commissions has been in existence since 1964 when the Liberal government of Lester Pearson passed the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. Before then the House of Commons itself was responsible for electoral boundaries readjustment.

The current process has been in place since 1964. After 30 years the time has come for a fundamental review of all aspects of this process by the House of Commons which passed the 1964 law in the first place.

On April 13, 1994 this House adopted Bill C-18. It provides for a suspension of the current electoral boundaries readjustment process for a period of 24 months in order to allow for a fundamental review of all aspects of the process. All aspects of this matter should be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in a thorough and thoughtful manner.

Some dissatisfaction has been expressed with regard to the current process. I would like to take a few minutes to elaborate on this.

For example, the commissions published their initial proposals without having a chance to obtain input from interested parties. When published therefore, these proposals often come as a complete surprise.

From my former days as a political science professor at the University of Winnipeg when I followed the electoral boundaries review process in a more dispassionate way, I can tell you those in the academic community who were watching the process were indeed surprised by the results at times. They were more surprised at how difficult it was to learn in detail exactly how the new boundaries were set.

Although some commissions explain the reasons for the proposals, they are not required to do so. It is therefore very difficult for a person who intends to make representations, to intervene with a commission, to know the reasons behind the

proposal and to make objections or present alternatives in an effective manner. In that respect the public participation process is not what it should have been.

The criteria the commissions must use to set the boundaries may have to be rethought. The criteria are quite general and, depending on the approach taken by each commission, the rationale for drawing electoral boundaries can differ considerably from one province to another. That has created a lot of controversy in this process for setting boundaries since 1964.

The continual increase in the number of members in the House of Commons after each census is another issue of some concern. Since Confederation the number of seats in the House of Commons has increased steadily from 181 in 1867 to the current level of 295. All of us have heard the electors express frustration with the constant growth of government, the size of the House of Commons and the cost associated with Parliament. This issue should not be passed over lightly.

The above examples are but a few of the areas that should be thoroughly reviewed by the standing committee. The government has therefore decided to ask the House of Commons to refer the electoral boundaries readjustment process to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for review and to develop improvements to the current procedure.

The standing committee's terms of reference provide that it can bring in a bill respecting the system of readjusting the boundaries of electoral districts.

The committee shall consider the general operation over the past 30 years of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, including the following major issues: whether there should be a continual increase in the number of members in the House of Commons after each census as now provided in section 51 of the Constitution Act; a review of the method of selection of members of the electoral boundaries commissions; a review of the proceedings of the commissions, including whether they ought to make alterations to the boundaries of existing electoral districts wherever possible; and a review of the involvement of the public and of the House of Commons in the work of the commissions.

I may add to that if we make improvements, as this House does in so many other areas in the way we deal with the country, in the way we involve people, then many of the problems we meet in a process such as we have in the last month in this particular domain will be solved. It is incumbent upon all parliamentarians to think of ways to improve public participation, in the ways in which the general public influence such major decisions such as the nature, shape and composition of their constituencies.

This committee is to report no later than December 16, 1994.

Using one of the new procedures adopted by the House when it approved the government's parliamentary reform package at the outset of this Parliament, the committee will be authorized to frame legislation implementing its proposals.

Again there are benchmarks in the new House where we try to convince Canadians and try to show by example that we are serious about the role of individual members, serious about the role of people outside of the ministries doing work as fundamental as preparing legislation. As I said, this will turn out to be a benchmark in the way we redevelop this House and its approach to problems.

This will be the first opportunity for a parliamentary committee to initiate legislation in response to requests submitted by the government. We are following through on our commitment to strengthen the role of members of Parliament in developing legislation.

The redistribution of electoral boundaries is an important matter for the whole country. We are requesting the standing committee to not only study the issue but to develop and recommend legislative measures it feels may be required to solve this problem.

In conclusion, the readjustment of electoral boundaries touches important questions of democratic representation in the House of Commons. Now is the ideal time to have a thorough review of the process undertaken by the House of Commons itself and to hear Canadians from coast to coast to coast through the standing committee. The committee hearings will be public and outside witnesses will be heard.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ProcessGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, previous speeches made in this House pointed out the essentially democratic nature of the Bloc Quebecois and, in this regard, its willingness to respect the integrity and autonomy of the people it represents in every county of Quebec.

One of our party's basic objectives, particularly in anticipation of Quebec's independence, is to exercise the democratic process as widely as possible.

Today we take this opportunity to support government motion M-10 proposing that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to prepare and bring in a bill respecting the system of readjusting the boundaries of electoral districts.

Our goal in supporting motion M-10 is, as you know, to respect the regional integrity of these communities without hampering the regional decentralization process currently taking place in Quebec.

However, the Bloc Quebecois will only support this government motion on certain conditions.

First, we must denounce, once again, the arbitrary and inconsistent new boundaries drawn up in recent years and, in this regard, we must also mention the importance of administrative divisions in Quebec.

Not only are these administrative zones strategically important for Quebec but they are based on fundamental geographical, economic, industrial and cultural elements.

As long as Quebec remains, in spite of itself, a member of the Canadian Confederation, the federal commissions responsible for readjusting electoral boundaries will have to consider regional municipalities, counties and administrative regions.

As we said in a previous speech, our second reservation about motion M-10 is that the decentralization of decision-making powers should, in our opinion, be an essential element of regional policy in the year 2000.

The Canadian policy advocated by a Liberal government big on centralization lacks a socio-economic development perspective.

We see the decentralization of political and economic decision-making as essential to creating jobs in RCMs.

In line with Minister Picotte's reform and the consolidation of regional development councils, the Bloc Quebecois has made a commitment to direct political and economic decision-making to the regions.

The Bloc Quebecois proposes that the State of Quebec no longer act alone in planning coherent economic development. In our view, the general framework for this development must be redefined, starting with the regions. Decentralization of the bureaucratic monster which the central State has become requires Quebec's political sovereignty.

The Bloc Quebecois wants to go beyond changes to the political structure. We recommend regional self-management based on fundamental democracy. We advocate the creation of highly decentralized and antibureaucratic organizations. In short, we reject the authoritarian social and economic management policies which are pursued by the unified political power representing central States and which are ruining the public finances of Canada and Quebec.

A two-year moratorium, during which decentralization of the decision-making process will be stepped up under the Parti Quebecois in Quebec, will allow riding residents to concentrate more on ensuring regional development rather than on building a Canada that can never be.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois recommends that the entire federal Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act be reformulated, and that the process be undertaken as soon as possible within the framework of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

We must take advantage of the two-year moratorium on the redistribution of electoral boundaries to weigh carefully all the implications of adjustments of this nature to ridings.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ProcessGovernment Orders

April 19th, 1994 / 11:15 a.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I stand here today as a very proud member of the House of Commons representing the province of British Columbia. The reason I say it that way is because with all due respect to my Liberal counterparts from our province, they have remained silent on this issue. It is an issue of great concern to the people of British Columbia.

We received by fax a copy of a letter that our premier sent to the Prime Minister. I will read part of it:

I am appalled that your government, with the support of six B.C. Liberal MPs, has betrayed the best interests of British Columbia in introducing this measure with closure. Your actions will deny B.C. its fair representation in the House of Commons.

He goes on to point out:

As you know, with the defeat of the Charlottetown accord, B.C. lost gains it made in that agreement which would have given this province five more seats before the 2001 census. That was to build on scheduled redistribution for 1996 when B.C.'s representation in the House of Commons was to increase by two seats. This was a clear recognition of B.C.'s severe under-representation in the House of Commons.

At the risk of being branded one of those crazy BCers, here we go all over again, let me also state that I am a proud Canadian citizen. I stand for a united Canada as I believe the vast majority of people in B.C. do.

However, why is it that every time we turn around in British Columbia measures are taken in this place, even when we have representatives on the government side, that we do not consider to be rational and fair representation? We feel we are almost being abandoned.

The leader of the opposition, Mr. Gordon Campbell, also wrote to the Prime Minister. He states:

Mr. Minister, the bill makes no sense.

He is referring to Bill C-18.

Parliament does not strengthen the country by disenfranchising its fastest growing region nor does Parliament strengthen its bond to the people it serves by further weakening the principle of one person, one vote.

One of the interesting things I have found since coming to Ottawa is that the amount of news that flows in this direction into the awareness of people in central Canada about the concerns of the people of British Columbia seems to be minuscule. If I did not have my constituency office in Cranbrook constantly feeding me information from the western press I

would think that it did not even exist. For the interest of the House I might mention that Mr. Mel Smith, former constitutional adviser to the province of British Columbia, in the lead paragraph in an article he has just written says: "British Columbians of every political stripe should be up in arms over the current scheme by the government to subvert the most fundamental principle of democratic society, representation by population and in the process deprive British Columbia of seats it is entitled to in the next House of Commons".

What can we do to get proper representation for the province of British Columbia? We recognize that we do have one particular anomaly with respect to representation by population and that is Prince Edward Island where the average population per seat ranges between 30,000 and 34,000. So be it. It is a fact of history. It is an anomaly.

What about the province of Ontario? Under distribution as we currently have it, seats range in population from 63,000 to 209,000. I would suspect that the constituents that are represented by the member for Mississauga West must be wondering why the Liberal government in absolute union stood up en masse and said that was fine. For Mississauga West we can have 209,000 population versus 63,000 population. It is all right.

It is fair and good to say we are going to redistribute the seats in Parliament. We are going to do things differently. We are going to go into the process. However someone has suggested that many of the processes in Ottawa resemble glacial time. An ice age will come and go. We are going to be fighting the next election based on 1981 census figures.

What has happened in metropolitan Toronto? What has happened in Alberta? What has happened in Vancouver? In these areas we have had an absolute explosion of population and now these people are under-represented.

Let me also state that another problem is one of geography. Coming from an area that is bounded by mountains I recognize the difficulty in representing the number of people that I represent versus the number of people that are represented in constituencies in greater Vancouver. Again we have anomalies or variances. It is something we will have to discuss when we are talking about geography because of travel and distances. As a consequence substantial dollars are spent. If I, as a member of Parliament, am going to be representing more people we are going to be into more costs.

The Reform Party stands for representation by population in the lower House. We suggest that this motion is a tactic, it is a fait accompli because the Liberal government used closure to inflict on us these anomalies. Perhaps we even have to take a closer look at the other place. We are currently represented by people appointed there.

Canadians should be aware of the fact that Premier Filmon, as I understand it, is presently taking a look at the possibility of putting a ballot forward at the next provincial election in Manitoba in the same way that the province of Alberta did concerning the election of a senator.

I would suggest to all Canadians watching this broadcast that they give serious consideration to writing the premier and supporting him in the hope of getting proper representation within Canada. In the lower House we would have representation by population, if indeed we ever get around to it, and in the upper House we would have at least one more of the E s which would be an elected member in that Chamber.

I listened with interest to the Secretary of State when he mentioned that the results of redistribution were published without input. Perhaps some people would find it amusing that he is bringing up the point just at a time when we will be having public input. At the time when ordinary Canadians were going to have the opportunity to have input to this most fundamental part of our democratic process, the Liberals shut down the process. That is rather interesting.

However, to make something good of something bad, we recognize there is a strong desire on the part of all Canadians to see a cap on the number of members of Parliament. The secretary stated that earlier in the debate. He said that Canadians are tired of the continual increase. Canadians want to see a change.

Therefore, I would like to move an amendment to the motion. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting paragraph (a) and substituting the following:

"(a) a formula to cap or reduce the number of seats in the House of Commons:"

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ProcessGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Margaret Bridgman Reform Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my address I shall focus on the aspect of the motion of whether the number of MPs should continually increase. In the course of this I shall include some thoughts on the geographical and electoral boundary concerns.

In keeping with the concept of representation by population or each MP representing approximately an equal number of Canadians citizens, two factors influence this. One is the constant increase in the number of Canadians and the other would be the movement of the population within our borders.

Two options present themselves as methods of achieving this representation by population, the first one being that we could establish the number of MPs we would have in the House and divide that number into the total number of Canadians to obtain the number of citizens that each MP would represent. This representation number becomes the variable that would change each time we address this process.

The second option would be the reverse of the first. That would be to establish the number of Canadians that an MP would represent and divide that number into the total number of Canadians. This would make the number of MPs the variable that would change each time we reviewed and updated this process.

Two points to note are that regardless of which option is employed the electoral boundaries of constituencies will change. In both options the existing boundaries within our country do not influence the designating of federal electoral boundaries. It is strictly on head count.

Before moving on to the geographic concerns I wish to comment further on these two options. I favour the establishing of a given number of MPs, say 295, and increasing the number each represents as required.

If we were to do the opposite and increase the number of MPs each time we would be creating problems that would repeat themselves each time we updated our electoral representation or legislation and we would look for solutions each time.

The first problem that comes to mind is accommodation of the added MPs. A possible solution to this requires an expansion of this building or the room and that in turn would generate or create the problem of finding the dollars to pay for it. The expansion of this building or the room would not apply if we had a cap on the numbers of MPs and increased the numbers they represented each time.

A second possible solution to increasing the number of MPs is to utilize the communication highway where we could all stay at home and chat with each other from there. The ramifications of this present a debate in itself and is best left for some other day. I cannot help but wonder that if this ever came to pass considering the size of our country the first obstacle that we would probably debate would be the start and finish times of MP duty times.

A third possible solution to increasing the number of MPs, and this would be taken over using this approach over a long period of time, is that we could possibly end up with so many MPs that the solutions to address that issue at that time may be such things as shift work or breaking up into small groups of MPs and rotating one or two of us through the House Monday through Friday.

To get back to the reality of now, we have 295 members and the House is full. There is probably not even enough room here now to suggest a renovation activity to provide the same amount of leg room for the MPs in the top three rows as in the bottom two rows. We are that full.

If each member spoke for 20 minutes and then responded to 10 minutes questions or comments we would need 147.5 hours of agenda time. Along with this we are in Ottawa approximately 26 weeks of 52, or half a year, and if each of these weeks were allowed 25 hours of agenda time, we would have a total 650 hours. If we divided that by the number of MPs and each participated, each one of us would be able to speak 2.2 times a year.

By increasing the number of MPs we would decrease the number of opportunities that each of us would have to participate in the debates in this House and other business. There is not time.

Keeping the number of MPs in the House constant and varying the number that each represents can create some problems or concerns. The most notable would be the inequity in the number of square miles of each constituency. To achieve the numbers involved in the two options the densely populated areas would be geographically small and the less dense would be large to horrendously large.

A possible solution to this and in keeping with representation by population is to address the process aspect of this procedure and adjust the MPs' constituency budgets to accommodate this. For example, in small geographic areas one constituency office is close enough to each constituent to allow them to visit their MP when he or she is in the area. In large geographic areas two or more offices may be necessary to achieve this same effect. Along with the budget adjustments to accommodate the extra offices we would probably have to look at travel expenses. This implies a cost consideration. A cost consideration would also be applicable if we increased the number of MPs. There may be other possible solutions within the process area to address this issue.

Another possible concern in relation to keeping the number of MPs constant would be the ability of the MP to adequately represent the ever increasing numbers of citizens. I believe the solution to this concern lies within the realms of communicating and the availability of the communication vehicles to do so.

To comment on the electoral boundaries for a moment, we seem to have restricted our approach to establishing federal electoral boundaries by attempting to work within some of the existing internal boundaries. We have three levels of government and all are elected by the people and each have a specific number of elected representatives. City and municipal governments do not divide their areas into boundaries. Their geographic areas are small enough not to.

Provincial governments have larger areas and do divide them, not necessarily according to the city or municipal boundaries but according to population numbers.

A possible approach to this on the federal scene is to consider the boundaries on the federal scene as those of the country and again the whole area would be divided according to population.

In closing, capping the number of MPs in the House of Commons and achieving the concept of representation by population through the adjustment of the number of citizens each MP would represent and establishing electoral boundaries accordingly is the solution I favour.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ProcessGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a few thoughts to add to this motion to refer the matter of redistribution to a committee of this House and on the amendment of the member for Kootenay East to look at capping the number of members of the House of Commons. I have seven short points to make on that, the perfect number for those in the House who would like to have something to count.

First, we need to look at the cost considerations of increasing numbers of members in the House of Commons. The Canadian public is becoming increasingly critical of the cost of its government, the inefficiencies it perceives in the allocation of moneys that go to support government; the budgets, the support systems, the salary costs, the pension costs. All of the liabilities that we incur as a country because of increased representation should be a factor because they concern the taxpaying public.

Second, and this has been mentioned, the physical limitations of the House of Commons are a consideration for us and another reason to support the amendment that has been brought forward to this motion.

We have now a very full complement of seats in this House. Many members, especially those members considerably larger than I, have complained about the cramped space for the work of debates and participation in the House. It is very clear that adding more bodies and more physical demands on the space in the House is going to be very difficult to accommodate.

Third, particularly in the system we have had to date there is a very limited role for many of our members of Parliament, particularly backbench members of the government. The decisions generally are made and taken by cabinet and those who advise cabinet. The purpose of the backbenchers in the House seems to be to support those decisions. Simply having more people standing up and voting for decisions that are taken by a small group does not seem to be a very needed addition to the way our system works at this time.

Fourth, it is fair to say that most Canadians would not see an increase in the number of members of Parliament as being equal to better representation for them. I believe from talking to Canadians and from comments that many of us have heard across the country that most Canadians would argue that they are not as well represented today as they were 10 years ago, even though the number of seats has increased. It is not the number, the quantity of representation, it is the quality of representation that is important to Canadians. It is clear that it is the quality of representation that Canadians want to see addressed, not the quantity.

Fifth, these points have been made and I think bear repeating. Canada is over represented as a population compared with other democracies. For example, in the United States members of Congress number about a hundred more than in Canada with 10 times the population. They have only about 30 per cent more representation with 10 times the population.

It is very clear that other democracies manage to give quality representation with far fewer representatives per component of the population. We need to look at that as well.

Sixth, it should be emphasized that Canadians want fewer politicians. We do hear this over and over and this is not disputed. All members of the House when we discussed these issues agreed that the feedback they get from their constituents and from other people in Canada is that they do not want to see more politicians, they do not want to see more representatives, they do not want to see more MPs. They want to see the ones who are here be more effective, they want the system to be changed so that decisions are more representative of the judgment of Canadians. There is no cry for increased numbers of representatives.

We should not forget who we are supposed to serve. Our decisions should be taken in a way that meets with the approval, that carries the judgment of the people who are paying the bill, the people who are asking for the service that we provide. It is very clear that Canadians do want fewer representatives rather than more.

Seventh, when we talk about capping the number of MPs, how do we address the problem of regional representation? In my view it would be unwise to make regional representation too strong a feature in how we structure the way our representatives are chosen and the proportions from particular provinces or areas. It is clear that we do have some anomalies like Prince Edward Island, which has been mentioned, which perhaps need special consideration.

In our view the principle of representation by population should be adhered to as closely as possible in the way we structure the choosing of our members of Parliament. Regional representation and the need for that element in our political system, in our law making bodies, should be addressed through changes to the Senate rather than through changes to the House of Commons to ensure that certain proportions are made and do not change for different regions or provinces.

We have put forward as the Reform Party specific proposals for the reform of the other place in order to achieve those objectives.

The bottom line today when we consider whether to support the amendments that have been proposed is whether we are responsive as members of Parliament to the clear wishes of our constituents and the citizens of this country, to the economic

resources which they are able to provide for the operations of government, and to considerations of fairness and practicality.

Canadians would welcome a commitment on the part of this House to limit the number of representatives they must support and instead work more on increasing the quality of representation rather than the quantity of representation.

I urge members of the House to support the amendment that has been put forward and to instruct the committee of the House working on these issues on our behalf to factor into the proposals it brings back to us at the end of its deliberations a specific proposal to cap the number of members of Parliament and, if possible, to reduce it.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ProcessGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Victoria B.C.


David Anderson LiberalMinister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the remarks of the hon. member who just spoke were very sensible and well thought out. Her predecessor in the debate suggested that it might be worthwhile to say a word or two in support of the concept of reducing the number of politicians in the Canadian political system.

We have 295 members of Parliament in the House. Some years ago we had a total of 181. When I was last a member there were 265. With due respect to everybody in the House, I do not believe the efficiency of a political body increases with increases in numbers of members.

The member quite correctly, and with some precision, pointed out that we were overpoliticized compared to some other jurisdictions and that we had more politicians per capita than many others. As I heard her words I made a quick calculation on the back of an envelope and would like to suggest that the United States senate would need 1,500 members to have the same representation proportionate to population that we have in Canada with the House of Commons. I suggest the hon. lady is quite correct in saying that an attempt to increase the size of the House depending on a formula in relation to numbers of voters and representatives would ultimately destroy the efficiency and effectiveness of the political body.

I suggest the United States senate with its 100 members is a body that works quite effectively. To have 1,500 members would create a body which would not work effectively. Therefore within those two parameters we can all determine where the appropriate level should be. The comments made are well worthy of careful thought.

Canadians have legislatures with large numbers of people. Over 15 years the legislature of British Columbia increased from 55 seats to 75 seats. If we continue that rate of increase in the legislatures of the provinces, if we continue the rate of increase in the Parliament of Canada, the House of Commons of Canada, we will wind up with quite ineffective chambers in terms of rational, logical debate. That is one point.

These chambers are designed for one person speaking at one time. The more people we squeeze into them, the more limits we need on what they can say and the more rules about time limits or their opportunity to represent their constituents. Those points must be taken into account as well.

For example, with no disrespect, we are not many here today. It was possible with an uncrowded House for us to listen to each of the speakers. That happens when we are in smaller groups. We listen to one another. We tend to go through the logic and say: "Gee, that makes sense" or "Boy, that is dead wrong". We tend to listen. How many people in the House today have not risen, made a speech and sat down afterward just a little irritated that everybody was doing something else, that it was simply a speech for Hansard , or that it was not part of the vital process of democracy?

We must remember that as we constantly increase the size of the House the effectiveness of the body is less and less, and more and more we are simply speaking for the record, speaking for the newspapers or speaking for some other purpose than a true debate among members of the House.

Again with no disrespect to this body I believe, looking at my experience in politics at both levels of government, that with 55 members in the British Columbia legislature we spent a lot more time in debate thinking about what the other person was saying, listening to what the other person was saying, and adjusting our ideas in accordance with what the other person was saying. Without suggesting that the House of Commons should have 55 seats, I simply say that smaller bodies tend to be more effective political organizations from that point of view. I was most struck by the words of the hon. member and the previous speaker from another party. I am quite willing to say that I am in complete agreement with much of what she said. The House is too big. My personal belief is that it would be more effective in the range between 220 and 260 seats rather than over 300. It will be over 300 if we do not adopt the process of cutting it back.

I supported the process of putting the whole business of the number of seats to a committee because I believed that the 300-member point was a tripwire. If we cannot keep the House below 300 members we can kiss goodbye any real effort to cut the costs of government in Canada at the political level. If we cannot do something to cut back on the cost of government and at the same time to increase efficiency, why bother asking other elements of government such as the civil service to try it? We as politicians should think very closely about the importance of cutbacks on numbers.

As we know this process is to send the whole issue of redistribution to a committee. That was proposed by the minister. That was spoken to very eloquently by the hon. parliamentary secretary and spoken to, I might add, in general terms very eloquently by members of the opposition.

I am not a believer in curbing the committee with caps, restraints or limitations. I believe we should let the committee decide what is appropriate after it has heard from people on the issues involved. I trust the hon. member who has just spoken will be a member of the committee. Her views on the issue are very attractive to me. It may be that considerations will come forward that will modify her views or mine as the case may be. I do not believe we should be setting limits on the committee and attempting to determine the outcome of its deliberations before it actually meets to consider the issue of redistribution.

I do not wish to take any more time, except to say that the concept of cutting back on the number of seats in the House of Commons or the concept of cutting back on the number of elected representatives in the provincial legislatures is extremely attractive. Only if we start making these bodies more effective can we make individual members more effective parliamentarians and representatives of their constituencies.

Therefore I applaud the thrust of the argument of the previous two speakers. I am attracted to it. I am quite willing to say that while they may be on the other side of the House they have met a very responsive chord on the government benches, as indeed they know full well frequently happens. We wish to incorporate their views on the issue of redistribution and on the issue of how many seats there should be.

My final point, again in agreement with the hon. member, is that when she stated there should be proper representation across the country based upon population she was dead right. We can make the odd exception. We have always made an exception for P.E.I., but that is the exception that should prove the rule. The rule is rep by pop. The general rule, given the limitations of large areas of the country with very few people and making allowances here and there for special circumstances, is rep by pop.

Therefore I do not see the approach of turning over the boundary commission proposals to a committee of the House to be anything in the nature of taking something away from a province. For instance, my hon. colleague from Ontario is listening to me at the moment. I do not think our proposal is to take four seats away from Ontario which would otherwise occur. I do not think our proposal is to take two seats away from British Columbia. It is a question of saying that we have reached the point where the House will have over 300 seats and it is now time to do something about it.

Mr. Pearson was probably right in the sixties, some 30 years ago, to set up this type of system. However it has ground on remorselessly giving the House more and more members and it is now time for us to call a halt to automatic mechanisms that simply churn out more expense for the public and perhaps reduce the efficiency of the House. That is why I am happy to support the government's approach in this regard and to commend hon. members on their speeches.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ProcessGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I follow on the heels of the Minister of National Revenue who pointed out that there were some advantages in the proposals made by members of our party. I appreciate his candour, his openness and his willingness to enter into a spirit of non-partisanship on something as important as this matter.

There is no question the cost of government is ever increasing. The only way we can put a halt to it is through attrition. We should not increase the size of the House. The committee should be given direction. All we are asking in our amendment is for the committee to be given enough direction or encouragement to consider the possible downsizing of the House of Commons and to consider the possible freezing or setting of the cap at 295 for the House of Commons, as we are presently designed now.

All we are asking in our amendment is that these points be made to the committee for its consideration. If after due deliberation the committee comes back and says in the spirit and principle of rep by pop or in the spirit and principle of the act of Confederation that it must continue its present course, so be it.

We happen to believe the committee should be given the opportunity, the authority and the right to come back to the House with a report reflecting and including representation by population and the fact, as the member for Calgary North pointed out, that increasing the size of the House does not necessarily mean it will perform any better.

We have a government, a cabinet and what we call backbenchers. Backbenchers are usually assigned to various committees. They select the various chairmen of committees. Sometimes cabinet gives good leadership and cabinet ministers give those corresponding committees direction, responsibility and duties. However that is in the minority.

In the majority of cases cabinet ministers give no direction to their subcommittees or their committees, give no follow up to those committees and give token appearances to the committees. Sooner or later during the course of the Parliament they lose interest and know they are there to vote on a partisan basis.

In return for the support of the Minister of National Revenue on this issue I would commend about four or five cabinet ministers of the government who have given their various committees direction, who have given them some authority to report back and get the feel and the will of the people. I believe

the chairmen of these committees and the members of government on those committees feel like they are making a contribution.

If that continues we can do some good for Canada and Canadians. However, if they do not do it, that is where I say increasing the size is just a waste of time and money. We have to reduce the cost of doing business in Parliament. We have to reduce the cost of doing business for government. We have to set the example.

When the Minister of National Revenue proposed Bill C-2 he indicated that he wanted to amalgamate two deputy ministers into one. It was an effort to streamline and lower the cost of doing business yet increase the efficiency and the effectiveness of government. We will be watching to see if the new super deputy minister of national revenue, taxation, customs and excise lowers the cost of the department, improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the services within the department and achieves the aims and objectives of the bill. We will be watching. Hopefully that will come about.

I would like to get back to representation by population. There are two ways to continue the principle of equal representation. We are not really on representation by population. We know that on the principle of what was guaranteed to Prince Edward Island in joining Confederation. It was guaranteed a minimum of four seats no matter what its population became.

Therefore what we are trying to do is come as close to representation by population as possible and emulate that principle in theory. Right now there are two options available to us.

The first option is to continue on the present course. Every eight years when there is a redistribution calculation we would look at the population shift and then increase the number of seats. That is representation by population and we would be giving everybody what they want. Consequently that is what increases the cost and size of government and we wish to diminish and reduce that.

The second option is to stray away from that philosophy, that principle and that theory which is flawed. Let us try to improve and accept a new theory that would look at redistribution and the formula for both urban and rural areas.

Whether the size of the House of Commons is the current 295 or it goes back to 260 or in the range the Minister of National Revenue recommended of between 220 and 260, whatever that number becomes, the size would be capped. Then future redistributions and future principles of following equal representation or representation by population could be accommodated in both rural and urban areas by simply reallocating the ministers in those areas and changing the boundaries to reflect the shift in population rather than adding the number of people.

Let me repeat for the purposes of the committee and for the purposes of my contribution to this debate. I am suggesting if the size of the House of Commons were set at a fixed number we could still be a democratic institution and still respect redistribution on the basis of shifting the boundaries but not increasing the number of people. That is something I hope the committee looks at.

The other point is the problem with the Senate which has to be addressed. We have to some day very soon look at this institution which can be elected, equal and effective. We can work together rather than always degrading that other House.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is the House ready for the question?

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The question is on the amendment.

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Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I had understood the amendment to read "including the possibility of a formula or cap to reduce". Are those words not in the amendment? That is what I had understood.

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I thank the hon. member for Calgary North for her intervention. If she will give me a moment, I will consult with the table officers and do a verification of the amendment.

The amendment was correct in its first form. The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

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Some hon. members


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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. Pursuant to Standing Order 45(5)(a), I have been requested by the chief government whip to defer the division until a later time. Accordingly,

pursuant to Standing Order 45(5)(a) the division on the question now before the House stands deferred until later this day at 5.30 p.m. at which time the bells to call in the members will be sounded for not more than 15 minutes.

The House resumed, from February 18, consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, an Act respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and other substances and to amend certain other Acts and repeal the Narcotic Control Act in consequence thereof, be read the second time and referred to a committee.