Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-69, an act to provide for the establishment of electoral boundaries commissions and the readjustment of electoral boundaries.
To start off, I would like to say that we proposed an amendment to improve Bill C-69. As we were denied this amendment, which was defeated in the House, we cannot support this bill.
It was essential for us to ensure proportional representation for Quebec in the unlikely event of other elections here in the federal system involving Quebec. We think it would be very surprising, but, if it did happen, we had to guarantee that Quebec had at least 25 per cent representation. We were denied our amendment; it was defeated democratically in the House and, for this reason, essentially, we cannot support this bill.
I must also point out the importance of the readjustment commissions, the commissions redefining electoral boundaries. It should be said that there are some obvious points here. There are ridings, like my own, with 110,000 constituents; there are other ridings with 43,000 constituents. Representation is therefore not proportional. In some regions, ridings are huge, and the member of Parliament, even with the best of intentions, is unable to serve the entire population.
Therefore the changes to the electoral maps planned for every five years with the census and the readjustment are fundamental and vital. In any decision to readjust boundaries, the primary criterion should be proportional representation. Before continuing, I would like to point out that it is unlikely that we will be involved in any more elections in Ottawa, but I would still like to speak to Bill C-69 because it directly affects my riding.
The federal riding of Terrebonne would be split in two on the new electoral maps. This is fine. As I said earlier, having 110,000 constituents can be a bit difficult, even though things are going very well right now. But it is a bit much as far as proportional representation is concerned, and they want to split the riding in two, to create the ridings of Repentigny and Blainville-Terrebonne.
This split will be the focus of my speech to the House. Briefly, the riding of Terrebonne, as it now stands, the riding I represent, has 110,000 voters, as I said earlier, and 160,000 inhabitants. It is the most densely populated riding in Quebec, and if memory serves, the sixth most densely populated in Canada. We therefore agree on the need to readjust the riding's boundaries.
I would like to show in this House that it is in the interest of the two groups of people concerned to examine the proposed ridings of Blainville-Terrebonne and Repentigny. I believe that a simple mathematical calculation was performed; 75 members divided by the number of people. As I will point out, there are elementary rules to follow. But these rules have not been followed by the electoral boundaries commissions.
To do so, the commissions should go by the rules of geographical size and population density. In my riding in Lanaudière, the population increased 25 per cent in ten years. This was the most significant demographic "boom" in Quebec. So population density, community of interest, cultural identity and the region's historic background-I believe the last two, cultural identity and historical background of the region should be included as criteria, but these are eliminated from the outset, and you will see why.
After analysing the two proposed electoral districts, it is clear that some of these principles were not considered at all by the commission, as I said earlier, I am referring to community of interest and historical background of the region.
I started with the first riding the bill proposed, the riding of Blainville-Terrebonne. In its proposal, the commission, which visited my riding, suggested putting the following towns: Blainville, Bois-des-Filion, Lorraine, Rosemère, Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines and Terrebonne together in the riding of Blainville-Terrebonne.
Although the first five towns met all the criteria, Terrebonne, the most densely populated town in the proposed riding, would be the big loser. In fact, Terrebonne had a population of 39,678 at the last census. These residents have no geographical, economic or cultural affinity with the other towns in the proposed riding.
They do not have the same administrative regions, MRCs, school boards, economic development corporations, employment centres, Quebec manpower development corporations or CLSCs, but the commission still wanted to put them into one riding, grafting together bits and pieces that have nothing in common, and they think this will be a riding that makes sense. However, it makes no sense at all to uproot entire communities.
At a time when we are all working hard to eliminate costly duplication and overlap, we think this should be an opportunity to reinforce communities of interest instead of dividing them.
Considering that the riding of Terrebonne has existed since the Constitution Act, 1867-I have already said this here, but I want to repeat it in reference to the current bill-considering that the commissions are probably going to circulate again, I would like to ask the federal electoral boundaries commission to reconsider the proposal regarding Blainville-Terrebonne, and to decide to leave the riding as Terrebonne.
It meets the first criterion, which is historical development. Under this criterion, the towns of Lachenaie, Mascouche, Terrebonne and La Plaine could be grouped together to form the new riding of Terrebonne.
According to the decennial census of 1991, the population of this new riding would be approximately 91,156, which is within 1 per cent, or 800 persons, of the electoral quota set for Quebec, which is 91,946.
In addition, in the next briefs to be presented in the next hearings, the commission and Parliament will have to take into consideration the fact that the four towns mentioned earlier are already considered to form one entity for the purposes of the administrative region of Lanaudière, the RCM of Les Moulins, the des Manoirs school board, la Société de développement économique des Moulins, the Terrebonne Canada Employment Centre at Lachenaie, la Société québécoise de développement de la main-d'oeuvre and the Lamazer local community health centre.
Therefore, I believe that I have clearly demonstrated that creating the riding of Blainville-Terrebonne would be totally irresponsible and irrational. It is our duty to respect communities of interest, economic communities, historical development and thus to maintain the riding of Terrebonne with the new towns as I just explained.
Regarding Repentigny, we were pleased to see that the previous law created this riding. As I said earlier, with 110,000 voters, there is no reason for us to oppose the boundary as it stands.
In fact, the creation of Repentigny corrects a historical oversight. On April 16, 1647, Pierre Le Gardeur de Repentigny was granted the seigniory of Repentigny. We can only praise this acknowledgement of history which is one of the criteria in the bill before us.
The commission aims to group the towns of Charlemagne, Lachenaie, Mascouche, Repentigny and the part of the RCM of Les Moulins which is included in the parish of La Plaine in this new riding.
In fact the cities of Charlemagne and Repentigny, on the one hand, and Lachenaie, La Plaine and Mascouche, on the other, have different RCMs, school boards, economic development corporations, manpower development corporations and so on.
We can see the aim is to combine two ridings into one, regardless of the economic, social and cultural realities of this area. Here again, administrative overlap and duplication have not been corrected.
In the light of the above, we are asking the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Quebec to review its proposal as follows.
The proposed electoral district would still be called Repentigny. It would include the cities of Charlemagne, L'Assomption, L'Épiphanie, Le Gardeur, Repentigny and part of the regional county municipality of l'Assomption included in the parishes of l'Épiphanie, Saint-Gérard-de-Magella and Saint-Sulpice.
According to the 1991 decennial census, the population of the riding proposed, which we propose to improve, is 91,537, here again, almost exactly the electoral quota established for Quebec, which is, and I repeat, 91,946. Not even a difference of 300 people. It is therefore realistic.
In the new riding, under one administrative region, that of Lanaudière; there would be one regional county municipality; one school board, the Le Gardeur school board; a single economic development corporation; a single employment centre, the one in Repentigny; and a single Quebec manpower development corporation.
In short, the two ridings we are proposing: Terrebonne, in keeping with historical changes, and Repentigny, also in keeping with these changes, are entirely in accordance with the principles established by this same commission.
In the light of these facts, we are asking that, with Bill C-69, there be a little flexibility when the commissions resume their hearings in the regions. We therefore ask the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Quebec to review its proposal, which, we hope, is not cast in stone, and to understand the simple, rational and fundamental arguments here for the greater well-being of the people concerned by this readjustment. That is, of course, in the unlikely event these people will require representation in another federal election.