Mr. Speaker, this debate has been going on for quite a while. I remember it as one of the first debates in the House. It was ferocious and motives were attributed to the government that were not true, but what else is new.
I recall vividly the first debate we entered into when we said we wanted to update the electoral boundaries bill to better reflect the communities of interest and also make some other adjustments. I recall so well the member for Beaver River commenting on the fact that what we were doing was gerrymandering, trying to fix boundaries and trying to assure our political futures.
Today I listened to one of my colleagues from Peace River who was still using some of the same arguments. I thought it would be useful to recount what happened in my community and how the community came together. Instead of being divided by various political alliances, the community put aside its various partisan political representations and learned to cross political boundaries to support the interests of the community of the regional municipality of Waterloo, of which my riding is one member. There are three ridings contained in that region: Waterloo, the Kitchener riding and the Cambridge riding.
I recall when the commission came out with its proposal on how it was going to divide up the regional municipality of Waterloo. The consensus across the region was that the proposal was not acceptable. It did not make any sense and that the community, on which it would impact, had no representation. Their wishes were ignored.
I underline that because it is important, particularly for our colleagues in the Reform Party to understand this. What I as a member and my colleagues from Kitchener and Cambridge were reacting to was to the presentations made to members of
Parliament by members of the community. Let us say that we were representing the wishes of our constituents.
As I mentioned before, we are contained within the regional municipality of Waterloo. It has three cities, Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge. It also has four townships, North Dumfries, Wolwich, Wilmont and Wellesley. We have seven local municipal councils. Then we have the regional municipality of Waterloo council.
If you looked at the partisan politics of these various councils, we had Liberals, many Conservatives, some New Democrats and even some Reformers. In the case of the riding of Waterloo, which contains the township of Wolwich to the north, the city of Waterloo and part of the city of Kitchener, I used to sit on the Waterloo city council. When I was elected to come to the House of Commons by the electors of the riding, the person who filled my position on the council was a gentleman by the name of Mike Connolly who was a candidate for the Reform Party in the 1993 elections.
When the Waterloo city council first heard about the proposal that was put forward, it was Mr. Connolly, the former candidate for the Reform Party, who moved the motion at the council that the boundaries commission proposal was not acceptable. Is that not rather interesting? You would think that the sincerity of partisan politics would go from the grassroots up to this place but it seems to remain at the grassroots. Mr. Connolly was quite active in making sure the resolution was passed on to the other six municipal councils as well as regional council.
Mr. Connolly, who was appointed to fill my position on city council, had the same kind of support for the government's infrastructure program. Reformers in the House could not find anything useful to say about what turned out to be a very successful program.
Once the local councils talked about the issue they met with my colleague from Kitchener and myself regarding the boundaries. They were very concerned that the Waterloo region, which has evolved over a period in excess of 100 years, have its political integrity respected.
We went to the boundaries hearing. I was there, along with my colleague from Kitchener and the mayor from Waterloo. Representatives from the regional municipality of Waterloo were there. We had representation from all the individual councils. It was a community of interest that crossed partisan political lines to push for something on behalf of the community that made political sense. When one talks about community of interest that is one of the things that I am very happy about in terms of my community, the Waterloo region.
We were going to plead with boundaries commission to change its mind because it had already said what it was going to do. The response of the boundaries commission to our joint plea was that it made a few very minor adjustments. Its members could have told us they could have accommodated us within the perimeter of the boundaries that they set up or they could have accommodated us by drawing lines that made sense, some of which would have coincided with the provincial boundaries but they did not do that.
Once again I am very pleased with this bill. I am pleased with a number of aspects of it. One is that the commissioners in the future will listen to reports from communities before they make up their minds. They will canvass the whole province and then they will have an overall idea of what should take place. Before they can do that they are going to have to hold hearings.
It is somewhat similar to what happens at the local council level when a developer proposes to zone a piece of property. We have in the province of Ontario and in other provinces a process under the planning act that is known as the informal public hearing where people in the community have an opportunity to have their say before the commission makes up its mind or ties itself down to some options.
The reason that is important is I believe that a community like Waterloo region probably could have got the commission to consider much more seriously what my community asked of the boundaries commission. We are going to have minimal changes. We are going to try to minimize the changes to boundaries. Let me expand on that a bit. The boundaries commission took the city of Waterloo, with a population of about 84,000, which is well below the 100,000 or 105,000 people that are supposed to be in a riding, and dismembered that city. It took a big chunk of lakeshore on the north side of the city and then it drew an imaginary line to the east and really did a hatchet job on the municipality. The commission then took a big chunk out of Kitchener and added it to the new Waterloo riding. That did not make any sense.
The commission also did the same thing to the riding of Kitchener. It took away a big chunk of Kitchener and then it gave it a bigger chunk.
It is important for the people in the communities of Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge to have boundaries where they can understand who their provincial representatives are and who their federal representatives are. As much as possible those boundaries should coincide. As well, we should have boundaries whose names reflect the geographic location of the riding. In the case of the Waterloo federal riding, the township of Woolwich is included as well as the northern part of Kitchener. By calling the riding Waterloo, that is hard for people to understand.
One of the proposals put forward in the bill is that there should be a minimizing of the changes to the boundaries. The interests of the community should be the dominant factor. The commissions will listen to the input of the people living in the districts before its members make up their minds. The commissions will conduct informal public hearings where it will hear the constituents. I believe that the end product will be something with which
my community, both in the Waterloo federal riding as well as in the regional municipality of Waterloo, will be a lot happier.
Let me conclude by emphasizing that the partisan political parties in my community came together and in my riding, the city of Waterloo, the person who moved the motion expressing grave disagreement with the proposed boundaries was the candidate for the Reform Party in the last election campaign. He stood for what the community wanted. My position, the position of my colleague from Kitchener, as well as my colleague from Cambridge, come from trying to represent what is best for our community and what our community so articulately expressed to us.