Madam Speaker, I would like to say that I welcome the opportunity to speak on this whole matter of electoral boundaries, in particular Bill C-69 and the amendments before us this evening.
It seems we have been dealing with this issue ever since I got to this House, and in fact I guess that is the case. Bill C-18, the Liberal government's attempt to disband the Electoral Boundaries Commission, was one of the first bills brought forward. In fact the first time I saw closure used in this House as a new member was on that very bill. This evening we see closure being used again to limit debate on Bill C-69.
The member for Vancouver Quadra talked about the changes that were made at the Senate and the reason we are back here this evening to debate those. Many of those amendments were ours. The quotient that he talked about from plus or minus 25 to 15 I think was a good one, but I think the thing that marks the whole business of Bill C-69 and the electoral boundaries is the mismanagement of this whole issue. We have been working on this for a year and a half, and in fact it may now revert back to the old boundaries commission if it does not get through this week. That shows how badly mismanaged this whole issue has been. I think it has been a tremendous waste of time in this House.
This is the government that was going to do things differently. We have closure on Bill C-69 tonight so that we have to vote at eleven o'clock. We had closure on Bill C-41 just this week on the hate crimes bill. We have had closure being used or time allocation on Bill C-68, gun control, and again on Bill C-85, the MP pension plan. What is this all about? I know members want to get back to their ridings, but it seems to me that this is not a very reasonable approach to limit debate in this very important Chamber.
Bill C-69, should it receive royal assent by the end of this week, will make some adjustments to the Electoral Boundaries Adjustment Act, which was first enacted in 1964. As far as I am concerned, this bill should not be passed. The changes being proposed are not substantial enough to warrant the interruption of a perfectly good process.
The process that was in place before was fine. It is a process that was almost complete in any case. In fact the Canadian taxpayers had already spent around $6 million on a process of redrawing our electoral boundaries before the Liberal government decided to change this through Bill C-18 and now Bill C-69. In fact hearings were held in a lot of ridings in Canada.
If this bill is not passed, we may go back to the original boundaries commission and pick that whole process up. People who have been waiting to make their case patiently are waiting to see what this new boundaries commission is going to be. It has been a year and a half, and I think time is of the essence because we may be only two years away from the next election.
What is the process that was interrupted a year and a half ago? It is a process that occurs every ten years or after each census. But last year there was considerable concern by the new Liberal MPs from Ontario that changes to their riding boundaries would hurt their re-election chances. This was the party that was going to be different. The member before me talked about what used to happen in the old days with gerrymandering. This smacks of the same type of thing.
If this government is unhappy with the results of the boundaries commission when they were allowed to complete their work, it should bring forward some substantive changes. In fact it has not done that. By substantive change I mean true representation by population in this House of Commons and true representation by region in the Senate.
My riding of Peace River has been in place since 1925. It has a population of almost 107,000 people. Of the 13 large ridings in Canada, mostly northern ridings, that have areas of over 100,000 square kilometres, the Peace River riding rates up there at about ninth.
What do we have in this country? Do we have representation by population? We are not even close. The quotient the hon. member before me talked about is going to bring it closer, and it certainly needs to be. We have some constituencies that have populations as low as just over 30,000 people. We have others in downtown Toronto that are in the 230,000 range. This is too big of a spread. I believe we need some substantive changes, not tinkering in this House.
In our minority report to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act we called for changes that would make sense in this House of Commons. The key change is that we would like to see the number of seats reduced. Our proposal would create a House with 265 seats based on the 1991 census. This would be a decrease from the 301 that will come into effect under the current formula.
One thing we have heard a fair amount of in the last couple of years is that we are a country that is overgoverned. If we look at the United States, which has a bigger population by far, they have far fewer elected members. I believe we can never get to the situation they have unless we make substantive changes, but we can start the process in gear. The decrease would be spread among the eight provinces and would maintain representation by population as it is at present but with a fairer share for both Ontario and British Columbia.
If this government would only care to listen to what the people want, it would hear that Canadians want less government and fewer politicians. Look at what happened just recently in the Ontario election. Mike Harris promised that he would reduce the number of seats in the Ontario legislature by 25 per cent. It was one of the contributing factors to his election, I would think. And of course he won against considerable odds.