Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the debate tonight, but while we see this place going round and round, let me interject this. In the real world New Jersey has just scored and it is two to two with about three and a half minutes left in the game, so stay tuned.
We are tied up in a ridiculous wrangle about changing electoral boundaries. This has been going on for some time now. In 1993 when the former government set up the electoral boundaries commissions, as governments have done for many years, the process kicked into place. It was during the 1993 election campaign that the commissioners started their work. When they came out with the maps a year ago last spring, the present government was very displeased with them and Bill C-18 was put in place.
The question which anyone would ask is: Why was Bill C-18 initiated in the first place? We would not be here today debating Bill C-69 if Bill C-18 had not been brought forward.
The process was proceeding without government interference. The commissioners were chosen, the maps were being redrawn and people were attending the public hearings. That process was being carried out by the electoral boundaries commissions. It was fair and democratic and there was no basis for suspending it whatsoever at considerable cost to the taxpayer. This whole exercise has cost millions of dollars.
Last spring, a year and a bit ago, shortly after the independent commissions reported their findings and were preparing public hearings on the boundary changes, the present government blatantly interfered with the democratic process. Of course government members would argue tonight that they did nothing of the kind.
However, the maps were drawn by the original commissions after the 1991 census. Those people said: "Here is our best shot at it". Maybe they were not perfect. Who knows what the community of interest and all these other geographic and psychological boundaries are. However, the government said: "Wait a minute", and blatantly interfered with the process.
I am sure the government was under pressure from many new Liberal MPs who were not pleased with the new electoral maps, particularly where boundary revisions transferred blocks of voters from one riding to another. Nothing to me is sadder than a self-serving politician saying, "Wait a minute. That is my strong area that you are taking and you had better not do that". Territorialism is probably the most frightening thing that could happen in the Chamber, when someone says: "This is my ground. This is my territory," and as we say in Beaver River, "Keep your mud hooks off it". That kind of attitude is something that is becoming more and more prevalent, certainly not just with Bill C-69 but with a government, as we have seen in the last 10 days, that has said we know what is best for you and you just like it or lump it. Unfortunately, many of the members who are speaking up are going to have to lump it, and that is very unfortunate.
In the guise of opening the redistribution process for fundamental review the government scrapped the maps produced by the provincial boundary commissions and introduced Bill C-18, which suspended the whole operation.
I just did my spring tour in my riding. People asked me, where is this anyway? Is it cancelled? Is it going forward? Are the maps good? Are they no good? What is happening? I tried to explain to them that the government actually put this process on ice for exactly one year and now it is coming up with other legislation and if it does not get royal assent by the magic day of June 22, which is about 48 hours from now, then that whole process that we wasted all this time and money on, Bill C-69, gets scrapped and we go back to the original.
If anything is confusing for us, it is that process. How in the world are we supposed to tell people across the country the facts and the figures and what actually is going on? It is just absolutely ludicrous.
These commissioners last spring were told "You're on ice". You know that feeling, Mr. Speaker. "You're on ice. Hang on to it for a year and we will let you know next June 22 if your work is going to be of any use or not." It is ridiculous. Those commissioners felt disappointed, they felt disillusioned. They thought: "What about all this work? I was being paid good money for my work." It just seems as though it was all for nought.
Many of the witnesses who came in good faith and drove miles in our rural ridings thought the process was going somewhere, that they were really participating in democracy, only to be told, "Sorry, that's on ice. We'll let you know next June 22 if anything in fact is going to happen."
Following a one-day debate in the House of Commons the government imposed that "the question be now put", thereby suppressing any further debate and smothering democracy one more time. Here we are today, the democratic process again being thwarted.
Mr. Speaker, you and I sat in the last Parliament and watched government members then, the Conservatives, bringing in time allocation and sometimes they got really scandalous and just brought in actual closure, and my friend from Kingston and the Islands said that it was "scandalous" and of course "rubbish"
and finally he said "This is morally wicked for a government to do this".
What in the world is the difference between this side and three sword lengths across the aisle? It is three big steps. What ever happens to the psyche that goes from here, saying it is morally wicked, to all of a sudden on that side saying "We are government and we do have things that we need to get through for the Canadian public"?
I do not see any benefit to the Canadian public in this bill, quite frankly. What I see are self-serving politicians who say "We want it this way because I'll keep my good polls and you can give the lousy polls that don't support me very much to somebody else".
This process has gone on for a year. Last July these committees sat during the summer recess. They heard witnesses. It has just been chatted among us here and it is unanimous; you may find it surprising, but we decided that this whole exercise has been pointless. Frankly, there has been no positive outcome on it for anybody. I do not think these MPs are going to be a whole lot better off in the next election, regardless of what their boundaries are, if they keep behaving this way. It will not matter what the boundaries are, folks. It will not matter what the boundaries are one bit if people are disgusted and they say "You in your lofty positions on Parliament Hill, if you don't listen to us, you will go the same way the Conservative Party went in 1993". And no member in this House should think they will not do it. They did it in 1993 and they are prepared to do it again in 1997, with every opportunity that they see for this arrogant behaviour, keeping people here until all hours of the night, ramming legislation through 48 hours before it is actually due.
It has been a total waste of time. It has kept people flying back and forth to Ottawa. It has been an incredible waste of money. It has taken so long to do. This partisan manoeuvring and meddling are why we are here tonight to debate this bill.
The odd person is snorting across the aisle. I suppose that is fine for them. What they are forgetting is that there are real voters out there. We are not just talking about people in the Chamber and then all the rest of the people out there. People are not dumb. After the Charlottetown accord, which I have mentioned so many times in here, people are not going to put up with this kind of nonsense from politicians any longer. It is as simple as that.
Bill C-69 will go the way of the dodo bird for all those people who are running on these new boundaries that are supposed to be sacrosanct and supposed to save their seats. SOS-"save our seats"-is what this government is talking about. It is not going to happen.
This is blatant interference in what is supposed to be a democratic and non-partisan process. If ever I have seen anything that is partisan, it is certainly to say: "We know what is best for you. Father knows best. The House leader, the whip, the Prime Minister know what is best for you". It is interference. And Mr. Speaker, you know better than any of us in this Chamber that when there is interference there ought to be a penalty, for sure.
My guess as to why the electoral boundaries readjustment process was suspended is that the Liberals did not like some of the results in the last federal election. If we look at the numbers, not the theory, it is interesting what happened, especially in Ontario. While we are here in the province of Ontario tonight, we might as well have a look at some of those results. My friend from Ontario would be interested.
The Reform Party came second in 57 out of the 99 ridings. My friend from Broadview-Greenwood knows that. He has probably also added up that in 25 of those ridings the PC and Reform vote combined would have defeated the Liberal vote. That is rather interesting. That starts getting into the actual numbers of this and the hidden reason why so many people are demanding that their ridings become safe.
Across the country the combined PC and Reform vote defeated the Liberal vote in about 100 ridings. If you add that up you realize that only 130 Liberals would have been elected. That would have been a minority government.
If it comes to another vote in 1997, I could refer my friends to the corner over there, where the former government, for the first time in Canadian history, was totally obliterated. That may well happen again.
It has often been said that the Reform Party would split the vote. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, because those people are going to go for absolute, fundamental change and democratization of this system, regardless of what my friends in the governing party would say. This is democracy. It is wonderful.
Closure is okay now that the Liberals are government, making sure that their backbenchers fall into line or their nomination papers will not be signed. That is the kind of behaviour people are sick of and do not want to see any more.
The Reform Party has managed to get some improvements to the redistribution process. The selection of boundary commissioners is less partisan and subject to more public scrutiny. That is a wonderful thing. That is a good move with some of these amendments.
Under the changes that have been made, the role of MPs and the redistribution process has been greatly reduced. As far as I
am concerned, nothing is better than politicians' hands being pulled out of any of these processes. There is nothing better than politicians being yanked back from the process and not being able to take part in it quite so self-servedly.
In provinces where significant population change has occurred, the possibility of a five-year redistribution now exists rather than ten years. I know my friend from York North has an incredible population explosion. It seems wrong that he would have to wait for ten years. There is also my friend from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley. The population in the riding she represents is incredible. To be able to do that on a five-year span rather than ten years is probably really good.
Reform also pushed for a cap or a reduction in the number of seats in the House of Commons. The Liberals rejected it at every stage totally out of hand. As a result, this House will immediately increase to 301 seats and continue to increase in the future.
I ask anybody sitting in this Chamber tonight or watching on TV, if they are not watching the hockey game, does this country need more politicians?