Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the people of Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-69 respecting changes to electoral boundaries.
The arrogance and the lack of integrity that have been displayed by the government, particularly over the last couple of weeks, are absolutely astounding to me, the Reform Party and all Canadians. In true Grit fashion the Liberals have had the nerve to campaign on a theme of restoring integrity to government. Yet the government's arrogance is increasing while its integrity is decreasing. The government's lack of competence is appearing in more and more areas.
The defence minister, the heritage minister, the health minister and the minister of Indian affairs are seriously mishandling their portfolios. The human resource development minister has caused a complete collapse in the social reforms promised in the red book.
Speaking of promises in the red book, let us for just one moment take a look at some of the promises in the red book that the Liberals talked so much about during the election campaign. Did they not promise to base key federal appointments solely on the competence of the person rather than on patronage? That promise is routinely broken on a weekly basis.
Was it not the Liberal government that said in the red book that it promised not to alter federal-provincial transfers without the full co-operation of the provinces? That was broken by the introduction of the Canadian social transfer in the recent budget.
Was it not one of the cabinet ministers, the Deputy Prime Minister as a matter of fact, who said that she would resign if the GST was not replaced within one year? Shamelessly that promise was broken on October 25, 1994.
There were more promises. There are sheets and sheets, literally miles and miles of promises the Liberal government has broken over a short period of time. In a mere 19 months it has broken promises to the Canadian people.
The arrogance of the Liberals is clear in their coercive treatment of individual MPs, forcing them to vote against the wishes of their constituents. Can we imagine? The Prime Minister even congratulated those members for toeing the party line. For goodness' sake, if we were not elected to this place to represent our constituents, what were we elected for?
More examples are the Liberal's sexual orientation bill, the gun registry bill, and the disappointing changes to the MPs gold plated pension plan. They have all been torpedoed through the House. The use of time allocation and closure effectively limiting debate in the House is as prevalent as it was in the government before.
The Liberals should be absolutely ashamed of what they have done to parliamentary democracy. They are not governing with integrity. We have seen conflicts of interest, unethical behaviour, broken promises, arrogance and incompetence. The confidence of the people in the government is decreasing as the integrity of the government decreases.
Let us take Bill C-69 as an example. This piece of legislation has cost the taxpayer some $6 million so far. That is the amount of money needlessly spent on previous federal electoral boundaries commission proposals. These were scrapped by the government in Bill C-18 because a number of Liberal members disliked the new maps. Now the whole process is being redone in their favour under the guise of Bill C-69.
To obscure the real intent of Bill C-18, this government put forward a motion which initiated this bill. It asked the procedures and House affairs committee to examine methods of capping or reducing the size of the House of Commons, to improve the process by which the boundary commissioners are selected, to consider how boundary commissioners conduct their work and examine the involvement of the public.
If this bill capped or better yet reduced the number of members of Parliament in the House of Commons, then the $6 million lost by scrapping the previous commission and its proposals could have been justified. The cost savings could have
been much more than the $6 million already spent on the previous commission's proposals.
Sadly and in true Grit fashion, this government has shown its usual contempt for the taxpayers of this country. The government did not address the most fundamental reason it claimed for reinitiating the whole process. The government failed to reduce the already excessive and growing number of members of Parliament sitting in the House of Commons. This bill has been rendered utterly useless in the face of the $6 million which is removed from the pockets of hard working and tax paying Canadians.
Worse still, contrary to all logic, the government actually intends to increase the number of members in the House of Commons from 295 to 301. This will cost the Canadian taxpayers millions in additional salaries, staff costs and how about travel expenses? Of course, something the Liberals do not like talking about very much is the lavish gold plated MP pension benefits which they will receive. We only have to worry about that if there are any members opposite left here after the taxpayers vote in the next election.
In addition to the extra cost this bill imposes on Canadians by increasing the size of the House of Commons, new commissions will need to be struck to redo what the commission scrapped by this government has already done. Judging by the last commission, this will cost taxpayers at least another $6 million, maybe more.
Many Canadians have questions, as do I. Why has this government shown such contempt for the taxpayers? Why does the government fail to cap or reduce the number of members of Parliament? The answer is obvious. It is very clear. Self-interest of course. The interests of the voters and taxpayers were set aside so that no Liberal members would have to voluntarily give up their seats when the numbers were reduced.
This example of arrogant self-interest will backfire when the taxpayers get the opportunity to vote in the next election. Liberal members need not worry. They will not have to voluntarily give up their seats because they will be booted out of this place by the seats of their pants in the next election.
Liberal arrogance and incompetence reared its ugly head before this bill even made its way to the committee. The government actually intended to include a schedule of special ridings exempt from having their boundaries adjusted by the future electoral boundaries adjustment commission.
This is laughable. It is not funny but it is laughable. What a tool that would have been. Imagine the Liberals manipulating the system by creating safe seats. Even though the schedule was dropped in committee, the arrogant attempt to create safe seats shows that the Liberals are running scared. They know what is going to happen to them in the next election.
Whatever happened to the red book promise to govern with integrity? We all know the Liberal red book's title "Creating Opportunity" and what that stands for. Unfortunately the Liberals left out the subtitle: "for deception, hypocrisy and greed".
During committee and at report stage the Reform Party offered a number of amendments to the government which could have salvaged the bill. The government could have succeeded in making the bill workable and productive. It could have succeeded in making this bill worthwhile for the taxpayers. However, the constructive amendments were rejected by the government.
Bill C-69 then went to the Senate where a number of our concerns were again raised. It was returned to the House from the Senate with a number of constructive amendments. For example, the Senate amendment to reduce the allowable size of deviation from a provincial electoral quota of 25 per cent to 15 per cent is well worth supporting and has been raised a number of times by the Reform Party.
A deviation of 25 per cent is totally unacceptable to Canadians. The creation of ridings which could actually vary by 50 per cent is not only unfair but is undemocratic as well. A 15 per cent deviation would promote the equality of vote for each Canadian while at the same time allowing the boundary commissioners sufficient flexibility when drawing up new boundaries. Despite the constructive amendments offered by the Senate, this piece of legislation will still be lacking.
Bill C-69 fails to address the supposed intent of the motion put to the procedure and House affairs committee which was to reduce or cap the number of ridings in Canada. The House of Commons will needlessly swell to a size taxpayers need not and should not support. At a time when it is urgent to cut the fat and bloat we see everywhere in government, there is absolutely no excuse for putting forth legislation which would make the House grow. This is not in tune with the people of Canada or the finances of the country.
It is appropriate to remind hon. members opposite that Premier elect Mike Harris handily defeated the Liberal Party in part because he promised to reduce the size of the Ontario legislature.
This government could partly make amends to the people of Canada by letting this unnecessary and counterproductive legislation die. If nothing else, it would save the Canadian taxpayer $6 million. I urge all members to vote against Bill C-69.