Phone the electoral boundaries commissions that were in place at the time. Phone the chief electoral officer and ask him if there was a public outcry. There certainly was not. There is self-interest in this issue and that is what it is all about.
What do I do to tell my constituents where we sit on this electoral boundary redistribution process? Confusion reigns supreme because of government actions. There is confusion over timing and confusion over the role of the Senate. There is uncertainty as always over when the election date is going to be and when these things are going to kick in.
Is the original motivation of government, of this administration, still the same today as it was last February? It is a good question; we do not know. When does government embarrassment kick in? I do not know if the government ever gets embarrassed. When does the government want to end the uncertainty? I thought that day would come sooner than it appears it will.
Listening to the debates tonight one thing is very clear. What was a non-partisan exercise to realign constituency boundaries has already deteriorated into a partisan political exercise in Parliament. That is really not what we should intend.
I hope we can separate the whole process at some point into boundary adjustments and the question of how many members there should be in the House. Those two issues became a part of this last exercise when in my view they should be quite separate. If we had left the original redistribution process the way it was and taken an all party committee to look at the number of members for the next exercise we would have been in very good shape.
It may be two years from the next election. When will Bill C-69 ratification lead to a final resolution? I cannot answer that question and I do not think anyone else can at this point.
This whole exercise has been political football and now the is government trying to save face by continuing this charade. It would have been better to drop it at this point. The government has wasted time, money and the goodwill of members to keep a few disgruntled government members happy.
We have debated in numerous readings, we have gone to committee, we have had dissenting reports and now we have six Senate amendments before us and our constituents have lost the thread to this rapidly unravelling bad novel.
I felt strongly in March 1994, as I did on February 9, 1994 when once again I protested politicians' drawing lines on maps. I will talk about Amendment No. 1 the deviation quota. This amendment reduces the allowable size of deviation from a provincial electoral quota from 25 per cent to 15 per cent. Reform can support this amendment. From the outset we called for an allowable maximum variance of 15 per cent to ensure the
primacy of the equality of voting power over sociological considerations.
Elections Canada had reported 51 of the 295 existing ridings exceeded the current permissible population variances. Legitimate concerns were expressed by the Reform Party that this situation could be compounded in light of population shifts between redistributions. The bill still allows for deviations greater than 15 per cent in special circumstances.
Amendment No. 2 deals with non-judicial commission members. When the bill was drafted this clause was probably left out in error. Adding the requirement for the two non-judicial commission members to be resident in the province for which the commission is established does make sense; who better to monitor and recommend boundary changes than those from the province concerned? The Reform Party can support this amendment but overall does it really improve the bill? Does it really change or improve the existing process enough to warrant discarding the redistribution process that is almost complete?
Amendment No. 3, the 20-member factor to challenge the Speaker's appointments to the boundary commissions, is an indefensible amendment in our view and we oppose it. These appointments are not under parliamentary rules a ruling by the Speaker. It may cause the Speaker a little embarrassment but little else. It hardly can be construed as a non-confidence motion in the Chair. It is turf protecting and is adding a political element to a supposed non-partisan apolitical function.
The Senate amendment does not take the House of Commons dynamic into account. The Reform Party views the ability to challenge appointments as an improvement over the current process when the Speaker's appointments cannot be challenged and therefore can be influenced by government.
If we could have maintained this challenge option, I dare say before appointments were made the Speaker would surely have consulted with all parties in the House.
Amendment No. 4 is a trigger based on population shifts. This Senate amendment eliminates the use of a trigger based on population shifts to determine whether a boundary commission must be established in a province. We oppose this amendment.
Already under Bill C-69 the Speaker and the chief electoral officer can order a redistribution where one has not been automatically triggered. To say the least, this elimination of a trigger is perplexing. The trigger is largely a cost saving measure and it is estimated the cost savings are substantial.
Some may argue there could be challenges to this section under section 15 of the charter surrounding the quality element. We view this as extremely remote because the Constitution requires only an interprovincial deccenial redistribution, thus the prevention of an intraprovincial redistribution would not contravene section 51 of the Constitution. To me this is good grounds not to eliminate the trigger.
Senate Amendment No. 5 deals with eliminating the provision that a commission will only recommend changes to existing electoral district boundaries where the factors set out are significant enough to warrant such a recommendation.
The original intent of this provision was designed to encourage the commission to give greater consideration to existing boundaries. We can support this amendment because for all intents and purposes existing or traditional boundaries of electoral districts are also included for the commission's consideration in the current definition of community of interest.
Amendment No. 6 deals with redefinition of community of interest. Reform is opposed to this amendment because it calls for a redefinition of community of interest using the Lortie commission's definition.
Community of interest according to clause 19 would include such factors as the economy, existing or traditional boundaries of electoral districts, urban or rural characteristics of a territory, boundaries of municipalities and Indian reserves, natural boundaries and access to means of communication and transport.
I ask why clause 19(4) currently contained in Bill C-69 is so offensive. It is clear and gives clear direction to the boundary commissions. While the Senate's proposed definition is consistent with the recent Supreme Court decision, the procedure and House affairs committee considered and rejected this definition because it turns redistribution into an affirmative action process.
This is not in keeping with the process that has been in place since Confederation. We oppose this amendment also and that concludes my remarks on this bill.