House of Commons Hansard #222 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was species.


Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

7 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-69, an act to provide for the establishment of electoral boundaries commissions and the readjustment of electoral boundaries.

To start off, I would like to say that we proposed an amendment to improve Bill C-69. As we were denied this amendment, which was defeated in the House, we cannot support this bill.

It was essential for us to ensure proportional representation for Quebec in the unlikely event of other elections here in the federal system involving Quebec. We think it would be very surprising, but, if it did happen, we had to guarantee that Quebec had at least 25 per cent representation. We were denied our amendment; it was defeated democratically in the House and, for this reason, essentially, we cannot support this bill.

I must also point out the importance of the readjustment commissions, the commissions redefining electoral boundaries. It should be said that there are some obvious points here. There are ridings, like my own, with 110,000 constituents; there are other ridings with 43,000 constituents. Representation is therefore not proportional. In some regions, ridings are huge, and the member of Parliament, even with the best of intentions, is unable to serve the entire population.

Therefore the changes to the electoral maps planned for every five years with the census and the readjustment are fundamental and vital. In any decision to readjust boundaries, the primary criterion should be proportional representation. Before continuing, I would like to point out that it is unlikely that we will be involved in any more elections in Ottawa, but I would still like to speak to Bill C-69 because it directly affects my riding.

The federal riding of Terrebonne would be split in two on the new electoral maps. This is fine. As I said earlier, having 110,000 constituents can be a bit difficult, even though things are going very well right now. But it is a bit much as far as proportional representation is concerned, and they want to split the riding in two, to create the ridings of Repentigny and Blainville-Terrebonne.

This split will be the focus of my speech to the House. Briefly, the riding of Terrebonne, as it now stands, the riding I represent, has 110,000 voters, as I said earlier, and 160,000 inhabitants. It is the most densely populated riding in Quebec, and if memory serves, the sixth most densely populated in Canada. We therefore agree on the need to readjust the riding's boundaries.

I would like to show in this House that it is in the interest of the two groups of people concerned to examine the proposed ridings of Blainville-Terrebonne and Repentigny. I believe that a simple mathematical calculation was performed; 75 members divided by the number of people. As I will point out, there are elementary rules to follow. But these rules have not been followed by the electoral boundaries commissions.

To do so, the commissions should go by the rules of geographical size and population density. In my riding in Lanaudière, the population increased 25 per cent in ten years. This was the most significant demographic "boom" in Quebec. So population density, community of interest, cultural identity and the region's historic background-I believe the last two, cultural identity and historical background of the region should be included as criteria, but these are eliminated from the outset, and you will see why.

After analysing the two proposed electoral districts, it is clear that some of these principles were not considered at all by the commission, as I said earlier, I am referring to community of interest and historical background of the region.

I started with the first riding the bill proposed, the riding of Blainville-Terrebonne. In its proposal, the commission, which visited my riding, suggested putting the following towns: Blainville, Bois-des-Filion, Lorraine, Rosemère, Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines and Terrebonne together in the riding of Blainville-Terrebonne.

Although the first five towns met all the criteria, Terrebonne, the most densely populated town in the proposed riding, would be the big loser. In fact, Terrebonne had a population of 39,678 at the last census. These residents have no geographical, economic or cultural affinity with the other towns in the proposed riding.

They do not have the same administrative regions, MRCs, school boards, economic development corporations, employment centres, Quebec manpower development corporations or CLSCs, but the commission still wanted to put them into one riding, grafting together bits and pieces that have nothing in common, and they think this will be a riding that makes sense. However, it makes no sense at all to uproot entire communities.

At a time when we are all working hard to eliminate costly duplication and overlap, we think this should be an opportunity to reinforce communities of interest instead of dividing them.

Considering that the riding of Terrebonne has existed since the Constitution Act, 1867-I have already said this here, but I want to repeat it in reference to the current bill-considering that the commissions are probably going to circulate again, I would like to ask the federal electoral boundaries commission to reconsider the proposal regarding Blainville-Terrebonne, and to decide to leave the riding as Terrebonne.

It meets the first criterion, which is historical development. Under this criterion, the towns of Lachenaie, Mascouche, Terrebonne and La Plaine could be grouped together to form the new riding of Terrebonne.

According to the decennial census of 1991, the population of this new riding would be approximately 91,156, which is within 1 per cent, or 800 persons, of the electoral quota set for Quebec, which is 91,946.

In addition, in the next briefs to be presented in the next hearings, the commission and Parliament will have to take into consideration the fact that the four towns mentioned earlier are already considered to form one entity for the purposes of the administrative region of Lanaudière, the RCM of Les Moulins, the des Manoirs school board, la Société de développement économique des Moulins, the Terrebonne Canada Employment Centre at Lachenaie, la Société québécoise de développement de la main-d'oeuvre and the Lamazer local community health centre.

Therefore, I believe that I have clearly demonstrated that creating the riding of Blainville-Terrebonne would be totally irresponsible and irrational. It is our duty to respect communities of interest, economic communities, historical development and thus to maintain the riding of Terrebonne with the new towns as I just explained.

Regarding Repentigny, we were pleased to see that the previous law created this riding. As I said earlier, with 110,000 voters, there is no reason for us to oppose the boundary as it stands.

In fact, the creation of Repentigny corrects a historical oversight. On April 16, 1647, Pierre Le Gardeur de Repentigny was granted the seigniory of Repentigny. We can only praise this acknowledgement of history which is one of the criteria in the bill before us.

The commission aims to group the towns of Charlemagne, Lachenaie, Mascouche, Repentigny and the part of the RCM of Les Moulins which is included in the parish of La Plaine in this new riding.

In fact the cities of Charlemagne and Repentigny, on the one hand, and Lachenaie, La Plaine and Mascouche, on the other, have different RCMs, school boards, economic development corporations, manpower development corporations and so on.

We can see the aim is to combine two ridings into one, regardless of the economic, social and cultural realities of this area. Here again, administrative overlap and duplication have not been corrected.

In the light of the above, we are asking the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Quebec to review its proposal as follows.

The proposed electoral district would still be called Repentigny. It would include the cities of Charlemagne, L'Assomption, L'Épiphanie, Le Gardeur, Repentigny and part of the regional county municipality of l'Assomption included in the parishes of l'Épiphanie, Saint-Gérard-de-Magella and Saint-Sulpice.

According to the 1991 decennial census, the population of the riding proposed, which we propose to improve, is 91,537, here again, almost exactly the electoral quota established for Quebec, which is, and I repeat, 91,946. Not even a difference of 300 people. It is therefore realistic.

In the new riding, under one administrative region, that of Lanaudière; there would be one regional county municipality; one school board, the Le Gardeur school board; a single economic development corporation; a single employment centre, the one in Repentigny; and a single Quebec manpower development corporation.

In short, the two ridings we are proposing: Terrebonne, in keeping with historical changes, and Repentigny, also in keeping with these changes, are entirely in accordance with the principles established by this same commission.

In the light of these facts, we are asking that, with Bill C-69, there be a little flexibility when the commissions resume their hearings in the regions. We therefore ask the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Quebec to review its proposal, which, we hope, is not cast in stone, and to understand the simple, rational and fundamental arguments here for the greater well-being of the people concerned by this readjustment. That is, of course, in the unlikely event these people will require representation in another federal election.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

7:10 p.m.


Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in discussion of Bill C-69, an act to provide for the establishment of electoral boundaries commissions and the readjustment of electoral boundaries.

This bill comes back to us from the Senate and therefore my remarks will address essentially the amendments proposed by the Senate and our reactions to them.

One approaches this debate in a spirit of respect for a co-ordinate institution and for the care that the Senate has attempted to give for the fulfilment of its constitutional duty. I would also say, however, that we are in a special area of the constitutional law of Parliament where each Chamber, being co-ordinate, must recognize that the histories and traditions of the other are different.

The House of Commons and the model from which we borrowed, the Parliament of Great Britain, separated historically from the House of Lords. Therefore conventions as to the role, for example, of the Speaker in the internal conduct of Parliament are different for the two Houses.

That suggests as a principle of constitutional comity a certain amount of self-restraint in the attitudes of one House to another. For example, it would be improper for the Senate to offer suggestions as to the conduct of the Speaker of the House or vice versa, the House offering suggestions on the conduct of the Speaker of the Senate, other than in a spirit of study and a suggestion in the strict sense of the word. Comity enjoins a certain respect for differences in traditions and differences in historical evolution.

This having been said, I will note that some of the suggestions made by the Senate seem to be valuable and the product of reflection. Time always improves examination of a measure. I believe on these points the House is in a mood to respond positively.

The issue of the electoral quotient, the amount of permissible variation from constituency to constituency, was much discussed in the master committee of the House, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which is really a de facto Constitution committee of the House. It was much discussed. On both sides there was considerable examination of the issue of whether the maximum permissible variation should be 15 or 25 per cent and with the Senate's suggestion the 15 per cent.

I have no particular quarrel. I gather the feeling of the House is very much positive in relation to this point. Similarly with the suggestion in appointing members of the electoral commissions that the members to be appointed or persons to be considered should be residents of the province concerned, that seems to be matter of ordinary common sense.

I see opposite an hon. member who made thoughtful contributions to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I suspect this is something we simply overlooked, and it is good to be reminded of it. It makes sense. It would not make sense to do it the other way.

Our suggestions in changing the procedure used over so many years were directed toward taking the current development in constitutional thinking, which is increasingly to constitutionalize large discretionary offices that exercise constitutional powers in a discretionary way, and to subject the incumbents of the office to some degree of prior scrutiny by Parliament of their qualifications. In an ideal sense this might mean that all executive council appointments would be subject to some sort of parliamentary examination.

It is not the function of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to make a constitutional revolution all across the board. It does not have that mandate. Nevertheless we will notice a change here from a system where the appointment of the commissioners was solely at the discretion of the Speaker of the day and not subject to review.

There were attempts to establish a gloss on this practice made by a distinguished speaker, Madam Sauvé, to consult informally with people outside. In the early eighties the electoral commis-

sions that were formed by Madam Speaker were done after informal and private consultation with outside people. I believe she consulted a current member of the Senate, Senator Beaudoin, who was then a very distinguished constitutional authority.

What we have here is a proposal to further constitutionalize the process by establishing a duty of consultation with the House of Parliament. It is obviously not the same as submitting to Parliament the approval or ratification of that decision, but it opens up the process and it takes us a considerable way along in constitutional evolution. One of the good things in this committee was the general enthusiasm with which this change was recognized by the members of the committee. In responding to the Senate's suggestion again, I see no particular problems with it if they understand they are operating in the spirit of our original intention.

I have more difficulties when we arrive at the more substantive side of the Senate's suggestions. One problem is increasingly directed to what was one of the key thrusts of the recommendations of the procedure and House affairs committee. The problem essentially in this area is that the system of electoral boundaries, which purported to be private and non-political, was inevitably subject to political pressures which, because they were never out in the open, were not subject to public scrutiny and review.

An ideal system of constitutionalizing electoral boundaries commissions would recognize that it goes to constituent power, which is prior to constitutional power and the ultimate source of state authority. That is something, I think ideally, on which we would have a set of very clear, concrete principles to be applied by commissioners so that their discretion would not be, as was once said of Lord Eldon when he was Lord High Chancellor, as long as the chancellor's foot.

Outside people could refer to clear constitutional principles in deciding whether the commissioners' discretion was exercised rationally or was exercised merely arbitrarily and capriciously and of course subject to review by the courts. The biggest gap in the Canadian electoral system is that there is no developed system of court jurisprudence.

If we examine the evolution, the democratization of electoral law in the United States is essentially because they have clear constitutional principles set out in the constitutional charter and a perfected system of court challenge by test cases financed by competing interest groups and clear court rulings. This constitutionalization through clear enunciation of constitutional principles and judicial review was borrowed by the German constitutional system, the contemporary system, from the United States. It goes even more along that road than the United States does.

We have lagged behind in many respects perhaps because of the timidity-self-restraint might be the kinder word-of the Supreme Court and the absence of a disposition on the part of persons affected and even political parties to approach the court where boundaries are obviously gerrymandered or established arbitrarily and capriciously without proper regard to local conditions.

It can however be changed. The feeling of the committee was very clear that the criteria for establishment of electoral boundaries should be set out in the legislation, and that they should be criteria to which what was done by the boundaries commissions in the future would be referable and would obviously be subject to scrutiny by citizens, political parties and others affected, but subject to review by an ultimate authority. This is why we approached the statement of principles.

Coming back to what the Senate has done, I have some reservations in its striking out the provision intended to safeguard against unnecessary revision. I also have some difficulty with its touching the issue of community of interest. I felt that within the committee ourselves we did not go quite far enough in defining the criteria, but at least we made a beginning.

One thing we tried to establish was the respect for continuity, which is one of our constitutional values. Members of Parliament build up a special relationship with their constituencies. There is a relationship of trust which subsists during the mandate of the member. It should not idly be changed. Unless there is a pressing consideration of sociology, economics or something else set out in the criteria, there should be a presumption of continuity. One does not indulge in changes across the board just for the sake of making a professorial exercise.

In looking at the last electoral boundaries commission-and in an earlier pre-parliamentary capacity I served as an electoral boundary commissioner-Madam Sauvé as Speaker approached me and said that she wanted to depoliticize the process. She was looking for people a bit outside the political arenas for that. One of the principles we very clearly recognized was the principle of continuity, the relationship between members and their constituents. If we change a boundary dramatically halfway through a term, what is the relationship of trust between members and their existing constituents from whom the member will be separated by the next boundary change? Obviously one does one's best but it is not good for the relationship of trust which one tries to build up through the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government.

We stressed, however, in community of interest that it should be established in an evolutionary pattern. Constitutions are not static instruments, laws are not and obviously society is not. It is

a principle of the common law and I think of our constitutional jurisprudence that laws should evolve as society evolves.

One regret I had in looking at the work of the latest electoral boundaries commissions, the series of 11 reports that we had, was that in a certain sense in the philosophy, because everybody has a philosophy, we discovered that there had been no contact by the electoral boundaries commission the last time with the federal electoral commissioner who has a great deal of experience. There was no mutual contact between them so there were wide variations in approaches.

We discovered that essentially some of the commissions were looking back to the future. The unique feature of Canadian society today, which some have railed against, some have viewed with despair and others have viewed with joy as an opportunity for the future, is the fact that we have become a community of communities. It is interesting certainly in large cities that all the constituencies are plural in the sense of representing many communities. It is something in some sense that has been achieved accidentally over the years but is consolidated.

One of my deep regrets in looking at the latest exercise is that there is an attempt to turn the clock backward, seemingly, to create uni-communities, uni-ethnic constituencies. This is a false approach to building a Canadian society. It runs against all the trends. This is why in spelling out the criteria we have tried to stress two things: first, continuity unless there is a clear reason for doing differently and, second, a balance of characteristics, a balance of features in which sociology, geography and commonalty of ties all operate together.

We must never forget the prime lesson of Canadian society which will be the hallmark of our society as we enter the 21st century. There is unity in the diversity because of the necessity of co-operation and co-existence between the different communities.

My suggestion to the Senate, and I do so in the full spirit of respect for a co-ordinate institution, is that it should hew more closely to the position adopted by the House. In our committee we gave hours of work, hours of give and take, in discussion of the particular clause and it should not be changed lightly. I would suggest that the excision of our principle of continuity is a step backward, particularly where continuity now by the happy accidents of the evolution of our society adequately reflects the diversity and in a sense the unity through diversity of our society.

I am optimistic about the venture in the constitutionalism of electoral laws. So far in society we have left the political parties untouched. It is my view that constitutionally the political parties as organs of our constitutional system are subject to the same principles of constitutional review as the main governmental institutions.

I would view it as a healthy situation if issues of the internal processes of parties where they operate in such a way as to negate the principles of representation are subject to court challenges and court review as they are in Germany, France and in all the countries that have borrowed from American constitutionalism. We would not have the great constitutionalism of the United States without it. In some senses principles we have established only in terms of consideration of electoral boundaries carry over to the political parties as prime instruments of our constitutional system.

One thanks the Senate for the thoughtful suggestions among which we can very easily accept the reduction of electoral quotas from 25 to 15. "Thank you again for the suggestion of residency. Please, in a spirit of comity, take another look at what we have done with the substantive provisions. We would respect your accommodation to our suggestions here."

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

7:30 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

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.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

7:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Against the Liberals.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

7:35 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

It was very interesting that we had a lot of Liberal members in this House talking about the Ontario election about a month ago, but they got fewer and fewer as the weeks passed and it was obvious that the Conservatives were going to win in Ontario.

Of course, to Mike Harris's credit, he did borrow some of our ideas and policies. We applaud him for that.

Another Reform policy in this area is that government should give careful consideration to filling vacancies as they occur in the Senate with province-wide elections. These elections should be conducted in the same manner as the one in which the late Senator Stan Waters was elected, thereby having some popular support in the province. In Quebec, where the senators actually represent defined constituencies, the election would only have to take place in that constituency.

The official Liberal position is that they support an elected Senate. In our caucus we go even further. We believe in what we call a triple-E Senate, one that is equal, effective, and elected. A Senate where there is true representation by region would provide the people of the less populous provinces with an effective voice in the second chamber of Canada's Parliament. A triple-E Senate would give an equal voice to the smaller, less populous provinces and give them the clout in Parliament they have sought for so long.

It is not as if Canada would be breaking any new ground here. Other countries have two democratically elected chambers: the United States, Germany, and Australia. I realize that creating the kind of Senate of which I speak would require constitutional reform, but in the interim this government could hold senatorial

elections in the same way it did when it appointed Stan Waters as a result of that election.

To date, the Prime Minister has ignored his own official Liberal policy and has chosen to fill Senate vacancies with the usual assortment of party hacks and cronies. This is in direct conflict with the stated Liberal policy.

Since Bill C-69 does not bring about substantial change to the redrawing of the boundaries and to the whole democratic process of true representation, I say let us revert back to the old process. Why would I say that? It is because we have already spent $6 million on that process. Hearings have been held in a lot of those ridings. They understood what was going to happen in terms of what their new boundaries would be. It was well along before it was interrupted a year and a half ago.

I say let us change the whole kit and caboodle. Let us bring in true representation by population and bring in true representation by region or else leave the process alone and revert to what it was before. We had quite a good process in place, one that recognized that there are people who move in the country from time to time, one that recognized growth in regions and therefore recognized that the boundaries have to be redrawn from time to time. That process is one we should revert to. The Senate recognized it, with some minor changes. I believe we would be wise to drop Bill C-69 and the mismanagement that has followed it and revert to a process that has worked well for us in the past.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

7:40 p.m.


Hugh Hanrahan Reform Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, throughout Canada's history the issue of electoral boundary redistribution has been contentious. The hostility is derived from the very premise that those who have power are never willing to relinquish their hold on it.

I want to make it clear from the outset that I am opposed to Bill C-69, as it will attempt to fix a process that is not really broken. The government wants to scrap an electoral boundaries commission that has cost Canadians nearly $5 million and redo that process at a cost of another $5 million to $6 million. My question to the other side of the House is what happened to fiscal responsibility?

I could see the need for Bill C-69 if the original report had in some way been tainted by any type of political influence-in other words, if there had been gerrymandering or if there had been a large outcry from Canadians regarding the current redistribution process. Neither of those events has occurred.

I think the idea of politicians redrawing their own boundaries lies at the very core of a serious problem in Canada. The problem is a lack of trust by the public regarding politicians. It is evident therefore that this government does not see that Canadians are unhappy with the entire process in which politicians have been conducting their business.

Canadians want change. They want a new style of openness. They want a new style of fairness. This type of legislation can only be viewed as regressive. Even though the House was given the absolute right to redraw the electoral boundaries at Confederation, because of the contentious nature of electoral redistribution Parliament agreed to share the responsibility of redistribution with electoral boundaries commissions.

Since the creation of the electoral boundaries commissions in 1964, public perception that there is not a considerable amount of political interference in the readjustment process has diminished. The political interference that took place before the creation of the electoral boundaries commissions was seen as an attempt to ensure as far as possible that the members of the governing party were re-elected. That is absolutely wrong.

I hope this government is not travelling down the same path of earlier governments, where gerrymandering and the abuse of power were seen as commonplace. It is important to note that since 1964, while many politicians have been unhappy with the outcome of redistribution, there has rarely been a complaint of political interference. This is a direct result of one mitigating factor. These commissions are non-partisan. The commissions look primarily at the number of people in the province, not political partisanship. They do not consider how the changes will affect one party over another.

The largest criticism of the commissions is they do not consider enough non-political information. Many times they overlook common community interests or community identities. It is important to ensure redistributed boundaries correspond as closely as possible to the national quotient while also taking into account community interests and the historical patterns of an electoral district.

These factors will enable the commissions to properly manage the geographic sizes of districts with sparsely populated areas. The commissions are allowed to deviate from the provincial average by plus or minus 25 per cent, as the bill was written.

This allows them to accommodate for human and geographic factors. Another issue that causes me a great deal of concern and which was not addressed by Bill C-69 is that because of a 1985 constitutional amendment no province can have fewer seats than the 1985 level of representation regardless of the population of that province.

The exception is P.E.I. which can have no fewer MPs than Senators, not something we disagree with. We therefore have done away with the premise of absolute representation by population. It is clear that within the concept of representation by population emerges the concept of equality of vote. Any

notion of equality which rep by population may permit is countered by the fact the current and historical development of representation in Canada has only partially been based on the notion of this concept.

Since Confederation Canada has developed a system with respect to electoral representation whereby a heavily populated province retains its majority of seats within the House of Commons while the less populated provinces receive an adequate number of seats to ensure appropriate representation.

By no means does the federal government reflect the notion of true representation of population in its purest form. Rep by pop has been altered in order to guarantee a minimum number of seats within the House to the less populated provinces so they do not become under represented if their population base decreases.

Thus while the principle of representation by population may be said to lie at the heart of the electoral apportionment, it has from the beginning been altered by other factors. Due to Canada's vast geographic size and regional differences a modified version of representation by population has emerged.

It is therefore determined the equality of votes guaranteed by Canadians is one of relative equality and not absolute equality. Therefore we do not have equality of voting power but rather relative equality of voting perception.

Canada has many regions and there probably are as many definitions of regionalism as there are people defining it. Regionalism is not some sort of disease to be stamped out. Rather it is a healthy manifestation, lacking at present a healthy constitutional outlet. The only true significant political failure of the Canadian experience is its chronic inability to solve those regional tensions.

The Senate was established to protect the interests of the regions and the provinces, yet for too long western Canada has felt its interests have not been adequately represented in this federal Parliament. The Canadian Senate lacks legitimacy in the eyes of many Canadians because it is an appointed body which runs counter to the fundamental Canadian belief that democratic governments should be conducted by an elected rather than an appointed body.

What Canadians need and what Canadians in more and more numbers want is an effective, elected and equal Senate. A reformed Senate will not just benefit one province or one region, it will help build a better and stronger Canada.

We should have an elected Parliament based solely on representation by population with a constant number of members. This concept will work only if we have an elected Senate in which all of the regions of Canada have an equal number of senators; this would ensure that Parliament reflects a notion of one person, one vote and would allow the Senate to recognize the regional interests of our nation.

Moving on to the specific recommendations from the Senate on Bill C-69, I state for the record we support some of its amendments. Amendment Nos. 1 and 6(a) will reduce the allowable size of deviation from the provincial average to 15 per cent from the current 25 per cent.

This should help to equalize some of the concerns I have raised regarding the inequities of representation by population. This will ensure the ratio between rural and urban dwellers in that it will become smaller. It also allows for deviations of the plus or minus 15 per cent in special circumstances, which is totally acceptable to the Reform Party and is a point we as a party have argued for throughout every stage of this debate.

Amendment No. 4(a) is for the most part a technical amendment which simply states the two non-judicial commission members reside in the province for which the commission is established. The merits of this amendment speak clearly for themselves. However, for those for whom it does not, let me put it this way. Who better to understand the needs and requirements of a particular province than someone from that province?

Amendment No. 6(b)(i) eliminates the provision that a commission will only recommend changing to existing electoral district boundaries where the factors are set out and are to be significant enough to warrant such a recommendation.

Again it is important that an independent body able to make recommendations which could have boundary deviations which may be necessary is also free from the notion of perception of political interference. We must always remember it is simply not enough to be free from gerrymandering; it must be perceived to be free form gerrymandering.

I wish to make it clear that even with the three Senate amendments with which we agree the bill does not improve on the present process to warrant discarding the redistribution that is almost complete.

Bill C-69 failed to address the size of the House by capping or limiting the number of members of Parliament in the future. It plans to increase number of members of the House from 295 to 301. My constituents in Edmonton-Strathcona do not want more politicians; they want less government.

Bill C-69 will ultimately cost the Canadians $5 million to $6 million, as was already mentioned, to redo the distribution process. For these reasons I am against Bill C-69 in principle.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

7:55 p.m.


François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to take the floor once again regarding Bill C-69, this time at the consideration stage of Senate amendments and the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminster.

The two speakers who preceded me, the hon. members for Peace River and for Edmonton-Strathcona, spoke for several minutes about their desire for an elected Senate, a triple-E Senate, an efficient Senate, to use the words they used. In theory, it could appear interesting to elect members to the other place on a regional basis. Just imagine. I am merely asking a hypothetical question because this is not at all what I want.

They would like to create a parliamentary Senate with 24 members from the Maritimes, which is what we have now, 24 from Quebec, 24 from Ontario, 24 from western Canada, 2 from the territories and the 6 senators from Newfoundland in accordance with the Newfoundland Act of 1949, for a total of 104, but they would like to have them elected. That could create a balance of sorts. It is plain to see now that the Senate has completely strayed from its original mandate which was to protect the regions.

It is a House which speaks for itself and which, in the final analysis, has no other voice than the one that it gives itself. Except that the amendment proposed by the Reform Party will probably have its day when the time comes to reorganize Canada's political institutions, which will probably be in a few months. In the meantime, we have other decisions to make and we have work to do regarding the new partnership between Quebec and Canada.

This having been said, the Bloc Quebecois opposes Bill C-69 at third reading for a very simple reason. Although we recognized that Bill C-69 was a significant improvement over the current law, we had no other option but to oppose Bill C-69 when this House refused to approve the motion in amendment that I tabled in this House at the report stage, which aimed to secure minimum representation for Quebec. This minimum representation would have been set at 25 per cent, in other words, would have guaranteed Quebec 25 per cent of all seats under the constitution.

I note with sadness that, apart from the Bloc Quebecois members, the only other members who supported this amendment at the report stage were the hon. member for Beauce and the hon. member for Burnaby-Kingsway. This tells all about how isolated the Bloc, an hon. member from British Columbia and the independent member for Beauce were in their move to support this amendment.

It tells of just how isolated Quebec is and it tells the story of just how things evolved until we arrived at this state of affairs. While at the beginning of the federation we thought that we had made a nation to nation pact and, overall, equality for anglophones and francophones, 128 years later, we find ourselves in a situation where we are even denied a minimum of 25 per cent. We find ourselves in a situation where Reform members expound their theory in the House that Quebec is only one province among ten and not a founding people. Canada has reached the multicultural and multiethnic stage; it is no longer at the biethnic and bicultural stage, as Quebec has always seen Canada.

There are two opposing visions. I think it is useless to prolong these arguments about ideas, terminology and behaviour. This fall in Quebec, we will have to make up our minds about what we want. Do we want to be a people, a nation like other nations? Or do we want to be a province like the other provinces? That is the question we will have to answer this fall.

Later, together with our friends in English Canada, liberated from the political structures that are strangling us today, once we stop feeling like a minority group in a country where every day we become more conscious of the fact, then we will be able to create economic and political instruments that are far more effective than what we know today, which makes this debate so pointless.

I will not review everything that has been done since Bill C-18 was passed last year in this House.

A few moments ago, I referred to the fact that Quebec failed to obtain guarantees for 25 per cent of the seats, which was a minimum if we were to support Bill C-69. That being said, our support for Bill C-69 is not a foregone conclusion.

We have reached a theoretical stage in this debate. Tomorrow we will know whether the Senate will be able to garner the requisite unanimous consent to receive the bill from the House as amended and possibly proceed with third reading.

If the bill is not passed by the Senate by midnight tomorrow and has not received royal assent, the current legislation will prevail. After this evening's vote, we will look forward to what happens tomorrow in the Senate. Will there be unanimous consent to proceed or not? We have no control over the process.

I must say the government did a very poor job of scheduling this particular bill. Perhaps it did not expect such a strong reaction from the Senate. That may be, but I think that as soon as the bill was amended in the Senate, if the government had said no and stuck to its guns instead of caving in after the first negative vote in the Senate on this bill, the whole thing would have been settled long ago.

The Senate is starting to make a habit of this procedure, as we saw subsequently. It delayed Pearson, it delayed Bill C-68 to create committees and so forth. However, those who were responsible for these tactics were probably hesitant to use them, and when they did they were rather clumsy about it, so that in the end, the government no longer controls the agenda. We are at

the mercy of a single person who could defeat this bill, as happened in the case of Meech Lake.

However, this legislation would improve certain aspects of determining electoral boundaries. You may recall that if C-69 comes into force, the commissioners will have to hear submissions before starting on their work. This would give them some idea of the situation they would have to deal with.

The commissioners would produce three maps instead of just one, which is an improvement, as I have always said. I worked on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on this bill until quite recently. Basically, I agreed with all the amendments except that when we were denied a guarantee of 25 per cent of the seats for Quebec, it was obvious we could no longer support the bill.

As for the technical improvements, there were quite a few. I see that the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, who also worked on this legislation, agrees with me in that respect.

The fact that Bill C-69 obliges the commissions to consider community of interest is certainly an improvement. Providing for a readjustment every five years instead of every ten was another improvement, because this prevents excessive distortion due to the population shifts that occur in Canada.

My colleague, the hon. member for Terrebonne, was speaking earlier about the situation that is peculiar to the area he represents, where population growth is quite incredible. Adjustments every five years would mean avoiding redoing the electoral maps that upset everybody, every ten years.

Bill C-69, the result of a compromise, maintained the principle of the 25 per cent variation in the electoral quota. That is, if the number of voters in a riding was set at 100,000, the riding could have either 75,000 or 125,000 voters. The compromise in Bill C-69 lay in the fact that a riding could no longer have over 125 per cent, which is currently the case. One riding can have 200 per cent of the voters so that others may have 50 per cent fewer. In this regard, I think the bill is well balanced.

It is unfortunate that we were denied the constitutional guarantee for Quebec of 25 per cent of the seats, my own proposal, the bare minimum, given that, in 1867, we had 65 of the 181 seats, that is, two thirds of the members of Parliament were from Quebec. Now, from 33 per cent, if the next election is held using the new electoral map, we will have 75 seats out of 301. In other words, the fateful figure of 25 per cent will be wiped out. This is how the francophones and Acadians outside Quebec quietly became minorities. The same applies to the people of Quebec, who are quietly becoming a minority without a constitutional guarantee, either.

We are not lucky like the province of Prince-Edward-Island to have a senatorial clause. We do not have the special protection enjoyed by the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, which is a constitutional guarantee of one seat, regardless of their population. We are not questioning this-it is a fine thing for them. I am not questioning Prince-Edward-Island's representation or the Northwest Territories' or the Yukon's representation, but why not give the same representation to Quebec?

Two members voted with the Bloc. I remind my colleague for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell that they are the member for Beauce and the member for Burnaby-Kingsway. No other member considered it appropriate to support the proposal. Quite the opposite, they all rose to vote against it. Obviously this is their democratic right. I take the liberty, however, of drawing my own conclusions, and Quebec voters can do the same.

Were there other good things? I will look in my notes, as it has been a while since I have had occasion to speak about this. The provisions in Bill C-69 struck a certain balance that made it possible to function. We started over with new commissions and new commissioners appointed by the Speaker of the House and the provincial chief justices, and the Speaker's decisions could be reviewed at the request of a minimum number of members in this House.

Thus, members were involved more at the stage of appointing the commissioners than at the stage of reviewing the map. It is not work suited to MPs, who too often think that the riding belongs to them and who always want to hang on to the same boundaries so as not to lose a particular parish, because in the world of politics, of course, friendships are formed, as are some rather artificial boundaries, that become almost as important as the borders between countries.

We are probably left with two scenarios: either Bill C-69 does not receive Royal Assent tomorrow evening and we start all over again, or Bill C-69 is not passed tomorrow evening and we are left with the existing act. In either case, we will have a problem because we still do not have the 25 per cent for Quebec. Nobody is going to give it to us and that is that.

If the existing act is suspended until midnight tomorrow by Bill C-18, we will have the bizarre and unfortunate situation where commissions that have been suspended or that knew that they were going to be suspended, have nonetheless continued to do their work for quite some time.

And constituents, believing in good faith that the bill presented in the House would pass, did not come before those commissions which were obviously going to be disbanded. However, through the Senate amendments, they were only suspended, and they will be revived tomorrow night. They often held their hearings before empty rooms.

If those commissions, created under the old act passed by the previous government in another Parliament, are to be revived tomorrow night, they should at the very least hold new hearings to allow people to express their opinions on the electoral boundaries that have already been proposed. We should make no mistake about it, there are some members, particularly Liberal members, who think that if Bill C-69 does not pass, we go back to the 1993 electoral map.

On the contrary, I want to tell the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell that this is not the case, he will not get back his 1993 riding. We have to tell him that it will be his riding as reviewed by the commission for Ontario. He does not seem to understand it; I would like him to explain to all his colleagues we can see here tonight that if Bill C-69 does not pass, we do not go back to the status quo, but to the electoral districts as they were established before Bill C-18 was passed.

In fact, if those commissions are revived tomorrow night, they will resume their hearings to hear constituents across the country.

Still, everything was not bad with the old act, particularly with regard to the definition of special considerations allowing the creation of electoral districts departing from the electoral quota by more than 25 per cent. Right now, under Bill C-69, a commission can deviate by more than 25 per cent below the provincial quota, and always below-it cannot be 150 per cent or even 126 per cent of the quota, but it could be 74, 65 or 50 per cent-only in very exceptional cases like those isolated and very hard to reach areas.

This is what Bill C-69 provides, but the former act was much more flexible. Let me read it. The act as it stands now, if Bill C-69 is not in force, says that a commission can deviate from the provincial quotient by more than 25 per cent more or 25 per cent less. Thus, it can go as high as 150 or 175 percent and as low as 40 per cent "in any case where any special community or diversity of interests of the inhabitants of various regions of the province appear to the commission to render such a departure necessary or desirable."

Those guidelines are much more flexible than Bill C-69 where remote areas are concerned. The act we have now is more flexible. It is by no means certain, but it is likely that ridings in areas like the Lower St. Lawrence, the Gaspé peninsula and Lac-Saint-Jean would remain practically unchanged. With Bill C-69, there is a real danger because the commissions cannot go beyond 125 per cent and create a reservoir of voters to compensate for another area.

The same holds true for Northern Ontario, where Bill C-69 will spell problems. I think that a certain balance was achieved with C-69, but that it is far from perfect.

As to the motion moved by the government House leader concerning Senate amendments, I am tempted to say that they are good amendments to a flawed bill.

Since it is a flawed bill, I will vote against the amendments later tonight, and I hope our colleagues in the other place will be guided by the Providence when they make their decision tomorrow on whether Bill C-69 will receive royal assent or the former commissions will be revived.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

8:15 p.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Waterloo, ON

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.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

8:25 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Waterloo for his remarks. I particularly enjoyed his comments about the former candidate for the Reform Party. It will be nice after the next election when we will get to enjoy reading his comments in Hansard. I am sure those comments will be far more to the point and much easier to digest.

It is a pleasure to speak to this bill tonight. In a sense the bill encapsulates part of the problem with the democratic process, or the choosing in this case of electoral boundaries. It deals with the neutrality of that, the idea that we as politicians should not be messing around in choosing the riding boundaries. We should be leaving that to a neutral body which will ensure that fairness is the key word in all boundary decisions.

It also gives me an opportunity to talk about the whole legislative process by which we bring laws into being in the House. On a late night sitting like this, it gives me cause for a few moments to talk about the whole idea of debate, which again is part of that democratic process. The flaws that I see in the House and in this current parliamentary system.

I am often asked after being here for a year and a half what I think of it now, if it is everything I thought it would be. Is it everything I thought it would be? Is it everything I thought it would be when I first got here? I have to say sadly with considerable disappointment that no, it is not. This evening I will give a 20-minute speech to a largely empty House. This is my second speech of the day. I gave another 20-minute speech on Bill C-86 earlier today. It was germane to my riding. It was about the dairy commission.

A lot of work goes into the preparation of a speech. There is the research, the time my staff and I commit, my resources, the communication with my constituents and earlier today with my dairy farming constituency, and so on. There is all that effort to prepare a decent and hopefully cogent argument and then I deliver it into an empty House. There has to be something wrong when people back home are wondering what I think of it. I am pleased to be here. I am proud to represent them, but they should know that there is a systemic problem here.

When I see debate after debate and speaker after speaker presenting arguments to themselves and not having someone to debate with, it is rather discouraging. The very process of debate presupposes that there is someone to debate with. We have to suppose that we are going to talk to someone and try to understand their point of view, debate them on the merits of that point and then listen to their points. It goes back and forth until we come to a resolution that maybe was wiser than either one of us started out with.

Again, when I give another speech to a largely empty House, I wonder sometimes about the value of it. Is it just killing time or is it really debate where I hope to speak to someone's intellect and challenge them in some ways?

Yesterday there was a vote on a private members' Bill C-295 that I initiated. It was defeated. I was not upset about the defeat of the bill. What does annoy me is that early in the debate I had misplaced a word in the text of the peacekeeping bill I brought forward. I asked for and received unanimous consent of the House to change the word command to operational control.

The word was changed and for the next three debates I listened to the prepared speeches from the other side. Members just went through their prepared speeches time and time again saying that the word command should be changed to operational control. It had been done at the outset but they did not listen. They are not not listening and they do not care to enter logical debate.

Instead, the government wants to come in with a legislative agenda, crack the whip and tell people how to vote. The concern for actually coming to a consensus is somewhere down there. I referred to it earlier in my dairy speech as the spreadings of the honey wagon.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

8:30 p.m.

An hon. member

Some people might not know what a honey wagon is.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

8:30 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

I will leave the honey wagon explanation to others.

In his intervention the member for Waterloo was speaking about the need to represent the wishes of his constituents. I urge the member to go back and check his speech. He may want to check the blues to see if he can get that erased. Representing the wishes of a constituency. What does that mean to Liberals exactly? What is the purpose of representing their constituents?

If the Liberals were to represent their constituents but it was not the party line, I wonder what would happen. I am sure the Liberal Party would shrug it off. It would say that probably the member had a legitimate point of view having consulted with his constituents and wanting to legitimately represent their concerns even though they happen to be juxtaposed against the Liberal Party. That would be fine, would it not?

We have seen in the last couple of weeks-and this comes down again to the democratic process-what would happen if Liberal members truly try to represent their constituents in the Liberal Party. First they would get the mild reaction, the tongue lashing. "Mr. Member from wherever, if you do that again, if you happen to be so brazen as to actually represent the people who put you into power, we will make sure that you do not get a voice on committees". That would be the first step: Why do we not just yank them from their role on committees? That is of course a small thing, but when they are trying to do their job I suppose those three or four Liberals would feel just a tad chastized. What would happen if this continued? If the members were so brazen as to vote a second time against the Liberal Party, what would happen?

Suppose the member was a 30-year man having been on the job for 30 years, never voting against or bucking the party line but finally he did what he thought was the wishes of his constituents. Perhaps the member was a former cabinet minister who had bent the ear of several prime ministers. If he dared to step out of line, what would happen? He would be threatened with dismissal from the chairmanship of his committee, having done nothing wrong, having done nothing but represent the views of the people in his riding.

If it were to continue, what would then happen? The Prime Minister would stand up and say words like this: "You either do as you are told or I will not sign your nomination papers next time".

It is incredible. That is the way the old line party seems to think is a good way to run the country. It goes to the very heart of what we are talking about tonight, this need to interfere in the democratic process. The way it says that the party knows best, the constituents know nothing, and the members know less. The Liberals have come from a time when they used to be a coalition of friends scratching other friends' backs to friends warning other friends that if they step out of line, they will not be around much longer. It is a sad, sad day.

I wondered even as I listened to the member from Waterloo waxing eloquent as he said: "We are going to make sure that they are going to listen to us. We are going to make sure that they observe the boundaries we want". What kind of nonsense is that? What kind of diatribe is that when we hear someone saying: "We will make sure the next group that sets the boundaries does what we want". It is nonsense.

The reason it is nonsense is that they do not seem to understand the role of a neutral or fair minded boundary commission. The role of a commission is to come in not to do the wishes and the bidding of the member sitting in the riding. It is to listen to witnesses, do what it can to have input from the community, and then it has to make a decision.

The sad but ironic thing about what is happening here with this bill is that the Liberal backbenchers who initiated this whole gong show of a revisiting this whole thing have shot themselves in the foot so to speak, maybe both feet. They said: "We do not like the boundaries that C-18 gave. We do not like the boundaries and in fact the boundaries are so new, it will give us so little time to adjust that what we are going to have to bring in a new set of boundaries".

By pushing it off until this late, we are going to end up with a set of boundaries for Reformers and Liberals alike that no one will know until probably a couple of months before the next election. What a wise, wise move. Of course it will cost another $5 million or $6 million to do it. I guess that is just pocket change. The introduction of the $2 coin is only going to save $12 million a year and the Liberals had to move heaven and earth for that. But for $6 million they will get another set of boundaries that will not be any better than the ones they had before. They will be slightly different and there will be slightly more of them. I wonder if they are listening to their constituents.

I repeat what the member for Waterloo said: "It is important that we represent the wishes of the constituency". Well, what would the constituency want? Maybe I should not speak for the member from Waterloo. Maybe his constituents do want more members of Parliament.

As a matter of fact if we could get 301 members in the House we could start the renovations. Soon we will not have enough room in the House. We could just push the walls back and add more seats until the House becomes-

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Tent meetings.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

8:40 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Maybe that is what they would like, tent meetings in order to handle more members of Parliament that are inevitably going to come because of the way this bill has been set up.

The Liberals refused to listen to the Reform Party. The Reform Party said there should not be more than 265 members of Parliament. They should not be looking to expand the numbers of members of Parliament. They should be looking to restrict them, to cut back on the size of government, not to continually think of ways to expand it.

If the Liberals would listen to the constituents in my riding and I would think in Waterloo as well, they would not be adding more seats and pushing the translators out into the boonies. They would be saying: "We have more than enough people here. We have too many members of Parliament. Let us cut back the size of the House of Commons to 265 members". It would be a manageable thing and would save money. If we are going to go to the trouble of a boundary redistribution let us at least save the taxpayers some bucks. Instead, that gets tossed out. It gets shoved aside and the Liberals decide instead to keep expanding it.

Also there have been comments from many members of the Bloc on their supposed concern about the 25 per cent representation. The firm figure they want is a 25 per cent representation of all the seats in the House of Commons must be from Quebec. I do not know where they are coming from. They want out of Canada but they demand at least 25 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. They want to make sure they have a referendum this year so they can leave Canada, but they demand that they get their MP pensions. They sound confused. A little bit like the Liberals, although granted in a different way. Still I do not understand what they want.

In the bill we talked about earlier today Bloc members wanted continued access to the Canadian dairy market, except that they want to be a separate country. Quebec has 50 per cent of the industrial milk in Canada already. What do they want? I do not know and I do not think they know themselves. With the three leaders getting together I suppose they just want everything. That way they cover it with the three leaders. I am not sure what else it could be.

It is in the best interests of the Liberal Party to let the bill die. If the they would just let the bill die at least Liberal members going into the next election would have some idea as to where they are going to fight their next losing battle. It is in their own best interests to at least set up their own Waterloo in such a way that they could at least plan for their own demise.

There is no sense in being surprised by this. Why ask for a new arbitrary boundary so that we can try to make political contacts, media contacts in a riding where we do not know the boundaries. It is far wiser to go ahead and make whatever changes are necessary, and members opposite, if there were members opposite, should listen to this. There will be and must be changes. The boundaries cannot stay the same. There is no sense in saying: "I wish this town or this little area were included". It is not possible to stay the same. It has to change. It must change.

If it changes, and it will, let us change it now. We can all get on with life and represent the ridings we have and we will go into the next election knowing the boundaries of the ridings we are going to represent. If some ridings need to be eliminated, perhaps we can eliminate the riding of the hon. member who is leaving the House now. If we have to eliminate some, let us eliminate them now and get it over with so we can get on with making our plans for the next election.

Based on the 1991 census the Reform plan originally tabled with the committee would have created a House with a total of 273 members, 265 seats plus some constitutional requirements to include some extras from certain provinces. There would have been only slight future growth. That is the kind of thing our constituents want. They do not want more government.

I will speak for a moment about the way the amendments came back from the Senate. What an improvement it would be if we let the House of Commons operate with representation by population as close as we can work it. Then we move on to an upper House that is as close as we can make it in representational by region. What an improvement it would be if we said we all have 100,000, or whatever the figure, constituents to represent. Sometimes it is difficult because it is spread out; sometimes it is concentrated in cities. Be that as it may, this is rep by pop in the House of Commons.

When we wanted advice or a sober second thought we could go to the Senate elected by the people, that had regional representation so that for instance the farming community in Saskatchewan would have people it could go to and say: "This is the region you represent; this is the job you have. Get with it and represent my interests as a regional centre". We could go to a senator from Toronto and he could do his best to represent that city and so on.

What a better system it would be if we had true rep by pop in a smaller House of Commons and a triple E Senate. We could all look forward to an election for that and the job it would do.

As I talk about this democratic process, the process of who should choose our electoral boundaries, obviously it should not be the members of Parliament but a neutral body. When we set up cost saving measures we should be willing as members of Parliament to pull in our vision of more seats and instead restrict it to a more cost effective way of doing business in the House.

Think of the way we run things in the House where we should be elected to represent our constituents, not just our parties. Think of the changes required to make sure the House of Commons allows freer votes without party discipline. Think of the changes required in committees when a bill is referred to a committee on first reading in the hope of obtaining ample input from members of Parliament only to find out that in some committees when it comes to a clause by clause debate debate will be restricted to five minutes per clause; amendments will be refused if they are in one official language only; clauses of a bill

will be passed without having a vote; decisions will be reversed on votes; witnesses will be refused.

In the case of the MP pension plan members of the committee refused to hear from members of Parliament to be affected by it or from ordinary citizens. They restrict the input into those committees to maybe a single day. They did not allow enough time on Bill C-68, one of the most controversial bills of the year, to have legislative counsel draft the amendments properly.

We saw our Prime Minister saying do as you are told by the party, not as you are told by your constituents or else. We see motions to extend hours and voting until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. in order to shove through legislation. We see what we are facing here tonight, another example of closure where the government will force the bill through without allowing all the debate members want on it.

We see all of this compiled in only 20 months of the Liberals in government. We wonder where their vaunted red book promises are. Where is the promise of freer votes, more open government, a chance to represent our constituents? It is gone. In only 20 months of arrogant government that is being wrapped up, shipped out in the fish wrappers of old. It is not a reality. The time has come and gone when we could look to the Liberal Party for reforming the House of Commons.

It is becoming obvious that reform of the House of Commons will take the Reform Party. That is why it is a pleasure to stand here with many members of the Reform Party sitting in their seats listening to the debate, entering into the debate with government members who are willing to. We offer constructive criticism, beg the members opposite to debate us in public on issues such as closure, MP pensions and so on and we get no response.

Still it is a pleasure to make known the concerns of my constituents and the concerns of the Reform Party as we want to make this place work better, more democratically. We want an electoral boundaries system free from political interference. That is why I will be voting against this bill and I am proud to do it.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

8:50 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to participate in this debate on Bill C-69.

First of all, I want to congratulate all the members who sat on the parliamentary commission on Bill C-69. I want to point out in particular that this bill was agreed on and approved by all the members of the parliamentary committee. I can remember, for instance, the rather significant contribution made by the hon. member for Bellechasse and his support during the final vote in committee. The hon. member enthusiastically agreed to support this government bill.

However, he had to yield to the higher authorities within his caucus, to the big shots in his caucus, and was unable to support the bill in the House. His colleagues even forced him or encouraged him to move an amendment. Even though we were told that the amendment was in order, it was unconstitutional because it would have changed the constitution of Canada.

As you know, the hon. members of the Bloc and others may want to talk about the constitution, because they get a kick out of it, but I for one do not want to address this issue and the right hon. prime minister did say that he did not want to talk about it. Mr. Speaker, you are totally objective and impartial; therefore, you must have noticed that we have stayed away from the issue of the constitution since we came into office.

I want to come back to the substance of Bill C-69, but I cannot miss the opportunity to comment on the statements made by the hon. member for Fraser Valley West.

A little earlier I listened to the remarks of the hon. member for Fraser Valley West. He was talking about the virtue within the Reform Party. He was talking about the fact that the Reform Party was so virtuous in his opinion, that the Reform Party could do no harm.

As my colleague the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader said so eloquently, obviously if that had been the case it would have been a very short speech because the Reform Party is rather short on virtue.

Nevertheless, he referred to MPs' being able to in his own party, so he said, vote the will of the people members represent and that they were never disciplined for doing so within the Reform Party. Surely some of us remember when the then justice critic was bumped off his parliamentary committee. The then justice critic, the member for New Westminster-Burnaby, whom I see before us in the House right now, got the boot. He was booted off his committee because he said something his leader and many other people disagreed with.

What happened? He got bumped off the committee. He was unceremoniously demoted. That is what happened to a Reform MP. What happened to another MP? I remember a certain speech in the House on Bosnia.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

8:55 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the statement the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell made is absolutely untrue. He has no basis to make that comment. I ask him to retract it.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Arseneault)

That is a matter of debate and not a point of order.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

8:55 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker as usual has adjudicated in a totally objective and non-partisan way.

Getting back to those people across the way in the Reform Party, I signed the form that assisted in bumping the member off the committee at the request of someone representing another party. We will not mention the name of that party.

However, let us get back to other members of the Reform Party and what happened to them. Do members remember the debate on Bosnia in the House? I do very clearly. I remember a speech from the hon. member for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca. He spoke very well on the issue. Do members know what happened after that? The member never spoke again; weeks and weeks without being able to speak in the House. I wonder why that happened. He was silenced by the authorities within his party.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

8:55 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell is a seasoned parliamentarian. He should certainly recognize his comments have no relevancy to Bill C-69, absolutely none.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Over the years the relevancy rule has had a tremendous amount of flexibility and elasticity. I know within the confines of a 20-minute intervention the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell is probably just getting to the very point of debate, which the hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminster was raising.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

8:55 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Well put, Mr. Speaker. Not only is that true but I was responding to the speech from the member for Fraser Valley West and I know that he would not have made an irrelevant speech.

I will stand up to defend the member for Fraser Valley West against this vicious attack by the Reform Party House leader that we just saw against the member for Fraser Valley West because when he talked about free votes in the House we let him say it because we knew it was relevant to this debate.

We all recognize it in the Liberal caucus. The Reform Party House leader now tried to silence that member and to reprimand him for what he said previously. We will not put up with that. We will defend the member for Fraser Valley West.

Having discussed and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Reform Party senior big wigs have reprimanded most severely the member for Fraser Valley West a moment ago by the comments from the House leader, and also silenced the member for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, forbidding him to speak in the House for weeks and then bumping the member for New Westminster-Burnaby off his committee unceremoniously, now we can get back to the main topic of Bill C-69.

My colleagues remind me about the hon. member for Crowfoot who was demoted from the human rights committee, but I shall not even mention the member for Crowfoot being bumped off that committee. I am sure he was excellent, but the authorities within the Reform Party saw fit to demote him.

Let us get back to the substance of Bill C-69, recognizing of course that everything I have just said is totally germane to the bill, as the hon. member for Fraser Valley West so eloquently pointed out earlier today.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This may be a trivial matter, but he keeps talking about the hon. member for Fraser Valley West and I am sure he means Fraser Valley East. To avoid the necessity of having to change Hansard , maybe we should correct the member.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The hon. member for Elk Island is absolutely right. I am sure the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell will now make that adjustment.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I suppose that east met west. That is correct, it is the hon. member for Fraser Valley East. But I would gladly defend the hon. member for Fraser Valley West as well, should that be necessary, against any attack by the leadership of the Reform Party.

On the substance of Bill C-69, this bill was necessary. It was tabled in the House by a parliamentary committee. This bill is the only piece of legislation of its kind. It was produced by a parliamentary committee. I am glad to say that I was a member of that committee very ably chaired by the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands. Of course we had the distinguished leadership and ability of the hon. member for Bellechasse.

Several other members, including Reform members, have also helped to make this bill a rather unique piece of legislation, having been entirely drafted by the parliamentary committee.

So, this bill was debated and passed in the House of Commons. Then it was sent to the other place. The other place, in its wisdom, decided to send the bill back to the House with some amendments.

Despite all this shuffling back and forth, we are on the last day of debate on this bill, or so we hope. The other place refuses to adopt this bill, which is not a government bill, but a bill produced by all parliamentarians, by all of us in this House of Commons, who are the salt of the earth.

I do not want to show a lack of respect for the hon. persons in the other place, but not being subject to electoral rules as frequently as we are-and that is the least we can say since, when they are appointed to the other place, they are there for a good long time-they should not be lecturing us on how to get

elected to this House. This bill is good and I am proud to support it.

As a matter of fact, the member for Bellechasse praised this bill a few moments ago, which certainly means that it must be good. The member for Bellechasse spoke about the five-year redistribution that we will have after this bill is adopted, and it will be adopted. After that, there will be no need for the kind of electoral redistribution we have now.

Some members of this House, such as the member for York North, the member for Mississauga, the member for Ontario and the member for Terrebonne, represent ridings that are often two or three times more populated than other ridings across Canada. This is not normal.

This situation will prevail as long as we have a system where electoral redistribution happens only every ten years following the census.

But now, we have a new formula. We have a good bill, a bill that will allow us to make smaller changes every five years, changes that will ensure that the House continues to apply the principle of proportional representation much more adequately than it does now.

I am not convinced that a member who represents 250,000 or 275,000 constituents can take as good care of them as another member whose riding is smaller, like mine for example, with 100,000 constituents, or yours, Mr. Speaker, with some 60,000 constituents. This is the sort of figures I am talking about.

There comes a time when, unless he has access to considerable resources to help his constituents, a member can no longer do his or her job as an MP alone at the riding level, especially when the riding is very large or heavily populated. This is the case of a number of ridings in the Toronto area and, of course, in the Montreal area, the riding of Terrebonne, which is certainly the best example I could come up with in Quebec and stands to benefit from a bill like this one.

Some members have advocated that it is necessary in this bill to put this business of the 25 per cent representation for the province of Quebec. We know the House has already voted that down, as it had to. This is not a constitutional amendment; this is a bill having to do with electoral redistribution. There are right now a series of thresholds in electoral redistribution and we know what they are. There is what is commonly referred to as the Senate floor: no province can have fewer MPs than it has senators. There are a few other criteria in there as well. At present provinces do not lose seats from what they had prior to the last redistribution, and that is since 1988 or so. We must respect what is in there now. We cannot unilaterally today make those kinds of amendments to give that 25 per cent representation.

We must also remember that the whole Canadian electoral system is based on a specific province, when it comes to allocating seats to the other provinces. As we all know-at least those of us who, in the past, worked on redefining electoral boundaries-, that province is Quebec. We take the province's population and we divide it by its number of seats. The quotient is then applied elsewhere in the country. It is as simple as that. There is of course another factor, namely the fact that a province cannot have fewer MPs than senators. This explains why, for example, Prince Edward Island has four seats in the House.

In conclusion, I want to ask all members to support this bill. It is a good bill. It is the only bill produced by a parliamentary committee. It is unique and it is our bill. It is the bill of MPs for electoral redistribution for those of us who got elected and for future candidates who will be elected to replace MPs who will not run again or who will be defeated in the next election and so on. It is the bill for redistribution and it is a fair one for all Canadians.

Without being disrespectful, those who do not get elected to anything, after having made their representation to us once, should recognize the second time that this is the will of the House of Commons, democratically elected, and that the will of the people is totally respected by a bill like this.

I say to the members across that they did not produce one piece of evidence why this bill is unfair, nor do they have any alternative to this electoral redistribution bill. Their members who worked on the committee know better than the hon. member who just heckled from across the way.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:10 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is not a happy occasion, because just before the fall referendum in Quebec, the Parliament of Canada has failed to recognize the historic contribution of the people of Quebec and confirm that Quebec will have 25 per cent of the seats in Parliament.

I know the amendment was defeated, but I cannot help talking about it because for us in the Bloc Quebecois, and, I suppose I could say, in Quebec, the most important aspect of the bill is the representation of the people of Quebec. This is a gesture the Parliament of Canada could have made to Quebecers. It is a gesture it refused to make, which sends the following message to Quebecers: "We do not recognize your position, your historic contribution or what you are as a people and a distinct nation".

I realize historic references are not always appreciated in this House. But since I am speaking to you, Mr. Speaker, I will try

and make a few. To know where you are going, you have to know where you are from. We must remember that in 1837-38, we had a rebellion in Lower Canada and Upper Canada, both of which were put down. Upper Canada and Lower Canada were forced to come together in a union. Canadians, and I am referring to the "Canayens", the people who came over to America from France and, before France was defeated by England, had become sufficiently independent to start criticizing France, the church over here quarrelling with the church over there, so that if the colony had remained French, after a while it would have become independent like all the American colonies did after a while. These French men and women, who became the "Canayens", are the ones who were defeated. They were left here, about 60,000 of them, and here in North America they continued to multiply, develop the land and try in spite of everything to preserve their language, their religion and identity.

These "Canayens" who in 1791 obtained their national assembly, these Canadiens who for years elected their members and founded a party called the Patriote Party, who wanted to negotiate the patriation of executive powers with England, and finally, these "Canayens" who, according to the historians, were provoked by the Doric Club in 1837, were defeated and became a minority as a result of the forcible union of 1840.

I say became a minority because we should remember that in 1810 and later in 1822, the British Montrealers wanted to make Montreal Island a part of what was not yet known as Ontario but as Upper Canada. However, they were not successful because the "Canayens" who had large families were not about to become a minority.

After the rebellion was put down in 1837-38, when Lord Durham came to conduct his investigation, he said the following: "I found two nations warring in the bosom of a single state". Lord Durham was anxious to put these "Canayens" in a minority position, to ensure that the character of British North America, come what may, would remain British.

At the time, there were about 450,000 "Canayens" in Lower Canada, 150,000 anglophones and about 400,000 British or people of British descent in Upper Canada. This means that although the population was not the same within the union, Upper Canada and Lower Canada were given the same number of members, irrespective of population. There was a significant difference between the number of people in Lower Canada and in Upper Canada. At the time, it was important to maintain the minority status of the "Canayens".

Once the union became official, it did not work very well. According to the history books, many settlers came to Ontario, to Upper Canada, and when the union did not work out, members for Upper Canada, under the slogan "Rep by Pop", demanded a new government. An alliance was formed between representatives of Lower Canada and others, who did not seem prepared to unite with them in Upper Canada to produce a federation, when it became clear that the union was not going to work and something new had to be found.

But, in exchange, and this was clear, patriots like George-Étienne Cartier who fired the first shots, George-Étienne Cartier who was a member of the McDonald government, could not accept a confederation proposal which did not recognize Lower Canada, what it represented and its importance.

Confederation was enacted in the British North America Act. At Confederation, Quebec, because that was how it was then known, became one of four regions. Quebec was granted 65 MPs out of a total of 181.

Since then, Quebecers have steadily become a minority. This situation led a large number of Quebecers to want sovereignty, and it led us, the Bloc Quebecois, who are here in the Canadian Parliament just a few months before the referendum, to say to ourselves that the Canadian Parliament possibly would recognize the right of Quebecers to 25 per cent of all seats because of their status as a founding people.

Now, I will talk about the Quebecois people. This people has long been recognized as Canada's francophone nation. The francophone nation of Canada, the "Canayens" of whom I spoke, held their hands out to the anglophone nation after 1840 in friendship so that those who called themselves English Canadians could try with French Canadians to piece back together the pieces of two shattered colonies.

For a long time, French Canadians in Quebec desperately tried to find their niche within Canada. They were searching for equality. I said for a long time and desperately because there is something desperate in this repetitive quest over the years, we can even say over the centuries, of the descendents of the first francophones, the "Canayens" who became French Canadians who, despite the circumstances, wanted to take their place within Canada.

It is only after repeatedly failing to do so, after recognizing the potential to develop to their fullest in Quebec, that in the 1960s or thereabouts, because history cannot be boxed in, Quebecers saw events quietly transform reality. At a certain moment, the situation changed: in the 1960s or thereabouts the people who were referred to as the cradle of French in Canada became the Quebecois people.

I am always pleased to quote Daniel Johnson, the father, the one who was Premier in 1966, whose father was Irish. Daniel Johnson, the father, this leading Quebec politician, a French

Canadian, the first to launch his party, the Union Nationale, the party in power without a break from 1944, except for the period between 1960 and 1966. He is the one who called an election on a platform of "Égalité ou indépendance". He was thinking of equality for the French-Canadian nation, but he said in his text: "If French Canadians cannot achieve equality within Canada, it will be legitimate, normal and natural for them to seek political independence within their territory".

The people known as Quebecers have a long and meandering history, having moved from a French colonial identity to a North American identity, from Cajun to conquered, to dominated, to colonized by the British colony, to French Canadian in a colony that gained its independence from Great Britain in 1931. The French Canadians, who became Quebecers in the 1960s, are having a hard time discovering their identity, some of them. Some of them mock it.

Their history, although meandering, is one of courage. And Parliament's recognition in acknowledging Quebecers' entitlement to 25 per cent of the seats would have been a minimum tribute to Quebecers' contribution to Canada.

I would add the following. The French Canadians, I saw it earlier and I am repeating it, it hurts me but it is true, French Canadians desperately wanted to find their place and grow within Canada. Often they were the only ones wanting to. At the same time, though, they developed the qualities that go into making a people. They meet all the criteria of a nation: language, different laws, the Civil Code, their religion, a culture and a community spirit. Neither the people nor the nation is closed, as some would claim.

I quoted Daniel Johnson senior earlier. He was the son of an immigrant and became premier. I do not think I need to provide many more examples in talking of this openness.

This people tried to find its place in Canada. After the referendum when the people said "no" in 1980, because Trudeau had promised change, federal reform, the people followed Bourassa with his five basic conditions. Today, some people have no other choice but to say: "We will take charge ourselves".

They do not want an end to relations. For them, the only way to grow in this country is to say yes to who they are and offer the rest of Canada an economic and a political agreement.

It would not have cost Parliament much to grant this status to the people of Quebec, a status they have anyway, by recognizing that they are a founding people of Canada and play a fundamental role within Canada.

Personally, I would have liked to see such a sign. Instead, what we saw was its failure to recognize this basic difference of ours.

Some members addressed the technical requirements of the rep. by pop. rule and we understand that this is important. However, the message Parliament could have sent or still could send Quebec is infinitely more important than setting the allowable percentage of variance in determining the size of any given riding. We are talking about having one country or two.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:30 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I was quite surprised to hear the comments made by the hon. member for Mercier.

In his speech earlier tonight, the government whip suggested that Bloc members disagreed on this bill. This is quite obvious tonight as the hon. member for Bellechasse, who sits on the committee, proposed in committee an amendment to the bill that would have given Quebec at least 25 per cent of the seats in this House.

The suggestion to amend the bill actually came from a senator who testified as a witness before the committee. The committee nonetheless decided that amendments to the Constitution of Canada were not needed at this time and that, as everyone agreed, the amendment suggested by the hon. member for Bellechasse would involve amending the constitution. Consequently, the committee rejected this amendment and decided to preserve the constitutional relations now in effect among all Canadian provinces, and especially the constitutional provisions concerning representation in this House. We then heard the hon. member for Berthier-Montcalm deliver a long speech in this House at second or third reading of this bill.

The hon. member for Bellechasse did not have anything to say at that time, while his colleague from Berthier-Montcalm called for major changes to this bill and proposed an amendment. This amendment was rejected by the House. We now hear all kinds of speeches dealing with the amendments proposed by the Senate, which have nothing to do with the constitution, nothing to do with the representation of any province in this House, although all speeches by Bloc members deal with this. This has nothing to do with the motion before the House tonight. Perhaps they would like this to be the case, but it is not.

The motion before the House and the amendment concern only the amendments proposed by the Senate. It is noteworthy that the Senate did not propose the amendments requested by the hon. members for Mercier and Bellechasse. Why? Because such amendments would have also been rejected by the Senate.

I am surprised. During her speech, the hon. member for Mercier rewrote the history of Canada. It is very obvious that our country was built by two partners, English Canadians and French Canadians. That much is obvious to everybody. Canada will continue to prosper because of these two partners. If we are together, if we work together to continue to build this country, there will always be enough wealth for everyone in Canada and no one will be denied their rights. That is what created this great country, Canada, and what will sustain it in the future.

I am certain that when the Bloc Quebecois will have the courage to hold a referendum in the Province of Quebec, Quebecers will tell all of the world that they want to remain in Canada, that they want to remain part of this great country, because they have always worked with all other Canadians to create this country, not without difficulty, but ever hopeful for the future of this great country, one of the world's greatest.

I want to leave that subject and speak instead tonight about the Reform amendment, which is, after all, what we are supposed to be discussing.

I am very surprised to see the Reform Party carrying on the way it has been tonight. Again I have the little green book handy. I was just browsing through it. I know we have heard hon. members of the Reform Party almost speak disrespectfully of the other place. I am shocked, to say the least. I am shocked because here we have a spectacle of the Reform Party on the one hand speaking disrespectfully of the other place and on the other hand supporting the amendments it has made to this bill. I do not think it is any accident that many of the amendments proposed by the Reform Party members in the committee and rejected by the House and the committee are now being supported by their friends in the other place.

The other place has a constitutional right to suggest amendments to this House and send bills back, as it has done in this case, but I am surprised that a party that speaks so disrespectfully of the other place would now support by its amendment the amendments that have been proposed there.

I want to quote from their leader, the hon. member for Calgary Southwest, in the little green book. The book is called "The Gospel According to Preston Manning and the Reform Party". He said the following, although I want to say at the outset that I do not agree with the statement: "The three priorities of the present Senate are, in order, protocol, alcohol and Geritol".