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

9:35 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Hear, hear.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:35 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

There is the hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminster, who quoted this very statement in his speech the other night, applauding it. Yet I note on the other hand that he is supporting the Senate amendments to this bill.

We are not just asking him to vote for the one amendment the government supports. He is saying we should support a whole bunch of them and has proposed an amendment to do. We are saying reject it because those amendments are not good amendments to this bill and we are asking the Senate to withdraw them. That is what the motion states. It is a sensible bill.

What is the principal objection the Reform Party has? I suggest there are two. One of them is not dealt with in any of these Senate amendments and it was not dealt with in the bill, but there are two. The first was that Reformers wanted the possibility in a riding of moving away from the provincial quotient to the variation permitted to be 15 per cent above or below instead of 25 per cent above or below.

The result of such a change would be to ensure that the ridings would be closer in size. In other words, there would be one person equal to one vote a little more closely across the country than is the case now. In fact it would only apply within a province, but it would result in a substantial shift.

The hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminster and the others who are hooting and hollering over there tonight know perfectly well that it would result in changes so that large rural ridings such as that occupied by the hon. member for Bellechasse-I could name a whole host of others in this House, but he is here, he was on the committee, he knows the argument-would be enlarged enormously to fill it up with more people to get it closer to the provincial quotient in numbers and other ridings in big cities would be cut up and divided into smaller units. More ridings would move to the cities than there are now and there would be fewer rural ridings in Canada.

I am surprised that hon. members opposite, largely from rural parts of the country themselves, are supporting this kind of amendment. I know their hope lies in winning additional seats in other parts of Canada, but I know perfectly well their hope lies in rural Canada. If they cannot win seats there, they are going to be in difficulty.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:40 p.m.


Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal St. Boniface, MB

They are in difficulty.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:40 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

My hon. colleague says they are in difficulty, and he is right on that score.

The second argument they had was that the House was getting too big and they wanted to stop this House from getting any bigger. They said 295 was ample. Some of them wanted to cut it back. There was disagreement on how far it should be cut back, but they wanted to cut it back.

The government and the members of the committee agreed that 301 was not too many and we have agreed to go along with the existing law. So we have proposed no change in the Constitution or in the rules relating to the size of the House and we have left it at 301 members, which is what the number will be after the next election, whether this act passes or not.

Let us see what their leader says about how you fix meetings. He said this is one of the things you have to do to preserve party dignity: "If you think it's going to be that type of meeting, get as many sane, sober people there as possible. Overwhelm the kook element." We are only following his leader's advice. We are going to try to expand this House to overcome the kook element. That is the aim. We are going to try to create another five or six seats, fill them with good Liberals, and overwhelm the kook element in the opposition-and I do not mean the official opposition.

That is just one of the things his leader said. He said more. There is a lot more. This man is productive.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:40 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I am very curious as to whether the hon. member referring to us over here as the kook element is denigrating our position and impunging our honour. I would ask him to please retract that.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Certainly any member can retract anything upon the request of another member, but respectfully I must say to the House that is not a point of order.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:40 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did not think the member would be offended; I was only quoting his leader.

I want to quote the hon. member for Calgary Southwest again. He also said "Every political party has a few bad apples". I think he was right, but I will not throw stones.

The member obviously holds politicians in very low esteem. The hon. members opposite say they do not want to have 301 seats because it would increase the number of politicians, and they say that Canadians do not like politicians. I do not know about the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, the hon. member for Wellington-Grey-Dufferin-Simcoe, the hon. member for Bruce-Grey, the hon. member for St. Boniface, the hon. member for London West. All of these people are not unpopular in their constituencies. I know when they go home they are greeted warmly. They are not regarded as unwanted politicians. Perhaps the hon. member for Calgary Southwest and some of the members of his party feel they are unpopular and therefore think politicians are unpopular. It does not follow. Some are, but I know many who are not. Many of my colleagues on this side of the House are very popular.

Let me read what the hon. member for Calgary Southwest said about politicians: "What's the difference between a politician and a catfish? One is a slimy, wide-mouthed bottom feeder and the other is a fish."

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:40 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

I knew hon. members opposite would applaud that one. As my hon. colleague from St. Boniface said, obviously they are intellectuals.

If the hon. member for Calgary Southwest holds politicians in such low esteem, I can understand why he and his colleagues do not think there should be any more in the House. I assure him that my constituents and the constituents of my friends-

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:45 p.m.

An hon. member

You are exhibit a .

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:45 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

The hon. member suggests that I am an exhibit. I do not think that is quite fair.

The hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell is well regarded in his constituency. I know; I have been there. In St. Boniface the hon. member is very well regarded. In Bellechasse I have no doubt the hon. member is well regarded.

For the member for Calgary Southwest to speak this way about the profession that he now claims to profess and to refer to his own colleagues in this way is unfair and unjust. Hon. members opposite deserve a better defence and I am prepared to defend them from the ravages of their own leadership.

Having said that, let us turn back to Bill C-69. The bill, after all, represents an honest attempt by the government and by members of the House. The House is dealing with a bill that has been approved by the membership of the House in a committee. As the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell said in his remarks earlier, this is the first time the House has come up with a bill that has been created or drafted from scratch by a committee of the House. It was agreed to in the committee.

I know the hon. member for Calgary West said in his remarks in the debate on the bill the other day that this was their fourth and fifth choice, that they went along with it only because we rejected choices one to five. All of us had choices we wanted on different things rejected in different ways. We all settled and made compromises. That is the way committees work.

I do not know where the hon. member comes from when he thinks a committee goes the way of only one person. I was only the chair of the committee so I did not even have a vote. I accept the work of the committee as good, solid work. I think it was fair. I think it was reasonable. The hon. member opposite was there. He knows it was reasonable. The hon. member for Bellechasse knows it was reasonable.

When the bill came back to the House, when the government introduced the bill, it had reasonable support. I know hon.

members complained about it. Of course it did not have everything in it that they wanted. They are members of an opposition. They are paid to be here to oppose. So they did what any opposition would do and opposed it. I have been in opposition before. I know how it works.

Let us face the facts. The bill was a reasonable compromise reached by the members of that committee working together. I think we worked extremely well together. We came up with a reasonable proposition.

Now we have this loud criticism going on night and day, especially from the Reform Party, spouting absolute nonsense in respect of the bill. The extraordinary thing is that they have had to do it on the basis of Senate amendments when they know perfectly well the Senate amendments are not ones the committee agreed to. The committee considered almost every one of the Senate amendments in one form or another in the course of its deliberations, rejected those changes in the law, and came up with something different.

The Senate is trying to take us back to the same old law we had before. The Senate amendments proposed in the notice that was sent to the House effectively gut the bill of any significant change over the existing law. Hon. members opposite know that is not what the committee agreed to. They wanted changes in the law. They did not get everything they wanted but they got a good number of changes that were quite reasonable. We all agreed to the changes. For the most part they are good changes and reasonable changes. We should support them and tell the other place that is the case.

Hon. members opposite like to complain about the use of closure in this debate. They have not said a lot about it. Nor should they because we are getting toward the end of a session. An upcoming summer vacation is specified in the rules where members will have a recess from the House and will go to do work in their constituencies. I am looking forward to the opportunity to do some work in my constituency. I am sure hon. members opposite are doing exactly the same.

When we get to the end of the line and are running out of time, the government is trying to get its legislative agenda through and has adopted measures with respect to arranging the time of the House to ensure the legislative agenda is adopted. The government has various tools at its disposal.

Hon. members opposite could get up and quote chapter and verse on the evils of time allocation and probably on the evils of closure. As a member of the opposition I opposed those applications in years past. However I can say to hon. members opposite that they do not know how lucky they are that they have a Liberal government on this side of the House that is so beneficent and so careful in its use of these tools.

I see the hon. member for Beaver River. She was here. None of her colleagues was but she was. She knows that the former government used closure and time allocation right, left and centre with what can only be described as gay abandon. I should also say that it was used by the previous government unilaterally with no co-operation from anybody.

This government used closure today for the first time and with reluctance only because members opposite would not make any arrangement to dispatch this business expeditiously. It is quite reasonable to apply it. Look at the difficulty they are having filling the time with speakers tonight.

With respect to time allocation we have used it in almost every case with full co-operation of the opposition. In other words we have not used it unilaterally. We have done it with co-operation from opposition members. They know organizing the time of the House is important to the orderly conduct of business. They know we have an interest in seeing that bills are passed in a timely way, and that when debate has come to a logical end and it has gone on for too long it is time to bring it to an end and to reach a decision in the House.

I spoke on this issue last week when the time allocation motions were moved and carried in the House with a substantial majority of the members. Only the Reformers and a handful of Independents were voting the time allocation process adopted in the House. The time allocations we allocated on the bills were reasonable. On this one we could not get agreement but closure was a simple, short way to dispatch this item of business.

Hon. members opposite know in their heart of hearts that they want the bill passed. They want the Senate to back off on these amendments and get on with life. They prefer to get the amendments in but they know if we agreed to their amendments tonight they would be standing here screeching at the Senate to pass the bill tomorrow.

The hon. member for Calgary wags his head but he knows perfectly well that is the case. He would not be supporting the amendment otherwise. He wants these amendments if he can get them.

I remind hon. members opposite-and I thank the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell for this point-that we have even had support from members of the Reform Party on time allocation when there were bills they wanted passed.

We have not used time allocation unilaterally very often. In fact it has been extremely rarely. The hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminster keeps a little list and marks it down every day it is used. It is not a long list but he has it there. I invite him to count how many times it was used unilaterally. In almost

every case it was done with the co-operation of one or the other of the opposition parties.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:50 p.m.

An hon. member

It is a new rule.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:50 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

It is not a new rule. Standing Order 78(2) has been in the rule book since 1969 when it was passed. It is just that it has not been used before. Governments have usually acted unilaterally and we fought that when we were in opposition.

We are in a different situation. It is a different kettle of fish at the moment. We are getting co-operation from one party or the other because the parties opposite realize that for the orderly conduct of public business it is sometimes necessary to fix times. That is exactly what we have done. We have done it fairly and we have done it in a way that could not lead to any complaints from hon. members opposite despite the screeches of horror we hear so regularly.

I urge members of the House to vote against the amendment, to vote for the government motion rejecting these amendments in the other place and to urge the other place to pass the bill with dispatch so that we can get on with drawing proper electoral boundaries for all the constituencies in our great country.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

9:55 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the people of Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-69 respecting changes to electoral boundaries.

The arrogance and the lack of integrity that have been displayed by the government, particularly over the last couple of weeks, are absolutely astounding to me, the Reform Party and all Canadians. In true Grit fashion the Liberals have had the nerve to campaign on a theme of restoring integrity to government. Yet the government's arrogance is increasing while its integrity is decreasing. The government's lack of competence is appearing in more and more areas.

The defence minister, the heritage minister, the health minister and the minister of Indian affairs are seriously mishandling their portfolios. The human resource development minister has caused a complete collapse in the social reforms promised in the red book.

Speaking of promises in the red book, let us for just one moment take a look at some of the promises in the red book that the Liberals talked so much about during the election campaign. Did they not promise to base key federal appointments solely on the competence of the person rather than on patronage? That promise is routinely broken on a weekly basis.

Was it not the Liberal government that said in the red book that it promised not to alter federal-provincial transfers without the full co-operation of the provinces? That was broken by the introduction of the Canadian social transfer in the recent budget.

Was it not one of the cabinet ministers, the Deputy Prime Minister as a matter of fact, who said that she would resign if the GST was not replaced within one year? Shamelessly that promise was broken on October 25, 1994.

There were more promises. There are sheets and sheets, literally miles and miles of promises the Liberal government has broken over a short period of time. In a mere 19 months it has broken promises to the Canadian people.

The arrogance of the Liberals is clear in their coercive treatment of individual MPs, forcing them to vote against the wishes of their constituents. Can we imagine? The Prime Minister even congratulated those members for toeing the party line. For goodness' sake, if we were not elected to this place to represent our constituents, what were we elected for?

More examples are the Liberal's sexual orientation bill, the gun registry bill, and the disappointing changes to the MPs gold plated pension plan. They have all been torpedoed through the House. The use of time allocation and closure effectively limiting debate in the House is as prevalent as it was in the government before.

The Liberals should be absolutely ashamed of what they have done to parliamentary democracy. They are not governing with integrity. We have seen conflicts of interest, unethical behaviour, broken promises, arrogance and incompetence. The confidence of the people in the government is decreasing as the integrity of the government decreases.

Let us take Bill C-69 as an example. This piece of legislation has cost the taxpayer some $6 million so far. That is the amount of money needlessly spent on previous federal electoral boundaries commission proposals. These were scrapped by the government in Bill C-18 because a number of Liberal members disliked the new maps. Now the whole process is being redone in their favour under the guise of Bill C-69.

To obscure the real intent of Bill C-18, this government put forward a motion which initiated this bill. It asked the procedures and House affairs committee to examine methods of capping or reducing the size of the House of Commons, to improve the process by which the boundary commissioners are selected, to consider how boundary commissioners conduct their work and examine the involvement of the public.

If this bill capped or better yet reduced the number of members of Parliament in the House of Commons, then the $6 million lost by scrapping the previous commission and its proposals could have been justified. The cost savings could have

been much more than the $6 million already spent on the previous commission's proposals.

Sadly and in true Grit fashion, this government has shown its usual contempt for the taxpayers of this country. The government did not address the most fundamental reason it claimed for reinitiating the whole process. The government failed to reduce the already excessive and growing number of members of Parliament sitting in the House of Commons. This bill has been rendered utterly useless in the face of the $6 million which is removed from the pockets of hard working and tax paying Canadians.

Worse still, contrary to all logic, the government actually intends to increase the number of members in the House of Commons from 295 to 301. This will cost the Canadian taxpayers millions in additional salaries, staff costs and how about travel expenses? Of course, something the Liberals do not like talking about very much is the lavish gold plated MP pension benefits which they will receive. We only have to worry about that if there are any members opposite left here after the taxpayers vote in the next election.

In addition to the extra cost this bill imposes on Canadians by increasing the size of the House of Commons, new commissions will need to be struck to redo what the commission scrapped by this government has already done. Judging by the last commission, this will cost taxpayers at least another $6 million, maybe more.

Many Canadians have questions, as do I. Why has this government shown such contempt for the taxpayers? Why does the government fail to cap or reduce the number of members of Parliament? The answer is obvious. It is very clear. Self-interest of course. The interests of the voters and taxpayers were set aside so that no Liberal members would have to voluntarily give up their seats when the numbers were reduced.

This example of arrogant self-interest will backfire when the taxpayers get the opportunity to vote in the next election. Liberal members need not worry. They will not have to voluntarily give up their seats because they will be booted out of this place by the seats of their pants in the next election.

Liberal arrogance and incompetence reared its ugly head before this bill even made its way to the committee. The government actually intended to include a schedule of special ridings exempt from having their boundaries adjusted by the future electoral boundaries adjustment commission.

This is laughable. It is not funny but it is laughable. What a tool that would have been. Imagine the Liberals manipulating the system by creating safe seats. Even though the schedule was dropped in committee, the arrogant attempt to create safe seats shows that the Liberals are running scared. They know what is going to happen to them in the next election.

Whatever happened to the red book promise to govern with integrity? We all know the Liberal red book's title "Creating Opportunity" and what that stands for. Unfortunately the Liberals left out the subtitle: "for deception, hypocrisy and greed".

During committee and at report stage the Reform Party offered a number of amendments to the government which could have salvaged the bill. The government could have succeeded in making the bill workable and productive. It could have succeeded in making this bill worthwhile for the taxpayers. However, the constructive amendments were rejected by the government.

Bill C-69 then went to the Senate where a number of our concerns were again raised. It was returned to the House from the Senate with a number of constructive amendments. For example, the Senate amendment to reduce the allowable size of deviation from a provincial electoral quota of 25 per cent to 15 per cent is well worth supporting and has been raised a number of times by the Reform Party.

A deviation of 25 per cent is totally unacceptable to Canadians. The creation of ridings which could actually vary by 50 per cent is not only unfair but is undemocratic as well. A 15 per cent deviation would promote the equality of vote for each Canadian while at the same time allowing the boundary commissioners sufficient flexibility when drawing up new boundaries. Despite the constructive amendments offered by the Senate, this piece of legislation will still be lacking.

Bill C-69 fails to address the supposed intent of the motion put to the procedure and House affairs committee which was to reduce or cap the number of ridings in Canada. The House of Commons will needlessly swell to a size taxpayers need not and should not support. At a time when it is urgent to cut the fat and bloat we see everywhere in government, there is absolutely no excuse for putting forth legislation which would make the House grow. This is not in tune with the people of Canada or the finances of the country.

It is appropriate to remind hon. members opposite that Premier elect Mike Harris handily defeated the Liberal Party in part because he promised to reduce the size of the Ontario legislature.

This government could partly make amends to the people of Canada by letting this unnecessary and counterproductive legislation die. If nothing else, it would save the Canadian taxpayer $6 million. I urge all members to vote against Bill C-69.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

10:05 p.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have been sitting here listening to this debate for some time. I was interested in the comments offered up by the

hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell and by the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands. Back in British Columbia we call some of the comments which were made symptoms of the Ottawa disease: no substance but a lot of cheap political gamesmanship, and this from veterans in the House who could pursue much more productive avenues.

The bill we are discussing tonight was not produced by all parties, as those members well know. We co-operated, which is our norm and we filed a dissenting report. We heard in typical style that this bill will be adopted. One of the problems with this House is that the results are a foregone conclusion when we see the stubbornness with which these bills are approached.

This is the fourth time I have spoken in public on Bill C-18, the forerunner to this bill, on Bill C-69 today and indeed on another occasion to the electoral boundaries commission in British Columbia. This dates back to February 9, 1994, March 21, 1994, May 26, 1994 and again today.

I must say that when members of the public ask me what is transpiring in terms of the whole electoral boundaries situation, there is a natural tendency to try to not talk about it because everything has become so complex, unravelled and intertwined. There is a great deal of uncertainty among everyone as to where we are going on these boundaries and when the changes, if there are going to be changes, will actually take place.

It is important to dredge up the history behind all of this and why we stand here tonight in this circumstance. We have to explain a little bit of that history to understand what is going on here.

One thing was of concern to me last year and is still very much at the forefront of my thoughts. The whole initiative to kill the electoral boundary redistribution process started in Ontario. It had got up a head of steam so that Bill C-18 was being drafted before British Columbians had even received their original electoral boundaries report to know where their proposed boundaries were.

This is typical of how many regions of the country feel left out and manipulated by what goes on in Ontario or in central Canada. It is worth repeating that there is no necessity in this issue. It was not an issue in the campaign. It was not an issue after the campaign. It is not in the Liberal red book, the dead book.

This bill continues to do one thing and one thing only. It responds to the desires of politicians to draw lines on a map. The Ontario MPs are trying to kill the boundary redistribution process. As I said before, they were trying to do that before the B.C. report was even out. This process has been in effect every decade since 1867 during the time of Confederation. It has been tied to the census. There was no public outcry. The outcry does not exist.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

10:10 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

There was in 1986, it was changed then.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

10:10 p.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Phone the electoral boundaries commissions that were in place at the time. Phone the chief electoral officer and ask him if there was a public outcry. There certainly was not. There is self-interest in this issue and that is what it is all about.

What do I do to tell my constituents where we sit on this electoral boundary redistribution process? Confusion reigns supreme because of government actions. There is confusion over timing and confusion over the role of the Senate. There is uncertainty as always over when the election date is going to be and when these things are going to kick in.

Is the original motivation of government, of this administration, still the same today as it was last February? It is a good question; we do not know. When does government embarrassment kick in? I do not know if the government ever gets embarrassed. When does the government want to end the uncertainty? I thought that day would come sooner than it appears it will.

Listening to the debates tonight one thing is very clear. What was a non-partisan exercise to realign constituency boundaries has already deteriorated into a partisan political exercise in Parliament. That is really not what we should intend.

I hope we can separate the whole process at some point into boundary adjustments and the question of how many members there should be in the House. Those two issues became a part of this last exercise when in my view they should be quite separate. If we had left the original redistribution process the way it was and taken an all party committee to look at the number of members for the next exercise we would have been in very good shape.

It may be two years from the next election. When will Bill C-69 ratification lead to a final resolution? I cannot answer that question and I do not think anyone else can at this point.

This whole exercise has been political football and now the is government trying to save face by continuing this charade. It would have been better to drop it at this point. The government has wasted time, money and the goodwill of members to keep a few disgruntled government members happy.

We have debated in numerous readings, we have gone to committee, we have had dissenting reports and now we have six Senate amendments before us and our constituents have lost the thread to this rapidly unravelling bad novel.

I felt strongly in March 1994, as I did on February 9, 1994 when once again I protested politicians' drawing lines on maps. I will talk about Amendment No. 1 the deviation quota. This amendment reduces the allowable size of deviation from a provincial electoral quota from 25 per cent to 15 per cent. Reform can support this amendment. From the outset we called for an allowable maximum variance of 15 per cent to ensure the

primacy of the equality of voting power over sociological considerations.

Elections Canada had reported 51 of the 295 existing ridings exceeded the current permissible population variances. Legitimate concerns were expressed by the Reform Party that this situation could be compounded in light of population shifts between redistributions. The bill still allows for deviations greater than 15 per cent in special circumstances.

Amendment No. 2 deals with non-judicial commission members. When the bill was drafted this clause was probably left out in error. Adding the requirement for the two non-judicial commission members to be resident in the province for which the commission is established does make sense; who better to monitor and recommend boundary changes than those from the province concerned? The Reform Party can support this amendment but overall does it really improve the bill? Does it really change or improve the existing process enough to warrant discarding the redistribution process that is almost complete?

Amendment No. 3, the 20-member factor to challenge the Speaker's appointments to the boundary commissions, is an indefensible amendment in our view and we oppose it. These appointments are not under parliamentary rules a ruling by the Speaker. It may cause the Speaker a little embarrassment but little else. It hardly can be construed as a non-confidence motion in the Chair. It is turf protecting and is adding a political element to a supposed non-partisan apolitical function.

The Senate amendment does not take the House of Commons dynamic into account. The Reform Party views the ability to challenge appointments as an improvement over the current process when the Speaker's appointments cannot be challenged and therefore can be influenced by government.

If we could have maintained this challenge option, I dare say before appointments were made the Speaker would surely have consulted with all parties in the House.

Amendment No. 4 is a trigger based on population shifts. This Senate amendment eliminates the use of a trigger based on population shifts to determine whether a boundary commission must be established in a province. We oppose this amendment.

Already under Bill C-69 the Speaker and the chief electoral officer can order a redistribution where one has not been automatically triggered. To say the least, this elimination of a trigger is perplexing. The trigger is largely a cost saving measure and it is estimated the cost savings are substantial.

Some may argue there could be challenges to this section under section 15 of the charter surrounding the quality element. We view this as extremely remote because the Constitution requires only an interprovincial deccenial redistribution, thus the prevention of an intraprovincial redistribution would not contravene section 51 of the Constitution. To me this is good grounds not to eliminate the trigger.

Senate Amendment No. 5 deals with eliminating the provision that a commission will only recommend changes to existing electoral district boundaries where the factors set out are significant enough to warrant such a recommendation.

The original intent of this provision was designed to encourage the commission to give greater consideration to existing boundaries. We can support this amendment because for all intents and purposes existing or traditional boundaries of electoral districts are also included for the commission's consideration in the current definition of community of interest.

Amendment No. 6 deals with redefinition of community of interest. Reform is opposed to this amendment because it calls for a redefinition of community of interest using the Lortie commission's definition.

Community of interest according to clause 19 would include such factors as the economy, existing or traditional boundaries of electoral districts, urban or rural characteristics of a territory, boundaries of municipalities and Indian reserves, natural boundaries and access to means of communication and transport.

I ask why clause 19(4) currently contained in Bill C-69 is so offensive. It is clear and gives clear direction to the boundary commissions. While the Senate's proposed definition is consistent with the recent Supreme Court decision, the procedure and House affairs committee considered and rejected this definition because it turns redistribution into an affirmative action process.

This is not in keeping with the process that has been in place since Confederation. We oppose this amendment also and that concludes my remarks on this bill.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

10:25 p.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, at this rather late hour we are debating a bill that is purely technical. I wonder whether people who may still be listening would appreciate some information on the present proceedings. There are not many of us here but that is not the point.

We are discussing Bill C-69, which provides for the establishment of electoral boundaries commissions. The bill is of particular interest to Quebecers and in fact to all Canadians, as we saw in the course of the debate this evening.

The bill is of particular interest to people in Quebec because at the report stage, we proposed an amendment that would guarantee Quebec 25 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. This amendment was voted on and defeated.

When we first arrived in the House of Commons, we voted on a bill, C-18, which suspended the proceedings of the commission which had started to review the electoral districts under the legislation then in effect, on the basis of the 1991 census.

We went through the whole procedure to pass this legislation, and now we have Bill C-69 which must be approved before tomorrow midnight, if the new legislation is to come into force. In this area, as in so many others, as we saw recently in the case of the CRTC and satellite television, we may end up with a new legal debate.

If Bill C-18 is once again in effect on June 22 because the bill before the House today has not been passed by the Senate, according to the parliamentary House Leader who has his own interpretation of the facts, we will have a problem because we will have to find out which legislation will be in effect on June 26: the one that was in effect before or the new legislation, when it is passed by the Senate? That is a legal argument we can look forward to.

What is difficult to understand in this process is the government's agenda. The bill was tabled, and we worked together on this bill, as the government's chief whip pointed out. In fact, the hon. member for Bellechasse contributed his expertise to make this bill as good as it could be.

But in the end, we had to vote against the bill, unwillingly, but the government refused to concede on one thing we considered essential: the guarantee of 25 per cent of the seats.

The bill went to the Senate. The senators are appointed, not elected. They come from the regions. They met and tried to find something that could be changed in the bill, with the good intention, no doubt, of improving it. When we look at some of the amendments from the Senate, we wonder how these people, who in principle are supposed to represent the various regions in Canada, could propose an amendment like the one to change the variation in the quota from 25 per cent to 15 per cent.

To put this in concrete terms, suppose there was an average of 100,000 voters in Quebec ridings, the bill provides that the number could grow to 125,000 or drop to 75,000 in a riding because the variation can go 25 per cent either way.

The Senate, for its part, suggested that this quota should be reduced from 25 to 15 per cent. As you can well understand, such an approach could not have been worse for regional representation. This bill came back from the Senate with six amendments. At first, the government said, "We will accept the one amendment that makes sense". An amendment to the amendment was moved by our Reform colleagues, who suggested that we approve a few others. But as far as the substance of this debate is concerned, what is really interesting to us, the people of Quebec, is that the message is very clear. When they were in opposition, government members were the first to demand 25 per cent representation for Quebec and to express a willingness to guarantee such an outcome.

The statements made by the hon. member for Papineau-Saint-Michel, who insisted that Quebec should be guaranteed 25 per cent of seats, are still fresh in our memory. This is not the first time we point out that, when they were in opposition, the Liberals advocated policies that were sometimes very innovative in my opinion. However, now that they are in power, they repeat the speeches made by those they used to criticize when in opposition, and it could even be said that, in some regards, they are going much further than the Tories would have gone.

To us, the message is crystal clear: Quebec no longer has its place in Canada. What they want is to turn Quebec into a minority as quickly as possible, to reduce its representation as much as possible, and they are not even interested in saying that they want to keep Quebec in Canada. They are telling Quebec that 25 per cent is too much. They will reduce its representation as much as possible; they could not care less if some day Quebec ends up with only 5 per cent representation.

In the end, the clear message from the government is that Quebec is not welcome and that it can go on with its plans. On the eve of the referendum, when we see that the government is unable to send us a clear message, as our colleague from Mercier reminded us, we may well ask ourselves where this is taking us. If we look at what happened in history, I remember that the Prime Minister recently stated that, "If we continue like this, the sovereignists will want to keep the name of our country, Canada, for themselves". Rest assured that you can keep that name, even though you took it from us, as Canada first came into being in Quebec.

At the very beginning, before Quebec took its name, it used to be called Canada. So, you took our name. You stole it away and said: "We will turn it into a great country from coast to coast". Both my colleagues from Bellechasse and Mercier made historical reviews, saying that, while it may not be fun to hear historical reviews in this House, we need to be reminded that Quebec is a founding people. We were here first. You came 200 years later. My ancestors were here before the British conquest. This gives me a sense of belonging to this land. We first settled in the province of Quebec, which was known at the time as Canada. When Upper and Lower Canada were created, we were on equal footing as two founding people.

Did you know that this is what we would like to return to, because the only way for us to continue to develop on this land is by restoring somehow the balance that used to exist between Upper and Lower Canada in numerical terms. These were two distinct entities and one could not legislate for the other. They settled their problems between themselves and even had the decency to pay their debts. Debts were released and we started over with a clean slate. Realizing that this did not work so well and learning from this experience, another step was taken in 1867. And what we want to do now is basically the same thing: have two equal people who recognize and respect each other as such, two founding people. It is obvious that within Canada, there are two nations: the Quebec nation and the nation of Canada.

So, let us have two separate countries. Then we can talk about an economic and political union. After all, we will have things to manage together in the process of starting from scratch again so that you can have your country and run it as you wish. Never again will you have to wonder what we want, since we will have gone with all we wanted, and that is a country. That is what we want.

Eventually, discussions would be bound to be held to sort things out because to us it is very important, as a founding people, to be able to deal with you on an equal footing.

You took the name; keep it, it is yours. Not everyone knows this, but you also took the national anthem from us, lyrics and music. That is right, both the lyrics and the music are from francophone Quebecers.

There are people in Canada who are not aware of this important fact. When Canada adopted the national anthem, one of longest debates in the history of this House, the problem was to agree on an English version of the "O Canada". It made for very stormy debates. If there had been television back in those days, we could watch how low members quibbled over how the original "O Canada" should be translated into English.

People can even be found who think that we are responsible for changing the words to the national anthem, when translations were in fact adopted following these events. It is obvious that the small favour we were asking was the assurance that we would continue to carry a reasonable political weight, as a form of recognition for all we had done for Canada. Do not think, however, that we came here and did nothing for the country. We helped build this country, we helped give it a top notch image, a respectable image in the eyes of the international community; we have contributed at least 25 per cent towards its development, because we represent 25 per cent of the population. But, at one point, we made up at least 50 per cent of the population of Canada.

If policies which were fair towards both founding countries had been adopted, if a dominant approach had not been taken in order to crush us, under Lord Durham's policy for example, we would not be where we are today. We would have been two peoples who could have grown in ways we wanted to grow and could have carved out the niches we wanted.

Therefore, our demand for 25 per cent representation was entirely legitimate. Our demand was supported by a very, very large consensus among politicians in Quebec.

It is safe to say, for example, that the Liberals from Quebec who were in the House in 1992 and who are still in the House today, want Quebec to be guaranteed 25 per cent of representation. Therefore, if we add these Liberals, who are government members, to the Bloc members, who are on this side of the House, and to the Quebec Liberals, because, do not forget that the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Daniel Johnston, tabled the following motion: "That the National Assembly of Quebec reiterate its goal of maintaining Quebec's representation at at least 25 per cent in the House of Commons of Canada, and that it ask the Government of Quebec to make representations to this effect". A federalist, a Liberal, Daniel Johnston, the leader of the opposition to the Government of Quebec, asked the Government of Quebec to make such representations to the Canadian government.

So we can say that all the elected representatives of the people of Quebec, all the representatives of Quebec, in Quebec and Ottawa, came to bring this message to Canadians who also represent the people, asking them to grant us this representation of 25 per cent. It was denied. For us, as the hon. member for Mercier said, it was a very sad day.

This bill is going to the Senate, to the other place. Personally, I hope the senators do not intend to sit tomorrow or, if they do, that they will take a long time to discuss the bill so it will not be passed in time to supersede Bill C-18 which was passed last year. That is the sad part for Canada, because the referendum will be held this fall and we still do not know what the democratic choice of Quebecers will be. So no gesture was made to Quebec.

In a way, as a sovereignist, I am delighted. I will be able to travel all over my riding all summer, and at all the political meetings I attend during the referendum campaign, I will be able to tell Quebecers that Canada does not want us. Canada is not willing to make any concessions. Canada is not making any gestures.

I think Quebecers will realize there is no future in Canada for us and that we could never develop our potential in this country. We were here first. We want to see a gesture of openness, of sympathy for a people and a nation you say you want to keep in this country. It seems to me that if the government wanted to

show that it loves Quebec, it should have realized long ago that what we wanted was a guarantee of 25 per cent.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

10:40 p.m.


Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the debate tonight, but while we see this place going round and round, let me interject this. In the real world New Jersey has just scored and it is two to two with about three and a half minutes left in the game, so stay tuned.

We are tied up in a ridiculous wrangle about changing electoral boundaries. This has been going on for some time now. In 1993 when the former government set up the electoral boundaries commissions, as governments have done for many years, the process kicked into place. It was during the 1993 election campaign that the commissioners started their work. When they came out with the maps a year ago last spring, the present government was very displeased with them and Bill C-18 was put in place.

The question which anyone would ask is: Why was Bill C-18 initiated in the first place? We would not be here today debating Bill C-69 if Bill C-18 had not been brought forward.

The process was proceeding without government interference. The commissioners were chosen, the maps were being redrawn and people were attending the public hearings. That process was being carried out by the electoral boundaries commissions. It was fair and democratic and there was no basis for suspending it whatsoever at considerable cost to the taxpayer. This whole exercise has cost millions of dollars.

Last spring, a year and a bit ago, shortly after the independent commissions reported their findings and were preparing public hearings on the boundary changes, the present government blatantly interfered with the democratic process. Of course government members would argue tonight that they did nothing of the kind.

However, the maps were drawn by the original commissions after the 1991 census. Those people said: "Here is our best shot at it". Maybe they were not perfect. Who knows what the community of interest and all these other geographic and psychological boundaries are. However, the government said: "Wait a minute", and blatantly interfered with the process.

I am sure the government was under pressure from many new Liberal MPs who were not pleased with the new electoral maps, particularly where boundary revisions transferred blocks of voters from one riding to another. Nothing to me is sadder than a self-serving politician saying, "Wait a minute. That is my strong area that you are taking and you had better not do that". Territorialism is probably the most frightening thing that could happen in the Chamber, when someone says: "This is my ground. This is my territory," and as we say in Beaver River, "Keep your mud hooks off it". That kind of attitude is something that is becoming more and more prevalent, certainly not just with Bill C-69 but with a government, as we have seen in the last 10 days, that has said we know what is best for you and you just like it or lump it. Unfortunately, many of the members who are speaking up are going to have to lump it, and that is very unfortunate.

In the guise of opening the redistribution process for fundamental review the government scrapped the maps produced by the provincial boundary commissions and introduced Bill C-18, which suspended the whole operation.

I just did my spring tour in my riding. People asked me, where is this anyway? Is it cancelled? Is it going forward? Are the maps good? Are they no good? What is happening? I tried to explain to them that the government actually put this process on ice for exactly one year and now it is coming up with other legislation and if it does not get royal assent by the magic day of June 22, which is about 48 hours from now, then that whole process that we wasted all this time and money on, Bill C-69, gets scrapped and we go back to the original.

If anything is confusing for us, it is that process. How in the world are we supposed to tell people across the country the facts and the figures and what actually is going on? It is just absolutely ludicrous.

These commissioners last spring were told "You're on ice". You know that feeling, Mr. Speaker. "You're on ice. Hang on to it for a year and we will let you know next June 22 if your work is going to be of any use or not." It is ridiculous. Those commissioners felt disappointed, they felt disillusioned. They thought: "What about all this work? I was being paid good money for my work." It just seems as though it was all for nought.

Many of the witnesses who came in good faith and drove miles in our rural ridings thought the process was going somewhere, that they were really participating in democracy, only to be told, "Sorry, that's on ice. We'll let you know next June 22 if anything in fact is going to happen."

Following a one-day debate in the House of Commons the government imposed that "the question be now put", thereby suppressing any further debate and smothering democracy one more time. Here we are today, the democratic process again being thwarted.

Mr. Speaker, you and I sat in the last Parliament and watched government members then, the Conservatives, bringing in time allocation and sometimes they got really scandalous and just brought in actual closure, and my friend from Kingston and the Islands said that it was "scandalous" and of course "rubbish"

and finally he said "This is morally wicked for a government to do this".

What in the world is the difference between this side and three sword lengths across the aisle? It is three big steps. What ever happens to the psyche that goes from here, saying it is morally wicked, to all of a sudden on that side saying "We are government and we do have things that we need to get through for the Canadian public"?

I do not see any benefit to the Canadian public in this bill, quite frankly. What I see are self-serving politicians who say "We want it this way because I'll keep my good polls and you can give the lousy polls that don't support me very much to somebody else".

This process has gone on for a year. Last July these committees sat during the summer recess. They heard witnesses. It has just been chatted among us here and it is unanimous; you may find it surprising, but we decided that this whole exercise has been pointless. Frankly, there has been no positive outcome on it for anybody. I do not think these MPs are going to be a whole lot better off in the next election, regardless of what their boundaries are, if they keep behaving this way. It will not matter what the boundaries are, folks. It will not matter what the boundaries are one bit if people are disgusted and they say "You in your lofty positions on Parliament Hill, if you don't listen to us, you will go the same way the Conservative Party went in 1993". And no member in this House should think they will not do it. They did it in 1993 and they are prepared to do it again in 1997, with every opportunity that they see for this arrogant behaviour, keeping people here until all hours of the night, ramming legislation through 48 hours before it is actually due.

It has been a total waste of time. It has kept people flying back and forth to Ottawa. It has been an incredible waste of money. It has taken so long to do. This partisan manoeuvring and meddling are why we are here tonight to debate this bill.

The odd person is snorting across the aisle. I suppose that is fine for them. What they are forgetting is that there are real voters out there. We are not just talking about people in the Chamber and then all the rest of the people out there. People are not dumb. After the Charlottetown accord, which I have mentioned so many times in here, people are not going to put up with this kind of nonsense from politicians any longer. It is as simple as that.

Bill C-69 will go the way of the dodo bird for all those people who are running on these new boundaries that are supposed to be sacrosanct and supposed to save their seats. SOS-"save our seats"-is what this government is talking about. It is not going to happen.

This is blatant interference in what is supposed to be a democratic and non-partisan process. If ever I have seen anything that is partisan, it is certainly to say: "We know what is best for you. Father knows best. The House leader, the whip, the Prime Minister know what is best for you". It is interference. And Mr. Speaker, you know better than any of us in this Chamber that when there is interference there ought to be a penalty, for sure.

My guess as to why the electoral boundaries readjustment process was suspended is that the Liberals did not like some of the results in the last federal election. If we look at the numbers, not the theory, it is interesting what happened, especially in Ontario. While we are here in the province of Ontario tonight, we might as well have a look at some of those results. My friend from Ontario would be interested.

The Reform Party came second in 57 out of the 99 ridings. My friend from Broadview-Greenwood knows that. He has probably also added up that in 25 of those ridings the PC and Reform vote combined would have defeated the Liberal vote. That is rather interesting. That starts getting into the actual numbers of this and the hidden reason why so many people are demanding that their ridings become safe.

Across the country the combined PC and Reform vote defeated the Liberal vote in about 100 ridings. If you add that up you realize that only 130 Liberals would have been elected. That would have been a minority government.

If it comes to another vote in 1997, I could refer my friends to the corner over there, where the former government, for the first time in Canadian history, was totally obliterated. That may well happen again.

It has often been said that the Reform Party would split the vote. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, because those people are going to go for absolute, fundamental change and democratization of this system, regardless of what my friends in the governing party would say. This is democracy. It is wonderful.

Closure is okay now that the Liberals are government, making sure that their backbenchers fall into line or their nomination papers will not be signed. That is the kind of behaviour people are sick of and do not want to see any more.

The Reform Party has managed to get some improvements to the redistribution process. The selection of boundary commissioners is less partisan and subject to more public scrutiny. That is a wonderful thing. That is a good move with some of these amendments.

Under the changes that have been made, the role of MPs and the redistribution process has been greatly reduced. As far as I

am concerned, nothing is better than politicians' hands being pulled out of any of these processes. There is nothing better than politicians being yanked back from the process and not being able to take part in it quite so self-servedly.

In provinces where significant population change has occurred, the possibility of a five-year redistribution now exists rather than ten years. I know my friend from York North has an incredible population explosion. It seems wrong that he would have to wait for ten years. There is also my friend from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley. The population in the riding she represents is incredible. To be able to do that on a five-year span rather than ten years is probably really good.

Reform also pushed for a cap or a reduction in the number of seats in the House of Commons. The Liberals rejected it at every stage totally out of hand. As a result, this House will immediately increase to 301 seats and continue to increase in the future.

I ask anybody sitting in this Chamber tonight or watching on TV, if they are not watching the hockey game, does this country need more politicians?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

10:50 p.m.

Some hon. members


Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

10:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Liberals, yes.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

10:50 p.m.


Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

The answer is fairly clear, because there is a direct correlation to the amount of noise on the government side to the question.

If Bill C-69 receives royal assent by June 22, just 48 hours from now, after tomorrow we celebrate the longest day of the year, and nobody knows other than the people who sit in this Chamber how long these days are getting.

If it gets at the new redistribution process, we will begin all over again. We are going to start this dance again. Because of the government's interference in the democratic process, here we are almost two years later back to square one. Because of the time the electoral boundaries readjustment process takes, the new boundaries will not even be known until shortly before the next election.

With this process in place, we will have new ridings and new riding associations. The question of course is where is the money going to be split up between this riding and that riding? How are they going to break up the bank accounts? Who is going to run for nominations in these ridings? The answer: "Your guess is as good as mine". That is ridiculous. You cannot be prepared for an election, move ahead for an election, and nominate candidates if you do not know the boundaries until just a couple of months before the election is called.

This is the government that said it was going to restore honesty and integrity to our political institutions. Canadians are still waiting for that restoration of integrity. They are still waiting for some of those promises in the red book to be fulfilled. They are not waiting for a government that is going to start ramming through time allocation, closure, and the attitude of we know better than everybody else does. We have seen that in this House, and we are going to see it again in 1997 if this government does not get its act together, get these things on their way, and quit wasting time and money. The people who are paying the bills are disgusted with it.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

10:55 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am going to probably have little time beyond giving my introduction, but I do want to say something with respect to boundary reallocation.

What we are talking about is how many MPs we send to this House, where they come from, what region they represent and what their constituencies are. It reminds me of a story I read a long time ago entitled "How Much Land Does a Man Really Need?" It was a story about a man who, in almost a crusade, spent his whole life amassing land. At the end of the story he died and it was found that the amount of land he really needed was a plot of about two feet by six feet.

I asked myself the question: How many MPs are really needed in this place? I have come to the conclusion that we need 20 MPs. Those 20 would all be cabinet ministers. They would decide what is done and the rest would be redundant. Members may say that does not sound very good, but that is really the way it is right now.

This is a government that promised more involvement for members of Parliament. It is a government that promised more meaningful work in committees. I have observed what happens in committees. During the beginning we had some really good debates, good honest give and take and some true negotiations. However, when we came to the place where we were actually voting on the clause by clause, these poor members from the government side all came in with their little sheets of paper and were told what to do. Even though prior to that I know from the way they responded that I had persuaded a number of them on different issues, they voted against them. When I asked several of them why, they said "Well, we don't really have a choice". That is deplorable.

If that is the way this government is going to work and that is the meaning of more MP involvement then this whole exercise is really an exercise in waste. Why should we even consider increasing the number of members of Parliament from 295 to 301 when most of the members here are redundant in any case?

Added to that is the fact that we are also limited in the debate. As a member of Parliament representing Elk Island, the only way I can represent them and have their wishes influence the decisions of government is through debate. When I debate I put out my best arguments. I try to persuade the other members to

my point of view. We actually experienced this in one of the committees in which I participated, where there was a closure right in committee and we were not permitted to debate. Even if I were able to debate and persuade, if members are not given the freedom to represent their constituents, as is the practice with this present government, there is no point in having them.

My conclusion is very simple: The move of this government to increase the number of members of Parliament is truly an ill conceived notion. It is one that should not even be thought of until it is decided that members of Parliament will be allowed to truly represent their constituents. How deplorable of the Prime Minister to praise the members of Parliament who defied their constituents, who went against what even they believed, by saying to them it was wonderful that they put that aside in order to keep party unity.

This Parliament needs true representation of the wishes of the people. If we had true free votes then surely there would be meaningful give and take, meaningful debate, meaningful negotiations on different points. We would eliminate and we would amend those clauses of bills which were undesirable. We would pass bills in amended form which would be good for the country.

The way it is right now we end up with the lowest common denominator. It is forced on us. We have absolutely no say in the matter. I am speaking now of the Liberal backbenchers who are not permitted to vote according to their consciences and according to the wishes of their constituents. We need to redefine the way Parliament works.

The Senate has sent Bill C-69 back. Of course we have a little bit of a problem with the Senate because it is not elected, but the Senate has in sober second thought come back with some amendments to the bill, some of which we actually support.

This country has the potential for the best government possible. If only we would in honesty and in clarity do away with those aspects of our democracy that do not function properly. We could replace them with a true representative democracy, one in which we acknowledge that democracy works best when the wishes of the majority are considered, when the common sense of the common people by majority vote is brought into this place, where each of us as members of Parliament can represent that. If we find a consensus among the Canadian people for the views that are being put forward because we represent them, then certainly Canadians will continue to have a high regard for law and order which we so desire.

A basic fundamental aspect of democracy is the willingness of the governed to be governed. We are going to lose that if we practise the arrogance of the kind of government we are experiencing here where a small group of people simply impose their wishes on everyone else by cutting off debate, not allowing free votes, controlling and inhibiting the freedom of members of Parliament. It is time that we clarified this. We must indicate to the Canadian people that we are ready to make the needed changes. This is urgent. Really urgent.

For example, while we are going down the tube at the rate of $110 million a day, more and more people are no longer willing to participate in the tax process. Why is that? Because the GST was rammed through without the majority will of the people. It was rammed through using exactly the same system which is being used here tonight. Because of that we are losing between $7 billion and $10 billion a year, and some estimate up to $40 billion to $50 billion per year, in unpaid taxes. People are saying that if this government rams things through that the majority does not concur with, they just will not concur in practice. That is exactly what is happening.

We see the same thing in the justice system. Rules are being passed that do not bear the majority of Canadian support. Consequently there is no reflection in the laws of what the people support. There is a reduced respect for it and this country has an increasing amount of lawlessness and crime.

The government got elected on its word that it would restore integrity, give more meaningful work to members of Parliament, and increase the importance of committees. The government having been elected on those words is missing a great opportunity by not delivering on them. It is a terrible thing that the government is thumbing its nose at the people of Canada by engaging in these practices.

I am appalled at the fact that the government persists in doing things like pushing this bill through for purely political reasons. There is no excuse that would warrant changing the political boundaries simply because after the process had started, a number of members felt they were being threatened.

If we wanted to do the honourable thing, we would say that perhaps there is a problem. In order to provide for continuity and stability in the political process, we would simply begin our work and the rules which are presently in place would stay there until the next election in order to remove the political motivation from the process.

This is a tremendously important era we are embarking on. The government talks about representing the people. It comes up with that theme so often. Members of Parliament are saying that if they have 25 per cent more in their ridings they will be unable to represent them properly. With all due regard, those are empty words from members of Parliament who persist in ignoring the wishes of the very constituents they are concerned about. We need to be honest about this. We need to do what we are sent here to do, which is to represent our constituents.

With respect to the bill before us, we would do well to give it some serious second thought. We would do very well to think soberly and carefully about the ramifications of it. With all of the push and rush of the last few days I am not sure that we are making good decisions.

I cannot believe that raking members of Parliament over the coals as we have been doing for 14 hours a day yields any good thought. It does not give us the best ability to think clearly. Putting through bills such as the MPs pension plan without looking at the long term effects of it and ramming through other bills such as Bill C-41 and Bill C-68 have tremendous implications to our population.

The government rams this through by saying: "We are only going to talk for so many hours and then we are going to vote. You are going to vote the way you are told. We are the majority. We will get it through". That is not the way to provide good democracy and good decision making.

Many members of this 35th Parliament will look back. They will then recognize how grave the errors were because of the lack of thought and the lack of integrity in the democratic process. There is no adequate debate, no freedom to vote, so what can we expect?

The only thing I can do as a member of Parliament is to try to persuade. In most of the committees on which I sat there were two and sometimes four opposition members, but there were always more government members. If I wanted to get my point of view across to influence a change in the legislation we were contemplating I had to persuade.

I challenge government members to be brave, to stand up for what is right and to put aside the years and years, almost a century of a tradition which is taking us down the wrong road. I challenge members of the Liberal Party, who in majority can do whatever they want, to think independently in terms of what is good for their constituents and what is good for Canada. Without disrespect to their leader they should simply say: "I stand on a high principle. I will do what I know is right". I am sure that if members of Parliament from whatever party followed that principle they would be applauded by the people who really matter, the people who elected them.

On the other hand, I would probably be better off politically speaking if I were to encourage Liberal members to continue to do what they are doing. The more they do that the more cynical Canadians will become and the more seriously they will think about alternatives. Canadians had it up to here with the Conservatives because of their arrogance. If we continue to have this kind of behaviour from the Liberal government Canadians will be more likely to look at an alternative in terms of a true democratic system which will represent them.

I also want to say a few words to Bloc members and to the Quebec members of the Liberal Party. These days we are facing the challenge of having our country torn apart. A group of people is saying that Canada as it exists no longer works and that group wants out. Of course, they do not want to opt out of the pension plan; they want to opt out of Canada but not out of the pension plan. These people are saying that Canada does not work.

It is an easy and simplistic response for the government to say that it is Quebec's problem. It would be much more honest to say: "Let us look at what part of it is the Ottawa problem". When will the federal government wake up to the fact that the people of Canada are tired of having somebody in distant Ottawa controlling every aspect of their lives? It is no wonder that some of them would come to that conclusion, although we disagree with it.

All Canadians, not only the people in the west, or in Ontario and eastern Canada, but also the people of Quebec should be made an offer which says: "Let us stay together in a democracy, in a federation which truly works because the people who come here to represent the constituencies are free to represent them". If we were to practise that and if we were to go back to the principles of our Constitution, in which the members of Parliament represent their constituents and guard the rights of the provinces, we could all live together in harmony. We could all survive, look after our own domains and do so very efficiently. No one would be so disgruntled with the country that he or she would feel it necessary to leave.

The electoral boundaries issue is but a symptom of a much larger problem. We need to look at what is causing the problem and correct that. It is in that area that we will maintain the unity of the country.

To all people in Quebec, and they may not have thought of this before, I urge all in la belle province, to consider what we say. We want to be one with them. We want to reconsider. We want to look again at the Constitution of the country. We want to build it in such a way that respect of all Canadian citizens is maintained and that all provinces can live in Confederation in unity and in harmony.

This bill is very important. I urge members to vote against it so that it will die and we can look at this more seriously in a better way later.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

11:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Pursuant to Standing Order 57, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the bill now before the House.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Electoral Boundaries Readjustmentact, 1995Government Orders

11:15 p.m.

Some hon. members