House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was representation.


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1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I have been as generous as I think the Chair can be. There may be an opportunity to conclude those remarks at another time.

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1:10 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a very good and very personal reason for being opposed in principle to the idea of proportional representation.

That reason is simply this. If this parliament had proportional representation I would not be here. You can hear the applause, Mr. Speaker. It is true that some on all sides of the House, my own side as well, and a number of special interest groups out there in the community would be probably quite delighted if I were not here, but in fact I am here and I am here because of the first past the post constituency system that we have.

I would like to explain to the Canadians who may be watching a feature of proportional representation that tends to be overlooked in the debate, and that is that no matter what version of proportional representation we have, one way or another the leader, or the party leadership, gets to choose who sits in the House.

The way it works is that if it is a percentage system, and proportional representation is a percentage system, if the particular party gets say 10% to 20% of the vote, then that party is entitled to have a proportionate number of seats. What happens in all systems of proportional representation is that in one way or another the party leader or the party leadership—sometimes it is the party leadership rather than just the leader himself—gets to decide after the election who gets to sit in the Chamber.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I can assure you in the very first place that I would never have been even allowed by my party to even stand a chance, because in 1993 when I first ran for election I was an unknown in the Liberal Party. I had never had anything to do with the Liberal Party. When I ran for my nomination in my particular riding of Hamilton-Wentworth, as it was called at the time, the party backroom people had decided on an entirely different person. The only reason I won the nomination and arrived here in this House was because I had been born and brought up in the community and I was able to produce more memberships and get more votes at the nomination meeting.

The reason I am here is because I had grassroots support, not from the party, not from the party leader at the time, who was indeed our present Prime Minister, but from the people in my community. That is one of the great strengths of the first past the post system.

It goes on, if I may say so, because I think it is very important for people to understand that proportional representation, rather than enhancing the opportunities of people to be represented, or of MPs in this House, it actually diminishes it because proportional representation, which gives such power to the leader to choose who sits in the House, makes it very impossible to have the kind of healthy dissent that indeed we do have on this side of the House.

Indeed, I recall very vividly when the election was on in 1993, I ran a campaign that presented myself as a Liberal certainly, and a Liberal I am still, but as a very independent minded Liberal. In my own campaign brochure I announced that I was against the red book plan for a billion dollars to be spent on national day care. I thought that was the wrong thing to do.

I also said in my brochure that I was against the funding of multicultural groups for organizational assistance. I am certainly in support of multiculturalism in general, but I do not think organizations need government largesse in order to exist. I ran that in my brochure during the 1993 election.

There were people, Liberals in the riding, who were very unhappy with the fact that I had won the nomination because I was not the chosen person and they reported back to party headquarters that they had this renegade during the election campaign. I got an amusing call from a person right in the middle of the campaign, who identified himself as somebody called Paul Martin and apparently this Paul Martin, I did not know him from Adam, was one of the architects of the red book.

On the other end of the phone he said “Well, this is Mr. Martin calling”. You will find out, Mr. Speaker, that this was before anyone was elected. This Mr. Martin was on the end of the line and he said “Well, Mr. Bryden, I understand you have trouble with our red book”. “Well, Mr. Martin”, I said, “I do. There are a couple of things in it that I disagree with very strongly and in fact would not go down in my riding really; they just do not work”. He said “Do you not feel a little uncomfortable, you know, saying these things during the election campaign?” I replied “Mr. Martin, do not worry, when I get elected I will come back up to Ottawa and I will persuade the Liberal Party not to go ahead with these programs”. Because, of course, I felt very strongly then, as I do now, that they were not the best policy planks for the red book.

I do point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that the government never did actually proceed to spend a billion dollars on day care and there has been enormous efforts over the years to rein in government spending without accountability. There is a lot of progress to go into that department but I feel very confident that as a backbench MP who was not afraid to speak out against my party, not “against” my party, speak out independently of my party, independently of the leadership, and have my own voice.

In proportionate representation, it is that kind of independence of members of parliament that would not exist. First of all, Mr. Speaker, you would not even get there because no leader would in his right mind accept somebody who already at the very beginning says that he does not agree, I do not agree, with all the aspects of the basic platform of the party and yet I and so many in that election of 1993 did come to this parliament.

I think it is because we represent our constituents, and it is not proportionate representation, that we have been tremendously successful in changing the whole attitude, the way this parliament, at least on this side, operates because I would observe and you, Mr. Speaker, are a person who has a long memory of this House, you will appreciate that there have been more votes against government policy on this side of the House than has ever occurred in parliamentary history.

The member for Cambridge and I were talking together during the debate and I was observing to him that I believe I had voted against the government on major policy legislation four times. The member for Cambridge, who sits just not very far from me, he went a little crimson, a little embarrassment there, because he had to admit that he had voted against the government even more often.

We are still valued members of this party and we have never had any hesitation to stand up in this House and speak our minds, no matter what these people on the opposition say from time to time. We have made changes when we have spoken our minds. I point out that as recently as the opposition motion of last week, four members of this side voted against the government.

What happens is we consider very carefully and the reality, when we talk about free votes in the House, the reality is that any member on any side of the House does not have the time to examine every issue in the kind of depth that we would all like to examine every issue. In fact the reason why the ability to vote independently, not freely, is important is when you have studied an issue very carefully and you want to send a message to your government, you do that by standing in the House, Mr. Speaker.

I have done that on four occasions. The one most important to me, and very successful, was about five years ago the government was introducing a piece of legislation pertaining to electronic monitoring of people who were accused of sexual stalking. The government's legislation proposed that this electronic bracelet would be put on the individual based simply on an information to the police authorities.

I felt very strongly that this was contrary to the fundamental human rights of the accused. We are not supposed to be subject to arbitrary arrest. Even if it was an electronic bracelet operated by global positioning, if it was applied to an individual involuntarily in my view it was a fundamental breach of the rights of the accused and the presumption of innocence. I failed to persuade my government in caucus and I failed to persuade the minister of the day so I wound up standing alone in this House. Mr. Speaker, you just try it; you try standing alone in this House when everyone is supporting the legislation.

As it happened, I just happened to be the person who had studied it in depth that I knew it was a fundamental issue. I am happy to report that the government paid attention and in the end it made the amendments that eliminated this offensive clause. Mr. Speaker, you do have this opportunity in this current system, but you have this opportunity because in the end you are not nominated because of your party loyalty. You arrive in this place in our system because of the will of your constituents.

In the end you are answerable to your constituents. In the end the Prime Minister, no matter what he wants in this House, has to always allow for the fact that everyone in this House, on this side and that side are ultimately answerable to their constituents. In the end if the government leadership steps out of line, the members on this side along with the members on the other side can get rid of the government like that, one vote of confidence.

It has been said, I think quite correctly, that the Canadian parliamentary system concentrates more power in the House of Commons and in the leadership of the party, the governing party, than any other parliament or democracy in the world. It also provides for the instant dismissal of that government.

What the dynamic is over on this side, and I have to allow for the fact that the opposition parties, particularly the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois and the Canadian Alliance, but particularly the NDP, have never had the experience of being on the government side, so they have no idea of the dynamics that operate with the members here.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that the Prime Minister always has to take careful account of what is happening in the opinion that exists on this side. We always want to support the leadership. We always want to give the leadership the benefit of the doubt, and that is the correct thing to do, but it is still at our discretion, not at the leadership's discretion.

That is one of the fundamental differences between the constituency system and the proportional representation system, because the proportional representation system gives the discretion to the leader or the leadership. They get to say whether you are nominated or not. They get to say whether you sit in the next parliament. So if you do not mind your p s and q s with your leadership, you stand a good chance of not being named under proportional representation to the following parliament.

We have a very strong system. It is not a system that does not need reform. I would agree that there are things that need to be done, but the one thing we do not need to do is convert to proportional representation.

I must also, just in passing, make the observation that the opposition movers of this motion, in counting all the countries that have proportional representation, conveniently ignore the fact that the four countries that retain the first past the post system are the most successful and oldest democracies in the world. At least the top three are the oldest democracies in the world. They are Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom and, as we learned earlier, India as well.

I point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that in three of those cases these are countries of enormous land mass. We cannot possibly hold together in a democratic system spaces that go from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, that are as enormous as Canada and India with its one billion population, and the United States, which is the fourth largest country in the world. The three largest countries in the world, three out of four, are the ones that have the first past the post constituency system. There is a reason for that. The reason for it is that it works.

If we had minority government after minority government, as happens with proportional representation, I do not think we would last more than two decades. We just could not last. We could never tolerate what goes on in the parliaments of Israel or the parliaments of Italy and many other countries in the world in which small interest groups, which may have only 5% or 6% of the proportion of MPs in parliament, actually control the debate. We would then be held to ransom by small special interest groups. We have to have a system, and we do have a system, that one way or another creates as many majority governments as possible.

It is not our fault, it is not parliament's fault, and it is not the system's fault that at this moment in time the opposition is fractured into four parties. I would venture to predict that in the next election that will change very dramatically, because the natural balance in the Canadian and the British parliamentary systems is to have two parties or three parties at the most.

We have a very unusual situation, but it is only a matter of the Alliance and the Conservatives getting together plus the NDP finding a life. I do not know where the Bloc are going to go. I suspect we will see more Quebecers realizing that the Liberal Party is a better future for the people of Quebec than the separatist Bloc Quebecois, but I do not want to make this into a partisan dissertation.

On the subject, though, of the power of MPs on this side to make their presence felt, I would like to take advantage of the fact that the motion is phrased widely and the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle talked about the Senate. I would like to just extend it a little bit, too, and talk about electronic voting, because that is an issue that is very relevant right now.

I would like to go on record right at this moment for my opposition colleagues to say that I am totally opposed to electronic voting. I have been arguing against it in principle for several years. Obviously I am not winning all of those arguments on this side. I feel that electronic voting, the danger of it, is as the member for Vancouver Island North mentioned in his speech as a positive. He said “Look, what can happen is that I can press a button and vote from my constituency and I would not even have to be here”.

If we talk about maintaining the relevance of parliament and maintaining the abilities of members of parliament to influence the course of politics in this country, to influence the government, we have to be here in this Chamber. The terrible temptation of electronic voting is to do precisely what the member for Vancouver Island North suggested. We could have electronic voting only in this Chamber and require the presence of everyone, but that has its flaws as well.

I will come back to the dynamics of what happens on this side as government MPs. It becomes terribly important whether or not you stand with your party or you do not stand with your party. Prior to 1993 the tradition in this House among all the parties was that if members did not agree with their parties, whether it was in the opposition or on the government side, they would just refuse to come into the Chamber. Some of us after 1993 took issue with this, and I have to admit that I am very much an original mover in this.

I said to my constituents and I say to them now “You voted for me to come here to vote, not to hide”. So when a vote comes that I do not like, I am going to rise here in my place against the government. I cannot help it. It is important for me to show how I vote.

The trouble with electronic voting is it takes away that privilege. I would be able to sit in my place and press a button and no one would know. The beauty of that is that the government would never have to experience the difficulty of feeling the pressure of the backbench behind it not in agreement.

We had a bill last year in the previous parliament that dealt with pension reform and the rights of same sex couples. I believe about 16 members of the Liberal side stood against the government on that. Mr. Speaker, that is healthy democracy. That is important because it shows all Canadians everywhere in the country that we are independent and that we do vote our consciences. I regret that I cannot say the same for the other side because too often they have not stood and voted against their own party lines.

Rarely, Mr. Speaker, rarely do we ever see the NDP, the Conservatives or the Bloc Quebecois stand against their own party's position. Never, Mr. Speaker. Occasionally with private member's bills but never with their opposition to government bills.

In conclusion, I do not know why it is that we cannot as parliamentarians realize that this country is 134 years old, with a democratic system that has stood the test of time and is one of the oldest in the world. It is one of the best in the world and I do not think it needs the kind of fundamental change that this motion is talking about.

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1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member made a minor factual error when he cited the number of countries of large geographical size in the world that have the first past the post system. He mentioned two of the top three. Russia and China are both larger than the United States. Therefore, strictly speaking, it is two of the top four.

Leaving that aside, he also made the observation that it is difficult to maintain the unity of a continent sized country, such as Canada or the United States, without a first past the post system. I would dispute that and then invite his comments upon the observation.

Australia, where I lived for several years, does not have a first past the post system. It has a single transferable ballot at the level of the house of representatives, its equivalent to our House of Commons. The Australian system has not created any form of disunity.

At the level of its senate, Australia has a system in which each of its six states has 12 senators. The senators are elected through a form of multiple voting in which each elector gets to choose 12 candidates from a list which can have, depending upon the state, as many as 100 or more candidates for office.

Some problems can be pointed out in the Australian system, which I will return to later in the debate, but it causes no national unity problem.

The first past the post system has had splendid success in other countries. However, we should consider our unity problems, the current ones, as well as the more spectacular conflicts of the late 1970s and the early 1980s when there were only two Liberal members west of the Ontario-Manitoba boundary and only two Conservative members between 1979 and 1980 in Quebec. We see therefore that the first past the post system has served our national unity very poorly indeed.

The United States is one of the most spectacular failures of national unity in the world. Its first past the post system ensured that the democrats would dominate the south prior to the civil war and that a variety of parties, first the whigs and then the republicans, would dominate the north. That was one of the primary reasons for the tremendous split in the U.S. congress, and particularly in its senate, which was one of the fundamental reasons for its civil war.

In looking at the spectacular record of failure, would the member be willing to consider the possibility that there are alternatives that perhaps create a superior sense of national unity in large, ethnically diverse and geographically dispersed countries such as Canada, Australia or the United States?

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1:30 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know that Australia is really a fair comparison in any event because it is a much smaller country than Canada. It is in isolation and it is not anywhere near as ethnically diverse as Canada.

Very few countries in the world are founded on two great cultural and linguistic roots, as is Canada. I point out in Canadian history that up until the creation of Canada, the French and British cultures had been at one another's throats since 1066. The traditional enemies in Europe are the English and the French.

Yet through our democratic system, and we were one of the very first democracies, Mr. Speaker, who brought in the parliamentary system as you see it, we are one of the first just after the United States and after Britain. We have managed to keep this country united, and I just do not understand where the member is coming from, because we have held together one of the largest land masses in the world and one of the two most distinct populations in the world, the French and the British. That is an incredible success.

I am glad he raised the point, though, because I think one of the reasons why it is successful is because everyone in this country, including my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois, including my colleagues from Quebec or Nova Scotia or Acadia or New Brunswick, do have the option of representing their regions.

That is the very gift and genius of this country. It would be absolutely dreadful if some leader came along and said to the Bloc Quebecois, or because he was a Bloc Quebecois leader, said “Well, you have to have a representative in Vancouver”. That would be crazy.

No, Mr. Speaker, we are on the right track with this. I congratulate Australia on its limited success, but it is not better than what we are doing here in Canada.

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1:35 p.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of comments. The hon. member said that never has a member of the NDP or the Conservative Party voted against the party stand. If we look at history that is not the case.

In 1980 I was the constitutional critic for the party. When Mr. Trudeau tried to unilaterally repatriate the constitution, I resigned as critic. There were four of us who voted against the stand of the caucus at the time. There are many cases throughout history where that has happened, and in the Conservative Party as well.

I wanted to ask the member about majority governments. He said one reason he wants the status quo is that he likes to have majority governments. I could also make the assertion that many of Canada's minority governments have been very productive.

Lester Pearson was never the leader of a majority government. He became prime minister in 1963 with a minority. He won again in 1965 with a minority and he stayed on as a minority prime minister until he retired in 1968. That was probably one of the best periods in Canada's history in terms of good progressive government that reflected the country as a whole.

The Trudeau government between 1972 and 1974 was also a minority government. The most productive of the parliaments that Mr. Trudeau led was probably 1972 to 1974. One reason was that there had to be some give and take and consensus with the opposition parties to reflect the country as a whole better than a majority government often does when it is bulked up in certain regions.

The last thing I wanted to ask the member about was the Senate. It is an institution that is, by definition, not democratic. What will we do about the Senate? Only about 5% of Canadians who have been polled support the existing Senate.

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1:35 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, all I can say is that I only go back to 1993, not to 1980. I can assure the member opposite since 1993 I have not seen any. I do not think I can remember a single instance of NDP members voting against their own party on a policy issue in the House of Commons. I have not seen much action in that direction with the Conservatives, either.

As to the question of minority versus majority governments in Canada, I think the key word with our system is not a question of whether the government is a minority or majority; it is decisiveness. What our system provides for is a decisive government rather than indecisive government.

We do not have a system where we would have small parties of five or six that come up and hold the balance of power. So when we have a minority government, it is still a decisive government in our system. In the proportional representation system, you could have the potential for a lot of minority parties and consequently when you have minority governments, they would be indecisive governments.

Finally, the Senate: I have had to change my mind about the Senate quite a bit because I have watched what has happened in Ontario. In Ontario there is no Senate obviously at the provincial level. The Ontario government last year sat only 40 days of the year. We will sit 135 days this year and we will discuss legislation back and forth.

What happens in Ontario is the Ontario government rockets legislation through that is poorly conceived and it is suddenly passed into law. Where I see the advantage of the Senate is the Senate really is a potential check.

When this House, be it a private member's bill or a public bill, if it goes through the House too fast, and it is possible for us all to get onside and send it through too fast, is that the Senate is an important check, and the evidence of that is what is happening in Ontario now where laws are being passed that really need a second thought.

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1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was very impressed with the hon. member opposite. I have been impressed with him before because he is a very deep student of democracy and democratic behaviour.

I was struck by three words he kept repeating about halfway through his speech, “in the end”. I wondered when he was going to come to the end. He did come to the end of his speech, but he also suggested that, in the end, he and every elected member here is responsible to their constituents. I could not agree with him more.

He actually said something sensible about the other place just a moment ago. That is good. If he would now only add that we will elect those people as well, he would really be in the good books.

There is a question I want to ask the hon. member. I believe he was elected on the promise that the Government of Canada and parliament would appoint an ethics counsellor who would report to the House and to parliament.

I noticed when I looked at Hansard and at the voting record of the hon. member that he voted nay on that issue. Whom was he representing: himself, his constituents, or the Prime Minister?

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1:40 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do wish the member had taken the time to look at my speech as well as my voting record, because he would have seen that I made the argument that indeed we kept that red book promise because that clause in the red book only referred to public officials and lobbyists. It did not refer to members of parliament, so there was no reason. I regret to say that I did not feel that those members on this side of the House who felt that they had to vote against the government on that issue were correct. I thought they were incorrect. The promise was fulfilled.

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1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to read the motion once more.

That this House strike a special all-party committee to examine the merits of various models of proportional representation and other electoral reforms, with a view to recommending reforms that would combat the increasing regionalization of Canadian politics, and the declining turnout of Canadians in federal elections.

As I address this question I will talk about not only proportional representation but electoral reforms of other sorts as well, and some of the issues that go along with those considerations.

I will start by making the objection that the system in Canada really is broken at this point. We saw that in 1997 a 38% vote of the Canadian people gave the Liberal Party a majority government. In 1993 a 41% vote gave the Liberals 60% of the seats in this place, whereas the Tories got 16% of the vote and less than 1% of the seats.

In Ontario 2.3 million votes in the 2000 election gave the Liberals 100 seats. By contrast, one million votes gave my party, the Alliance, two seats, one of which I hold. While I am honoured at the thought that I represent 500,000 Ontarians, I think it is an incorrect assumption to look at the results and think it is an acceptable system when 98% of the seats go to a party that had only about half the vote.

This is about democracy. As we talk about democracy and democratic reform we must think as well about other related issues of importance which tie in with the question of electoral reform.

I want to run through some of these by way of suggesting that we have a problem that goes far beyond the mere problem of an inadequate electoral system. We have a serious problem, as my hon. colleague from the New Democrats pointed out, with the Senate. He proposes abolishing the Senate. That is certainly an alternative.

My own party has proposed a triple E model for the Senate. We have suggested an elected Senate as opposed to an appointed Senate and a Senate that is equal in representation, at least more equitable in representation and a great deal fairer than what we have right now.

I cite as examples of countries with pure triple E senate models, Australia and the United States. Switzerland has something close to a pure model. Some of the smallest cantons are referred to as half cantons and get half representation, but otherwise there is full equality. It provides for some kind of representation for those more peripheral areas of the country and prevents the kind of inner Canada, outer Canada phenomenon that we see here occurring there.

At the very least one would think that there would be some form of regional equity which would ensure that British Columbia, for example, would have a substantially larger number of senators than New Brunswick. This would make sense given that British Columbia has a much larger population.

It is in the spirit of our original plans for the Senate, going back to 1867, that there should be some form of regional equity. In 1867 there was equal representation for the maritime region, which consisted of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and for Ontario and Quebec. Those were the three regions of Canada at that time. That was a good system and we favour some kind of return to it.

Reforms should also take place for the rules that govern this place. This House was intended to be a legislature in a country which was, while nominally a monarchy, a republic in the Aristotelian sense of the term; that is, a country which had an equal balance of the democratic, oligarchic or aristocratic and monarchical elements in its constitution.

In practise, what has happened is that the Prime Minister has become our real monarch and the House sits, not as a legislature, but as an electoral college in perpetual session and required periodically, frequently in fact, to give its assent once more to the king continuing to sit in his place reigning over us all.

This form of elected dictatorship is completely unsuitable and needs to be reformed. There are many reforms that could take place, but I will simply mention one or two.

First, secret ballots for the election of committee chairs just as secret ballots are used for the election of the Speaker.

Second, more free votes, and a simple change to the rules of the House would accomplish this goal. Many other proposals have been made by a number of scholars, commissions and committees.

Reforms to the Election Act would also make a substantial difference. I cite, as an example of us going in the wrong direction, clause 11 of the government's proposed act to amend the Canada Elections Act, which has the effect of depriving small parties of access to the voters list. This is a very undemocratic move in the wrong direction and something that needs to be stopped in order to ensure that we continue to be democratic in our elections, elections that bring people here, even if we cannot function democratically in how we act within this place.

I note as well that clause 17 of that proposed act would deprive independents and small parties of access to free broadcast time in order to spread their message and educate the public, which after all is the function that these parties see for themselves, small parties like the Green Party, the Canadian Action Party and so on, as well as many independents. Many of these parties and independents who realize they will not be elected, see the election as an opportunity to spread what they believe to be important truths. It is also the only time when they have the public eye and they deserve that.

Recall is another measure that could accomplish a great deal. If members of a constituency had the right to petition for their members to be forced into a byelection situation, a number of very undemocratic and unpopular measures could never have made it through the House. The GST, the Meech Lake accord and many other measures would not have been approved. Many members would have considered very carefully whether they could continue to support the kind of action that occurred the other day when the government voted against its own 1993 red book promise.

Electronic voting could take place. Citizen initiated referendum is another possibility that would do substantial things to change the way in which Canada operates as a democracy.

I turn now to the question of proportional representation and to the question of what type of proportional representation is most appropriate.

I take it from the language of the motion that the New Democratic sponsor of it feels that democratic reforms to the electoral system, other than actual changes to the manner in which individual members are chosen, is something the New Democratic Party would support.

Fixed election dates as something that would perhaps be beneficial and that they would perhaps support as we do on this side of the House. That would prevent the sort of nonsense that goes on where the Prime Minister consults the polls and tries to arrange to hold an election when the governing party is in fact at the top of the polls. This has been unconstitutional in the United States for two centuries and something that other countries, which have a system similar to our own such as Australia, have tried to restrict by having shorter periods between elections.

I note that there are several different proportional representation models and in the remaining time I will go through them very quickly. Our party does not favour any particular model. We think that the first past the post system is broken and is probably not acceptable to most Canadians. We also think the decision on whether the system should be replaced is one that should be made by the Canadian people by means of a referendum.

We have turned to our friends in New Zealand and would like to follow its model. They held a referendum on whether in fact they should abandon their first past the post system. The people advised them that they wanted change. Then a commission travelled across the country, consulted widely, proposed several models, and the people selected the multi-member proportional system which is not the only system that could have been chosen. It is the one that appears to have made New Zealanders happy.

I am not sure that model would work here. I am not sure it is my business to say it is the model that would work. I cite as another possible example the pure list system. I am not a particular fan of that system but it is used in Israel and has been used in Italy. In addition to New Zealand a somewhat different version of the mixed member proportional system has been used in Germany. In Australia, which is my former home, I observed that there are several different systems at work at different levels of that country's government.

The house of representatives, as I mentioned when questioning another member earlier, uses a single member system but a transferable ballot so that a more consensual process goes on in selecting a member in an individual district. Its senate uses a 12 member system. Each state chooses its members at large and each voter can choose their 12 top choices from a list.

Tasmania uses yet another system for its house. It has a system whereby there are districts with five or six members. The Australian capital territory has selected yet another system which I think would not be appropriate for Canada but reflects the fact the particular jurisdiction has an evenly spread highly homogeneous population. They had the danger of perpetually electing all members of one party over and over, and so they had to choose some other method to assure that there would be some form of genuine democracy, opposition and debate within their own legislature. This has been very successfully accomplished there.

I therefore put before the House the suggestion that what ought to happen in this country is that there should be a vigorous debate as our friends in the New Democratic Party are suggesting and that in the end the people be the ones to make the decision on what is in fact the best approach.

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1:50 p.m.


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe the member supports the motion introduced by the NDP. He addressed the question of regional issues in this Confederation, but I am sure he knows that the headquarters of the Alliance Party is in Alberta.

How could he claim the Alliance Party is a national party when its headquarters are in Alberta? Would this be supporting separatist concepts in the west, or is he talking about moving the national headquarters of the Alliance Party from Alberta to where it belongs in Ottawa?

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1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. I am not exactly sure how the hon. gentleman feels that having one's headquarters in Calgary constitutes support for western separatism.

If that were the case, surely when the federal government made the decision in the 1970s to cast its own votes as a partial shareholder in Sun Life, in favour of Sun Life keeping its headquarters in Montreal, that was in fact hidden support for separatists in Quebec. I cannot give any other interpretation to that bizarre assertion.

Having widespread representation for members of all parties in all parts of the country, unless the party is completely unacceptable to voters, is something that is profitable. Almost any system other than the current one does a better job at that.

Again I look at the example of Ontario. We know that in 1998 Ontarians did not vote 97% in favour of the Liberal Party but in fact 100 of 103 members came from Ontario. That block then dominated the House. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister it had 100% control of all legislation that came out here. There is spectacular insensitivity to the regional concerns of many regions, the west being one.

We see perpetual lack of concern about the interests of Quebec, which is the reason Quebec separatism over 30 years of almost perpetual Liberal administration has risen from being a fractional concern to being a movement that almost split apart the country under the watch of the Prime Minister. We see Premier Hamm of Nova Scotia being essentially told to hit the road when he comes forward with very intelligent proposals for equalization changes.

I just cannot see how anything the hon. member has said adds to the debate. It is just typical of the kind of arrogance we see from some members of the Ontario caucus of the government. That is most disappointing.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member who has just spoken, my colleague from Windsor—St. Clair and another member of the Reform Party represent almost half of the voters in the province of Ontario and 100 Liberals represent the other half, which shows the great distortion in our electoral system.

I will make a couple of other comments and ask for a response from the member from Ontario. In terms of referenda, I think we should use them very sparingly in our political system. My party and I would only use them for great issues of the day such as a constitutional issue and maybe one or two other exceptions. I think we could have too many referenda.

I believe the power of the Prime Minister's Office is much too strong, with the power to appoint by himself or herself all the judges, the head of the military or the RCMP and other major appointments. Many of these should be vetted by a parliamentary committee that is relevant to the issue being discussed. I also believe that we should have fixed election dates constitutionally to take away that power from the premiers and the Prime Minister both at the federal and the provincial level.

I think we should have fewer confidence votes in the House of Commons and stronger parliamentary committees with more independence to set their own legislative timetable.

These are some of the other reforms that should go along with the idea of looking at proportional representation and getting rid of the unelected Senate.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Canadian Alliance Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with just about everything that the hon. member has said. I personally think there should be a somewhat broader scope for referenda, particularly for citizen initiated referenda.

He would probably agree with me that the system used in Switzerland and Australia, whereby the people have to approve any form of constitutional amendment, has been profitable in those countries and might likewise be profitable here.

I think we disagree a little over the Senate, but I think hearts are in the right place in his party when they say that there really needs to be change to that dysfunctional institution.

Foreign AffairsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West—Mississauga, ON

Mr. Speaker, the foreign affairs committee unanimously called for the de-linking of sanctions against Iraq. Canada is one of only four countries continuing to insist that sanctions remain intact.

Five thousand young children die each month in Iraq as a result of the sanctions. Health experts report that the southern part of Iraq has one of the highest rates of childhood leukemia in the world due to the effects of spent uranium.

High profile UN workers have resigned over these sanctions. We collectively condemn the actions of Saddam Hussein. However we must realistically acknowledge that our sanctions are hurting the children of Iraq, not the military.

The U.S. dropped yet another bomb last week. This time in a populated area. I believe it is time for us to stand up and be counted. Mr. Bush had been in power for 28 days when he bombed civilians. Perhaps a thorough review of his policy is in order before more bombs are dropped.

I also encourage our minister to look for creative ways to help solve the serious crisis in Iraq.

Royal Canadian Mounted PoliceStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to serve as the member of parliament for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre. There is a wonderful spirit of co-operation and community in my constituency. This extends to community based policing. The RCMP knows the dangers of losing touch with the citizens in the communities in which it serves. RCMP F Division headquarters and depot training academy are in my constituency. It is there that every RCMP recruit in the country is trained.

With increasing costs for policing, the Canadian public wants a police service that is accountable, efficient and effective. In an effort to meet public expectations, the RCMP has developed community based policing. I am proud of the effort it has made since the 1980s to get back into the communities in which it serves.

I trust the government shares the pride all Canadians feel for the RCMP. I believe, however, that it is absurd that we would spend nearly half a billion dollars on registering guns and manufacturing criminals when funds are so badly needed by those responsible for arresting criminals and protecting law-abiding citizens.

Paul DempseyStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I wish to pay tribute to Ireland's ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Paul Dempsey, and his wife Janet. This wonderful couple have been outstanding representatives of the Republic of Ireland in Canada for over five years.

Ambassador Dempsey has travelled extensively in Canada and has visited every region of our country. He has been an enthusiastic supporter of many initiatives important to Canadians of Irish ancestry throughout Canada.

The Dempseys have encouraged and successfully co-ordinated the visits to Canada of many of Ireland's leading public figures, including President Mary McAleese.

On behalf of my colleagues in the Canada-Ireland Interparliamentary Friendship Group, may I thank Ambassador and Mrs. Dempsey for their great friendship to and support of our group here in Ottawa. May Paul and Jan enjoy a long and happy retirement.

I invite all parliamentarians and you, Mr. Speaker, to say farewell to Ambassador Dempsey today between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. in Room 238-S, the Commonwealth Room, in Centre Block.

Credit Valley HospitalStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I extend congratulations to the Credit Valley Hospital in the city of Mississauga on joining the energy innovators initiative of Natural Resources Canada.

The energy innovators initiative is set up to support Canadian companies and institutions in adopting environmentally friendly practices, procedures and technologies. As one of 850 energy innovators, Credit Valley Hospital has made a long term commitment to use energy efficiently to reduce costs and slow the growth of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

The leadership shown by energy innovators such as the Credit Valley Hospital will assist Canada in meeting its environmental objective of reducing atmospheric emissions that contribute to climate change.

Once again I congratulate the Credit Valley Hospital for its voluntary commitment to energy efficiency and for doing its share in assisting Canada with its goals toward the ongoing protection of our environment.

Canadian Women In CommunicationsStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday evening Canadian Women in Communications celebrated its 10th anniversary at its annual awards dinner held in Ottawa.

Canadian Women in Communications is a national, bilingual, not for profit organization supporting the progress and impact of women in the communications and telecommunications industries. It has almost 1,500 members across the country.

I take this opportunity to congratulate three outstanding individuals who were honoured last evening. The Canadian Women in Communications woman of the year is Denise Donlon, president of Sony Music of Canada. The award for mentor of the year was awarded to Michael McCabe, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, who helped create the organization that grew into this communications organization. The trailblazer of the year award went to Michèle Fortin, CBC's vice-president of French television services.

I congratulate these individuals and Canadian Women in Communications for their superb work in advancing the role of women in the communications industry. This industry and the country benefit from their great efforts.

Eduardo Sebrango RodriguezStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to petition the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and seek her intercession in rectifying an oversight which has brought an unintentional injustice to an individual who requires expedited Canadian citizenship in order for him to represent Canada on the Canadian soccer team competing in the 2002 World Cup.

Eduardo Sebrango Rodriguez recently lost his appeal for expedited Canadian citizenship due to his inability and modesty to articulate to a federal court judge that he is a world class soccer player who has an opportunity to represent our country in the World Cup in 2002. By the judge's own explanation, she said had he raised this aspect for consideration his citizenship might have been expedited.

It would be a shame to preclude this talented individual from having all relevant information and facts taken into consideration by the court before a final decision is rendered.

I submit to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration that Eduardo Sebrango Rodriguez did not get a complete hearing of his complete set of circumstances warranting expedited citizenship. We ask for her help in getting this done.

Water ContaminationStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 1993, the Department of Transport learned that the product it was using to de-ice the runways at the Sept-Îles airport could contaminate the drinking water in the Plages sector and pose a threat to the public. Despite that, it continued to use it for another three years.

Only in 1998 did the Minister of Transport recognize his culpability, and since then no long term solution has been implemented. Three years later, parents are still washing babies in bottled water according to the experts' directives.

In the throne speech, the federal government announced its intention to increase standards on the quality of drinking water.

The residents of the Plages sector of Sept-Îles have developed a thirst for water and justice. The federal government has a duty to follow its own guidelines and apply a permanent solution immediately to this disaster it has itself caused.

AgricultureStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have risen in the House since the last election. I thank the people of my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for electing me for a third time. I also take the opportunity to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your election to the chair.

Part of my job is to walk around in my community and listen to the concerns of my community. What I am hearing from my farmers, who by the way have provided cheap, affordable and healthy foodstuff for us over the years, is that there are some hardships in one commodity group in particular, that of grains and oilseeds.

This group says that it requires some help right now. My job in the House is to say to the government and all my colleagues that we should make sure that this commodity group gets some help immediately for the short term and that in the longer term it is protected from some of the tariff protections of other countries.

Sophie ZeberStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate a very special constituent and friend, Mrs. Sophie Zeber, on the occasion of her 80th birthday. Sophie has been living in my riding for over 30 years and is an active and influential member of our community.

She has been a voice for many people of different backgrounds who may not have had the language skills necessary to make their concerns heard. She is a passionate advocate for seniors in the community and her efforts are directed at enriching the quality of life for all seniors.

Sophie works tirelessly. She organizes fitness classes. She constantly represents her community. She is a woman of unbelievable energy and continues to fight for all of us and for our community. I wish Sophie a happy 80th birthday.

VeteransStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, George Harry Mullin and John Robert Osborn are Victoria Cross recipients and their names are legendary in my constituency.

Today I want to inform the House of another hero. Roy Sweet is a World War II vet in his 80s who wanted to preserve the memory of these Victoria Cross heroes. They were honoured years ago with plaques placed on a corner of the land owned by their families, but over the years the families moved away and the plaques became overgrown with weeds and were seldom accessible to the public.

Mr. Sweet and members of the local legion wanted to move the plaques, one to a local cemetery in Wapella and the other to the cenotaph in Moosomin. They ran into numerous obstacles and it seemed the plaques would languish in obscurity in the seldom visited farm fields, but thanks to the intervention of many, the plaques were eventually moved to their new locations and are accessible to the public all year round.

I ask the House to join me in saluting veteran Roy Sweet for his thoughtfulness in preserving the memories of two of Canada's Victoria Cross recipients.

Lorie KaneStatements By Members

February 20th, 2001 / 2:05 p.m.


Shawn Murphy Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize and salute the accomplishments of a resident of the constituency of Hillsborough, Canada's premier female golfer, Lorie Kane.

During the past 12 months Lorie has been on a real hot streak on the ladies professional golf tour. In August of last year she won the Michelob Light Classic, played in St. Louis, Missouri. In September of last year she won the New Albony Classic, played in New Albony. In October of last year she won the Mizuno Classic, played in the country of Japan. Two weeks ago she won the TACA-Fugi Tournament, played in Hawaii.

In the year 2000 her earnings exceeded $800,000, placing her fifth on the LPGA money earnings list. This year she has earned in excess of $250,000, placing her second on the LPGA money earnings list. I should point out to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Minister of Finance that we are talking about American dollars here. Recently she received the honour of being named Canada's Female Athlete of the Year for the year 2000.

Employment InsuranceStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, today in Winnipeg closing arguments are being heard on the first charter challenge that the government's Employment Insurance Act discriminates against women and part time workers.

Women make up 70% of the part time workforce and still carry most of the responsibility for raising children, making it difficult to qualify for benefits under an hours based system. Last July a federal government survey indicated an 8% gender gap that favours men over women in being eligible for benefits.

Kelly Lesiuk, a part time nurse, was unable to claim maternity benefits in 1998 because she fell 33 hours short of qualifying. Problems with her pregnancy had forced her to stop work at five months. To make ends meet she had to return to work six weeks after undergoing a Cesarean section and the family had to deplete its savings and borrow money.

Over 60 other similar cases are waiting to be heard. It is unfortunate that Canadian women and part time workers must resort to lawsuits in order to receive fair treatment. Why will the federal government not act to change this discriminatory legislation to reflect the realities of the present labour force?