Madam Speaker, once again I have to apologize for my rather weak voice, however, it is excellent because it prevents me from yelling at people. I will be sure to be extraordinarily gentle today.
I am very pleased to speak for a few minutes to Bill C-49, the bill which would advance the time at which the changes to the new boundaries take effect. I am very much concerned about this. Realistically speaking I should be voting against the bill but I will be supporting it when it comes to the vote. The new prime minister will be able to call an election whenever he chooses. It could be soon after his inauguration or at least as soon as the present Prime Minister resigns. It is a very interesting dilemma that faces the country politically at this time. He could call the election as early as February or March, but we are pretty sure that will not happen.
If he does wait until after April 1, which is the date proposed by the bill, then the question is whether it will be done under the old or new boundaries. If this bill does not pass, then we will live with that total uncertainty. For me it is a huge uncertainty. As I have mentioned previously in the House, I will no longer be called the member for Elk Island, nor will anyone be called the member for Elk Island because under the new boundaries, Elk Island will cease to exist. It will evaporate.
Of course, we want to believe in the total impartiality of the commission that made that decision. I have serious questions about that, but it is a real change in the way we are organized politically in Alberta. The commission has chosen to annihilate several of the rural ridings, one of which is the riding of Elk Island, and to use a hub and spoke approach. The new riding will now include part Edmonton, a major city and in fact Alberta's capital. The boundaries go out in spokes from the city in order to include larger numbers. I think that is an error.
I know it will be manageable. If elected to one of the new ridings, I will serve to the very best of my ability. It is going to be more difficult because of a serious mismatch in the community of interest definition, which is in the legislation and which the commission was duty bound to observe but which it deliberately chose to ignore. As a result, parts of the city will now be competing for the attention of their member of Parliament on issues which will be quite diverse from those which affect the rural parts. However, as I said, this is a reality and we have to live with it.
In that sense, I would like to vote against the bill. Personally I would like the election to be called using the old boundaries because we have a very good, closely knit riding. We all get along very well together. We have an extremely high degree of connectivity among the members of the communities that are involved. It would be much more effective to continue under that. However, as I said, I will be supporting this legislation because, among other things, this increases the representation of Alberta to within one seat of the number that it should have.
In listening to the speeches when this bill was debated previously and at third reading today, one of the things I have observed is that Bloc members are opposing this bill. They say that they are now being under-represented. According to the Constitution, Quebec has 75 seats regardless of its population. It is my understanding that the population of Quebec has increased at a much lower rate than the population of Alberta and British Columbia. As a result, the fact that they remain the same, relatively speaking, is still giving them a numerical advantage.
If we were to check the numbers I believe we would find that the number of voters per constituency in Quebec is lower than the number in either Alberta or British Columbia. In fact, an argument could be made that Alberta should have had three more seats instead of two, although I will concede that the strict application of the formula, as it exists, results in the two additional seats.
I will be supporting Bill C-49 because I believe Alberta should have additional representation. I also believe British Columbia should have additional representation because it has grown a lot in the last number of years and is certainly entitled to two more seats as the new boundaries would provide. That is the reason I want the next election to be under the new boundaries but I wish the boundaries readjustment procedure could be reviewed and changed so there would be fairness.
What has really distressed me is that the commissioner in Alberta, instead of addressing the issue of commonality of community interests, gave reasons why he should not listen to that.
Alberta has two major cities, Edmonton, which is the capital, and Calgary, which is probably a more major industrial and business centre. Calgary, which has grown more within its boundaries, was entitled to two more seats. However, the commission, instead of just saying that its mandate was to provide for equal representation based upon population, said that if Calgary received two more seats then Edmonton should as well. I totally disagree with that. That is not the case. If Edmonton's population had grown within its boundaries, then yes, but the fact is that it did not.