Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-49. Sometimes, Canadians who are listening to us think we are discussing lengthy bills. In this case, the bill is quite simple. I will read it for the benefit of those who are listening to us:
Despite subsection 25(1) of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and the proclamation issued under that subsection on August 25, 2003 and registered as SI/2003-154, the representation order referred to in that proclamation is effective on the first dissolution of Parliament that occurs on or after April 1, 2004.
Now that I have read out the bill before us, you will have understood that the government wants to change an existing act, which is called the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. This process was not supposed to be a political one. This is why all colleagues in the House tell us that this process is apolitical.
Parliament had passed legislation that provided for a redistribution process that had been triggered and that all parties in the House and all politicians knew about. Indeed, ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Why are we discussing today a change to this act, which was supposed to be quite clear? Under the current act, since the readjustment process was proclaimed by order on August 25, 2003, the new electoral map was supposed to be effective one year after proclamation, that is on August 26, 2004. This is the act that all members of the House know about. The Liberal government is asking us to change this act that all Canadians, all members of Parliament know about.
Why change the act? We are here today to discuss this point. This bill should never have been introduced in the House. We should have used the democratic process that was agreed to by previous parliaments, which wanted to have a readjustment process that everyone knew about.
There is a problem though. There is only one individual who did not want that, the future leader of the Liberal Party, the member for LaSalle—Émard. He decided that the next federal election had to take place in the spring of 2004. That is what he wants. That is the reality. If he wants an election, we could say to him, as we would to any good citizen: “You know what the existing law is. If you want an election in April 2004, you will have to go with the law as it stands and the old electoral map.” It is as simple as that.
Everybody in the House and across Canada knew what the law was. Everybody had to abide by it. What is to be gained with the new electoral map? It is important to understand why the member for LaSalle—Émard would like the new electoral map to be in place next spring, before it was supposed to come into force, namely August 26, 2004. Why does he want to speed up the coming into force of this electoral map?
It is simple. The number of ridings will change. There will be 308 ridings instead of 301. That is the reality. There will be seven new ridings. Strangely enough, none in Quebec. There will be three new ridings in Ontario, two in Alberta and two in British Columbia. As you know, the Liberal Party is extremely strong in Ontario. The number of federal liberal ridings in Ontario is no secret. Ontario will gain three ridings. That is why it would be advantageous for the member for LaSalle—Émard to call an election under this new electoral map.
Moreover, strangely enough, in Quebec ridings in the regions are disappearing in favour of urban ridings. As you know, the Bloc Quebecois is very strong in the regions. Some ridings, including the Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay riding, will disappear. The whole area of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean will lose one riding. That is the reality.
Then, the riding of Charlevoix, on the North Shore, will disappear. It is represented by my colleague in the Bloc Quebecois. The same will happen to the riding of Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, represented by my colleague who won the last byelection. The Champlain riding, represented by my colleague, will also disappear as a result of these decisions.
And what results follow from that? The rural regions of Quebec are losing political weight to the urban centres. Oddly enough, we see more of a Liberal presence in urban centres, but more of a Bloc Quebecois presence in Quebec's rural regions. It is a fact.
Thus, this is an attempt to please one man, the member for LaSalle—Émard, who has decided that he would call an election in the spring and that, moreover, he would use Parliament to give himself as many advantages as possible in the next election, such as more ridings in Ontario and a more favourable distribution in Quebec.
Some people—particularly the Liberals—will tell us, “Sure, that is just fine; he is using everything he can to try to win”. Except that there is one hard fact. An act was passed in this House, by parliamentarians other than myself, certainly, because I am one of the newcomers, being a member of the class of 2000, and I was not here when the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act was passed. Still, that act was passed in this House specifically to prevent political interference in the electoral redistribution process, concerning boundaries, riding names or whatever.
To please the member for LaSalle—Émard, the Liberal Party is using the law and this House basically to circumvent the whole electoral process that was established by previous parliaments. What is of concern is that it is being done to please a single person. This is being done because he feels that the best time to call an election is this spring. Everyone knows that. This is no secret; everyone says so, even journalists and political analysts. Why? The member for LaSalle—Émard wants to call an election in the spring for the simple reason that he will likely, probably, surely get chosen on November 15, will not have to reconvene the House or even to show up here before the next election, and will therefore avoid answering to us or answering questions all opposition parties could ask him in this House in his new capacity.
The best time for him to call an election, of course, is in the spring because the number of ridings will be to his advantage. The number of ridings in Ontario, among other places, is increasing. In Quebec, ridings are undergoing redistribution, with a shift toward urban ridings, which are generally more supportive of the Liberal Party.
Obviously, this would allow him to avoid taking part in the debates in the House of Commons or answering questions in the House and do as he pleases without having to answer to anyone or anything.
Consequently, democracy is in trouble. It happened again this week: during the past two days, people have been revisiting what happened during the 1995 referendum. In Quebec, the referendum process was respected by all the parties in the National Assembly. A referendum process exists. A decision is made. Some parties vote no; other parties vote yes.
Right now, the Liberal Party is in power. The Liberal Party certainly will not hold a referendum on Quebec's sovereignty, although it recognized at the time that the Quebec government had the right to hold one.
There was a process, with a question and two possible answers: yes or no. There were not three possible answers. People could only answer one way. The answer was either yes or no. Obviously, the no vote won.
Nevertheless, we realize today that, despite the speeches made by the current Prime Minister, who led the government, cabinet discussed certain things.
That is a facat. It is not just the Prime Minister. The entire cabinet discussed it with the then Minister of National Defence, now Minister of Transport, and then the Minister of Finance, still the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard and future prime minister. They discussed ignoring Quebec's decision, which they would not have recognized.
Lawrence Martin, who by the way is not a francophone, wrote this in a biography. It was not a member of the Bloc Quebecois who wrote it. There is no cause for alarm because this person is not on our side.
Except that he wrote the truth. He reported that the Liberal government, which was in power, would not have recognized Quebec's sovereignty. Worse, it was prepared to use the military to try to fight the big bad sovereignist movement, which is the most pacifist movement of all time. That is reality. Quebeckers had decided to discuss their future democratically.
It is doing so without raising its voice unnecessarily and under existing laws. That is the reality.
Two days ago, we learned in the Lawrence Martin biography that the Liberal government would not have abided by the decision of Quebeckers.
Today, we are discussing Bill C-49, which is a means to circumvent democracy. It changes legislation that was intended to be apolitical, legislation passed by previous parliaments, and legislation that simply provided a review process with which all members of this House are familiar.
They have decided to get around this electoral boundary readjustment legislation just to please one person, as I have said, the member for LaSalle—Émard, the future Liberal Party leader. He has chosen to make use of the new electoral map for his own political agenda, at the time he chooses to call an election, that is in the spring. That is the reason we are discussing this change today.
What is happening today is that democracy is being made use of for personal gain, it is being highjacked, circumvented, tortured even. Democracy is being tortured by this discussion of Bill C-49, which will do away with a democratic measure that was adopted by previous parliaments, one that called for an apolitical process with which everyone was familiar. That is what we used to have, an act that was enacted specifically to ensure that no political party could make use of legislation in order to gain an advantage over others for purely partisan electoral purposes.
Today, they are doing this openly, right under the noses of everyone, very candidly as most would tell me. I find the Liberals pretty candid about this. I will restrain myself from saying more. They are telling us nonchalantly that this is good legislation. Good, yes, for them. That is the reality.
They are calculating, counting heads, realizing that they will end up with more MPs because there will be more ridings in Ontario. They tell themselves that in Quebec, by doing away with Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, Charlevoix and Champlain, all ridings now held by the Bloc Quebecois, they may obtain certain advantages. They are shifting the ridings toward the urban centres, because they know that their strength lies there. That is the reality.
I hope that the people will see through their game. it is too easy to claim to be great democrats but act in a totally undemocratic way. That has become a serious concern now, in society and in this Canadian Parliament. They even go as far as to use the law to torture democracy. It has become a habit.
As I said, in his biography of the Prime Minister, Lawrence Martin wrote that the government was using this legislation, and using taxpayers' money, referring to the sponsorship scandal, to win votes and increase its visibility in places more important than others. We know that 80% of the sponsorship contracts were awarded in Quebec. This was a political choice. Even the Prime Minister has said that one must do what it takes when at war.