Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the government House leader's speech and I hope he will stay with us for a long time. Yesterday, when he answered the Thursday question, we weighed his every word when he said something to the effect of, “My colleagues, the House leaders, who have given me their support for all these years”. It sounded a lot like a farewell speech.
But we are not there yet. My question is mainly on the Supreme Court ruling in the Figueroa case. If I understand correctly, the government had no choice but to accept this Supreme Court decision because requiring a minimum number of candidates for an election was deemed unconstitutional.
Consequently, one candidate could be enough. With the 50-candidate rule no longer applying, the government has to adjust its legislation. That is what the government is doing with Bill C-51.
Later, I will have an opportunity to speak to this bill, but I would like the government House leader to reply to this question first. Would it not have been a good idea to take advantage of the Figueroa decision, which in a way amends the Canada Elections Act, to respond to a repeated demand from the Bloc Quebecois—from myself, as a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, and also my colleagues from Verchères—Les-Patriotes and Laval Centre, who are associate members of that committee—to review the procedure for appointing returning officers?
The government House leader, insofar as I can read his lips, says that there is no connection. However, I am asking him if it would not have been a golden opportunity to clean up and modernize the way elections are run, to have returning officers chosen through an open, honest, transparent and public process. That is how it is done in Quebec.
I can see the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, who was a minister in the Quebec National Assembly. He was a minister of some stature, if you consider his height. He had it over me, because I am only 5' 6" tall. Well, I am not going to flatter him too much.
I would simply like to suggest that the government House leader consult the people involved. I use the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry as an example, because he is right in front of me, but I could also mention the hon. member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok, who also was a minister in the Quebec National Assembly, or the hon. member for Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies who also sat in that legislature. We remember one evening in the National Assembly, when the hon. member for Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies, after a few glasses of wine, decided to seize the mace and leave the chamber. The official record tells it all.
The government House leader could consult his colleague, the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, who also sat in the National Assembly, to find out—there are some on our side, too, for instance the hon. member for Champlain—that the process of holding a public competition to appoint returning officers in Quebec works well and is not a source of patronage as it is here, where we get the list of 308 nominations for federal returning officers for our hasty approval. They are known Liberals and it is a process known for patronage.