House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was acadian.


The House resumed from September 17 consideration of the motion.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Bras D'Or—Cape Breton Nova Scotia


Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be able to participate in debate prior to second reading on Bill C-49, an act respecting the effective date of the representation order of 2003.

The representation order referred to in the title of the act is the end product of a process for adjusting our electoral boundaries which takes place after every decennial census.

While this process is probably little known to most Canadians, it is fundamental to ensuring effective representation in the House of Commons for all regions, all provinces, all communities and all citizens. Given the importance of this process, I would like to spend a little bit of time today reviewing its key elements.

We should go back in this case to 1867 to find the origins of the electoral boundaries readjustment process, or the EBRA process, as it has become commonly known.

In addition to establishing a system that is based on representation by population, our Fathers of Confederation recognized the geographical, cultural, political and demographic diversity of our provinces and the importance of integrating these factors into any formula for distribution of seats in the House of Commons.

In addition to establishing a Parliament composed of two houses, the British North America Act of 1867 included section 51, which stated that the number of seats allocated to each province must be recalculated after each 10 year census, starting in 1871.

The act included a simple formula whereby the total number of seats was to be calculated by dividing the population of each province by a fixed number, referred to as the electoral quota or quotient. The quotient was derived by dividing the population of the province of Quebec by 65, the number of seats then held in Quebec under the Constitution. This formula provided the basis for the process we have today although there have been a number of important changes over the years.

For example, the famous Senate floor rule was added in 1915. It states that a province cannot have fewer seats in the House of Commons than it does in the Senate. This clause had the immediate effect of guaranteeing four seats to the province of Prince Edward Island and continues to provide a floor for a number of provinces today.

In 1946, the formula was changed so that 255 seats were allocated based on provinces' share of Canada's total population rather than the average population per electoral district in Quebec.

In 1951, the 15% clause was adopted to prevent too rapid a loss of seats in some provinces. Under the new rules, no province could lose more than 15% of the number of Commons seats to which it had been entitled in the last readjustment.

In the following decade, we entered what may be referred to as the modern era of electoral boundaries readjustment. Up to and including the boundary readjustment of 1951, the House of Commons itself was responsible for fixing the electoral boundaries of the electoral districts through a committee established for that purpose.

Concern about the level of influence exercised by the House led to the passing of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act in 1964. The new act was also brought in against the backdrop of the experience of our neighbours to the south, who were beset by the problem of gerrymandering. The act, which provides the statutory mechanism with which to carry out the constitutional requirements in section 51, is strongly based on the idea of maintaining the independence of the electoral redistribution process.

In the interests of political neutrality, the act establishes independent commissions in each province. As originally passed, each commission was to be chaired by a judge designated by the chief justice of the province, and there were to be three other members, including a representation commissioner and a public servant who would sit on the commission. The post of representation commissioner was later abolished and those duties were transferred to the Chief Electoral Officer.

In addition to being independent, it was recognized at the time that the process should provide opportunities for everyone to express their views, including the public and members of Parliament. To this end, each provincial commission publishes proposed electoral maps in the newspapers and the public is invited to public hearings held in various locations.

Members of Parliament, who invariably have strong views on both the names and boundaries of electoral districts, can appear before the commissions during the public hearings and there is also provision for them to make objections to proposed changes through a committee of the House of Commons. The final decision, however, rests within the commissions.

The current guidelines for determining boundary adjustments are found in the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, as amended in 1984. As set out in the act, the division of the province into electoral districts must proceed on the basis that the population of each electoral district in the province shall, as close as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quotient for that province.

However, making changes to electoral boundaries is not just a mathematical exercise. Rather, it is a delicate balancing act that must consider a number of factors, including the community of interest or the community of identity, or the historic pattern of an electoral district in that province, and a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated rural and northern regions. In other words, the commissions must consider social, cultural, linguistic, geographic and other factors.

The commissions may depart from strict voter parity in order to take these factors into consideration so long as the population of each district remains within 25% more or 25% less of the electoral quota for that province. Exceptions to this range are possible, but only for remote and sparsely populated ridings. This 25% leeway reflects the Supreme Court's 1991 decision on Saskatchewan's provincial electoral boundaries, which concluded that the objective of the right to vote in the charter was to attain effective representation rather than strict voter parity.

This brings us to our present task. As all members will be aware, we have just completed the redistribution process and have new, up to date electoral maps. The only question is whether or not to accelerate its effective date. If operational concerns are satisfied, there is no reason not to do so, since this process is complete.

I have spoken today about the need for an independent electoral process. This will in no way change the EBRA process. It remains as independent as it always has been. The views of the public and members of Parliament have been heard. What has changed is that in this present case, the Chief Electoral Officer has told us that he does not need the full one year grace period that is prescribed in the act. In that case, I think we can all agree that it only makes sense to implement the new boundaries as soon as possible.

The sooner we act, the sooner the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta will get the seats they deserve and the sooner our electoral map will reflect all the other important changes in the demographic characteristics of Canada's electoral districts. If we delay implementation of the new ridings longer than is operationally necessary, it would be unfair not only to these particular regions but to all Canadians.

For these reasons I support this important legislation and I call upon all members to do so.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-49, which talks about boundary changes. As I listened to the parliamentary secretary as he spoke to the bill, I picked up on a couple of words he mentioned, which to me indicate why things are wrong with the government and what the problem is with this whole system of boundary changes and representation. He said that the boundary changes are effective representation for regions and that the regions of Alberta and British Columbia get the seats they deserve.

Let us in honesty look at this whole thing. This is like giving little crumbs off the table. There is a fundamental flaw in our Constitution, which is that we do not have equal representation. Regions do not have equal representation. That is what he did not talk about. When the parliamentary secretary talks about effective representation, I do not know what he is talking about.

Let us look at this for a minute. Historically, one can agree that when the Constitution was first brought in for this country the seat allocation and representation reflected the reality of that time, which, as the parliamentary secretary said, was around 1800. Today we are talking about the year 2004. The dynamics of this country have changed. Where are these dynamics being represented in this bill by the government? Nowhere.

Now we will have two extra seats for Alberta and two extra seats for British Columbia. And guess what: the prime minister in waiting says that the west needs equal representation and these seats will give it that representation. Give me a break: two seats will give us equal representation? How can everybody tout that western alienation will be taken care of by these four extra seats?

Now the Liberals have changed the date. They have brought it forward to April to suit their political agenda. It is all about politics. It is to suit their political agenda so that the member who is going to become the prime minister in November can call an election at his own given time. If this is not political manipulation, what is it? To couch it in terms of saying that this will address some of the western alienation is just plain wrong.

Let us look at the other chamber, which could be used effectively to represent equal regions of this country. Let me just tell hon. members what the seats represent right now. This has nothing to do with different regions in this country. This is just to say that it is time to look at the Constitution and change the formula and the members to reflect the reality of 2004. Alberta has a population of three million and Nova Scotia has a population of 940,000, yet Nova Scotia gets 10 more Senate seats. Let us talk about where we can make an effective difference to the regional diversity of this country. It is a great thing to have regional diversity from the west to the east, all the way out from the Prairies into Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. It is a beautiful country, but regional diversity needs to be reflected. This government cannot reflect that unless and until it changes what is required in the Senate.

Proposals have been made to address this inequality. Right now, if we do not want to change the Constitution, the first good step we can take is to listen to the provinces. We should take the names of the people the provinces put forward to the federal government and appoint those people to the Senate. It should not be the gravy train.

Amazingly, this gravy train started with Prime Minister Trudeau. When Prime Minister Mulroney came along, he was the first one to take a pot shot at the gravy train big time, and guess what? He got on the gravy train and gave to his friends. Now the gravy train is moving again because the time has come for the Prime Minister to go. He is the engine of this gravy train and people have already started climbing on.

The fact of the matter is that until there is effective representation where the voices of Canadians are heard equally with regional diversity, only then can we say that the power is with the people of Canada. Canadians are looking at the inequality coming out of the second House, and that is driving western alienation. That western alienation will not go away just because there is a new face in the Liberal Party. It will not go just because that new face says that they have changed and will be going in a new direction. There is no new direction. We just have to ask people out in the west.

The Liberals are touting that four extra seats will be going to the western provinces. They think this will address many of the concerns of people in the west and will give them good representation. I would like to know how this will give the west good representation when only six senators from each province have been appointed to that chamber. What qualifications do most of them have? They worked for the Liberal Party. Defeated Liberal candidates are given patronage appointments. The Prime Minister's old buddies are all headed to that chamber. That chamber has become a joke and it should be getting the respect it deserves.

We have an opportunity to change that and reflect the reality of Canada. Canada is a big, wide country from the west coast to the east coast. Regional diversity is extremely strong. Those who have travelled across the country know that. I spent some of the summer in Nova Scotia which is a beautiful region in Canada. Like the west, it has its own regional diversity.

The boundary changes and the extra seats that are going to the west will really not change much. This will not address western alienation. The government needs to take the first steps toward reforming the other House by listening to the provinces and the premiers. The Prime Minister has the chance now to appoint people to that chamber on the advice of provincial governments.

It is fine to have extra seats but they will not represent the real regional diversity of the country.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the bill introduced by the government. The Bloc Quebecois is against Bill C-49 in principle and against its referral to committee before second reading.

This morning, the important thing is to tell the voters what is hiding beneath all this, to expose this sleight of hand, this manipulation of public opinion and democracy that the government is about to perpetrate.

The Bloc Quebecois does not object to this process taking place after every census, every ten years. That is a normal democratic process and naturally apolitical. This process began in March 2001, when the most recent census data were published. From that starting point, the process was automatically set in motion. That is normal and that is what was done. That is how it should be done.

But this bill now before the House is trying to prevent the process from continuing to its end, as provided by law. This bill is an attempt to alter an established process. It is introducing politics into an apolitical process.

If this government can do this, then why is it that I, as a member from the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, am seeing it butchered by this process? My region, which currently has four ridings, will be cut down to three. It has been butchered. We knew, as we went into this process, that our region was experiencing a decline in its population and its number of voters.

We decided that we would join forces and appear before the commission when it held meetings in my region. As the Bloc Quebecois member responsible for the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, I called upon all the mayors of all the cities in the region. I asked them to send us a resolution saying what they wanted us to put before the commission. Through their municipal councils, 99% of the people in my region—almost all of them—sent us resolutions saying that they wanted to keep the status quo, that is, keep our four electoral districts.

Why did they want to do that? We are always saying that we are an isolated region, an enclave surrounded by forest. We cannot attract people from elsewhere because the region is cut off.

Within our region, there was the potential to respect the spirit of this legislation and keep what we had. But, initially, under the process, there had to be an electoral quota of at least 95,000 constituents per riding. Our population numbered 310,000. Divided by four, this figure no longer met the criteria, because we either had to be less than 25% or more than 25%.

We testified before the committee. The members listened with extremely open minds. They heard our demands. But they decided to uphold their decision.

There is another process in the House; members of Parliament can testify before a committee of other members. At that point, the Liberal members circumvented our efforts.

As members representing that region, we said that we would be able to ensure that our region was designated. This legislation would allow us to do this. This is important, given our demographics and our young population.

For several years now, the Saguenay--Lac-Saint-Jean region has undertaken an initiative to attract immigrants and people from the outside, in order to repopulate and increase our numbers.

Instead of understanding this argument, a Liberal member said during a meeting of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Subcommittee that this was enough and that we would not get anything else. She did not listen to the other members; she ignored our representations and our arguments. She had already formed her opinion and said that it was that or nothing. This subcommittee chaired by a Liberal member did not respect what its peers had to say. After all, we represent the people.

Furthermore, the regional Liberal members are saying that they have political clout in their regions and their party. The hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord did not use his political clout to defend his region. The Liberal Party and the member should be ashamed. Our region had the right to keep its vested rights, because we had taken all the necessary steps and we had the support of the population.

If this government can change the normal process, why can I not say, “Too bad, but I take issue with the fact that you did not listen to me”. This is a double standard. Why should they have the right to do something when I do not have the same right, to represent my region?

I notice that the bill does not give this power to members or the regions concerned. They are being undemocratic. And why? In order to please an ordinary member, the member for LaSalle—Émard.

We have been talking about this since yesterday. It is time to talk about this member, since he is the future prime minister. He said he will be more transparent and that he will ensure that the House of Commons will be seen to be more democratic. Yet, his first move, even before becoming prime minister, is an undemocratic one.

This is serious. It is easy to see the mote in someone else's eye and not the beam in one own's eye. This bill does not respect the regions, does not listen to the members from the regions, and it will gradually diminish the representation of our regions in this Parliament.

Why are they doing this? It is the members from the regions who are reacting the most vigorously. They are the most in touch with their voters. They know what the public needs. A complacent government does not want to hear about the real problems of individuals. That is too painful.

What is more, the commission's decision is irrevocable. What is done, is done. In my region, in each riding, senior people in the Liberal Party are saying they will challenge this process all the way up to the Supreme Court. I want democracy to prevail, the effective date—August 25, 2004—to stand, and the democratic process not to be tampered with.

That would allow our region to keep four members who could still question this government's actions and state exactly what the regions want. I will therefore be voting against this bill.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think we should talk a little about what has just happened. We heard the member across describe the various legal things that caused this to happen. All of that sounded really good. We understand it and we could live with it, but in reality, and I will use my own riding as an example, public hearings were held and well over 20 briefs were presented by interested people from the riding of Red Deer.

Along with that, all the mayors and councillors put a motion before their councils. They all voted on the motion and unanimously said that for a number of good reasons they felt they should stay within the riding of Red Deer. We were within the numbers and so on.

In its deliberations the committee decided that 10 years from now there probably would be that much more growth in the city of Red Deer and it would be a riding unto itself. I did not think they were looking or supposed to be looking at 10 years from now. They were supposed to be looking at the year 2004.

The arguments put forward by these people had to do with it being a trading area; that the highways all go east and west to the city of Red Deer from the west country, from places like Rocky Mountain House, Nordegg and Caroline and those communities to the west of Red Deer. As well, they belong to the same hospital and medical unit, the David Thompson health unit, so all their medical needs are taken care of collectively.

The Red Deer College is in Rocky Mountain House and it deals with Red Deer and the students and professors interact. The social services of the province are delivered from the city of Red Deer to the circle around the community. The recreation facilities and so on in Red Deer are utilized by the people of the west country.

As well, Mr. Speaker, and you would understand this, the Rebels hockey team is highly supported by the people of the west country. Many of them are season ticket holders. The highway is good and it is easy to relate to the city of Red Deer.

The committee initially had ruled out a number of residents of the city of Red Deer on the east side. In fact, what was interesting was that where I live three sides was the constituency of Red Deer, but I was in the constituency of Drumheller. I am eight minutes from downtown Red Deer. They did rectify that but they did come up with a situation where they would exchange the east country for the west country around the city of Red Deer.

Most of the people in that east country also have dealings in Red Deer, so that was not a problem. The problem was that they took the people in the west and divided them into three different ridings, all of them not where the highways go, not where the health unit is and not in relationship to any of those communities.

It was then appealed before an all party committee in Ottawa and it was unanimously supported by the all party committee. They said that our arguments were strong. All the elected people, the mayors, the reeves, all those people sent letters and had motions with 100% support that this is what the riding of Red Deer should be like.

Then it was sent back to the committee in Edmonton. We must remember that these are unelected, unaccountable political appointments. These people, in their wisdom, these unelected, unaccountable political appointments, or hacks as I might call them, made a decision for the whole province of Alberta pretty much--and I know the riding of my colleague from Elk Island was totally eliminated--that they did not have to listen to elected, accountable members of Parliament from all parties on a committee here in Ottawa who said that the arguments were very reasonable and that they should go along with them, that in fact would not put us over the numbers, would not do anything.

I believe political mischief is going on whereby the government is taking a riding that is functional and working well, and all of a sudden is swapping all the people out west for all the people in the east. What kind of logic is there in that? This creates huge rural ridings which can take a member hours and hours to cover from north of Camrose down to south of Calgary.

It seems obvious to me that some of the urban ridings, such as mine primarily, could easily be larger and have more people than some of the widespread rural ridings.

Obviously, from Alberta's point of view, it is great that we are getting two more seats but I keep reminding everyone that two more seats for Alberta, two more seats for B.C. and three more seats for Ontario does not really equal everything out. It does not give the west much more representation unless I do not understand the math. Of course, the future prime minister says that will give the west a lot more voice here. I guess we gain by one but I am not sure in this place if that will make a difference, except on Tuesday night when it may have made a difference.

However the real thing is that here we have again an unelected and accountable group making the final decision on important issues, such as the boundaries of ridings. It affects people. It affects the way they live, the way they shop, the doctors they go to, the recreation they use and the social services they use. That is just wrong and someone should be looking at getting a non-partisan group to make these decisions.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-49 respecting the effective date of the representation order of 2003.

Obviously, we have understood, as a result of what my colleague from Jonquière and others have said, that the purpose of this bill is quite simply to move up the effective date for the new electoral map for partisan purposes.

The current act is clear. It was passed by this House, and it was known before this new electoral map was adopted that once it was, and had been published in the Canada Gazette , it would take effect one year after the date of publication.

It is obvious that the reason we are discussing this today is that the member for LaSalle—Émard and future Liberal leader has decided that it would be better for the election to be held next April or some time next spring. So, you will no doubt have understood that, if that was his choice as Prime Minister, an election held in April or some other time next spring would be based on the current electoral map.

Obviously they can give us all kinds of reasons for wanting the new map. We have heard the Canadian Alliance tell us just now that, yes, it does give greater representation to the west and to Ontario, and that is the reason for it. I point out that this means Quebec loses representation.

We had 25% of the ridings, and that will drop to 24%. We in Quebec have opposed this new distribution very strongly, for the simple reason that the population increase on the north shore of Montreal might perhaps have justified two additional ridings and that nothing ought to be done to the rest of Quebec. That is what ought to have happened. If there is an increase on the north shore, let them make it into two more ridings, as they added ridings elsewhere: three in Ontario, two in Alberta, two in British Columbia.

That is not what happened, however. The Chief Electoral Officer has opted for his way of doing things, and it has had terrible consequences for the regions of Quebec. Once again, the worst part of all of this is that the redistribution under this proposed bill advantages other parts of Canada and disadvantages Quebec.

Furthermore, because an MP from Quebec, the member for LaSalle—Émard, who will be the next leader of the Liberal Party, intends to hold an election in the spring, the Elections Act had to be amended, despite the fact that it was supposed to be a totally non-partisan piece of legislation. That was the intent. That is why an independent chief electoral officer was appointed, on the basis of accepted standards, through a process open to all members of this House. When the redistribution process began, we knew full well that, once the new electoral map had been approved and published in the Canada Gazette , it would be come in force one year later.

Everyone knew that. Every member of Parliament, including the member for LaSalle—Émard, knew about this. The reform went ahead in accordance with the legislation. Then, a census was conducted. Members new the law, and yet this change is now before the House.

In my riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, this is causing a very significant imbalance. The municipality of Saint-Colomban, which is in the middle of the northeastern part of our riding, was pulled out of the riding and moved to another. More specifically, Saint-Colomban is bounded on the south by Mirabel, on the west by Lachute and another municipality that is part of the riding, on the north and northeast by Mille-Isles, also in our riding, and on the east, in one tiny corner, by another municipality in a different riding.

It is being pulled out and moved solely for demographic reasons. Geographical considerations have not been taken into account. Some people in Saint-Colomban feel that they are being picked on, and are hurt—the pain is almost as bad as having a tooth pulled; after all, they have been a part of our riding for over a century.

The people in this municipality are asking why. We have had to tell them that it was because there had been a redistribution and so, mathematically, some people had to be removed, because we were over the prescribed maximum. We were within the 25% variance, because we have 106,000 inhabitants and the average is 95,000, with up to 25% more allowed.

Still, because new ridings have to be created and some in Quebec removed, we must review all the ridings on the Montreal North Shore, to the detriment of some, including the citizens of the municipality of Saint-Columban.

It is all the more difficult because, according to the legislation, with which the Chief Electoral Officer and all members of the House are familiar, this new electoral map was supposed to come into effect, according to the existing legislation, in September, 2004.

That is the reality of it. Because of the desire of a member of this House, the member for LaSalle—Émard, who will be the next prime minister of Canada, to have an election next spring, we will penalize the citizens of Saint-Columban and those of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean who have lost one riding.

One riding is also going to be taken away from the people of the Mauricie, for the benefit of people in Ontario who are going to gain three ridings, the people in Alberta who are going to gain two ridings, and the people in British Columbia who are going to gain two as well. They are fighting today to push things through, because they know that the election will be held in the spring. Once again, they are trying to use the law to change the procedure that this House has approved. That is what is happening. The members voting in favour of this bill want to change the electoral process approved by Parliament.

The hard part is that it is being done for partisan purposes. I am thinking of the people in Ontario, who are going to gain three ridings, the people in Alberta who are going to gain two ridings, and the people in British Columbia who are going to gain two as well.

However, Quebec, which is losing two ridings, is really losing political clout, because we were at 25% and we are dropping to 24%. The Quebec regions are being penalized in relation to the urban centres. We are entitled to demand compliance with the legislation adopted by this House and understood by the Chief Electoral Officer and all the hon. members before the redistribution process began. This is where things get problematic. Everyone was familiar with that way of doing things; everyone was well aware that, once the electoral map was adopted, it would come into effect one year after appearing in the Canada Gazette , meaning in September 2004.

Obviously, if the next leader of the Liberal Party wants to call a spring election, he will have to do so under the old electoral map. This suits those of us from Quebec. It is that simple. If, as a member from Quebec, he does not like this, he can wait and hold a fall election; it is that simple. Then, he can call an election under the new electoral map, because this procedure was known to all the stakeholders in Quebec, when the redistribution process began.

This does not take into account the name changes, and I will end with this, because the electoral map is not the only thing changing. The names of ridings were changed too. The Chief Electoral Officer even went so far as to ask the commission members to review this matter. As a result, the Quebec members decided that ridings could not contain more than two names. When they started their consultations, they determined that ridings could have just one name. So, initially, the suggestion was to give my riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel a single name, Outaouais. Obviously, we fought this, and we told them that the only way to properly represent the riding was to keep the name Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

Finally, the commission decided to allow two names, at their discretion. In the end, Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel became Argenteuil—Mirabel. I hope that this House will do everything in its power to ensure that Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel in Quebec will have the same rights as Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, the neighbouring riding on the opposite side of the Outaouais river, which is entitled to keep three names while my riding has just two.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our party, I want to put a few comments on the record about the bill before us.

I agree totally with the comments by my friend from the Bloc who just spoke. His points were exactly the same as the ones we would make.

One major concern we have is the lack of interest in the political system. Every time we have a new election, particularly at the federal level, we have an extremely low turnout. I know some of that is because people are getting so fed up with politics and with the performance of the present government. They are throwing up their hands and saying, “Well, what can we do about it? I am not even interested. I am not going to vote.” Those are few and far between, and that is unfortunate. If people do not vote, there is no way we can change or improve what goes on in our country.

One reason we have such a low voter turnout is that quite often people are left off the list. They are not contacted, they know nothing about the procedure and they do not know where to vote because they do not exist as far as the voter list goes.

The present enumeration system of trying to change a permanent list just does not work. One way that always worked was the regular door to door enumeration. We knew who lived in every house and how many voters there were. All of them were notified precisely about when, where and how they would vote. That is not happening and it is not going to happen now because we are rushing a process that ordinarily took a fair amount of time.

One reason we have been given for this is we are in the days of computers and things can be done much more quickly. I am not aware of any computer or any computer program that can tell somebody when a family moves into an area, takes up residence or shifts ridings. This information has to be found out and input before a computer can produce it. A computer only spits out what we put in.

In my own area we will see significant change. We will see 90% of the district I represent geographically removed when the new boundaries are put in place. We can argue why the boundaries were changed the way they were, how much input government had, and how much political manipulation went on, and we all know there was a fair amount of it. When a Liberal government, and I presume the same would be true of any other party were it in power, looks at changes in boundaries, undoubtedly it says what it wants to say, and people are very conscious of the fact that the government can gerrymander the boundaries to suit itself.

One major concern however is not where the lines are put, it is the philosophy behind it all. When people say that they will make all ridings in the country equal, that they will draw a circle around 90,000 people and that is the district, it does not work that way. Some people in their ivory towers in Ottawa, or any of the larger centres, but I say here because it is where decisions are made, who have no idea of the reality of representing ridings in rural Canada, look at us and ask us what the difference is between representing 90,000 people in rural Quebec or rural Newfoundland and representing 90,000 people in the heart of Ontario. They say that there are still 90,000 people to represent, that we are in the House, we stand to express their wishes, we sit in our offices and we answer their phone calls. We wish it were that simple but it is not. You, Mr. Speaker, have been around long enough to know that representing 90,000 people in rural Canada takes a lot more time, effort and energy than representing 90,000 people in one urban area.

Let me give some examples. If we have an urban riding with 90,000 people, it means we are dealing with one municipality, which in turn perhaps looks after the recreational programs and any other social programs in that area. They are also undoubtedly surrounding the heart of provincial governments, where they can walk into a government office any day of the week and have their problems dealt with.

In rural areas, we have up to 75, 80 or 100 different communities and small towns. They all have municipalities, rural development associations, fisheries committees and recreational groups. They all want to meet, talk and express their concerns and plans with the member representing them. They look to those members for leadership. In none of these areas can the people who live there walk into a government office and get help. The only help they have on problems and concerns relating to government is through their representative.

It is chalk and cheese to try to say that people can be represented in an urban setting the same as they can in a rural setting. When boundaries are determined, we should also be well aware of the problems geography presents to the members who try to do a good job to properly represent them.

This is a very small part of our job here in the House. We are out travelling in our areas, meeting, dealing with, planning and developing a vision for our regions, and that takes time and effort.

To get people interested and to do it properly, we need them on the voters list. I was about to say because of the incoming prime minister, but it is never over until it is over, so I should not say that. However the person perceived to be the next prime minister wants to call an early election so he does not have all those people over there glaring at his back, with knives in their drawers. He wants to get rid of them. He wants to clean house. To do that he needs a quick election.

He can have his election and we can get the extra seats for Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario in proper time, with due process taken care of first. That is not happening in this case.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member will have approximately two minutes remaining in his allotment of time following question period.

Ryan MalcolmStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Mr. Ryan Malcolm, also known as the King of Kingston following his coronation as the Canadian Idol.

Ryan reached this achievement through a great deal of hard work and perseverance. Throughout the competition he enjoyed enormous support from the Kingston and Napanee communities, well known as a source of great Canadian music talent.

Ryan's local support was evident when thousands turned out in front of Kingston city hall in a large demonstration of public support to wish him every success as he pursued his goal of becoming the Canadian Idol.

Ryan began his singing career in Napanee, where I enjoyed his talent several times. Yes, as Ryan has said, Avril Lavigne attended his Napanee District Secondary School.

On behalf of the member from Kingston and the Islands, I would like to wish Ryan, his family and friends congratulations and best wishes on this crowning achievement. I am sure we will all continue to follow his promising career with great interest.

National DefenceStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, five years ago the Salmon Arm fire in my riding had British Columbia asking Canada's armed forces to defend B.C. lives, homes and our wood, recreation and tourism base.

I do not need to tell the House about the raging fires which gobbled up so much of B.C. again this summer. Once again, our troops arrived needing training and finally got to the job days later, not due to any shortcoming from those troops. These delays were caused by the government's decision to close the last land forces base in British Columbia, despite all military advice against it.

The biggest federal lesson to learn from this summer's fires is that it takes 48 hours for troops from Edmonton to start protecting southern B.C. Imagine what could happen if Vancouver suffers the predicted earthquake.

The 1994 defence white paper needs urgent updating which must include opening a land forces base in British Columbia.

Alzheimer'sStatements By Members

11 a.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and all Canadians that September 21 is World Alzheimer's Day. Alzheimer's disease is a major health problem for seniors in Canada and a challenge for their caregivers.

The Alzheimer's Society of Canada should be congratulated for its eighth annual nationwide coffee break fundraiser on September 18 to provide funding for research, support and education programs at the community level for those with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers.

The federal government has supported research on Alzheimer's disease. Funding the Canadian study of health and aging which has provided valuable data on the extent of Alzheimer's disease in Canada and on patterns of caring for people with this disease. Recent research has found a clear link between staying physically active and reducing the chances of developing Alzheimer's. This is encouraging since it points the way to strategies for prevention of Alzheimer's disease.

I would like to thank all those who have contributed their time and effort to combat this serious health issue.

Daniel BohanStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to celebrate the appointment of Reverend Daniel J. Bohan by Pope John Paul II as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Toronto.

I am particularly proud because Bishop Bohan is from my hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick. Reverend Bohan grew up in Moncton and was a parish priest in the diocese for 36 years. He is beloved by all his parishioners and certainly will be missed by people in Moncton.

Bishop Bohan will face many new and different challenges but his outstanding service and pastoral achievements in the Moncton archdiocese will no doubt serve him well as he prepares for his role in the largest diocese in Canada, with more than 1.4 million Catholics.

The Archdiocese of Toronto is blessed to have Bishop Bohan and through God's help and guidance will bring the same spiritual leadership to his new duties. Our prayers and blessings go with Bishop Bohan for fulfillment in his ministry.

Mining IndustryStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the organization MiningWatch Canada reports human rights violations and environmental damage in developing countries where Canadian mining companies operate. For example, residents of Western Guyana are suing Cambior, a Canadian gold mining company, for $2 billion in damages over a massive spill of cyanide tainted waste into a major river.

The suit, filed on behalf of 23,000 people living along the Essequibo River, charges Omai Gold Mines Ltd., owned by Cambior, with negligence in the collapse of a dam resulting in the discharge of millions of cubic metres of cyanide tainted slurry into the river. The spill lasted five days, killing fish and other marine life, and drinking water had to be trucked in for hundreds of villages.

I call on the government to ensure Canadian mining activities have no negative ecological, economic and social impacts, at home and abroad.

Member for LaSalle--ÉmardStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, last night in Montreal the Prime Minister wannabe gave his economic blueprint for Canada. He wants us to forget about the past.

Here is the actual record of nine years at the helm: defence reeling under massive cuts; HRDC billion dollar boondoggle; gun registry fiasco; and scandals in public works sponsorship.

He wants to give Canadians a better health care system. Ha. This is the man who surgically excised $20 billion from health during his reign of terror. The minister also had his ships, and this is probably the worst part, fly the flags of other countries to avoid paying Canadian taxes.

How can Canadians believe what he promises for the future? Just take a look at his record. It speaks louder than words.

Prostate Cancer Awareness WeekStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House that this week, September 14 to September 20, is Prostate Cancer Awareness Week.

Cancer takes an enormous toll and most Canadians have been touched in some way by this disease. In Canada, almost 19,000 men are expected to be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, making it the leading form of cancer diagnosed in Canadian men. This is the third leading cause of cancer death among men after lung and colorectal cancers and will claim an estimated 4,200 Canadian lives this year.

Investments in research and other cancer control activities are crucial to ensuring that we sustain the fight against prostate cancer and other forms of cancer. Health Canada is working in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to foster research in prostate cancer to ensure that Canadians can understand the disease and its diagnosis, screening and treatment.

Through the government's commitment to addressing the health concerns of Canadians and the work of national, provincial and regional organizations concerned about prostate cancer, we will make a difference.

International Day of PeaceStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, this Sunday, September 21, is International Day of Peace. Yet, in Iraq, Colombia, Afghanistan, Liberia, Israel and Algeria, violence is a part of daily life.

There is still so much to be done to achieve peace and it is sad to see, still today, countries bombing people in the name of peace. To watch the news and read the papers, one wonders what motivates our leaders, or at least some of them.

At a time when roughly 300,000 children are fighting in armed conflicts around the world, the international community must, now more than ever, stand up to the combatants of the world so that, one day, these children can exchange their guns for toys and stop giving up their lives.

International Literacy DayStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to acknowledge International Literacy Day, which was on September 8.

The year 2003 marks the launch of the UN Literacy Decade, 2003-2012.

Still today, the final report of the International adult literacy survey shows that 22% of Canadians have difficulty reading. Globally, UNESCO estimates that 860 million adults are illiterate and more than 100 million children still do not have access to schooling.

Yet, good reading and writing skills are essential for people to participate fully in society.

In light of these statistics, it is critical to redouble efforts to fight illiteracy in Canada and around the world.

Government of CanadaStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy and woeful heart that we deliver our usual reminder to Canadians of the corruption that is so rampant across the way.

While many Canadians are engaged in the legitimate business of the harvest, the Liberals are filling a horn of plenty that can only be characterized as a cornucopia of corruption.

It is not confined only to elected Liberals. We know they have no shame when it comes to plundering the public treasury. Appointees, political aides and probably some aides still employed are just as shameless. Only the best restaurants, only the finest wines, only the choicest cut of meat, and only the most savoury of exotic desserts are acceptable to the Liberals and their friends, cronies, appointees and political aides.

It enrages Canadians to learn that one Liberal aide is allowed to spend on lunches and dinners as much as the average Canadian earns in one year.

It further enrages Canadians that up until only recently it was the member for LaSalle—Émard who happily signed the cheques to cover these expense accounts.

Canadian Country Music AwardsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week Canadians from coast to coast celebrated Country Music Week by kicking off their sneakers in exchange for cowboy boots.

The celebration was one of rich history and current success of Canada's country music. Whether it is Shania Twain, Stompin' Tom Connors or Prairie Oyster, country music is something that is shared and loved by Canadians of all ages from coast to coast to coast.

Celebration of Country Music Week was capped off with the Canadian Country Music Awards which was a resounding success. It was hosted by the great city of Calgary.

Among the big winners was Shania Twain who won four awards and Terri Clark who took home top honours and the award for Entertainer of the Year.

I wish to congratulate all the nominees and especially the winners of these awards. I hope Canadians continue to support our country music industry and I wish our country music artists continued success.

Pumpkin FestivalStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, Windsor, Nova Scotia, is known as “The Little Town of Big Firsts” and this weekend the Hants County Exhibition, the oldest agricultural festival in North America, continues for the second of two weekends in the town.

On October 4 the 19th annual pumpkin festival and weigh-off will be held. Windsor's Howard Dill, developer of the Atlantic giant pumpkin seeds is credited with launching the international craze of growing giant pumpkins. Known as the Pumpkin King, Mr. Dill is a four-time world champion pumpkin grower.

The festival now includes the hugely popular pumpkin regatta to be held on October 12. The Windsor-West Hants Pumpkin Festival and Regatta won the 2002 Attractions Canada award in the sporting event category.

Mr. Speaker, I actually won the pumpkin regatta in 2001, by the way.

But as the birthplace of hockey, the home of North America's oldest agricultural fair, and now the new home of giant pumpkin racing, Windsor-West Hants continues to be the “Little Town of Big Firsts”.

Anna LindhStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, on September 10, the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anna Lindh, was killed in a Stockholm store. She would probably have been her country's next prime minister. Today, eloquent tributes were paid to her at the Stockholm city hall. The terrible attack on her took place just four days before Sweden voted in a referendum on whether or not to adopt the Euro.

The mother of two, Ms. Lindh was elected to the municipal council of her hometown at the age of 20. She became Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1998, after four years in the environment portfolio.

She constantly stressed that collective security and a collective future were dependent on cooperation, self-sufficiency and independence. Her legacy will be a foreign policy founded on the respect of human rights.

The Bloc Quebecois wishes the people of Sweden to know that all Quebeckers share their grief.

Anna LindhStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Aileen Carroll Liberal Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay my respects to the family of Anna Lindh, the late Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister who died last week in Stockholm.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Ms. Lindh when I attended a European Union Conflict Prevention Conference in Helsinborg, Sweden, in my capacity as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

I was very impressed with Anna Lindh, the woman and the politician. There was every chance she may have become the future prime minister of Sweden. Her death has left a void which will take a long time to fill.

I held her in high regard and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and work with her on that one occasion. She was a prominent campaigner for human rights and European integration, and was a politician with enormous conviction.

My condolences go out to her husband, her two children and her fellow countrymen. As Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson said: “Sweden has lost its face to the world”.

ImmigrationStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, in June of this year before the House rose for the summer, I brought to the attention of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the fact that many foreign delegates to the Lutheran World Federation meeting in Winnipeg in July were having an unjustifiably difficult time getting visas and I asked the minister to intervene accordingly.

I regret to say that he does not appear to have done so, at least successfully, as whole national delegations from some countries never did get into Canada for the meeting. This was more than just regrettable. It was disrespectful to the Lutheran Church, damaging to those who were refused, and will be harmful to the prospects of further such global meetings in Canada.

The Lutheran community in Winnipeg is still upset with the government about this, as is the provincial government, and I thought it important to put on the record this unhappiness with the government's handling of this event.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of CanadaStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, September is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada month.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada is the leading child and youth serving organization providing mentoring programs across the country. Over 170 local agencies provide support to more than 300 Canadian communities.

Currently, over 10,000 children are matched with adults. Big brothers and big sisters reap benefit from their experiences while the “littles” benefit on a number of levels as well, including improved self-confidence and social skills.

During this month, we encourage all Canadians to donate time to this wonderful organization.

Union of British Columbia MunicipalitiesStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, next week the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention will take place in Vancouver. This annual gathering of municipal and regional district leaders from around the province of B.C. provides them with an opportunity to network with their peers and elected representatives, both provincial and federal. Municipal government provides the closest and most direct relationship to government for Canadian citizens.

Clearly, municipalities are shortchanged by the federal government. Fuel taxes disappear into Ottawa, never to be seen again by those who pay. Infrastructure dollars are scarce and the sharing formula needs revision to ensure that smaller municipalities are more capable of carrying their share of the cost.

As a former mayor, I look forward to renewing old acquaintances and discussing with them these and other issues at the UBCM convention in Vancouver next week.