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House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was representation.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I understand very well what my NDP colleague means.

Indeed, if we look at the federal election turnout rate, we see it is dropping rapidly. In 1988, it was 75%; in 1993, 69%; in 1997, 67%; in 2000, 61%. We have dropped 14 percentage points over the last 12 years, At 1% a year, as I said in my speech, the government needs to wake up and come up with some new ways to encourage participation.

I will try to give a more direct answer to the question: why am I somewhat hesitant to support the idea of a referendum. If one reads the motion, what is called for is first a referendum, second a commission to consult the public, and third, a deadline of 2006.

Right off, the process is being made unwieldy. Besides, we have too often seen referendums where rational logic has been buried or bulldozed—if I can put it that way—by arguments that are totally far fetched and had nothing to do with the debate.

In this instance, the question to the people in a referendum will be, “Do you wish to be consulted on an alternative voting system?” Then, the yes and no sides will start arguing. The no side will say that, if you vote yes in the referendum, you will no longer have the right to vote and no longer know your member, which will open the door to al-Qaeda cells. We will hear all kinds of nonsense, which I feel will interfere with our perfectly legitimate consideration of the voting system or the current electoral system.

That is why I think that giving three years to hold a referendum, consult the public and get conclusive results is to set the bar very high. I am therefore hesitant about the idea of a referendum.

I have no problem with having a study to confirm the existing voting system or change it. As I said, if the findings of this study confirm that, in terms of culture, people, our desires and wishes, the existing system is the best, at least we will be somewhat reassured.

If, afterwards, we are told that a certain type of proportional system should be phased in, then we can ask ourselves questions and perhaps hold a referendum. We should do that after, not before, and say, “Here are the findings. Do you agree with them?”

I think that it is putting the cart before the horse to say that there will be a referendum to ask the public whether it wants this to be examined. As far as the principle of the motion is concerned, that of considering it, we have no objection.

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, a former Indian affairs minister, Ron Irwin, had a great expression that caught my attention one day and I have never forgotten it. He said “Canada is a country that should not work in theory, that Canada is a country that works in practice”. I think that is a very appropriate remark in the context of proportional representation, because proportional representation seems to make so much sense.

The idea is that people cast their ballots for a particular party, and when those ballots are counted, the leader of their various parties gets to name to this House, to Parliament, the number of members of Parliament that match the percentage of popular vote that his particular party got. Indeed, it makes so much sense that if we put that question to a referendum across the country, most assuredly people would probably support it because it seems very commonsensical that in a democracy, the makeup of this House should exactly reflect the will of the population.

However it is like so many things. What seems simple to the people at large, when one has experience in this House, one realizes that the working of democracy is much more complicated than that. In fact our system, the system that we operate under, which is a constituency system in which Canada is divided into 301 territories across the land, each politician has to run in that particular territory and has to get a popular vote in that territory. Of course the result is, as we know, that often there is quite a disparity between the number of MPs that a party returns and the percentage vote that party gets. What we do know is the system we have tends to return majority governments rather than constant minority governments, which is the case with proportional representation.

I guess my most fundamental objection to proportional representation is the power it gives to the leader. What we have there is a situation where the leader has absolute power over the members of his party, so when the election is finished, the leader gets to name the individuals who will serve in this House.

Now, Madam Speaker, I know you are liable to react in a very peculiar way when I assert this, but I am a living example of why proportional representation does not work. It does not work for those MPs who might want to have an independent voice in this House and still be a member of a particular party, a maverick MP. If I can indulge your attention for just a little, Madam Speaker, I will tell the story of my own election in 1993.

In 1993 it was the end of the Mulroney era and there was a lot of feeling against the Tories of the day. That was also the era of the Meech Lake and the Charlottetown accord. I was a journalist on leave of absence, working on a book on a military subject. I had just finished work on the book when the Charlottetown accord came up. I broke from my work and studied the Charlottetown accord. I was absolutely appalled by what I read about the accord because what I thought would occur was there would be such an erosion of federal power, the whole Charlottetown accord was going to give a lot more power to the provinces, that I felt Confederation could not possibly work.

As a former journalist, that is one business or one profession in which one is not allowed to mix partisan politics, so I had never in my entire career had anything to do with partisan politics for any party. Nevertheless, at the time of the Charlottetown accord, or shortly thereafter, Mr. Mulroney was about to call the election. On impulse, I went in and put my name in for the nomination for the Liberals in my local riding.

It was an impulse and my kids said “Oh, Dad, you don't want to be a politician”. My wife said “Oh, I don't want that, I've got enough problems”. Nevertheless, it was a gesture. I did not know anyone in the riding association nor anyone in the Liberal Party but I knew that on nomination night I would stand up and make a brief speech about how I deplored the Charlottetown accord, and especially the fact that the Liberals were so tame as to get on side with the Tories on the Charlottetown accord. After I did my little speech I knew I would sit down and that would be the end of it.

There were three other candidates for the nomination and they were out selling memberships and all those kinds of things. However I had no idea that the process involved selling memberships. I was a complete neophyte. At any rate, I just sat back until nomination day approached and suddenly all the other candidates for the nomination quit and a new person appeared on the scene. He was actually a former active Tory member but he had lined up with the Liberals.

When I went to the other candidates and asked them why they had suddenly quit they said “well, we had to quit because this other guy, this latecomer, has the backing of the leader of the party”, the now Prime Minister. He has the backing of the local Liberal Party machine. He had everything so they quit.

Well, I am not much of a quitter. I do tend to hang in there. Shortly after that happened, the riding association had a meet the candidates meeting. I had never met any member of the riding association up until that time. It was held in the basement of the local town hall. I went along to at least explain to the riding association why I wanted to be a candidate and all this stuff about the Charlottetown accord.

I arrived there and all these strange people were sitting at a big table and around the room. This was the riding association executive, I learned later. I did not know who they were and there were a few other people in the audience. I stood up and made my little speech but in the middle of my speech this other guy, this other important candidate, came in along the back of the room.

I had never had this experience before but we all are practised politicians here, and I am sure you, Madam Speaker, have had an occasion where you have been speaking and thinking at the same time. Sometimes it has peculiar results here but, nevertheless, there I was talking and this guy came in with signs already printed. He did not even have the nomination but his signs were printed. They were all clapping and cheering and all these kinds of things. I was a little put out but I finished my speech and sat down. This guy stood up in his turn to great applause and all the rest of it. What he basically said was that he had been approached many times by the Liberal Party leadership in the area riding to run as a candidate for the nomination but that he had always held back because there was another possible candidate who might come forward for the nomination. He was alluding to the then mayor of the city of Hamilton and the then president of the local university. Then he said the fatal words. He said that late last week he had learned that those two important people had dropped out, that they were not going to stand for the nomination and that because there were no other worthy candidates he allowed his name to stand.

Well, I waited for him out in the corridor. He came out with his crowd and all the signs. I shook his hand and I said “Meet your unworthy opponent”.

I was born in town but I lived in a rural village for 30 years. Even though I commuted back and forth to Toronto for my journalist job, I had lived in the village for a very long time and knew a lot of farming folk. My wife was a local librarian in two places. The upshot of this is that when the nomination meeting occurred this guy was out there with his machine. He had everything. He had the signs printed and he had the buses. He had the whole thing going. He had all the money in the world. All I had were the local people.

Nomination night was held in an armoury in one of the towns in my riding. His people were on one side of the hall and my people were on the other side of the hall. To make a story short, despite all his power and the fact that he was being backed by the Liberal Party machine, I beat him and I am here today.

The reason I told that story is that throughout my career as a member of Parliament in the House I have never taken one dime from the party nor have I asked for one favour from the leader, and I have always spoken my mind in the House. The point is that if the leader were upset with me for speaking my mind and expressing myself, he would have to contend with the fact that I have support in my riding. I am not beholden only to the leader. I am beholden to the grassroots people who brought me to this place.

If we were to have proportional representation, people like me would disappear. Naturally all leaders, no matter how open they are or how much they might want to democratize the House, the reality is that if a leader gets to choose all the MPs in the House, then inevitably we would not have the kind of dialogue that occurs in the House. We would not have the kind of independent speaking out that occurs among Liberals on this side of the House and, perhaps more rarely, on the opposition benches, because I have to note that my experience in 10 years here is that in fact there is a tendency in opposition to conform to the will of the leadership. Whereas here, as we see time and time again and as a matter of fact is becoming a bit too common in my opinion, we see Liberal backbenchers expressing very independent thoughts. Sometimes they do not vote with the government.

It is relevant, even now, because we are in a period where we are about to change leaders in the Liberal Party. A very instructive and very important part of our democratic process is that the Prime Minister, the leader, has to hold his side together based on the confidence the members have in him. That confidence is a delicate balance between his ability to summon their allegiance based on the policies that he has and also their obligation to their constituents. All that disappears with proportional representation.

For those who complain about party discipline being too much, if we were to have proportional representation party discipline would be absolute.

There are other problems with proportional representation and some of these are very obvious. I should point out that our constituency system has worked well for 136 years, give or take a year, and has held together a country that is 10% larger than the United States--I believe it is the second largest country in the world--and has 10% of the people. We are spread out all over the country.

I would submit that we cannot compare our system, which obviously works and has worked for such a long time over this huge land mass, with a system that might be used by Israel or Italy. Either of those countries could form one-quarter of one constituency that we have in this country. The present Indian affairs minister is fond of reminding people that his particular riding is the size of France.

One of the things about having ridings and constituencies is that not only are we loyal to the party but we become loyal to not just the people in our constituency but to the concept of that corner of Canada that we represent.

When I first came here in 1993 we had a day of debate in which every MP had the opportunity to describe his or her riding. It was marvellous. It gave us a sense of who and what this country really is, because each MP bragged about the beauties or the unique characteristics of his or her corner of Canada.

In my particular riding I have seven waterfalls, which is probably more waterfalls than any other riding in the country. I can go on. When we go around this room we find that each member of Parliament celebrates the character of this country by representing a particular constituency.

All that would disappear with proportional representation because the leader can take members from anywhere. He can take members based on wealth. He can take members based on some sort of demographic profile. In other words, the people are marginalized in the final selection of the candidate.

Then we would get this terrible problem of what actually would happen in the House and what happens so often in countries like Italy or Israel. The reality is that in most democratic debates opinion divides roughly evenly. We saw that rather famously recently when on a motion by the opposition on upholding the traditional definition of marriage the House split on one vote, 134 to 134. It then split 137 to 135, I think it was, on the next vote.

That is a classic example of what happens all the time in proportional representation where major parties sit facing one another and very small minor parties hold the balance of power.

In that particular vote that I just described, the two smallest parties in the House, the New Democrats and the Tories, could have affected the outcome of either of those votes.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Right on.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

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

The members are cheering and that is exactly the point. The people who press for proportional representation are always the hopeless minor parties in any Parliament. It is because it is the only way they can have a say and actually influence what happens in the House. It is because then they have five or ten members of a party that could be a party of social left or right. It could be a party of religion or it could be a party of this or that and it is that balance of power that could actually drive the agenda of the entire House, the entire Parliament, the entire country.

I submit that history and the world are replete with examples of why that is bad for a nation. Italy alone has had countless parliaments, one after another since the second world war. There is always the opportunity of minor parties forming, four or five individuals, who could affect the outcome of major debates in the House.

Therefore we have the situation that rather than deploring the fact that our particular system tends to generate majority government, we should be applauding it. We do not have to take any instructions from Europe or elsewhere in the world. We are the model for the world because it is eminently evident that the most stable democracies in the world, Canada, the United States and Great Britain, have the same type of constituency representation that Canada uses. Certainly in the case of the United States and Canada, these are huge countries and yet we have the best democracies and we are admired around the world.

So, no, we do not have to look to other experiments that basically have failed. As the former Indian affairs minister said, “Canada is a country that does work in practice”. It may not fit the arm chair theories of academics and parties on the fringe but Canada works and it works the way we do it now.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to weigh in on this issue because it gets to the heart of the single most important issue, challenge and problem affecting Canadians and this House. That is the fact that we have in Canada an elected dictatorship, a parliamentary dictatorship that has been promulgated and enforced by the government for 10 years and longer.

When former Prime Minister Trudeau stood up and said that MPs were nobodys 50 feet off the Hill, what he should have said was MPs were nobodys on the Hill. This government and previous governments have eviscerated the powers of members of Parliament in the House at the expense of Canadians from coast to coast. Not only have they harmed us by removing our powers, but worse, they have harmed Canadians because ultimately our responsibility is to the people who elect us.

I say we have an elected dictatorship because for 10 years we have not had the power to represent our constituents. We are responsible to our constituents in every election but we do not have the power to represent them. We have committees that do good work, hard work, committed work, but are not listened to by the government. Members have votes in the House which they are forced to engage in, sometimes at the expense of their own moral convictions, because if they do not, the leaders, the government and the Prime Minister will thump their heads if they do not vote their way.

Are there solutions? Absolutely. We can look at the system in Britain where it has undergone a system of reformation. It has three-line whips. Why not say that any legislation that is a vote of confidence should not be a bill? Why not say that only money bills are votes of confidence?

Will the hon. member support and force and push for complete free votes in the House of Commons where no bill is a vote of confidence and will he support a reformed committee structure where the work of committees will be listened to by the government?

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, fiddle-faddle. I guess my best response is. First, I just described how the Prime Minister has not been able to control keeping members from speaking out in the House. He cannot stop us because we have the support of our constituencies. If the member feels he is not representing his constituents, that is his problem.

I have voted against the government, I think seven times. It was long before it became popular to vote against the government. I have never been disciplined as a result. As long as we here in this House, we act according to our best judgment. I have never had a problem on this side.

As far as free votes are concerned, free votes for everyone would be anarchy. It shows the naivety of that side. I have watched them for 10 years. I have not seen free votes on that side. There are far more free votes on this side. There has to be some form of party discipline because if we did not have party discipline, we would have anarchy.

However if we had proportional representation, the discipline would be so close that any independence would be destroyed. I would have thought that the member would have focused on that rather than focusing on a system that, as far as I can see, is actually working quite well.

House of CommonsGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Order please. Just before we resume questions and comments on the speech, pursuant to Standing Order 28(2)(b) I have the honour to lay upon the table the House of Commons calendar for the year 2004.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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4:35 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to start off my comments by reminding the hon. member that it was the so-called, minor or fringe parties that brought in medicare, social security and pensions for the citizens of our country. There is a role for minor parties to play in democracy. The mere fact that he is trying to rout them out is not a surprise. To continue this affront is unacceptable.

At the start of the conversation, the hon. member said that it was the power it gave to leader which was a concern in terms of actual proportional representation. I would like to remind the House that it is the power that is centred around a few individuals which is hurting our country. If people are watching right now, they know the cabinet and the inner circle are the ones that are usurping the democracy of the country. It is not shared.

How can the member feel that way when he knows for a fact that we have prime ministers who have appointed candidates like Marcel Masse in Hull and Georgette Sheridan from Saskatoon. There has been direct intervention on that level? How can he accept that? The mere fact is we do not have independence on a regular basis. All of a sudden because there is a Liberal leadership void, they are voting differently now. That is not enough. How can he justify that?

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I just made the observation that medicare and all those other fine things that the member mentioned were brought in because the Liberals supported them. This was the will of the Liberals. It was not just the NDP by any means.

As far as the cabinet is concerned, I go back to my original point that this type of parliamentary system we have works on confidence. The government is in power based on the confidence it can maintain on the backbench and it has to walk very carefully because the backbench can always turn back and derive support from its constituencies. Whereas if the cabinet and the leadership were able to control the backbench by controlling who would get to sit on the backbench, the power of cabinet would be incredibly enhanced.

I really do not understand why the member cannot put two and two together on this issue except that there probably is a problem of hopelessness sitting tight to the back corner of this chamber, having less than a dozen members. I would think that would give anyone a headache.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I think, if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, in relation to its study of relations with Muslim countries, a maximum of 14 members divided into several groups of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade be authorized to travel to the Middle East and South Asia from October 13 to October 26, 2003 and that the necessary staff do accompany the committee.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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4:35 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Madam Speaker, our party is not exactly fringe. We have the largest membership of any of the four opposition parties today. We are third place in the polls. The Alliance is in fourth. That may disappoint the member, but that is the fact of the matter today in terms of public opinion.

He is concerned about the power of the prime minister. I want to remind him that the prime minister, and indeed all party leaders today, have the power to sign or not sign nomination papers. It is a pretty awesome power.

Back in 1997, when the current Prime Minister was the Leader of the Opposition, he appointed candidates. In my own province, Georgette Sheridan was appointed as the Liberal candidate in Saskatoon--Humboldt. I remember Marcel Masse being appointed as a candidate for the Liberal Party in Hull--Aylmer. There were two or three others also.

Does the member agree with that practice? That practice exists today, but it should not. Under PR it should not exist. My vision of a proportional representation system is one that is open, transparent and democratic, otherwise I would not support it.

Would the member acknowledge at least that the power of the Prime Minister is too great today and also the power of party leaders sometimes is abused when they appoint candidates and do not allow a proper democratic nomination process to take place? His party is guilty.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, the member for Regina--Qu'Appelle is an experienced member and he knows his history. When prime ministers or party leaders refuse to sign nomination papers, there is a great possibility that the person will still run and succeed as an independent or switch to another party.

The reality is that because of the constituency system any leader has to be careful. If an individual MP is very popular in his constituency, because he has done a good job, then that MP cannot be wished away as easily as someone failing to sign his nomination papers.

As for appointed candidates, the record on appointed candidates is pretty clear too. They do not tend to last very long. The prime minister or party leader can appoint candidates but so often they do not survive for very many elections. On the other hand, if someone is genuinely grassroots in our constituency system then watch out.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I just could not resist jumping into this with a few comments.

We do have a party system, but I would say that the member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca, for whom I have a lot of respect, has sound logic but that is the point. It is just sound. It is unencumbered by meaning. This party has more free votes than any other party. If we are going to be accused of not having any, then there is an issue.

In terms of proportional representation, I do not think our system works all that well because voter turnout has been declining. I have been at debates myself where I have been sorely tempted to vote for the Green Party candidate because he was the best person in the room. I am a candidate who won by 55 votes. If anybody should be against this in the interest of self-preservation, it is me.

I will stand proudly and support this motion by the NDP, not because I think it is the panacea to solve our problems but because we have to keep the issue on the radar screen, explore the options and figure out a way to reconnect with the people in our ridings. Environmental issues and the issues that these supposed minor parties are pushing are important and we need to hear their voices.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I do not think there was a question in that. We are out of time but we will have a short answer.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, voter turnout is poor because the Liberals have been so successful and the opposition have been such a failure.

We have a range of opinions here. We can get everything on this side that we do not need the opposition. That is why I think we do not--

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

On a point order, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

September 30th, 2003 / 4:40 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties with respect to the taking of the recorded divisions scheduled for Wednesday, October 1, 2003, and I believe that you would find consent for the following motions. I move:

That the recorded divisions scheduled for Wednesday, October 1, 2003, on M-387, C-406, M-392, M-288 and if necessary M-83, take place at 5:45 p.m. with bells at 5:30 p.m.

And, that after the said votes, the House continue to sit for one hour in order to consider government orders.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on the NDP motion by my friend from Regina--Qu'Appelle, which reads:

That this House call upon the government to hold a referendum within one year to determine whether Canadians wish to replace the current electoral system with a system of proportional representation and, if so, to appoint a commission to consult Canadians on the preferred model of proportional representation and the process of implementation, with an implementation date no later than July 1, 2006.

I am not a supporter of proportional representation as the best electoral reform for Canada, but I will be voting in favour of this motion because I think it is far overdue for Canadians to have a say in the undemocratic nature of our institutions and processes.

There are several variations of proportional representation. Under a pure PR system, every party with one per cent or more of the vote elects the appropriate number of MPs from a political party's list. This system, and most variations of it, becomes confused in a federation like Canada. Does the list simply mean a pool from which the leaders choose, or must there be a list from each of the provinces so that Parliament, while made up of people selected from a party list, will also represent the provinces in proportion to their population?

Another key question is, how would these lists be compiled? Would there be conventions and if so, would they be province by province, perhaps by patronage or lineage? Some systems, recognizing that there must be regional representation or constituencies, have a mixed system in which half the MPs are elected off a list, the others by the first past the post method that is currently used in Canadian elections. New Zealand and Germany are examples of this compromise.

I have a great deal of respect for proportional representation or some variation of it as an alternative to the status quo, but I do not believe that simply changing our current first past the post system of electing MPs to PR, proportional representation, would be a healthy or wise reform. In fact, I believe particularly that as a stand-alone reform it would lead to unhealthy and unintended consequences for Canada.

First, as with all PR systems, Canada could quickly devolve into constant minority governments, rendering Canada ungovernable absent potentially exotic coalitions of rivalling single issue parties, language based parties, or aggressively regional parties that would be destructive of the development of a national vision.

Second, by simply reforming the mechanism of electing members of the House of Commons and ignoring the need for Senate reform, accountability of judicial appointments, accountability in the election of the Governor General, and a host of other problems, we would be prescribing a placebo for Canada's ills rather than engaging in a more comprehensive and thoughtful process of democratic reforms broadly.

The two most effective critiques of our current first past the post system is that one, it elects MPs who may not be representative of the majority of their constituents, and two, it can therefore produce governments that are not themselves reflective of the wishes of the country. This second critique is of particular concern because of the nature of the concentration of power in the hands of a majority government and the possibility of an increasing disconnect between the governed and the government.

This is fueled by an important consequence of questions that must be considered by political scientists. The first question asked is, what is the worst form that government can take? The answer is tyranny. To what form of tyranny are democracies prey? The tyranny of the majority. To that end, mature democracies that understand this danger inherent in democratic systems have developed mechanisms to check power, mechanisms such as bicameralism in Germany and the United States, a dual executive such as in France, a separate elected executive such as in the United States, and internal governing mechanisms that check majorities from imposing irrational, ill-conceived or incongruent ideas on a hostile or unconsenting public.

There is no perfect electoral system for all countries. There are only perfect ideals to which systems can aspire to embrace. Those ideals include, but are not limited to, fair representation, voter participation, national unity, intellectual identity and civic participation. While I cannot address each of these elements in the time that I have, I can say with certainty that proportional representation, as a stand-alone reform as is proposed by this motion, would not move Canada forward democratically but would move us backward.

Proportional representation might make sense if we had an elected Senate to balance the needs of regions in our national discourse. Proportional representation might make sense if we had some mechanism to ensure that citizens would still have a say in who their specific representatives would be rather than having elites thrust upon them via party lists, where candidates are placed by patronage and plucked from by sequence.

I believe in free elections for the Senate, free votes for the House, open nomination contests in parties, empowering Canadians with ballot initiatives, curbing the power of cabinet to stifle free speech and free votes. I believe in separating the executive from the legislative branch to allow Canadians to democratically choose their head of state in a stand-alone vote.

Canada is a profoundly undemocratic country with archaic institutions, an arrogant and unaccountable Governor General, a Senate staffed with allies of political elites, leadership campaigns without the free sale of memberships, and new campaign finance rules that force Canadians to finance ideas to which they do not subscribe through the direct financing of political parties with taxpayers' dollars.

We need a wholesale reform of our democratic system in Canada. Proportional representation is one of many possible reforms. I support the motion as a means of starting a broader discussion to renew Canadian democracy and ensure Canadians have a say in the governance of this great country. However, were this referendum ever to come about, I would vote against proportional representation and in favour of a broader dialogue for broader reforms.

Madam Speaker, I am out of time as I would like to divide my time with the member for Prince George--Peace River, but I am prepared to entertain any questions.