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House of Commons Hansard #29 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nation.

Topics

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

There are several points I would like to clarify. I mean it when I say that the Bloc Québécois caucus and the party itself are being hypocritical when they talk about representation within Canada, because we all know that the Bloc Québécois wants to take Quebec out of Canada and make it a sovereign nation. At least that part of its mission is clear and well defined, and the Bloc is clear about what it wants.

But I disagree with the Bloc members when they talk about representation and say that they cannot let this happen and that this or that must be done, because thanks to their lack of hypocrisy about their mission—if I can put it that way—we all know that they want to separate Quebec. But the minute Quebec separates from Canada, it will lose all its seats in the House of Commons of Canada.

The minister of state also suggests that the best way for Quebec to be represented within the government is to vote for a federalist party. I would go even further. Quebeckers are going to have to realize one day—and I believe that day is fast approaching—that their votes have to count. They must not waste them. That means that they have to vote for a federalist party that has a chance of forming the Government of Canada.

Madam Speaker, you were not here when the Liberals had majority governments, but those governments did a great deal for Quebec in terms of economic and social development, culture and so on.

Lastly, my colleague says that Alberta and British Columbia will still be under-represented. That is why we are in favour of going to committee so that we can take a thorough look at the impact of this Conservative bill and correct the flaws in it.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine had in fact forewarned me. I am bitterly disappointed with the speech by my colleague from Hull—Aylmer. He forgets that at one time they held 74 out of 75 seats and that resulted in the sponsorship scandal. Quebeckers remember it.

Our colleague talked about his family. He is not the only one; my nephew also sits in the House. So, as one family to another, we will respect each other.

The Bloc introduces its motions. No one will tell the Bloc what to introduce. I will assure my colleagues of one thing: all Bloc members will be here this evening to vote for the motion and get it passed. We will not be tripping over our shoes as the Liberal Party did: last time, on March 23, the Liberal Party had us waste an entire day, saying it wanted something. And then poof, it failed. You do not waste your colleagues’ time.

We agree on the principle of “one person, one vote”, and that is why we want to abolish the Senate. The Senate is not elected, that is true. Our objective is to ensure that Quebec is sovereign, but while waiting for that to happen, we will sit in this House, whether they like it or not, and we will get elected.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Hochelaga. I want to tell him that even before he was advised by his colleague, he already had every reason to think I was not going to support a motion of this kind to help the Bloc Québécois achieve its objective. I think the member from Hochelaga should have been more realistic. I have never concealed my Canadian values and my beliefs. It is therefore surprising that he would be disappointed by my attitude. He is new in the House of Commons, and perhaps he is a little naive, even though he is an experienced politician.

To begin with, I would like to say that the respect he spoke of does not apply to families alone. I am very proud to talk about my ancestors. And he is proud to talk about his family. Although I do not necessarily respect the opinion of the government party or the other opposition parties, I respect the individuals because they are what our democracy is based on. I think that is very important.

As to the fact that the Bloc Québécois is happy with its motions, in my mind there is no doubt on that. It has its own motions. Often, we agree with its ideas, for example when it comes to governance of the country. But there is a portion of its opinions that I do not respect and that I will never respect. But for now, I will point out to the Bloc Québécois members that the party in power is a federalist party.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that the Bloc motion is, in large part, a reaction to Bill C-12, which would give more seats to Ontario, B.C. and Alberta. We have certain regions where votes are worth more in one region than another. For example, in Saskatchewan votes are worth 54% more than they are in B.C. and in New Brunswick they are worth 38% more than they are in Ontario.

However, we need two kinds of equality. We need equality in the number of votes per MP but we also need equality in the weight of all votes by party. To elect one Bloc member it takes about 28,000 votes on average, for a Conservative about 36,000, for a Liberal 47,000, for an NDPer 67,000 and for the Green Party zero votes for a million.

Will the Liberals be supporting proportional representation by party?

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Madam Speaker, surely my colleague is hoping that I will give him a controversial answer. I will simply tell him to be patient. We will start by considering the bill brought forward by the Conservative government in committee to ensure that there is a balance not only for British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, but for the whole country. We respect the principle of one person, one vote. We must proceed gradually. Personally, I think that once the bill is in committee, we will be able to reach agreements, to compromise and to come up with solutions that each and everyone in the country will find satisfactory and that will ensure fair representation.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Madam Speaker, I too am pleased to speak to the motion brought forward by the Bloc Québécois.

First I will go back to something our colleague from Hull—Aylmer just said. He used a term that is allowed here, in Parliament, but that would not have been allowed in the Quebec National Assembly. He used the term “hypocrisy“ with regard to the Bloc Québécois. I will give him the definition of this term since he obviously does not know it.

Hypocrisy means disguising one's true character, expressing opinions and showing sentiments and especially virtues that one does not have.

The presentation that I will make over the next 20 minutes will demonstrate to whomever is interested in this situation that only one political party is hypocritical regarding this issue, namely the Liberal Party of Canada.

The Bloc Québécois has its own option, which we obviously do not share, but it is perfectly consistent. The good thing about today’s debate is that the Liberal Party just said it would never vote to reduce Quebec’s democratic weight in the House of Commons. The hon. member in question is experienced and I hope he can read the newspapers, even if not the dictionary. Hopefully, he read the articles saying an amendment would be moved to the Bloc motion in order to do precisely what the Liberal member claimed he wanted to do, that is, prevent Quebec’s weight in the House of Commons from being reduced. It may well just be hypocrisy, however, on the part of the Liberal Party of Canada when it says it does not want Quebec’s weight in Parliament reduced. Those are the exact words he used.

We are going to have a chance this afternoon to compare what the Liberal Party says with what it does. An amendment will be moved to do exactly what they claimed they wanted. Then we will find out who the hypocrite is in the House, the Liberal Party or the other parties.

The bill in question has two purposes. First, it resolves an absolutely intolerable situation regarding the representation of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. In all, 30 seats will be added in provinces that are currently badly under-represented, a situation that is simply unacceptable in our democracy. As the Liberal member said so well, the federalist parties—the Conservatives, the Liberals and the NDP—supported the Charlottetown accord. The problem is that it failed to pass.

The Liberal member puts the blame on the Bloc Québécois and the Reformers, who now enjoy undivided rule over what used to be called the Progressive Conservative Party. The progressives have all jumped ship and it is the conservative Reformers who are in power in this minority government.

This situation must be corrected, while maintaining the democratic weight of the only province with a francophone majority and the only province whose people have been recognized by this Parliament as forming a nation within Canada.

When the negotiations began on the Meech Lake agreement, the Liberal Party did all it could to sabotage them. Remember Pierre Trudeau and his henceforth famous speech at the Maison Egg Roll in Montreal. It was his idea of humour to denigrate the federal political parties that had worked so hard to keep Quebec in Canada.

This attitude on the part of the Trudeau Liberals, of whom the hon. member who just spoke is a shining example, is very easy to understand. In their view, Canada consists of equal provinces. There are no distinctions, nor any recognition of Quebec as a distinct society, as proposed in the Meech Lake agreement, nor any attempt to keep Quebec’s democratic weight at 25%, as proposed in the Charlottetown accord. Neither of these ideas was acceptable in the world of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

According to the Trudeau vision of Canada, the best way for the Liberal Party to stay in power was to constantly kick Quebeckers in the shins, wait for them to react, and then go to the rest of Canada and say, “Look what whiners they are and how hard to get along with. Lucky that Trudeau and his gang are there to keep them under control”. That was the Liberal way that worked so well in Canada for decades on end.

We in the NDP will support the amendment that the Bloc Québécois has proposed to its main motion, which would make the motion match the one unanimously adopted early last October by the National Assembly of Quebec, and which is simply intended to do the following. If we are sincere in saying that Canada includes a nation, the Québécois nation, which is the only nation recognized as distinct within this federation, we must take concrete action to give effect to that recognition. It is contradictory to start reducing the demographic and democratic weight of Quebec in this House if we are sincere about Quebec constituting a distinct society.

My jaw dropped when the hon. Liberal member for Hull—Aylmer said earlier that the sum total of his research on the subject was to consult—and I quote him because it was so moving—“an instructive brochure” from Elections Canada . Yes, you heard right. The sum total of the electoral research of the Liberal Party of Canada is to read an instructive Elections Canada brochure. He goes on to tell us that Canada has a system of one person, one vote. The problem with the absolute system of one person, one vote is that it is the American system found in a republic south of our borders where the parliamentary tradition is different from ours.

I realize that the Supreme Court of Canada cannot compare with an instructive brochure, but its decisions can be instructive all the same. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that, in our country, in our federation, there is a reality that it has described as communities of interests. This is why our electoral map contains certain exceptions such as the four seats in Prince Edward Island, or one seat for 40,000 electors in the Northwest Territories. This is exactly what our Supreme Court said it was necessary to do with a country which today has a population of 33 million and is the second biggest country in the world. Regional differences must be taken into account.

The problem with the Conservatives’ bill is that the big loser, the one and only province that would see its demographic weight change from a surplus—at 104%—to a deficit, the only province to suffer that fate is Quebec. You heard me correctly. The big loser in what the Conservatives are trying to get passed in this House is Quebec. These are the same Conservatives who had the arrogance to propose the recognition of a nation they had no intention of subsequently respecting. They make a show of recognizing the Quebec nation, but whenever the time comes to do something concrete to give effect and recognition to that distinctness, the Conservatives do the opposite. They attack Quebec, they attack its demographic weight here in the House, they attack its capacity to remain within its own fields of jurisdiction. They do this time after time.

This is not recognizing a nation. This is not recognizing uniqueness. This is not recognizing a distinct character. This is the same Reform party that fought against the Charlottetown accord. This is the same anti-Quebec Reform party that is showing its true colours here. It is as if they think that the only way to give British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario their due is to reduce Quebec's representation to this extent.

We are going to have a very interesting political experience here this afternoon. Those wagging their fingers at their neighbours, the Liberals, who love to lecture everyone else, are going to be confronted with their own hypocrisy. The Liberals have just said—the sentence is worth remembering—that they are formally opposed—as their spokesperson said—to any weakening of Quebec's representation and democratic weight in the House of Commons of Canada. This is what they just stated, word for word.

This afternoon, there will be an amendment to the Bloc motion that sets out to do, word for word, what the Liberals have just said that they wanted to do. We shall see what the Liberals will do with that amendment.

The current leader of the Liberals is their fifth in five years. There was Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, Bill Graham, one who is still here, the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville and the current one from Toronto, who comes to us from England and agreed to move to Canada as long as he got to be its prime minister.

I remember as if it were yesterday when he spoke in the same breath of the Canadian political situation and civil war, a juxtaposition that only he could explain. This is the extent to which this man is completely out of touch with the reality of Quebec and of Canada. He is completely out of touch and yet he is the leader of the Liberal party. His spokesperson, the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer, who just referred to Bloc members as hypocrites, will therefore have the opportunity this afternoon to show whether or not he is a hypocrite himself. There will be a motion proposing exactly what he says he wants to do: prevent Quebec from losing any democratic weight and any representation in the House of Commons of Canada.

Nothing will discredit what his leader recently called the political class more than standing up and declaiming in a trembling voice that one defends Quebec's interests and its representation here, then voting against the motion in the afternoon.

This is a big moment for the Liberal Party of Canada this afternoon. We are going to see whether the Liberals, who are fond of lecturing others, are still emulating Pierre Trudeau, who killed the real Canada that had been built since 1867. Will they choose Pierre Trudeau's “One Canada” or a Canada that reflects our reality and the fact that there is a distinct Quebec nation within that federation?

Those of us who have spent our political careers working tirelessly to keep Quebec in Canada—or as my leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, is fond of saying, those of us who have worked to create winning conditions for Canada within Quebec—are going to keep on doing whatever we can to make Quebec realize that Canada is the best option for workers, for families and for Quebec's future.

The biggest problem is the attitude the Liberal Party has had for the past 40 years. That has been the main problem with the Canadian federation since the time of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The Liberals pay lip service to the idea of recognizing Quebec, but when push comes to shove, they always vote against such recognition.

The sad fact is that the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, which were negotiated in good faith, were necessary because the Canadian Constitution that Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Jean Chrétien repatriated includes the law passed in English only in England, with a bilingual schedule. The law begins with the words “Whereas Canada has requested”.

It is a bald-faced lie to say that Canada requested this, because Quebec was not included, unless the point was to show that to Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada, Canada did not include Quebec. That has been the problem since 1982. The Canadian Constitution, which was adopted despite both sovereignist and federalist opposition in Quebec City, still exists. In spite of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, which were negotiated in good faith, the government has never managed to accommodate Quebec to this day.

We went step by step, line by line, recognition by recognition, thereby admitting that a big constitutional debate was perhaps not the only course of action. We can go step by step so long as our words mean something. The Conservatives recognized Quebec as a nation within a united Canada, and the other parties followed suit. That recognition was unanimous. On October 9, 2009, the National Assembly of Quebec was also unanimous: it asked the federal government to renounce the tabling of any bill whose consequence would be to reduce the weight of Quebec in the House of Commons.

And that is exactly what is before us today. The words of the Conservatives will be judged in terms of what happens here, this afternoon. The argument of the Liberal member for Hull—Aylmer that his party would vote against a motion that seeks to do exactly what he claims to want, in order to refer it to committee, is a web of lies that needs unravelling.

The spokesman for the Liberal Party of Canada told the House, barely half an hour ago, that his party would oppose any attempt to weaken Quebec's weight in the House. He cannot say that and then turn around and vote against the Bloc's motion and amendment, which seek to do exactly that.

The NDP speaks with one voice on this. We will support the amendment, which aligns the Bloc's motion with the unanimous motion of the National Assembly of Quebec. Let us hope there are enough men and women of good faith in this room to understand that, beyond the jeers and attacks of the Liberal party, if they believe that Quebec constitutes a nation within a united Canada, they cannot say so in one breath and vote against the recognition of that reality in the next breath.

So it is with pride that the NDP will vote this afternoon in favour of this amendment, which seeks to preserve Quebec's demographic and democratic weight in the House of Commons. At the same time, the NDP will continue to work fervently to rectify a situation that is unacceptable for British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

If the Supreme Court recognizes the reality of communities of interest, what could be a more important community of interest than the only province with a francophone majority?

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeMinister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, there seems to be a contradiction in the NDP caucus. Just a few weeks ago the NDP member from Windsor was quoted in The Hill Times as supporting representation by population. Coming from Ontario, perhaps that is an indication why he believes this.

The formula that the Conservative government has brought forward is simply a recognition that faster growing provinces are under-represented. We have a principle-based formula that addresses this, as much as possible, although Ontario, B.C. and Alberta, using the member's logic, would still be under-represented in the House, just not as much as they have been.

The member suggests that either he does not agree with the principle of representation by population, or he does not agree that Alberta, Ontario and B.C. are under-represented, or he advocates some other formula. It is not clear, but it certainly is not consistent with the representation by population, which is what this government has proposed. It is very simple.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is completely false to affirm, as the minister just did, that this bill does not treat Quebec worse than the other provinces. The only province in Canada to go from a slight percentage over population to being below its representation by population is Quebec. Therefore, on the first point of representation by population he is completely wrong.

With regard to the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, yes, a situation has to be corrected and that was in the first paragraph of the letter the leader of the NDP sent to the leader of the Bloc Québécois. We say the same thing in the House that we say outside this House. However, we also voted for the recognition of Quebec as a distinct society in Canada.

The Conservative government now has arrived before the House and has proposed a bill where the big loser, the only province that makes the change from being above average to being the only that drops below, is Quebec. How can Conservatives, with a straight face, claim to support the recognition of the Québécois as a distinct nation within Canada and still propose that Quebec lose its democratic and demographic weight in the House?

It is an absolute contradiction. We can do both. When we are in the business of nation building, we do not divide one against the other. We do not use words like the Liberals did, like hypocrite, to attack the Bloc. If we really believe in Canada, we understand that Quebec is special within Canada for historical, cultural and legal reasons. If people like me had spent their life in Quebec City fighting to keep Quebec in Canada, they would fight against those who would use a pretext like this as a way of dividing Canadians among themselves.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member for Outremont could elaborate on his views regarding the fact that this government, and the Liberal Party of Canada, do not recognize the unanimous will of the National Assembly, led by the Premier of Quebec, whom he knows very well and who is a former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Could the member give us his views on the fact that the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, in which he was an excellent Minister of the Environment, is being ignored, along with the whole National Assembly, by government members and by our neighbours on this side?

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hardest thing to swallow today is indeed the double talk being spouted by the Liberal Party of Canada.

Reformists, who are enjoying unchallenged dominance in a party called the Conservative Party but that bears no resemblance to the former Progressive Conservative Party, have always been anti-Quebec. They have always fought against any recognition or accommodation for Quebec, except on the day when they realized that, by doing a spin in this House, they could propose that Quebeckers be recognized as a nation within a united Canada. This was meant to embarrass the Liberals right in the midst of a leadership race. The proposal was unanimously passed.

Since then, they have constantly targeted this recognition. Not only do they refuse to give it real content, but they also remove some of the content that is already there, such as Quebeckers' percentage of representation in the House.

As for the Liberals, they take the cake. We recognize the Liberals of Pierre Trudeau, their speech at the Maison du Egg Roll, their anti-Quebec rhetoric to better provoke Quebeckers and ensure a BQ and PQ resistance. This scenario has always served the interests of the Liberal Party of Canada. The Liberals would go in the rest of Canada and say that the country was lucky to have them to fight evil separatists.

As for the NDP, it has an open-minded and positive attitude. We want to build bridges, not destroy them. Unfortunately, as regards the Conservatives, they say one thing when they recognize Quebeckers as a nation, but their actions do not reflect their words. The big loser with this legislation is Quebec. That is the sad reality created by the Conservatives' actions.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Outremont has stated that he plans to bring a further amendment forward. If he did not state that, then he should perhaps clarify it. If he is to bring one forward, when will he to do it? We would like to hear.

When I look at the motion, as amended, it makes me think of the political maxim that we learned in school, that all people are created equal but some people are more equal than others. That is what this motion says.

The motion means there would be 10 additional seats for the province of Quebec. It means there would be diminished representation for the provinces in the rest of the country. It means there would be 348 seats in the House of Commons. It also means topping up Quebec's count in perpetuity, no matter the population in the rest of the provinces. In other words, if the population in the other provinces increased, this motion, as amended, would mean that Quebec would continue to get more representation.

If that is what the member for Outremont supports, then that is not fair.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I note with great interest the obvious contradiction between the fact the member says that if we have an amendment, he would like to see it. Then in the next sentence he says the motion, as amended, which means he has seen it. The reason he has seen it is because it is in the newspapers. I suspect that even some people in the Conservative Party are able to read newspapers.

With regard to the fact that some are more equal than others, the proposition that the Québécois form a nation within Canada originated from his Prime Minister. There are only two possibilities. Either his Prime Minister was sincere when he proposed to the House that the Québécois be recognized as a nation within a united Canada, or it was a political stunt. If he was sincere, then we have to make the accommodation.

Nation building is a bit more work than just throwing bombs across the floor, like the Conservatives like to do. If they would like to start to build bridges instead of bombing bridges, then they could join us to ensure that we make Quebec a winner within Canada, while at the same time we correct an historical inequity for the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

Guess what? We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Outremont for spelling out so clearly and effectively the position of the NDP. We have spent a lot of time on this and we continue to spend a lot of time on the reform of Parliament to make it work better for Canadians.

My question is with regard to the member for Outremont's referral to the leader of our party, the member for Toronto—Danforth, who has always talked about creating winning conditions for Quebec within Canada. Both the member for Outremont and the member for Toronto—Danforth have talked about giving effect to the meaning of a recognized nation within a united Canada.

If we do not recognize that some accommodation needs to be made, what would that do to the chances of Quebec ever signing on formally to the Constitution to be a part of our great country?

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises the key point that is being discussed here today. We cannot, out of one side of our mouths, keep claiming that we recognize the Québécois as a nation within a united Canada and, on the other hand, every time we have the opportunity to do something to give real meaning to that, turn our noses up at it, as the Conservatives seem intent upon doing.

Those of us, like the leader of the New Democratic Party, who were born in Quebec and understand the reality of Quebec have always fought to keep Quebec and Canada together and understand the importance of what is being done here today. Those who seek to divide, like the Conservatives and the Liberals, will have to live with the history of this.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Sherbrooke.

I rise today to speak on a bill of great importance to Quebec. Indeed, we have an opportunity today to discuss the principles that the Conservative government wants to impose in the redistribution of seats that is planned following the 2011 census. This threat is real and concerns us greatly. In its present form, the bill is far from perfect. It does nothing for Quebec, and over the longer term it is quite obvious that the Prime Minister is seeking to minimize the representation of Quebeckers.

Whether the Minister of State likes it or not, this bill clearly demonstrates that the political parties who have spoken, the Liberals and the former Reform members, hold contradictory views. The irony of the redistribution that the Conservatives are proposing in this bill is that Quebec’s influence in politics in Canada would be diminished. This is nothing more than a partisan manoeuvre against the Quebec nation. That is the ultimate objective of the Liberals and the Conservatives. It appears that no accommodation is possible, and that is unacceptable.

What the government is really after is a majority of seats, and it will pursue that even if it leads to minimizing the place of francophones within Canada and denying effective representation of francophones within Quebec, which is the cradle of francophones in Canada. The only ones who would support such an approach are the political parties trying to achieve a majority government. It is clear that the historical rules that have prevailed since the negotiations that led to the Act of Union of 1840 and the subsequent integration of other provinces are being tossed aside. What is more, each additional rule was an attempt to re-establish some kind of fair representation of the people elected in each province and to preserve their unique qualities. Everybody benefited. Only Quebec, because of one specific measure, does not receive that historic recognition in the current bill. Once again, Canada consists of all the provinces and territories except Quebec.

We must remember that at the very beginning of Canada’s history the principle of representation by population was not adopted, because that would have put anglophones in a minority position due to their smaller population. Quebec would have dominated with greater political power. The government must respect certain principles above all. Why should we not benefit from the full recognition of the Quebec nation and protection of its special character that makes it so unique in North America?

Mr. Speaker, you will surely recall the motion recognizing Quebec as a nation. That motion in 2006 surprised many people. Can you tell me what measures the government introduced in favour that concept? I am trying to find examples that would serve as basic arguments for a reform proposal. I have looked and I have not found any. I believe that before trying to introduce a new model of representation, it would have been wise to introduce concrete measures long before today. This government has certainly had many opportunities. Instead of a firm commitment to recognize Quebec for what it is, the Conservatives have proved that they are not serious about meeting their obligations.

Why be so hasty to make these changes? What is the rush? Even worse, why is the political representation of Quebec being sidelined? The Meech Lake accord in 1990 and the Charlottetown accord in 1992 tried to bring Quebec back into the Canadian fold. Does the Conservative government want to cause a third constitutional rift?

The representation of some provinces is protected within a proportional representation system, so why does the Conservative government’s plan not include some way to protect the relative weight of Quebec? As the Chief Justice of the British Columbia Supreme Court has stated, the Canadian constitution has never provided for mathematically perfect representation, but has always included protection for provinces in which the population is in relative decline. Population growth in Quebec is not keeping pace with other provinces. That is the truth of the matter. Does that mean that measures should not be taken to protect Quebec’s representation? Of course not.

Given the way the federal government has treated Quebec, there is every reason to be wary of quick legislation in this area. Quebeckers do not currently support this type of change. An Angus Reid poll on April 7, 2010, showed that 71% of Quebeckers were opposed to this bill.

Quebeckers are entitled to expect the government to formally recognize the Quebec nation and the fact that French is its common language, to have their national culture and cultural institutions fully recognized, and to be able to encourage newcomers to look at Quebec culture as being different from other cultures. We debated many other examples during the last session of Parliament. It is clear to me that the interests and challenges of the Quebec nation are different from those of Canada. Do you understand that?

Does the government have valid grounds to proceed unilaterally without the support of at least seven provinces representing at least 50% of the population of Canada? Where is Quebec’s protection under paragraph 42(1) a), which establishes modified proportional representation taking into account population decline and the principles of other rules on the Senate floor where a province cannot have fewer seats in the Commons than it has in the Senate?

Ontario has long benefited from the original 1867 formula. I would love to hear a member stand up and say in this House that Quebec does not have the right to demand the same guarantee. Quebec is entitled to “effective representation”, because below a certain threshold, it cannot effectively defend its interests. I urge you to think about what would happen if Quebec’s proportion of seats were to decrease. What is disturbing—and the bill makes this abundantly clear—is that Quebec’s distinct character is still being denied and Quebec is being given minority status within Canada and left unprotected. What do you have for Quebeckers other than recognition of the Quebec nation, which should absolutely remain unconditional? Is that it?

I still believe that we need to take a closer look at the behaviour of the parliamentarians who wish to form a so-called majority government. As long as parties remain under the influence of rather undemocratic circles, namely, large corporations and other entrepreneurs with lots of money and a relaxed code of ethics, the interests of the people can never be properly defended. Just look at what the government does to satisfy its electoral base. Now look at the nature of the scandals currently affecting this government. What can we say about Quebec's position compared to that of the Government of Canada at the Copenhagen summit on climate change? Not to mention that the government remains elusive about the questions surrounding the public inquiries that Quebeckers and Canadians are demanding. On each of these issues, the government replies with scripted lines that avoid the substance of the issues. Senior officials sound like broken records or are being silenced.

As many members will agree, the high degree of censorship is extremely worrisome. There is every reason to believe that the problem could be elsewhere. What does the next government have in store for us and what policies will it try to introduce? What is next from this government, the master of prorogation and the culture of secrecy? What could possibly justify such a bill that does not recognize either democracy or proportional representation, considering the recognition of the Quebec nation?

In closing, will the bill make it through the legislative process, when a similar bill died on the order paper in 2007? Why is the government so determined to limit Quebec's influence? While the idea of improving political representation in the House of Commons for the provinces with the fastest population growth is commendable, the Conservative government must not lose sight of Quebec's unique character when it considers increasing the number of seats in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. If the goal is to impose purely proportional representation or full representation by population, the government needs the approval of the seven provinces with 50% of the population of Canada.

Since Quebec is a mainly French-speaking nation, it is only natural that it wants to defend its political weight in Ottawa. We cannot accept the bill as it stands, since it aims to continue diminishing the position of francophones within Canada. I am sure the members will understand. Now we simply have to wait and see who has the political courage.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a shame to be in the House and hear Bloc member after Bloc member talk down the successes and the contributions of the people of Quebec. When I think of Quebec I think of a great province within a united Canada that has helped us build a remarkable country.

I represent a riding that had over 170,000 people at the time of the last election, with over 7,000 more occupancies since then. I represent probably close to 190,000 people in my constituency alone. I am not sure how the member thinks it is fair that the people of my riding should have their vote be worth so much less than in other parts of the country. In particular, is it not true that one of the greatest threats to our nation is when people do not feel that their vote is actually worth what it is supposed to be worth and that when they go to the ballot box and make their intentions known that their vote might not be counted?

Is not the real reason that the Bloc is putting forward an amendment like this is that it hopes to discourage people in the rest of the country and, by doing so, that will bring its ultimate aim of removing Quebec from Canada that much closer to reality?

I would also say that the alternative is that members of the Bloc think I am such a valuable member of Parliament that I can represent 200,000 people without problems and that they actually need more of a crutch in the province of Quebec. They need ridings that are smaller because perhaps the members of the Bloc do not quite have the same ability to represent the people of Quebec that I do.

Those are the only things I can gather from a motion such as this. I think the good people of Quebec have contributed a tremendous amount to this country. I am proud that Quebec is an important province within a unified Canada. I hope members of the Bloc will at some point in time reflect on all of the good work and hard work that the people of Quebec have done to help build such a great country.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will give a simple answer to my colleague opposite. What is important to those who elected us, members of the Bloc Québécois, is to identify with the values that are shared here in this House. The principle of representation by population is laudable. I said so in my conclusion. Maybe the member did not hear my speech.

However, we must take into account what makes Quebec such a distinct society. That is exactly what is missing from the bill that was introduced and what Quebeckers perceive as a threat.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, in her speech the member also mentioned how the voting patterns were at the time of Confederation. I recall that at the time of Confederation women were not given the opportunity to vote in general elections. It took some time for us to do that.

I know the member cannot possibly be suggesting that looking back on how this country was formed is the way we should determine voting patterns.

Again I would ask the hon. member the same question. I represent close to 200,000 people, one of the largest ridings in the country, if not the largest riding in the country. Is the member and the Bloc suggesting that I am such a good member of Parliament that I can do that? Is she suggesting that the Bloc members currently do not have the ability to represent people effectively so they need to reduce the number of people they represent and the size of their ridings because they have just been so incredibly unsuccessful in all of the years that they have been representing Quebec here?

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the member raised the issue of the representation of women here because it so happens that one of the criticisms made about the bill—which has been heavily criticized in the newspapers—is that its implementation would weaken the representation of women in Parliament.

Women in Quebec do not identify with the current government, its values and the legislation it brings forward and we have the right to come here and express their wishes loud and clear.

I would encourage the member opposite to do his homework on the application of the bill. I too represent a heavily populated riding and I manage to serve my constituents, but I also manage to express in this House the priorities and values that these people expect me to defend. Decreasing Quebec's political weight in the House will simply compromise the effectiveness of my work in Parliament.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for agreeing to share her speaking time with me.

At this point, after listening to several members, I would like to look again at this motion and discuss it along with the amendment that is included.

That the House denounce the fact that the government seeks to marginalize the Quebec nation by introducing a bill to decrease Quebec’s political weight in the House, and call on the government not to enact any legislation that would reduce Quebec’s current representation in the House of Commons of 24.35% of the seats.

I often think of the party leader who claims to govern Canada, and therefore Quebec, and who, in December 2005, promised Quebec all that openness. I did not say “the Quebec nation” because at that time the leader did not believe in the Quebec nation. He spoke about an open federalism and the recognition of our distinctive character, and cleverly succeeded in winning a minority government. The word “minority” is very important because, in that case, he avoided a disaster both in Quebec and in the rest of Canada.

Of course, that was followed by the recognition of the Quebec nation in this House, thanks to the initiative of the Bloc Québécois. This was strategic for the government at the time. Did they really believe it? Probably not, given what they have and have not done since then. They tried to use the motion to once again hoodwink Quebeckers. Obviously, as time goes on, this has not worked as well. What are they trying to do now? They are trying to marginalize Quebec, to reduce its political weight. They think that will fly.

At the same time that they want to reduce the political weight of Quebec, they are reducing their own influence in Quebec. I mean that there are fewer and fewer Quebeckers who believe the empty speeches of this party in power. If it does remain in power, I hope that it will always be a minority. If we had a more courageous official opposition, both the Quebec nation and the Canadian nation would come out ahead.

When two nations negotiate as equals, we can talk about a weight of 50% each and of a contribution to a common objective.

Of course, there would be no point in saying that Quebec wants 50% of the seats in this House. That would not fly. As my colleague said previously, Quebec’s population amounts to 50% of the population of the rest of Canada. I am an accountant and other economist colleagues have done the calculations; 50% of 50% is 25%. That percentage would have been reasonable, but we have to admit that today we are at 24.35%. The vote of the National Assembly is very clear, and it is unanimous. Quebec’s representation in the House of Commons must not be reduced.

That is where we get that percentage. We are not prepared to work with anything less than the political weight we currently have.

At the beginning of the debate, I heard the Liberal Party say the same thing, but we were told that it would vote against the Bloc Québécois motion. The Liberal member actually called the Bloc Québécois hypocrites, and I am wondering what the Liberal Party is going to do.

There are 75 members from Quebec in the House. Normally, they should defend Quebec's interests because they normally recognize the nation of Quebec. I say “normally“ because I am including the Conservatives. It must be recognized not only in words, but also in deeds. The 75 members from Quebec should all agree on the motion of the National Assembly to maintain Quebec's political weight.

The hon. Conservative member said earlier that we were less able to represent more numerous ridings than theirs. I do not believe that. If he was saying that to insult us, we can only imagine how the members from Prince Edward Island must be feeling. If I am not mistaken, according to the latest figures, there were four members from Prince Edward Island representing around 100,000 people, which is the equivalent of the new city of Sherbrooke.

I represent the former cities of Sherbrooke, Fleurimont and Bromptonville, which add up to a good number of people. I could have just as well represented the whole new city of Sherbrooke, but the hon. member from Compton—Stanstead would not have liked that very much.

So it is not a question of an inability to meet the needs of our constituents. On the contrary, we must go beyond numbers, and recognize the needs of a people and of a nation. We must meet its deepest aspirations. No nation can really agree to having its political weight in this House reduced.

I would like to say something else about all the Quebec members in the House. I believe that none of these members, if they want the support of Quebeckers in the next elections, can vote against the Bloc Québécois motion. Obviously, I am addressing the Liberals. I think there are 14 Liberal members from Quebec. I am also addressing the 11 Conservative members from Quebec and the one independent member from Quebec. All members from Quebec should unanimously support the Bloc motion. That would prevent Quebec's political weight from being reduced. It is a question of nationhood, as simple as that, and of the respect that entails. I cannot imagine that the Liberals and Conservatives who consider themselves to be a part of that nation can vote against this motion and agree to having Quebec's political weight reduced.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

I agree with my colleague from Sherbrooke, Mr. Speaker. What matters is not quantity, but quality.

In 1992, when the Charlottetown accord was signed without Quebec's consent, there were 75 federalists in Quebec, 74 of whom were Liberals who forced the Constitution down Quebec's throat. Now, they are insulting the Bloc Québécois for standing up for Quebec's values, language and culture in this place since 1993.

I would like to know what my colleague from Sherbrooke thinks of the insulting remarks by federalists about the democratic vote of the people who send to Ottawa elected members to represent them to the best of their knowledge and values.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, the very existence and presence of the Bloc Québécois in this House represent the greatest expression of democracy that I know of. In a country like Canada, within this federal system, people still have the right and opportunity to rise and state what they want, assert their aspirations and trust that someone will respond to their needs and those aspirations.

Indeed, the presence of the Bloc Québécois in this place is the finest expression of democracy, and we are up front about it—we are no hypocrites—we want Quebec to achieve independence. We are indépendantistes. The federalists in Quebec, both Liberals and Conservatives, refer to us as sovereignists and, often, as the evil separatists. The appropriate term, however, for us would be indépendantistes, and for the federalists from Quebec, it would be “dépendantistes” because therein lies all the difference. The “dépendantistes”, otherwise known as Quebec federalists, expect to get more because the pie appears to be larger. They have career plans, they are career-oriented. We Bloc members from Quebec are here for the Quebec nation and for it to achieve complete independence.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what my friend from the Bloc Québécois has just stated, this motion is contrary to any democratic principle that I have heard. Clearly, the Bloc Québécois is opposed to representation by population. It is clearly opposed to that. I can say, for example, that Alberta's population has been increasing in 2010-2011 at twice the rate of the province of Quebec. However, in this motion, that is before the House today as presented by the Bloc Québécois, the province of Quebec would get twice as many seats as the province of Alberta. That is not fair.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, no one in a “normal” country could be opposed to democratic representation. One person, one vote: that is a right. People may think of other types of representation, but the situation today is different. Conservatives and “dependentists” generally cannot get their head around the fact that when they accepted something that has always existed—the Quebec nation—there were things that could not be applied across the board. That is a simplistic view because we have that dimension, we have a unique Quebec nation and we have the Canadian nation.

How should it work? Do the Conservatives think it should work a different way? The very least that we propose is that the democratic weight of Quebec in this House remain the same.

Opposition motion—Representation of Quebec in the House of CommonsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, today we are discussing the Bloc Québécois motion to preserve the number of members Quebec currently has in the House of Commons. I would like to point out that the motion has already been rejected by the people of Quebec. In addition, our constitution already guarantees Quebec 75 members of Parliament, regardless of the province’s population.

We have tabled another bill, with the Constitution, that will give more seats to provinces in which the population has increased. For free citizens, the principle of representation by population is fundamental. It is absolutely fundamental for democracies the world over.

My friend opposite said that this is a principle in a normal country but not Canada. What exactly is a normal country? He implied that Canada is not normal, and that is an entirely different debate.

It is important to recognize that our democratic system is supported by other countries. It is the foundation for any country that wishes to be considered democratic.

Many of my colleagues on this side of the House have debated this issue. Once I have finished, I will give the floor to the member for Edmonton Centre, with whom I am sharing my time because it is important to hear what Alberta and British Columbia, where my riding is located, have to say.

For years, we have witnessed dramatic population growth, especially in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Our Constitution therefore requires that the number of members be increased. Those are the facts. The principle in Canada is representation by population, but it is not perfect. It does not apply perfectly in all constituencies.

Several years ago, a Supreme Court judge, the Honourable Beverley McLachlin, ruled that it was not essential to have the same number of people in every constituency, but that the principle of representation by population was paramount.

To reflect population growth in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, our bill gives those provinces another seven, five and 18 seats respectively.

At the same time, we are going to continue to extend our support, so that Quebec has 75 MPs, regardless of its population. The system that we support gives more weight to Quebec MPs, because even if the population in their ridings is somewhat less than in other regions of the country, they will continue to hold a minimum of 75 seats.

There is another interesting thing about the Bloc's request. That request was rejected in 1992, during the debate on the Charlottetown accord. Indeed, the issue of Quebec holding 25% of the seats in the House was included in the Charlottetown accord, but 55% of Quebeckers voted against the accord. Since then, no individual or organization from Quebec has approached the House of Commons to get this 25% level, which had been rejected in 1992. Even the National Assembly does not support the idea.

Therefore, why do Bloc members want to support something which was rejected by Quebec itself, by the citizens of Quebec? Today, even the National Assembly does not support this request. This is because a majority of Quebeckers understand that there are constitutional guarantees to ensure they have a minimum number of MPs. This is why it is very important to support our bill on democratic representation, which will result in an increase in the number of seats for those provinces whose population is growing. It is very simple.

We do not understand why Bloc members want something that could reduce Quebec's current representation. According to our numbers, Quebec will have more seats, possibly two, even with the guarantee of a minimum level. So, Quebeckers will continue to have a guaranteed presence here in the future. Quebec's representation in the House will have more weight. Indeed, its population is smaller, but the province will have more seats. We support that.

This is why I am urging my colleagues to support our bill to add seats based on the population, and to also support a constitutional guarantee to ensure that the province of Quebec keeps 75 MPs, regardless of its population. This is how we support Quebec. The Bloc's proposal does not work and it does not reflect the will of Quebeckers and Canadians.