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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

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, the will of Quebeckers is expressed through those who represent them. There are 125 members in the National Assembly in Quebec, and there are 75 members of Parliament in this House, 49 of who are against this bill. Thus, we have 87% of elected representatives from Quebec who oppose this Conservative scheme.

I am deeply concerned about Canada’s public finances when I realize the President of the Treasury Board has trouble with basic math. As a matter of fact, 75 over 308 is 24.3%, and 75 over 338 is 10% less. He should know that, in his capacity as President of the Treasury Board. Canada is not being well managed if he cannot do basic math. He would need to have eight new members from Quebec, out of 30, or 10 new members, on top of the 30 that are provided by this bill if he wants things to add up.

The member, who is making excellent progress in French, is in urgent need of a basic math course.

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

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his kind words on the progress I am making in French, but I have another problem.

My colleague is telling us that Bloc members still reflect the will of the people in Quebec. I wonder why they oppose our bill that sets mandatory sentences for criminals who commit very serious crimes or reoffend. I wonder why they are against our bill to introduce mandatory sentences for criminals who commit crimes against children.

Does he think he is representing the majority opinion in Quebec? It is the same about this. I am convinced that Quebec citizens want to keep the 75 members they are guaranteed in the House of Commons.

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

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to engage my hon. colleague, the President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, in the subject of regionality.

I come from a riding where there is one representative for an entire region. In the 1970s the riding was split and, because of regionality, one riding was given to the eastern Arctic at the time under the same jurisdiction. Now that there are two separate territories, there are two separate seats. Under regionality four seats are given to Prince Edward Island. That is a very important point.

Does the minister not agree that we are in a confederation where every region has to have representation that is adequate for its requirements regardless of the population distribution? The representation of a region in a confederation is highly important.

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

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague on the point he has made.

I believe that particular principle is coincidental with the principle of representation by population. It was addressed in a very good judgment written by Justice Beverley McLachlin before she was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada; in fact she was in the court of British Columbia at the time.

The subject of strict interpretation of representation by population was brought before her. Her judgment said that is the basic principle by which we operate, but she also talked about the uniqueness, size, breadth and distribution of population in Canada itself. She said that the goal must first be representation by population but then there is some room to allow for a difference in number of voters within a particular constituency to reflect some of the unique qualities of Canada.

As to some of the remarks my friend made relating to the Arctic, certainly that judgment would have some bearing on them and would need to be taken into consideration.

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

12:55 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to today's opposition day motion, which has been moved by the member for Joliette.

The issue before the House today is fundamentally important for our democracy, and that is representation in the House of Commons.

All hon. members and indeed all Canadians can agree that representation in this House must be fair. This means two things: it must be fair for every province in the federation and it must be fair for all Canadians regardless of the province in which they live. Our government introduced the democratic representation act on April 1 to bring fairness back to the people's House.

In a country as vast and diverse as ours, finding that balance is not always easy. Competing equities must be considered to ensure fairness. Nevertheless fairness for all provinces and for all Canadians must be the overriding objective. That is why the motion put forward by the member for Joliette is so misguided and why I urge all members to vote against the motion today.

I will focus my remarks on the historic representation of Quebec in the House of Commons and provide some background on the distribution of seats in the House. This will provide better context for our debate and demonstrate that the member's motion is, in fact, unnecessary.

In contrast, Bill C-12, the democratic representation act, strikes the right balance for the democratic representation of all provinces and all Canadians.

At Confederation, the principle of representation by population in the House of Commons was paramount. It was this principle, combined with equality of reasonable representation in the Upper House, that made the union of Canada in one dominion possible.

The Constitution Act of 1867 reflected the principle of representation by population, or rep by pop as it is commonly known. It included a formula for readjusting seats in the House every 10 years.

That formula allocated 65 seats to Quebec and allocated seats to other provinces in proportion to their respective populations. In other words, representation in the House was rep by pop, with the average riding population in Quebec used as the standard to determine the representation of other provinces. The Confederation formula also included protection against a loss of seats if a province's population were to rapidly decline.

Although the seat allocation formula has changed over time, the following two elements of the formula have remained stable since Confederation. The first element is that there is an allocation of seats based on population. It is pretty simple. The second is that there is protection against the loss of seats for provinces whose populations are in relative decline. That is also pretty simple. That formula has never provided a guaranteed percentage of seats for any single province.

I cannot imagine that anyone in this House disputes that smaller provinces may need more seats than may be justified by their populations, to help enhance their representation in this House, and we have heard some examples. However, by definition, this means that other provinces will have a reduced representation.

Again we are faced with a question of fairness. Is it fair for smaller provinces to be under-represented or for a larger province that already has a significant proportion of seats to accept some under-representation to enhance the representation of smaller provinces?

I love P.E.I. for many reasons. It is a beautiful, historic province. It has tremendously friendly people, who were wise enough to elect a great representative in our fisheries minister. I envy P.E.I. MPs. In Edmonton Centre, I have as many constituents as the entire population of Prince Edward Island. Each P.E.I. MP has about 35,000 constituents. In round numbers, I have 130,000. I really envy them because if I had that few constituents, I would know them all on a first-name basis.

It is the same with the seats in the north, obviously granting its size.

But there are some common sense reasons there could be some disparity in the number of seats. P.E.I. is an example and the north is another example.

Under the current formula, P.E.I. gets three of its four seats from seat protections rather than population size. According to a strict rep by pop formula, P.E.I. is over-represented in this House, but I believe we could all agree that this is fair in a House of more than 300 members.

The same rationale does not apply to a province that already has 18 times as many seats as P.E.I. and the second largest number of seats in the House. Yet this is exactly what the member for Joliette would ask us to support.

To look at it another way, Quebec is the second-largest province in the country, and yet the populations of its ridings are much smaller than the medium-sized provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. Is it fair that it takes an average of at least 17,000 more Albertans to elect an MP from that province than it does to elect an MP from the province of Quebec?

Now to return to the terms of the motion before the House today, the member for Joliette suggests that Quebec members of Parliament must hold at least 25% of the seats in this House. Members will recall that such a 25% guarantee was proposed as part of the Charlottetown Accord in 1992.

Let us remember that Quebec's share of the provincial population at that time, according to the 1991 census, was slightly over 25%. Yet the Charlottetown Accord was unsuccessful and was ultimately rejected by the people of Quebec. The demographic reality has changed significantly since 1992, and it continues to change. That makes a 25% guarantee even more unrealistic. According to the 2006 census, Quebec's share of the provincial population has fallen to slightly less than 24%. Based on currently available population projections, its share will fall further to 23.2% in the 2011 census and further still to 21.6% by the 2031 census.

That could change. There is no question about that. At the same time, we are experiencing rapid and significant population growth in other provinces, which are prevented from gaining seats that recognize their growth. To support the motion before the House today would further penalize these growing provinces and further undermine the principle of fairness that must underscore representation in the House.

Let us look at one final example. If the current formula is not changed, after the 2011 census, British Columbia will only have about half the seats Quebec has, even though it will have close to 60% of its population. Looked at another way, Quebec will have twice as many seats as B.C., but its share of seats will be greater than its share of the provincial population. In contrast, B.C.'s share of seats will be less than its share of the population by an even larger margin. As a result, an MP from B.C. would be called upon to represent 15,000 more constituents on average than an MP from Quebec.

To accept the member for Joliette's motion, more than 75 seats would have to be given to Quebec to give it 25% of House seats, widening these disparities even more. I am not sure any Canadians, whether they are from British Columbia, Quebec or any other province, would consider this fair, and I do not believe that any member could think so either. Under Bill C-12, even after the adjustments that are suggested, Quebec will still have fewer constituents per riding than the growing provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.

We can all agree that fairness should be the cornerstone of representation in the House of Commons. For that representation to be fair, seats in an elected assembly must be based primarily on population and reflect the demographic realities of our country. Compromises must also be made to ensure effective representation for all Canadians across Canada. Bill C-12 would balance our desire to bring the House closer to the fundamental democratic principle of representation by population while continuing to protect the seat counts in slower-growing provinces such as Quebec.

Simply stated, the motion before the House today would take us even further from that core democratic principle. That is why I oppose the motion and I urge all other hon. members to do the same.

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

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Conservative Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for my hon. colleague. I have appreciated the tenor of the debate so far and particularly the comments he made. This may have been said before, but the Mowat Centre called Canada “one of the worst violators of citizen equality”. We have the NDP and the Bloc wanting to make that worse. They are basically rejecting the concept of representation by population.

Can he explain to us or at least in brief respond in terms of the principled approach our government is taking to strike some balance here? Can he maybe give us a little bit of detail in respect to that?

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

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, our government believes that, to the greatest extent possible, each Canadian's vote should carry equal weight. That is the principle behind Bill C-12. It would be violated by passage of the hon. member's motion today.

We want to restore the principle of representation by population to the House of Commons. Every few years, of course, it is going to get a little bit out of whack because some provinces grow and some provinces do not. Hopefully no province shrinks, but the rate of growth is obviously different. It is simply a matter of fairness and a matter of making sure every Canadian's vote carries equal weight, whether that Canadian is from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec or wherever.

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

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, did the member who spoke before me actually read the Bloc Québécois motion, which does not at all attack greater representation for the three Canadian provinces where population has increased significantly? It simply asks that Quebec's representation, granted at the very beginning, in 1867, under the British North America Act, be respected. Has he read the motion?

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

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have read the entire motion. It is quite short and to the point.

The simple fact is that Quebec's interests have been represented by the House of Commons. Its seat count has increased from 65 to 75 over the years. As Canada's population changes, as demographic changes take place, it is necessary to readjust the number of seats in the provinces, to preserve fairness and to preserve the equality of votes for every Canadian.

It is a very simple formula of rep by pop. It is followed around the world in virtually all democracies that I am aware of. This is not taking anything away from Quebec. We are preserving what Quebec has. We are merely recognizing that other parts of the country are growing more quickly than Quebec, and Canadians in those parts of the country deserve to have equal representation with their member of Parliament.

For me to have 130,000 constituents and for somebody in Quebec to have 105,000 constituents would necessarily result in a little bit different level of service. It is a matter of providing fairness and equal service to Canadians regardless of where they live.

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

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Today, we are discussing the following motion presented and amended by the Bloc Québécois:

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.

This motion is in response to the fact that the Conservative Party has introduced, on three occasions, a bill or motion to diminish the political weight of Quebec in this House.

The Conservatives recognized the Quebec nation to some extent. However, they have since systematically attacked this nation and rejected any proposal to give tangible expression to that recognition.

They introduced Bill C-12, which would further marginalize the Quebec nation in Canada.

In 1867, when the Canadian Confederation or federation came together, Quebec's weight was 36% in terms of seats. At this rate, we will have only 22.4% of the seats in 2014. This government will no longer engage in open federalism but will be muzzling the provinces.

Every time a bill has been introduced to reduce Quebec's political weight in the House, Quebec's National Assembly has taken a stand and unanimously demanded withdrawal of the bill. First, there was Bill C-56, then Bill C-22, and now Bill C-12. More than 85% of Quebec's elected representatives are against this bill. We must examine the current provisions.

Since 1867, what steps have reduced Quebec's political weight?

The British North America Act enacted in 1867 contained two extremely important sections.

Section 51 established the House of Commons' representation system and said that a province would maintain the same number of seats even if its relative population decreased. And we should not forget that when Upper and Lower Canada were united, each had the same number of seats.

Then there is section 52:

The Number of Members of the House of Commons may be from time to time increased by the Parliament of Canada, provided the proportionate Representation of the Provinces prescribed by this Act is not thereby disturbed.

Two sections in the British North America Act, sections 51 and 52, ensured that seat distribution amongst the provinces in the House could be changed only by London and it ensured that the number of seats would remain the same, even if a province's population dropped. That was in 1867.

In 1907, the territories became an exception to these rules. Federal territories gained the right to be represented in the House even though their population did not warrant it under proportional representation.

Then, in 1915, Prince Edward Island joined. It had a small population. It asked for additional protection, which was added in 1915 and stated that a province could not have fewer members of the House of Commons than senators. This protection has been maintained over the years. The changes between 1867 and 1915 gave way to other means of stemming the loss of seats for provinces with slow population growth.

Section 51 of the act that was patriated along with the Constitution says that there is a ceiling. I think that it is important to point out that for some provinces, population losses in demographic terms were ignored. Furthermore, at the time, London had the power to amend the act. Now that the Constitution has been patriated, we have had the power since 1949 to amend it and to make our own laws here in the House of Commons, as long as seven provinces representing 50% of the population plus one agree with any constitutional change. I think that is important because there is some doubt about whether the current Conservative government has the right to introduce a change to the Representation Act in terms of ridings. Does it have that right? The government says that it does. It is hiding behind democracy and claiming that its proposal would ensure better representation for the people of three provinces. However, we do not believe that that is its real agenda. It is trying to accommodate certain provinces to ensure that the people of those provinces elect federalist Conservative and Liberal members and that, as a result, Quebec loses its political weight in this federation. The Conservative government is trying to raise the ceiling used to calculate each province's population-based representation because it wants to give more seats to the provinces with the fastest-growing populations.

Since 1985, twelve additional seats have been given to six provinces with low demographic growth rates. Today, seven provinces benefit from the system that was brought in, but as everyone knows, Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia are at a disadvantage. The Conservative government can find a legitimate way to fix the problem, but it must protect provinces whose population is declining relative to the whole. We believe that, by focusing too closely on approximating pure representation by population, the government is in danger of violating paragraph 42(1)(a), which, as we saw earlier, enshrines modified proportionate representation.

As I said earlier, since 1982, when the Constitution was patriated, the consent of at least seven provinces has been required to make changes to representation in the House of Commons. We believe that if the government wants to bring in representation by population, it will have to seek the support of seven provinces representing half of Canada's population because this matter falls under the Constitution of Canada.

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

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, after 2006 new members of Parliament were elected to the House of Commons. I asked some of my friends and acquaintances in the province of Quebec why the Quebec City region had changed. They told me that it was because the Bloc Québécois was predominantly taking orders from Montreal and Montreal only, and that the people in and around Quebec City wanted their own voice. They did not want members of Parliament taking orders from Montreal when they lived in Quebec City.

This was demonstrated by a report that the Bloc Québécois commissioned. If the principle needs to be applied that for Canada as a whole 25% of the seats are to be reserved for the province of Quebec, should not the same principle then be applied to the province of Quebec and various regions then be given a certain allotment of seats so that regions such as the Quebec City region be not swamped by the Montreal region?

Is the hon. member in favour of giving 25% of the seats in the province of Quebec to the Quebec City region?

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

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, what I like about these Conservative members is that they confuse apples with oranges. The hon. member missed the point. In fact, I think he did not even read the report coming out of the Quebec City region at the time. That is not at all what we were talking about. We were talking only about representation in terms of political parties. He can laugh all he wants, but he just wasted a lot of time mixing things up.

We want the Conservatives to know that we are not against them increasing representation in the three provinces that need it. Quebec City can remember that some day. If Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons is decreased he just might lose his Conservative MPs. Then perhaps he will realize that we do not mix our apples and oranges.

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

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the Bloc Québécois has spent a great deal of time talking about the past. She also made an interesting statement toward the end of her intervention, which was that we should protect the provinces whose population is declining. So I maintain she should be looking in the future. If any other province in this great country decided to say its population was increasing, in other words, if the roles were reversed to what she is saying Quebec is now, if a province was to be guaranteed even though its population may decline, would she agree to that? Or would she simply say no, it is all about Quebec?

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

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois members in this House have never been against justice for Canadians and Canadian provinces. It is only fair to give representation to provinces whose population is increasing because of a population explosion. We have nothing against that. However, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. In an effort to be fair to the three provinces whose populations are exploding, are we being fair to Quebec, which will lose political weight in this House? Is this fair to Quebec and will Quebec end up keeping what the National Assembly is asking for, namely the equivalent of 24.35% of its weight in this House? I am asking the hon. member.

They do not seem to realize that we are currently not fighting against them, but fighting to continue to exist and to maintain our political weight in this House. What the government is trying to do through the bill that will be introduced is to reduce this political weight and take away our ability to intervene as a nation. It is only natural that the francophone Quebec nation be represented at the same level in the House and keep what it was granted in 1867. We have to be able to maintain our political weight. I find it quite odd that they are trying to pretend we are saying things that are not entirely true.

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

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the constituents of Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques elected me in 2008, they did so knowing full well that I would defend their interests at all costs in this House. I have often stood up to denounce government decisions that went against the needs of my constituents and that of Quebeckers. I want you to know that I keep the promises I make to my constituents and that I will continue doing so with no strings attached. That is why I stand up again today because I strongly disagree with the Conservative government's desire to reduce Quebec's political weight in this parliament. I will give concrete examples of what could happen if the bill were adopted.

Considering the importance that members opposite give to regional development, and considering that the Bloc Québécois is the only party that suggests ideas and concrete solutions to enrich and expand regions, they would be the ones with the most to lose if Bill C-12, which we are criticizing today, were adopted. Not only would it be detrimental to the regions, but also to Quebec, which would experience major losses. Without the important contribution of the Bloc Québécois or Quebec's substantial representation in this House, I cannot imagine where we would be with issues like the environment, unemployment insurance, the forestry crisis, land use, and so on. These are concrete examples of the issues that could be affected.

Considering that there are huge differences between the interests of Quebec and western Canada—of which we have concrete examples every day in this House—and that for political reasons, the Conservatives and the Liberals prefer, first and foremost, to meet demands from western Canada, it is crucial that Quebec maintain its current political weight. That is the minimum. Oil sands and gifts to the oil industry and banks are not part of our everyday life nor so we ever want them to be.

Although Quebec's National Assembly and the members of the Bloc Québécois are asking the federal government to provide timely assistance to people affected by the forestry crisis, the Conservatives insist on subsidizing the automotive industry, mainly concentrated in Ontario, with billions of dollars, and give crumbs to Quebec and its forestry industry. Without the strong presence of the Bloc Québécois, or with Quebec's political weight reduced, we can only imagine the emphasis this House would put on this issue. It would be tragic.

Injustices like those are much too numerous. One need only think of maintaining and developing the regions, such as the eastern part of Quebec, where my riding is located. The Conservatives have the opportunity to make amends and to allocate the necessary funds, for instance to pursue a project submitted under the broadband Canada program, designed to favour the expansion and the availability of communication services like high-speed Internet to the greatest number of communities, mainly rural ones like my own. And yet, the Conservatives keep on postponing the announcement of the grants. As a result, far too many citizens, businesses and communities are left hanging. Are the Conservatives aware of the fact that rural citizens are not second-class citizens? What would become of them if Quebec could not count on its significant proportion of members in the House of Commons?

With a reduced Quebec representation in the House, there is no doubt that the Conservatives and the Liberals would more often create smokescreens with the sole objective of marginalizing the Quebec nation, which they are constantly trying to do.

With Quebec's political weight reduced, how would we press the Conservative government to compensate Quebec by granting the $2.2 billion it is owed for harmonizing its sales tax with the federal one, even though it compensated Ontario to the tune of $4.3 billion?

I will give another example. It is the same for the maritime provinces, which were each granted almost $1 billion in 1997. However, not a dime was given to Quebec, which was the first province to harmonize its tax.

I will say it again: Quebec must, at least, maintain its current political weight in this House because the interests of Quebec and Canada differ too much on too many issues.

Here is another example regarding agriculture. As our leader so aptly put it, there are two distinct agricultural models in Canada: the Quebec model and the one developed in western Canada. Of course, be they Quebeckers or Canadians, producers and consumers share certain common objectives. Agricultural producers from Quebec and Canada agree, for instance, on the dire need for farm income support, a matter on which the Prime Minister's government seems to lack a sense of urgency. There are also fundamental differences between the agricultural models in Quebec and Canada.

In Canada, the majority of producers prefer to rely on exportation, but in Quebec, because of the type of productions and small farms we have, the main stay is production for the local market, which explains the need for Quebec to build on the development of collective mechanisms like supply management. If we want to uphold the idea that we should rely upon the development of collective mechanisms, it is important and crucial that Quebec have a strong representation in this House.

One has to draw the same conclusion as concerns the environment. In Copenhagen, Canada took a rigid position in defending the tar sands at the expense of all the efforts Quebec has made since 1990. How could we fight for Quebec’s interests without the support of a solid proportion of Quebec members in the House, and not token Quebec government members who are unfortunately all too many in this House?

These examples show how much Quebec stands to lose if Bill C-12 is passed.

The interests of Quebec are at stake, of course, but so are the interests of the regions in Quebec. We should avoid at all costs weakening their political weight, so that they can still have an important voice in political fora to be able to express their concerns. Not to mention the place that Quebec as a nation has been given in this House. As my colleagues have eloquently explained, the recognition of Quebec as a nation has no meaning for this House. And the decision to decrease the weight of Quebec in the House of Commons is just the last in a long series of examples that show this.

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

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the arguments put forth by my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. It seems to me that his arguments had nothing to do with supporting the idea that Quebec must hold at least 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. He spoke in favour of Quebec independence instead. He believes that if Quebec was not part of the Canadian federation, it could put all of its resources in one sector or another.

I want to ask the member a very specific question. Where does this 25% figure come from? What is at the core of the resolution by the National Assembly was discussed at the time of the Charlottetown accord. My colleague's party was opposed to that accord. Where does that figure come from? Some could say that it goes back to 1867, but that was for the Senate. A senate is different from a house of representatives. For example, it is as if we applied to the House of Representatives in the United States the same proportions used for each state in the U.S. Senate. The state of Florida would have only 4% of the seats in the House of Representatives. It seems to me that the member and his party are putting forth some pretty relativistic arguments.

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

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. I am happy to hear that he felt I gave a speech in favour of Quebec's independence. It is true and I am pleased to be recognized as a sovereignist because that is what I am.

I believe that my colleague misunderstood the essence of my speech, which was a heartfelt appeal from a politician living in rural Quebec. Any politician from rural Canada could have made the same speech if they felt their political weight was slipping away from them. That is exactly what I wanted to say in my speech, but unfortunately, all too often, some members in the House do not listen to what is being said and say whatever they feel like saying.

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

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my riding of Trinity—Spadina, the last census, which was done in 2006, showed me representing over 115,000 residents. By now, I probably represent 130,000 residents in the riding of Trinity—Spadina.

I believe the principle of representation by population is extremely important. Would the member of the Bloc Québécois support the principle of representation by population and increasing the number of seats for the under-represented provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta?

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

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, as many of my colleagues have been saying all day, we are not opposed to the member's proposal.

We simply want the House of Commons to acknowledge, once and for all, that in 2006 it voted to recognize the Quebec nation. We also want it to acknowledge Quebec's right, as a minority within Canada, to have historic representation so that its weight will not be reduced and it will be adequately recognized in the House. That is all we are asking for in this motion and what we ask for every single day.

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

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate. First, I would like to mention that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie.

I will start by reading the motion before us:

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 that it affirm that Quebec Members of Parliament, who represent a nation, must hold at least 25 percent of the seats in the House.

An amendment to this motion has been moved, but discussions today will focus on the motion.

I agree with the part of the motion which states that “the government seeks to marginalize”. I would say that it seeks to marginalize every region in the country. The people of New Brunswick are very proud to have an Acadian population and they believe that, through its actions, the government is seeking to marginalize not only the Acadian nation, but also the regions of Canada, including the Maritimes.

I would now like to address the rest of the motion, with which I do not agree. I am a proud federalist. I come from New Brunswick, this country's only bilingual province. I believe in this country, in Canada.

This motion benefits Quebec only and marginalizes the rest of the country. The Bloc Québécois' motion and this government's actions are marginalizing me as a politician from the Maritimes.

Let me explain. Our country was founded in 1867. The four founding provinces were Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. If I hear catcalls and it is a joke to talk about the founding of our country, if it is a joke to talk about four founding provinces coming into a deal and having expectations—

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Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

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

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Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I will let members know that there will be an opportunity for questions and comments after the member has done his speech. If members could hold themselves until that time, they can ask whatever question the like of the hon. member.

The hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe.

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Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Thank you for coming to my rescue. I so needed that, Mr. Speaker.

When I talk about New Brunswick, when I talk about the maritime provinces, I do not need any defence. I can say to anyone that I am a very proud Maritimer, I am a very proud Canadian and I believe in the principles of our country and the ones on which they were founded.

Some of the principles the country was founded on, which came from the four founding partners, were principles of fairness and principles not to marginalize other regions of the country.

I said in French at the beginning of my remarks that I found it disconcerting that the Bloc Québécois members always bring forward motions that would marginalize the rest of Canada. That is what they believe. They do not want to be part of Canada, so they want to marginalize any aspect of Canada. There is a certain honesty in that, but I do not agree with them. I also do not agree, however, with language that comes from the other side with respect to the great federal system that we have or had.

What I think is important to—

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

April 20th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been negotiations among the parties and I believe if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, on Tuesday, April 20, 2010, Statements by Ministers, pursuant to Standing Order 33, shall be taken up at 3 p.m.

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to move this motion?