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House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fair.

Topics

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, we find it truly amazing that the bill came before this chamber just yesterday. Just yesterday the government introduced a bill that is going to substantially increase the number of members of Parliament. The Conservatives then expect within a few hours of debate that we should all be content with that and allow the bill to go to committee.

My question is for the government House leader. How does he, with any credibility whatsoever, go to the public and say that this is a just system, that this system is allowing for open debate, that we are allowing for the public, through their elected members of Parliament, to be able to question the government, to stand and express what they think?

Why, within minutes of having the bill debated, have you taken the heavy hand of a majority government--

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would ask all members to direct their questions through the Chair.

The hon. government House leader.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, as I said earlier, actually before we took the step of moving time allocation in this case, there was already a motion from the opposition that the bill not proceed beyond second reading, that it not go to committee. That was the purpose of the opposition's motion, that it not be allowed to go through the process and that debate actually be cut off. That was not our idea. The idea to cut off debate at the end of second reading was a motion from the opposition.

After that we felt it necessary, since it was clear the issue was decided, as the opposition had indicated it would oppose it and the government was going to support it, that it was time for the House to decide and allow it to go to committee where the work can be done.

Then it would go to report stage where work can be done, to third reading where again there will be votes and work can be done, and then to make it over to the Senate. We do have that priority of ensuring that the bill puts fairness into our democratic system to ensure that we move closer to that fundamental democratic principle of each individual's vote having equal weight in time for the next redistribution when the census results do come out early next year.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, once again, this is undemocratic, undemocratic, undemocratic.

How can this government stand before Canadians and dare to say that it was elected by a majority of Canadians, when only 39% of Canadians voted for it?

How can it say that this bill is fair, especially to Quebec, which will be under-represented, even though it was recognized as a founding nation of the country in a motion unanimously adopted by the House in 2006?

Quebec will now end up under-represented in this House. How can the government claim that this bill will be fair to everyone?

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, we received a strong mandate from Canadians to bring every province closer to representation by population. We made a commitment that Quebec's representation would be equal to its population. Quebec has 23% of the population so after this formula is in place it would have 23% of the seats in this House of Commons. The numbers speak for themselves and we need to move forward on this bill.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, there are two fundamental issues in this bill. The first is seat distribution and the fair representation of all Canadians in this House. Another thing that many Canadians are wondering is whether we will continue to increase the number of seats every time we have a census. Is there a limit? Those are the two main issues, which are perhaps a bit contradictory, that should be at the heart of the debates.

When we pass a bill at second reading it means that we pass it in principle. That seriously—and in some cases almost completely—limits the possibility of making amendments in committee. I think that one day of debate is not enough time for members from all the parties to return to their ridings and talk to their constituents. A government member said it himself: this is the third version. Is this formula the right one? Did the government take the right approach? I think we should have had the time to consult our constituents so that we can properly represent them in this rather important debate.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, this formula, which is fair for all provinces, would bring in reasonable growth for the House of Commons now and into the future. When the Liberals were in government, they always picked winners and losers and they put one part of the country against another.

I would ask the hon. member, under the Liberals' plan who are the winners? Which provinces would win and which would lose? Under the Liberals' plan, they would be taking away seats and giving them to others so they would choose winners and losers. Who would be the winners and who would be the losers under their plan?

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the minister if, while weighing this issue, he is keeping in mind the possibility of a constitutional crisis, as we have seen in the past. If he is not considering that, I am wondering if perhaps it is part of the Conservative strategy to create a constitutional crisis.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, the provisions in this bill were actually changed, under section 44 of the Constitution, which is within the authority of Parliament to do. This has been done in the past. In the late 1980s, Parliament changed the number of seats in the House of Commons through section 44. So it is within Parliament's authority to change the Constitution to bring under-represented provinces closer to representation by population.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, in his speech a few minutes ago, the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead mentioned only one concern about the bill the government has introduced. And I heard the word “ridiculous”. When the first concern was raised, members of the government, without hesitation, used the word “ridiculous”, off the record. Are we to understand that the goal is to silence debate on a fundamental issue, thus demonstrating clear contempt for democracy and the opposition's opinions? Are we to understand that there will be no debate on an issue as important as representation in this House?

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, I actually did not hear a question. However, I will take the time to outline the commitments of our government on fair representation.

We committed that we would bring more seats to the under-represented provinces of Alberta, B.C. and Ontario because their populations have been growing and they are significantly under-represented. We committed that we would maintain the seats of the smaller provinces and we also committed that the representation of Quebec would equal its population. We made those commitments, we received a strong mandate to move forward on those commitments, and this bill, the fair representation act, does that. It is important that we move forward and I would ask the opposition to support us on that.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to ask the minister a question on the proposed legislation. I am from the province of Alberta. Alberta has been under-represented for a long time. It is really important that the bill go through so that the officials will have time to make all the adjustments necessary to add riding seats in the various provinces.

My question for the minister is this: how many seats would Alberta get, and what would that do in terms of fixing under-representation in Alberta?

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, under this formula Alberta would get six new seats. That would bring Alberta closer to representation by population.

It is only fair that these under-represented provinces of Alberta, B.C. and Ontario be fairly represented. They have had increases in population, either through immigration or through people moving from one part of the country to the other, and Canadians expect fair and equitable representation in their democratic institutions.

To the greatest extent possible, every vote should carry equal weight. This bill would bring every province closer to representation by population.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Madam Speaker, the government repeatedly alludes to representation by population and fairness as being the key issues here. We do not have much opportunity to investigate what the government perceives to be fair or unfair because of its time allocation.

I will the present the following circumstance. The President of the Queen's Privy Council, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, represents a constituency with 30,000 people, called Labrador.

In applying its principles of fairness and representation by population, is the government announcing to the House that it intends to dramatically expand the boundary of the current electoral district of Labrador to include a much broader constituency with representation by population equal to the rest of the country? I ask because we could only conclude at this point in time, without any proper debate, that it indeed intends to do so, and the people of Labrador should be aware of that intention.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, it is quite obvious that the hon. member has not read the bill.

We made a commitment that we would protect the seats of the smaller provinces that have not had the growth. Perhaps he should be very careful and listen to what his own party, the Liberal Party, is proposing. It is the Liberal Party that is proposing to move seats around and take seats away from those provinces. I would suggest he talk to members in his own party and his own leader to see what their plan is, because it is a dangerous plan. We, on the other hand, committed to protect the seats of the smaller-growth provinces.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I just heard the minister say that he was going to protect the seats of the smaller provinces.

I would like the minister to tell me if he is going to protect the seats in northern Ontario. We have some huge ridings in northern Ontario. To go from one end of my riding to the other end takes me anywhere from six and a half to eight hours.

Is the minister willing to protect those ridings in northern Ontario where the population is spread out over probably three or four times the size of Prince Edward Island?

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, yes, we would actually add 15 new seats to the province of Ontario, because it is under-represented. The population has grown, and we would add those seats to bring it closer to representation by population.

The question also gives me the opportunity to explain that the bill would add seats. The redistribution of the ridings themselves would be done by an independent non-partisan commission. It would begin its work sometime next year, if the members support us in moving this bill forward, to look at the redistribution of the ridings themselves.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, debating is not delaying; it is democracy.

My question is for the Minister of State for Democratic Reform . Does he not find it painfully ironic that he is stifling debate for approximately 45% of the House when we are discussing representation? The government is stifling representatives from talking about representation. Does the minister not find that ironic?

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, I believe the hon. member was probably not here yesterday when her own party--

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. The hon. member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges on a point of order.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, on a point of order, the hon. member will know that it is not parliamentary to refer to a member's absence or presence in the House.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I believe the hon. minister is aware of that.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, I understand. I am saying that the hon. member may not have known that it was her own party that, within the first hour of debate on the bill, moved a motion to end debate and not let it move to second reading. Those members do not even want the bill to go to committee stage.

NDP members have already made up their minds that they will not support the bill. They do not want debate. They do not want it to move to committee stage, but the House of Commons should decide on the bill.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, today we have to realize that this bill is important. It changes the political weight of all the provinces, and that of the Quebec nation in particular.

Earlier, I heard the Minister of State for Democratic Reform respond to a question from the opposition. He asked why the opposition was unhappy to see Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia have their political weight increased. He chose not to mention Quebec. You can check the blues, Madam Speaker. The minister really did word it that way.

When a bill is drafted that changes the political weight of representatives from each province, it is important to consider that reality. I would like to hear the minister's thoughts on that.

Bill C-20--Time Allocation MotionFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, I was talking about the under-represented provinces. Alberta, B.C. and Ontario are under-represented; Quebec currently is not under-represented. It is actually fairly represented or overrepresented.

We made a commitment that Quebec would remain proportionally represented according to its population. At the end of the day, when everything is done here and the bill passes, Quebec will have 23% of the population and 23% of the seats of the House of Commons. That is fair. This bill is fair for all provinces.