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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

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Timmins—James Bay talked a lot about nation-building and now we are facing nation division.

He also mentioned two founding nations. As he well knows, the first nations were also involved with those two founding nations.

Unlike the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, who cited George Brown, I would like to mention George-Étienne Cartier, who was the hon. minister of defence in Macdonald's government. Cartier's position is debatable among historians but, according to historian, Claude Bélanger, in accepting the compromise of 1867, several guarantees were sought and obtained by the provinces that feared they would be overpowered by other provinces. Quebec received a fixed number of seats and would serve as the basis of calculations for seats in other provinces so that as the country grew the historical weight would be maintained.

Could my hon. colleague speak to that again for the House?

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, we need to recognize that our country's success has been built on the compromise that existed between Quebec and the rest of Canada, not between a whole bunch of provinces. If there were a whole bunch of provinces, we would not have our own distinct court system in Quebec. We recognize the French tradition in court. We recognize it in language. We recognize that right.

Ontario recognizes the right of francophones to have their own schools. That was a hell of a fight but it was based on the principle that we must maintain these historical balances, even as the other populations changed and as new Canadians came in. It is great. We love multiculturalism but, in Ontario, people have the right to get a francophone education in any community because these are the original compromises we made, and we are proud of them. That is why Canada is successful.

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on behalf of my constituents of Brampton—Springdale in support of Bill C-20, the fair representation bill. The bill fulfills our government's commitment to move toward fair representation in the House of Commons.

During the last election, we made three distinct promises to ensure that any update to the formula allocating House of Commons seats would be fair for all provinces.

First, we would increase the number of seats now and in the future to better reflect population growth in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta.

Second, we would protect the number of seats for smaller provinces.

Third, we would protect the proportional representation of Quebec according to its population.

Our government will fulfill each of those promises with this bill, and I am very pleased about it.

Fairness in representation for all Canadians is an important goal. The vote of every Canadian, to the greatest extent possible, should have equal weight. This is a fundamental democratic concept and a key Canadian value. All citizens should have an equal say in who is elected to represent them in Parliament and in this House. It is important that we act to ensure we are moving toward that goal and not away from it.

The current formula for allocating seats in the House of Commons is outdated and does not meet the current needs of constituents in my riding of Brampton—Springdale and across Canada. The current formula moves us away from fair representation a little bit each and every day. This problem is particularly serious in and around my riding of Brampton—Springdale. Directly to the west of my riding is the riding with the largest population in Canada, Brampton West. Directly east is the fourth largest riding, Bramalea—Gore—Malton. Within a 15 minute drive of my riding, I can reach seven of the ten largest ridings by population in Canada.

My riding of Brampton—Springdale was created in 2004. The census data from 2006 showed that Brampton—Springdale was the 13th most populous riding in the country.

All of those ridings, including my own, suffer from what the minister described as a representation gap and this representation gap must be fixed. The seat allocation formula that provides for new seats in the House of Commons every 10 years now dates from 1985.

Back in 1985, the members of the House decided on a formula that did not put a priority on fair representation. The formula we have now does not properly account for population growth. In fact, it is especially bad at dealing with large population growth in large cities in our largest provinces. My riding of Brampton—Springdale fits that description exactly. It has large population growth, is a large city and is in one of Canada's largest provinces, the province of Ontario.

Many of the ridings surrounding it also fit that description. Most areas surrounding the GTA suffer from the inability of the 1985 formula to properly account for population growth. The problem is not limited to the GTA only. The problem is seen across the country, especially in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. Because the existing formula does not compensate very well for large population growth, Canadians in our largest and fastest growing provinces are moving further away from fair representation.

I have said that this representation problem is especially serious in my riding and the area surrounding it. The minister agrees, as do many of my hon. colleagues in this House. However, what are the implications of the representation problem?

In March of last year, and last month, we were provided with evidence that describes the problem. In the report , “Voter Equality and Other Canadian Values: Finding a Balance”, Matthew Mendelsohn and Sujit Choudhry wrote the following:

This problem is getting worse and, unless there is fundamental reform, will continue to do so in the future. Moreover, the character of voter inequality is changing.

They wrote that the combination of problems with the current formula and the high level of immigration increasingly disadvantages new Canadians and visible minorities. This is because many new Canadians choose to live in densely populated suburban areas, like my riding of Brampton--Springdale and the ones next to it. These are exactly the types of ridings which the 1985 allocation formula leaves under-represented.

Mendelsohn and Choudhry wrote:

[I]t recognizes the new reality of Canada: that it is Canadians of multi-ethnic backgrounds living around our largest cities, particularly the GTA [greater Toronto area], who are under-represented, injecting a new dimension of inequality into our federal electoral arrangements.

More than 56.2% of my constituents are part of a visible minority group and of multi-ethnic backgrounds. Members can understand why the fair representation act would be greatly welcomed by my constituents. This representation gap needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Not only are my constituents becoming more under-represented, but they are becoming more under-represented much faster than Canadians in other parts of the country.

We need to follow the principle of representation by population as closely as we can, but the current formula does not do that. This is a serious problem that requires immediate solution. I think that Bill C-20, a bill that is applauded by my constituents, is that solution.

With the fair representation act, our Conservative government is delivering a principled and reasonable update to the formula to allocate seats in the House of Commons.

The bill would do a number of things. It would move every province toward representation by population in the House of Commons. As I have said, this is an important democratic principle that we need to be moving toward, not away from. It would address the representation gap by moving Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta significantly closer to representation by population. This is important because this is where the most under-represented people are living.

Using the formula put forward in the bill, Ontario would receive 15 new seats, British Columbia would receive 6 new seats, Alberta would receive 6 new seats, and Quebec would receive 3 additional seats. The bill would increase seat counts for these provinces, both now and in the future, by ensuring that population growth would be more accurately factored into the seat allocation formula. In this way, the principle of representation by population would be followed to a much larger degree, which would be much fairer for all Canadians.

Not only would representation be better now, but it would also be better in the future. The representation gap would become much, much smaller and the fast growth of the problem under the current formula would be stopped. At the same time, Bill C-20 would ensure that smaller and slower growing provinces would maintain their current number of seats. This is only what is fair to those parts of the country, and it is reasonable and principled to maintain their effective representation in the House.

The legislation would also fulfill our platform commitment to maintain Quebec's representation at a level proportionate to its population.

It is important to highlight that this is exactly what we promised in the last election and this is exactly what we are delivering. We are keeping the promises we made to Canadians during the election campaign.

Quebec would receive three new seats, since the purpose of the bill is to move every single province toward representation by population in a fair and reasonable way. We are also being fair by making sure that the seat allocation formula would not move overrepresented provinces under the level which their population warrants. That would not be fair to those provinces and it would not be right for us to do that. This is in support of the principle of proportionate representation. It is another one of the fundamental principles in our democracy right alongside representation by population.

As I said, we are keeping our promises and we are keeping them in a fair and very reasonable way.

This bill would better respect and maintain representation by population. This bill would directly help under-represented Canadians, like the constituents in my riding of Brampton—Springdale, and in many other ridings in the GTA and elsewhere in this country.

This bill would ensure the effective and proportionate representation of all provinces, especially for smaller and slower growing ones. This bill would have national application that would be fair for all provinces. As the minister said, all Canadians from all backgrounds in all parts of the country expect and deserve fair representation. This bill would provide that in a very principled way.

Since we are talking about fairness, I would also like to talk about accuracy. After all, using the best data available to us is fair. This bill would ensure that when allocating seats to each province, the best data available would be used. This would ensure that Canadians are fairly represented. Instead of using the census population numbers, Statistics Canada's annual population estimates would be used. These estimates work to correct for some of the under-coverage in the census, and they provide the best data for the total provincial population. In that way we would make sure that Canadians in the faster growing provinces would be getting the representation they deserve.

This change would assist in making sure the growing representation gap was closed sooner rather than later. This would be especially helpful for people in ridings like mine and the many other faster growing ridings across Canada.

In Bill C-20, we are also maintaining the independent process that draws the riding boundaries in every province, and making sure that process also has the best data available for its purpose, too.

The readjustment of the electoral boundaries would be done using the census data, as it always has been done. Why is the census data best for this job? The census provides a population count street by street and house by house. This accuracy is necessary to most properly draw the new electoral boundaries and is the best data available for the job.

There would be no change to that aspect of the process, which has been the process since 1964. It will remain fair, impartial and independent. There would be some changes to streamline the process, however.

We want to make sure that the new seats and boundaries are ready for the next election so that Canadians get the fair representation they deserve as soon as possible. If we wait too long, Canadians will have to go for another decade or longer with worse and worse representation. That is not acceptable, so we will not allow that to happen.

In conclusion, this bill, the fair representation act, is a principled update to the formula allocating House of Commons seats. It is fair. It is reasonable. It is principled. It would solve an important problem that needs to be fixed and which will only grow worse if we fail to act for all Canadians. It would achieve better representation for faster growing provinces where better representation is strongly needed. It would address and correct the under-representation of many new Canadians in large suburban ridings like my own. It would also maintain effective representation for smaller and slower growing provinces. The fair representation act would deliver these things and would deliver on our government's long-standing commitments.

I hope that we can pass this sensible and good piece of legislation as soon as possible. The vote of every Canadian should have equal weight to the greatest extent possible, and we cannot delay that. The constituents in my riding of Brampton—Springdale expect that from us and we need to deliver.

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the member's speech. As he knows, there has been some concern about the different formulas the government has introduced through the various manifestations of the bill which we have seen in the last couple of Parliaments. Different formulas have been brought forward each time. That is something we have raised concerns about. Our critic for democratic reform, the member for Hamilton Centre, has raised the issue of the government's use of differing formulas each time it introduces legislation.

The member spoke very eloquently, but obviously we have some concerns. I am from British Columbia and as the formulas have come forward, B.C.'s representation has actually gone down. As the member is aware, British Columbia is one of the least well represented of provinces. We have a handful of seats in the Senate and that is why the NDP has been strong in calling for the abolition of the Senate. We are just not represented there.

I am wondering if the member could address the issue of the differing formulas and the fact that B.C.'s representation has gone down as each of the different formulas has come forward.

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that during the past couple of Parliaments under minority governments, we not only had challenges with this piece of legislation, but we also had challenges with a number of other pieces of legislation.

However, in the last election, Canadians clearly gave us a very strong mandate to represent them here in the House and as the population changes and the numbers in the provinces change, we have to update the formula. The formula in the bill is the best one under the current circumstances. It is the best representation we could have in the House based on population and considering all the different dynamics of the provinces and their makeup.

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I like about the bill is that there are three truly unique positions being taken inside the House. The Conservatives are saying they want to increase the number of seats quite dramatically, by 30. The New Democrats are agreeing that the number of seats should be increased, but they believe that rural representation and the votes of people in those areas are of greater value than those in urban areas. I believe that a vast majority of Canadians would suggest that the biggest thing lacking in the bill is whether there is a need to increase the number of MPs in the House of Commons.

Why not redistribute based on the same number seats that are here? Why not look at the possibility of sticking with 308 seats? Why do we have to increase the numbers? The vast majority of Canadians would not necessarily support the increase nor is it necessarily warranted. It is one of the reasons that we should be having this debate, but unfortunately, as the member knows, the government is only allowing a couple of hours of debate in total on the bill.

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, after the next election in 2015, assuming the bill passes through the House and Senate, there will be an additional 30 members

I encourage the member to go into some of these suburban ridings, such as my riding of Brampton—Springdale, or other ridings in other parts of the country and speak with Canadians who are affected by this, who have raised their voices and have asked why they should be under-represented, especially the visible minorities and new Canadians who choose the suburbs to call home when they immigrate to Canada and bring their families with them. They are unfairly under-represented. They feel neglected. They do not deserve that.

That is one of the things we are looking to fix with the bill. It is those visible minorities, new Canadians and Canadians of all walks of life right across the country who have raised their voices. When I attend events, I constantly hear about this in my ridings and in the surrounding ridings.

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member represents one of the largest ridings in country. In fact, that region in the GTA, the Brampton and Bramalea ridings, consist of some 500,000 people. Not only is it a large riding, but it is a very fast-growing riding and is one of the most diverse ridings in the country.

Could the hon. member elaborate on the importance of this legislation, specifically in his community, as it relates to new immigrants, new people who move into the riding?

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his hard work in the House on behalf of his constituents. He is from Richmond Hill and understands the problem we have in the GTA. This problem is huge. I hope my colleagues, hon. members in the House, would realize the extent of this problem.

The riding directly west of my riding of Brampton—Springdale has a population of over 150,000 people. The riding east of mine has over 130,000 people. Within a 15-minute drive from my riding, I can probably reach about eight to ten of the ridings with the largest populations in the country. Especially new immigrants, visible minorities who live in the suburbs in the GTA area are affected by this and have made their voices heard. I and other members of the House of Commons are here to represent them.

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is telling us just how important the changes proposed in Bill C-20 are for his riding. That is indeed the change that will be made to his riding, but what about my riding and the other 74 ridings in Quebec? There are two sovereignist parties and two federalist parties in the Quebec National Assembly and they are all clearly saying that the political weight of Quebec must not be reduced. We are not talking about demographic weight, but about political weight.

My question for the hon. member is very simple. What does he think of the motion adopted here in 2006 that recognizes Quebec as a nation? What does the Quebec nation mean to him?

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I point out that the Conservative government is very responsible and is concerned about all Canadians, regardless in which part of the country they may live.

I talked about Brampton—Springdale because I am responsible for representing it. However, I used that as an example. There are examples such as Brampton—Springdale all over Canada. That is the reason we are adding 15 new seats in Ontario, 6 new seats in British Columbia, 6 new seats in Alberta and 3 new seats in Quebec. Under the bill, I feel this is the best formula we could have.

I am very thankful and I appreciate the hard work the hon. minister, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, has put into the legislation. I would encourage all opposition members to support the bill and its speedy passage as soon as possible.

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the very talented, eloquent and hard-working member of Parliament for Edmonton—Strathcona and I look forward to hearing her speech on the bill.

This is a technical bill that has ramifications for the whole country and I am pleased to rise to speak to it. It is something we have expressed concern about before. In the time I have, I will give a bit a background to the bill itself and the issue of seat redistribution in the House of Commons.

As members are well aware, this has been part of the growth and development of Confederation and Canada. Over time, we have tried to maintain a couple of principles in the House of Commons. One is to ensure that provinces with fast-growing populations get more representation. At the same time, we have also had a tradition in the House of Commons of providing support and a floor level representation from regions across the country. That floor has been the story historically for Atlantic Canada, and I will come back to that in a moment. It creates some differences, but it is something that Canadian accept as part of the nation-building exercise. That type of floor has also been in place for the territories.

Members who have had the opportunity, as I have, to travel to the northern territories know they are vast areas of Canada. Unbelievably large portions of our three northern territories do not meet the population criteria of the House of Commons, but clearly Canadians believe those areas of the country should be adequately represented. Therefore, we have put floors in place for them as well.

This has been the development over time. The nation-building exercise has always been to look at those two components and ensure that both the historical representation and the floors for ensuring clear representation and adding additional seats come into play. What has developed over time is that system of great Canadian compromise and nation-building of working on both aspects to ensure Parliament's representation is clearly representative.

I come from British Columbia and it has historically grown faster than its representation in Parliament. When we look at the figures, clearly there is a need for increased representation in British Columbia.

Coming back to what I mentioned earlier about Atlantic Canada. My riding of Burnaby—New Westminster, because there are many new Canadians who are not yet Canadian citizens and are who not on the voters list, has a population of about 120,000 or 130,000. That is slightly under the population of Prince Edward Island. Historically, P.E.I. has strong representation with four seats in the House of Commons. The system of ensuring historical representation for areas that are faster growing has always been part of the dynamic in play. There is no doubt that British Columbia needs additional seats.

In my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster and the riding of Newton—North Delta, the number of constituents is very great and there needs to be more seats in British Columbia to ensure that B.C. is adequately represented and members of Parliament can properly represent their constituents.

As we know, the job of being a member of Parliament is far beyond speaking in the House of Commons and having other members listen attentively. The job of being a member of Parliament for the most part is in the riding. As members of Parliament are intervening on behalf of their constituents with federal agencies and federal ministries, the machinery of government sometimes does not work effectively. Members of Parliament are there to ensure that our constituents are fully and adequately represented and we go to bat on their behalf.

If we have more members of Parliament in British Columbia, that means we can focus on slightly fewer constituents and ensure that we do that strong, necessary advocacy work on their behalf with the federal ministries, federal agencies and on federal programs where constituents may have applied, or intervened or made application and were not treated in the fair and just way that they should have been. We are advocates first and foremost. Therefore, having those additional seats plays an important and key role.

That is where we get into some difficulty and have some concerns with Bill C-20. In looking at how the various iterations of the bill have played out and the various formulas that have been applied, we have gone through three different formulas to calculate representation in British Columbia. What we have seen in B.C.'s case is a smaller number of seats through this process. That is of some concern, not so much the fact of having a seat in the House, because even that is an important aspect of our work, but having that representation out in the community and being able to effectively represent and advocate on behalf of the 120,000 or 130,000 constituents, which is a different order than advocating effectively on behalf of 110,000 or 115,000 constituents.

That is very clearly where seat distribution and MP distribution in the House of Commons comes to play. It makes a fundamental difference when we have that balance and we have those additional seats. Because we have seen the various iterations and the number of additional B.C. MPs brought down, this is where I see some real concerns about the latest formula that has been brought forward at this time.

Members may say that the bill will go to committee. Certainly, we on this side of the House have always been ready to work with the Conservative government in a way that we expect it to work with us. One day the NDP will be in government and the opposition parties will get the opportunity to see not only lively debate but what healthy, transparent, effective representation and working with opposition parties will bring. There is no doubt that many Canadians look forward to that date in 2015 when the NDP steps forward.

Our concern is the practice of the government in committee has not been good to date. It has often bulldozed and steamrolled opposition parties rather than listen to the healthy points of view that we bring forward, particularly on this bill.

This is a nation-building exercise. This is a point which shows how the government and we as Parliament respect all regions of the country. It talks to the historic representation of Atlantic Canada and the northern territories. It talks to the historic and important representation of Quebec that we have brought forward in our bill. It points to the representation of Saskatchewan and Manitoba despite population changes there. As well, it points to additional seats in places such as Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

We have brought forward and supported legislation for the healthy, nation-building establishment of a consensus. We certainly hope the government will start listening, consulting and really working with the Canadian public and with opposition parties so a bill such as Bill C-20 can appropriately be part of a nation-building exercise. To date, that has not been the case, but I hope the government will change in this regard.

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is nation building legislation. It is legislation I would like to support. I regret very much the limitation on debate, which has made it difficult for smaller parties to be part of the debate and discussion.

I would like his thoughts, though, on whether we can continually, in the future, beyond the bill, add new members to the House of Commons every time we see Canada's population grow. At some point do we not have to bite the bullet and go back and revisit those areas with sparser populations?

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think there are two parts to what the hon. member is asking.

First is the issue of seats in the House. Can we keep adding members to the House of Commons? I would like to say that in other parliaments on this globe there are no seats, there are benches.

As I have mentioned earlier, the important work that members of Parliament do is not so much the speaking. I certainly do not need to have this desk. I can sit on a bench, and stand and speak. It is what we do in our ridings across the country, serving our constituents that is absolutely vital.

The important aspect of additional representation means that there are more members of Parliament to advocate strongly on behalf of their constituents. If they are not advocating on behalf of their constituents, they do not deserve to be in the House.

The second component she raises quite rightly is the issue around rural-urban representation, and certainly on this side of the House, the NDP has always seen this as a very important, careful, national building exercise.

That is why we have talked about seats for Quebec. We have talked about seats for areas like my province of British Columbia along with Alberta and Ontario. We have talked about ensuring a floor for Atlantic Canada and the territories. This is a nation building exercise and that means rural representation being adequate and effective in the House of Commons as well as urban representation in the House.

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about representing constituents and that it was the most important part of his job. If he believes that, then last night when two members voted for the wishes of their constituents on the long gun registry, why would his party punish them if coming here and representing their constituents is first and foremost after being in the House, as he suggested?

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, this party takes no lessons from Conservative members who have not, since they were elected, stood up on behalf of their constituents a single time.

We have seen with the Canadian Wheat Board that a promise was made to consult with farmers across western Canada and the Conservatives broke that promise cruelly after their election. They promised farmers a consultation on the Canadian Wheat Board and on May 2 they said, “To heck with western farmers. We will not consult them. It does not matter if 60% of western farmers want to keep the Wheat Board, we will do away with it”.

I respect the member, but there is not a single member in this House from the Conservative Party who has done anything on behalf of their constituents on issues like the Wheat Board and the gun registry. Time and time again, the Conservatives betray their constituents. That is unfortunate and it is wrong.

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member in terms of the Canadian Wheat Board. The government has not been listening to what our prairie farmers have been saying.

Having said that, with regard to Bill C-20, does the NDP have any limit as to what it believes the size of the House of Commons should be?

Today, it does not have a problem with 338 which is being proposed by the government. Do the NDP members have an optimum number, or do they see this as a thing in progress, that as the years go by, the House will just continue to grow and grow?

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member had been to Britain, he would see that its House of Commons is a smaller House with twice the number of members. The House of Commons in Britain has simply done away with desks. We can sit on benches. We can vote from benches. We can speak adequately on behalf of our constituents, but the most important issue is representing an advocacy on behalf of our constituents.

If there are more members of Parliament doing that work on behalf of their constituents, and certainly that is the case on this side of the House. That is one thing that NDP MPs do very well, which is why we have grown from 19 to 29 to 36 to 103. We did that because we have been very strong and effective in advocating for our constituents.

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for graciously sharing his time with me. It is regrettable that we could not have heard more of his eloquence.

It is my pleasure to rise to speak to this bill. Nobody believes more in representation of constituents than I do. As well, nobody believes more strongly than I do that we have a responsibility in this House to ensure that we are actually representing the interests of all Canadians no matter what corner of the country they come from, no matter their diversity of background, and no matter their interests.

I just want to be clear, on the record, that there have been falsehoods reported by some of the members on the other side, to the public and the media in the past, that I would oppose additional seats for Alberta if there was going to be a seat distribution based on population. I have never said such a thing and let us just make it clear in the House today that if the only decision is based on representation by population and if we do that in the true way we should, based on a census, clearly my province of Alberta, and I am very proud to be a third generation Albertan, would have fair representation, and then there would be duly more seats for Alberta.

Our party in this House has said time after time, on the basis of what we have heard from our constituents and what we have heard from Canadians across this country, that Canadians want a more democratic system of federal governance. What we see from the government is little pieces here and there, an elected Senate that frankly is not representative. Now it wants a changed seat distribution based on what? It has three formulas and we are not sure what on earth the government is basing that on.

It is an important decision for our future. It is an important decision if we are going to incur further costs. Having heard from my constituents, I have to say very honestly that this has not been a priority issue in my riding. I do not think I have ever heard from a constituent demanding that we make the House of Commons larger. What they demand is that we better represent their interests in Ottawa and that we bring the federal government back to Alberta more often so we can actually hear from it directly.

Yes, we need to ensure we have fair representation in this House of Commons, but what does that mean? We have heard from some of my colleagues and they have said that we need to balance off the representation by population with the representation by region, and the representation by other undertakings and agreements that we have made in this House, including to Quebec, to our territories and to the maritime provinces.

I want to point out that if the Conservative side of the House truly believes that we need to make this move to provide fair representation to everybody in Canada, we need to recognize that 23 of 28 ridings in Alberta voted, as their second choice, New Democrat. My riding voted for me as their choice and so it is also important to keep in mind that even in our first past the post system, there are many interests that are not represented unless all of us in the House bend over backwards to ensure that all those perspectives, all of those voters, are being heard in committee and in this House, and that we reach out to them and ensure we hear from everyone, not just the ones who happen to step up to the plate and vote for us.

Should the decision for adding seats in this House simply be based on representation by population? We have heard many arguments stating that possibly that is not enough. If we look at the historical formula, it is not simply based on representation by population, it is also based on a certain percentage to Quebec, and to recognize, as the Prime Minister previously said, “Quebec as a nation within a unified Canada”. That was the decision made in consultation between the Prime Minister of the day and the leaders of all the provinces and territories.

I agree with my colleagues who have spoken on this and asked, where is the consultation with the premiers? Where is the consultation with the leaders of first nation governments? The government always likes to stand up and say it is representing the best interests of first nations people. Should they not be heard directly through their leaders as well?

Second ReadingFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona will have five minutes remaining when the House returns to this matter.

Statements by members, the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska.

Roger BéliveauStatements By Members

November 3rd, 2011 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to express my heartfelt congratulations to Roger Béliveau, of Warwick, on being inducted into Quebec's agricultural hall of fame.

For 50 years, Mr. Béliveau has owned a dairy farm along with his wife, Rita Jolibois, and their sons. He has earned an excellent reputation within the Quebec farming community. Mr. Béliveau has been active on several boards of directors for nearly 40 years and has made a mark particularly within the Coop fédérée, Agropur, Warwick Salt and Olymel. He was president of the Coop des Bois-Francs for six years.

As a mentor for members of the young farmers group, the Association des jeunes ruraux du Québec, he is also passing on his passion for agriculture to the next generation of farmers in our region and across Quebec. Mr. Béliveau has definitely earned this recognition. It is thanks to people like him that Quebec has become so renowned for agricultural excellence. Thank you, Mr. Béliveau, and keep up the good work.

Urban EnvironmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House as the member for Winnipeg South Centre. Today it is my honour to recognize the dedication and generosity displayed by many of the families in my riding.

Winnipeg is famous for the elm trees that line its streets and boulevards, but elm trees need to be protected from Dutch elm disease.

A number of years ago families in my community started protecting those trees. These were concerned families, true leaders in community engagement. Now the youth of these families have taken over from their parents and these young people are learning valuable skills as entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

On behalf of all of my constituents, I would like to thank and to honour these young men and women for all of their hard work. The future is indeed in very good hands.

Food BanksStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, in my beautiful riding of Hochelaga, people working at food banks—Cuisine collective Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Bouffe-Action de Rosemont, Chic Resto Pop, CAP St-Barnabé, Maisons Adrianna and Centre NAHA—devote themselves body and soul to helping feed their neighbours. There are also community gardens and fresh fruit and vegetable cupboards at HLM Boyce-Viau, HLM La Pépinière, Jardins Guybourg, Petit marché de l'Est and Marché solidaire Frontenac.

Despite all the hard work, there is not enough healthy and affordable food, especially in winter. In poor neighbourhoods, food is less readily available, of poorer quality and more expensive. Convenience stores abound. There are four food deserts in Hochelaga.

In a rich country like Canada, why is the health of so many adults, children and seniors compromised because they do not have access to healthy and affordable food while the owners of banks and big oil companies make billions of dollars in profit? Something is not right.

UkraineStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, recent events in Ukraine have brought to light an unfortunate reality.

With the arrest and conviction of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, we are witnessing an erosion of democracy and human rights in Ukraine. The court showed bias and was politically influenced.

For the last number of years, the government of Ukraine has been waging a campaign to smother political dissent, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The result has been the intimidation and imprisonment of academics, journalists and human rights advocates.

Despite the abrasion of the rule of law in Ukraine, there is reason for optimism.

This year, 35 members of Parliament were fortunate enough to host Ukrainian interns in the Canada-Ukraine parliamentary program. These bright young interns represent a vibrant, principled future for Ukraine.

I had the privilege to speak with these future leaders, and they have demonstrated an unparalleled desire to learn and educate themselves about Canadian democracy and society.

I have no doubt that they will return home and lead Ukraine to a brighter future.

Family Doctor WeekStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of Family Doctor Week in Canada, I want to acknowledge the critical role of family doctors in the health care of Canadians.

I would ask all members to join me in celebrating the College of Family Physicians of Canada's annual family medicine forum currently taking place in Montreal, as well as the Family Physicians of the Year for 2011, including Dr. Philip Hébert from Toronto.

In June we lost the brilliant Dr. Barbara Starfield, whose research proved that health care systems, in which 50% of the physicians are family physicians are the most cost-effective and provide the highest quality of care.

It is unacceptable that many Canadians do not belong to a family practice. The federal government must take strong leadership as soon as possible to ensure that there are no more orphaned patients in Canada.