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House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Calgary Nose Hill Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy ConservativeMinister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, our government takes cases involving children especially seriously. I thank my colleague for her interest in this case.

Since learning of the situation, our consular officials have been actively supporting Mr. Watkins both in Canada and in Poland. In addition, consular officials have been working with local authorities, the province and the police on this situation. I can assure my colleague that we will continue to be very active to resolve this case.

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago I attended a citizenship ceremony and I was shocked to learn that people could have their faces covered when swearing the oath of Canadian citizenship and joining our Canadian family. I believe Canadian citizenship is invaluable and I am very happy that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism acted so quickly to restore integrity to the citizenship process.

Could the minister inform the House of what he is hearing from Canadians in reaction to this important government announcement?

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to thank the hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville for bringing this matter to my attention. The oath of citizenship and the citizenship ceremony is a solemn and essentially public time when the individual expresses his or her loyalty to Canada in front of fellow citizens.

That is why I clarified yesterday that citizenship applicants will now be required to recite the oath in an open and transparent manner and to do so without being obscured by a face covering. This decision underscores the essentially public nature of the oath. It also underscores our belief in social cohesion and such democratic values as the equality of men and women and our equality before the law.

InfrastructureOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, airplanes have already started flying at the airport in Neuville. The mayor has been asking to meet with the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for months now, but the minister refuses and refers him to the province, even though this is a matter of federal legislation and the Supreme Court has confirmed that it takes precedence over protecting agricultural land in Quebec. All that is missing in Neuville is the asphalt on the runway, and then there is no going back.

The people of Neuville have reason to be concerned. This is how the minister reassures them? By refusing to meet with elected officials?

InfrastructureOral Questions

3 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the developer has of course already signed an agreement with the city of Neuville. The mayor signed an agreement with the developer. That is something. There are thousands of mayors in Canada. We work very hard and I make every effort, but we cannot meet with every mayor who wants to speak with us. A certification was issued. At Transport Canada, we feel it is important to respect our role when it comes to safety. In conclusion, I must say that there is no certification or authorization needed from Transport Canada during the construction phase of an airport. None.

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives say they are abolishing the firearms registry and destroying the data because this measure is ineffective and costly. Nothing is further from the truth.

Quebec's public safety minister, accompanied by victims and police, reminded us today that it “is useful and essential for crime prevention...to keep the data”.

Quebec is even prepared to go to court to defend Quebeckers' right to obtain the data they have already paid for.

Will the minister finally transfer the data to Quebec, or will he have to defend the indefensible in court, before a judge, at taxpayers' expense?

Firearms RegistryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, we will simply follow through with our election promise. I would like to remind my colleague that the registry that will be destroyed is the long gun registry. With regard to registrations and permit records, which allow police across Canada, including Quebec police, to determine if an individual has the right to have a firearm and thus to prepare themselves accordingly if they are called upon, that registry will remain intact. It is important to understand that the registry has four sections and we are only abolishing the long gun section. The rest will be kept to protect the public.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Jonathan Denis, Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security for Alberta.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on November 16, 2011, by the hon. member for Mount Royal regarding the negative impact an organized telephone campaign survey conducted in his constituency has had on his work and reputation.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Mount Royal for having raised this important matter, having responded to the comments of other members and having provided the Chair with additional material in support of his allegations. The Chair would also like to thank the Government House Leader, the House Leader of the Official Opposition and the members for Richmond—Arthabaska, Saanich—Gulf Islands and Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte for their comments as well as the member for New Brunswick Southwest for his interventions.

In presenting his case, the hon. member for Mount Royal states that several constituents had contacted him about survey calls they had received from a telephone number identified as Campaign Research Inc., asking if they would support the Conservative Party in the “impending, if not imminent, by-election”.

He has also informed the House that similar calls were placed to citizens in the Westmount—Ville-Marie constituency. The hon. member for Mount Royal stated that this telephone campaign led his constituents and other voters to think that he had deserted his post, and overshadowed his parliamentary work. Noting that the House has the right to the services of its members free from intimidation, obstruction and interference, he claimed that the confusion created among his electors was damaging his reputation and his credibility.

In the case before us, no one disputes the fact that there is no pending by-election. Yet the hon. member for Mount Royal explains that he has been put in an ambiguous situation through this telephone campaign. He says:

Simply put, how am I, or any member, to effectively represent a constituency if the constituents are led to believe that the member is no longer their elected representative? How can one correct the confusion and prejudicial damage that has been done in the minds of those who may think I am no longer their representative in Parliament or no longer discharging my duties?

To support his argument, the member cited a ruling of Speaker Bosley, as found on page 4439 of the Debates of May 6, 1985, which states:

It should go without saying that a Member of Parliament needs to perform his functions effectively and that anything tending to cause confusion as to a Member’s identity creates the possibility of an impediment to the fulfilment of that Member’s functions. Any action which impedes or tends to impede a Member in the discharge of his duties is a breach of privilege.

The Chair finds striking the repeated emphasis that the member has placed on the importance of this issue not only for himself but for all members. This point has also been stressed by other members who intervened. Because of the Chair's primordial concern for the preservation of the privileges of all members, this is a matter worthy of serious consideration. As your Speaker, one of my principal responsibilities is to ensure that the rights and privileges of members are safeguarded, and this is a responsibility I take very seriously.

The member for New Brunswick Southwest argues, on the contrary, that the House should not even be seized of this question because “...it lies outside its authority”. He claims that:

—the...conduct of political parties should not be judged by the House or by its members....The best place for this to be judged is among Canadians, not in the House...

The Chair has no doubt that Canadians are indeed judging this matter, just as they are constantly judging this House by what happens here and what is said here and by the attitude that members display toward one another.

It does not matter that the resources of the House of Commons itself were not used to carry on this particular campaign. On this point, let me point out that the rights and immunities of individual members can be breached by a wide range of actions and that such actions are not limited, as has been suggested, to actions taken in the House or actions involving the use of House resources.

At the same time, in listening to the arguments on this question, I have seen that a certain confusion seems to exist with regard to the extent of the powers of the Speaker in dealing with questions of privilege. Several members have ascribed to the Chair seemingly vast powers that neither I nor my predecessors have ever possessed. The role of the Chair is actually very limited, as the hon. member for Mount Royal has himself pointed out, citing O'Brien and Bosc, at page 145:

—the issue put before the Speaker is not a finding of fact, it is simply whether on first impression the issue that is before the House warrants priority consideration over all other matters, all other orders of the day that are before the House.

In cases where a member alleges that he has experienced interference in the performance of his parliamentary duties, the Speaker’s task is particularly difficult. As O’Brien and Bosc states at page 111:

It is impossible to codify all incidents which might be interpreted as matters of obstruction, interference, molestation or intimidation and as such constitute prima facie cases of privilege.

Furthermore, in ruling on questions of privilege of this kind, the Chair is obliged to assess whether or not the member's ability to fulfill his parliamentary functions has been undermined. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 109, notes that my predecessors have stressed the importance of establishing a direct link to parliamentary duties in such cases, stating that:

—rulings have focused on whether or not the parliamentary functions of the Member were directly involved. While frequently noting that Members raising such matters have legitimate grievances, Speakers have consistently concluded that Members have not been prevent from carrying out their parliamentary duties.

In the Bosley decision cited by the member for Mount Royal, the Speaker was confronted with a situation where the former member of Parliament was identified in a print advertisement as the sitting member: the very identity of the sitting member was at issue.

In the case at hand, the Chair is entirely sympathetic to the situation faced by the member for Mount Royal. There is no doubt that he has been bombarded by telephone calls, emails and faxes from concerned and confused constituents. However, the Chair has great difficulty in concluding that the member has been unable to carry out his parliamentary duties as a result of these tactics. The member for Mount Royal has been extremely active in the House and in committee. By raising the matter in the House as he has done, the hon. member has brought attention to a questionable form of voter identification practice and described in detail the negative impact it has had. Indeed, his interventions here in the House on this very question have garnered, as he himself points out, extensive sympathetic coverage in media across the country.

In a ruling delivered on August 12, 1988, Debates, page 18,272, Speaker Fraser stated that:

Past precedents are highly restrictive...and generally require that clear evidence of obstruction or interference with a Member in the exercise of his or her duty be demonstrated in order to form the basis for a claim of a breach of privilege.

Speaker Milliken, in a ruling from February 12, 2009, also stressed this point:

—adjudicating questions of privilege of this kind, the Speaker is bound to assess whether or not the member's ability to fulfill his parliamentary functions effectively has been undermined.

As I considered the member for Mount Royal's case, a second ruling by Speaker John Fraser has resonated particularly for me. On May 5, 1987, Speaker Fraser concluded:

Given all the circumstances in this case, I am sure that the Minister's capacity to function as a Minister and Member of this House is in no way impaired. I point out to honourable Members that this is the real issue of privilege, although there are obviously other matters that surround the particular fact in this case....the Chair has to look very carefully at the exact point of privilege.

In today's case, too, the so-called surrounding matters have given me pause. I am sure that all reasonable people would agree that attempting to sow confusion in the minds of voters as to whether or not their member is about to resign is a reprehensible tactic and that the hon. member for Mount Royal has a legitimate grievance.

I would hope that his airing of this grievance and the discussions this case has provoked—here in the House and in the media—will lead to two results. On the one hand, managers of legitimate exercises in voter identification should be more careful in the information they disseminate to the people they contact. On the other hand, Canadians contacted this way should be more wary and judge more critically any information presented to them by unsolicited callers.

I can understand how the member for Mount Royal and others are seeking relief from the climate of cynicism, not to say contempt, about parliamentary institutions and practice that seem to prevail. But I fear that such relief is not within my gift: the Speaker's powers in these matters are limited, as my predecessors have repeatedly stated.

The words of Speaker Fraser in a ruling of December 11, 1991, seem particularly apt in these circumstances:

The Chair can devise no strategy, however aggressive or interventionist, and can imagine no codification, however comprehensive or strict, that will as successfully protect the Canadian parliamentary traditions that we cherish as will each member's sense of justice and fair play. Especially at this time of crisis of confidence in our parliamentary institutions, our constituents deserve and will tolerate no less.

Accordingly, after studying the precedents in these matters, I am not able on technical grounds to find that a prima facie case of privilege exists in this case.

I would like once again to thank the hon. member for Mount Royal for bringing this serious and important matter to the attention of the House and of Canadians.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, your ruling, interestingly enough, was as you said a technical ruling. I believe that on technical matters, since I was the only one to cite principles and precedents, there was not one intervention by any government member that referenced any principle and precedent, which should have been referenced in your ruling as they were. The ones that were referenced in your ruling, Mr. Speaker, would seem in my view to have accorded with the claim that I made in my question of privilege, not only on technical matters but on substantive matters.

While I have no other recourse and will always respect the rulings of the House, as all hon. members do, I think if you, Mr. Speaker, would revisit the principles and precedents that were cited in my submissions to you, and again I say none from the other side, you might at some point in the future reconsider this ruling.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I can assure the hon. member I reflected a great deal on this matter. I hope that was reflected in the ruling I gave.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-20, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and the Canada Elections Act, be read the third time and passed.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Hamilton Centre has seventeen and a half minutes to conclude his remarks.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by suggesting that, when it comes to reforming this place, our long-held position is that the first thing we need to do is to abolish that other place entirely. We do not need it. The so-called reforms that the government is bringing forward do not constitute a democratic institution. Senators would be elected under that bill, but by law they could not be held accountable. If there is no accountability, one cannot consider it to be a mature, modern democracy. We believe the best thing for Canadians is to get rid of that other place.

With regard to this place, we believe that we are in dire need of proportional representation to make sure that when Canadians vote, every vote would carry the same weight and all votes would be heard. We know that in this place, the demographics are not reflected accurately. The political beliefs of Canadians are not reflected accurately, particularly given the fact that we have a government that gets 100% of the power with only 39% of the vote. It does not take long to realize that the present system does not serve the kind of democracy to which Canadians are entitled.

Proportional representation may not be perfect, but it is a far cry better than the system we have right now. The current system leaves hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Canadians without their vote and their voice being reflected in this place. We would address that.

In the absence of that, the best we could hope for is to ensure that our provinces have as close as possible representation by population. However, we have to recognize that already we do not have that consistently across the country. We are already an asymmetrical country when it comes to this place. Again, the favourite and easiest example, and I hope the province does not feel I am picking on it, is P.E.I. Without getting into the history of why, the reality is that the 150,000 people in P.E.I. were guaranteed four seats here and four seats in that other place. That is not representation by population by a long shot.

I do not think that my good friend who represents the Northwest Territories even represents 40,000 people. However, the geography that the hon. member represents is massive; a huge swath of Europe could fit in his riding. We know that representation by population is not the holy grail of reform of this place.

More important, and I will make this point again because it is central to our position, we believe that it meant something when, on November 27, 2006, by overwhelming majority, this place adopted a motion that recognized the Québécois as a nation within a united Canada. In fact, we think it meant a lot.

To not recognize this motion as having meant a lot would do more harm than good. It would look like it was an attempt to pacify by delivering some nice words in the House, but that did not mean anything. The government of the day would have been given a nice headline, but then nobody would have ever given it another thought. What is worse, nobody would have put any real political capital behind it. We think there should be political capital behind it.

I mentioned this in previous remarks, so I will only comment briefly. This is not a new concept. Some have tried to say that the NDP is playing politics and not worrying about the country, that the NDP is not worrying about holding the country together, that this is dangerous, awful and cannot happen, that this is almost un-Canadian. We know that Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney signed the Charlottetown accord which, I grant, did not pass the ultimate Canadian referendum. The motion granted that 25% of all the seats in the House of Commons should be dedicated to Quebec in recognition of the uniqueness of the Québécois and of our desire to build and maintain a strong, united Canada.

The Conservative prime minister and all the premiers of the day signed on to the Charlottetown accord. In terms of its role in Canadian history, it would be hard for anyone to argue that this was a dangerous thing. I do not think one can legitimately say that it threatened the cohesiveness of our country. I do not believe that a sitting prime minister, regardless of which party, along with every premier of every province and every territory, would sign anything that could jeopardize the future unity of our beloved Canada.

We also recognize that the Charlottetown accord did not survive, so we did not think that was necessarily the best anchor to put our principle to. That is why we went with the November 27, 2006 motion and the relative weight that Quebec had at that time. We believe that weight should be put into the formula once and for all. It is 24.35%. There is not much of a difference between 25% and 24.35%, but we feel it has more currency and that it would stand the test of time better. Quite frankly, it is a better argument here on the floor of the House of Commons.

That is primarily why we are not able to vote for this bill. We recognize that it does provide seats in provinces that deserve them, that are well behind their representation by population numbers. However, it needs to be pointed out that it is not as though the brilliance of the government shone through and gave us this bill. It took three bills to get here. The government will remember that its first bill thoroughly shafted my province of Ontario and offered nothing to Quebec. The second bill recognized it could not do that to Ontario, or any province. It still had not recognized that Quebec had some respect due it. It was not until the third bill that we finally got Ontario, B.C. and Alberta closer to representation by population.

We do not disagree with that. We think that is the right thing to do at this time in this context. However, we think a golden opportunity is being missed by not grabbing this great opportunity to send yet another powerful message to the Québécois that our Canada includes them, that they are safe and secure, and need not fear assimilation in Canada. As we repeat over and over, when the Québécois feel that comfort, safety and respect within Canada, then by extension they feel that same safety and respect in North America.

My last point is this. For those who keep asking what Quebec wants now or what is the next thing we have to give Quebec, the reality is that the job is still not done. Our Constitution has not been signed by every province. Quebec has not signed, although constitutionally, it recognizes that for all intents and purposes it has. It is not an accident that the sovereignist movement is at one of its lowest ebbs right now. That is the culmination of steps that have been taken over the last couple of decades to give the assurances and respect that the Québécois are seeking.

To us, the inclusion of 24.35% is really an investment in the security of a strong, united Canada. We believe that. We believe this would make a stronger Canada and would lessen the chance that the sovereignist movement will come roaring back to this place in the kind of numbers it had here before.

We have this unique opportunity. We should set aside the partisanship. I think most Canadians would be very pleased that there is no longer official party status for those who seek to break up Canada. Yet sovereignists are entitled to come here. They get elected the same way. They were even the official opposition once. However, it is a victory for Canada that they are not here as a recognized party because Quebeckers have decided that at this moment their interests could be best represented by a federalist party. They see that it is possible to have a party that is devoted to a united, strong Canada but also recognizes that we need to take opportunities to build into the future. If we do not, the worry is that in another election, they can say that is partisan. Fair enough. I accept that criticism, but it also means that Canada would be under threat again. The stronger the sovereignists are, the weaker Canada is. The stronger Canada is, the weaker the sovereignists are. However, the Québécois are only going to believe that if they actually see, hear, feel and understand that we do respect their differences and that Canada is not Canada without all our provinces and territories.

We are disappointed that this moment is being lost. We continue to maintain our position. If we are ever given the opportunity to be on that side of the House, we will take this step that we believe makes Canada stronger than when we got here. This should be the goal of all of us.

Let us move to two points. First, there are a couple of problems still with this bill. It is not all hearts and flowers. The government wants to shorten the advertised time of the notice period regarding any hearings for the electoral boundaries commissions. As every member here knows, once we have decided on the number of seats and where they are going to go in terms of provinces and territories, it is then up to the individual provinces and territories to set up their own electoral boundaries commissions. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is where it is going to be decided what the common interest is in our various ridings and where those boundaries will help or hinder the ability to unite people within a given riding. That time period would be shortened from 60 days to 30 days. We do not think this is a good decision. We moved an amendment at committee but we lost.

The second one is another timeframe that the government is reducing from 53 days to 23 days, the time that interested groups have to submit a request to make a representation to the Electoral Boundaries Commission. Again, this is a shortening of the time to allow people to indicate that they have some concerns or they have a submission they would like to make.

We do not think that is necessary. We disagree with the government that it is necessary to meet the timelines. It damages that process and that really is the one that people care about the most after the macro issue in terms of what happens in their own communities and in their own neighbourhoods.

To end on a positive note, I do want to thank government members on the committee. We were trying to be respectful of the need for certain timelines to ensure that these seats are in place for the next election. That was one of our goals as the official opposition. It was a commitment I made, that we were going to attempt to do that unless the government gave us some reason to be obstructionists because it was ramming something through or doing something totally unacceptable, but in the absence of that, in a fair game and a fair process, that we would be as co-operative on the macro timeframe as we could be. We have honoured that. We are here today.

I want to thank the committee chair and committee members for the tone, the attitude, and the process, which was, in my view, fair. There was the kind of give and take that one would hope. My amendments did not carry, so it was actually bad, but the way it happened was fair and above board. I wish all committees, in fact, I wish all of the government's business would be approached that way because it was very helpful.

We in the NDP support the seats that need to go to the biggest provinces with the fastest growing population. We support that. We do not see any kind of funny business in the new formula. The experts came in and said that everything seems to be okay. The proof is in the pudding. We will see what happens after the fact. We are supportive of those notions, with a couple of problems around the timeframes that the government is cutting back on.

The thing that drives us to voting against the bill is the lack of the 24.35% that we think needs to be in place to show the respect to Quebec and build the kind of Canada that we all want.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague, in his speech, talked about the importance of proportional representation and how that would be the first principle of a possible NDP government in this country. He said that proportional representation is the most important electoral reform that we can put in place.

I do note that my hon. colleague used to be a cabinet minister in the province of Ontario. When he was elected in the province of Ontario, according to these numbers, I see that he was elected with 36% of the vote and 37% of the vote. I know he did not like proportional representation in those elections.

There is an NDP majority government in the province of Manitoba. There is an NDP government in Nova Scotia. There was an NDP government in British Columbia. If the NDP is so committed to proportional representation, then why does it not impose it now in the provinces in which that party governs? Is it possibly because NDP members are all talk and no action when it comes to this issue?

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak for governments of which I am not a part.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

An hon. member

It's your party. You're all wet. Talk.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, do members want to listen or do they want to talk? I want to respond because the member asked some heartfelt questions and I want to give him an answer.

First, I cannot speak for governments of which I am not a part.

Second, 21 years ago, which is the timeframe the member is talking about, this issue was not front and centre as it is now because we see us going in the wrong direction more and more, and we are seeing greater examples of it.

I thought the member was going to use a really good example. I do not believe 37% or 38% was the case in 1990, but I am not sure what year the member is using. It might have been the first year I was elected. The member should have stood up and said I was elected with 38%, 37%, and formed a majority government. That would have been a good point.

My answer to that would have been that that should not have happened. That should not be the way it is, but it is our system so we are all running under that system, but it is not right. It is not right to get 100% of the power when a party only gets 36%, 37%, 38%, 39%, or 40% of the vote. That is just not right.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to come back to the topic of this bill, this Conservative bad bill. However, I would like to say to my colleague that I like working with him a lot, but the fact is I strongly disagree with what he said, and I want to explain why.

First, as a Quebecker, I am very proud to be part of a country that tries to implement proportional representation. This is as important a democratic principle for Quebeckers as it is for all Canadians. I do not like to hear that I should feel insulted or that it is a slap in my face because I do not accept this 24.35% frozen off the Quebec representation forever. He should be careful when he says that Quebeckers will be insulted and so on. Maybe Quebeckers will believe him if he says that all the time. We would then have the kind of separatist surge that we do not like in Quebec.

Second, as a Quebecker, I want my Constitution to be respected. This Parliament does not have the power to decide that we will contradict proportional representation alone. We need to consult the other provinces. It is important for me as a Quebecker.

Third, I want, as a Quebecker, to be fair to all Canadians. That is why we are asking the NDP to table its numbers to show how its plan would be fair for not only Quebec but for Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and all the provinces. What kind of mammoth size of House would we have if we put all these rules together?

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his attentiveness and for taking the time to intervene with a question. My responses will not be in any particular order.

The member talks about being a proud Quebecker. That is great. I am a proud Ontarian, and I am sure everybody feels that way about their province or territory. I would not question his belief or try to convince him that he should think differently.

I take sincerely the concern about watching the language, watching what we are saying so that we are not feeding the sovereignty movement. I get that. I try to be very careful in the words I choose. If the member believes that, sincerely, something is over the line that is doing some damage, I would be pleased to hear that, either publicly or privately.

The member gets all caught up in how many numbers, how many seats there will be. The number 24.35 does not take a mathematician. Grab the formula. Figure it out. The reason we are not focusing on that is because it is not about that. It is about the principle. It is no different than the principle that 150,000 people in P.E.I. deserve four seats because they were guaranteed that when they joined this country's Constitution. We feel the same way about the 24.35. If the member does not feel strongly about it, that is his democratic right as a Canadian. We believe it is an important principle that Quebec would like to see in its laws.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague. We are talking about small percentages, differences that are symbolic and that send an important message. I consider our position to be extremely courageous. I especially take my hat off to my colleague for having fought this battle to the bitter end. However, I object to the positions voiced earlier because, quite clearly, Prince Edward Island's current level of representation was, at the time, one of the prerequisites to their joining the federation. Today, we are specifically trying to redress the situation in Quebec.

I would like to know my colleague's opinion on the notion of reparation, in other words, telling Quebec that it is welcome in Canada.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe that more and more Quebeckers, by virtue of seeing the election results, are recognizing that there is a safe place for their culture in Canada.

A win for anyone in this country is to be proud of the province they come from, whether it is P.E.I., Alberta or B.C. We have such beautiful geography. We are so blessed that I think we should all feel very proud of our home province and our home territory.

However, the beauty of Canada and of our Confederation is that we can hold that provincial pride, that territorial pride, big or small population-wise, geography-wise, but at the same time we get the world benefit of being a Canadian, one of the greatest, safest, best places in the world to be.

There are people around the world who are willing to die to try to get a Canadian passport for themselves and their families because they know what it can mean.

We try to hold up Canada as a mature democracy, in some ways as a model, even with all our imperfections, and we have many. Attawapiskat screams the loudest today.

However, Quebeckers more and more are realizing that by going with a federalist party, they have an opportunity to maintain, secure, and strengthen their unique culture in Canada, and be proud, and pass that pride on to their children and their grandchildren, but they can also still hold that Canadian passport. That, to me, is the best of both worlds.

We can be proud Quebeckers, proud Ontarians, and proud Prince Edward Islanders, but we are still proud Canadians and we have that passport. That is the best of both worlds.

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, certainly, my voice today cannot compete with the hon. member for Hamilton Centre.

We have heard the Liberal plan, and while we do not agree with it, at least the Liberals have a formula and some numbers that we could talk about. The NDP represents a moving target. Any time NDP members are asked about the numbers, they divert into some other discussion about passports and what not.

Could the member just stand in his place and say what the NDP plan is? How many seats would be in the House of Commons if the NDP were in government and could implement the plan?

Fair Representation ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

First, Mr. Speaker, this gives me an opportunity to mention one thing about the Liberal plan that needs to be mentioned. I understand the appeal of capping and saying there is no need to have any more members here. The problem is that it does not save the money that one thinks, for the simple reason that while the example is given of America, where I believe it has, give or take, 500 Congress members. It is capped at that and it is moved around, depending on the population. Those congresspeople represent between 600,000 and 700,000 people, many of them. They have 20 to 30 staff. They have umpteen offices and they are far more distant from their constituents than we are here, so we do not think that is the way to go.