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House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fair.

Topics

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her great work in committee. She has been an active participant, very thoughtful in discussions and helpful in getting some of this information out.

I can only speak to the provinces in the sense that in my own province the premier has come out in strong measure endorsing the bill and certainly looking for a more fair representation by population in Ontario. He has been nothing but supportive of the bill.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there are four possible positions on the bill. The first position is to reduce the number of members. We have the current Prime Minister who, a number of years ago, used to advocate that we should reduce the number of members of Parliament. The second position is to keep it the same at 308 members, which is what the Liberal Party of Canada has said. The third position is that we should increase the numbers, which is what the government and the Prime Minister have said. The fourth is the NDP option of being irrelevant.

What caused the Prime Minister to change his mind? He used to reflect the general will of Canadians when he said that we did not need a larger House of Commons. His position today is he wants to see an increase in the size of the House of Commons. What does the member believe caused the Prime Minister to flip-flop on that issue?

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the last election, the one that ended on May 2, which gave our government a majority government in the House and put him away down in the corner, the constituents who I spoke to in Ontario mention that they were looking for fair representation by population in our province and asked why did we not go to Ottawa and get it done.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government's bill would add seats to urban Canada while, at the same time, protect the seats currently in rural Canada. Whereas the proposal from the Liberal Party would take seats away from rural Canada in order to add them to urban Canada. That is the important difference in this bill and that is why it is a practical bill which the House should support.

It is also a principled bill because it is one of the most important pieces of legislation introduced in the House in the last 10 years. The reason for it is simple: visible minorities are under-represented in this place. Only one in ten members of Parliament is a member of a visible minority group when its numbers are double the population and there will be triple that number in the population in 20 years.

Maybe the member can speak to the issue of why this bill is so very important to add seats to the city regions of Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not certain I could do it more eloquently than the member for Wellington—Halton Hills could, but it is exactly the point. There were changes needed in how people in Canada were represented. In our largest cities, we have gone beyond the size that is most appropriate for a member of Parliament to represent. A great number of the citizens of Canada he mentioned are found in the urban areas and therefore changing the size of those ridings would give a more fair representation.

I happen to represent a riding that is mostly rural, although it has a piece of London, the tenth-largest city in Canada. The answer there is we continue to find the constituency work to be much of the draw. We come here to work and it is fairly easy to get the work done. It is all equitable here as to how much work we have. Some of us with larger ridings back home find that work to be changing. This would help affect that.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to join in the debate on Bill C-20 because, members might be interested to know, perhaps even before I got into politics, I was seized with the issue of constitutional reform, as it relates to democratic reform, in my days working as a carpenter. I answered an advertisement in the Globe and Mail back in 1991, I believe, looking for interested Canadians who may want to participate in what was at that time a very bold and unique venture, which was a cross-country consultation with Canadians, to have a discussion, a debate about opening the Constitution to address a number of the irritants, as it were, that threatened the integrity of our Confederation.

As fate would have it, my name was chosen to be one of what they called “ordinary Canadians” who would form a citizen assembly.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

They didn't know you.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

They didn't know me very well. That's right.

Somehow I got through the screening process and was chosen as an ordinary Canadian to participate in a cross-country consultation of great value and great merit.

This was put on by the previous Conservative government, hosted by its minister of foreign affairs at the time, Joe Clark. The government went to great effort and great expense to truly consult Canadians on a number of pressing issues that we believed were necessary. We can imagine what was going on in Canadian history at that time, but it was based on the premise that our Canadian Federation and the Constitution that holds it together is a very fragile construct. It needs to be maintained, nourished and updated on an ongoing basis in order to maintain the fabric. It is a fragile thing that we have thrown together here.

I was surprised to learn that there are less than 20 federations in the world. Of all the countries in the world, less than 20 are federations because they are, by definition, difficult to knit together for a common purpose and a common goal.

At that time, 3 out of those 20 federations were at risk. One of them, the Soviet Union, is now gone. Another one, Yugoslavia, is now gone. The third one that was on the species at risk list was Canada. There was genuine concern at that time that we may not be able to keep this country together. The dynamics, the disparate, legitimate interests of the participating parties to our federation were not satisfied and were frustrated. They felt that the Confederation was not serving their needs as was the commitment made at Confederation.

Therefore, this bold, courageous enterprise took effect and we had five meetings across the country. The 160 of us chosen as ordinary Canadians formed the nucleus. Then they invited about 1,000 or 2,000 more in each of the five cities in which we had these meetings. The 160 who were chosen were given a backgrounder in the complexity of the makeup of the Canadian Confederation and the reasoning behind why we have the two chambers, the efficacy of the two chambers, the representation in this chamber as opposed to the lack of representation in the other.

All of that was a great history lesson for a lot of ordinary Canadians so that we could make an informed recommendation as to what kind of changes were necessary to add value to Confederation and to amend the Constitution to ensure the viability of a great nation and to take us off the species at risk list for countries with federation as their makeup. We believed it was a sad thing that Canada was even on that list. However, the issue of representation by population was key and integral to our dialogue.

We had these five special meetings and, at the very end, it was decided we needed a sixth meeting because we forgot that there were not two founding nations that formed this country, that there were first nations, as well, and that somehow, perhaps due to tradition, we had left them out of the debate. We had another sixth round dealing with aboriginal people.

Since that time, I have travelled to and learned a great deal about the country of New Zealand, another Commonwealth country with which we have great relations. It has seats reserved in its house of commons for the Maori people. They are set aside, guaranteed. They are not limited to that number of seats but they are guaranteed that number of seats and, should they win more by the proportional representation system, so be it. but they are guaranteed representation in their house of commons.

That is the kind of debate and the type of consultation that we should have had going into such an important subject matter. One of the themes throughout all the speakers from the New Democratic Party in the context of this debate is that if we are going to do this now, we had better do it right. There is a bigger picture here than just the simplistic mathematics of ensuring that every seat represents 111,316 constituents. That is the easiest part of the debate. That does not even touch on the thornier issues that are at stake here if we are to reopen the debate on the type of democratic reform that is necessary in this country to maintain the integrity of a great nation with a great Constitution.

The one thing that we learned in the cross-country consultations leading up to the Charlottetown accord is that we need to be ever vigilant to maintain a constitution. A constitution is a living, breathing document. It is not rigid or carved in granite with a chisel. It is something that needs to be revisited on a regular basis, nurtured, watered and watered in a respectful way.

I am fully cognizant of and will acknowledge freely that it is difficult for members of Parliament when one is tasked with representing 88,000 constituents, as I represent, and another member of Parliament with the same budget, the same amount of staff and the same amount of resources representing 131,000, Just by ratio, one would think that the member will have more casework. I am critical, though, that while we do compensate members of Parliament with a greater constituency office budget if they represent a greater geographic area, and we do compensate members of Parliament with a supplementary budget if they represent larger numbers of people, we do not make any accommodation for members of Parliament who may represent areas of greater need.

I represent an area where 47% of all the families live below the poverty line and 52% of all the children in my riding live below the poverty line. Low income people, in fact poverty, puts people in a constant state of crisis and those people need a disproportionate amount of support. The average family income in my riding is less than $30,000 a year. If the average family income in a riding is $130,000, people are not likely to go knocking on the door of their member of Parliament nearly as often as when people are thrown out of an apartment, their social assistance cheque has not arrived or their children have been scooped up by child and family services. Poor people are in crisis on a regular basis. I wish we could acknowledge and recognize that some members of Parliament are dealt with far more pressing casework than people who want to go to the Bahamas for their Christmas holidays and their passport is late arriving.

We are dealing with an incredibly important issue here. I believe it is negligent of us not to be dealing with some of the larger issues regarding democratic reform in the context of doing the math on dividing up the seats in the House of Commons. This is one of those bills that has not gestated, not finished. It is being rushed through without due consideration and it would benefit from a broad cross-country consultation, perhaps not of the magnitude of the consultation that led to the Charlottetown accord, but surely more input from more groups, more organizations and more Canadians who could tell us what they want done with their democratic institutions.

We can point to the other chamber, the undemocratic, unelected Senate, which is burning up resources at breakneck speed. Perhaps ordinary Canadians now, in these times of budgetary restraint, would have some input and some guidance as to whether we really need a second chamber at all or whether that is just some place for senators to go globe-trotting around the world on parliamentary junkets.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I strongly support the bill and this House needs to adopt the bill. I will to tell the House why.

This place does not reflect the makeup of Canada. If there is any institution in this country that should reflect the makeup of the Canadian population, it is the democratically elected House of Commons and currently it does not do so. Only one in ten members of this chamber is a member of a visible minority group when their numbers in the population are double that number. I will tell the House why it does not reflect the makeup. In the 30 most populated ridings in this country, the population is disproportionately made up of visible minority populations and those ridings are in the areas of Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. That is why we need to pass the bill.

The longer we wait to add these seats, the more difficult it will become. Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary are growing rapidly. We need to deal with the galloping heterogeneity of this country, add these new seats by passing the bill to ensure that, after the next election, this chamber better reflects the makeup of the new Canada.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, often we are told, when we enter into areas that may require constitutional reform, that there is no appetite on the part of Canadians to reopen the Constitution for any reason, that Canadians are tired of constitutional reform, that after that period in the late eighties with Meech Lake and the early nineties with the Charlottetown accord, that, and this is a term I always hear, there is no appetite to revisit it.

I think anybody who says that is actually misreading the will and the interests of the Canadian people. I think there is a great interest and a great appetite. In fact, there has been a generational change. It has been 20 years since the failure of the Charlottetown accord. There is a whole new generation of Canadians who have never had this debate. They have never been consulted.

This is why I believe that the patchwork quilt initiative of addressing one shortcoming, but without even any knowledge of how it might impact other shortcomings, is short-sighted.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention from the member for Winnipeg Centre who always gives us a passionate speech in defence of our country and a reflection of where we go forward from here.

However, as the official opposition, as a party that is proposing that it is ready to govern this country, when the Conservatives put forward a proposal to give 30 more seats, we have given zero more seats in this House.

I would like the straight-shooter from Winnipeg Centre to please tell us exactly how many more seats would the NDP plan add to this House of Commons?

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have put forward a private member's bill, after much thought and consultation with the constituent groups that form the official opposition, that would put in place a framework and a foundation that would underpin the consultation that would lead to the answer to the question that my colleague has put.

The difference between us and the Conservative Party in this matter is that it is important for us to get the fundamentals in place and build from the foundation up in a consultative approach instead of a prescriptive approach. We are proposing a consultative approach.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been hearing from the Conservatives that because there is a need to reflect the suburbs better that is, to some extent, to the democratic deficit in this country. What they do not talk about is the inability of many Canadians to actually see their elected representatives because they represent ridings that are so huge.

For example, in my riding, it costs over $1,000 to fly from Attawapiskat to Timmins just to meet with the elected representative.

Why does the member think that the larger issue of the diversity of this country is being ignored by the government that is focused solely on the suburbs?

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is true that we should be careful not to take too simplistic an approach toward representation in this country. It is not as simple as taking the population and simply dividing it and getting the number of seats. We have never been that way in this country.

A number of elements and factors need to be considered before the design of this chamber is agreed upon. P.E.I. and northern Canada have been used as examples. Providing reasonable representation is not as simple and straightforward as the Conservatives would have us believe.

Government of CanadaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, as the Christmas break approaches, my constituents in Crowfoot and I want to commend our Prime Minister for providing Canada with a strong, stable, national majority Conservative government.

Faced with the challenges in the current global economy, our Conservative government remains focused on providing Canadians with jobs and growing Canada's economy. In the third quarter of this year, Canada's economy grew by 3.5%. This is an amazing achievement and a performance level envied by many nations around the world facing massive budgetary deficits and crushing public debt.

We have provided marketing freedom for farmers and decriminalized responsible law-abiding gun owners by scrapping the failed and costly long gun registry. As well, our changes to Canada's criminal law have targeted violent and repeat offenders and sex offenders preying on children.

Canadians put their trust in this government, and we are fulfilling the promises we made during the election campaign.

I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and many more promises fulfilled in the new year.

Violence Against WomenStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, today on December 6 we remember the tragic massacre of 14 young women in Montreal 22 years ago. One lone gunman with a lethal weapon could not contain his anger against women. Canadians mourned and vowed to work for change.

Jack Layton and others spoke out against men's violence against women and co-founded the white ribbon campaign, now supported by millions in 55 countries. They and the families of the 14 young women fought for gun control. Marc Lepine's weapon is listed on the long gun registry, which the Conservatives now tragically aim to destroy.

The government should strengthen gun control rather than eliminate it, so that we can all stand in this House on December 6 and say, “Never again”.

Today, December 6, let us all stand together and say: never again.

White Point LodgeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, last week I had the honour of presenting White Point Lodge with the Tourism Industry Association of Canada Award for Excellence in Human Resources Development. This award is presented to a business that has clearly demonstrated a commitment to professionalism in the tourism workforce

This award held a special significance for all of White Point's management and staff because their main lodge was completely destroyed in a devastating fire on November 12 of this year.

Located on Nova Scotia's beautiful South Shore, White Point is Nova Scotia's favourite year-round, oceanfront beach vacation destination. With ISO 9001 certification, White Point provides an extensive human resources program that includes student scholarships and placements, professional development, staff recognition and support of local tourism industry initiatives.

To Danny and all the staff at the White Point Lodge, congratulations on the prestigious award and on the plans to rebuild.

Firearms RegistryStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was 22 years ago when a deeply disturbed man burst into Montreal's École Polytechnique with a legally obtained Ruger Mini-14 rifle and savagely shot 28 people. In the days that followed, we learned that these students were targeted for one simple reason: they were women.

The incoming Liberal government at that time took action to help protect Canadians by launching a new firearms licensing and registration system that took aim at the criminal misuse of firearms. The system included mental health, spousal and criminal background checks, and, for the first time in history, the law required all Canadians with a gun to have a permit.

I am proud to support the Liberal firearms package and on this National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, I call upon the Conservatives to end their efforts to turn back the clock by repealing the firearms registry.

Violence against women is never acceptable anywhere at any time. I believe it can be stopped, but only if we work together.

Mayor of Pitt MeadowsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Don MacLean, a man who has served the community of Pitt Meadows in public life for the past 21 years.

Mayor MacLean is retiring from politics today, having served the city of Pitt Meadows for nine years as a councillor and 12 years as mayor. He has attended countless community events and represented his city on many boards and committees in metro Vancouver. In an exemplary way, he has overseen the steady growth and development of a strong and vibrant city, a city with natural beauty right outside our door.

It is quite an accomplishment for a man who was looking to purchase a house in another community, made a wrong turn on Harris Road, and never left.

On behalf of my constituents in Pitt Meadows, I want to thank Mayor MacLean and wish him all the best in his future endeavours. When Don and Diane stroll through MacLean Park, I hope he experiences the well-deserved personal satisfaction that comes from having served his community well.

Violence Against WomenStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Vancouver-based community activist Jennifer Allan has been travelling across Canada to raise awareness about discrimination and violence against sex workers. This is an issue that touches me closely in my riding in Vancouver East, especially on this National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Despite the ongoing missing women inquiry in British Columbia, sex workers in the Downtown Eastside continue to receive tragically little understanding and recognition. They continue to struggle with chronic poverty and are forced out of public view, leaving them vulnerable to violence.

Jen is calling on political leaders to take action to ensure the fundamental human rights of sex workers are no longer violated. Such action includes the creation of safe houses, reforming Canada's solicitation laws and improved training for police officers.

I call on members from all parties to confront the underlying prejudices that have prevented us for so long from addressing this issue. We have failed in our responsibility to protect one of the most marginalized groups in our society.

Senator Robert CarrallStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to pay tribute to a local unsung hero, Senator Robert Carrall. Senator Carrall, originally from Ingersoll in my riding of Oxford, received his MD from McGill University in 1859. He used his medical talents as an assistant surgeon for the Union Army during the American Civil War. Upon his return to Canada in 1865, he continued working as a doctor and played an active part in the Cariboo gold rush. In 1868, he was elected to the Legislative Council of British Columbia and was one of three delegates who went to Ottawa to negotiate British Columbia's joining Confederation.

In 1871 he was summoned to the Senate of Canada and was a confidante to Sir John A. Macdonald. He supported the construction of the CP railroad and petitioned Parliament to pass a bill instating the holiday we now know as Canada Day, before dying at the age of 42.

Senator Carrall's story remained largely untold until recently, when Irene Crawford-Siano, of Woodstock, published her ninth book, entitled Senator Robert Carrall and Dominion Day.

We thank Senator Carrall for his inspiring work on behalf of Canadians and Irene for sharing his story.

Halifax Explosion of 1917Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, in Halifax harbour 94 years ago today, the French munitions ship Mont Blanc struck the Norwegian vessel Imo. The resulting explosion was the largest non-nuclear man-made blast in the history of the world.

The blast caused a tsunami in Halifax harbour. It caused an air pressure wave that snapped trees, obliterated buildings and even twisted steel. It rattled the glass in the Truro hospital, 100 kilometres away.

Halifax was shattered by this blast. The devastation was unimaginable: 2,000 dead and 9,000 more wounded. Relief efforts were sent from all over, as far away as the city of Boston.

Halifax was shattered that day, but Halifax was not defeated. We will always remember the devastation that took place 94 years ago today. We will also always remember those who sent relief in her hour of need.

Violence Against WomenStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, today as we mourn victims of violence at École Polytechnique, we also mourn the violence that permeates our society. Aboriginal women are among those who experience the keenest edge of this violence, which is rooted in colonization, assimilation and cultural genocide.

While we have recognized the great harm we have done to aboriginal women, there is still the lingering violence that manifests itself in the chronic lack of decent housing, educational opportunity and economic security.

This has been going on for generations. Aboriginal women themselves speak most eloquently to this. Ms. Marlene Pierre of the Robinson Superior Treaty Women's Council told parliamentarians, “Women are saying the same damn things we said 50 or 60 years ago. Why? What are you people doing that will have some meaningful impact?

The violence continues.

Religious FreedomStatements By Members

December 6th, 2011 / 2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada is a model on the world stage for respecting freedom of religion. In fact, one of our government's key re-election promises was to establish an office for religious freedom. However, religious freedom is not something that is enjoyed by all people around the world. One such case is in Vietnam, where FatherThadeus Nguyen Van Ly, a Roman Catholic priest, has been repeatedly arrested for peacefully criticizing the Vietnamese Communist government's stance on religion.

Father Ly was rearrested most recently in July of 2011. He was returned to prison despite having health problems, having suffered three strokes that caused paralysis of his right arm and leg.

Vietnamese Canadians across the country are deeply concerned about this undemocratic situation. This week I will have the privilege of tabling a petition from the community that will call on the Vietnamese Communist government to unconditionally release Father Ly from prison.

Tragedy at École PolytechniqueStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, today is the 22nd anniversary of the tragedy at École Polytechnique. We honour the memory of the 14 women who lost their lives that day. This is not a time for partisanship, especially in a House where women hold 25% of the seats. However, ironically, the firearms registry is set to be scrapped and the data in it completely destroyed this year, adding to the pain of this tragedy.

The registry was initially created in response to what happened at École Polytechnique. Last week, in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I heard survivors of this tragedy advocating for the continuation of the registry. Their testimony was quite upsetting. But the Conservatives remained unmoved. How can a government that claims to care about victims behave this way? How can Conservative MPs look the opposition in the eye and say that public safety is important to them?

It is not too late. The Conservatives can still transfer the data to the provinces, as Quebec is asking them to do. I still hope they will make the right decision to honour the memory of the victims who died on December 6, 1989.