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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

10:15 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Thank you, Madam Speaker, I appreciate that.

The fact that Ontario, B.C. and Alberta, for that matter, are still underrepresented means this is not a perfect resolution to the matter.

We have taken a position that more work could have been done to get us to where we need to go. However, one of the things that I committed to on behalf of our caucus at second reading was that unless we had some reason, which was not evident then, we would not be obstructionist about this because it does deal with adding seats. I will acknowledge it does take us a long way from where we were, remembering and bearing in mind that it took the government three bills to do it.

The first bill put the shaft to Ontario and still left Quebec out. The government solved the Ontario problem in some way in the second bill, but still left Quebec out. Because of the pressure of the official opposition, there is now a formula in place that at least brings three new seats to Quebec which were not there before.

While we acknowledge that this is an improvement, there is not a lot of glory that the government can take in how it did this. We do find it difficult to be 100% supportive at this stage because we have still left out this important element.

While I am on my feet, may I also just extend thanks and an acknowledgement to the minister, personally, and his staff, who have been excellent to work with. I was very pleased with the forthrightness of his answers before committee. Credit where credit is due, the minister has been very honourable on this file and it has been a pleasure to work with him. Even though we disagree on some aspects, it has been a joy to work with him at a parliamentarian level and I respect the way he approached this and thank him very much for that.

To wrap up, we have honoured our commitments at second reading to hold the government to account, to look at this in great detail at committee. I would mention that we offered all the provinces and territories an opportunity to comment. They did not, which says what it says, but at the end of the day, while we acknowledge it is an improvement, and we are appreciative and glad that there are seats where they are needed that are being added, it is still not ideal, but most important, we are missing that nation building aspect.

We believe it is a missed opportunity to ensure that going forward, the people of Quebec feel comfortable that indeed Canada is their home and their place in all of North America, and therefore they can benefit from their culture, but also benefit from what it means to be a Canadian and part of this great country.

In conclusion, our position is based on ultimately that lack of what needs to be here as opposed to any real dying angst on the bill, recognizing that it could always be better. We look forward to improvements as we go forward, but at this point we still feel that aspect is missing and that would make for a better bill. We will stand on that point all the way through because we believe it is important enough in terms of Canada's future.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2011 / 10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague does good work on the procedure and House affairs committee. He rightly points out that we have had great discussions there with lots of input from a number of witnesses. We are moving ahead.

At one point in his speech today he said, sort of in a derogatory sense, that we on this side have our own ideas. Well, he is right that we have our own ideas. Our idea is to establish the principle of fair representation in this country.

For far too long we have had provinces that have been badly under-represented. It is to the point where a vote in one province is actually worth only one-quarter of a vote in another.

We acknowledge that this idea is not perfect, but it moves us closer to fair representation.

The NDP position would guarantee Quebec's overrepresentation and add 10 more seats. This would hurt our fast-growing provinces. Our formula says that Quebec is 23% of the population and it would have 23% of the seats. That is fair. I would ask my colleague how he could not call this the fair representation act, when in fact we are moving so close to actual representation by population?

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague's personal remarks are much appreciated and I would reflect them back on his work on the procedures and House affairs committee. I agree that it is a good committee.

This may sound like something Bill Clinton would say, but what is the meaning of fair?

In the Canadian context, fair would be respecting P.E.I.'s right to be overwhelmingly overrepresented and that is deemed to be sort of fair, because those are the rules. It is not purely fair.

In that context, when we look at Quebec's historical significance in the creation of Canada and in the ongoing strength of Canada, we think that fair would be acknowledging the 24.35% that Quebec had at the time when we passed a motion in this House recognizing that the Québécois form a nation within a united Canada. I believe the hon. member was in the chamber just as I was. That either means something or it does not. To us, it means something.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Madam Speaker, first, why is it that the member's party did not say that the motion about a Quebec nation meant that its representation in the House of Commons would be frozen forever?

Second, as a proud Quebecker, I am proud to be part of a country where the principle of proportional representation of provinces is entrenched in the Constitution. I want my national assembly of Quebec to be respected. If this House wants to contradict this principle, then we would need the support of seven provinces at least, including the province of Quebec. I want that to be respected.

Third, I think the NDP is a national party and therefore needs to provide numbers for its proposal. How many seats would the House have?

The Conservatives would balloon the House to 338 seats. The Liberals would keep the House at 308 seats. The Green Party provided numbers. Why is the NDP unable to provide numbers?

I think I know why. With all the rules in the NDP proposal, we would easily end up with a House of more than 350 seats and the NDP is embarrassed by that.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, that was a lot in that question.

First of all, in terms of the Liberal proposal, I look forward to it being brought forward as an opposition day motion where we can go through it in great detail. I look forward to seeing it as part of the Liberals' election platform in terms of what they would offer if they were to be the government after the next election.

Politics is the art of the possible. What can be done right now is to take a significant step forward in getting to representation by population. I remind the member that we do not have less representation by population by any stretch of the imagination. The notion of asymmetry, whether the member agrees with it or not, is like whether one agrees with gravity or not. It is there. If we were starting with a blank slate and creating a new country, fair enough, but that is not where we are right now.

While the member is enjoying heckling me, I tried very carefully to respectfully listen to what he had to say. I apologized when I thought I had offended him. Clearly he does not want a dialogue and that is disappointing.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-20, not because the bill is worthwhile, but because, once again, the Bloc Québécois is standing up for the interests of Quebec in the House.

With this bill, the Conservative government is trying to diminish Quebec's political weight. In Quebec, there is a consensus, and even the Quebec National Assembly unanimously agrees that it is against this bill. Today, we are presenting amendments to delete clause 2, in which the calculation diminishes Quebec's political weight.

What is ironic about the whole situation is that not so long ago, the Conservative Party abolished political party financing in order to save lots of money—about $27 million—or so it said. The Conservatives addressed the issue of political party financing in a completely demagogic way, although the funds from voters were distributed based on votes. No one in Alberta saw their money go to the Bloc Québécois, for instance. Of course, there are no Bloc Québécois candidates in Alberta. The money came from the people who had voted for the political parties in question.

Furthermore, under Bill C-20, so with 30 more MPs, millions of dollars will have to be spent. Consider an average of about $300,000 per member just for the member's office budget and salary for a year. Thus, no money will be saved by abolishing political party financing if we increase the number of members in the House.

However, I do not wish to focus only on the economic argument here. Once it passes, this bill will decrease Quebec's political weight from 24.35% to 23.08% in the next election. Quebec's special status will disappear completely. The member who just spoke talked about the motion that was passed in 2006 regarding the Quebec nation, but it no longer has any meaning, because the government is using statistics to say that the percentage of members from a given province will be based on the percentage of the population. This does not apply to Prince Edward Island, of course, which has four MPs, because the Conservatives are invoking the senatorial clause. I want to reiterate that the goal of my speech is not to take members away from any other provinces. I simply wish to point out that special status does exist and that Quebec's special status is being completely disregarded with this bill.

Earlier I was talking about the National Assembly of Quebec, which has unanimously adopted more than one motion calling on the federal government renounce the tabling of any bill that would reduce Quebec's political weight. I understand that the federal government does not want to listen to the concerns of any party from Quebec, but I have trouble understanding why it does not even listen to the federalist parties. When the current government arrived in 2006, it said it wanted open federalism. That should have pleased the federalist parties from Quebec, including the Liberal Party of Quebec, which currently forms the government. However, we see that in matters of justice and a number of other files in which the Government of Quebec disagrees with the federal government, the arguments of the Conservative government and its ideology are what matter. Open federalism is non-existent in the House.

Speaking of the Liberal Party of Quebec, I will quote Yvon Vallières, the new Canadian intergovernmental affairs minister, who is an MNA in my riding. This is what he had to say about the new bill that proposes adding three more MPs for Quebec: “It is not enough...We had three unanimous motions on this in the National Assembly. There is an exceptional consensus; Quebec does not want its political weight to be diminished”.

Quebec's federalist government could not be any clearer: Quebec does not want this type of change.

We are going to strongly oppose Bill C-20. To the Bloc Québécois, Quebec is a nation and its political weight in the House of Commons should therefore receive special protection. Bill C-20, as I was saying, introduces a formula under which Quebec will lose its influence and its tools for defending its language, culture and distinctiveness.

This is just the start. In fact, the 24.35% is being reduced to 23.08% even though, I should note, Quebec currently represents 23.14% of the population. In the next election and subsequent elections, if other provinces' proportion of the population increases, that number could possibly be reduced and reduced again, and it might even go below 20% in this House. Consequently, we are opposed to this formula for the simple and good reason that the Quebec nation, one of the two founding nations of Canada, has been left out and the government is simply looking at the statistics and, to a certain extent, saying that these calculations will apply only to Quebec. In fact, as I just said, this is not a factor for Prince Edward Island. Its proportional weight will be calculated according to demographics and its political weight will not be factored in.

At present, Quebec has 24.35% of the seats in this House. I would remind you that in October 2009, the National Assembly of Quebec adopted a first unanimous motion stating:

That the National Assembly demand that the Federal Government renounce the tabling of any bill whose consequence would be to reduce the weight of Quebec in the House of Commons.

Based on the July 2011 Statistics Canada population estimates, Quebec would have only 23.08% of the seats in the House of Commons whereas it represents 23.14% of the Canadian population. When it spoke for the first time about Bill C-20 and to fudge the numbers presented in its press release, the government omitted the territories. It is playing a bit with the numbers, but that does not make a huge difference to us in any event. What we must do is keep the percentage at 24.35%.

The second change—and this will probably take me to my conclusion—would be the government's decision to use preliminary data. We know that the government wants to rush everything in this House. It needs time allocation motions for almost all of its bills. Here, it is using preliminary data to say that, in terms of statistics, there will be a certain percentage, when the real purpose of the Conservatives' amendments is to ensure that the additional seats and therefore the readjustment of electoral ridings will take effect with the next election, replacing the existing process.

Two types of amendments are made to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. First, Bill C-20 reduces almost all of the time periods regarding the readjustment process for electoral ridings. So instead of waiting for certified census results, the government will set a maximum time period of six months to proceed, from the start of the census, even if the figures have not yet been released by the chief statistician. The government also wants the minimum notice period for public hearings to be reduced by half, from 60 days to 30 days, giving interested parties less time to learn about the consultations and adequately prepare.

Another amendment would complicate the public's participation in the consultations. The time period for asking to submit comments in writing has been reduced by 30 days. The electoral boundaries commissions will have two months less to produce their reports. Finally, whereas before, amendments, once completed, came into force one year after their proclamation, now the time period has been reduced to just seven months.

This is how this government does things. The government plans to use estimates to readjust the ridings rather than the real population figures. The Chief Electoral Officer will have to use the estimates made by the chief statistician to calculate the number of ridings to attribute to Quebec and to each of the provinces, rather than certified results. As I was saying, this is how this government does things.

I will wrap up now. The purpose of the second amendment is to abolish this way of doing things. Will it buy us some time? I do not know, but one thing is for certain: the debate will continue. This issue has already been debated in Quebec. In Quebec, the government and the opposition parties, whether federalist or sovereignist, unanimously agree that the political weight of the Quebec nation here in the House of Commons must not be diminished. That is what the Conservative government is trying do against all odds. It is trying to ensure that Quebec loses its weight and its voice here for purely statistical reasons.

Given the exceptions granted to other provinces, there is a double standard in the House. I do not know why the 2006 motion is not being honoured.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to point out that the fair representation act would give Quebec 23% of the seats in the House and it currently has 23% of the population. That seems fair to me.

My colleague says that we are using preliminary data. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are using the population estimates. The chief statistician of Statistics Canada, Mr. Wayne Smith, appeared before the procedure and House affairs committee and confirmed that the population estimates were a much more accurate way of counting the number of Canadians for the purpose of determining the number of seats required.

The other thing my colleague commented on is the rush. The Electoral Boundaries Commission is obligated by law to begin its work in February. When the chief statistician provides the numbers to the Chief Electoral Officer, the Electoral Boundaries Commission goes into effect on February 8. That means that, if we do not have something before the Chief Electoral Officer before that time, the commission will start its work based on the current formula and then, possibly six months or a year later, that process may need to be started all over again, which is an unbelievable cost and delay. It is important that we move ahead.

Does my colleague think that the additional cost and frustration that the Electoral Boundaries Commission would experience by delaying this bill unduly would actually be in the best interests of Canadians?

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I understand that the member is defending the best interests of Canadians, as he says. I am here to defend the best interests of Quebec. As I said in my speech, and I did not make this up, Quebec has more than once introduced motions unanimously calling on this Parliament not to change Quebec's political weight here in the House.

There were times when Quebec was guaranteed a political weight in the House of Commons of about 25%. There are 308 members in the House. The Quebec National Assembly is calling on the government not to reduce Quebec's existing weight, which is 24.35%. My colleague can bring out all the arguments he wants, valid or not, but one thing is certain: Quebec is not being respected in this bill.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's speech. I am sure he knows that the NDP introduced a private member's bill that would make it a fundamental principle that Quebec have 24.35% of the seats in any readjustment of seats in the House of Commons.

Does the member think that the bill we have proposed is a step in the right direction and will he support it when it is voted on in the House?

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, yes, we plan to support this bill. Furthermore, when it was introduced, the Bloc Québécois's position was already well known in that regard. Unlike my colleague, I am in favour of complete representation in Quebec, that is, at the National Assembly; I want Quebec to become a sovereign country. Until then, in this House, we will support every measure that gives Quebec its proper place. The National Assembly has spoken unanimously, which is significant. We often say that here, but with good reason. The elected members of the Quebec National Assembly represent their population and when we bring their voices here, it means something. We represent—

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. The hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville for a brief question.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Madam Speaker, why is the member asking the Parliament of Canada to ignore the constitutional prerogatives of the provinces, including Quebec? We do not have the power to take it upon ourselves to contradict the principle of proportional representation of the provinces. We must do the same thing regarding the senatorial clause for any province—in this case, Quebec. That must be in the Constitution. We must respect the Constitution and the provinces.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska has 30 seconds.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, 30 seconds is not long enough to debate the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville; it could take a lot longer than that. People need to understand that what is being ignored here is Quebec's political weight. I know many arguments have been raised regarding demographic weight and that many constitutional changes have been made since 1867. But one thing is certain: Quebec will always demand that its political weight be respected, and I am not talking about demographic weight. Bill C-20 scorns Quebec's political weight.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Edmonton—Sherwood Park Alberta

Conservative

Tim Uppal ConservativeMinister of State (Democratic Reform)

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to once again speak to this House about the need for fairness and representation for all Canadians. It has been our government's long-standing commitment to Canadians that we would address the growing unfairness and representation in the House of Commons.

As I have detailed before, during the last election we made three distinct promises to Canadians. Those promises 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 into the future to better reflect population growth in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta. Second, we would protect the number of seats for smaller and slower growing provinces. Third, we would protect the proportional representation of Quebec according to its population. We campaigned on these promises and Canadians voted in a strong, stable, national majority Conservative government. We received a strong mandate and, with this bill, we would be moving this House of Commons toward fair representation for all Canadians.

We promised that to Canadians. They voted for us. So, we are delivering on our commitments.

Bill C-20, the fair representation act, would provide fair representation for Canadians living in our fastest growing provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. Canadians in those provinces have long been seriously under-represented. The current formula maintains the serious under-representation and, in fact, makes it worse as time goes on. Well over 60% of Canada's population is and would continue to be seriously and increasingly under-represented under the current formula. This is not acceptable and it is not fair. Bill C-20 would address this problem.

The bill would also move all provinces closer to representation by population. We believe that is fair. Our bill would also keep each of our promises to Canadians, which, again, is fair. The three large, faster growing and under-represented provinces would move closer to fair representation and would be fairly treated in the future. Again, this is fair. In this way, the foundational principle of representation by population would be much better respected and maintained now and in the future. That is fair.

Quebec would have 23% of the population and it would have 23% of the seats in this House. That is fair.

The smaller and slower growing over-represented provinces would have their seat counts continue to be protected. They would also move closer to fair representation. That is fair.

Members may notice a theme developing in my remarks. We have called our bill the “fair representation act”. We believe that this is a very fair way of describing it. We believe that its process and effects would be fair to all provinces and would restore fairness, and that the majority of Canadians would continue to be unfairly treated by the current formula if it were allowed to continue. It would fix problems that need fixing and would strike a fair balance between the sometimes competing and contradicting principles that we must consider.

Twenty-five years ago, our predecessors in this place faced a similar choice. When the current formula was put in place, the balance between competing principles was tipped toward consideration, which is not a principle at all. That choice has had serious negative effects for more than those 60% of Canadians I just mentioned.

Our predecessors in this place decided to place a priority on the consideration of the size of the House. They decided not to allow the size of the House of Commons to grow roughly in line with the population growth. They decided against an important representational principle, and the people of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta have paid a price because of that. They are not fairly represented and their votes count for much less than the votes of Canadians in other provinces. That unfairness would only continue to grow without these changes.

We are re-balancing the formula by restoring fairness and prioritizing principles, the principles of representation by population, of fairness for all provinces and of protection against unreasonable loss of weight in the House. This rebalancing is necessary and it is important.

We need to move quickly to ensure that these important changes are in place before the next election to ensure that Canadians will be fairly represented in their next voting opportunity and that their votes, to the greatest extent possibly, will carry equal weight.

This need is particularly acute for Canadians in our three faster growing provinces because many of those under-represented Canadians are new Canadians and visible minorities. Canada's new and visible minority population is increasing largely through immigration and these Canadians tend to settle in our fastest growing communities in our fastest growing provinces. When we combine this situation with the current formula that increasingly underrepresents these provinces and the result inadvertently is that new Canadians and visible minorities are even more under-represented than the average Canadian.

This further undermines the principle of representation by population in our country. This is a serious problem that requires an immediate solution. We are moving quickly to meet the deadlines we face in the new year to best facilitate the process that will bring these changes in place for all Canadians.

The Chief Electoral Officer told the procedure and House affairs committee that passing this bill before next year is the best scenario. I encourage members opposite to consider his advice and testimony at committee.

With the fair representation act, our Conservative government is delivering a principled, reasonable and fair solution. The bill better respects and maintains representation by population. The bill would ensure the effective and proportionate representation of all provinces, especially for smaller and slower growing provinces. The bill provides a principled formula with a national application that is fair for all provinces. The bill would ensure that the vote of each Canadian, to the greatest extent possible, would have equal weight. The fair representation act delivers on all of these points and delivers on our government's long-standing commitments to Canadians, and it does so fairly.

Try as they might, and I am sure they will try this week as we debate this bill, the opposition members with their proposals are not able to make these claims. I am proud to be the minister responsible for moving these fair changes forward and to be able to support a bill that treats all Canadians fairly.

I look forward to the continuing debate of the bill today and later this week. I thank my hon. colleagues in advance for their contributions to this important debate.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I would remind the minister that, while he is all puffed up with pride about the bill, it took three tries and shafting a number of other provinces before we finally came to something that really was close to fair.

Given that it was a Conservative prime minister who signed and promoted the Charlottetown accord that recognized that Quebec should maintain 25% of the seats in the House, and given that it is the current Conservative Prime Minister who moved the motion that recognized the Québécois as a nation within a united Canada, first, would the minister not agree that fairness would dictate that the motion's intent would be reflected in this bill? Secondly, if it does not mean that, exactly what did that motion mean to Conservatives?

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, the fact is that this formula is a principled formula. It is very clear in how it is applied to the entire country. It treats every province fairly. In speaking about Quebec, the fact is that after this formula is applied, Quebec will have 23% of the population and will have 23% of the seats in the House of Commons. That is fair. It is seen as fair by all Canadians because this formula treats all provinces fairly and actually brings every province closer to representation by population. We believe that is fair.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to explain to the minister why I disagree with him when he said that we must be proud of this bill. At a time when his government is slashing and cutting so many essential services to Canadians, he knows very well that his constituents do not want more politicians. which is, by the way, why the Conservatives are rushing this bill through. They know that Canadians are very upset by the idea that we will have more politicians.

The minister challenged me to prove that it was possible to achieve the same representation by provinces keeping the House at 308 seats and I delivered. Therefore, why does he not agree with the amendments of the Liberals? We would then have fair representation but we would respect the taxpayers at the same time.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, Canadians want to the greatest extent possible that every Canadian vote should carry equal weight.

We will not do what the Liberals are doing, which is to pick winners and losers. They should be very clear about their intentions. The Liberals would take three seats away from Quebec, two seats away from Manitoba, two seats from Saskatchewan, and one seat from Nova Scotia. They would take seats away from Newfoundland and Labrador. That is unfair to those slower growing provinces.

We made a commitment that we would treat every province fairly, and that is what we are doing.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I thank the minister for his hard work, because I come from one of the provinces that have been under-represented.

There is a strong concern with my constituents about what would happen if this bill did not get through. We have seen the tactics from the opposition. We have seen the opposition do everything possible to slow down and obstruct the bill. The opposition is doing whatever it can so that Canadians do not have that fair representation where a vote means a vote no matter where they live in Canada.

Would the minister take the time to explain what would happen if this bill did not get through promptly? Could he contrast the differences between the NDP proposition and the Liberal proposition compared to ours?

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Madam Speaker, what would happen if we did not pass this bill is that there would be a duplication of process. Whether or not we do anything, the process will begin next year. The redistribution will begin. We need to pass this formula and put it in place before that begins. Otherwise, that process will begin. At some point this formula will pass, and then we will have to adjust it again. If we do not pass this formula, the fastest growing provinces will continue to be under-represented, which is just unfair. The member's province of Ontario, my province of Alberta, and British Columbia will continue to be under-represented, and that is unfair.

With respect to the difference between the formulas, it is hard to describe the NDP formula because the NDP is not telling us what its numbers are. The NDP is not being clear to Canadians about the numbers. That party talks about all these different ideas, but what are the numbers and how many seats are the NDP proposing? The NDP is not being clear about that.

The Liberal plan is to pick winners and losers. We will not do that.

The difference between the opposition's proposals and ours is that ours is fair for all provinces.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Madam Speaker, there are no winners and losers; there are only winners with the Liberal plan: Canadians.

This bill is so preposterous that the House must reject it. That is what I am going to show in the time that I have been given.

The government is proposing to needlessly increase the number of seats in the House by 30—from 308 to 338—but it has not made any mention of the costs associated with these new seats. It is not necessary to expand the House of Commons in this manner because each province could be given equal representation without changing the current number of seats. That is what the Liberal plan proposes. It keeps the number of seats in the House at 308 while offering each province the same proportion of seats—within a few decimal points—as the Conservative plan, which expands the House to 338 seats.

The Liberal plan has been praised everywhere, except by certain politicians. It is only politicians who want more politicians. Canadians are concerned about the additional costs of the expanded House that the Conservatives are preparing to vote in. The government is sending the wrong message. It wants to increase the number of politicians but, meanwhile, it is making cuts to the public service and to services for the public. That does not make any sense. Parliament must set an example in these times of fiscal restraint.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of cuts effected by the Conservative government to services to Canadians: $226 million from Veterans Affairs support services; 700 scientists from Environment Canada; 600 employment insurance processing staff from Service Canada; 92 auditors from Audit Service Canada; 725 people from Statistics Canada; drastic cutbacks to Environment Canada's ozone monitoring network; drastic cutbacks to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency; closure of St. John's and Quebec City maritime search and rescue centres; and so on.

There are cuts, cuts everywhere, except when it comes to politicians. Oh no, then the government wants to protect their stake. The cuts and sacrifices are for Canadians, but for the politicians it is leisure and luxury. That is the Conservatives' way. There is a record-size cabinet, record-size PMO, and now there would be a record-size House of Commons. But what can we expect from a Prime Minister who protects one of his ministers caught using a rescue helicopter as his private limousine?

These are politicians who are serving themselves rather than serving the public. Canadians do not appreciate that.

Let us look at what is happening elsewhere. In Great Britain, the Conservative government is forcing the people to make difficult sacrifices, but it is also setting the example by decreasing representation by 10%.

Here is a quote:

In these times of spending restraint and operational review, the members of this House should not be considered exempt....The number of electoral districts in our province will be reduced....

This quote comes from the recent throne speech of the Government of New Brunswick, another Conservative government. It shows that decency is not a matter of partisan politics; it is a matter of ethics, of respect for the citizens who gave us the privilege to serve them instead of serving ourselves.

Here is another quote:

A smaller House offers considerable cost savings, less government and fewer politicians--and clearly this is what Canadians want.

Canadians are already among the most overrepresented people in the world.

That was said on November 25, 1994 by a young member of Parliament who is now the Prime Minister of Canada.

There is no consistency. There is no respect for Canadians.

The government also has no respect for Parliament. Why does the government want to add more members when it thinks so little of Parliament?

Why does the government want more MPs when it is using time allocation as never before, cutting off debate, deflecting questions, bullying the House to force through its bills as never before?

Madam Speaker, you should have been in committee when we heard from experts who, for the most part, told us that we must keep the number of seats in the House at 308, while making the House more equitable for all the provinces.

The Conservative members have demonstrated appalling corporatism and, unfortunately, the members of the NDP have joined in their whining, saying that they are overworked, that they cannot go on and that they need more members to do the work. That is untrue. Three hundred and eight members can do the work for Canadians. We do not need to add 30 more members that Canadians do not even want. Therefore, we must say no to this bill to bloat Parliament.

We must say no to this bill that would add more politicians.

Instead, members should support the Liberal plan, the amendments proposed by the Liberal caucus, which call for a House that provides fair representation for all the provinces but stays at its current size. Let us show Canadians that we are not out to serve ourselves. We are here to serve Canadians and Canada.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Edmonton—Sherwood Park Alberta

Conservative

Tim Uppal ConservativeMinister of State (Democratic Reform)

Madam Speaker, on this side of the House we make no apologies for addressing the under-representation of ordinary Canadians. The Liberals do not support fair representation for all Canadians, yet they do support the direct taxpayer subsidy to political parties at $30 million a year. It is disappointing that the Liberals would rather invest in political parties. They are more concerned about the state of their finances than they are about ordinary Canadians.

Why do the Liberals support the direct taxpayer subsidy to political parties at $30 million a year and not fair representation for all Canadians?

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Madam Speaker, it is interesting to note that the minister does not want to discuss the bill. He wants to switch to another debate, which I would be pleased to do. We have a bill on the table. The minister has said he is very proud of the bill. However, he is unable to discuss the bill.

He said that we are creating winners and losers. When it is time to allocate seats, the House should be kept at a reasonable number but the minister wants to inflate the House with 30 more seats. He does not want to debate the issue because he is embarrassed by it.

Motions in AmendmentFair Representation ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, there are days when I think that adding more seats in the House of Commons would be a lot like putting more deck chairs on the Titanic.

The real issue is not representation by geography but representation by party. As I am sure the member knows, the party across the way received 39% of the vote, has over 55% of the seats and pretty much 100% of the power.

Could the member tell me if the Liberal Party is ready to discuss getting behind true proportional representation based on parties?