Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely delighted to join in the debate on this very important bill. It seems to be a spirited debate between the members in the far corner and some of the members on the government side.
The bill represents a commitment that our government made to Canadians to move the House toward fairer representation. In particular, it reflects our government's three distinct promises to provide fair representation by: allocating an increased number of seats now and in the future to better reflect the population growth in Ontario, which is my home province, British Columbia and Alberta; maintaining the number of seats for smaller provinces; and maintaining the proportional representation of Quebec according to its population.
We campaigned on those promises and Canadians voted in a strong, stable, national Conservative government. We received a strong mandate and with this bill we are moving the House of Commons toward fair representation for all Canadians. We promised that to Canadians; they voted for us, and we are delivering on that.
I would be remiss if I did not specifically challenge the member who just spoke. I was going to ask him a question, but because I was next to speak, I thought I would address it in my remarks.
I have coined a term for the Liberal proposal. It is a little catchy, and if members find themselves saying it later, it is okay; they do not have to give me credit for it. I call it the Liberal loser plan.
The Liberal plan is a loser because it takes seats away from provinces including Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the maritime provinces, but it also makes a loser out of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta because they are not getting fair representation. It takes the voices away from rural Canada and deposits them in urban Canada. It would take seats away from Manitoba, for example. I would be very interested to see the member go into rural parts of Manitoba and talk about how those people are going to lose representation in the House. That voice for agriculture, that voice for natural resource economies, that voice for rural infrastructure, that voice that speaks on behalf of wardens in rural municipalities, those voices are not going to be here any more because the Liberal Party would take those voices away.
In the province of Ontario, for example, we have very large ridings, especially in the 905 belt, some of which are represented by large representatives, as my colleague is pointing out. There are some very large population-based ridings. Those ridings would still be under-represented. A vote in that province would not carry the same weight as a vote would in other jurisdictions of the country.
I openly admit that the bill would still leave some regions somewhat overrepresented compared to others, but it would move the entire democratic system in this country in the right direction.
If we look at the Liberal plan, as my colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills has correctly pointed out, if I live in Saskatchewan, Manitoba or Quebec, I understand one thing from what the Liberal proposal is. In absolute terms it would reduce the number of voices that would represent my province, that would represent my rural part of the country, that would represent my cities in Ottawa. That means that amid all of the voices here, amid all of what goes on here, in absolute terms those regions of the country would have fewer representatives than they have today.
I represent a fairly large riding. By no means is it the largest in the country, but the population of my riding is roughly 126,000. Its population size is close to that of all four ridings in Prince Edward Island. By that math, a vote in the riding of Peterborough is worth about 25% of what a vote in Prince Edward Island is worth. We have understood that. It is okay. Our system is not perfect. We understand that we need to correct it.
Bill C-20 reduces the number of votes in each riding in the province of Ontario and it does so in a very fair and principled way, working off census figures. It makes sure, as I said earlier, that no province is actually going to lose representatives and it also maintains the proportional representation of the province of Quebec.
That is why, for example, only a few weeks ago when the bill was introduced, Liberal members said that they thought we got it right. The leader of the Liberal Party is on the record as saying that. Members currently in the House who are making some commentary while I am speaking are on the record as saying such. That is why the bill, when it was introduced, received the endorsement, largely, of governments right across the country. That is why Canadians are supportive of the bill.
I would argue that the Liberals are playing a little bit of cheap politics on this. They are saying that they will hold the number of seats in the House of Commons at the arbitrary figure of 308. There is nothing special about the number 308, other than it happens to be the number today, but it was not the number when some of the members across the way were elected. It was not the number when a number of great prime ministers of this country served. That number comes as a result of a formula that has been in place since 1867, which was later refined in the 1980s. That is where 308 comes from.
The longer the current formula is in place, the more the electoral system in Canada, representation by population that we espouse, the more that actually becomes stretched and the less it becomes in actual effect in this country.
It is critically important that we move in that direction. That is what Bill C-20 does. If we determine, as the Liberal Party has, that it should be an arbitrary number of 308, and we start taking seats away from some regions and depositing them in other regions while still not moving any of those regions to representation by population, it would simply be playing cheap politics.
The Liberals are saying it is not the right time to spend money. That is very interesting. They did not feel that way on the per vote subsidy. They thought the per vote subsidy should be maintained. They were not in favour of saving Canadians that money. I am sure my colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London recalls that debate in the House. We almost had a coalition government over that with the various parties, including the Bloc Québécois.
Ultimately, we are here to discuss fair representation. The Liberal Party members are being somewhat presumptuous when they say that when we add more members of Parliament, it will cost x number of dollars, because they are simply taking that average, but there has been no determination in the House as to what savings can be found. I challenge members across the way. I receive a subsidy to account for the excessive number of folks that I represent compared to other ridings, but I should not expect that the subsidy would be continued if the total number of electors in my riding is in fact reduced, and I do not. I do not expect that at all. I expect efficiencies to be found in those areas.
I would simply note that this all comes back to fair representation. That is what it is about. That is why the Liberal premier of Ontario has said that he supports the government's plan for fair representation, not the plan put forward by the Liberal Party, not the proposal put forward by his Liberal cousins, and certainly not the plan put forward by the NDP, which would probably expand this House closer to 400 members. It would actually move us much farther away from actual representation by population in the country, because it is also quite arbitrary in how it is put together.
This is the best formula. It is quite simply the best formula to move all provinces toward fair representation in a reasonable and principled manner. There has to be a principle behind what we are doing when it comes to representation in this country.
The growth in the size of the House of Commons will be kept at a reasonable level. I should note that all efforts will be made to make sure that the cost of operations in the House are conscientiously maintained at a level that I believe Canadians support.
What I will never support is to reduce in absolute terms the number of voices that speak for rural Canada, the number of voices that speak for northern Canada, the number of voices that speak for places outside the large metropolitan areas. That is what the Liberal proposal would do. It would hurt farmers. It would hurt our natural resource economy. It would hurt our rural municipalities. It would make a loser out of every region and territory of this country. That is why it is a Liberal loser plan.