Mr. Speaker, as I see it, Bill C-12, which is before us today, is completely undemocratic because it bases democracy solely on numbers. There are many facets to democracy. When one nation wants democracy within a large country, this must not be based on figures and numbers alone. We must consider the fact that democracy is based on respect for the freedom and equality of the citizens of a nation. It is not based on equality of numbers, but on the equality of the powers of the citizens of a nation.
In a participatory democracy, the people of a nation participate in conservation, in working together, and in decisions. Democracy can also be a democracy of opinion. There are many definitions of democracy which do not refer to numbers alone. Democracy can, and this is the important point, be a democracy of peoples and of nations. A nation has democratic institutions that defend it. It is not just the number of participants that matters. It is all the realities of a nation's institutions that permit democracy to defend a people or a nation.
The system for each nation is established by its constitution. I think we must return to that source—not the letter, but the spirit. We are now faced with a bill that adheres exclusively to numbers. The spirit has been forgotten. They have forgotten why this was done, and they have also forgotten the importance of having a constant proportion of seats to represent a community, as my hon. colleague from Outremont has just said. In attempting to increase the number of members in just one part of the country, and based solely on the size of the population, are we not in the end creating an aristocracy in that part of the country? I sincerely believe so, for an aristocracy can be defined by various and different things. In the present case, it would result from a disproportion in representation between the Quebec nation and the rest of Canada.
Therefore this bill on democratic representation is ill conceived, for it is based on numbers alone, on mathematics. A democracy is much bigger than that. We have never seen a democracy based solely on the number of heads, even in antiquity. It may be the case in the United States, where they have their own way of counting the voters.
Given that it was a relatively diverse group of people who recently created the United States, that might be the only place where it would be possible.
In European countries, where there are many communities, there are different numbers of representatives, and that poses no problem. But here, they want representation to be based solely on numbers.
The Bloc is demanding that this bill be withdrawn because it is one more example of Canada's dysfunction. As such, it is surprising that the Conservatives are the ones who introduced it.
The motion concerning the Quebec nation was introduced by the Bloc Québécois and then by the Conservative government on November 22, 2006. It passed unanimously in the House. How can it be that something decided upon here is not being respected? I am having a hard time understanding that. Since then, the Conservatives have systematically attacked the Quebec nation and have rejected every proposal that would give tangible expression to that recognition, even though they claim to practise an open federalism.
By proposing Bill C-12, which will further marginalize the Quebec nation within Canada, the Prime Minister and his government want to continue to reduce our political weight in the House. That is quite clear. Perhaps we bother them too much. In 1867, 36% of the seats—I am referring to that number as it reflects the Constitution at that time—belonged to Quebec. In 2014, that number would be reduced to 22.4%. But just because there are fewer of us in comparison to the rest of Canada does not mean that understanding for Quebec's needs and interests should diminish.
If one believes that Canada was built by two nations, why are attempts being made to destroy one nation by whittling away the level of representation intended for that nation under the Constitution? I do not understand why this argument has not been made across the aisle.
Quebec's National Assembly unanimously demanded the withdrawal of Bill C-56, which is similar to this bill and gave 26 seats to English Canada and none to Quebec. The National Assembly called for this bill to be scrapped because it was unacceptable. The assembly of elected representatives of the Quebec nation, the National Assembly, along with the 49 members of the Bloc Québécois, who account for two-thirds of Quebec’s elected representatives in the House of Commons, are demanding the withdrawal of this bill. In total, 87% of the elected representatives of the Quebec nation are demanding its withdrawal.
The argument will surely be made that only elected representatives feel this way, but 87% of elected representatives is a very high level of representation. Moreover, we have the support of genuine proponents of open federalism, people who respect us. One might venture to say that there is a majority of folks who are against Bill C-12. I refer to the speech that the member for Outremont just gave.
In 2007, the Conservative government introduced a bill to amend the rules for the distribution of members’ seats among the provinces in the House of Commons. This bill replaced subsection 51(1) of the 1867 Constitution Act and significantly increased the number of seats. Under the bill, in 2014, the number of seats would increase from 308 to 330, which would benefit the three provinces experiencing democratic growth. We do not wish to stand in the way of that; what we will not accept however is that the nation would not have sufficient demographic weight to enjoy representation within Canada as a whole.
Consider again section 51 of the 1867 Constitution Act, formerly called the 1867 British North America Act, which established the method for the distribution of seats among the provinces in the Commons. This provision could only be amended by London, but section 52 stipulated both then and now that, “the Number of Members of the House of Commons may be from Time to Time increased by the Parliament of Canada, provided the proportionate Representation of the Provinces prescribed by this Act is not thereby disturbed.”
It seems clear to me, referring to that. I am talking about the spirit and not numbers. When the drafters of the Constitution Act of 1867 wrote these words, they did so in order to preserve a certain moral weight. They did not say that thinking every last voter would be counted and when Quebec did not have enough, it would stop. Not at all. They said that Quebec’s representation should not be disturbed. That is the word that was used. The proportion that was guaranteed is not complete if they are busy destroying it.
It is essential to go to sections 51(1) and 52 to understand how important it is to preserve not only the numbers underlying the representation of the provinces but also the moral weight of a nation. The House of Commons has determined that Quebec is considered a nation.
We have quotes. The hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse explained the Bloc’s position as follows: “Of course, if the members of the Bloc were not so stubborn and single-minded in their ideological obsession of separation...”. I said I would be a sovereignist to the day I die, but I do not see myself at all as stubborn and single-minded. I see myself as someone who has a conviction and a hope some day for a country. It is not single-minded and stubborn to hope someday for a certain result.
Insofar as an ideological obsession of separation is concerned, I will not even go there. The hon. member for Lévis—Bellechasse added, “...they would see that representation by population—one person, one vote—is an underlying principle of democracy”, which is not how the Quebec nation sees it. That is not the only thing, of course.
The government recognized the existence of the Quebec nation but refuses to acknowledge that our nation has a language, which is French. It was said a little earlier that, contrary to what some people think, this is not an economic question but a cultural one. Quebec sees itself as a nation.
By refusing to consider our national culture in the application of all its laws and the operations of all its culture-related or identity-related institutions, the rest of Canada makes it impossible for some people to hope to function in Canada. I am not saying I hope to do that, far from it. It is incredible that it is precisely those people who want to protect Canada who are busy destroying Quebec’s moral weight in it. They say one thing, but do another.
They have to be consistent. If it is their hope that Quebec be recognized and be able to function, they cannot fail to recognize the moral weight of that nation. This is not the weight of numbers. That is the main thing I would like hon. members to draw from what I am saying. Democracy is not based on numbers only, on the number of people. Equality is also a consideration for nations and for communities. This is not a principle that is applied in the European democracies. Why would it be applied here? Because we live next to the United States?
The United States is a melting pot of people who come from all over the world. There is no nation within the United States. The people settled and scattered all over the country. For them the only way to have a democracy is to count the number of people. There is no moral weight to any particular place. On the other hand, this does exist in Europe. Even in England, where I have lived, there are places where there are more voters for one member. They consider the moral weight of certain regions to be more important than the actual number of voters. This bill must absolutely be approached from that standpoint.
We are asking the government to withdraw this bill. It makes no sense for a government to introduce a bill that does not recognize what that government has done with its other hand, a bill that does not recognize the Quebec nation.
I will close by offering this pleasantry: it is because of bills like C-12 that there will be more and more sovereignists in Quebec.