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House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-12.

Topics

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.

In accordance with its orders of reference of Tuesday, February 8, 2011, your committee has considered votes 1c and 5c under Veterans Affairs in the supplementary estimates (C) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2011, and reports the same.

Telecommunications ActRoutine Proceedings

March 22nd, 2011 / 10 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-642, An Act to amend the Telecommunications Act (universal charger).

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Vancouver East for seconding my bill today.

The legislation would mandate the creation of a standardized universal cell phone charger for all new mobile phones sold in Canada. It would amend Canada's Telecommunications Act through the inclusion of specific language that would compel cell phone manufacturers to create a standardized charger for newly manufactured cellular phones.

Standardizing cell phone chargers is long overdue for the Canadian telecom market. The creation of a universal battery charger would serve two goals. First, it would remove the financial burden from consumers who are almost always compelled to purchase a new charger when their old phone is broken or lost. Second, it would also significantly reduce the volume of electronic waste that Canadian consumers are sending to landfills with increasing regularity.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Air CanadaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition has been signed by over 500 machinists from the Air Canada overhaul base in Winnipeg. These employees may be finding their jobs ending up in El Salvador over the next period of time. Air Canada has failed in its duty to comply with the Air Canada Public Participation Act by selling its overhaul bases to Aveos, formerly known as ACTS, in Winnipeg, Mississauga and Montreal.

On December 14, 2010, in the House, the Air Canada Council and Transport Committee claimed that Aeroman, the Aveos subsidiary in El Salvador, could not do Air Canada maintenance in El Salvador. This is totally untrue, as Aeroman performs maintenance on exactly the same aircraft that is overhauled in Winnipeg, namely the A320 series and the Embraer.

The El Salvador facility shops can maintain 87% of Air Canada's fleet. In fact, the El Salvador facility is expanding from four to sixteen lines. Just so members know, Aveos has four lines in Vancouver, four in Montreal, one in Toronto and five in Winnipeg, for a total of fourteen. In El Salvador alone it will have 16 lines, more than all of Canada combined.

Aircraft overhaul schedules are months and years in advance, so it is easy to schedule the work in El Salvador. In fact, we consider that machinists in Canada cost Air Canada $90 an hour and in San Salvador only $40 an hour. We can see where this is going.

Workers want Air Canada to comply with the Air Canada Participation Act by reverting to ownership of its overhaul centres.

Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Madam Speaker, I present a petition from constituents in Wellington county that calls upon the House of Commons to remove section 13.1 from the Canadian Human Rights Act, indicating that it is not consistent with charter rights and charter values, such as the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly.

I present this petition on behalf of these constituents in Wellington county.

Multiple SclerosisPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present another five petitions today regarding chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency.

MS patients are frustrated with being told to wait for Canadian replication of correlation studies. Since the fall, I have been presenting international studies that show that 80% to 97% of MS patients have one or more venous abnormalities depending on the diagnostic or treatment method used. New data from the conference in Poland earlier this month show that in Bulgaria, Jordan, Poland and the United Kingdom upwards of 93% of MS patients have evidence of CCSVI. New data from the conference in Italy last week showed 700 cases analyzed from multiple international centres with 86% of MS patients having CCSVI.

Therefore, the petitioners are calling for clinical trials with diagnosis, treatment and follow-up here in Canada.

Veterans CharterPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Bloc Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to table a petition on behalf of people from the 23 municipalities of Vaudreuil-Soulanges. The petition has to do with the veterans charter, which was amended in 2006. These people believe that a lump-sum payment is not enough and is ill-suited to the needs of wounded soldiers, since it does not provide them with long-term financial security. Wounded veterans have a right to compensation from the federal government, but this is woefully inadequate. The petitioners are calling on the government to restore the veterans charter as well as the lifetime monthly pension as a form of compensation for wounded soldiers.

JusticePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to introduce a petition signed by almost 100 individuals from my riding of Sudbury and area who are seeking justice for an aboriginal man who they believe has been wrongly convicted.

John Moore was accused and convicted of second degree murder in a case where the crown agreed that he was nowhere near the scene of the crime and where a trial determined he played no part in planning this crime.

The petitioners are asking that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada review the conviction in the case of Mr. Moore, recognize that a wrongful conviction occurred, overturn the conviction and enter an acquittal.

Air CanadaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to present a petition signed by Manitobans concerning the Air Canada situation. These petitioners are asking the government to hold Air Canada accountable to the Air Canada Public Participation Act.

Jobs are being threatened in Winnipeg, Mississauga and Montreal. The government has been sitting back and doing nothing to protect these jobs and hold Air Canada to account for violation of the law. In fact, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have, in the last few days, filed an application in the Ontario Superior Court. There is a need for the government to stand up for these workers.

The petitioners are asking the Canadian government to stand up and protect the jobs in these vital industries, particularly in Montreal, Mississauga and Winnipeg, and to take the action necessary to hold Air Canada accountable to the act.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from March 21 consideration of the motion that Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-Defence ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Debate. Is the House ready for the question? The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-Defence ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Citizen's Arrest and Self-Defence ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from December 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation), be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Democratic Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-12, which has to do with democratic representation and which would reduce Quebec's political weight if it were passed. My Bloc Québécois colleague from Joliette proposed an amendment urging all of the parties to oppose this bill, which would reduce Quebec's representation to a level below its proportion of Canada's population.

This is not the first time, since 2006, that we are voting on this issue in the House. Here, in this House, we passed a motion that had to do with the recognition of the Quebec nation. The government is intent on bringing forward bills that would reduce Quebec's political weight. First, we had Bill C-56, then Bill C-22, and now we have Bill C-12. The consensus in Quebec is that this bill must not pass.

Bill C-12 would amend the formula set out in the Constitution to determine the number of seats allocated to each province. There would be a considerable increase in the number of seats in the rest of Canada. We are talking about five seats in Alberta, seven seats in British Columbia and 18 seats in Ontario, for a total of 30 new members of Parliament in the rest of Canada, not to mention the fact that Quebec's number of seats would not increase.

I would simply like to remind the hon. members that Quebec's electoral map is being redrawn. We are trying to strike a balance and resolve the dilemma between urban and rural communities. We want to give special status to rural communities that, by and large, are being threatened. We need only consider the Magdalen Islands or the Gaspé, where there are communities whose populations are dwindling with the passing years. We would like to see a balance: one person, one vote. We would also like to see the specific character of communities reflected in the National Assembly. Accordingly, a number of constitutional experts, including Benoît Pelletier, a former minister in the Liberal government, are working on just that. The Parti Québécois put forward a proposal to keep segments of the population from disappearing and to ensure that they are represented during votes in the National Assembly or where their priorities are concerned. We know that the economies and realities are different. We are trying to find a solution to strike a balance.

I can see today that we are looking for that same kind of balance that the Bloc would like to see, to ensure that all votes are equal and that there is effective representation. That is what all of the parties in the National Assembly are trying to do in Quebec so that there is a balance between urban and rural communities.

Here in this House we are not talking about urban and rural communities. We are talking about a nation, the Quebec nation, which has been recognized, and the nation of Canada, which is the rest of Canada's reality.

We can see that there are not many members in this House who will speak today, be they from the party in power—the Conservative Party, which introduced the bill—or from the opposition parties. We hope that they will explain to the people what is pushing the different parties to vote for this bill. They wanted to recognize the Quebec nation, and it must be recognized for what it represents, for the consensuses in the National Assembly, for the polls showing that 61% of the people are opposed to this bill. And when push comes to shove, we will see how this House really feels about recognizing the Quebec nation.

Many seats would be added: 30 new members would sit here in the Canadian Parliament.

As I was saying earlier, one person equals one vote. The government claims this bill is based on that principle. In a moment I will show how this principle has often been ignored over the years, since the Constitution was first created.

The Bloc Québécois, which represents Quebeckers, opposes this bill. The Bloc Québécois defends Quebec's realities and we are consistent in our commitment. We are the voice of Quebec and we oppose this bill.

It shows a lack of respect for democracy, and the recognition of the Quebec nation is therefore a sham. We were promised open federalism, but instead, muzzling seems to be the norm when we vote on bills in the House of Commons.

The principle of one person, one vote has been breached several times since Confederation. That is why we are seeking absolute equality, in terms of each vote and effective representation. For instance, certain commitments have been made to the maritime provinces and the Northwest Territories. Thus, the fact that they have been granted special protection goes against this very principle.

Now why does Bill C-12 not grant special protection to the Quebec nation regarding its potential for representation in the House of Commons, which will be reduced by about 2%? Over the years, Quebec has never been granted this special protection. Since 1976, I believe, our population has been under-represented.

Bill C-56 and Bill C-22, which were introduced in the last two Parliaments, were very similar to Bill C-12. There was a consensus in the National Assembly and among the population on this issue. The government has introduced Bill C-12 most recently—with an election campaign probably right around the corner—in order to please Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

The proposed amendment to the Constitution determines the number of seats in the House of Commons allocated to each province after a decennial census. That is set out in Bill C-12.

Readjusting the number of seats, as set out in Bill C-12, would give only three provinces more seats: Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. There would be 30 new seats. The total number of members in the House of Commons would increase from 308 to 338.

This new reality would diminish Quebec's presence, even though some would have us believe that Quebec will still keep its 75 seats. Quebec will keep its 75 seats, but 75 seats out of 308 does not represent the same percentage of the population as 75 seats out of 338. That is easy to understand. There will be 30 additional MPs and the same 75 MPs representing Quebec in the House. Quebec's current representation is 24.3%, a percentage that would decrease to 22.9% if Bill C-12 is passed.

I invite the hon. members from the other political parties to speak in the House and tell us where they stand on this. I realize that it might be difficult for the Liberal Party or the NDP to speak in favour of Quebec, but we expect hon. members to rise in the House and tell us what their party's political intentions are.

The Bloc Québécois is disputing this bill that is unfair to Quebec for three reasons. The first argument has to do with one person, one vote. In fact, this principle has never been applied. Historic fact proves that this statement being used by the Conservatives is false. Historic fact proves the contrary. Why not look at what is already happening in the Maritimes and in the Northwest Territories?

The second argument is the harmful consequences of under-representing Quebec in the House of Commons. Many people in Quebec are echoing the fear of this bill being passed.

The third argument has to do with the false impression of democracy that Bill C-12 gives. What the government is saying does not hold water, and the bill does not recognize the nation of Quebec. If the Conservative government wants to move forward with this bill, then it does not recognize the nation of Quebec. Once again, consensus in Quebec on the political intentions of the Conservative Party is being ignored.

In a democracy, there is the very simple principle of one person, one vote. The principle is very straightforward: each voter has the right to express himself or herself by exercising the right to vote, and each vote has the same worth, the same weight. We agree on that. However, in reality, this is not exactly the situation because of the nature of our electoral system. But that is an altogether different debate. One person, one vote. Since Confederation, as I was saying, the rules have been bent to reach compromise and to find a balance between absolute equality and effective representation.

I said I would give a brief historical overview. Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1867 stated:

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.

That is not the case here. We have seen deviations from the principle of one person, one vote in the Maritime provinces. The Constitution was amended to ensure that each province would have a minimum number of members at least equal to the number of its senators. This is known as the senatorial clause. The Northwest Territories have had the right to representation in the House of Commons although, under the rules, their population would not justify it. If, for example, the number of people living in the Northwest Territories had been taken into account, they would not have had the right to be represented here in the House. Therefore, the one person, one vote principle was ignored.

Other changes to section 51, governing the distribution of seats, have been made in order to prevent a loss of more than 15% of the seats in a province with low population growth and to prevent one province from having fewer representatives than a less populated province. We have the examples of the Northwest Territories for the former scenario and the Maritime provinces for the latter, the 15% situation.

The approach set out in the bill, which involves increasing the number of seats in the House of Commons without compensating for the dilution of representation for provinces with low demographic growth rates, puts the government at risk of violating section 42(1)(a) of the 1982 Constitution Act. When the Constitution was repatriated in 1982, Parliament was given the right, subject to section 32, to amend the provisions of the Constitution relating to the House of Commons. Under section 32(1)(a), any amendment to the principle of proportional representation of the provinces set out in the 1867 Constitution Act is subject to the constitutional amending procedure with which we are familiar, namely, the agreement of at least seven provinces that have 50% of the population or the 7/50 formula.

It is also important to remember that section 52 of the Canadian Constitution states 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.

We know that such would not be the case were this bill to pass.

In an effort to demonstrate that the “one person, one vote” principle has practically never been respected in the House, I would like to close by citing a study conducted by a political scientist at Laval University, Louis Massicotte. Based on a study comparing our country to other federations, he found that Canada has the highest rate of violation of the principle of proportionality. Clearly, the Conservatives violate this principle when it works to their advantage.

The Conservatives introduced Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation) when it suited them. As everyone knows, this draconian approach is all about winning votes, without considering Quebeckers and their reality. Let there be no mistake about it. Bill C-56 and Bill C-22 were introduced during the last two Parliaments. And the impact of Bill C-12 on Quebec, if it passes, is clear: it would marginalize Quebec even further and diminish its political weight. I have heard the arguments of some members here, including the member for Lévis—Bellechasse. They say there would be more Bloc members if the Bloc members did not sit here in this House. They are giving us another wonderful lesson on democracy. Here is what political scientist Louis Massicotte had to say:

Under the Harper government's new approach, whereby the provinces experiencing population growth would be given fairer representation, Quebec's representation would fall below its proportion of the Canadian population.

We will see how the other parties react to this bill. As we know, for the Conservatives, recognizing the Quebec nation is a sham. They have no idea what issues are at stake in Quebec's reality. I think it is obvious that we will be undermined here, in terms of Quebec's representation compared to the increased number of members from the rest of Canada.

Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons has diminished considerably since 1867. In 1867, 36% of the seats here in the House of Commons were held by members from Quebec. That dropped to 26% in 1976. And under Bill C-12, it would drop to 22.4%.

So why is Quebec trying to strike a balance between rural and urban communities? If our nation were truly being recognized, this same balance could be reproduced, that is, between what it represents, what it is and what it has to defend. It is a province that is mainly francophone, the home of the Quebec nation, and Quebec must maintain a fair proportion of the seats in the House of Commons in order to address its distinct character and particular needs. As we know, the Conservatives often scoff at the particular needs of the province of Quebec, even though they are the ones who recognized it. How hypocritical.

All of the federal partners agreed to what is in the 1992 Charlottetown accord, a guarantee of 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. Today, it is a whole other story. The Conservatives' lack of good faith here is quite clear. They are proposing this to please the rest of Canada. They are abandoning Quebec and could not care less about its reaction. We need only look at the harmonization of the QST and the GST: there is a consensus in the National Assembly and among the public. And I think that in today's budget, the government will ignore Quebec's demands regarding the harmonization of the QST and the GST. We have seen a number of examples where a consensus in Quebec has been completely disregarded here in the House.

Many people are voicing their opposition and believe that Quebec is being muzzled in the rest of Canada. The National Assembly is a credible voice; its members were elected democratically to represent the interests of Quebec. There are 125 members in the National Assembly. There are 48 members of the Bloc Québécois in the House of Commons accounting for two-thirds of elected members from Quebec. This means that 87% of elected members from the Quebec nation are opposed to Bill C-12 and are calling for it to be withdrawn.

I mentioned earlier that Benoît Pelletier, Quebec's former minister of intergovernmental affairs, has spoken out against this bill and is calling for it to be withdrawn. He does not understand why there were no special measures to protect Quebec, which is home to Canada's main linguistic minority and a founding province of Canada that is losing demographic weight. This was done, for example, with the Maritimes and the Northwest Territories. We wanted to create a balance. Why could it not be done with Quebec?

In addition, the National Assembly has adopted a unanimous motion calling for this bill to be defeated.

We would like to see the bill defeated today at this stage.

Democratic Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher ConservativeMinister of State (Democratic Reform)

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments. I just want to point out some of the logical inconsistencies. First of all, Quebec's seat count remains constant. It is protected under Bill C-12. We know that if that member and her party had their way, Quebec would have zero seats in the House of Commons. So, there is obviously a contradiction there.

The member spoke of one person, one vote. In fact, under Bill C-12, even though other provinces are gaining more seats, the votes per person still has greater weight in Quebec because the number of constituents in a constituency in Quebec is still less than the national average of 108,000. We could argue that votes will have more weight in Quebec.

I also find it interesting that just a few weeks ago the Bloc supported a motion to eliminate the Senate. The Senate has 24 senators from Quebec, and surely reducing the number of senators in Parliament would reduce the influence of Quebec in Parliament. So on one hand, the Bloc members say one thing and on the other hand they say something else for the other chamber.

This is a nation-building exercise for Canada and Quebec, and we know that the member does not want to build a strong, united Canada. That is really the agenda of the Bloc Québécois.

Democratic Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to reply to the question from the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. If there are contradictions in what I say, there were contradictions in what the National Assembly says as well. There are federalist members of the National Assembly. Benoît Pelletier is neither a Péquiste nor an avowed sovereignist, far from it. He was a cabinet member with the Liberal Party of Quebec. He says he is opposed to Bill C-12. So there are a number of people in Quebec who, like us, are opposed to the House passing this bill.

The contradiction really comes from the Conservative Party. It wants to recognize the Quebec nation, but it takes away the means for it to be better represented or represented according to its population. The Conservatives are exhibiting bad faith. They are free to tell the members of the National Assembly that they are contradicting themselves. If there is a contradiction in what I say, it exists elsewhere, because I speak for the majority of Quebec's population, who object to this bill.

A moment ago the member referred to the partisan Senate, where a large number of representatives from Quebec also sit. Over 75% of Quebeckers are opposed to this partisan Senate. It is not a Senate that represents the entire population, because it is not elected. We are opposed to this unelected Senate, which the Conservatives have made partisan, too. Senators are not even able to look at a bill because the Prime Minister forbids it. The Senate is the long arm of the Conservative Party, and we oppose it.

Democratic Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for her argument against the bill. I understand where she is coming from and her logic. However, I want to give a different perspective on this.

I believe that there is no constitutional principle that ensures that the Quebec division in this House has a certain percentage of the seats in this House. In fact, some of the members of the Bloc have mentioned that there is a guaranteed percentage of a quarter of the seats. In fact, they are below that level right now. There are 308 seats in this House and the Bloc has 75 of the 308 seats. That is, in fact, less than one-quarter. So clearly, there is no fundamental constitutional provision there.

There was a fundamental constitutional principle that guaranteed the Quebec division a certain percentage of the seats, but that was in the Act of Union in 1840. Between 1840 and 1867, Canada East was guaranteed half of the seats in the legislature of the day. That changed with Confederation in 1867, in part because the then leader of the Liberal Party, George Brown, argued in favour of representation by population.

That has been the fundamental constitutional provision since 1867, albeit modified by two minor provisions concerning the senatorial floor and the grandfathering of the seats in 1986 that guaranteed no provincial division would fall below that number. Nevertheless, the fundamental constitutional principle that governs the federal chamber here in the House of Commons is representation by population.

Democratic Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, he says there has never been an exception to that principle, and that is totally false. There are in fact exceptions to the principle of one person, one vote, or the principle of increasing and decreasing population. We need only look at the Northwest Territories or the Maritimes. The Northwest Territories did not have a large enough population to be represented, and an exception was made to the principle.

I note that section 52 also provides that the number of members of the House of Commons could be increased, as long as the proportionate representation of the provinces was not disturbed.

I would like to tell the member that 75 members out of 308 is not 75 members out of 338. I know that the Conservative Party dreams of the day when it will form a majority government and can do as it likes. Today we have seen a charge of contempt of Parliament against the Conservative Party. Now imagine how the Conservative Party would govern if it formed a majority government. We know perfectly well that it wants to get all the votes in the rest of Canada and work to make sure their candidates get elected in all ridings in the rest of Canada.

During that time, Quebec’s political weight in the House of Commons will decline. This is important when you want to defend a nation.

Democratic Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for Québec. Her very interesting speech presents a number of arguments against this bill, which does not respect democracy. If this bill were applied, Quebec's political representation would be less than its demographic weight. What is more, this bill rejects the recognition of Quebec as a nation.

Does the hon. member find that this bill is a departure from the historical consensus? In the past there has been a modicum of recognition. It seems to me a certain Canadian consensus has already been mentioned, regarding political representation of roughly 25% of the MPs here in the House of Commons.

Democratic Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. In the Charlottetown accord, it was agreed that this representation would never go below 25%. We are far from that. With this bill, Quebec's representation is being reduced to 22.3%.

There is cause for concern. Since 1867, Quebec's representation has decreased over the years. It was 36%, then 26% in 1976, and if this bill were to pass, our representation would drop to 22.3%.

If I were the Conservative Party, I would wonder about the contradictory thinking of the Conservative Party's detractors with regard to my party's vision. That is what they are called and that is how they are viewed and perceived. Why are people like the constitutional expert Benoît Pelletier and Louis Massicotte from Laval University studying what the representation should be and how our people and nation should be represented here in the House of Commons, regardless of the party in power or the political party that wins the next election?

That is not how this should be viewed. I know they are practising short-term politics, but while Quebec is represented here, its representatives have to be spokespeople for what is happening in Quebec. We see how the spokespeople seated on the Conservative benches remain seated when it is time to speak for Quebec.

Democratic Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in opposition to Bill C-12.

From the outset, I would like to say that this bill on democratic representation is a deliberate affront to the Quebec nation. The bill is an attack against the Quebec nation launched by the Canadian federalist parties because it is an attempt to reduce the Quebec nation’s political weight in the House of Commons. Reducing the Quebec nation’s political weight in the House of Commons is unacceptable to Quebeckers.

When the Canadian federation was created in 1867, Quebec held 36% of the seats in the House of Commons. I remain hopeful that Quebec will leave this federation. I am a staunch sovereignist and when I see a bill like this before the House of Commons, I feel an even greater urgency. I believe that it is even more pressing for Quebec to leave the Canadian federation. That day will come, I hope, and that is what I am fighting for.

This bill is unacceptable to Quebeckers. In 1867, Quebec held 36% of the seats in the House of Commons. If Bill C-12 were passed, that proportion would decrease to 22.4%, which is less than the Quebec nation's current demographic weight within Canada. There is an attempt to lessen our political weight within the Canadian federation. This is another great contradiction from the Conservative Party; a party that boasts that it has recognized the Quebec nation. And yet, it is quite clear that it does not recognize the Quebec nation, Quebec’s identity, Quebecker’s culture or their language. The Conservative Party even wants to see Quebec’s political weight diminished. That is a pity. It is an unacceptable step backwards in light of the current representation we enjoy in the House.

Many people will say that it is a Conservative Party strategy aimed at attaining a majority. That may well be true, but this bill is not democratic and in no way respects the Quebec nation. As a number of my Bloc Québécois colleagues have already stated in the House, the Bloc Québécois unanimously opposes this bill. We will do everything in our power to prevent it from passing.

This is a minority government and an election may be triggered within days or weeks. Our objective is for this attempt to further marginalize and diminish Quebec’s culture and identity to become an issue in Quebec in the coming election. Imagine every Conservative and Liberal member of Parliament and candidate for election telling Quebeckers that when there was an attempt to reduce Quebec’s political weight in the House of Commons they sat on their hands and went so far as to vote in favour of a policy to diminish the political weight of the Quebec nation. I am referring here to the Conservatives and Liberals from Quebec. It is truly shameful.

Make no mistake. This bill is a direct assault on the fundamental rights of the Quebec nation. That is why we moved the following motion in the House on April 20, 2010:

That the House denounce the fact that the government seeks to marginalize the Quebec nation by introducing a bill to decrease Quebec’s political weight in the House, and that it affirm that Quebec Members of Parliament, who represent a nation, must hold at least 25% of the seats in the House.

This motion was our response—the response of Quebeckers—to Bill C-12. It was defeated by the Conservatives and by the Liberal Party of Canada, a party that continues to oppose Quebec, as evidenced by all the action it has taken against Quebec for generations.

On November 22, 2006, the Conservative government tabled a motion of which it was very proud. Clearly, it was an attempt to win votes. They wanted to win seats in Quebec. The Conservatives wanted Quebeckers to believe that they recognized the specificity of the Quebec nation, its language, culture, identity and differences. The Conservatives therefore tabled this motion that recognized the existence of the Quebec nation. Our nation does not need this recognition to exist but it was still a kind gesture and it was interesting to see the House of Commons vote on the existence of this nation and to officially recognize it.

However, everything went downhill from there. The government should have followed through on this recognition and should have walked the walk by introducing a series of measures to respect the language, culture and identity of the Quebec nation. Clearly, Bill C-12 does not walk the walk when it comes to recognizing the Quebec nation. On the contrary, this bill denies the existence of this nation and marginalizes its representation in federal institutions and here in the House of Commons.

The Bloc Québécois then tried many times to introduce bills that would solidify the recognition of this nation, for instance, to have the French language charter apply to federal institutions. Once again, Quebec was recognized as a nation but everyone in the House voted against the bills. These bills would have solidified the recognition of the Quebec nation and ensured that the nation, as well as its language, culture and identity, were respected. Now Quebec's political weight is under direct attack. It is shameful.

Our opposition to this bill is also based on a consensus in Quebec. All elected members of the National Assembly of Quebec oppose Bill C-12. What are the elected Conservative representatives for Quebec doing? They are not even here in the House. None of the Conservative members for Quebec are here to debate a specific issue—

Democratic Representation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I am sorry to have to cut you off.

The hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills on a point of order.