Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-12. This is the kind of bill where we tell ourselves how lucky we are that the Bloc is here. We represent the people of Quebec when we stand for election. In its hateful advertising, the Conservative Party is preparing for an election and attacking the Bloc Québécois from all sides. It is appropriating the foremost quality of the Bloc Québécois, being the representatives of their regions. When this kind of bill is introduced, one party stands up for Quebec in the House of Commons, and that is the Bloc Québécois.
There is a consensus in the National Assembly of Quebec, where no fewer than three motions have been passed by all parties—the Liberal Party, the Parti Québécois, the ADQ, Québec solidaire—to oppose this bill. Only one party here will rise to say no to Bill C-12: the Bloc Québécois.
As well, according to a survey, over 70% of the population of Quebec, no small proportion, is opposed to Bill C-12. And still only the Bloc Québécois rises in the House to reject this bill. It is always quite bizarre to see the Quebec members from other federalist political parties trying to justify the desire to marginalize Quebec by imposing Bill C-12. We are quite shocked to have before the House a bill like this one.
Bill C-12 is not a tangible expression of the recognition of the Quebec nation. The Conservative Party said that it recognizes the Quebec nation within Canada, as the Bloc Québécois called for, but after that came nothing. No measure has been agreed to in the House to truly recognize the Quebec nation. Insult is then added to injury by presenting a bill like this.
Bill C-12 is a flat denial of the existence of the Quebec nation, which marginalizes its representation in federal institutions, in the House of Commons. Proportion of the population cannot be the only factor in determining the representation of each of the regions of Canada. If that were the case, Prince Edward Island, where there are four members of Parliament, could not have that many members, because its population is approximately equivalent to the population of the Central Quebec region, where I come from. The Bloc Québécois is not opposed to Prince Edward Island having representation in every area. That is reasonable. That province can have four members, even though its population is not particularly large.
In Quebec, they do the same thing. Of the 125 members of the Quebec National Assembly, one represents the Magdalen Islands. They are not very big, Mr. Speaker. I hope you have had a chance to visit this magnificent area. Not a lot of people live there, but the countryside is absolutely fabulous. These are islands, and Quebec decided there would be a member to represent the people living there. If only mathematical considerations were taken into account, there would certainly not be a member for the Magdalen Islands, or four federal members for Prince Edward Island. The mathematical argument to increase the representation of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia and reduce Quebec’s political weight does not hold water.
One factor that ought to be crucial in this debate is the recognition of the Quebec nation, which means it should have the political weight needed to make its voice heard in federal institutions. I could also mention the two founding peoples argument. Everyone knows it, but the only party that recognizes these facts is the Bloc Québécois.
The Quebec nation was not really recognized in the House of Commons, despite all the pious wishes and attempts to pretend they did so. In actual fact, the federalist parties in the House attach very little significance to this recognition. I remember the defeat of the Bloc motion in the House criticizing the harmful effects for Quebec of the Conservative government's Bill C-12, which would increase the number of seats for Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia but provide nothing for Quebec.
The Bloc motion was debated on its opposition day in April 2010.
The Conservatives’ bill will have the effect of marginalizing the Quebec nation in the Canadian whole by reducing its political weight in the House of Commons. From 36% of the seats in 1867, Quebec’s representation in the House would be reduced to 22.7% in 2014, which is just around the corner. Statistics show that if Quebec has only 22.7% of the seats in the House, it will actually be below its demographic weight within Canada.
As I was saying earlier, the members of the Quebec National Assembly have voted unanimously for the withdrawal of this kind of bill. They have done so three times because the message was not getting through. It was not because they enjoy adopting unanimous motions saying the same thing. It was because the message was not being heard by the Conservative government.
If the recognition of the Quebec nation has any real significance for the federalist parties in this House, they should have opposed this disastrous reform and supported our motion. The Bloc Québécois continues to say that the government must withdraw its bill and guarantee Quebec that it will have 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. That is a minimum, given the numerous concessions made by Quebec over the past 150 years or so, and particularly since Quebec must have the tools that will allow it to protect its distinctiveness.
As I said, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously demanded that this legislation be withdrawn. I think it is worth revisiting the issue. At the time, it was Bill C-56, which became the legislation that is now before us, namely Bill C-12, and which, if passed, will give 26 additional seats to English Canada and none to Quebec. That is why all elected members of the National Assembly and the then 49 Bloc Québécois members, who accounted for two thirds of elected Quebec members in the House of Commons, demanded that this bill be withdrawn. In all, 87% of the elected members of the Quebec nation demand this withdrawal.
As I mentioned, there are other members of the House who are Quebeckers and who represent other parties. That is what happens in a democracy and I have no problems with that. I am asking them to stand up for Quebec, to ensure that Quebec's voice is heard. Again, 87% of elected representatives from Quebec are opposed to this bill, more than 70% of Quebeckers are also opposed to it, as well as all the members of the National Assembly. What more does a Quebec member of Parliament need to oppose this type of legislation?
In Quebec, a former Liberal minister of intergovernmental affairs, Benoît Pelletier, expressed his government's position in 2007, at Maisonneuve en direct, a well-known radio show in Quebec, regarding the reforms to the number of seats in the House of Commons. I will quote him. I know that other colleagues have also quoted him, but since I have some time left, I think it is worth repeating.
Mr. Pelletier said:
I appreciate that the House is based on proportional representation. But I wonder whether there might be special measures to protect Quebec, which represents the main linguistic minority in Canada, is a founding province of Canada and is losing demographic weight...Why could Quebec not be accommodated because of its status as a nation and a national minority within Canada?
In conclusion, as I mentioned just a few moments ago, Quebec's weight in the house keeps decreasing. In 1931, Quebec had 65 seats and its population accounted for 27.70% of Canada's. Even then, we had fewer seats by percentage, 26.53%, and it is the same story now. Now, Quebec has 75 seats and our population is not proportionally represented in the House. Any self-respecting Quebecker who is sitting in the House of Commons must rise and declare loud and clear that he or she plans on voting against Bill C-12.