Mr. Speaker, I am a bit surprised. First of all, I would like to invite you to visit the beautiful riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve with your wife and children. You know that the Olympic Stadium is in that riding, along with other tourist attractions which you will certainly enjoy.
On a more relevant point, I am quite surprised by the amendment proposed by our friends in the Reform Party. Surprised, because this does not seem consistent with what they were advocating in the past.
You cannot say that what is good for the goose in not good for the gander. If one has proposals, a strategy regarding public finances, as they claim to have, I say with due respect that one has to be consistent.
I would like to make two points. The first one is that they are trying, clumsily, to make us believe that there is a crisis, an imminent democratic peril. This rather unsavoury hotchpotch is unfocused. It is presented as if the fact that electoral boundaries will not be revised in the near future is going to deprive Canadians of their right to vote and vitiate the democratic process.
A short while ago, I found rather humorous the reference to fair representation. There was one occasion in the history of this country when fair representation was really threatened, and that was in 1840, at the time of the union of Upper and Lower Canada. One cannot say that by not supporting the amendment proposed by the Reform Party we put democracy in peril.
This is my first point and I find questionable, to say the least, this attempt to take us into a process which may involve the spending of public money. I admit that 40 or 50 years ago, when Canadian and Quebec society was evolving rapidly, readjustment of electoral boundaries had to be done without undue delay. Universal suffrage had to be fully established, since entire sectors of society were still disfranchised. It was also a time when rural life was making way for urban life.
I do not think that, at the present time, we are in a position to use this kind of argument. I think that we can live with a moratorium, provided that it is not forever-nobody wants the status quo to last forever-but we think that in view of our present financial situation and given the current political agenda, there are other priorities and urgent problems the Canadian government should deal with, before we undertake such an exercise.
I could mention some of these problems, as we have done previously. There is of course, among others, the question of unemployment. In terms of a democratic emergency, I am much more concerned about the 50,000 unemployed workers who might be excluded from UI in certain areas of Quebec because of the proposed reform. When it comes to democracy, I am much more concerned by this kind of legislation than by the redrawing of the electoral map.
Speaking of democratic emergency, and I discussed it with colleagues from the Reform Party, I think that the real emergency is to initiate an in-depth review of the subject matter of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which we on this side, together with other Canadian and Quebec groups, have been calling for. That is a real emergency.
If we as parliamentarians and opposition parties are truly concerned about democratic rights, I believe that it is legislation of this kind that we must bring to the attention of the Parliament as a priority.
On the other hand, as the member for Ahuntsic said-you could say he is my neighbour since, in Montreal, we are all more or less neighbours-we have every right to be concerned about the kind of boundaries the commission is proposing. Let us take, for example, the riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve which, if we went ahead with the present proposals, would be merged just like that with the town of Saint-Léonard, which is poles apart in social and economic terms.
I do not want to say anything bad about Saint-Léonard because I know that it is a town with many attractive features, a town where things worth mentioning happen. Nevertheless if, as lawmakers, we want to promote coherent environments, I believe that it would be somewhat incongruous to propose the merging of Saint-Léonard with the federal riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve which, as everybody knows, is a working-class area proud of its roots, and where 92 per cent of the population is French speaking. They are, as we know, two
different entities with their own social and economic make-up, and you do not need a Ph.D. in sociology to understand that you cannot ask two dissimilar entities to live in harmony.
If you are a member of Parliament and want to speak in public and represent people, you should at least do so with some consistency. That is real democracy. Real democracy means ensuring that the conditions of representation are such that the member can reflect the social and political interests of his constituents, not to engage in a process that would soon lead to some strange situations which my colleagues have not failed to point out. That is why I cannot understand the amendment proposed by the Reform Party.
We also find in other ridings some anomalies like those we could come up with if the revision process were rushed. Not only did they want to combine the city of Saint-Léonard with Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, but they wanted to take from us, to amputate, dare I say castrate, the Angus Shops, a recent residential development which is the middle class of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and helps us achieve some social balance. The people of the Angus Shops always felt that they belonged to Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and always co-operated in the social and community life of the riding. Redrawing the electoral map could cut them off from the riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.
So I think that we must be careful when dealing with questions like that and certainly not create emergencies where they do not exist. I fully realize that it is useful to revise riding boundaries periodically. Yes, things evolve and people move, but I do not think that we should do so now, under the conditions presented to us.
We should ask whether we do not have better things to do as legislators. Could we not find something better to do with our time than to engage in a debate like that? You know how the Bloc Quebecois was able to identify, on the basis of Quebec's interests-I see some government members nodding; they agree with the excellent work of the Official Opposition and it is a pleasure to know that we could co-operate with them on things like that-the Bloc Quebecois was quick to identify some areas where we think the government must act and make proposals to us, areas which involve the vital democratic interests of Quebe-ckers and Canadians.
I was just talking about the eagerly awaited reform. Many groups in our society long for a reform, which is what Parliament is all about, since it involves the Canadian Human Rights Act. This law was passed in 1977 and has basically never been amended. It is urgent to do so for the sake of democracy. How is that urgency expressed? Just think of the whole issue of employment equity. We know that in his latest report, Commissioner Yalden, who is respected by Canadians as he has been a public servant since 1956, told us that we are far from the goals for employment equity set in the early 1980s. The same goes for recognition of same-sex couples.
All that is to say that we should keep things straight. We think that it is unhealthy to rush this process because we see no urgency for democracy, unlike our friends in the Reform Party. We think that when it comes to redrawing the electoral map, we should take the time to do things right because democracy and issues of representation are at stake. For these reasons, I cannot support the amendment.