Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Bellechasse (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Budget Implementation Act, 1994 April 14th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Wetaskiwin for his remarks on Bill C-17. He made several worthwhile points, some of which I will raise myself in a moment.

Let me just say that today is an historic day because this morning, for the very first time, the Chair was occupied by a sovereignist member of Parliament, namely my hon. colleague from the Bloc Quebecois and member for Chicoutimi. Having said this and extended my congratulations to him, I would like to speak to Bill C-17.

As history has it, Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned. This government is doing the same thing. While the country is crumbling down, while the poor get poorer and the unemployed despair of finding work, while middle-income individuals and families see their tax burden grow heavier and heavier, the government does nothing. Just like the previous government. You would almost think that they fit in the same shoes. This government certainly took no time to adopt the same pattern as its predecessor. My friend the member for Frontenac was mentioning that these shoes are probably Kodiak boots because we are not out of the woods yet with the current policies of this federal Liberal government which acts the same way as the Mulroney-Campbell administration did from 1984. That is to say doing so very little. Words, words, words. They are all words, but no action. None at all! The only movement we see in this House is when the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands walks from the table to his seat once in a while. Very little is actually accomplished.

I agree with the hon. member who spoke before me, the hon. member for Wetaskiwin, when he says that the key to economic recovery in Canada and in Quebec as well is small business. We have relied on big business, like Hyundai in Bromont, for too long. Great hopes had been placed on businesses like this one which is now in a very precarious situation to say the least, on the verge of shutting down and laying off its workers. So, the small and medium-sized businesses responsible for creating 80 to 85 per cent of jobs are really undervalued, underestimated and undersupported in the projects they can initiate.

We see it at our constituency offices when a small businessman or businesswoman comes to us with a proposal to create two, three or four jobs. It is hard to get the government

interested in setting up or improving a small business. It still likes to think big, an approach that harkens back to Mr. Trudeau's era. And look where that Trudeau-style vision got us.

Our economy is in ruins. Our debt currently tops the $500 billion mark. Of course, the Mulroney-Campbell administration has been blamed for the situation, but previous Liberal administrations were responsible for fuelling the debt crisis in the first place. It should be noted that when the Conservatives took office in 1984, the national debt already totalled $189 billion. The red ink was already flowing freely. In fact, several bottles had already been used up.

The budget measures now on the table offer no help to small business, no help to middle income families, no help to individuals as far as housing is concerned. There are no real measures to provide social housing assistance to low income families forced to spend more and more on housing. As Bernard Derome said, if the trend continues, low income families will no longer be able to afford proper housing. What the government needs to do is reintroduce a real social housing policy.

Budget Implementation Act, 1994 April 14th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I believe that the hon. member for Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans spoke just before Question Period. So, unless an hon. member from the Liberal Party wishes to speak at this time, I would ask that you give me the floor.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994 April 13th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciated the speech by the hon. member for Wetaskiwin. I thank the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands for allowing a more adequate vision of the hon. member for Wetaskiwin.

The hon. member gave us a good description of the role of a member of Parliament representing a rural riding, as I do. Does the hon. member agree with current standards allowing a variation of 25 per cent of the provincial quota for a riding, in many if not most cases, to compensate for the size of the territory and reduce the number of constituents the member must represent when he or she has many communities to visit?

The hon. member for Wetaskiwin said that some of his constituents had not seen him since the beginning of this Parliament. Well, it sometimes takes several months or even an entire year to cover a whole riding.

I also want to ask how the hon. member for Wetaskiwin can reconcile his party's objective of limiting or reducing the

number of electoral districts with that of adequate representation for rural ridings requiring much more travelling. And while we are on the road, of course, we cannot meet with anyone.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994 April 13th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to speak on third reading of Bill C-18, an act to suspend the operation of the electoral boundaries readjustment process in Canada.

I listened with interest to the speech made just now by the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, and I am sure he will want to show the same interest in what I have to say about this bill at this particular stage.

When considering a bill that has long-term implications for the future of the Canadian federation, it is always necessary to define the role of the sovereigntist member with respect to such legislation. I have never made a secret of the fact that I was elected by the constituents of Bellechasse to defend and promote the interests of Quebec, which includes promoting the sovereignty of Quebec.

As was pointed out, not by the hon. member from Kingston and the Islands but by the hon. member for Calgary West and also by the hon. member for Fraser Valley West, the seats in this House are ours on a temporary basis. We have them in trust, as it were. We do not own them. It is up to our constituents to determine who will sit in those seats. Of all the members sitting opposite during the 34th Parliament, only one member is left in this House, and this happened when constituents across Canada freely expressed their will that it should be so. It is always useful to recall that this House is not owned by anyone, that these seats are not anyone's property and that we occupy them on a temporary basis, until we are recalled by our constituents or decide otherwise or reach the end of our career.

That being said, I may be a sovereigntist, but it would be irresponsible of me to deny that a decision on the sovereignty of Quebec is still a decision that must be made by Quebec voters in a referendum that will be held in a few months, in Quebec. It will be held after the Quebec elections which, according to the Canadian Constitution, will have to take place in the fall, at the latest.

Since we, on this side of the House as on the other side, of course, are all in favour of supporting the rule of law, the very essence of democracy, we must operate within the confines of the present legislation.

At the present time, we still belong to the Canadian federation, and we must think ahead in case our ultimate goal-we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, since the Quebec referendum is only a few months away-should that light fade away for one reason or another, these seats will still be Quebec's. That is why we cannot afford to ignore the implications of this bill, if there were a change in the membership, since the Bloc Quebecois was elected for a specific term. That is why I took an active part in the study of Bill C-18 at every stage.

I must point out that once again, the government has acted belatedly in presenting this bill. They could have presented it 10 or 15 days earlier, so that it could have followed the normal process. But they chose to wait until the last minute when provincial commissions, especially in Quebec, had already started to hear witnesses or were about to hear them. As a matter of fact, these commissions are operating at the present time.

The way the debate has been going on has forced the government to bring a motion for time allocation, commonly called closure. My colleagues from Calgary West and Kindersley-Lloydminster rose in opposition to that motion. They were protesting against closure, and rightly so, I think. We did the same, even though we support the bill, because we will never accept closure on such a bill. We have been just as vocal as our colleagues from the Reform Party in opposing it.

The bill was passed at second reading and referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which tabled its report in the House. Then my colleague from Kindersley-Lloydminster, seconded by the hon. member for Calgary West, proposed three amendments at report stage. And curiously, the party which complained so bitterly about time allocation, because debate was cut short, hardly intervened on its own motions. It is the Official Opposition which had to do the job of the Reform Party, which is a bit ironic. Why did they complain about time allocation, and choose not to speak yesterday? There is a logic there that I do not get. Could it be that their caucus meeting, Monday night, caused a number of them to lose their voices? I do not know.

Anyway, we will do our job at third reading. I do believe that Bill C-18 is necessary if we want to review the 30-year old rules on electoral boundaries readjustment. In my humble opinion, we should start this review process, immediately after the bill is passed, by studying carefully section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

It is the basis for the entire decennial readjustment process provided for by our Constitution. It will no doubt be the first section we will have to consider in hearing testimony and debating various amendments to provisions of section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867. We may also have to review section 51( a ), the so-called senatorial clause, which prevents a province from being represented by fewer members in the House of Commons than senators in the Senate and which presently applies only to Prince Edward Island.

Perhaps there should also be a section 51( b ) forcing the government to take a member from Prince Edward Island from within its ranks and make him or her a cabinet member, which is presently lacking. Why does a province with such a glorious history as Prince Edward Island have no Cabinet members in this government?

There is another question, but I will not get into it either. We can ask ourselves the question anyway. The criteria have not

been reviewed since 1964. I have no intention of going through the whole list, but it is high time that they we review them.

In 1964, the government of the day, the Pearson government, had the brilliant and worthwhile idea of taking the electoral boundaries delineation process out of the hands of Parliament and members of Parliament and putting it in the hands of independent commissions.

Grasp all, lose all, the saying goes. Perhaps the right balance has not been struck between the role of the legislator and that of the commissions. These are also questions we have to ask ourselves because a number of members have risen in this House to disagree with plans currently before the various provincial commissions.

We need to act, not hurriedly, but swiftly nonetheless, as we are facing some form of danger, a constitutional danger I would say. As I see it, the danger results from the fact that, during the 24 month period when readjustment is to be suspended under Bill C-18, during that time, the Procedure and House Affairs Committee will have to continue to work. The government will make its bed and eventually present a bill or accept the one proposed by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. But we should not face the next federal election with a seat distribution based on the 1981 census.

One thing is certain, for the legal security of all Canadians. With all due respect, I wonder whether it is appropriate for the government to submit Bill C-18 with all its consequences, namely that we still have a distribution based on the 1981 census and that the 2003 election could still be based on 1981 census figures. Are we not in violation of section 51 of the Canadian Constitution, which provides for a decennial census and a readjustment of representation after each decennial census?

The Constitution is there for a reason. If it requires us to conduct a census, a census will be conducted, and then we will say, "We need a readjustment". If every time we are about to undertake such a readjustment, some bill cancels or postpones it, it is as though this provision were no longer enshrined in the Canadian Constitution.

I urge the Canadian government to use the authority of the Governor in Council to refer the constitutional problem to the Supreme Court of Canada for advice, so that any challenge is not left to ordinary Canadians already overburdened by taxes, and so that it can be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Bill C-18 also provides for the abolition of existing provincial commissions, a measure which we fully support since we cannot keep on standby-in spite of the comments made by the hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminster, which will certainly be corrected later-and pay the members of those commissions to do nothing.

This provision should also apply. We can start all over again later. When I say "we" I mean this House, because we do not know what the situation will be in 24 months, and what the House will look like. Who knows, there may be 75 fewer seats. It is pointless to discuss the architecture of this House. After all, if the 75 seats from Quebec disappear, there will be enough room for larger desks, to accommodate those who have put on some weight because they do not have time to exercise in the Wellington or Confederation building. This could prove a lot cheaper than tearing down walls, as suggested by our friends from the Reform Party.

We Quebecers will do an immeasurable service to this House by freeing a little more than a quarter of the seats here.

Of course, I am pleased because I did not hear any terms such as break up or collapse. Things went smoothly and I was able to discuss the issue. In fact, I wonder why, when I raise the issue of sovereignty for Quebec, I hear some hon. members use those expressions- but not everyone, far from it. In fact, fewer and fewer do so, and it may be because they understand more and more that Quebec's sovereignty is not directed against anyone: rather, it must be done for our own good. As I mentioned yesterday to the hon. member for Stormont-Dundas, Quebec will always be as open as it is now with its neighbours, and particularly its Ontario friends, who are very close, not only from a geographic point of view but also in terms of the affinities which we have developed. Quebec is a state which tomorrow, just as it was yesterday and is today, will remain open and receptive to the world around it.

Again, Quebec's sovereignty is not directed against anyone. Let me give you an example. If, tomorrow or in the near future, the people of British Columbia decided to become sovereign, I will not get frantic. I will simply say: very good, this is your decision as British Columbians. That is fine, let us try to make some agreements, this is an emancipation for you, this is your choice and I see no point in criticizing it. I will not say that someone is trying to dismantle the country, to tear it apart, to blow it up or whatever. I think that we will have to consider very calmly the implementation of new structures for this country which has already gone through several structual changes. Since 1763, it has been known as Canada, but during the period when it was made up of Upper and Lower Canada, and even before that, at the time of the Quebec Act and the Royal Proclamation, it was a small country. It grew quietly, over the years.

My comments are totally relevant to the debate, Mr. Speaker. In 1949, Newfoundland joined the Canadian federation, but Newfoundland was not destroyed because it decided to give up its status as an independent Dominion. Newfoundlanders were never told that they had destroyed their country. They were congratulated on choosing to join the Canadian federation.

In the second 1949 referendum, because there were two of them, Newfoundlanders voted 52.34 per cent in favour of joining Confederation, while 47.66 per cent voted against. However, that referendum was somewhat special, and we will not have the same kind of referendum in Quebec.

For instance, in the riding of Labrador, the number of registered voters in the second referendum on July 22, 1948, was 2,886. The number of votes cast was 3,447, which means a participation rate of 119.44 per cent in favour of union with Canada. The people in the riding of Labrador were way ahead of the riding of Ferryland, where 3,791 voters were registered but 3,965 cast their votes, which meant a participation rate of 104.59 per cent in the second referendum, which is not bad!

The first referendum was held on June 3, 1948. There again the participation rate showed that the people of Newfoundland, and probably their ancestors as well, were interested in voting in the referendum, because as they say, we have to vote, not just for our own sake and our children's, but for the people in the cemetery. I think that is what happened there!

If we look at the riding of Grand Falls, in the first referendum on June 3, 1948, the number of registered voters was 11,458, but the number of voters on June 3, 1948 was 12,580, which gives us a participation rate of 109.79 per cent, which is quite good! Grand Falls had the best rate, closely followed in second place by Humber, with 10,745 registered voters and 11,588 people who cast their votes, producing a very respectable participation rate of 107.84 per cent. St. John's West was a close third with 19,586 registered voters and 19,880 votes cast, producing a participation rate of 101.5 per cent.

And last but not least among the ridings with a participation rate of more than 100 per cent-something not even members of the former Soviet Union have been able to do, the best record so far being 99.9 per cent in one of the former Soviet republics-the riding of St. John's East, with 16,313 registered voters and 16,322 votes cast, producing a participation rate of 100.5 per cent. A number of ridings reached 95, 98 or 99 per cent. But in spite of all that, the final result was 52 to 48. That did not prevent the Right Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King, then Prime Minister of Canada, from saying in this House, after the results of the second referendum in Newfoundland were announced, that "It was clear from these figures that the majority of the huge number of voters who cast their votes were in favour of Confederation. It would seem that the outcome of the plebiscite was "definitely beyond a shadow of a doubt" a sign of support for union between the two countries. The government, and surely the Canadian people as well, welcomed the results of this plebiscite".

I trust that with the standards now in effect and Quebec's legislation that is almost unmatched for its rigour, a result of 50 per cent of the vote, plus one, will be accepted when Quebec makes its decision.

That being said, you will no doubt allow me to say a few words about my own riding, which is also affected by the bill as all other ridings are. Several of my colleagues in the Official Opposition spoke about their ridings yesterday and I did not yet take the opportunity to talk about mine in the other stages of the debate.

Mr. Speaker, I invite you to visit my riding of Bellechasse. You will always be welcome and I will be pleased to host you if you do not have anywhere to stay, but there is excellent accommodation almost everywhere. Anyway, it will be a pleasure for me to receive you when you come. The limits of the federal riding of Bellechasse are as follows: it is bounded on the east by the riding of Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, represented by my hon. colleague. On the west, it is bounded by the riding of Beauce; on the east, by the State of Maine in the U.S., and on the north, by the St. Lawrence River, although my riding also includes some islands in the St. Lawrence, one of which is Grosse Île, where thousands and thousands of Irish families stayed on their migration to Quebec or Canada.

The riding of Bellechasse could now be described as a rectangle going from Saint-Pamphile in the southeast to Lac-Etchemin in the southwest, and from Saint-Jean-Port-Joli in the northeast to Saint-Anselme in the southeast, Saint-Anselme being the parish adjacent to my own parish of Sainte-Claire-de-Dorchester.

With the new electoral map as proposed, which takes into account regional county municipalities or RCMs, the riding of Bellechasse would include two more parishes in the RCM of L'Islet, namely Saint-Roch-des Aulnaies and Sainte-Louise, which are now in the electoral district of Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, so that the whole RCM of L'Islet would be in the riding of Bellechasse.

More to the west, the riding of Bellechasse would gain the municipalities and parishes of Saint-Cyprien, Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague, Sainte-Rose-de-Watford, Saint-Benjamin, Saint-Prosper, Sainte-Aurélie and Saint-Zacharie, which are all located in the RCM of Etchemins. My federal riding of Bellechasse would then include every parish of the RCMs of L'Islet, Montmagny, Bellechasse and Etchemins, for a total of about 64 parishes and enormous distances we still measure in miles because the numbers are too high when they are measured in kilometres.

The homogeneity is very nice, but the distances are a little ridiculous as a single member of Parliament responsible for such a vast area cannot properly serve all of his constituents. The criteria for readjusting electoral boundaries in Canada must be reviewed.

In closing, since we are talking about redistribution, it would be interesting to say a few words on the redistribution of seats in the other place. We would be in favour of an immediate and total redistribution of the 104 seats in the other house where unelected people are highly paid to sit. I think our friends in the Reform Party would wholeheartedly agree with us that we should abolish, in their present form, all the constituencies in the other house of the Parliament of Canada. We do not need a second house whose members would be working as they are now.

I for one am in favour of the proposal put forward by the Reform Party, namely a triple-E Senate, an equal, elected and effective Senate. In my view, that respects the principle of equality among provinces, where all provinces would have the same number of representatives and all regions would be represented.

Even though I said I would be in favour of such a proposal, I do have one very fundamental reservation. The proposal would probably be acceptable to English Canada, but never to Quebec. Quebec does not belong in another house where there would be equal representation of all provinces. Quebec will have nothing to do with that, nothing at all.

In 1965, the premier of Quebec, or the man who would become premier the following year, in 1966, Daniel Johnson Sr., the "real one" as some people call him, wrote in a book entitled Égalité ou Indépendance that Canada will be binational and biethnic or it will not exist.

It is up to my colleagues and of course to you, Mr. Speaker, to determine if Canada has become binational and biethnic. Not only do we not hear the word biethnicity anymore, but outside the province of Quebec, a lot of people even deny the existence of the Quebec nation-and I use the word nation in the English sense of the word, in its sociological sense, where it means people rather than country. No matter what Mr. Trudeau says in his private meetings, the word nation in French can apply to the existence and values of the Quebec people today, a people who have demonstrated their collective willingness to live in a given territory, to prosper there in their own language while respecting their minorities and to create within this territory a national state, a home for francophones in America.

That is the goal that we, the Official Opposition, along with Quebec sovereignists and nationalists, will continue to pursue until we succeed, hopefully within a few months, in convincing our friends and colleagues in Quebec that Quebec sovereignty is as good for Quebecers as Canadian sovereignty is good for Canadians and as American sovereignty has been good for Americans. Quebec sovereignty is the affirmation of a people who have finally achieved political maturity. In that spirit, we will vote in favour of Bill C-18 at third reading.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act, 1994 April 12th, 1994

I would like to comment on the three motions before us which were grouped by the Chair.

First of all, I was a bit surprised by the remarks of my colleague from Kindersley-Lloydminster about the Official Opposition's attitude. Once again, we have heard expressions that will be used more and more in the House, as the elections and referendum grow nearer in Quebec. We have heard terms like the breakup of Canada, separatism, that kind of language. I do not see what that has to do with Bill C-18 and I do not know what the member from Kindersley-Lloydminster is getting at. He probably does not know himself.

As for Bill C-18 and the amendments proposed today, the authors of the three motions did raise some good points. In fact, we could speak of two motions, since the third one is just a consequence of the second one.

The main thing that comes out of these motions and the whole debate and what prompts my first comment is that we are considering limiting the number of members in the House. It may be a worthwhile, even noble objective. As you know, Mr. Speaker, Quebec governments, even the least nationalistic ones, have always insisted on a clause guaranteeing 25 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons to Quebec.

Under the present federal system, Quebec is guaranteed this representation. Assuming it remains in the federation, something which is also hypothetical, then Quebec should retain one quarter of the seats in Parliament. Limit the number of seats, by all means, but only after giving Quebec assurances that it will retain its current level of 25 per cent representation in the House of Commons.

Mention was also made in earlier debates of the need for a thorough review of a number of provisions, notably section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and of the possibility that some areas or regions of the countries, in particular the Magdalen Islands and the riding of Labrador, could be considered separately. These ridings could be exempted from the process of determining electoral boundaries on the basis of the number of voters in a province. Thus, other ridings either in the province of Newfoundland or in Labrador, as far as the riding of Labrador and the population of the Quebec mainland is concerned, would not have to make up for the fact that Labrador or the Magdalen Islands would be designated as separate ridings. As you know, until 1968, the Magdalen Islands constituted a separate riding.

With respect to the suspension period which the first motion presented by my hon. colleague for Kindersley-Lloydminster seeks to shorten to 12 months, without of course abolishing the commissions, I fail to see the logic of this motion. If we truly want to do a thorough job and review the entire process which has resulted in periodic readjustments to the electoral map, a process which has not been thoroughly reviewed and closely scrutinized since 1964, then a twelve-month suspension of operations seems clearly inadequate. We would be hamstrung by this provision. To all intents and purposes, we would be better off not passing Bill C-18 instead of limiting ourselves to a twelve-month suspension.

In order to undertake a thorough review, we need the 24 month suspension provided for in the bill. Therefore, I cannot support the proposed amendment, any more than I can support maintaining the current commissions in operation. What work would there be for them to do? Again, we would have a case where commissions would be paid to do nothing. We do not need this. Enough money is being wasted already.

All the same, it is somewhat astonishing to hear a Reform Party member say that he wants to continue wasting public funds. We do not need this. If we have to suspend the process, then let us do it. In two years' time, when the review process is undertaken again, other persons can be appointed. We could reappoint the same persons. Some may have changed careers or even passed away. We will have to adjust accordingly.

Why should we artificially maintain the commissions? Rather, we should establish new ones at the appropriate time, that is, within the 60 day period set out in clause 4 of Bill C-18. There is no reason for us to keep the commissions going, unless the hon. members of the Reform Party have friends on the commissions whom they want to protect. Well if this is the case, then they should say so clearly. But if it is not the case, we have no need of commissions that do not work.

It is quite enough that we have another House that does not work, Mr. Speaker, without having commissions that sit idle. We should minimize the damage. Maybe we could obtain unanimous consent right now to bring in a constitutional resolution to suspend the current operations and duties of the other House until such time as a new House is reconstituted, one which better reflects the aspirations of Canadians. As for Quebeckers, we will deal in our own way with the problem of the second House.

At any rate, Bill C-18 has been tabled, although somewhat late. That is unfortunate, I must say, and the hon. Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs probably regrets it too, as it means that we now have to speed up our discussions a little and that a motion for time allocation had to be put forward. Why did the government not act with more diligence? Why was the bill not tabled two weeks earlier, so this situation could have been averted? I do not know why and I will not speculate on this because I would not want to ascribe malicious intent to anyone.

We find ourselves in the somewhat uncomfortable situation where provincial commissions have decided on their own authority to sit since, as the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley, explained in his testimony before the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs-please refer to page 13 of the Evidence of the March 24, 1994 sitting of the said committee and tabled in this House by its chair, the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands-the provincial commissions have every right to suspend the hearing process, as long as the September 16 deadline is met. So, the commissions have decided to start sitting.

I respect their decision, while I do not agree with it. Clear indication had been given by this House through a vote in second reading on the principle of Bill C-18 that a brake was being put on the process and that it should be brought to a stop.

Some people are scheduled to appear in a matter of days before provincial commissions, in Quebec in particular, to make representations. Unfortunately, that will all be in vain. I think that it might have been wise to suspend the process for a few days to see what Parliament's decision on Bill C-18 would be, especially in light of clear indications that we were going to stop the process.

That is all I had to say on Bill C-18 for the time being. As I said earlier, as a member of the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I have no intention of taking a firm stand on what I plan to defend in that venue. I have always maintained that I would listen to the testimony with a free hand and no blinkers on, and hear the representations all the interested parties may want to make, by teleconference or in public hearings across the country, seeing that the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is in control of its own proceedings and, based on the notice of motion put on the Notice Paper of this House, the committee will have plenty of leeway to carry out this review.

For all these reasons, I cannot support any of the motions put forward by my colleague from Kindersley-Lloydminster.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act March 24th, 1994

Madam Speaker, the comments made by the hon. member for Kamloops are quite relevant and, as I said earlier, I felt a little uncomfortable taking part in the debate since I am against the closure motion but for the substance of Bill C-18. I understood that he was in a rather similar situation because, in some regions of British Columbia, the people who drew up the electoral map visualized the Rockies as a vast plain, according to the speech he made in the House on Monday.

As for what he said about the increase in population, particularly in Western Canada and his province, British Columbia, we are, of course, aware of the data and hope to do the necessary work in time. That is part of the reason why the referral motion includes a deadline, so that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs can hold hearings and table its report as soon as possible.

As you are indicating to me that I have very little time left, there is one thing I hope for, Madam Speaker: that we will be able to listen to people before electoral maps are tabled everywhere and that only minor changes are made.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act March 24th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I find it quite strange and somewhat unacceptable as a parliamentarian to see the hon. member for Waterloo refer to the relevance of the debate in the question and comment period, when he spent all his time attacking our colleagues from the Reform Party, not on the substance of the motion but on their behaviour in the House, which we refrain from doing. This is my only comment.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act March 24th, 1994

Madam Speaker, the hon. member's question reminds me of question period in the afternoon or on Friday morning when a government member plants a question for his minister. I thank the hon. member.

We voted against the time allocation motion and against closure because it is unacceptable, particularly in a parliamentary government. The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands is right to insist, especially since it would have been so easy to make plans in the parliamentary agenda to table the bill ten days or two weeks earlier. I share the hon. member's concerns on this.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act March 24th, 1994

I will be pleased to respond, through you, Madam Speaker, to the comment by the hon. member for Ontario.

Of course we have been represented in this House by members from all political affiliations since 1867, often distinguished men and women, with the likes of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Prime Minister Louis Saint-Laurent. I will not talk about more modern times, and events which have not yet found a definitive place in history, for fear of sounding partisan, but I do believe that Quebec has had distinguished parliamentarians. That is not the point.

The point I am making is that, however distinguished our representatives, we remain a minority in this place. However great the speeches made in this House by Quebec members from whatever political party, when a vote is held-and the hon. member for Ontario has seen it for himself as well as we all did-the majority rules and the vote from the quietest of member cancels that of the most talkative and convincing one. In that context, I can agree with the hon. member only as far as to say that very distinguished representatives from Quebec have sat in this House.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Suspension Act March 24th, 1994

Madam Speaker, I thought that it was inappropriate, as Beauchesne says several times in his book on parliamentary procedure, to point out the absence of members in this House. My hon. colleague from Beauséjour, no doubt in a fleeting moment of distraction, forgot this rule of which he himself would have reminded me.

When the request for a quorum count was made and you checked according to the rules, I was talking about the leeway we might have in the Official Opposition since we do not really intend to use the new electoral maps. But in any case we have to defend this legislation. We have to defend it for the voters of all of Canada, from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic. It is our duty as Official Opposition to do so.

The other day, strangely enough, I heard the member for Kamloops say that the Official Opposition only defended regional interests. Madam Speaker, you heard us on the link between Prince Edward Island and the mainland, we supported the constitutional motion. We spoke up on the lockout in the Port of Vancouver. Who spoke up on Ginn Publishing? This is not a strictly local problem concerning the suburb of Ste-Foy or the riding of La Prairie; control of Canadian culture is a federal

problem. We spoke up, as did our colleagues in the Reform Party. Strangely enough, our friends in the Liberal caucus,who probably had problems and were all coming back fromMr. Muffler, were completely silent on the subject.

I will now return to the subject being debated, before I am called to order. Bill C-18 must be passed, because the rules for setting electoral boundaries were laid down 30 years ago. From time to time, with specific bills, electoral reforms were stopped, changed or given a different direction, but the process as a whole was not thoroughly debated. I see the member for Beauséjour who seems to share my point of view; I believe that we can come to fairly unanimous agreement on this point. I would like to thank the hon. member for the consent he has just given.

So we can review the various provisions in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in an unbiased way. Since I myself am on this committee, I think that it would be inappropriate for me to take a position when we have a motion to refer it to the committee on which I sit. I will participate without prejudice as the committee hears witnesses. The motion of reference presented provides that the committee can hear witnesses and travel as required across Canada and also hear witnesses by teleconference.

A very broad procedure has been established. I think that this might answer the concerns of the hon. member for Calgary West who felt that Bill C-18 excluded the people from the debate. On the contrary, it is an inclusive process. In no way do we want to keep the people out of the debate; we do not want to have completely pointless hearings by provincial commissions that would be suspended in a few days because of Bill C-18. The people will have a chance to be heard by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

I would also like to talk about the position of the hon. member for Beaver River, which I have trouble understanding.

I listened carefully to the hon. member's speech, and since she started it on Monday, I was able to read it over in Hansard . My understanding is that the hon. member was not trying to defend the Beaver River constituency, that her riding had been created in 1988, and that it would disappear if the proposals presently before the provincial commissions are passed.

Strangely enough, the hon. member is the same one who tabled Bill C-210, an Act to provide for the recall of members of the House of Commons. I think the hon. member for Beaver River should be pleased that her bill has still not been passed, because I presume it would not take long for the registers in her riding of Beaver River to open, asking for the recall of the hon. member, since she does not want to defend her constituents' interests. I find her attitude strange, to say the least. I guess the hon. member must have her own reasons.

In the two minutes left, I want to discuss the last point, which deals with section 51 of the Constitution Act of 1867. Section 51 states that electoral boundaries readjustments will take place on completion of each decennial census. However, that same section also excludes the Northwest Territories and the Yukon from the process. Consequently, the redistribution takes place once constituencies are specifically allocated to these very vast but sparsely populated areas.

I think that, on top of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, we should also look at the case of the Magdalen Islands in Quebec, a distinct community remote from the continent, with its own specific problems-and I am pleased to see that the hon. member for Kingston approves-and also Labrador. That region forms a very large territory which should be represented by someone. There have to be ridings with a larger population, so as to enable Labrador to have its own local representative.

At least four exceptions should be made, and that does not include other representations which could be made. I am referring of course to the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, but also to the Magdalen Islands and to Labrador.

It is with a very open mind that I will take part in the work of the committee, since I only made general comments which will certainly not keep me from listening with an open mind, free of any bias or preconceived idea, to the representations which will be made to the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, of which I am a member.