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

Lists Of Voters December 5th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the government House leader.

Amendments to the Canada Elections Act proposed by the government allow the chief electoral officer to use only the Quebec civil register and Quebec driver's licence information to establish the list of electors for the next federal general election.

In view of the representations made by the official opposition as well as by the Quebec government and Quebec's chief electoral officer, is the minister now ready to reconsider his position and to allow the use of the permanent list of electors established by the Quebec government?

Constitution Amendment December 4th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, the debate triggered by Resolution No. 12 in this House on term 17 of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada has, as the hon. member for Mercier said in her speech, brought to light all the misgivings we may have concerning constitutional change, particularly when it appears that a category of persons protected under the Constitution will find its rights diminished, if not done away with altogether, without its consent.

The question before us is not a partisan one, but a matter of analyzing the protection of categories of persons.

I do not wish to interfere in the matter of the administration of Newfoundland's schools, but I can still analyze the situation. Obviously, their school system is a complicated one. To all intents and purposes, term 17 gives the legislator of the province of Newfoundland, what is, after all, a limited power over education in that it cannot legislate unless the various religious denominations are respected. Strange situations occur, like having six different school buses picking up children of six different religious denominations in one small locality, because these denominations must be given equal treatment. Perhaps, in 1996, this needs reviewing.

A position definitely needs to be taken, when all is said and done. The more the debate progressed-and I have listened attentively, either in my office or in this House, to my hon. colleagues who have spoken on this-the more it struck me that it was not all that obvious that, in the September 5, 1995 referendum, each and every religious denomination constitutionally protected by term 17

of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada had given consent.

I cannot state the contrary, either, that every religious denomination refused to consent. In some parts of Newfoundland, people voted massively against the Newfoundland government's proposal, while in others they voted massively in favour. The vote was very divided, and the final vote was also very divided. So much so that basically, it is up to those who are primarily concerned to pass a final judgement on this issue. The Newfoundland government, rightly or wrongly, thought that on the basis of a referendum held on September 5, 1995, it had a mandate to pass a constitutional resolution to amend term 17 and ask the governor in council to refer the same question to this House, which is what happened.

History will have to realize we did not initiate these proceedings, that the Newfoundland legislature acted first, and that the Government of Newfoundland drew its conclusions from the outcome of the referendum. I respect its decision although I have quite a few questions.

It will be up to the voters of Newfoundland, if the government or the legislature did not act wisely, to pass judgment on their elected representatives who adopted the constitutional resolution before the House today.

The situation that will be created by the vote in this House is not irreversible, in that a new legislature in Newfoundland, with different concerns, may request a constitutional amendment to revert to the previous legal position.

In that respect, we are not doing anything irreparable. It would not be like amending the Canadian Constitution to say that from now, bills and court rulings will be in English only. That would be irreversible. So there is still a certain amount of flexibility here.

In the end, although we are extremely reticent, because this is a mine field and we might be accused of having created a precedent today, in the end perhaps we can, by stretching our tolerance to the limit, accept the resolution before the House.

However, this precedent should not be used to attack the rights of Franco-Ontarians or the rights of francophones in Manitoba or anywhere else, but especially in those two provinces where they enjoy constitutional protection, as in the province of New Brunswick, which subsequently protected its francophone minorities.

The question is of course a sensitive one where Quebec is concerned, as the hon. member for Mercier said earlier.

We know that in Quebec we have provisions governing schools and minority rights, which are now out of date. The only way to get around this would be perhaps to have section 93 of the Constitution amended, while ensuring that those protected under this section are in agreement. There are ways to do so and these ways have already been used in other circumstances.

I also understand the reticence of the Government of Quebec to apply under the amending formula of 1982, which it and all political parties in Quebec never recognized. I can understand its reticence in not joyously rushing, with honour and enthusiasm, to pass a resolution to call on this House to pass one as well to amend section 93, which would make things so much simpler in Quebec, as the hon. member for Mercier pointed out earlier, by enabling us to update our system of education.

However, the Government of Quebec has not acted in order to show how touchy constitutional change is with respect to minorities, because a fairly strong consensus is emerging in Quebec. There is of course the 1982 padlock, which is more of a yoke than a padlock, obliging us to live with this situation.

Those like me who were raised in a rural municipality of Quebec, where, two or three times a year, a collection was taken up in school for the survival of French-the hon. member for Mercier must remember that-get a little nervous when there is talk of taking rights away from classes of persons protected by the Constitution.

That is why, as this debate draws to a close, I am telling you that, because of this uncertainty and in spite of all the misgivings I have, in the end, I could probably vote in favour of the proposal before us, while at the same time expressing the wish that the provisions contained in the Constitution that protect minority rights not be changed without first obtaining the consent of the minorities concerned.

Constitution Amendment December 2nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, following on my earlier comments, I have a question for the member for London-Middlesex.

Can he once again explain his point of view in this House? Why does he feel that the resolution before us infringes the constitutional rights of a class of persons in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador?

I give notice immediately of a supplementary question, but it will be for the member for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte when he speaks. I will ask him why he takes the opposite view, that the resolution before us does not affect the constitutional rights of a class of persons in the Province of Newfoundland. That will perhaps further the debate.

Constitution Amendment December 2nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Mississauga South for his question.

The question appears straightforward, but the answer is not. Either the amendment to Term 17 of the union of Newfoundland with Canada, or the reverse, depending on one's point of view, gives constitutional protection to the right of religious denominations or churches in matters of education in Newfoundland, in which case Term 17 should not be amended, or the proposed amendment does not infringe the constitutional rights of religious groups or groups referred to in Term 17 of the terms of union, in which case we should simply recognize the referendum.

There cannot, in my view, be any middle ground: either these are constitutional rights, in which case those affected, the minorities, must be consulted. It is not up to the majority to decide for the minority that they no longer want these rights. It must be certain that the minority knowingly gave up its constitutional rights. This is on the assumption that the constitutional amendment infringes minority rights.

The other assumption, which is just as plausible, and is supported by a number of members in the House, says: "Term 17 of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada does not affect the constitutional rights of certain groups in Newfoundland. We therefore need only recognize the referendum and blindly ratify it".

Like the hon. member for Mississauga South, I too will await the continuation of debate, in order to gain a greater understanding of the issue.

Constitution Amendment December 2nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my apologies to the hon. member for London-Middlesex, but I believe the opposition was not among the last few members to speak, although there was no lack of debate.

My colleague, the hon. member for Mercier, always looks at things in their historical perspective. Knowing where she has come from, she knows where she is headed, and this gives me a point of departure.

I would be much happier today if, instead of taking a position, I was recognizing the result of a referendum held in Newfoundland indicating to us that the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador wanted to leave Canada, like the result in 1948, and we will come back to this. The Province of Newfoundland-then the Dominion of Newfoundland-made a decision regarding union with Canada.

In this event, it would be sufficient to recognize the result and sit down again, because the people of Newfoundland would have exercised their sacred right to self-determination, to the full constitutional destiny of their province.

Today, I am not in any way questioning the results of the September 5, 1995 referendum. A majority voted in favour of amending term 17 of the Terms of Union with Canada. A little bit of background is still necessary. What took place? What led to the establishment of terms of union between Newfoundland and Canada?

For the benefit of those who were not with us at the beginning of this debate, a reminder that before 1949, Newfoundland was not part of Canada. Until 1933 it was an independent Dominion, like Canada, like Ireland previously, like Australia and like New Zealand, and as such part of the British Empire, which has now become the Commonwealth.

When economic problems became apparent, the responsible government of Newfoundland was suspended by an act of the Imperial Parliament, the Parliament of Great Britain, in 1933, the Newfoundland Act, 1933, 24-25 George V, chapter 2, United Kingdom.

As of 1933, the Imperial Parliament suspended responsible government in Newfoundland and appointed a commission of government to take charge of what to all intents and purposes again became a colony.

Apparently, the commission of government operated satisfactorily, and the war got the economy going again, so that in the post-war period, the people in London and the people in Newfoundland wondered whether they should maintain this commission of government, in other words, a governor without an elected legislature. The governor received his instructions from London and carried them out.

An initial referendum was held to put the question to the people of Newfoundland. Actually, a national convention was called in Newfoundland to determine the status the people wanted for Newfoundland.

This convention suggested putting two questions to Newfoundland voters: Do you wish to maintain the commission of government-direct rule from London-or do you want to go back to the status that existed before 1933, in other words, the status of a Dominion within the empire? With of course, responsible government based on the institutions that existed before 1933.

As a result of political intrigue and pressure from the Canadian government at the time and from the government in London as well, a third option was considered which had not been planned by the national convention of Newfoundland. The third option was federation with Canada.

Despite the position taken by the national convention of Newfoundland, a third option was put on the ballot in 1948, by an imperial act of Parliament. Let us recall the results of the first referendum, which was held on June 3, 1948.

There was a very respectable turnout of 88.36 per cent. In favour of maintaining the commission of government, in other words, an administration under the orders of the United Kingdom, 14.32 per cent; in favour of federation with Canada, 41.13 per cent; and in favour of the return to responsible government, in other words, to Dominion status as of 1933, 44.55 per cent. There was a majority but not an absolute majority in favour of one of the three options. The option which got the least votes was eliminated and as prescribed by law, a month later, on July 22, a second referendum was held. The question concerned only two points: Are you in favour of federation with Canada or of a return to responsible government?

This time, Newfoundland voters responded as follows: 78,323 voted in favour of federation with Canada and 71,334 voted in favour of responsible government, which in percentages works out to 52.34 per cent against 47.66 per cent. The difference is not

considerable, a difference that in other circumstances would not be worth discussing, because the figures themselves are eloquent.

Things become more disquieting when we look at the voting by riding. In the riding of Ferryland, the turnout was 104.59 per cent; in Labrador, it was 119.44 per cent; in Grand Falls, it was 109.79 per cent; in St. John's West, it was 101.50 per cent; in St. John's East, 100.05 per cent and in Humber, it was 107.84 per cent.

This is a turnout that the hon. member for Humber-Sainte-Barbe-Baie Verte can appreciate now. However, as my colleague and friend, the member for Louis-Hébert, would say, something is wrong with democracy somewhere. They went a little bit too far.

Such that, if we look at voting excesses, a lot of ridings had a turnout of nearly 100 per cent. Something rarely seen. For example in the second referendum, it was 95 per cent in the riding of St. George's-Port-au-Port; 97.16 per cent in White Bay; 96.26 per cent in Grand Falls. That is not so bad. In the riding of St. George's- Port-au-Port, in the other referendum, the figure was 99.39 per cent. These figures are rather unbelievable.

Worse yet, however, was the discovery made since that time that London had decided, regardless of the outcome of the referendum, that there would be union with Canada. History speaks for itself; nobody gave two hoots about the people of Newfoundland.

Finally, if only to have it appear in Hansard , as the result of the figures, ambiguous to say the least, with a turnout in seven or eight ridings of more than 100 per cent, the Prime Minister of Canada, Mackenzie King, said at the time the results were released, and I quote: ``I consider such results clear and beyond possibility of misunderstanding''. That took some nerve. Fortunately, there was no live television, because the people of Newfoundland would have been hopping. In the September 5, 1995 referendum no irregularities were reported. As the result of this referendum, it was decided that Newfoundland wanted to join Canada. The terms of union had to be negotiated. There are 50 of them and they appear in the appendix to the 1985 Revised Statutes of Canada .

We are concerned here today with term 17 and it is not an easy matter to understand. I am simply going to read term 17, and even the most eminent jurists sitting in the House will not be able to give us an opinion regarding its meaning.

I will begin. I hope that the translators have the English version, because I am going to read it in French. Term 17, regarding education, is worded as follows:

  1. In lieu of section ninety-three of the Constitution Act, 1867, the following Term shall apply in respect of the Province of Newfoundland:

In and for the Province of Newfoundland the Legislature shall have exclusive authority to make laws in relation to education, but the Legislature will not have authority to make laws prejudicially affecting any right or privilege with respect to denominational schools, common (amalgamated) schools, or denominational colleges, that any class or classes of persons have by law in Newfoundland at the date of Union, and out of public funds of the Province of Newfoundland, provided for education,

(a) all such schools shall receive their share of such funds in accordance with scales determined on a non-discriminatory basis from time to time by the Legislature for all schools then being conducted under authority of the Legislature; and

(b) all such colleges shall receive their share of any grant from time to time voted for all colleges then being conducted under authority of the Legislature, such grant being distributed on a non-discriminatory basis.

I do not know whether anyone can rise and explain the term on the spot. I would be prepared to take my place and ask for the unanimous consent of the House to allow such an explanation. It is obvious that, through this term, the Newfoundland legislature gave up to the various denominations its control over schools, its power to legislate with respect to matters of education.

Today, we are hearing two theories. One claims that the repeal of term 17 of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada will not affect minority rights, and the other claims that it will. There is even a third school of thought, probably the objective one, which tells us that it would appear that the conclusion of the referendum indicates that the various religious denominations, or the six main ones, appear to have given consent. Just now, in quoting the referendum figures, the hon. member for Delta attempted to demonstrate that the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland did not have a majority vote in favour.

I am not, myself, in a position to give any answers. I feel that a thorough examination and careful attention to the speeches made in this House will make it possible to make a more informed decision.

But some questions do remain. One condition for union is not clear. Does it affect minority rights? If so, unilateral action, without knowing whether the minorities agree to having their rights abrogated, strikes me as a disquieting precedent. If not, then all that we have to do is take the simple step of merely ratifying the consent given in Newfoundland. We need some clarification on this. I personally do not have enough information to form a firm opinion. You can understand that, when it comes to minority rights, we in Quebec are a little gun shy.

If, tomorrow morning, the government of Manitoba were to hold a referendum to do away with section 23 of the Manitoba Act, what would happen? That is the section which requires the Manitoba legislature to pass its legislation in both official languages, the one which states that the language of legislation and the language of the courts is English and French.

The 1890 Greenway laws had abrogated francophone rights in Manitoba. Only in 1979 did the Supreme Court, in the Forest decision if my memory serves me correctly, conclude that the 1890 legislation was invalid because it was unconstitutional.

Almost 100 years later, it was difficult to restore the rights of francophones who formerly made up 50 per cent of the population of Manitoba. According to the latest census, scarcely more than 12,000 people in Manitoba stated they were of French Canadian origin.

If a referendum were held tomorrow morning in Manitoba and 80 or 90 per cent of the voters were in favour of repealing section 23 of the Manitoba Act, should we adopt it with our eyes closed and again make English the only official language in Manitoba, while for 100 years, Manitoba's francophones have struggled to maintain their rights? That is a good question.

If tomorrow morning, the Government of Ontario held a referendum to repeal section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867, concerning schools for Catholic minorities which, at the time, were also francophone minorities, would we, in the event of a positive outcome, agree to accept such an amendment? Personally, I do not think so. I think these rights should be maintained, protected and even expanded.

There seems to be a complete lack of understanding between the people who embrace these two theories. I think it is necessary to clarify the interpretation of term 17 which, in any event, does not seem to be clear to anyone, so that we cannot really make up our minds. Once again, the question that was asked in the referendum in Newfoundland in 1995 was straightforward, but it referred to an extremely complex situation.

The hon. member for Ontario said earlier that the Constitution should reflect the changes that take place in society. I quite agree with what he said. In the case of a constitutional text like the one we have here, the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada in 1949, if the present Government of Newfoundland had to renegotiate these terms and if Canada had to renegotiate them, we would not end up with the same terms, certainly not term 17 in its present form, because it does not seem to correspond with a certain social reality.

It is not up to me to find out whether it does or does not correspond with the social reality that exists in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is up to the people of Newfoundland to decide what suits them. The only thing I have to check as a parliamentarian is whether minority rights, constitutional minority rights have been affected, yes or no.

If not, the question is clear. The people of Newfoundland have decided, and I do not have to check whether they were right to decide in this way. If, on the other hand, it involves constitutional rights, the rights enshrined to protect minorities from periodic changes by governments, to ensure that their rights endure, I am entitled to ask questions as to why the rights of a minority are to be changed. To my knowledge, this would be our first time in the history of Canada to legislate the rights of minorities and to limit them constitutionally. The effect of constitutional legislation respecting minorities has always been to extend protection.

I hope we come to a better understanding during this debate. I do not think this is a partisan debate. It should not become one. It is a fundamental debate on the role, on the place, of minorities within the federation and on the interpretation to be given the Canadian Constitution in general.

Let us recall that the terms of Newfoundland's union with Canada in 1949 were negotiated by the Government of Canada alone, without the provinces. The provinces were not involved in this negotiation.

Which province was most interested? The Province of Quebec, which has a common border, the border of Labrador, which was defined in 1927, with the definition being cast in stone in the terms of Newfoundland's union with Canada in 1949 and reconfirmed in the Constitution of 1982. If there is one border that is not at issue, it is the Labrador border at the moment. The Province of Quebec was not consulted.

Who protested in this House at the time? A member for the riding of Charlevoix, Frédéric Dorion, who, at the time, represented a riding along the Labrador, and consequently Newfoundland, border.

Frédéric Dorion, who later became the chief justice of the Quebec Superior Court, said in this House it was unacceptable that Quebec, the neighbouring province, was not consulted on the terms of Newfoundland's union with Canada. I understand, because had we been under the effect of the present legislation, the Constitution of 1982, which was forced on us, this procedure would not have been possible. The provinces would have to be consulted.

As we can see, the constitutional change mentioned by the member for Ontario is ubiquitous. Freezing the Constitution in an interpretation that was valid perhaps in 1949 is probably not very healthy. However, if the other alternative is to take away minority rights, I do not consider that healthy either.

I would hope that, in the course of the debate, the information and especially the understanding the members of this House may gain from Resolution No. 12 before us, will clarify this debate and enable everyone to come to an understanding in their soul and in their conscience.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service December 2nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, might I suggest to the hon. minister, while he is gathering information, that he check whether it is true Mr. Chamberland got around it by the skin of his teeth and only because he testified under the protection of the Canada Evidence Act?

Does the minister himself not find it odd that, as its senior official in Quebec, CSIS is appointing Mr. Chamberland, a specialist in undercover work, who, as the Keable commission confirmed, never apparently hesitated to use illegal means to achieve his ends?

Canadian Security Intelligence Service December 2nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Solicitor General.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has appointed Normand Chamberland to the position of director general, Quebec region. Mr. Chamberland is a former RCMP officer, a member of the G-2 section, which had the task of infiltrating and destabilizing the separatist movement in the 1970s. Furthermore, it was acknowledged before the Keable commission that Mr. Chamberland had been part of an operation involving the theft of dynamite from the firm Richelieu Explosives.

Why has the minister allowed CSIS to appoint a person involved in a series of illegal RCMP operations in the 1970s to the position of director of its Quebec service?

Parliament Of Canada Act November 27th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-316 presented by the hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester.

Like my colleague from Fundy-Royal, I would like to congratulate the member for Carleton-Gloucester for the energy with which he has defended the principles underlying Bill C-316, the purpose of which is to have members of the House of Commons or the Senate swear an additional oath before occupying their seats.

It cannot be said that the member is not persistent, because he presented Bill C-201 during the first session of the 35th Parliament, at which time I expressed the official opposition's point of view, although in the case of private members' business we are more likely to express our own personal views.

Shortly after the October 25, 1970 election, I swore the following oath in the presence of Robert Marleau, the House clerk: "I, François Langlois, do swear, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II".

This oath takes four seconds to pronounce. The hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester has taken 20 minutes to explain what his oath means. I do not need additional explanations regarding the oath I swore other than to do my work as a parliamentarian as conscientiously as possible, to carry out my duties in the House, in committee and as a representative throughout Canada to the best of my abilities and, when the time comes, to be accountable to those who elected me in Bellechasse. I do not need to swear an oath other than to the established authority.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to turn to you as a constitutional expert. You are well aware that in a monarchist system such as the one we know, which is probably held in high esteem by many in the House, the government is embodied in the person of the monarch, not in other institutions, but in the monarch, who is, of course, much more a symbol than a daily reality. It has been at least 200 years since we saw a monarch exercise any real power, the right of veto in particular. But we do have a symbol.

Like the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, who last week wanted to replace the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty with a different kind of oath to be taken by new Canadian citizens, that is immigrants to this country, what the hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester is proposing today is basically to push the monarchy slowly, little by little, ever so quietly, out the back door, so as not to generate any debate.

My position as a Quebecer is clear. In a sovereign Quebec, the matter of the monarchy will be settled very quickly. We have always said that we wanted a republican state in which the president would be selected in the manner we deemed most appropriate. Some might prefer election by universal suffrage, while others might favour election by the members of the National Assembly, or by an electoral college. That will be something to be debated. We have taken a position on this.

If I were in English Canada, however, I would be worried. It would worry me that, by gradually doing away with the symbols, the question of the institution of the monarchy in Canada is being challenged. I would invite the monarchist leagues, the loyalist

leagues, to be on their guard, to write to the hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester, to the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, and to other members from English Canada in this House, to make their views known.

If there is to be a debate on the monarchy in Canada, it is not going to be settled through minor bills here and there. Instead, it needs to be settled by an open debate, by a referendum in English Canada.

You know as well as I do that the Constitution of 1982 requires the consent of each and every province of Canada to change the status of the monarchy in this country. Some of the people listening to us still believe in the monarchy, in Queen Elizabeth II, who is doing an exceptional job of keeping the monarchy afloat, and I think everyone can see that for themselves.

I think it is rather misplaced to challenge the status of the monarchy through the back door, so to speak, at a time when Her Majesty is doing her best to maintain this tradition in what remains of the empire and in the very heart of the empire.

The loyal subjects of this Dominion should be concerned about these rather sneaky attacks against the institution. I hope people in English Canada will wake up to this fact. If they do not, it may be an indication that people want to change Canada's constitutional status, especially that of English Canada, from a monarchy to a republic. If that is what people want, let them write to their member of Parliament. Otherwise, if nothing is done about it, bills like these will be passed.

As long as Canada is what it is today, these bills do not mean a thing. To adopt the principle of the bill would mean that the oath we all took here in this House, the oath I recited earlier and which was taken by everyone who ever sat in this House since 1791, since the Constitution Act was passed-the oath is the same; only the name of the sovereign has changed over the years-no longer has any value.

So if this oath had no value for those who were here in the past, why should it have any for those members who are here today? Why bother to add another one? Does the hon. member who moved this motion not believe in the value of the oath which he took?

As far as we are concerned, we have an additional argument. On the face of it, this bill constitutes an addition which is not compatible with the Constitution of Canada, in that section 128 of the Constitutional Act, 1867 , the British North America Act, already provides for the oath to be taken by members of the House of Commons, the Senate or a provincial legislative assembly, and it is the one I recited earlier.

If we want to change section 128 in order to add another oath, what we need is not an ordinary bill but a constitutional resolution. The hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester, who knows this Parliament, should have known that he had to introduce a constitutional resolution in order to change the oath.

He knew, though, that in so doing he would reopen the fundamental debate facing English Canada. Does English Canada still want a monarchy for its Canada? The debate will not be resolved by a private member's bill. It is a national debate for English Canada that extends from the Atlantic to the borders of Ontario and from Ontario to the west and north of Canada, because, in Quebec, I think the question is already resolved.

Except that, obviously, the monarchy is not mentioned in any of our policies, because our aim is not to criticize Canada's head of state, but simply to carry out our plan to create what this country lacks. And what this country lacks is another country, which is our country of Quebec, a sovereign republic of Quebec.

Therefore, I cannot support the motion and the bill of the hon. member for Carleton-Gloucester.

Canadian Census November 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Motion M-277 put forward by the hon. member for Beaver River. I listened carefully to the comments and relevant remarks she made in this debate. The hon. member for Beaver River raised a number of points.

First of all, Statistics Canada's question no. 19 about ethnic origin makes us wonder if the word "Canadian" should not be just one of the choices on the list census respondents have to choose from.

Personally, what I had the biggest problem with in the points raised by the hon. member for Beaver River is this tendency to standardize everything from coast to coast, so that "Canadian" becomes the obvious choice. Of course, we are Canadians under the law.

But what does "Canadian" mean in terms of ethnic origin? Various groups came to this country at different times in Canadian history. As a small boy, I remember reading in history books that Canada was founded in 1534 when Jacques Cartier planted a cross in Gaspé. We have since learned that there had been people here long before then.

We learned that the Vikings first visited Newfoundland probably as early as the 11th century, and that the First Nations were already established on this land. There has been much denial in our history of the existence of people settling in Canada long before the white man arrived.

To make the origin of Canada coincide with Jacques Cartier's arrival in 1534 is regrettable and, in my opinion, it is a totally racist attitude which quietly became ingrained in our customs. The fact is that this country had people living in it at the time and, therefore, already existed.

However, it is important to look at the notion of ethnic origin. Is a person an Amerindian? Was that person born in France, in Great Britain? What is the origin of his or her name? This information helps us understand, along with statistics, the various contributions made to Canada by immigrants. When I refer to immigrants, this means all of us, even those who were here 400 years ago. Indeed, we all moved here from somewhere else.

There are terms not to be confused, and there is some confusion in the speech made by the hon. member for Beaver River. For one thing, her conclusion on the meaning of the word "Canadian" is not precise enough. This meaning should be explained, and I will do so later by tabling an amendment.

The confusion probably relates to the notion of ethnic origin versus citizenship. Citizenship is a legal status given to the inhabitants of a country, which comes under federal jurisdiction in accordance with section 91 of the 1867 British North America Act.

It is the prerogative of the federal state to grant Canadian citizenship to people who come to live in Canada and who wish to stay here, earn a living and settle permanently in this country. This is one of the criteria to be eligible for Canadian citizenship.

However, we must not confuse citizenship and nationality. If asked what my citizenship is, I must say I am a Canadian, since I was born in Canada and federal laws make me a Canadian citizen. Now, if I am asked my nationality, I am going to reply that I am Quebecois by nationality, because I am attached to the territory of Quebec, to this fledgling country of Quebec, and this is the word with which I identify most strongly. For me, my nation is Quebec.

Another person might define himself as an English Canadian, a French Canadian, someone else might consider himself Acadian, each one defining himself according to his innermost feelings with respect to his origins.

It is a bit the same with the concept of "domicile", which was discussed during the debate on Bill C-63. My colleague from St-Hubert, who sits on my left, is well placed to correct or support me on this, but civil law tells us that the concept of "domicile" we were discussing today comprises a material element, i.e. a physical establishment, as well as an element of intention, i.e. the desire to make that physical establishment one's principal residence. I am not sure if my definition is correct. If not, the hon. member could correct me from her long experience with the law.

As for nationality, there are two elements. There is the material element, the place one lives, and the element of intention, the group with which one most identifies. This is not always an easy matter. Everyone must answer for himself. I cannot answer for others. The hon. member for Beaver River would like the law to answer "Canadians from coast to coast" for all the people questioned, but it is not that simple.

One might well wonder. For example, I see the clerk at the table, Mr. Lukyniuk. With that name, he is probably not from Brittany or Ireland. I would wager that he is probably Ukrainian in origin, but surely now a Canadian. What about his definition of himself? Are we to deprive him of the right to indicate what his origin is, what he or his parents contributed to the wealth and diversity of Canada?

My colleague from Winnipeg North is, quite clearly, not from Alsace or the Walloon part of Belgium, or anything of the sort. If he is able to indicate his origins, all the better. The more information the state has on the origin of its citizens, when they came to Canada, and under what circumstances when that question is appropriate, the more understanding we will have. I believe that information is what is needed to knock down the walls of misunderstanding.

Someone has written a book which is, I think, called "Uneasy Patriot". This book offers us some help in understanding the Canadian reality, the difficulty we sometimes experience in living as Canadians, the means we have developed to resolve certain conflicts. It is not always easy, but we have created a traditional approach that will work in the best of times as well as the worst of times, when the social fabric is under severe tension.

We experienced this on October 30 last year, when Quebec went to the polls. I am convinced that this ability to absorb, this democratic fabric we have woven together for generations evolved very gradually. Despite certain alarmist statements made from time to time, we have developed a tradition of tolerance in Canada which enables us to accept change, provided it is done democratically.

There are several examples of this. In 1992, when the Charlottetown accord was rejected, all governments campaigned in favour of accepting the offer except one, the Government of Quebec. The accord was massively rejected. The next day, people were not marching in the streets to demand the government's resignation, to get rid of the government. We have a tradition of respect for the results of a democratic vote, and that is how we developed a great capacity for tolerance.

To recapitulate: We should not be stuck in a definition of "Canadian" which we would be unable to get out of, the excuse being that everything has to be Canadian so that it becomes impossible to specify what kind of Canadians we are. As far as Statistics Canada is concerned, we must not confuse citizenship with ethnic origin and nationality.

Therefore I move, seconded by the hon. member for Saint-Hubert:

That the motion be amended by replacing all the words after the word "should" with the following:

"include "Canadian", "Quebecker", "English-Canadian", "French-Canadian" and "Acadian" among questions of ethnic origin on the Canadian Census."

Canada Elections Act November 26th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, today, for the last time, we will debate at third reading Bill C-63, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act, the Parliament of Canada Act and the Referendum Act.

It is with great disappointment that the official opposition found itself caught in this spiral that kept winding faster and faster as time went by.

My remarks will bear the stamp of civility while at the same time revealing a deep flaw, a major deficiency in the system for drafting and adopting electoral legislation.

Before starting my speech, I want to thank the chief government whip, the hon. member for Stormont-Dundas, for his excellent work on this issue although he was pitched into his new position as the chief government whip at the last minute to participate in a debate whose direction I feel eluded him. So, none of what I am about to say is directed at him personally.

However, I have been on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs since the very beginning of this Parliament, in January 1994. At the time, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was chaired by our colleague, the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, who is now the Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole.

Over the weeks, months and years that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs worked together, a relationship of trust was built that spread to every member of the committee. On many occasions, both the government and the opposition went the extra mile to achieve a consensus. Very seldom, since the beginning of the 35th Parliament, have we in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs needed to take a vote. Generally, we would come to an agreement or, where unanimity was not possible, we would deal with matters at hand in such depth that the stakes were clear. No one came out feeling someone had-pardon the expression-pulled a fast one on them; all the ins and outs of the matter were on the table, and the way proceedings at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs were rushed during the first session of the 35th Parliament was not justified.

To show you how much things have changed, let me explain to you how things were done. You probably remember, because it was debated at such length in this House, Bill C-69 to amend the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. How was this bill developed in a non-partisan manner? And look how long it took.

First, on March 17, 1994, the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons tabled in this House an order of reference that was debated. The order of reference read as follows:

That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to prepare and bring in a bill, in accordance with Standing Order 68(5), respecting the system of readjusting the boundaries of electoral districts for the House of Commons by Electoral Boundaries Commissions, and, in preparing the said bill, the committee be instructed to consider, among other related matters, the general operation over the past thirty years of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, including:

(a) a formula to cap or reduce the number of seats in the House of Commons;

(b) a review of the adequacy of the present method of selection of members of Electoral Boundary Commissions;

(c) a review of the rules governing and the powers and methods of proceeding of Electoral Boundary Commissions, including whether those Commissions ought to commence their work from the basis of making necessary alterations to the boundaries of existing electoral districts wherever possible;

(d) a review of the time and nature of the involvement of the public and the House of Commons in the work of Electoral Boundary Commissions;

That the committee have the power to travel within Canada and to hear witnesses by teleconference; and

That the committee report no later than December 16, 1994.

The order of reference proposed by the government House leader was adopted on Tuesday, April 19, 1994. This is an important date to remember. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs subsequently held meetings on the following dates in 1994: June 7, 9, 14 and 21; July 5, 6 and 7; September 27 and 29; October 4, 20 and 25; and November 1, 3, 15, 17 and 22. Following this, the committee tabled in the House Bill C-69, which was read for the first time on February 16, 1995. Second reading took place on February 25, 1995, while third reading was on April 25, 1996. The Senate passed the bill on June 8, 1995.

Taking into account only the process that took place in this House, a notice was given by the government House leader on March 17, 1994, and the bill finally passed third reading on April 25, 1995, more than 13 months after the House was notified.

The official opposition expected the same process. It expected the government to have the House pass an order of reference instructing the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to hold hearings and to prepare a bill on the establishment of a permanent register of electors for all of Canada.

We did some preliminary work anticipating that such an order would come. We listened to the people from Elections Canada, who came to tell us about certain theories, certain possibilities with respect to drawing up a permanent list and changing polling station hours in western Canada and the rest of the country.

The last hearing we had, in fact, was on April 30, when Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, came to make his last presentation and told us that he had to have legislation in place before the summer recess, before the end of June, so that it could be in effect for the next election. Thereafter, the official opposition was given no information whatsoever on developments.

What happened, while we were waiting in vain for an order of reference from the government? We honestly believed that the government had simply abandoned the idea of drawing up a permanent list of voters in the short term. The next thing we learned came not from the chairman of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, not through a government order in the House, but in the form of a telephone call I received in the afternoon of October 3 from Geneviève Rossier, a Radio-Canada journalist, asking me what I thought of the bill that was going to be tabled. Between April 30 and October 3, my information came from Radio-Canada. It is just a little frustrating for a parliamentarian to learn from Radio-Canada and CBC as well that a bill concerning the establishment of a voters list is going to be tabled.

Radio-Canada's 11 o'clock evening news confirmed that Mrs. Rossier had been right on the mark, because her interview with Mr. Kingsley and with the Leader of the Government in the House made it clear that a bill was in the offing.

Subsequently, the bill was tabled here in the House, for referral to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs before second reading. In fact, it was to be rushed through this committee with undue haste, so much so that it was actually difficult to follow the debate.

I submit that in a non-partisan matter that should have led to wide-ranging consultations across Canada on establishing a permanent list of electors, a fundamental amendment to the Canada Elections Act, we should have sought the broadest possible consensus.

As this debate draws to a close, I repeat that if today's vote were to show that the government does not have substantial support among the opposition parties, this bill should simply be withdrawn. It would not make sense and in fact it would be risky to go into an election when a bill to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act is passed by the only party that has a majority. I say this because the Canada Elections Act does not exist for the benefit of one party or all parties, although they are affected by this

legislation. This legislation is above all important to the voters we represent.

The partisan approach to the consideration of this bill in committee, and all the murky circumstances around its tabling-I will get back to that in a minute-argue against the government going ahead if it does not enjoy substantial support from the opposition parties. The government and those who will be asked to take a second look at this bill will have to consider the following question: How was it passed?

Of course, there are a number of factors that could explain, not excuse, the present situation. The first session of the 35th Parliament was prorogued. A new session started last March. All parliamentary secretaries were replaced, including the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House. Here was a man of consensus, a team worker who had managed to make the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs a non-partisan committee. His successor had to take over the committee in circumstances he was probably not able to control entirely and with an agenda that was not his own. I am not pointing the finger at him, but when all of the parliamentary secretaries are changed from one day to the next, there are major side effects.

The most important one is that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs ended up with a chair who had no prior knowledge of the operations of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. He will learn in time, of course, but at a point when legislation involving the election process was being worked on by the members of that committee, there seems to have been no continuity in the chairmanship.

This is a direct link. If I remember correctly-and I stand to be called to order if my information is not correct-procedure and House affairs is the only committee headed by a parliamentary secretary. He is linked directly to the minister responsible for election legislation. The parliamentary secretary to the government House leader is linked directly with his minister, who ought normally to know where the government is headed in terms of the Elections Act.

Another unfortunate event beyond our control, and one which may well explain part of the situation, is the illness of the hon. Leader of the Government in this House. Obviously, when a man of this calibre, with all of his wealth of knowledge of this institution, has to take time off to recuperate and get back on his feet, the cabinet is missing a key element. We have all noted the effects the absence of the hon. member for Windsor West has had on the government. Far be it from me to criticize his behaviour in any way, but it is a factor to be considered. I quickly and carefully looked at the events that could have affected the consideration of this bill and how it was dealt with.

The consensus I spoke of earlier was at the time-and I refer to last spring-that we would have an order of reference to enable the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to draft a bill.

This would involve the committee's hearing witnesses; asking them questions; hearing people in videoconferences; doing simulations involving, for example, the opening of polls; meeting people from British Columbia to ask them what this means to them; having the broadest possible discussions so as to have the information needed, perhaps not for a consensus, but to know what is in the bill so that each member of the committee can say why a given comma is where it is.

The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs prepared 23 drafts of Bill C-69. Twenty-three drafts were produced; the three parties were present. The Liberal Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party were there for each of the 23 drafts. The changes made in the formulation of Bill C-69 were at the request of one or the other of the parties. Some even felt that we had taken too long. There is no such thing as too much time when one wants to do a good job. We produced an excellent bill that was both well drafted and easy to understand.

The official opposition voted against the bill, but knowing what was in it. We voted against it for one main reason: it did not retain as a criterion a 25 per cent minimum representation for Quebec. In fact, Bill C-69 should be reintroduced to be passed again so that it could apply to a subsequent Parliament. As for the rest, we know the bill inside out since all the parties have worked on it for more than a year.

For reasons best known to themselves, Reformers also voted against the bill. It was easy for them to speak to the bill since they were already familiar with its content.

Today, it is quite another story. Not only did the committee not develop the bill, not only was it obviously instructed to go full steam ahead, but we now find ourselves at the last minute with amendments to be tabled.

Perhaps some of this can be explained by the fact that Elections Canada resigned-this is an interesting slip of the tongue. It did not resign, its offices were moved from Telesat Court to Slater Street. Also, from time to time, they are seen in the Liberal Party's lobby, which we find disturbing.

Elections Canada's attitude on this issue is bizarre. I mentioned earlier that Mr. Kingsley had appeared before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on April 30. In his testimony, he said that, if we wanted to establish a permanent

voters list, we should do so before the summer recess, which was not done.

The question I asked myself then and still ask myself now is: Did Elections Canada lose faith in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and stop dealing with this committee, which is responsible for electoral issues, preferring to go directly to the government, or did the reverse happen? Is it the government that lost faith in the committee, because it was not proceeding quickly enough and thus decided to rely on Elections Canada? We still do not know.

Given the nature of the situation, there is an element of doubt. Some trust will have to be re-established, because it was destroyed. Members of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs have a right to wonder whether Elections Canada played a double role.

Since we did not get answers, because the answers provided by Elections Canada officials who testified before the committee were vague in many respects, we have reasons to believe that the situation was foggy, to say the least, as regards relations between Elections Canada and the government's legislative body, that is to say, us, and its executive branch, which is the cabinet. Indeed, all these questions remain.

I do hope, and I am optimistic given the quality of the people working for Elections Canada, that these bridges can be rebuilt. However, I ask Elections Canada officials to be very cautious when they have to deal with both the legislative and the executive powers. The principle that no one can serve two masters at the same time is even more important in the case of legislation such as the Canada Elections Act and the Referendum Act.

These were our observations on the form. Let us now look at the content as such. First, we are told, as regards the establishment of a permanent voters list, that the bill is essential because it will allow us to create such a list. I believe all the members of this House who spoke on the issue support the principle of a permanent voters list and a shorter election campaign that would last 36 days instead of 47.

I encountered very little opposition to the principle from any party, but then there is a second question: When will the permanent list of voters be ready? The list the government is talking about will not be ready for the next election, and will not be used to elect the 301 members of the 36th Parliament. Barring an early election, in the case of a minority government, that list will be ready for the election of the 37th Parliament, a good 6 or 7 years from now. This is the bill we are debating under emergency procedures, and with time allocation yesterday, without in-depth debate by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, and also without in-depth debate during consideration at report stage yesterday, and at second reading, not that there actually was one, and today, again under time allocation, at third reading.

Why rush through legislation that will be used only 6 or 7 years from now? That is the real question. The question is not whether or not we want a permanent list. Of course we do. But not at any cost, and certainly not in such a headlong rush.

They could very well have waited and gone with the principle that the next election campaign would operate under the existing legislation, but that the enumeration for the next election would be the last door-to-door enumeration, that the data gathered for the election of the next Parliament would form the basis of a permanent list of voters, that would then be used in 6 or 7 years' time to elect the 37th Parliament. That was the only amendment we really needed: authorize Canada's chief electoral officer to use the next enumeration done during an election campaign, and after the writs are issued, authorize him to use this list as the basis for drawing up his permanent list of voters.

Instead, we have a bill with a multitude of provisions: it tries to cover everything and falls miserably short. Consequently, we find ourselves faced with a bill most members of this House are not very familiar with, since we have not had the time to go into what it is really all about, all of its objectives, or how it intends to attain them, but I will address a few points. In principle, yes, a permanent electors list, because the tools are there, the computer possibilities are there, the data banks are there to establish one.

We are no longer in the horse and buggy age, we are in the age of the Internet, with easily accessible data banks on voters. Let a permanent list be drawn up, then, but not in the way Bill C-63 proposes.

Second, we have raised the question of the terminology used in Bill C-63, the fact that Bill C-63 and the Elections Act in general speak of " résidence ordinaire '' or ``main residence'', as the qualification for voting in a given riding.

This concept of "main residence" is a concept of common law. It is not a concept in Quebec civil law. I respect this notion in common law. Its application to the provinces operating under common law is most understandable, but as far as Quebec is concerned, where we have had a codification of our French legal customs since 1866, the concept of "main residence" is not an acceptable one. In Quebec, the concept of "domicile" is what must be used.

Am I surprised by this? Yes and no. Let us recall that on November 29, 1995, the Right Hon. Prime Minister tabled a resolution before this House concerning recognition of Quebec as a distinct society.

What does that motion say?


Whereas the people of Quebec have expressed the desire for recognition of Quebec's distinct society;

(1) the House recognize that Quebec is a distinct society within Canada;

(2) the House recognize that Quebec's distinct society includes its French-speaking majority, unique culture and civil law tradition;

(3) the House undertake to be guided by this reality;

(4) the House encourage all components of the legislative and executive branches of government to take note of this recognition and be guided in their conduct accordingly.

And the motion was passed by the Liberal majority in this House.

There is an order from the House encouraging "all components of the legislative and executive branches of government to take note of this recognition" of the distinct society. It is also an order to law editors to take note that there is a society based on the French civil code in Canada and that society is in Quebec. When our law editors write a text in which they use the terms "main residence" or "résidence ordinaire", they are in fact infringing on an order of the House instructing them to take note of the fact that Quebec is a distinct society.

During the debate on November 29, 1995, we said that the government was just paying lip service to this concept when it said it would recognize the distinct society. Today we have proof positive. Even the law clerks in the Privy Council and at the Department of Justice failed to take into consideration the concept of "domicile" which is used in Quebec in accordance with the civil code and goes back to 1866, Quebec having legislative authority in this area pursuant to sub-section 92(13) of the British North America Act, 1867 . This power is not recent. It has been around since well before November 29, 1995. In fact, it goes back to well before 1876, because it was in the custom of Paris which we codified in 1866.

That being said, we had no illusions on November 29, when the government rushed in with a motion recognizing Quebec as a distinct society. The hon. member for Calgary West raised a few questions yesterday about this distinct society. Perhaps I could take a few minutes to explain what distinct society means, because everyone talks about distinct society but is not necessarily referring to the same thing.

There is the distinct society of November 29, 1995, which means nothing at all. There is the distinct society of Charlottetown, which is equally meaningless. And there was the distinct society of Meech Lake, remember, the one that was supposed to mean something but was never ratified because two legislatures, Manitoba and Newfoundland, refused to give their consent.

What was the meaning of distinct society in the Meech Lake accord? It meant that Canada's Constitution would have a section with priority over sections 91 and 92, essentially, the two sections dealing with the distribution of powers between the provinces and the federal government.

In other words, one section would be above these two and would indicate to the courts that they were to interpret sections 91 and 92 of the Canadian Constitution in light of the fact that Quebec must, in order to meet its objectives, have more powers than the other provinces.

That is the distinct society in the Meech Lake accord. It was not the November 29 one, nor the Charlottetown one, it was the Meech Lake one. I am sure the hon. member for Calgary West, even though he did not share the intentions we had at the time for the distinct society, understood very well, since he and his colleagues explained the meaning of distinct society at the time quite well to their electors in western Canada: a section establishing a special status and entirely distinct and different powers for Quebec.

Even that was denied. Two legislatures abstained from ratifying it. Even the 1987 Meech Lake accord was rejected. That was a pity.

On the other hand, it made it possible to get at the heart of the issue. Like the present bill, the Meech Lake accord was concluded behind closed doors. People were not consulted in their communities pretty much throughout the country. It was an agreement between 11 first ministers who tried to have their legislatures ratify, without public consultation, without a referendum, the new system of law wanted for Canada.

Since then, it has somehow become customary, in constitutional affairs, to consider referenda as the norm in Canada. We experienced it in Charlottetown, we experienced it in Quebec last October 30, and we will experience it again one day on the same issue, in circumstances which, this time, should be more favourable.

This bill goes further than the Meech Lake accord, because it is important to recall what happened in Meech Lake. The Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, is the result of the failure of the Meech Lake accord. If the Meech Lake accord had been ratified by Manitoba and by the Newfoundland Legislative Assembly, we would not be here today. We are the result of the failure of the Meech Lake accord.

The leader of the Bloc Quebecois, Mr. Bouchard, left the government following the failure of the Meech Lake accord, because the hon. member for Sherbrooke, who still sits in this House, wanted to water it down. It was at that moment. We came very close to an agreement which, it seems, would have been enough for a majority of Quebecers at the time. This would not have been the case for several members of the Bloc who, because of their sovereignist convictions, felt that the accord did not go far enough, but a magic bond was formed at that time.

When the Meech Lake accord failed, Quebecers of all political stripes-members of the Liberal Party, the Parti Quebecois and other, less representative political movements-rallied behind the notion of distinct society in the Meech Lake accord, a notion that no one defends any more.

The bill mentions the use of some lists of electors. So, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada will be allowed to hold an enumeration. This will probably take place next April if the bill is passed by the House and the Senate. For approximately three weeks, the Chief Electoral Officer may send people door to door to do an enumeration. In some provinces, he may also make arrangements with provincial electoral officers. This will certainly be the case in Alberta and Prince Edward Island, where programs and lists have been established with the help of Elections Canada as part of a joint project with the provinces.

As for British Columbia and Quebec, since we represent the people of Quebec, Quebec's lists will neither be used nor usable. One of the amendments put forward in committee, without specifically naming any province, excludes the use of Quebec's permanent list for the purposes of Bill C-63. This list will be available as of next May 1, that is, in the days following the end of the Chief Electoral Officer's mandate. Why? Because a little technical, harmless-looking amendment says that a provincial list may be used provided the door-to-door enumeration was conducted in the previous 12 months. In Quebec, however, the enumeration used to establish a permanent list was done in September 1995, whereas the list itself will be ready and completely up-to-date May 1. Since these two events are more than 12 months apart, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada cannot use the list of electors.

And yet the list will be established using taxpayers' money, those same taxpayers who paid for the establishment of the permanent list in Quebec and for the expertise of those who established it, and they will have to watch as enumerators do it all over again, when we could have had just one list using the same data base. We have only to redistribute voters according to the proper ridings. This is feasible; Quebec does it for municipal elections where districts are different. We have only to exchange information and communicate, and we will be able to use Quebec's list.

Savings would exceed $15 to $20 million; we are not talking about $10,000. Or even the cost to reprint an amended bill. Savings would be significant. At a time when everybody is asked to tighten their belt, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada is not allowed to use Quebec's electoral list, or British Columbia's for that matter.

My colleagues will raise other points. For my part, I am going to deal with the issue of polling hours. Bill C-63 contains clauses

providing for the staggering of polling hours across Canada. As a result, polling stations in the east will stay open later. For instance, in Ottawa, polling stations will stay open until 9.30 p.m., whereas in British Columbia they will stay open until 7 p.m.

There has been no trial run. What appears in Bill C-63 has not even been submitted by Elections Canada to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs as a working assumption. They pulled this out of a hat and this is the rabbit we got. The trick was that we did not know.

Yesterday, during debate, I listened to my colleagues from central Canada who, much more than I, will be affected by the change, and the closing of polls at nine thirty did not seem to represent a major change for them; for British Columbia however, closing the polls at seven means a very major change. Yesterday, the members for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley and Saanich-Gulf Islands mentioned all the drawbacks this measure could cause.

The member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley said that many constituents from the town of Surrey and the vicinity, who work in Vancouver and finish working at five or five thirty, will not make it back to their riding in time to vote if the polls close at seven. That is a serious problem.

I think we should put aside the section on the polling hours and, since there is no need to hurry, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs should study Bill C-307 presented by the member for Vancouver East and hear witnesses, like the people from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Atlantic region, to find out what they think.

How will that measure be applied in real life? Will we have to allow advance voting for 10,000 people in each riding? This is of serious concern to us. We ask the government to reconsider that provision and to allow Bill C-307 to be studied further since we have sufficient time to deal with this before the start of the next election campaign.

The last point also concerns the polling hours. Not only are we reducing the number of hours for the polls, we are also reducing from 4 to 3 the minimum number of hours that employers will have to give their employees for the vote.

If we remove the busiest hours, what we could call the golden hours of polling, we will have problems, because most people do not vote in the morning, at lunch time or early in the afternoon, but right after work. Yet, what we are saying to the people in Surrey, Langley, Vancouver, Squamish, and even in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta is: "You will have to vote much earlier, or else you will not have time to go to the polling station". What is the voter

going to do? What are members of electoral organizations going to do? They will have to work like mad to let people vote in advanced polls, they will be pulling their hair out on election day, because they will not have enough time.

What I am saying is that we did not think long enough about the opening hours of polling stations and I believe we would be better off keeping the present system for one more election rather than rushing into something that will make people who are unable to take time off work feel disenfranchised. We are trying to deal with a problem, but coming up with a cure which is worse than the disease.