House of Commons photo

Track Francis

Your Say

Elsewhere

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is professor.

Liberal MP for Lac-Saint-Louis (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 64% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House December 8th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, when I said that most of the participants wanted a proportional system with no referendum, I was not referring to the experts or the stakeholders at the table; I was referring rather to the people in attendance in the room, some of whom went up to the microphone.

With regard to the specific questions, as I mentioned at the outset, the minister’s questionnaire aims to identify the values Canadians associate with their democracy. While the questions on values are sometimes vague, they are fundamental to anything that may follow, whether an assembly of citizens, a referendum or whatever else. We must start from these general values.

Committees of the House December 8th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to salute the work of the hon. member. He was extremely engaged in the process.

As chair of the committee, I did not approach the hearings with bias. However, I really enjoyed it when witnesses were properly grilled, whatever the point of view of the questioner. I thought it was very important to have a rigorous process, and all members of the committee did that process proud.

I understand the hon. member has political scientist friends, and they may tend to agree with him on some positions. However, it is true that all the questions in the survey were reviewed by an academic advisory panel. These questions were, in a sense, peer reviewed.

Academics are professionals and they have a code of ethics. I prefer not to impugn their motives. I believe this academic advisory panel provided sound and objective advice on the issue when asked its opinions.

Committees of the House December 8th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise to discuss this topic. I am very familiar with it, as are the other committee members. I will be sharing my time with another committee member, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

Like all members of the committee, I am very proud of this report. It is really an excellent piece of work. It moves the ball forward on what is a complex and oftentimes technical issue. It is today's most up-to-date and comprehensive compendium of analysis and insight on electoral reform from a Canadian perspective. It is a wonderful piece of work.

If it is a wonderful piece of work, it is because the committee did a fairly thorough job within obviously some constraints. We had to report by December 1, which gave us about five months to do our work. We heard from 196 witnesses during that time.

The committee held 57 meetings between the beginning of July and the end of November. A total of 567 people participated in the open mic sessions on electoral reform, and the committee heard from 763 witnesses and received 574 briefs in all.

Many MPs chose to consult their constituents. In fact, 174 MPs responded to the call to consult their constituents. Some members did so by holding a town hall meeting, or even several such meetings. Others sent out questionnaires to find out what their constituents thought about the subject.

The committee travelled across Canada, stopping in each of the 10 provinces and three territories.

We visited 18 cities or municipalities, including three cities in Quebec. On Vancouver Island, we met with first nations representatives, and we also held meetings in Victoria. We travelled 31,000 km. All that to say, we did a very thorough job.

I would like to salute the work of the committee members, some of whom have been in and out today, obviously the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, who is extremely knowledgeable about the issue of electoral reform. He has a very high level of technical understanding of the issue. I would like to give the House an example.

Witnesses who are experts on electoral reform were piped in from Germany. One of the witnesses, Professor Pukelsheim, developed a system called the Double Pukelsheim, which is some kind of electoral system. The member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston had actually heard about that system before the witness even appeared.

Let me read something to highlight how complex the topic of electoral reform can be. We think it is quite easy. We think it is a choice between first past the post and list PR like we find in Israel and Italy, but it is a much more complex subject matter than that. I will read a press release from the Parti Vert'Libéral du canton de Fribourg:

The Vert'Libéral party of the Canton of Fribourg, the PVL, adopted a position with respect to the complementary consultations on the new voting system for the Grand Council. The PVL is pleased to note that the appointed expert, Professor Jacques Dubey, is of the opinion that the bi-proportional system proposed earlier this year, the “double Pukelsheim”, rectifies the problems with Fribourg's voting system identified by the cantonal court.

I read that to highlight how complicated the issue can be, and it was further highlighted in the report by the invocation of the Gallagher Index.

In my life, I have taken mathematics courses. I am no mathematical genius by any stretch, but I took some university-level math courses and nonetheless I even found the Gallagher index formula a bit daunting. Electoral reform is complex issue, but the Special Committee on Electoral Reform embraced the issue in all its complexities and did a marvellous job.

Any electoral reform has to be based on the foundation of citizen values. Why? We heard from committee witnesses that there was no perfect electoral system. In a sense, there is a relativistic element to electoral systems. In other words, the electoral system that suits a particular nation is a function of the democratic values of that nation. Those democratic values are shaped by national identity and experience.

What the minister is seeking to accomplish through her survey questionnaire is something that was not really in the committee's mandate to accomplish. Nor was it within the committee's means. It was preoccupied with the technical aspects of electoral reform. If Canadians look at the report, they will see we detailed a number of systems and variations on each system.

Coming into this exercise, I thought there were majoritarian systems and proportional systems, but there are mixed systems. Within a system, there can be variations that attempt to adapt to the geographic realities of a particular country. We were focused on that. However, ultimately electoral reform has to be based on what Canadians want, and what they want in an electoral system will always be a function of values. That is the point of the minister's exercise through the MyDemocracy.ca questionnaire.

It has been a little disingenuous of some members of the opposition to suggest that the questions in the questionnaire are not relevant. Anyone who knows anything about sampling or creating surveys of the public knows that in order to eliminate bias, some questions must be proxies for the issue we are trying to get at. Otherwise, it is very easy for the individuals answering the questionnaire to essentially answer it in a biased way that they think maybe provides the answers expected of them. Therefore, a lot of these questions are essentially proxies.

Opposition members have also asked why we do not take some of the questions the special committee had in its survey questionnaire, which were fundamentally more complicated and more technical, and cut and paste them onto the minister's questionnaire. That is a bit disingenuous. Anyone who prepares surveys knows that a survey has its own integrity, that it has its own core methodology. We just cannot borrow here, there, and everywhere for political reasons because we will get a mishmash that, at the end of the day, will tell us nothing and will not be particularly useful to our purposes.

Committees of the House December 8th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned that all four opposition parties agreed with the two main recommendations; namely, for a referendum and for proportional representation that meets the Gallagher index 5 quotient. I was quite surprised to learn that the Conservative Party was in favour of proportional representation, and I am wondering if the member could tell us where along the road the conversion took place.

Committees of the House December 8th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I was on the committee, along with the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent and the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

We travelled across the country. We held hearings. What I noticed, and I am sure my colleagues would agree, is that many people came to the committee hearings seeking proportional representation. In some cases, it almost seemed unanimous. However, those same people were also against the idea of a referendum.

The majority report, which is really the opposition party report, called for a high level of proportional representation with a referendum.

Does the member think that is testimony to the opposition party's flexibility and ability to compromise with each other? Is that to the opposition party's credit?

Department of Health Act December 5th, 2016

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-326, an act to amend the Department of Health Act (drinking water guidelines).

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today in this House to table this bill, which would require the Minister of Health to conduct a review of drinking water standards in member countries of the OECD, and if appropriate, to make recommendations for amendments to our national guidelines here in Canada with respect to drinking water.

This bill is aimed at ensuring that our drinking water standards are the best in the developed world. It is a way for the federal government to have greater influence in the body that establishes national but provincially implemented drinking water standards in Canada.

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

Committees of the House December 1st, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform entitled “Strengthening Democracy in Canada: Principles, Process and Public Engagement for Electoral Reform”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

I would like to extend heartfelt thanks on behalf of all committee members to our clerks, Christine Lafrance and Danielle Widmer, assisted by Ariann Bouchard; and our analysts, Dara Lithwick and Erin Virgint, assisted by Gabrielle de Billy Brown; and Jill McKenny, our logistics officer.

We would also like to thank the interpreters and the staff at information and technology services, broadcasting, and publications. We could not have done our work or conducted our dialogue with Canadians without the dependable support provided by House services.

Canada Pension Plan November 29th, 2016

Madam Speaker, I would just point out that in the retirement savings universe there are many choices. There are RRSPs, tax-free savings accounts, and so on, so we preserve choice at all times.

Would the hon. member not agree that the middle-class tax cut and the child benefit free up money for families to invest in RRSPs if they would like, or other vehicles?

Committees of the House November 28th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform.

I also have the honour to table, in both official languages, the second report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform.

West Island Youth Symphony Orchestra June 16th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I rise to congratulate the West Island Youth Symphony Orchestra on its 30th anniversary. This is a proud milestone for maestro Stewart Grant, the musicians and parent volunteers who have fashioned the orchestra into the musical force it is today.

The orchestra is a pillar of cultural life on Montreal's West Island that gives young musicians the chance to develop their talent and residents an opportunity to attend top-notch classical music concerts.

I have personally enjoyed the orchestra's performances on many occasions. Each time I have been impressed and inspired by its passion, virtuosity and commitment to musical excellence.

In keeping with its mission of providing its young musicians with opportunities for personal and musical growth, the orchestra has many times toured both at home and abroad.

I call on hon. members to join me in wishing maestro Grant and the West Island Youth Symphony Orchestra much success in the future.