Mr. W. A. TUCKER (Rosthern):
I wish to deal briefly with four or five points in regard to this proposal and the amendment thereto.
The first point, which I should like to see cleared up definitely, is the effect of the passing of this resolution as regards the future. We are asking the British parliament to enact, as section 51, subsection 1, "The number of members of the House of Commons shall be two hundred and fifty-five," and so on. I take, it that, since wTe are not proposing to repeal section 52, we are not binding ourselves for all time to a membership in this house of 255, and that section 52 will still be in force, that-
The number of members of the House of Commons may be from time to time increased by the parliament of Canada, provided the proportionate representation of the provinces prescribed by this act is not thereby disturbed.
The only difficulty about it is, as I see it, that this is a subsequent enactment and it is in such precise and definite terms that it may be that we are binding ourselves never to increase the representation in the future. That is an important matter. It may well be that if the industrial part of Canada grows rapidly the maritimes will very shortly reach the
number-twenty-four-provided for as a minimum, at which time the quotient will be obtained by dividing the population of Canada, west of Quebec and including Quebec, by 230, and if in the meantime the industrial areas in Canada have increased heavily it would leave the prairies in danger of having their representation cut down drastically and without any such protection as has been, in my opinion quite properly, given to the maritimes.
Much has been said about the essential justice of representation by population. But our representative system is designed, its purpose is to give proper representation to the will of the people, so that that will shall find appropriate expression in governmental action and legislation. I submit that actually mathematical representation by population has not been accepted as the basis on which you set up your seats within the provinces, where you can take into account these other factors. Obviously it is much harder properly to represent in this house the wishes and hopes and feelings of a widely scattered agricultural population than to represent a compact urban group.
Another thing: each part of the country should have a fair representation as respects the right to have its views prevail. Urban centres have great organizations: boards of trade and the like, great newspapers, and other means of pressing their viewpoints, whereas agricultural areas have to rely almost entirely upon those whom they elect to their legislatures and to parliament. So it is not surprising that at the time of the last redistribution, when it fell to the provincial groups here in the Commons to establish constituencies within their boundaries according to what they thought right, they did not follow strictly the rule of representation by population. Take, for example, the three largest seats in Quebec. I find that their average unit of population is 89,871, whereas the three smallest seats in that province have about 23,000 each, or roughly one-quarter of the population of the three large city seats. Or take Ontario; the five largest seats have an average unit of representation of 95,614, and the five smallest seats have 21,491, so that the unit of representation in these latter is less than one-fourth of what it is in the larger seats. This indicates that when representation is placed upon a basis which is regarded as fair and just, agricultural areas are held to be entitled to smaller constituency populations than are required in the larger urban areas, so that these seats can be properly represented in this house. Every province, with the exception of the maritimes and the prairies, has large
urban centres, so that, by putting large numbers into those urban seats, they can give the rural population a reasonable representation. But we, at least in Saskatchewan, have not that safety valve, and if this particular resolution had not been introduced and we had been reduced in Saskatchewan to seventeen seats it would have meant that our rural constituencies would have been so large that it would have been difficult adequately and properly to represent them in this house. That is a problem which must receive the attention of parliament in the days ahead-how to give adequate and fair representation to a predominantly, an almost exclusively, agricultural province like Saskatchewan, in comparison with other agricultural communities in the rest of Canada.
In regard to what has been done in the maritimes, and their minimum, I do not think anything can be said against it. Theoretically, if you did not give them a minimum, you might come to the time when a province, one of the basic provinces of confederation, might be reduced to the point where it would not be represented at all in this house, which would obviously be a ridiculous state of affairs. A minimum representation must be provided in connection with such a province; the same situation must be kept in view and we must see to it that proper representation is given to an agricultural province.
Something has been said in this house, and it has been repeated more than once, to the effect that there was no justification for increasing the number of members in the House of Commons, because of the cost involved. If there is one way in which democracy can be strengthened in a country like ours, it is to see that the people are made to feel that they are adequately and properly spoken for in the parliament of their country; and if you have a unit so large that people do not feel that they know their members, or that their members are able to speak for them fully and properly, they are bound to lose faith to some extent in our representative democratic institutions. To suggest that we should allow the extra cost of a few thousand dollars to enter into the picture, and to prevail against the best interests of our representative institutions, is indeed strange.
I looked up the estimates for this year and I have found that there is provided for legislation, for the cost of running parliament and for other costs in connection with legislation, the sum of 83,486,000. I find that we are going to spend as a country, according to these estimates, the sum of $2,769,000,000. In other words, as a parliament we are going to spend, in the supervision of these expenditures and
in the passing of laws for this great country, a little over one-tenth of one per cent of the money that we shall spend, about one-tenth of a cent for every dollar we spend. I ask myself this question: Can those who say that we cannot afford to have proper representation of the people in this house be really serious?
What price liberty and freedom? Well, that is one way in which we can ensure liberty and freedom, to have our representative institutions functioning properly; and if it is necessary to have more than 255 members, bearing in mind that in Great Britain the representation is something under 600 members in their House of Commons, then I say it should be done and the extra small amount should not enter into our consideration, since we are doing something to promote the welfare of our country and its democratic institutions.
One other matter which I wish to bring to the attention of the house is the argument that was raised on behalf of the Progressive Conservative party. They argue, I understand, that this proposal should not be carried into effect until there has been consultation with the provinces. I have read the debate carefully and I am not clear as to just how far they intend to go in that respect. Do they mean that if we cannot get the consent of the provinces to the proposed change we should do nothing; or do they mean that we should go through the form of consulting the provinces and, if they do not agree, we should go ahead anyway? I suggest that in justice to the people they should state definitely where they stand. They are. inviting the members of this house to vote for their motion that this proposal should not be carried into effect until the provinces have been consulted. They should state what they intend to do if one of the provinces should decide to stand on its alleged constitutional rights and say, "We will not agree to it." If they intend to allow the matter to drop there, after consulting the provinces, and to go no farther if one or more of the provinces say no, then what my hon. friends are doing is this. They are saying that nothing shall be done if the provinces disagree. Is that what they mean?
Do the Progressive Conservatives in this house suggest that a conference should be held at which Mr. Drew would represent the province of Ontario and that he would give up w'hat is his by alleged constitutional right, eight members more than the province is entitled to on the basis of population in this house?
Subtopic: AMENDMENT TO BRITISH NORTH AMERICA ACT AS TO RULES FOR READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION