February 21, 1947

LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON (Hamilton West):

Yes.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
PC

John Ritchie MacNicol

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacNICOL:

Is that method followed in any other part of the British empire?

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON (Hamilton West):

I cannot say whether that exact system' is followed elsewhere.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
PC

George Black

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GEORGE BLACK (Yukon):

Mr. Speaker, as the minister who has moved the second reading of the bill has said, this bill stands in the name of the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King). It was introduced and given its first reading on his motion. I am sure I voice the sentiments of all hon. members when I say I regret the illness of the Prime Minister and hope that his recovery will be speedy, and that 'he will soon be restored to health and strength to take his place as leader of the house, where he is so much missed.

Because of the Prime Minister's illness, I have not had an opportunity of discussing one phase of the bill with him. I doubt if he understood what the effect of the wording of part of the bill would mean to the electors in one section of Canada, and I doubt very much if he would want that part of the measure to become law. As it now stands, if it is enacted in its present form it creates an impossible constituency. It is impractical; it is inappropriate; it is improper; it is unfair to the people it effects, and I am sure it is disappointing to the people of the Mackenzie district which the bill seeks to add to the constituency of Yukon.

Let us look into the conditions in the Yukon and Mackenzie districts. Section 2 of the bill sets out the number of members each province shall have, and then it goes on to say that there shall be one for the Yukon territory. If it were allowed to stand at that it would be all right; but these words are added:

. . . including the Mackenzie district of the Northwest Territories.

Redistribution

What does that mean? I venture to say that very few members of the house realize the enormity of those words. At the 1941 census Yukon had a population of 3,174 whites, while the Mackenzie district had a population of only 2,113. It is now estimated that the Yukon territory and the Mackenzie district each have a population of about 5,000 whites. I think that is overestimated. I do not believe either has that many.

What about the area? The area of the Yukon territory is 207,076 square miles, while that of the Mackenzie district is 527,490 square miles. In effect this bill creates a constituency 734,560 square miles in size. Does anyone think one member can properly represent a constituency of that size? It is an impossibility. Great Britain, from John o'Groats to Land's End is only 88,745 square miles. The constituency now sought to be created is eight times the size of Great Britain; yet Great Britain sends over 600 members to its parliament. Here we have one constituency, eight times the size of Great Britain, to be represented by one member. I ask hon. members if that is not ridiculous. I say it cannot be done. I am afraid the minister sponsoring the bill does not greatly care whether it can be done or not.

The Yukon territory and the Mackenzie district are separated by a range of mountains; they have nothing in common, and there is no communication between those two sections of Canada. The only way to travel from one to the other is by plane. Think of the expense of conducting an election campaign by plane. The returning officer would have to have a plane, and his deputy returning officers as well as the candidates would have to have planes. A candidate would have to charter a plane: and one would not be enough, if he were to carry on a proper campaign in a constituency of that size. I know what it costs in a comparatively small area, because in Yukon it cost me nearly $1,500 to charter a plane in the last election. That would be only a drop in the bucket to what it would cost tocampaign [DOT] this constituency. The population in the Yukon territory and in the Mackenzie district is entitled to representation in the House of Commons. In its wisdom, away back in 1901 or 1902 the government decided it would be wise to give Yukon representation in the house. Millions upon millions of

dollars worth of gold were beginning to pour out of that territory. The output in gold has now reached the enormous sum of $300,000,000.

A ukon has been a splendid market for millions upon millions of dollars worth of Canadian produce. We import everything we use: machinery, clothing and food. All those

things are sold there. The government of that day showed its wisdom when it gave Yukon representation in the house, so that it might have a member here, regardless of political affiliation, who would be familiar with conditions in that far country and could be of assistance to the government. I believe every member Yukon has had, regardless of political affiliations, has been of assistance to ministers whose duty it has been to administer the government of that area.

Dawson City is the centre of the gold district, and at that point is found the oldest producing placer gold camp in the world. The one big company operating there, and still mining placer gold, has its campaign worked out for the next twenty-five years; and in each of those years they will take out millions of dollars, even if nothing new is found. Those large sums can still be taken from the old workings.

I say Yukon is entitled to better treatment from the government than it is getting in this bill. If the government wished to give the Mackenzie district, with its area of 527,490 square miles, representation in the House of Commons, it would have been more appropriate to have extended north the boundaries of some of the most northerly constituencies in the prairie provinces. That would have been a natural extension.

In British Columbia, for instance, the constituency of Cariboo could have been extended to the north. In Alberta, either Peace River or Afchabaska could have gone farther north, as a natural growth, just as the minister said tonight that the provinces of Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec were extended, to the north.

In Saskatchewan, the constituencies of North Battleford, Prince Albert, Melfort and Mackenzie border on the Mackenzie district, and could be extended north; give them a slice of it, if it is not desired to tie it all on to one of them. But even if that were done, it would be more appropriate than to attempt to tie it on to the Yukon territory.

What is the Mackenzie district? What gives it its importance? Why has it not had representation before? The reason is that a few years ago gold was found at Yellowknife, and a stampede wTas started. Thousands of people went in there and staked thousands of wildcat claims. So far as I am aware, out of all those claims that were staked there are only two producing mines. It has proven a bonanza for the mining brokers of the city of Toronto who have deluged everyone, including hon. members of this house, with their literature

Redistribution

advising them to buy these wildcat mining stocks. That is no reason why the Mackenzie should be hooked on to Yukon.

How did this come about? Last summer the Minister of Mines and Resources (Mr. Glen) and some of his staff made a trip by plane, the only way they could make it, into the Yellowknife. The people of the Yellowknife have been asking for representation in parliament, and -what is the result? They are sloughing them off on Yukon. If you want to give them representation in parliament, tie them on to some appropriate constituency. You could not get a more inappropriate arrangement than to tie them on to Yukon.

The minister made that trip at public expense, which is quite proper for a minister of the government. If he had had to go at his own expense he would realize what an election will cost there. In 1930, a similar bill was introduced. By Bill No. 13 of seventeen years ago it was proposed to add to Yukon constituency, not only the Mackenzie district but all of the northwest territories, those three large districts. That would have meant that the constituency would extend from Alaska on the west, to the Atlantic ocean on the east and to the north pole on the north. That was a wonderful piece of legislation, and this one is not much better, by only a few thousand miles. They realized the difficulties when Bill No. 13 was introduced in 1930 because they provided:

If, in the opinion of the chief electoral officer, the day fixed for the poll at a general election is such that resort by the returning officer to such means of transportation as must be resorted to for the proper conduct of an election in the electoral district of the Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territories would involve undue risk, he may, notwithstanding anything in the Dominion Elections Act, fix a subsequent day for the poll in the said electoral district and a day for the close of nominations shall be determined accordingly.

The anticipated trouble then, and the weather is not any better today, seventeen years later. Let us look at the explanatory note to that bill. It reads:

The purpose of this bill is to combine in a single electoral district the Yukon Territories and the Northwest Territories, the latter not now being included in any electoral district. Sections 1, 2 and 4 of the bill are self-explanatory. Section 3 is necessary owing to the difficulty of communications between the basins of the Mackenzie and the Yukon rivers.

The Yukon drains all the northwest section of this continent and flows into the Bering sea opposite Siberia, while the Mackenzie drains the centre of the continent of North America. The explanatory notes continue:

In whatever part of the electoral district the returning officer has his headquarters he can conduct the election only by flying from one part of it to the other. His presence in each from time to time will be essential to give opportunity for the making of nominations, and the ballots will, as things now stand, require to be printed at Dawson and transported by air to such polls in the Northwest Territories as it is found possible to provide for in the fourteen days which intervene between the close of nominations and the holding of the poll. At certain times of the year, particularly when the ice is forming or breaking up, flying becomes impossible, and without making some provision such as that contained in section 3 the inclusion of the whole of the area in a single electoral district might be entirely illusory.

It is just as illusory tonight as it was seventeen years ago. I shall be disappointed if the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), who sponsored this bill, is still willing to put this upon these people when he understands the conditions. It is not his nature to be unfair; it is his nature to be just. All I ask is a fair deal for these people. I hope the committee to which the bill is to be referred will understand the situation and be fair. When the bill comes back to the committee of the whole I hope that a reasonable and proper amendment will be accepted.

I cannot better describe the section of the bill to which I have referred than to say that it is outrageous legislation, the iniquity of which could not be overstated. That portion of the bill seeking to form one constituency out of Yukon and the Mackenzie district is a legislative abortion. I warn the minister that, although it is a legislative abortion, so far as I am concerned it will not be still-born.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. STANLEY KNOWLES (Winnipeg North Centre):

May I say just a word in support of the grievance the previous speaker has presented to the house. When this matter was up for discussion at the time we had before us the resolution to Westminster asking for an amendment of the British North America Act, hon. members of this group pointed out at that time how unfair it was to make one constituency across the whole of the North American continent, as the hon. member for Yukon (Mr. Black) has just described it. However, my purpose in rising was to speak on one phase of the matter that is before us.

The Secretary of State (Mr. Gibson) pointed out, rather commendably I would say, the whole story of the amendment of the British North America Act and the principles that now govern redistribution among the provinces. But during the course of his remarks, not only did he tell us that it was intended to refer the bill to a special com-

Redistribution

mittee of the house, but he seemed to take it for granted that that procedure would not be questioned. The Secretary of State quoted the present Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) when he spoke in 1923 to the effect that the method of referring this matter to a committee had proved to be satisfactory and was even commendable. I would remind the Secretary of State and hon. members on the opposite side of the house that more recently the Prime Minister has indicated his belief that some day we must get away from this outworn method which we have followed these many years. A few weeks ago the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bracken) asked the Prime Minister where he stood on the matter, and he replied that it was still his opinion that it would be better to refer the matter to a judicial or independent commission than to a committee of the house. He stated that the reason he was not following his own judgment in the matter was that he felt it was the wish of the majority of the house to continue the old practice. He went on to say, and I quote from Hansard:

I hope, however, the day will come when the House of Commons of Canada will see the wisdom of allowing its redistribution to be made by some impartial tribunal and not by the members of the house themselves dealing with the matter in committee as it has been dealt with in former years.

These words of the Prime Minister were spoken in the house on February 3 of this year as recorded at page 68 of Hansard.

The Secretary of State referred not only to the previous position of the Prime Minister back in 1923, but also quoted from Mr. Bennett who was prime minister at the time of the last distribution who used words to the effect that in his view at that time it was perfectly satisfactory to refer the matter to a committee of the house. I was not here at the time and do not know what went on in the special committee or in the house after the report was brought in, but I cannot help but notice the strange results of the work of that committee, especially in terms of the wide variation in population in different constituencies. In my own province, for example-and I shall refer to the population figures of 1931, although I have the figures for 1941 before me, because the redistribution last made was on the basis of the 1931 population figures-the rural constituencies-I will not complicate the matter by making any comparisons with urban constituencies like my own-varied all the way from Souris with a population of 25,000 to Selkirk with a population of 52,000. Similarly in Ontario the variation in rural constituencies ran all the

way from 18,000 for the constituency of Glengarry to 88,000 for the constituency of Nipis-sing.

I have also found it very interesting to notice that a number of constituencies which seemed to have been traditionally Tory, at the time of the last redistribution, were carved out in such a way as to include a rather small population. My genial friend who sits near me, the hon. member for Peterborough West (Mr. Fraser), represents a constituency the population of which in 1931 was only 37,000. The constituency of Hastings-Peter-borough had a population of only 27,000. On the other hand, if we go into the Niagara peninsula where at that time the tradition was a little more on the other side of the fence, we find a constituency like Welland with a population at that time of 82,000.

One might also say that if we picked up a map of Ontario and looked at its provincial constituencies-and remember, when the last provincial redistribution was made the Liberal party was in power-we w'ould find-

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON (Hamilton West):

No, it

was not.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. KNOWLES:

I stand to be corrected,

but it is very interesting to discover that in many of these areas the situation is the very reverse. The point about it is that I could not follow the Secretary of State's easy acceptance of a committee of the House of Commons as being a sure way of getting an impartial, objective division of the provinces into the number of seats which are prescribed to each one by the rules laid down in the British North America Act. Rather, Mr. Speaker, I follow in this instance the words of the Prime Minister of February 3 when he suggested that he hoped the day would come when this House of Commons would see the wisdom of referring this matter to an independent tribunal rather than to a committee of the house. It does seem to me that this question is one which ought not to be regarded as a government measure. It is a matter relating to the House of Commons. When we ask questions such as the hon. member for Fraser Valley (Mr. Cruickshank) does about the acoustics of this chamber and having microphones and loud speakers installed we are told not to address our questions to the government; that it is a matter which is the concern of the House of Commons. I hope my hon. friend can hear me now. So it is with other matters which we are told are not the concern of the government, but come directly under the House of Commons itself. I suggest that this is an even more important matter than seme of these tech-

Redistribution

liical matters of procedure around the house, and that it should be regarded as a function of the House of Commons as a whole to decide what method is to be followed.

I believe it would be a good idea to test the view of the house as to whether we want to continue the outworn method of referring the carving up of the provinces to a committee of the house or whether we want to see the wisdom to use the Prime Minister's words, of referring it to an independent tribunal. Therefore I propose to move to the motion that is now before the house an amendment which will give the house a chance to decide what it wants. In that connection I urge that it be considered as a free vote. I would judge that if the Prime Minister were here-and I join with the hon. member for Yukon (Mr. Black) in expressing sympathy for the Prime Minister in his illness and in the hope that he will soon be back with us-in view of what he said on the 3rd day of February he would vote personally for my proposal that the matter be referred to an independent tribunal, and that he would leave the matter to the judgment of the house as a whole. He expressed the view that he thought the majority wanted to follow the old method. Well, here is an opportunity to find out whether this house wants to carry on with old, wornout method, or see the wisdom of referring the matter to an independent tribunal.

There really is not much more that I need to say; but, before moving my amendment, in view of the experience that some of us sometimes have in moving amendments, I should like to give the authority for moving an amendment of this kind and to make it clear to Y'our Honour how perfectly in order it is. I suggest to Y'our Honour that you refer to Beauchesne's third edition, page 228-[DOT]

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
LIB

William Ross Macdonald (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER:

It is not the function of the Speaker to give a ruling on a point of order which has not been raised, and there can be no point of order at the present time before the house.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. KNOWLES:

Mr. Speaker, I know the point has not been raised, but I want to lay down the authority before presenting the amendment that I am going to make.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
LIB

William Ross Macdonald (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER:

Let me also remind the hon. member that I have not even seen the amendment; therefore I cannot give any opinion.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
LIB

Colin William George Gibson (Secretary of State of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. GIBSON (Hamilton West):

There has been no motion put yet.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. KNOWLES:

I am quite convinced that when Your Honour sees the amendment you will accept it. I suggest that the basis for it is in citation 657 on page 228 of Beauchesne's Rules and Forms, third edition. Also it will be noted that on page 337 there is a form for this kind of amendment. On the basis of the authority in the citation I have given, and in keeping with the form prescribed on page 337 I move, seconded by the hon. member for Mackenzie (Mr. Nicholson):

That all the words after the word "that" be struck out and the following substituted therefor:

"this bill be not now read a second time but that it be resolved that in the opinion of this house the readjustment of the representation in the House of Commons should be referred to an independent commission to be appointed for that purpose."

I present this amendment to the motion which the Secretary of State moved for second reading of the bill and would suggest that it gives the house an opportunity to decide that it is time to have done with the outworn method of referring this matter to a committee and to move on to the appointment of a special independent tribunal to deal with it for us.

(Translation):

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
SC

David Réal Caouette

Social Credit

Mr. REAL CAOUETTE (Pontiac):

Mr. Speaker, the principle of the bill under consideration is fully in accord with the views and policies of the Union of Electors. We feel that it finally gives Quebec its due, because after the next general election it will give the province eight additional constituencies or eight additional members. I can well understand that some hon. members may, for political or other reasons, look upon redistribution with some misgivings. Speaking for myself, as representative of one of Canada's largest constituencies, that of Pontiac, I can unhesitatingly state before all the hon. members of this house that I shall be glad to learn what redistribution will mean in my own constituency, for it will surely be divided up- perhaps in three constituencies. The suggestion is even being advanced that the government will attempt to use its power and influence to obtain a redistribution favouring the Liberal party.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

No, no.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
SC

David Réal Caouette

Social Credit

Mr. CAOUETTE:

As far as the Union of Electors is concerned, Mr. Speaker, we know that some Liberals are trying to arrange matters to the advantage of their own party. However, we have no fear on that score, as the Union of Electors is operating in the ranks of the Liberals and the Conservatives as well as among the Social Credit supporters.

Redistribution

The present bill is in accord with our views, with the views of the Union of Electors. To those who fear redistribution-and there will be some people who will not like the carving of new constituencies in the province of Quebec-I say that it is a simple act of justice towards the country. I congratulate the government for having, at last, been fair to the province of Quebec.

As for the amendment of the hon. member who spoke before me (Mr. Knowles), I grant him the right to his own views. Once again I repeat that I do not, in the least, fear the manner in which the government, or the committee which is to be appointed, will proceed to the redistribution of electoral constituencies. However, the hon. members whose constituencies will be affected should be invited to state their case. I imagine the committee will invite all those concerned, those hon. members to come and see how that committee works, how redistribution is done in their respective constituencies.

Mr. Speaker, it may be that we should add one small constituency which, I suggest, might be located in the moon for the parliamentary correspondent of the newspaper Le Canada.

This bill will certainly give rise to much criticism. We feel that the bill is eminently fair, and that it is in the interests of the people of Canada. I am sure it is a measure that will be admired and find approval in the province of Quebec.

(Text):

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Hon. C. G. POWER (Quebec South):

I rise to say a word with respect to this amendment, largely because on a former occasion I was instrumental in introducing, on the part of the government of the day, a resolution calling for the setting up of a committee, one of the duties of which would be to study:

. . . methods used to effect a redistribution of electoral districts in Canada and in other countries and to make suggestions to the house in connection therewith.

I refer the house to Hansard of March 13, 1939, at page 1807.

In introducing that resolution, I urged that up to that time redistribution committees had been remarkable rather for the lack of harmony which had resulted from their deliberations than for any just appreciation of the work of the committee. As 'has been said by the minister who introduced the bill, up to 1903, I believe it was, the government of the day simply came before the house and introduced a bill in which the constituencies in Canada were laid down. In 1903, there were parliamentary committees on which were members from all sides of the house. My recollection is that in 1924 the committee

brought down a report to which very little objection was raised. Members who were in this house in 1934 will remember that the committee pretty well ended up in what might have been called an unseemly turmoil, with the result that in 1939 the government of the day thought some study andi exploration might be made into some system whereby we would get away from this eternal wrangling and where perhaps the interest of the electors themselves rather than of interested members of parliament might prevail.

In introducing that resolution, I pointed out that it would be advisable at some time or another to introduce a bill to provide for the appointment of a redistribution commission. The committee of that year made a thorough study of methods of redistribution and instructed Mr. Harry Butcher, the committee counsel, to report to them as to the methods in effect in other countries to bring about a fair and equitable redistribution of the constituencies in those countries. I need not say to any hon. members who know Mr. Butcher that he is a man of the highest personal integrity and was recognized by members on all sides of the house as being perfectly impartial in his view. The committee, after having heard Mr. Butcher's statement, reported as follows; as will be found at page 3810 of Hansard of May 10, 1939:

Your committee gave consideration to the methods in use in Great Britain, Australia. New Zealand, the Union of South Africa and in the United States, together with suggestions-made by the counsel as to how redistribution could be effected in Canada.

Your committee, however, concluded that there are many important questions, including that of the relation of urban to rural population, as it may be affected by the next decennial census, that should receive detailed study before a definite decision is made.

Your committee there submits, without further comment, a statement of the methods employed in other countries, and the suggestions made, for the consideration of the house.

I am sorry to say that I have no clear recollection of the discussions which took place, but evidently this report appealed to the government of the day because I have in my hand-and I found it in an old file in my possession-a bill entitled, "An Act to provide for the appointment of a redistribution commission". The first reading was to be in May, 1940, and it was to have been introduced by myself as postmaster general. This bill provided that a commission should be set up. May I say in passing that I do not think the bill was ever introduced. Members of the house will remember that in May, 1940, the phony war ended and we had other things to think of than looking after our own particular

Redistribution

internal quarrels. The bill provided for the setting up of a commission to consist of three commissioners, the chairman to be a judge of a superior court and two assistant commissioners to be appointed in each province. Apparently those commissioners were to sit only in the province from which they came. The commission was to travel all over the country, was to hear witnesses in the different localities, and then was to report to the secretary, of state. May I immediately point out some of the difficulties that will arise should we appoint such a commission, difficulties which were not quite so apparent at the time this bill was drafted and at the time it was intended to bring it before the house as a government measure. One of the difficulties of which we took some .account at the time was in connection with the kind of instructions which would be given to this commission.

I notice that certain instructions were given under the duties of the commissioners, in section 9 of this bill:

In the preparation of a bill for the redistribution of a province into electoral districts the commission shall give due consideration to:

(a) The physical features;

(b) Means of communication;

(c) Existing boundaries of electoral districts, both provincial and federal;

(d) Boundaries of administrative areas;

(e) Such other pertinent factors as may occur to it or to which its attention may be drawn.

One of these pertinent factors, not to mention them all, was what proportion in the way of population there should be-or disproportion, I should perhaps say-as between rural and urban areas. Ever since confederation, it has been generally conceded on all sides and by all political parties that the rural member should represent a somewhat smaller number of population than the city member. The reasons are fairly obvious. They existed to a greater extent in the old days when the means of communication were not so easy; but they still exist even today, because the opinion in a small congested area is very much more easily ascertainable than that in a very large area. The bill was to have been sent to a committee.

It was then considered that in all probability consideration should be given by the commissioners to such things, for instance, as homogeneity of interest in any given constituency ; homogeneity of occupational interest, let us say. If a certain section of a city or town were largely populated by those who were engaged in manual labour, in all probability some consideration should be given to a constituency allowed to elect someone who would perhaps more truly represent the views of labour than a person who came from a constituency in which there were large numbers

who owned residences in a higher bracket. There was, and there always has been- although it does not exist to the same extent in certain of the older provinces-consideration of the ethnic or, to put it more crudely, the racial situation. My hon. friend the member for Stanstead (Mr. Hackett) knows that in the eastern townships for many years, on all sides it was considered advisable to have smaller constituencies in order that the English-speaking population might have a greater chance to be represented. That was due in large degree to the generosity of our French-Canadian compatriots, but all political groups were in agreement that it should be done. I see my hon. friend the member for Argenteuil (Mr. Heon) in his place. He knows that Argenteuil was at one time the smallest rural constituency in Canada. They have a population, if I remember rightly, of something like nineteen thousand. It was kept as a small constituency for the purpose of giving representation to the English-speaking population of that district.

Mr. HEON; Which was 39-5 per cent, according to the latest figures.

Mr. POWER; Yes. In Ontario in certain sections, I believe, similar considerations weighed with the leaders of poltical parties when redistribution was being made.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
PC

John Thomas Hackett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HACKETT:

Glengarry, for instance.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

In all probability.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

Or Neepawa.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink
LIB

Charles Gavan Power

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I have some recollection that at one time there was some difficulty with respect to the representation in eastern Ontario, but I could not say offhand whether the difficulty arose from an endeavour to get representation for those speaking the French language in certain sections of eastern Ontario, or whether it arose from an endeavour to get representation for people speaking the English language in the same section. All these matters can be, and sometimes are, taken into consideration by members of the house. But I have very much doubt-though I am free to admit that I was particularly anxious to have this bill which I mentioned go through- whether we could in cold blood write into the statute that such considerations should weigh with a tribunal, whether it be a judicial tribunal or not; and here again I say I may have modified my views, from recent experience, as to the value of judicial commissioners.

Another difficulty-and this was perhaps the most serious one-that confronted us was this: What should we do with the report when we received it? Would this report of

Redistribution

an impartial judicial tribunal be a final report that would be accepted? That is to say, would we as members of a free parliament permit people from outside to come in and divide up and allocate the seats in a redistribution? In Australia, I understand that they met this difficulty-I am speaking only from memory- by providing that if the house of representatives were not satisfied with the report it was sent back to the commission. In most of these redistribution wrangles, perhaps twenty-five per cent of the membership of the house is dissatisfied and, if one member's difficulty is settled by giving him a slice or taking away a slice of some other territory, very often that disturbs fifteen or twenty constituencies in the same province. So that when a report from the commission came before parliament I would think, without having inquired into the matter from anyone, that parliament would be loath to give to any commission or any committee the right simply to bring in an electoral map for the whole of Canada which would have to be accepted willy-nilly by the members of the house. I do not believe that any democratic house would so abandon its rights and privileges as to allow itself to become only a rubber-stamp for any commission.

Given that, I fear that the report of a commission would take a considerable time in its preparation and a considerable number of years before it would be adopted. We had all these things in mind, and we had one other thing in mind. We believed that there would be time enough before another election to unscramble and level off any difficulties. That was the position in 1940. The election took place in March, 1940, and it was proposed to introduce a redistribution bill in May, 1940. At that time one political party had a majority of from sixty to seventy seats and there was no prospect of an election for another five years. I do not know that there is the immediate prospect of an election now, but certainly there is a risk of it if too many members want to go to a movie or miss a train. We are not in quite the same situation today with respect to the distance from an election that we were in in 1940.

If the amendment of my hon. friend carries the first thing to be done would be to build up a bill of some kind, I presume along the lines of the bill to which I have referred. Second, I think there would be considerable discussion in the house, even in its most amiable mood, as to just what instructions should be given to that commission. Third, I know there are a large number of members of the house who are not prepared to say to such a commission before it is set up: We will accept your rulings as to the boundaries of

the constituencies which we wish to have on the electoral map of Canada. I respectfully submit to my hon. friend that those should be considerations in his mind before he presses his amendment. There is no limit to the ingenuity of man, and there is a possibility of an excellent piece of legislation being worked out, but I would point out to him that it is doubtful whether it would be worked out by a commission within the next year or so, because a commission such as I have indicated would have to sit in different parts of the country. If it took the same care in preparing its report as the coal commission did, :t would certainly take some time, and when the report was ready it 'would have to come back to this house. In the meantime, a large number of people in this country would like to see redistribution go through as soon as possible. So far as I am concerned and in spite of the fact that I am not at all enamoured of the present situation, I suggest that the present method is the only one we can carry on with if we want to make reasonable expedition in getting a redistribution.

Topic:   REDISTRIBUTION
Subtopic:   READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Permalink

February 21, 1947