October 21, 2003

BQ

Ghislain Fournier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Ghislain Fournier

Mr. Speaker, if he did not lie, he certainly twisted the truth.

Therefore, I think that—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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?

The Deputy Speaker

Listen, we can play with words, but I do not want us to continue with this debate all day without showing respect for the practices and precedents of this House, which require that the integrity of any of our colleagues not be questioned. We may have differences with regard to our philosophies, our values and our processes, and that is quite alright. I simply do not want members to go too far.

The member for Manicouagan has the floor.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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BQ

Ghislain Fournier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Ghislain Fournier

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I have a personal opinion as a member of the Bloc Quebecois, and we plan to keep saying it as it is in that respect.

I agree with my hon. colleague. The legislation and the boundary changes show contempt for the people, the citizens. To give you an example, in my riding with which I am very familiar, there is no way the same service could be provided.

The government opposite has just demonstrated that there are indeed two classes of citizens in this country. People from across the country told us in Quebec they loved us, that change was coming and that there would be a place for us. Instead, we currently have a demographic deficit. As was so aptly described, our weight has dropped from 26% of the total population to 25%, in fact almost 24%. We would have needed two MPs more for all of Quebec, and the regions should not have been tampered with.

See how this government which claims to be a government for the regions is defending them. This is not a government for the regions but a government that tramples the rights of the regions.

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Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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CA

Inky Mark

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Inky Mark (Dauphin—Swan River, PC)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in the debate on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

We should make it perfectly clear that the bill is not about boundary changes for the upcoming election. It is about pushing the date for the boundary changes up to an earlier date, from August 25 of next year to April 1 of next year.

For our viewing audience, I would like to give some background information.

On September 15 the Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons introduced legislation to accelerate the coming into force of the new electoral boundaries generated by the recently completed electoral redistribution process.

The new electoral boundaries were proclaimed on August 25, 2003, but, under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, they would not take effect until the first dissolution of Parliament occurring at least one year after proclamation, i.e., August 25, 2004.

As we have heard, the rumour is that the House may dissolve itself as early as November 7.

By virtue of the proposed legislation, this one year grace period would be shortened. The new boundaries set out in the 2003 representation order would now be enforced upon the first dissolution of Parliament occurring on or after April 1, 2004.

The April 1, 2004 date was selected following the public statement of the Chief Electoral Officer that he could be operationally ready to proceed with the new boundaries as of that date.

I raise the question, as other members already have this morning in the House, what is the rush? Why are we rushing ahead to move the date up to April 1, 2004?

There is no doubt that the leader in waiting for the Liberal Party is anxious and wants to call a quick early election, just like our current Prime Minister did in the last election in 2000.

Before the leader in waiting for the Liberal Party calls an election, Canadians need to find out who the man is. The only way that can be done is to actually have the next leader of the Liberal Party stand in the House and answer some very hard, serious questions. I am sure Canadians from coast to coast to coast would be interested to know what kind of person will be leading the Liberal Party in the next election.

As we know a lot of questions have been raised in the House about some of the past history of the former minister of finance and the dealings of his former company, CSL. People need to know whether he paid his share of Canadian taxes and whether his companies received grants that were really made up of Canadian tax dollars. We need to know whether he operated above board and in a transparent manner. The position of a prime minister is very important. He is the leader of the country. Besides that, there is plenty of time to have a fall election after the boundaries legislation comes into effect on August 25, 2004.

I came here in 1997, as did many members in the House, and since that date we have had two elections in the course of those six years. My understanding, according to the rules of operation, is that the mandate of any government is five years. Roughly, we have had a mandate plus one year and we have had two federal elections. Every time we have an election it costs the taxpayers a lot of money.

Maybe there is some rationale for fixed terms. Every four years on a set date the electorate would go to the polls so we would not have this manipulation of the system. Bill C-49 is a good example of manipulating the timelines and the dates as to when one can have an election. I do not think Canadians are looking for that. They are not looking for governments of the day to waste tax dollars.

This is not the first time that governments, certainly this Liberal government, have attempted to block riding changes. Just to recollect, this is not the first time the Liberals have moved to alter the date on which redistribution takes effect. Unlike their two previous attempts, this bill advances rather than delays the new boundaries. It is rather ironic. This one actually advances the changes; the previous attempts have wanted to delay changes.

In February 1994 many Liberal backbenchers objected when they saw the proposed new maps that followed the 1991 census. Their response was Bill C-18, which would have thrown out the work already done and suspended the redistribution process for two years. The end result would have been for the 1997 general election to be fought on boundaries drawn up after the 1981 census, some 16 years prior.

At the time, the Progressive Conservative Party had sufficient numbers in the Senate to amend Bill C-18. The suspension period was reduced to one year from two. The boundaries commissions were allowed to complete their current phase of their work. After one year the boundaries commissions could continue their work from the point where it was suspended. The end result was that Bill C-18 could not kill redistribution and that an election call in 1997 would have to be fought on boundaries drawn on the basis of the 1991 census.

The Liberals tried again in 1995 with Bill C-69. That bill died on the Order Paper when Progressive Conservative senators insisted on a proper examination of the bill and its related issues in committee.

While we are talking about boundary changes, let me make some comments about boundary changes. There is no doubt that boundary changes are always good news because the country changes, the population base changes and demographics change from province to province. The current change is good news for the west because B.C. and Alberta will get more seats. In central Canada Ontario will get more seats.

In other words, I guess it is an advantage to grow one's province on a population basis, to have more babies. Maybe we need to go back to the plan that Quebec used to have to give grants to families to have more kids. Maybe it would be a good program for all of Canada because we know that one deficit in our country is people. That is why our immigration numbers have increased substantially. Perhaps we could do more to increase our own numbers in the country through birth.

On the subject of boundaries, there are two issues I would like to bring up. They are the changes to the boundaries relative to size and population base. It is a world phenomenon that people are moving from rural areas to urban areas. Not only is it happening in this country but it is happening around the world. That is going to create problems for ridings in our country that are very rural in nature. I noticed that with some of the boundaries that have changed there seems to an access to large urban centres in most areas. I suppose that eventually the population base in the rural areas will be outnumbered and outvoted by the folks in the city. I suppose that is inevitable with the change in demographics.

One thing I would like to say is that there are also limits to boundary changes in terms of geography. I know that many of the rural ridings which are very rural in Canada have no option except to get bigger. My own riding of Dauphin—Swan River is going to annex, I believe, another two municipalities to the riding and it is already over 200 miles long and over 100 miles wide. The question that needs to be raised is just how much space and population can one member of Parliament serve?

Already my riding has five provincial constituencies in it. Whenever I leave home it takes literally half a day sitting in my vehicle to get from place to place. I am wasting half the day if I am driving. I am fortunate enough that during the summer I can hop in my airplane and fly around the riding, but most people do not have that access.

Again we need to look at service. In Dauphin--Swan River I have eight satellite offices. I have eight offices in the riding and a staff of 11, but most members do not do that. I am very blessed with good staff and they do a great job. In other words, it is about serving the public but there are still limitations to that, not only on the geographic side but also on the dollar side. It costs money to provide service and that is an issue that needs to be raised.

Another thing with which I have a concern, like many MPs in the House, is the names that will come with the changes in the boundaries. At House leaders meetings there have been lists of submissions from members of Parliament who want the names changed to reflect the ridings. I agree that the members do know best, not a commission that was established because of politics. Members know the history of their ridings.

For example, originally my own riding was two federal ridings. One was called Marquette and the other was Dauphin--Swan River. The problem with the boundary change was that they forgot about Marquette which is of huge historical significance to the riding. Marquette was one of the first French explorers to explore that part of the country. Southwestern Manitoba at one time was known by Marquette. I believe that Joliet and Marquette explored the headwaters of the Mississippi right down to the mouth of the Mississippi. It is very important to the folks who now encompass the south half of my riding. They want the name Marquette put back where it rightfully should be.

I hope that through Bill C-51 all the name changes that have been proposed will be put back where they should be.

Let me close by saying that we as a party support the bill. We do not support this great rush to change the dates to give the new leader of the Liberal Party the option of calling a snap election anytime he wishes after April 1. Canadians deserve better.

Canadians need time in the House to find out just exactly who this new leader of the Liberal Party will be. To be fair to Canadians, I believe that the date of August 25 should remain. In any case, Bill C-51 talks about the name changes submitted by the members of the House. We support the bill. We will certainly vote in support of the bill, but we are not very happy about the intent of this bill.

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Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

Mr. Geoff Regan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues raised by the hon. member for Dauphin--Swan River was the name changes. I am not sure whether he heard today the leader of the government in the House indicate that he will be sharing with House leaders of all the parties today a draft bill that deals with the name changes. I hope the member will be satisfied with what he sees in terms of his riding. Others will be pleased to see the changes they have asked for in that bill. That should deal with that issue.

One of the things we have heard today a number of times from the Bloc as well as from others is the notion that this whole idea was initiated because of the next leader of our party, or because the member for LaSalle--Émard wishes to do this. I find it interesting that members opposite persist in this fiction, especially in view of the fact that the member for North Vancouver from the Alliance Party made it very clear today that his House leader initiated this idea last spring before anybody else initiated it. For them to persist in the fiction that it comes from one member on our side when in fact we have had an outright statement--

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Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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LIB

André Harvey

Liberal

Mr. André Harvey

And the Bloc leader would agree with that.

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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

Mr. Geoff Regan

The Bloc leader I am sure would concur with that. He would be aware of it. He should speak to the House leader. He should speak to the House leader of other parties. He would find the same thing out, that it was raised by the House leader of the Alliance, as he readily acknowledges and accepts.

I do not understand why they persist in the fiction that it comes from one member on this side when we know that it was initiated from that side, and with good reason. It makes sense. Why have us go into the next year with uncertainty about whether or not we are going to be operating under old boundaries or new boundaries? Why not have boundaries that reflect the 2001 census rather than the 1991 census? Why have an election based upon a 12 year old map when the technology today allows us to do this more quickly? The process would take less time and we would not have an election based upon an electoral map from 12 years ago. It does not make any sense.

I would like the member to address these points.

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Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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CA

Inky Mark

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Inky Mark

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that we can have the next election on the new boundaries. All we have to do is wait until August 25. That is pretty simple. It does not take a brain surgeon to figure that one out. What is the rush? The fact remains that from 1997 to 2004, which is seven years, we are going to end up with three elections. Does anyone think that the taxpayers out there watching this are going to be happy? We will have had three elections in seven years when the mandate for one election is actually five years.

It is pretty obvious that members on the government side are playing games with this whole business of an election and when they should call it. It is not fair to the taxpayers. If there is one reason not to have it, it is the money that we are wasting by doing it.

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Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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NDP

Yvon Godin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the member said that maybe the only reason the new prime minister, or the person he thinks will be the prime minister before he is elected, is the person that he does not want Canadians to really know. Canadians do not know who he is yet. The only thing that people know is that he was supposedly doing what the prime minister used to tell him to do, but he is supposed to be a new person. Why is he worrying about waiting until the fall of next year?

It seems that the opposition is being accused because it wants to follow the law of our country. The law on the boundaries was produced after the last commission produced its report 12 months ago and the 12 months was for a reason. Why are we talking about an election when in normal times, and I know we are not living in normal times around here, but in normal times an election is called every four years? That would bring us to next fall. Now because of that the opposition will be accused of not being democratic, like the Canadian Alliance has said.

I will be very sorry for the members of the Progressive Conservative Party when it becomes the Conservative Party. It is going to have to join those two groups and the Canadian Alliance already agrees with the Liberals that we should go ahead and please the member for LaSalle—Émard when he is not even in his seat yet as prime minister and all of that.

I would like the member to comment on the feeling I have and maybe the feeling he has about the whole suggestion that we are anti-democratic if we do not allow this change to go through. Why do we have to please only one person in our country, which is the member for LaSalle—Émard? Why do we have to change everything in our country for one person? He does not exist yet, though he is supposed to exist come November 15.

I would like some comments on that, please.

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Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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CA

Inky Mark

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Inky Mark

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from the NDP for his question.

It is rather ironic, as I indicated in my speech, that the Liberals were the ones in 1994 and 1995 who wanted to block the changes to the boundaries. For 16 years they wanted to block them. That was before the 1993 election. All of a sudden they now want to reverse the trend and go ahead of the one year period. It makes no sense.

There is no doubt, as I said earlier, that Canadians will want to know the real deal. Who are they going to vote for as prime minister of this country? They want to know the prime minister in waiting, if that is the case, with the changes that are going to come about in the next week, I believe, with the leadership process for the Liberal Party. It is only fair to all Canadians that whoever the new prime minister is stands in the House and answers some hard questions because he has a lot to account for in his term of office in the House.

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Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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BQ

Yvan Loubier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I think that we must make things clear in this debate. I heard the deputy government House leader say things that made my blood curdle.

In his testimony before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Elly Alboim admitted to my colleague, the hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, that he had intervened directly with Mr. Kingsley in the spring, when the member for LaSalle—Émard expressed his preference for an early election in the spring of 2004. On that occasion, Mr. Alboim said, and I quote:

Well, obviously I was calling because of my interest as an adviser to Mr. Martin and the need to establish information about what Mr. Martin had publicly articulated as a preference.

This was in connection with an early election in the spring.

That statement was made before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on September 30th. Mr. Elly Alboim, a senior adviser of the strategy team for the member for LaSalle—Émard, admitted candidly that he had contacted the chief electoral officer. I have the highest respect for the chief electoral officer, but when they say in the House that there were no interventions and that the Canadian Alliance leader was the first to express his preference for an early election, I have to say that this is not exactly what happened.

There was a public statement made by the member for LaSalle—Émard, who said he preferred a spring election. Right after the interventions by Mr. Elly Alboim, towards the end of the summer, the process was initiated for the tabling of this bill.

They have to stop laughing at us and treating us like fools. The member for LaSalle—Émard did make a statement. If we are discussing this bill today, it is because he spoke out publicly, because he wants to carry out his own personal agenda and because he is too cowardly to stand before us. He does not want to answer our questions about the drastic cuts made to employment insurance, social welfare, education and health. He is too cowardly to answer our questions about the companies he still owns. He lacks the courage to table the letter of assignment transferring Canada Steamship Lines to his children. I suspect he is still drawing benefits from that company.

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Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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CA

Inky Mark

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Inky Mark

Mr. Speaker, I would echo the comments from the NDP member. These are strange times indeed and it is abnormal the way this whole thing has happened. Again, who does one believe and who started this whole thing? Whether it was a story from the media, it is an intervention that should take place. If we are going to write legislation and follow procedures and rules, then that is what we should doing in this House.

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NDP

Yvon Godin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on Bill C-49. This bill is unusual, because I did not think that the Liberals in 1994 did the opposite of what they are doing today. This was news to me this morning; I did not know that.

Apparently, to guarantee democracy, we have to do what we are now doing. Under this bill, when the Electoral Boundaries Commission tables its last report—its final report—in Parliament, the effective date will be twelve months later.

What effect will this have on certain regions, and what do we as members do if we object?

First, anyone who objects is thought not to want Canadians to have the best possible representation, because the new electoral map means more members. There are currently 301 members, and there will be 308 once the new electoral map comes into force.

Why, as members, should we deny our constituents the right to be represented by additional members in the House of Commons? It is easy, I will not lie: our party will vote in favour of this bill at third reading. However, we first want to make known our objections.

The Liberals have brought us here. On the one hand, we are told we are free to do as we like but, on the other hand, we have to consider how this bill benefits Canadians.

I would not want to be accused of having prevented British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario from having more members. But it is quite normal, if an election is called, for people to receive the best representation.

However, I have difficulty accepting the fact that members are being accused because they want to have an indepth debate in the House on the government's position, particularly since one member has been campaigning across Canada for the past year and a half, at the taxpayers' expense, and he is almost never in the House of Commons. I remember one senator who did not attend sittings in the other place, and everyone knows what happened to him. That hon. member is supposed to represent the constituents of his riding in the House of Commons, not to wage an election campaign for a year and a half. He should know his position now and what his job will be as of November.

The fact is that the power of the government or of a single individual can deny people the democratic opportunity to be represented, as well as the opportunity to contest the commission's decision. It makes me laugh when the government says it is not being partisan, that it is never partisan. According to them, it is only our side that is partisan.

Who has something to gain? I will give you the best example we have, at present. The riding of Acadie—Bathurst has a majority of francophones, some 80%, with about 20% anglophones. It is a riding where people have learned to live side by side. If we look at the boundary criteria, when one can deviate by as much as 25% from the provincial quotient, we are talking about history, culture, and so on.

Historically and culturally, I can tell you that the population of Acadie—Bathurst has more affinities with Bathurst.

I can say that in South Bathurst, there is the Big River, the Little River and the Middle River. In our area, we have a lot of rivers. The people in North Tetagouche and South Tetagouche have more affinities with the people in Bathurst than they do with the people in Miramichi.

If we look at the way the members of the Electoral Boundary Commission for New Brunswick were appointed, it is clear and obvious. The member of Parliament, who is the minister responsible for the Liberals from New Brunswick, recommended the names of the two commission members to represent New Brunswick to the Speaker of the House of Commons. No other members of the House of Commons, except the Liberals, were aware that suggestions could be made to the Speaker of the House.

The way the commissioners are chosen is this: the chief justice of each province decides who the chair will be. Now, remember that the chief justice of the court is usually appointed by the Prime Minister of Canada, and once again, it is a Liberal. The chief justice of New Brunswick was the former New Brunswick Liberal leader. It is not a coincidence; it just happened that way.

It just so happens that the chairman of New Brunswick's commission was the future father-in-law of the member for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, who is a Liberal. It is quite the coincidence, but no one knew it.

In the meantime, people from Acadie—the Bathurst are not happy at all, but not necessarily because of the appointments. It was a little later that people began to dig and question what happened.

For the benefit of those who are listening to us, ten years ago, people from the town of Saint-Louis-de-Kent, which was part of the Beauséjour—Petitcodiac riding, opposed the changes to the riding because they were going to become part of the riding of Miramichi. The Commissioner of Official Languages said this was not right, but the commission did not reverse its decision.

It is funny, this time. I am happy for the people of Saint-Louis-de-Kent because I think they were lucky that the commission sent them back to the riding of Beauséjour—Petitcodiac. If the people of Saint-Louis-de-Kent are sent to the riding of Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, and the people of their town, 98% of whom are francophone, are sent to the riding of Miramichi, then all the intentions do not hold water.

One has to wonder. We can only hope that it is not political influence, since the rules state that an MP can appear before the commission to table briefs, as I did in September 2002.

At the time, I had asked the chair of the commission why he included the town of Saint-Louis-de-Kent in the riding of Beauséjour—Petitcodiac. The transcript will show for certain, but I remember him saying, “The problem that the former commission created ten years ago has been fixed”.

I told the chair that if the problem from ten years ago was corrected with respect to the linguistic aspect and the community of interests, why, for instance, were Allardville, Val-Comeau and Saint-Sauveur included in the riding of Miramichi? He said the problem was that there were not enough people in the riding of Miramichi. The provincial quota was less than 21%, whereas the riding of Acadie—Bathurst had more than 14%. So a certain number of constituents from Acadie—Bathurst had to be included in the riding Miramichi.

The people in Allardville as well as in Saint-Sauveur and Val-Comeau protested for the same reason as the people in Saint-Louis-de-Kent did. One cannot fix a problem at one end of a riding by creating the same problem at the other end.

I asked the chair why he was doing that. He told me, “Because I need bodies. I must do it and that is that”. It is hard to understand.

This is why I believe it is important that people be allowed to appeal the commission's decisions. Under our electoral boundaries readjustment process, the commission publishes its final reports, after which it is disbanded. It does not exist anymore. It is gone. It then comes under the government's responsibility. However, in this respect, the regions have the right to appeal; they have the right to go to court to ask for a ruling.

That is why I say that Bill C-49 is regrettable because the member for LaSalle—Émard will be the Prime Minister of Canada—we will know for sure in November. One member of his staff, who works on his election campaign, Elly Alboim, came before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and clearly stated that he had appealed to the Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, to see whether it was possible to change the date and get the machine in gear now. In the meantime, the Canadian Alliance is trying to make people in Vancouver believe that it cares about the people in Vancouver and that is why it asked the government to change the date, resulting in the bill before us. This is shameful. The Alliance does not even have the support of the Conservatives right now—oh, I beg your pardon—the Progressive Conservatives. It could not even get them to vote the way it did, yesterday. And now it wants to take the credit for that. I find that rather shameful.

This morning, the Leader of the Government in the House stated that, with our new electronic system, members press three or four buttons and the monitor appears. If so, then surely we can know where our riding starts and ends. However, in July 2003, I asked Elections Canada, “Is part of Saint-Saveur in Miramichi?” Again last week, no one could answer my question. From July 2003 to today, quite a few seconds have passed. Surely the computer and the monitor have been operational since then.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, Elections Canada has a good system. I am a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and of the Subcommittee on Electoral Boundaries Readjustment. Yes, we can say, “I am going to change that street and put it here or there”. Yes, we can say that, in Toronto, Yonge Street is in another riding and, bingo, we know where it ends. However, when it comes to rural areas, it is not that simple.

So, two weeks ago, I personally asked the Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, if he could tell me if the inhabitants of Saint-Saveur in New Brunswick were part of Miramichi on the new electoral map. Once again, I received a letter saying no one knew the answer yet. There is still no answer.

If we look at the map, the boundary seems to include Saint-Saveur. However, when it comes to people, no one can say. The people of Saint-Saveur have been in the dark for three or four months now. They still do not know what riding they will be part of.

As a result, in terms of representing people in a democracy, an increase in the number of members in the House is good, but it is also important to ensure that all constituents are represented. This is not just a one way street.

It is unacceptable, when we see people from back home, from the Bathurst chamber of commerce, opposed to changes to the riding. It is unacceptable when we see the Association francophone des municipalités du Nouveau-Brunswick demand a judicial review. It is unacceptable when people from the Société des Acadiens et des Acadiennes du Nouveau-Brunswick ask for the status quo.

This is unacceptable, when we are told that 7,000 people in Acadie—Bathurst signed and mailed in postcards to the Speaker of the House of Commons indicating their unwillingness to see changes made to their riding, because of the communities of interests.

This is unacceptable, when we are told that the English speaking constituents themselves do not want to be moved to Miramichi, because they will feel still more of a minority with its francophone minority.

This is unacceptable, when we are told that 2,600 people in the electoral district have signed a petition calling for the status quo to be maintained.

This is unacceptable, when we are told that the Commissioner of Official Languages has indicated to the commission that it is not right to make changes to Acadie—Bathurst because of the community of interests.

This is unacceptable, when we are told that the Commissioner of Official Languages was invited in March 2002 to tell the commissions for all Canadian provinces that they needed to respect Canada's official languages.

This is unacceptable, when we are told that the Standing Committee on Official Languages has said that the position of the Commissioner of Official Languages and of the people of Acadie—Bathurst must be supported.

This is unacceptable, when we are told that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has told the commission to support the Commissioner of Official Languages.

In light of all this, we have no choice but to say that there is something wrong here; we have no choice but to tell Parliament that we do not agree with the date change the Liberals are trying to bring in on behalf of the member for LaSalle—Émard, who is afraid of showing his true colours to the people of Canada. He is afraid to be in the House and to make decisions. He is afraid, lastly, to take his proper place. All of his team, all of his advisers, tell him to make sure he does not have to make any decisions. In fact, the decisions he has made since 1993 in the Finance portfolio have been to cut employment insurance, to make cuts to health and social programs. That is what the future prime minister has done. As a result, he cannot show his face before the election. He is making himself scarce; Canadians need to know this.

Depriving an electoral district of the possibility of going before the courts to see whether the right thing has been done is, in my opinion, unacceptable.

Two weeks ago, at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I put forward an amendment to exclude New Brunswick from this readjustment. I can say that, pursuant to the committee's procedure, when I spoke about my amendment and explained it, the Liberals refused to accept it. Granted, I planned to speak for a long time, to try and make them understand how important this amendment was.

We eventually came to an agreement, and I appreciate that. I will state publicly that I am pleased with the agreement we have reached with the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. I must give credit where credit is due. I am pleased with the agreement under which the government committed not to put up objections, drag things on or put forward dilatory motions. I am pleased with it.

The House leader said so publicly and the letter he signed was put on the record, still I think government could go further. It could say, “Partisanship aside, there is no reason to get involved. We will let the Association des municipalités francophones go before a judge and explain its case, and let the judge decide”.

This would at least be one area in which the Liberals did not interfere. Granted, the chair of the commission was a Liberal, and the two commissioners were Liberals, to say nothing of others. They should let the court make a decision based on all I said in this House today. Seven thousand people have signed postcards and sent them to the Speaker of the House, a person who should be impartial and who appointed the two individuals on the recommendation of the minister responsible for New Brunswick.

This would show some willingness to give democracy a chance and to make decisions that are good for and fair to all Canadians, and the people in our area in particular.

I will close by saying that we can only hope that the Liberals will change their minds. They should tell their future leader, the future prime minister—who may be afraid of going before the Canadian voters—that he ought to call an election in November next year and let us adopt the necessary procedures, so that we can represent the people in our areas.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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LIB

Geoff Regan

Liberal

Mr. Geoff Regan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I think it is necessary to point out that this is a government bill that has the support of the official opposition. We know the idea originally came from the House leader of the opposition, as we heard today from the member for North Vancouver, and yet members of the parties opposed to this legislation have persisted in the fiction that the idea came from the member for LaSalle--Émard.

What I find interesting is that opposition parties normally are anxious for an election. They want the government to call an election because they hope to win. I wonder if they are so afraid of having an election now that they have taken a different stance. Maybe it is a fear of democracy. Are they afraid of having people express their will under these fairer and more representative boundaries of the latest census? Why is that the case?

If the new leader of our party, after he becomes prime minister, were to wait six months before calling an election, the parties on that side would be saying that his government has no mandate. Those members should admit that. They would want him to call an election unless, of course, they were afraid of an election, of democracy and of the results of an election. Is that their problem? If it is, they should tell us. Why do they not admit that they are afraid to have an election because they are afraid of what the results would bring for them?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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NDP

Yvon Godin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Yvon Godin

Madam Speaker, I am not afraid of an election. If the government were to call an election tomorrow morning I would be ready for it.

The member for LaSalle—Émard is not helping the government when he has all the Liberal backbenchers working against their own Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has said that he will resign in February but what has the member for LaSalle—Émard done? A convention has been called for November to push the Prime Minister out.

The government has problems in its own house. Government members cannot even get along with each other. They have a hard time knowing who there leader is and as a result our country has been paralyzed. It is about time we had an election. However even if an election is called, we should not take away the rights people have in their ridings.

We only have to look at what is happening in Acadie—Bathurst. This legislation will put people in my riding into another riding, and those people do not want to be in another riding. They should be given the chance to go to court to have justice done. It should not just be the member LaSalle—Émard who decides on everything that happens in our country.

If the Liberals do not have control of their backbenchers that is not my fault. I will not walk on my knees for the member for LaSalle—Émard, as the Liberal backbenchers have been doing for him. The member for LaSalle—Émard has been doing this since the beginning. He has not had respect for the Prime Minister who was elected democratically by the Liberals in a convention, and yet those members want to give me a lecture on this. Canadians know better than that.

The member for LaSalle—Émard is asking Canadians to tighten their belts and yet he cannot even pay his taxes in our country. He registers his boats someplace else to make sure he does not pay any taxes. He asks Canadians to save their money for our country because we are in a deficit and yet he has taken money from the EI fund and from people who have lost their jobs and cannot even feed their families. He should be ashamed of himself.

Yes, call an election tomorrow and we will be ready for him at any time, my friend.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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BQ

Sébastien Gagnon

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Sébastien Gagnon (Lac-Saint-Jean--Saguenay, BQ)

Madam Speaker, allow me to reply to the hon. member.

We, too, are not afraid to go into an election. Still, I have one fear, considering that one riding in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region has been eliminated. That sends the wrong signal to the people, and the people are not naive. They know they are losing population. They know that 7,000 people have left and that is why the riding is being abolished.

They have taken arrogance to such a point, that I would like to direct my question to the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst in order to demonstrate, once more, to what extent the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is partisan.

The hon. member will remember that when I appeared before the committee, I was told that the problem was the Chibougamau-Chapais area, which wanted to be part of the riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik. Seeing this problem, I went with my colleagues and staff to see this community and meet all of the elected officials and municipal councillors. In the end, we realized it was all a subterfuge.

The mayor of the town had sent a message to the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik saying that Chibougamau-Chapais should be part of the riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, while that was untrue and against the wishes of the municipal representatives.

When these facts were pointed out, when I was later told that it was the basis of the reason we were losing a riding, I did my homework. I came back with the results, but they ignored these recommendations, going so far in the final decision as to remove Chibougamau-Chapais against the wishes of its people. That is partisanship. I am sorry to say so, but I think it is despicable.

And why am I afraid for my community? Simply because, at this moment, if the election were called after the date the new boundaries were to come into force, it would give us some time to prepare the community. Some 7,000 young people have left the riding. If we make immeasurable efforts every day, we could reverse this out-migration. We are doing just that. On the other hand, with the loss of Chibougamau-Chapais, it is not just 7,000 people we need, but 20,000. And there goes our riding.

I want to say that we will oppose this to the end. They will have to answer to the people for the decisions made here in the House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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NDP

Yvon Godin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Yvon Godin

Madam Speaker, it is not the only place where partisanship is visible. One need only look at the riding of Acadie—Bathurst, where people were against the changes made to the riding for the simple reason that the same thing had occurred ten years earlier with the riding of Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, when Saint-Louis-de-Kent was included in the riding of Miramichi.

To answer the question or to continue in the same vein as the member, I will say that 14 briefs were submitted and they all said that they did not want changes, except one, and that one brief was not submitted in the riding of Acadie—Bathurst, but in the riding of Miramichi by a man from Acadie—Bathurst. His brief begins like this, “My name is Claude Boucher, former Liberal president for the riding of Bathurst. You did not go far enough, Mr. Commissioner. You should go as far as highway 11 in Bathurst”. On top of that, we will lose the airport and the whole economic region.

The chair of the commission said that the best brief that he had received was from Claude Boucher, former Liberal president for the riding of Bathurst. This is unbelievable. This is what I call true partisanship, when you see how they support each other.

This has been going on for 100 years. This is what the people of Acadie—Bathurst had to go through. After 100 years of Liberal rule in the region, they decided to kick the Liberals out. It would be just great to see them kicked out elsewhere in Canada because they are arrogant. That is typical of the Liberal Party. It is arrogant and thinks that it owns Canada. One day, I think that the Liberals will pay the price for this kind of attitude.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The member for Winnipeg Centre has a minute and a half for a question or a comment.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I will be very brief. I sympathize with the member for Acadie—Bathurst, because surely the most egregious examples of gerrymandering of boundaries in recent history have happened in the riding of Acadie—Bathurst. The only defence the Liberals seem to put forward is that they want the next election under the new boundaries.

What is stopping the new prime minister from calling an election on the new boundaries in September instead of April? Why should we be bound by his agenda and not by a reasonable agenda as the normal course of events?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
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NDP

Yvon Godin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Yvon Godin

Madam Speaker, I think the only answer is that the new prime minister does not want to show up in the House of Commons and be questioned by the opposition. He does not want Canadians to really know who he is. He wants to go along with what is in the media; that he will be the prime minister, that supposedly the opposition is divided and that he will get there automatically.

It is funny. Liberals in the country are talking about the member for LaSalle—Émard. In regions where they are very conservative, they are saying that he was a good finance minister because he took our country out of deficit and balanced the budget. In other places where people are little more to the left, thinking NDP maybe, they are saying that if he ever has a chance to run our country, he will make good changes on the social side. I call that speaking out of both sides of their mouths. That is why he does not want come into the House of Commons under his term now.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Permalink

October 21, 2003