March 5, 1936 (18th Parliament, 1st Session)


Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)


Hon. ERNEST LAPOINTE (Minister of Justice):

Mr. Speaker, may I say in answer
to my right hon. friend who has just spoken (Sir George Perley) that consideration of the matter referred to in this motion is certainly germane to the two other matters which have been referred to this committee. Indeed, proportional representation is mentioned specifically in the reference to the committee for consideration. Any scheme of proportional representation would involve, of necessity, a redistribution of the seats as they are now constituted. Apart from all this, the resolution is general in its character. What is proposed is that the committee shall consider the methods which might be used to effect a redistribution of the electoral districts in Canada and other countries and make suggestions to the house. That does not necessarily mean that there will be an immediate redistribution, it will be a suggestion of what such redistribution should be when the time comes.
I do not agree with my right hon. friend' the leader of the opposition (Mr. Bennett) when he says that parliament cannot at this time, or prior to a new census being taken, deal with the redistribution of seats. Section 51 of the British North America Act-provides that after the completion of a census "the representation of the four provinces shall be readjusted by such authority, in such manner, and from such time, as the parliament of Canada from time to time provides," subject to Quebec having sixty-five members and the other provinces a proportionate number according to what their population may be as compared with the population of Quebec. This section of the British North America Act requires that after every census there shall be an allocation of the number of members for each province, but it does not mean that parliament is prevented from changing the limits of the constituencies provided the number of members allocated is retained. I have not the book before me. but I remember having studied this matter two or three years ago. Lefroy. an authority on the Canadian constitution, states what I have just stated, that while parliament cannot change the number of members allocated to each province, after a
census, parliament has authority to change the lines of the constituencies at any time provided the number of members is not changed. However, as I have said, while that may be done, this motion will not necessarily lead to that procedure. This is merely suggesting that consideration be given to the best methods of having a fair and just redistribution when the time comes that it should be made.
With regard to the last words of my right hon. friend the leader of the opposition, and following the same trend of argument, may I say that possibly the results of the election were not due to the redistribution but were in spite of it.

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