June 12, 1952 (21st Parliament, 6th Session)


Charles Gavan Power


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

Mr. Speaker, though I am only too glad to support the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) in his suggestion that his amendment is in order, that does not by any means imply that I believe the amendment to be a valid and proper one in the circumstances and on its merits. May I say at once that with respect to the bill I am by no means convinced that it should pass on its merits. I am quite satisfied with the amendment to the British North America Act which was made in 1946 and I see no great necessity for the amendment now proposed.
However, with respect to the amendment moved by my hon. friend and the complimentary references he made to my efforts to have a study made to bring about a scheme or plan whereby redistribution would be made by persons outside this House of Commons, I want to say here and now that although on two occasions I have presented a bill which would have had the effect of setting up some sort of commission to prepare a general plan of redistribution it was never my intention, and it is not my intention, that that should form part of our fundamental constitution.
I believe we have reached such a stage of confusion, are in such a practical morass, have got ourselves into such a mess with respect to redistribution by amending and modifying and changing the various principles with respect to representation by population, 55704-201
British North America Act with respect to geographic units, with respect to county boundaries that we must have a new deal. I have too much respect for the members of this house to burden them with the duty and responsibility of making that kind of new deal in connection with redistribution. However, I do not want to see us get away from the responsibility of parliament to carry out the duties which we as members have been sent here to do, the duty laid upon us by the British North America Act which says that redistribution shall be made by the parliament of Canada.
In the bill which I presented there _ is scarcely one section which would not require modification. I insist only on certain principles, namely, first, that we should start afresh; second, that parliament maintain its control and responsibility over the action it takes with respect to redistribution and, third, that we lay down some set of rules and regulations upon which we can base future redistributions.
With respect to some of the provisions of the bill it is quite clear to me, as it would be to anyone, that the position and status of the unfortunate civil servant whom I have nominated to be a sort of umpire between the upper millstone of Toryism and the lower millstone of Liberalism would be most unhappy. He would either be obliged to resign before the job was done or he would be fired by one or other of the parties when the job was completed. Therefore there should be at least some discussion on that section of the bill.
There are some sections which I think need to be carefully studied. There is above all a need for a brand new redistribution. The reason I think it should be taken out of the responsibility of members of the house is that it would place too heavy a burden on them. If the job were properly done it is extremely unlikely that any hon. member would be representing the same geographic unit after the job was over. I do not think members should be called upon to commit hara-kiri any more than they should be called upon to meet the importunities and pressures that would be brought upon them by local interests, by people attached to the traditions of the county and by people attached to party tradition. It is for that reason I suggest that for once anyway we ask people from outside the House of Commons to do the job. Where they will come from I am not prepared to say. Whether they are to be appointed, as I suggest in the bill, in a bi-partisan way or whether they are to be appointed in a non-partisan way makes no difference, but I do suggest that when they have made their report and have laid before parliament

British North America Act a plan and scheme for redistribution, parliament in the last analysis should be the judge whether that plan and scheme is or is not a proper one.
I am convinced, and it may be only a faint hope, that if some such redistribution is made then notwithstanding local objections, notwithstanding the difficulties and the obstacles which will confront individual members of parliament, a plan of that kind presented to the people of Canada would carry such force and authority that it would be very difficult to alter or modify it in any degree.
With respect to the specific amendment of my hon. friend, I do not think he would expect me to support it. I have been too outspoken in my objection to commissions, bureaux and bureaucrats receiving delegated powers to do jobs which should be done by this assembly, this House of Commons, to now be willing to enshrine in the ark of the covenant of our constitution an omnipotent bureaucracy to do the work of redistribution which is primarily our concern. I have no objection to creating non-partisan machinery to do the job in order to give us a pattern of what we should do for the future, but I do not think we should place in the constitution of this country for all time and, as my hon. friend further says, for the next census and for the censuses to come, any provision which will free us from the responsibility which has been laid upon us.
Again with respect to this particular amendment, my hon. friend does not anticipate that it will be effective immediately. He says it needs to be effective only in the census of 1961. Why does he not join with me at the next session in an endeavour to prepare some kind of bill that will pass the house or at least be referred to a committee for discussion? With our joint efforts in the ten years to come we might achieve something. As it is now all he would get from the committee- and I would be glad to get it too, but not in the form of a constitutional amendment- would be a sort of pious hope that some day we would have a commission. I suggest that the two of us get together, hammer out a bill, endeavour to overcome the obstacle of its being out of order, and eventually convince our colleagues that that is the proper thing to do for at least once.

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