That general view is held in some quarters in eastern Canada. When this question came before the house, I believe in 1943. I was away and did not have an opportunity of discussing it, so that I should like to avail myself of this opportunity to place on record a few facts in connection with redistribution.
Personally I feel it is unfortunate that this resolution has been brought before the house at this time, because we are not in position to deal with it as it should be dealt with. There are many great problems that we have to face at the present time. The budget has not yet been discussed, and none of the main estimates have come before the house. There is a certain feeling of unrest throughout the country, and I think it would be best to leave this matter, which is bound to be contentious and will raise many sharp differences, until a later day. To my mind this presents a serious problem and it is something that should be discussed fully and not rushed through the house. It is not just a matter of arithmetic, dividing and subtracting-mostly subtracting, in the case of the west; it is a technical problem, a problem which almost assumes constitutional proportions.
I should like to deal briefly with the census of 1941, which would be the basis of redistribution. What value has that census? We must not forget that it was taken when the country had been at war for a little over two years. Many of our young men had enlisted in the armed forces, and while those who took the census tried to show the original domicile of those men, there is no doubt a large number of them were registered in provinces other than their own. There was also a considerable migration of population from one province to another, and I shall attempt to show that this migration was to the detriment of the western provinces.
Many of our people left the western provinces to take war jobs in the industrial plants of eastern Canada or on the west coast, and there is no question that many of them were registered as living in those provinces. I do not think we can criticize the western provinces for allowing their people to go to the other provinces. They left to work in war plants and thus make their contribution to the war effort of this country. While the census may be true for Canada as a whole, I hold the definite view that it is not true as far as the individual provinces are concerned, especially when it is considered in the light of the relevant circumstances.
What was the trend in the population of the western provinces from 1931 to 1941? As I pointed out before, the census of 1941 does not present a true picture of the population trend in western Canada. The west went through some dark days in the decade from 1931 to 1941. It suffered severe drought periods during that time, and no doubt some of the younger men lost heart and moved to other provinces. We also went through another difficult period known as the grasshopper period, although that was nothing new in Manitoba. I was reading the other day that the first crop failure suffered by the Selkirk settlers in Manitoba was on account of grasshoppers. Then, like all other provinces, we in the west went through a severe economic depression which no doubt had a certain effect upon our population.
To-day the picture is altogether different. As everyone knows, agriculture is on a stabilized basis. The prairie farm rehabilitation scheme has done much to prevent drought, and I do not think we shall see a repetition of that difficult period. Just in passing, I should like to say that the story of the prairie farm rehabilitation scheme has not as yet been fully told. When it is, I am sure all hon. members will be impressed by what has been done. It fills a glorious page in the history of western Canada; it is something that is truly to the credit of the present Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner).
The quality of farm production has greatly improved, and during the war years production was on a more varied basis than it had been before. Safeguards have been set up against destructive pests such as the one I have mentioned. Farmers are better organized, and on top of all this we have the herculean efforts of the government to provide more steady and larger markets for the products of western Canada. I mention all this in passing simply to show that the figures of the bureau of statistics do not convey a true
picture of present conditions. No doubt many of those who left during the war will return to the west in a year or so, if they have not returned already.
Therefore the conditions that exist to-day are entirely different. But these economic and climatic conditions do not account for the glum picture of population trend in the prairie provinces presented by the 1941 census. It is noticeable that not one of the three western provinces during this decade retained its natural increase of population. Saskatchewan had an actual decrease of 25,793. Let us compare the natural increase with the actual increase or decrease in the three western provinces. While Manitoba had a natural increase of 70,000, she had an actual increase of only 29,000-I am giving only round figures-which would mean that Manitoba experienced a loss of 41,000 in that decade. Saskatchewan had a natural increase of 129,000, but an actual decrease of 26,000, making a total loss of 155,000. Alberta had a natural increase of 95,000, but an actual increase of 64,000, and consequently a total loss of 31,000.
These figures show' that the actual increase in all of the three western provinces would be approximately only 60,000, and if we consider both together it means that western Canada lost in that decade pretty close to one-quarter of a million people. So that, as I mentioned before, the picture presented by these statistics is certainly not a bright one, and I still contend that it is not a true one. But even if the picture were adopted as the one upon which to base redistribution, if we accepted these statistics for the lack of better, what would be the results in the matter of redistribution?
I shall not quote again the section of the British North America Act because that has already been done by the hon. member for Charlevoix-Saguenay (Mr. Dorion), but I would just refer the house to section 51, subsections 1, 2 and 3, which provide that Quebec is to have a fixed number of sixty-five representatives and there is to be assigned to each of the other provinces such a number of members as will bear the same proportion to the number of its population as the number sixty-five bears to the number of the population of Quebec. The other subsection is to take care of the fractional part that may be left.
Let us take the population of the different provinces: Prince Edward Island, 95,047; Nova Scotia, 577,962; New Brunswick, 457,401;
Ontario, 3,787,655; Manitoba, 729,744; Saskatchewan, 895,992; Alberta, 796,1|69; British Columbia, 817,861; Quebec, 3,328,815.
Dividing Quebec's population of 3,328,815 by 66, according to the section, we get a unit of representations of 51,2,13, and that would give to Prince Edward Island, two members; Nova Scotia, eleven; New Brunswick, nine; Ontario, seventy-four; Manitoba, fourteen; Saskatchewan, seventeen; Alberta, sixteen; British Columbia, sixteen, and Quebec, of course, sixty-five.
There is the other amendment which was also quoted iby the hon. member for Charle-voix^Saguenay, the amendment made in 1915, providing that the number of members from a province shall not be less than the number of senators representing such province. If we apply that amendment to the, figures I have already quoted, it changes the picture quite materially because then Prince Edward Island, instead of having two members, would have four; Nova Scotia, instead of eleven, would have twelve; New Brunswick, instead of nine, would have ten; Ontario, instead of seventy-four, would have eighty-two; Manitoba, with fourteen, would still have fourteen; Saskatchewan, with seventeen, would still have seventeen; Alberta, with sixteen, would have seventeen; British Columbia, with sixteen, would still have sixteen, and Quebec's number naturally would not change. That makes the picture altogether a different one, because if we repeat the operation we performed when we first started and were to divide the population by the number of representatives, we would get an entirely different quotient from the one we started with of 51,213. The quotients for the different provinces would vary, in round figures, anywhere from 24,000 to 53,000, and that 53,000 applies to the province of Saskatchewan, and 52.000 to the province of Manitoba. So that Manitoba, which gets a reduction of three members, and Saskatchewan, which gets a reduction of four members, still have the highest unit of representation of all the provinces.
According to that picture, if we were to take, for instance, the Prince Edward Island ratio of representation, Manitoba would be entitled to twenty-five members, Quebec would be entitled to 139 members and Ontario to 158 members. That is one extreme.
Suppose we take the ratio of the province of Ontario, that would give Manitoba sixteen members instead of fourteen, and would give Quebec seventy-two members instead of sixty-five.
I am in full agreement with the hon. member who has just spoken. The province of Quebec at the present time under the. consti-
tution is left with sixty-five members, with a population of 3,329,000, as against 3,778,000 in Ontario, and yet has seventeen fewer members than Ontario. That to my mind does not really give a fair representation.
It is quite apparent that the fathers of confedration when they put these sections in the British North America Act had the full intention of providing representation by population, and I contend that the constitution at the present time does not carry out that intention of the fathers of confederation. If we are to proceed with redistribution at the present time, fair play should be given to all the provinces, and if we embarked upon redistribution obviously we would have quite a problem to face. I still contend that this of all times is not the time to deal with redistribution at this session, because it certainly does not affect, the present representation in this house. That cannot be changed until after the next election; and so far as the western provinces are concerned, we are having a census next year, which may throw a good deal of light on the subject. I would therefore strongly urge that the enactment of this legislation, if it be done at all, be delayed until such time as we can do full justice in this house to all the provinces in the light of all the circumstances.
One of the main arguments which were brought forward at the time that the amendment was presented to the British parliament for ratification was that a time of war was not the proper time to do such a thing. That was really a good argument and a serious one. It was felt also that the matter was too contentious to be dealt with in war time. I fully agree. I still ask myself the question, why enter into such a discussion at the present time? I for one fail to see why the western provinces should be penalized for having allowed their young men and their young women to go and work in the war plants of eastern Canada and the west coast. Some allowance should be made for these circumstances. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, the question is one that is full of implications and likely to give rise to sharp and acrimonious differences, and I most sincerely suggest that neither is this an opportune time to consider the motion, nor have we time at present to do it full justice. For these reasons I submit that we should delay the matter until some later occasion.
Hon. L. S. ST. LAURENT (Minister of Justice): I had not intended to speak at this moment. I had been informed that several others wished to take part in the debate. But
I should not like the motion to be put without having had an opportunity of making some observations to the house.
I fully appreciate the interest of hon. members in this important matter of proper representation of the people of all the provinces in this Canadian parliament, but I do not think it would be proper for the house to adopt this motion in the terms in which it is couched. The operative part of the motion is in the following terms:
Therefore be it resolved,-That in the opinion of this house, the government should conform to the aforesaid resolution and take into immediate consideration the advisability of proceeding during the present session with representation ot the provinces in the House of Commons, pursuant to the provisions of the British North America Act.
Although I am at the present time a member of the government, I am also, and first of all, as a qualification to be enabled to participate in the government, a member of the House of Commons, and it is my view that it is not the government that controls redistribution, but that it is the Canadian parliament, and that to pass this resolution in the terms in which it is drawn would be indicative of an abdication of the rights and privileges of this house. There is nothing in the British North America Act which gives the government of Canada any control over the representation of the Canadian people in this parliament. The government is charged with the execution or the carrying out of the laws passed by parliament. But the matter of determining the proper proportional representation of the public of Canada in this parliament is within the jurisdiction of parliament itself, and I do not think it would be a democratic expression of opinion to say that it is for the government to provide -for redistribution. That is the first observation I wish to submit to the consideration of hon. members.
Of course the government is composed of members of this house, and consideration was given to this matter of redistribution when it became apparent toward the end of August that there was likely to be unconditional surrender of the Japanese armies to the allied forces. At that time the legislative programme for this session of parliament had been determined; and I think the experience of all of us is that there is a pretty heavy legislative programme to be dealt with. Although we have been in session for some considerable time, there is on the order paper and there has been forecast in the speech from the throne a number of matters which have not yet been dealt with, or at any rate fully dealt with, and which require our attention at this session. Nevertheless, personally 47696-78
I was disturbed over the recollection I had of the terms in which the amendment to the British North America Act had been drawn in 1943, and I discussed the matter with other members of parliament who happened to be also members of the government. The situation was envisaged in the light of the legislative programme which had been prepared and. which it appeared necessary to have parliament act upon at the earliest possible moment. I then asked the law officers of the Department of Justice to consider the matter of the terms of this 1943 amendment. Their opinion conforms with that expressed by hon.. members who so far have taken part in the? debate. We do not propose to be technical,, but the expression used in the statute is "the cessation of hostilities with the German re-ich, the kingdom of Italy, and the empire of Japan." I think that for the purposes of ordinary comprehension most people regard the unconditional surrender of Japan as amounting to a cessation of hostilities. That would not be a cessation of the state of war as envisaged in the War Measures Act; but, as has been pointed out by the hon. member who moved the resolution, this matter is in no wise connected with the interpretation or application of the War Measures Act, and the cessation of hostilities as expressed in the 1943 statute is, I think, a matter of fact and not a matter of a technical declaration of the existence or non-existence of a continued state of war. It is well known that the existence of a state of war according to international law does not end with the surrender of one of the participants in that war. I do not think that that technical existence of a continued state of war after the actual- surrender of one of the participants in the war is identical with the situation described by "cessation of hostilities". I assume we should take it for granted that when the unconditional surrender had been made and accepted we could regard active hostilities as having ceased, and it was on that basis that I asked the law officers of the department to examine the question whether or not there was an obligation, not on the government but on the Canadian parliament, to provide at its first session for a redistribution of its membership to become effective at the expiry of that parliament.
It really is a question of law rather than one of any practical consequences, because a redistribution does not operate for -by-elections during the life of a parliament. It comes into effect only at the expiry of the parliament that makes the redistribution. Perhaps I may have been optimistic, but I did not anticipate that there would be another
general election immediately after this session of parliament. I did not anticipate that there would not be, before another general election, opportunity for one or more sessions of parliament, during which parliament could discharge its responsibility of providing for the redistribution of its membership.
But the technical legal question did give me some concern. The opinion that was given to me by the law officers of the department is almost in the language that was used by the hon. member, the mover, and his colleague, the seconder of the motion: that the effect of the 1943 amendment expired with the cessation of hostilities, that parliament then fell back upon the situation as it existed under the terms of section 51 of the British North America Act, and that that did not mean that redistribution had to be provided for at the first session. It meant that there was no longer any special legislation in force which prevented the application of section 51, but that after the effect of the special legislation disappeared, section 51 operated, as it always operated after every previous census which has taken place, and that parliament provided for redistribution, but not necessarily at the first session when it would be legally possible to carry it out because the census results had been compiled and published.
The note that was given to me is that the British North America Act, 1943, provides that it shall not be necessary that the representation of the provinces be readjusted in consequence of the completion of the 1941 [DOT]decennial census until the first session of parliament commencing after the cessation of ihostilities. Section 51 of the British North America Act, 1867, provides that on the completion of each decennial census the representation shall be readjusted.
The amendment of 1943 relieves the duty imposed by section 51 until after the cessation of hostilities, and thereupon the duty imposed by section 51 again arises, that the representation be adjusted on the completion of the census. Subject only to section 51, the readjustment can be effected in any session after the cessation of hostilities. Legislation for decennial readjustments was passed, after the 1931 session, in 1933.
Subtopic: READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION OF THE PROVINCES IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS