Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, Canadian Alliance)
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon to speak on Bill C-49, which is hopefully going to make certain the parameters under which we go into the next federal election.
I would like to support my colleague from North Vancouver who brought his concern about the uncertainty that we were facing with the new boundary redistribution. He tried to find some way to make it easier for all constituencies across the country to deal with this issue.
In my riding, we have a particular situation where for the first time in a long time--more time than we would have liked--Langley will have its own constituency when the election is called. It is hard to organize a brand new riding unless there is some certainty in the process. I would commend my colleague for seeing some of the problems and coming up with suggestions on how to deal with them.
This bill would allow constituency associations to get organized in preparation for the new boundaries after January. Considering that there will probably be a spring election, I think it is imperative that the new boundaries come into effect in order to bring at least some attempt to equalize representation in this country. I do not know if Canadians are aware of the discrepancy that we have in representation.
I wish to criticize Elections Canada for having only numbers based on the 1991 census on its website. It is abhorrent that Canada's election organization is at least 10 years behind the times with its numbers. However, even using those numbers, I want Canadians to know why British Columbians have a concern with their representation in the House of Commons.
I want to share with them that, as of 1991, in Prince Edward Island one member of Parliament represented 32,441 people. And we all know how populations have grown, particularly in my home province of British Columbia. In British Columbia, at that time, one member of Parliament represented 93,773 people.
Considering that our democratic system, and particularly the House of Commons, is based on the concept of one person-one vote, it is hard to convince my constituents that 93,000-plus equals the 32,000-plus in Prince Edward Island.
There is a concern in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario that this discrepancy would not really be looked after by these boundary redistributions and things would not change very much. I am at a loss to explain to my constituents, many of whom are concerned about the growth of this place, that Parliament would not be able to maintain the number of seats and just increase the representation, nor would it be able to reduce the number of seats.
The United States, over the last 90 years, has maintained the number of seats in congress. The population distribution is within half a per cent as far as one congressman representing X number of constituents. So we have this example of this very close representation on the concept of one person-one vote. Then we have Canada with the discrepancy I mentioned, with 32,400 in Prince Edward Island and 93,700 in British Columbia.
It gets worse. Alberta has the greatest discrepancy. It has 97,900-plus people. This, again, is using 1991 figures. It does not take too much to suggest that Alberta and B.C. were probably two of the faster growing provinces over that period of time.
Keeping that in mind, it does bring to light some of the problems that we have with equal representation in the House of Commons.
The bill at least allows for the next election to be fought with an increase in a number of seats in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. My concern is that this is just a drop in the bucket as far as bringing equity into our parliamentary system.
I do not think Canadians are aware that Alberta and British Columbia have been allocated six senators and New Brunswick, which is a considerably smaller province, has ten senators; that the western provinces of Alberta, B.C., Manitoba and Saskatchewan have 24 senators and the Atlantic provinces have 30 senators.
Some of it is historic. Some of it is covered under the Constitution, but I think it is time that all Canadians put their heads around the issue of equal representation in the House.
I know that there was an amendment in 1985 to our Constitution that froze representation. It said that no province could lose representation regardless of population distribution. How do we think that makes people feel in some of the larger provinces like British Columbia, which is the third largest province in the country, when they know that, forever basically, unless we get our heads around it and change it, they will never have the representation in Parliament that their population justifies?
I must bring forward these issues because they are of great importance to our citizens. However, the proposed legislation does at least allow some semblance of trying to even the playing field, although it falls far short of coming anywhere close to it.
The Bloc members have raised some concerns. I do not really understand what their concerns are. I do not know why they would feel that Canadians should not be more represented based on population. It is not undermining the representation that they have in their province. I fail to see why they would not want to have some certainty in allowing the future to play a part in the next election.
As I mentioned earlier in my comments, this legislation is there just to bring certainty to support constituencies in their effort to organize before April 1 when the bill becomes a done deal.
I want to add my comments to those of other colleagues who are in support of bringing certainty to the process of making it easier for candidates who wish to run in the next election and have the opportunity to organize and be prepared. The legislation would also recognize communities like Langley city and Langley township which have for a great number of years been tag-alongs with other parts of other communities and never having one voice, one person to attend to their needs.
I am sorry I will not be representing Langley city. I have in the past represented part of Langley township and I will miss representing it. I am very happy that in the next election Langley will be able to vote for its own member of Parliament who will be able to give full attention to that one constituency. Therefore, it is very important that the proposed legislation make it through the process and be proclaimed before the next federal election is called.
I wish to thank the House for the opportunity of putting in my two cents' worth and wish that the Bloc members would support the bill because it is important for those parts of Canada which are terribly under-represented and will be for many years.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act