That, in the opinion of the House:
(a) any scenario for redrawing the federal electoral map that would result in Quebec losing one or more electoral districts or that would reduce Quebec’s political weight in the House of Commons must be rejected; and
(b) the formula for apportioning seats in the House must be amended and the House call on the government to act accordingly.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I wish you a very pleasant day, and I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time.
Discussions on redistribution have been going on for some time. These days, however, current events have an unfortunate tendency to occupy public space and, in many respects, our debates and discussions here.
The Bloc Québécois is moving a motion to protect the Quebec nation's political weight within the Canadian federation, as long as Quebeckers have not chosen to take a different path that will make the Quebec nation a friend of the Canadian nation, rather than a nation subject to another nation. In the meantime, Quebec's political weight must be protected.
I can already hear certain analysts and esteemed colleagues, who are opponents after all, saying that this is not the time to do this, because of the pandemic. I would remind members that we are also facing a climate crisis. Some will also say this is not the right time because of the war going on. Not all that long ago we were talking about emergency measures, but the government changed its mind 44 hours later, so this would not be the time to talk about Quebec's political weight.
The point is that now is the time to talk about it. In light of everything that is going on, we must measure Quebec's weight. We are facing challenges that we can overcome together, freely and without being subject to numbers within institutions where the Quebec nation holds less and less space.
If the affairs of the state could be managed by statistics alone, then we would need to ask ourselves what we are doing here. If lining up three columns of numbers automatically programs the result and the consequences, then we need to ask ourselves what we are doing here.
It is because there are decisions that sometimes stray from the sacred column of numbers that we have elected members. Members are elected to use their judgment, to represent the people who elected them, but they are also elected to use their conscience when an unanticipated situation arises.
Because of the people who are called upon to take action, the values they cherish, and history, we cannot allow decisions to be made by statistics. History is what got us to this point.
For all these reasons, it is unacceptable that Quebec's weight could be reduced within any kind of Canadian institution at this point in time. That is true for everyone.
Imagine that I am a federalist. Members would have to have a very active imagination, but they need not hold their breath as it will not happen. All the same, imagine that I am a Quebecker who aspires to lead the Conservative Party and who is thinking about staging a comeback. If that were the case, I would say that it is important to maintain Quebec's political weight, because that is proof that Canada truly loves Quebec. After all, the Conservative Party was present for the 1995 love-in. In reality, I am at the opposite end of the spectrum, where I am much more comfortable, almost in a state of bliss, and I can say that I am a sovereignist.
In the meantime, we must not allow ourselves to be weakened. Protecting Quebec's political weight is good for everyone who recognizes the existence of the Quebec nation. Not that long ago, on June 16, 2021, the House of Commons voted to recognize Quebec as a nation, with 281 MPs voting in favour and a few voting against. A handful suddenly came down with stomachaches. The House voted to recognize Quebec as a nation, whose only official language and only common language is French.
If that recognition means anything, the House needs to back up those words with action. Today's motion is a small step. All we are trying to say is that Quebec's weight must not be reduced. We do not want Quebec to lose a seat. That has not happened since 1966, as my esteemed colleague and parliamentary leader will point out.
We will soon introduce a bill to ensure that Quebec's weight—
Madam Speaker, they have a leadership race to sort out. They need a bit of a break.
Back to more serious things. I simply want to say that we will be introducing a bill that would protect Quebec's weight within Canadian institutions. This does not mean that we, as good neighbours, no longer wish to work together. We want to continue working together with the Canadian entity, no matter how it is defined in the future.
The Bloc Québécois will introduce a bill because, in the meantime, Quebec needs to have weight to protect the best interests of Quebeckers, to promote Quebec and to be able to defend Quebec's ideas, including the ones that will be studied soon. The Official Languages Act should not be enforced in Quebec, which manages the French language quite well, and, what is more, the Quebec government is the best in the world at protecting its historic minority, the anglophone minority.
We need this weight to defend culture, arts and communications, especially with respect to broadcasting. This topic will be discussed soon and the discussion must reflect Quebec's unique perspective.
In order to do this, we need a voice that cannot be diminished or grow weaker by the day within Canadian institutions. We want to at least maintain what we have, with the expectation to get more.
Madam Speaker, I think it is important to read the motion so that we understand what we are talking about:
That, in the opinion of the House: (a) any scenario for redrawing the federal electoral map that would result in Quebec losing one or more electoral districts or that would reduce Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons must be rejected;
In the motion, there is an “or”, but based on what we are currently seeing, there is an “and”. Quebec is losing its political representation in the House of Commons but—and this is an historic—Quebec will also lose a seat. That has not happened since 1966.
People think that it is understandable that Quebec's demographic representation would cause such a drop. Basically, Quebec is treated as a province, except that we are not a province. We are a nation, and we must be treated as one.
Our culture is different, our language is different, our way of living and doing things are different, and our economy is structured differently. We are more in favour of fighting climate change. At least, that seems obvious to some in the House of Commons.
When I was young, and I was young once, Félix Leclerc passed away. In 1988, Quebec mourned the passing of its poet. The rest of Canada wondered who Félix Leclerc was.
This goes to show just how far apart we are. We are not better—just different. This difference needs to be felt in the House of Commons while we are still here. The dream of every sovereignist and every Bloc Québécois member is to put ourselves out of a job and go to Quebec City, so that half of the taxes we pay are not defended by 22.5% of the people here, but instead by 100% of the people in Quebec City. That is what we want.
I mentioned Félix Leclerc. People may say that that was to be expected in 1988, but since then there has been a referendum, and Canadians have become a little closer, especially after the love-in with Jean Charest.
Last year we lost Michel Louvain. We made a member’s statement about Michel Louvain. In the House, we could sense that people were wondering, “who's that guy?”, “who is Michael Luvine?” Ask any Quebecker who is la belle inconnue, the beautiful stranger. They will say it is la dame en bleu seule à sa table, the lady in blue alone at her table. This is what Quebec is.
Our colleague, the hon. member for , gave an exceptional 10-minute speech last week precisely to explain what Quebec is. I invite everyone to listen to it again. It was simply magnificent.
Let us come back to the fact that Quebec is a nation. Last year, we adopted a motion recognizing that Quebec forms a nation. We passed it here in the House. What is more, we really pushed the envelope. When I left home, my wife said to me, "they will never do that”. I told her that I was confident that it would work, because we have a good leader. In the end, not only was Quebec recognized as a nation, but French was also recognized as the common language of the Quebec nation.
When people voted in favour of this motion, they probably thought that they were throwing us a bone to placate us. It could be that they are tired of hearing us say that we are different. They may have told us that we were a nation just to humour us, while thinking that it would serve no purpose anyway.
That, however is not true; it does serve a purpose. We have to follow up on words, on a label. It has to be useful. We must be consistent when we solemnly vote in the House on opinions, on ideas.
The time has come for these people to speak out. I am talking, among others, about the 35 Liberal members from Quebec in the House. I cannot conceive that these people could vote against the idea that Quebec deserves, at worst, to maintain its political weight in the House and, at best, to improve its situation. We will watch them carefully. It is time for them to follow through on what they voted on.
Yesterday in the House, we were talking about Ukraine, much to the delight of the member for Winnipeg. I asked the a question, and she stood up in the House and affirmed that Quebec is a nation. She said that right here in the House as we were discussing international policy. Now is the time to walk the talk.
The calculations indicate that Quebec would lose a member, whereas the House as a whole would gain four. That means multiple setbacks for us, and it is not acceptable. People might say it makes sense because our demographic weight is declining, but Quebec cannot be punished by a statistic like that because, as I said, Quebec is a nation. That is what matters.
People might also say it makes sense because we do not bring in enough immigrants. The Liberal government wants to welcome 430,000 immigrants. It does not take a Ph.D. in math to figure out that, if Canada brings in 430,000 immigrants, Quebec has to get 100,000 of them to maintain its political weight. We like immigrants, or course, but to protect the French fact in Quebec, we have to welcome them and enable them to integrate so they can live their lives fully in Quebec. That means making sure those 100,000 people can truly be part of Quebec society.
Our National Assembly has stated that bringing in more than 50,000 would be a herculean task. All the parties agreed on that. Bringing in 100,000 is just not realistic, and it puts us in an impossible position. If we play the statistics game, open up and bring people in, we will have problems with Quebec's French character, which will suffer. It would enable us to maintain our power in the House, but it would chip away at the French language, which must be protected. Everyone knows that.
We are being forced to choose between the two. We can respect the concerns of the National Assembly and admit that, in order for immigration to be successful, we must welcome people and ensure that they are well integrated. That means that Quebec's political weight would inevitably shrink, as it has been since 1867. Fewer and fewer Quebeckers are rising in the House to speak. Quebec's political weight in Canada as we know it is already quite weak and is diminishing all the time.
We absolutely must stop this erosion. The only way to do so is to eliminate the responsibility of statistics in assessing the political weight of a nation. That is what we must do now. First we must determine how the problem affects Quebeckers, and then we must come up with a remedy like the one being proposed by the member for . He introduced a bill in the House that would ensure that Quebec's political weight would be maintained over time because Quebec is a nation. In a way, 77% of the Quebec nation is dominated by a nation that is not ours. When we look at the numbers, it becomes clear that the best way to protect the Quebec nation is to make it a sovereign state.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.
I rise today in the House to share my perspective, not only as a member with official duties here in Parliament, but also, more importantly, as a Quebecker. I am speaking today as a proud member of Parliament from Quebec, my home province, the place I grew up in and the place my parents immigrated to. They settled and started a family in Quebec. Quebec is where I have had the pleasure of spending almost my entire life, aside from a few years at university. Quebec is where I have chosen to start my family and where my wife and I have raised our three children. Quebec is also where my two grandchildren were born. I am a proud Quebecker through and through.
I love the passion of the member for , but as I was listening to his impassioned speech, I sometimes felt that he missed the point a bit. Allow me to explain.
Let us look at what the Bloc Québécois motion that was moved in the House today by the member for says.
That, in the opinion of the House:
(a) any scenario for redrawing the federal electoral map that would result in Quebec losing one or more electoral districts or that would reduce Quebec’s political weight in the House of Commons must be rejected; and
(b) the formula for apportioning seats in the House must be amended and the House call on the government to act accordingly.
There is a fine line here. I agree with part of the motion but disagree with another part. I will explain and provide my reasons for that in the hopes of convincing all of my colleagues from all parties, particularly those outside Quebec, to see things the way I do.
I will start by establishing the basis for my argument. Then I will explain the options that are available. That is where I disagree with the Bloc motion. Finally, I would like to propose a solution that I hope the Bloc will play a constructive role in.
Here is the part I agree with. Quebec should not lose a seat in the House of Commons. As my colleague, the NDP House leader and member for said, there is a way to establish a threshold, a minimum, that would prevent Quebec from losing a seat. I think it can be said that no province should lose seats.
The part I disagree with is what is implied in the second part of the Bloc's motion, that “[the reduction of] Quebec’s political weight in the House of Commons must be rejected”. I do not want Quebec to lose its demographic weight. However, there is a fairly simple solution to ensure that that does not happen. Quebec must keep its demographic weight.
We are a long way from the Canada of 1867. The way to do it in 2022 is to find a solution by trying to bring up the birth rate and the immigration rate. We must encourage people, especially francophones, to come and settle in Quebec from elsewhere in Canada. I have a good example, but I would like to start with some facts.
There are four formulas for determining the number of seats in the House of Commons. A very precise non-partisan system has been developed over the years. The formula for assigning the number of seats has evolved since Confederation in 1867. We know that there was a lot of what is known as politicking back then, and a lot of gerrymandering to determine the ridings. Fortunately, those days are gone and we now have a strictly non-partisan system for determining ridings in Canada.
How do we determine the number of seats in each province and territory?
There are four steps. First, the initial number of seats must be established. “The number of seats initially allocated to each province is calculated by dividing the population number of each province by the electoral quotient.” The electoral quotient for the year 2022 is 121,891. “The electoral quotient is obtained by multiplying the quotient of the last decennial redistribution (111,166) by the average of the population growth rates of the 10 provinces (9.647%) in the last 10 years.” The last decennial redistribution took place in 2011.
Canada is growing so fast, it is incredible. It has grown by almost 10% in 10 years. Quebec is also growing, but unfortunately, not at the same rate as the national average.
The second step in calculating seats is the application of special clauses that have been established over the years. This means that “adjustments are made to account for the ‘senatorial clause’”, which “guarantees that no province has fewer seats in the House of Commons than it has in the Senate.” We see this in the case of Prince Edward Island, an island that was part of Canada at the time of its founding. To ensure its entry into the Confederation, it was promised four seats in the House of Commons and four seats in the Senate.
Not only is there this senatorial clause, but there is also the grandfather clause, which “guarantees each province no fewer seats than it had in 1985”.
At the time, if I am not mistaken, it was Saskatchewan that was losing a seat because of a shrinking population, so the grandfather clause was created.
The third step is the application of the representation rule. Following the application of the special clauses, if a province that was overrepresented in the House of Commons at the completion of the last redistribution process becomes under-represented relative to its population, it will be given extra seats so that its share of seats is proportional to its share of the population. This is very important, and this rule has only been applied to Quebec. It goes back some 30 years. It is important to reinforce that this rule applies if its share of seats is not proportional to its share of the population.
The fourth step deals with territorial seats and the final calculation. Basically, each territory is guaranteed one seat in the House of Commons. This is a way of ensuring that there will always be at least three seats.
Under this formula, the commission is suggesting that a seat be taken away from Quebec. As I said at the outset, as a Quebecker, I do not think that is desirable. That is why we must do everything we can to avoid this situation. We must therefore figure out how we can avoid it, given what we have in front of us.
I think that the way to do this is to revisit that grandfather clause. This is important, and I think that this is the solution. Unfortunately, the Bloc Québécois motion goes a bit further. Not only does it call for Quebec to not lose a seat, but it also calls for Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons not to be reduced.
There is one province that has not lost a seat: Prince Edward Island. Each member in that province represents about 40,000 people. I do not want that to happen in Quebec. Quebec is not Prince Edward Island. I have a lot of respect for my Islander friends. I love them, and I love visiting their province. However, I do think that Quebec is distinct, and so I do not want there to be a commitment that Quebec will always be guaranteed a quarter of the seats in the House of Commons, regardless of its population. We could end up with a situation where members would represent very few people compared to their colleagues in other provinces. I think that this would diminish our legitimacy. As I said at the beginning, I am speaking as the proud member for Hull—Aylmer and a proud Quebecker.
I think that the solution is to set a threshold for Quebec, to make sure that Quebec does not lose a seat. In the meantime, I hope that the Bloc Québécois will join me in promoting the long-term solution. That solution is to think about getting more people to come to Quebec to learn the French language and to embrace our beautiful culture and our beautiful language. I think that this is really the solution.
This is really the solution, and I urge the Bloc Québécois to support this idea. I heard the hon. member for La Prairie speak of his love of immigration and new Quebeckers. I agree with him wholeheartedly. We need to go a bit farther, encourage immigration, request our share of immigrants and target countries where there are people who would like to settle in Canada or Quebec and live in French.
I will use the five minutes I have left to describe one fine example, namely my riding of Hull—Aylmer, which is growing rapidly. Where is this growth coming from? Immigration, in particular from French-speaking Africa. These people settle in Quebec and are fluent in French since it is their first language. They are prepared to adapt their culture and adopt the culture of our beautiful region, Outaouais.
Many of my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois temporarily become my constituents five days a week when Parliament is sitting. I appreciate their presence and enjoy being their representative here in the House of Commons.
Outaouais, and especially Hull—Aylmer, is the second most popular immigration destination in Quebec. Of course, more immigrants arrive in Montreal, but only two-thirds of them stay there. In Outaouais, and especially in Hull—Aylmer, the western part of that region, 98% of immigrants from French-speaking Africa settle there permanently. We are very welcoming. We are a model for Quebec. We are very grateful to these people for their contribution to our joie de vivre and our way of seeing things. They too are proud Quebeckers. They are also proud Canadians.
What I am proposing is the model to follow, and it is feasible. No one can convince me that we could not find 100,000 francophones in the world who would like to settle here and benefit from what we have in Quebec. That is obvious.
That is the long-term solution. I urge my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois to join me and become part of the solution, as they did yesterday with their excellent work during the debate on Ukraine. I saw the willingness of Bloc members to be part of the solution.
They could amend their motion before the end of the day. I am reaching out and inviting them to be part of the solution. We must find a way to get all members on board with the motion, in order to make sure that Quebec keeps the same number of seats. We need to find a solution to make sure that Quebec not only maintains its demographic weight in Canada but actually increases it, as it should. I would be proud to be a part of that.
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer for his speech. Since he is also my representative, that gives me an idea. I could transfer a few cases in my riding to him. We could join forces.
I found several parts of my colleague’s speech very interesting, in particular the one in which he proposed having more babies. I would like him to know that, in Quebec, we experienced that with the “revanche des berceaux”, or revenge of the cradle: At one time, parish priests insisted that women who already had seven, eight or nine children have more. Quebec has done its part.
It seems that my colleague is also confusing demographic weight and political weight. I would like to make a small clarification to the perception he appears to have of the motion put forward by my colleague, the leader of the Bloc Québécois and member for .
We are not talking about Quebec as a province. We define Quebec as a nation. From this point of view, the motion put forward today by the Bloc Québécois is perfect just the way it is.
Does my colleague from Hull—Aylmer recognize, as the House of Commons did on June 16, 2021, that Quebec is a nation whose only official and common language is French, a welcoming nation that wishes to accept more francophone immigrants and to facilitate the integration of these valuable future citizens?
After he answers this, could he also explain why, although we want to open Quebec’s doors to francophone immigration, his government, through the Department of Immigration, discriminates almost systematically against francophone African students who wish, as my colleague himself would like, to settle in Quebec?
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am pleased to be joining the debate on this motion. I would have much loved to have been there, but members can probably hear that I sound a bit ill. I have a cold, so I cannot fly there and take part in this debate in person.
I want to outline to my constituents, Albertans, westerners and Canadians how the process works. There is a Yiddish proverb, but I need to introduce how this is going to work first. The Constitution in Canada requires a redistribution of seats every 10 years. This is done based on the political weight of the various provinces. Statistics Canada produces a census. That census was released in February with the data within it.
I have two interesting data points I want to note. As an Albertan, I represent the second largest riding by population size in Canada with 163,447 people living here. Many members will know that number is 40% bigger than what the original quotient average was intended to be. My colleague for represents 209,431 people in his riding, which is double the number of what an average riding in Canada should have. With that comes double the case files, double the emails and double the phone calls. Essentially it is double everything with the same resources and the same person to represent them all.
That is the life of an urban Calgary MP. happens to be one of those rare “rurban” ridings. It is both a rural county and the city of Edmonton, which is slowly growing into the county as it builds brand new suburbs, which can seen when driving north on Highway 2. That is the challenge of an urban MP.
Then we have the challenges of rural MPs. Those ridings have perhaps fewer people in them, but they have more mayors, more city councillors, more local clubs. Members might be surprised to know that, up until very recently, I did not even have a high school in my riding. Up until 2018, I had no high school in my riding in the city of Calgary. I know that is shocking, but it is not the case for rural MPs. They may have three, four, five, six high schools depending on how big the counties are and which areas they go into. Sometimes small towns have basically everything from kindergarten all the way to grade 11 or grade 12, just in their riding. That brings its own challenges in representation.
When we do the redistribution of the Constitution every 10 years, it is based purely on demographic weight, not political weight, all across Canada. There are four rules that are followed when we do redistributions in Canada. As I said, I have a Yiddish proverb, “Don't give me the honey and spare me the sting”.
We are westerners, and both of us represent provinces which are under-represented. The honey to us would be to have more seats, and Alberta is looking at three seats in this redistribution. The sting comes with the fact that every redistribution makes lots of people unhappy. There is always the case that not everybody gets everything that they would like based on the formula.
Let us talk about the formula that was used. The formula was passed in 2011 and received royal assent in 2012. It is called the Fair Representation Act. It basically acknowledged the fact that the fastest growing provinces in Canada were not gaining enough seats to ensure representation by population. Those three provinces namely were Ontario, British Columbia and my home province of Alberta. In this redistribution, the goal was to ensure that they would catch up in effect. That is why in 2015 we saw the addition of 30 new ridings. It was to try to get closer to what is called “rep by pop” and get closer to the representation that is mandated by the Constitution.
In this redistribution, the electoral quotient being used by Elections Canada is 121,891. Of course, there will be some back and forth available here in order to ensure that the smaller towns, counties and regions are well represented and to reduce to the minimal amount possible the distance MPs have to drive to represent their constituents.
In Canada there are four rules. The first is a quotient that is used by Elections Canada to determine how many seats per riding should be available. We then apply the senatorial clause, so no province can have fewer members of Parliament than it has senators in the Senate of Canada, that other place. Then we apply the grandfathering clause. In 1985, we basically agreed that no province should lose a seat based on what it had in 1985. There are slower growing provinces. Today this primarily impacts Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Finally, in 2011-12, we added the representation rule specifically applied to the province of Quebec in order to ensure that it would always have representation by population.
I will note that in this redistribution, the population of Quebec, according to Statistics Canada is 22.57% and 22.71% will be the seat count. It is trying to reach that goal of getting to an apportionment representation by population in that particular situation.
We have heard some of the challenges that exist in representing very large ridings and representing urban ridings, and the overall challenge of representation as a member of Parliament. I think it is very challenging. Every single formula we agree to at any point will have winners and losers in it, and we are always trying to go for that win-win.
In preparing for this debate, I went back to the debates that happened originally in 2011 and 2012 on this particular subject of how we could ensure that we did not just keep increasing the number of MPs, as other Westminster parliaments have done, because we have these rules we have agreed to over the last 40 or 50 years. However, it is always stinging when we have these changes that can happen based on a formula.
It is hard to predict what is going to happen just a few weeks from now. It is hard to predict what will happen 10 years from now. Economics bears a great deal of weight on how population movement happens in Canada. My home province of Alberta had a boom in the early 2000s that attracted an enormous number of people to our home province, who settled there and brought their families. We built schools and highways and everything. It was a very attractive point for people to move there, so our population grew incredibly quickly.
That is the case for British Columbia today. It is still the case for Ontario. The number one destination for a lot of people who come to Canada remains our major cities, and the biggest city in Canada is Toronto and the greater Toronto region, which continues to attract so many people because of the job opportunities and the economic opportunities it provides. It is also a great place to live, work and play, which I would say all of Canada is. We are in the greatest country in the world, and we should cherish that and make sure that whatever we do here addresses those points and continues that for future generations.
In section (b) of the motion the Bloc has proposed, it does not really propose a solution. There is no real solution here for how to fix the problem the Bloc members have identified. They say “political weight”, but I would read into it as preferably “democratic weight”, and it would apply to only one province. However, the second part of the motion does not offer a formula solution, and the Electoral Boundaries Commission, which is this independent commission, is already working.
It has already started its work. It has a website we can go to. There are actually commission reports. The commission has already started its work. It is already working, so essentially what the Bloc is asking here is to change the rules of the game once the game has already started, and it would be difficult to direct the commission to change it. I think it is still pretty early in the process. I do not think it is impossible, but we should recognize that since October the commissioners have been appointed and they have been holding consultation meetings already. By August, at the latest, they are supposed to write back and publicly disclose the maps that would be used for the next redistribution, hopefully in time for the next federal election.
However, if we go to the Elections Canada's website and the electoral boundaries commission's website, it is saying these changes may not be in place until April 1, 2024. This is a minority Parliament; let us recognize that. The last time a Parliament took it upon itself to discuss this, it was the 2008 to 2011 Parliament, and it was not able to finish it then, which is why it was passed in 2012.
I wanted to lay that out. There is a good logical case to be made that no province should be made worse off after redistribution, but we have this formula, a formula that received royal assent in 2012. It is the 11th hour, so to speak, and I know it is stinging for those who believe that no province should lose a seat. We have different constitutional rules and conventions in place to ensure that does not happen.
I will be happy to take questions and to continue this debate with colleagues in the chamber.
Madam Speaker, I would first like to reiterate the Conservative Party's support for the people of Ukraine. I think this is an extremely dark period in our history. People who were living in happiness just yesterday are living in fear today. I think it is important that we take every opportunity to support these people, salute their courage in resisting Putin's invasion, and let them know that all Canadians are behind them.
We are here to discuss democracy in Canada and how Canadians are represented in the House of Commons. This opportunity was given to us by the Bloc Québécois motion that we are debating. The federal electoral map is revised every 10 years, and each time, it challenges many of our preconceived ideas. We must have these discussions, but we must also use each one as an opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of the role of members in the House of Commons.
By way of background, Elections Canada has estimated that the number of MPs from Quebec should drop from 78 seats to 77 in 2024. Conversely, Ontario and British Columbia would each gain a seat, while Alberta would gain three.
I want to put partisan politics aside and speak about the role of an MP. Losing a member of Parliament, from any province or region, has negative consequences for the constituents, especially in rural regions, and rural areas are the ones most likely to see their riding disappear.
Canadians are looking for answers to their questions and concerns every day. Many are frustrated about the lack of information from different departments. On top of that, the government can be slow to respond, especially over the past two years during the COVID-19 crisis, when no one knew where to turn. The members here in the House of Commons have offices that often fielded calls from constituents asking for help understanding the many measures announced by various governments during that time.
Naturally, people turned to their members of Parliament. In many cases, the MP's office was the constituent's only way to connect with the government, because there came a point where they just could not get an answer. Our MPs therefore took over for the government when it was not able to provide answers quickly. This very important connection between constituents and their MPs could be more difficult to maintain if there are no standards to ensure that people living in rural areas can maintain meaningful access to their MP.
As the member for Mégantic—L'Érable, I obviously do not represent as many constituents as a member from a Montreal riding. However, my riding is 500 times bigger and contains 50 municipalities. That means 50 mayors, 50 municipal councils, hundreds of social clubs or even seniors' groups, not to mention dozens of chambers of commerce, business associations, agricultural associations and so on.
How can one MP have conversations with 50 or more mayors and find time to meet them all? Even if that MP met with just one town council per month—because they all meet around the same time—it would be impossible to meet with all of them over the course of a four-year term in office. There are not enough months. Four years is 48 months, and I have 50 municipalities. If I want to see each municipal council, it is just not possible over the course of a single mandate.
Fortunately, we now have Zoom and digital tools that enable us to meet with more people at the same time, but nothing is quite like meeting face to face, connecting with people and having real conversations with the folks we represent. How are we supposed to make sure development and infrastructure projects are moving forward? How are we supposed to cope with the challenge of fitting all that in, doing all that work?
The answer is self-evident. My riding is not the only one like this. Many of my colleagues are in exactly the same position with their ridings.
Electoral redistribution could reshape these ridings, making them even larger to cover, which will limit Canadians' access to their MPs and to federal government services.
MPs are actually a bit like family doctors in the sense that, when they have too many patients, it is hard to get an appointment. The more constituents and territory MPs have to cover, the harder it is for them to hear their constituents' concerns. It is also harder for citizens to access their MPs, the government or the House of Commons to make their wishes known. Quebeckers from the regions, especially those from rural Quebec, also deserve to maintain their political weight in Ottawa, as do rural Canadians across the country.
I worry about how the people in my riding and in the regions of Quebec and Canada will be affected by electoral redistribution. If we reduce the number of MPs, people will no longer be able to make their voices heard as much as in the past. For the sake of members' representation and work in rural constituencies, the needs to consider rural Canada and Quebec in his criteria.
Any change to the electoral map that does not take into account the geography, demographics or needs of the local population is, in my opinion, doomed to diminish Canadian democracy. Any redistribution that does not take into account the regional reality is also condemned to change our democratic life. At the risk of repeating myself, the proposed redistribution will reduce the weight of rural regions. They will be less represented than urban ridings.
I will make a comparison. A member of Parliament from a city is no better than a member from a rural region. The work is simply different. People who live in a major city may have access to the office of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, because that department has an office in their town. Residents will not go to their MP with questions. They will go to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. When there are too many problems, they will end up going to the MP, but the first point of contact with the government for people who live in big cities is often the government offices that are there.
There are no federal immigration or transportation offices in the riding of Mégantic—L'Érable. Such offices do not exist. The only gateway for accessing federal services is the MP's office, so we get a very high volume of calls. I understand that our job is not to represent the government in our ridings, but when people have questions for the federal government and do not have direct access to the government in their riding, they go through their MP. That is the reality of the current situation.
The Prime Minister can decide to maintain the number of seats in every riding if he wants to. He can choose not to reduce the number of seats as part of the electoral redistribution that is currently under way. I think the Prime Minister should take what I am saying into consideration. No province should have to lose a seat in any scenario. If that happens today, then it could happen again in 10 or 20 years, and who knows which provinces will be affected by this situation next.
Quebec is not the only province affected. There are four other provinces whose representative weight is greater than their demographic weight. They are Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. This is food for thought.
We need to maintain the representation of the regions in Parliament so that the voices of all Canadians, no matter who they are, can continue to be heard by their MP. That is the right thing to do, both to protect rural areas and to preserve the uniqueness of Quebec as a nation within Canada.
I sincerely believe that, right now, the Prime Minister has an opportunity to do the right thing. He can decide not to reduce the number of MPs in Quebec from 78 to 77, while still giving other provinces more MPs so they are better represented.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this important debate. I will be sharing my time with my wonderful colleague, the member for , who will have some very interesting things to say. I look forward to hearing him.
Like many of my colleagues in the House, I would like to take a few moments to express our solidarity with the Ukrainian people who have been living through very dark days for almost a week. They have been suffering a brutal assault by a dictator, Vladimir Putin. I feel especially concerned, as the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, since my riding is the area in Montreal where there is the Parc de l'Ukraine, the Ukrainian Orthodox Basilica and the Ukrainian Festival every year, which I attend with Quebeckers and Montrealers of Ukrainian origin. We are all very shaken. We are here to support Ukrainians as well as to support the peace process.
Today’s debate is important because it brings up the question of Quebec’s place in the federation and Quebec’s signing of the Constitution, as well as Quebec’s political weight in the House and in Parliament. I will come back to that a little later.
This raises fundamental questions about democracy and the equality of citizens. We are lucky enough to live in a democratic system in which people express themselves because of a notion of popular sovereignty that leaves it up to the people to decide. We must respect the equality of people, of men and women. The notion of democracy stems from the principle that human beings are born free and equal in rights.
The democratic notion of equality—one citizen, one vote—is not always observed in a certain sense, sometimes for the wrong reasons, but sometimes for the right ones. We tend to forget the bad reasons because we are all too often used to them, unfortunately. Our electoral system is designed so that not all votes are equal. Some votes are lost or do not count in a first-past-the-post system like ours, rather than in a proportional system. Many votes do not make it to Parliament and do not get expressed.
I will use Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie as an example. Last fall, there was a general election. I was lucky enough to be re-elected for a fourth time, but with just under 50% of the votes, 49%, to be exact. This means that 50% of the people of Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie did not vote for the NDP. Are these people represented in the House of Commons? Hopefully, their vote was taken up elsewhere in other ridings.
Since members can be elected with 35% or 40% of the votes, the majority of citizens who voted in an election are often not represented by the members sitting here, in the House. This is becoming more common and, very often—this is practically the rule—we end up with a government that represents a minority of citizens who voted for it. A party can win an election with 37% or 38% of the vote and have a majority government with 65% of the seats in the House and impose its views on Parliament for four years.
If we had a proportional system, if the Liberals had kept their promise and changed the electoral system as they promised in 2015, we might not be where we are today. There have even been situations in our history, on a number of occasions, where the party with the most votes did not form the government. The party that came second, based on the total number of votes, had the majority of the seats. This is an absurd democratic contradiction. I do not understand why the Conservative Party does not get more worked up; the Conservatives got more votes than the Liberals in the last two elections and yet they are in opposition, instead of forming the government. That does not seem to bother them. We in the NDP are troubled by this because it touches on a fundamental issue, the equality of citizens.
There may be good reasons for not observing that equality of votes. The electoral system is a very bad reason, because it could be changed quite easily. Most democracies in the world have done so. However, there are good reasons. There are criteria we can use to decide how and when people will be represented.
As mentioned earlier in this debate, certain criteria already exist in our system. For example, we have to evaluate a number of things. Some of my colleagues from the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party have mentioned the senatorial clause, which ensures that Prince Edward Island, for example, cannot have fewer MPs than it has senators. In fact, that was a condition for its entry into Confederation. There is the grandfathering clause that applies to certain provinces; this has also come up. Finally, we have the territorial clause, which says that the territories must be represented even though they have far fewer constituents than more densely populated ridings like mine. I must also point out that Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie is a tiny riding, but 110,000 people live there. That is a lot of people per square kilometre. The territories should have their own MPs even though they have less than half that population spread over a huge area often as big as a number of European countries. These MPs also represent indigenous and Inuit communities, who must be represented to have a voice in the House.
All these criteria need to be examined, which is perfectly normal. That is why an automatic demographic formula is not applied as a basic mathematical rule, but rather a series of exceptions. More criteria are applied, and sometimes for very good reasons.
This system of accommodation means that we can and we must have this kind of discussion, which was brought about by today's motion.
I will refrain from giving a long history lesson and going back to Upper and Lower Canada, but let us not forget that Quebec did not sign the Constitution of 1982. That is problematic. I am very proud of my party leader, who said at a federal NDP convention that that was a historic mistake, which must be resolved one day, one way or another. That said, attempts have been made to heal the scars, the wounds inflicted on René Lévesque and the entire Quebec population. There were two attempts during my teenage years, just as I was beginning to take an interest in politics. There was the Meech Lake Accord attempt between 1987 and 1990, which was rejected, and the Charlottetown Accord that was negotiated afterwards.
I will not rehash all of Quebec’s historical claims and the criteria. There are a number of them, and they are not all mutually exclusive. However, one of the considerations in the Charlottetown Accord was Quebec’s political weight in Parliament, which was set at 25%. This was negotiated by the Conservative government of then prime minister Brian Mulroney. This agreement was approved by my party, the NDP. This is nothing new. The issue of Quebec’s political weight in the House should not be seen as something original or new. There are precedents that were negotiated by the Conservatives and supported by the NDP. I think that this needs to be part of our debate on this motion.
Since the House formally recognized Quebec as a nation, I think that we could have a Quebec clause recognizing that Quebec is a nation and that, as a result, like other Senate provisions, territorial provisions or grandfathering provisions, could be applied to the distribution of seats and that this would not come at the expense of the representation of other provinces. Since Parliament recognized that Quebec is a nation, and that Quebeckers or French Canadians were one of the two founding peoples, then this needs to be meaningfully expressed and have an impact. It would make sense that a Quebec provision—I am not saying it would be the only one—would be one of them.
As a proud Quebecker, I will be pleased to support this motion. I would not want to support the political undermining of Quebec.
I hope that my Liberal and Conservative colleagues in Quebec feel the same way. Immigration is an important and necessary tool to maintain Quebec’s demographic weight, but there are also other ways to do it, and this one would be very effective.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of the motion, as I previously said.
Like many others who have spoken today, I am extremely sad about the events happening, not here in the House or in Ottawa, but on the other side of the world, in Ukraine. Ukrainian civilians are being massacred by the missiles raining down on them, and their cities are under heavy bombardment. As my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie said, it is with a heavy heart that I, along with everyone else, see these massacres, the likes of which Europe has not seen in more than a century. We thought they would never happen again.
Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine and its soldiers. We hope that the dictator responsible for this tragedy and all of this suffering, as well as those around him, will see that what is happening in Ukraine is horrific and will immediately call off this invasion. That is what we all want to see, and Canada is doing its part.
To get back to the motion we are debating in the House today, the idea of a threshold for Quebec just makes sense. I have said this many times. The idea that Quebec’s presence in the House requires that it not lose any seats is normal. These thresholds already exist, as I mentioned earlier. In fact, the territories and New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Saskatchewan all have thresholds that ensure that they will not lose any seats. If that had not been the case, we might be discussing the loss of seats in Saskatchewan.
The NDP fully supports these thresholds to ensure the preservation of this representation, which is so important for our democracy. With respect to today’s motion, it only makes sense that Quebec have such a threshold for minimum representation in order to ensure that it will always have the same weight in the House and not lose seats. That is normal.
I represent British Columbia, and I would like that province to have more seats, which will likely be the case after the most recent census. British Columbia and Alberta, which are the most under-represented provinces, will receive additional seats. However, in our opinion, that should not mean that other regions of the country should lose seats.
That is the reason why the NDP supports the motion. When we look at what is currently in place for our population, these long-standing traditions are important.
In Atlantic Canada, which is significantly overrepresented, there is one federal MP for every 39,000 inhabitants in Prince Edward Island. New Brunswick has one MP for every 79,000 people. Newfoundland and Labrador has one MP for every 74,000 inhabitants. Nova Scotia has one MP for every 88,000 people.
I will not get into the exceptions that apply to the territories, since the territories are immense and they are extremely well represented. I am thinking here about my colleague, the hon. member for , who does extraordinary work in a riding covering an area larger than most countries on Earth. She does her job so well. She is extraordinary, and works tirelessly for her constituents in Nunavut.
Other provinces have also had an exemption. For example, in Manitoba, there is one MP for every 98,000 people and, in Saskatchewan, one for every 84,000 people. In Quebec right now there is one MP for every 109,000 people. In Ontario, there is one for every 123,000 people. In British Columbia, there is one MP for every 125,000 people. Lastly, in Alberta, there is one for every 130,000 people. As members can see, this should be looked at. We make adjustments every 10 years based on the census.
The threshold principle already exists. The motion presented today only makes sense. The current exceptions pertain to much lower thresholds than what we are talking about today with the motion. That is why it only makes sense, and that is why we will be supporting the motion.
The other reason has to do with history. I came to the House in 2004 with Jack Layton’s team. As a New Democrat, I am very proud of our history, not only for our efforts to ensure a place for the Quebec nation in Canada and the Canadian federation, but also for the work the NDP has done, differently from all other parties in Canada, to ensure the survival of the French fact in Canada.
As everyone knows, I represent British Columbia, one of the provinces where the number of francophones is constantly increasing. Many people from francophone countries immigrate to British Columbia. In addition, the Fédération des francophones de la Colombie-Britannique can attest to the presence of a very dynamic network of French-speaking merchants. British Columbia also has a network of school boards, which includes dozens of French-language schools. I want to say that this was put in place by an NDP government.
In British Columbia, as in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, it was NDP governments that opened the door to ensuring French-language education for all francophone students in the province. We are proud of that legacy. The NDP does not say one thing when it is in Ottawa and another when it is in New Westminster, Winnipeg or Saskatoon. We are consistent with our values when it comes to strengthening official languages across the country. That is what NDP governments have done everywhere they have been and everywhere they are.
Léo Piquette, Elizabeth Weir and Alexa McDonough, New Democrats in other provinces, have also advanced the cause of equality of both official languages. No matter where they are in the country, New Democrats have always been there to strengthen the official languages and the French fact.
The legacy of the New Democrats is different from that of the Liberals or Conservatives, who always talk about strengthening the official languages when they are in Ottawa, but change their minds when they return to their regions. The NDP is consistent; it has values and principles. We are very proud to have maintained these principles for many years.
As I said before, today’s motion only makes sense.
My question is for the Liberals and Conservatives. When the NDP tabled this bill 10 years ago, the Liberals and Conservatives opposed it, despite the fact that the Liberals support the principle of a threshold for Atlantic Canada and the Conservatives support the same principle for Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
We have to be logical and consistent. That is why we will vote in favour of the motion.
Mr. Speaker, before I am scolded for forgetting to inform you, I would like to say that I intend to share my time with my esteemed and excellent colleague from .
With respect to today’s motion, I will be very honest and start with a confession. Initially, I wondered why it would not be normal that Quebec would lose a seat, since it seemed logical to me, given our smaller demographic weight. That was what I first thought, instinctively. However, at some point, we start asking ourselves questions and digging a bit deeper, and that is exactly what these debates in the House are for.
I wondered why it would be justifiable for Quebec to demand a number of seats that is not equivalent to its demographic weight. The first observation we can make is that, basically, the formula used to calculate the number of seats in Quebec is not purely mathematical. There are three examples of this.
First, there is the senatorial clause. This clause ensures that no province will have fewer members of Parliament than senators. It ensures four seats for Prince Edward Island even though, technically, because of its population, it should have only one.
Second, there is a grandfather clause in the current formula that ensures that no province can have fewer members after a future redistribution than it had in 1985, which is why the Maritimes and Saskatchewan have kept their seats.
Third, there is a clause for the territories that allows each of them one MP even though, technically, the total population of the territories would warrant only one MP for all of them combined.
Since we are already working outside the scope of a purely mathematical framework, we are wondering whether there is a clause that would allow Quebec to claim a number of seats that is not equivalent to its demographic weight. The answer is no, and that is precisely the problem we are trying to remedy today.
Some may be wondering why we are doing this. Our history books show that, when Canada was created, it had two founding peoples. Last October, we marked the very sad anniversary of the creation of Canada's multiculturalism policy in 1971. In somewhat more recent history, the government started dismissing the notion of founding peoples, which had given Quebec some preeminence, and replaced it with Canada's much-touted multiculturalism. Biculturalism was shoved aside by multiculturalism, which muddied the waters and suddenly made Quebec a little less prominent on the map of Canada.
Since history always repeats itself to some extent, in 1995, Jean Chrétien's government recognized that Quebec was a distinct society. We are not sure why, but it may have had something to do with the fact that Canada nearly lost a referendum a few months earlier. All of a sudden, Quebec was being recognized as a distinct society. The Bloc Québécois's response was that this was just a mirage. I would like to quote what Lucien Bouchard said in debate the day this resolution was adopted. He said, and I quote:
...from Meech 1 to Meech 2 and from Meech 2 to Charlottetown, Quebec was always offered less and less. Maybe they offered a little less each time because they were tired by their previous effort....How can the Prime Minister think that Quebecers will be pleased to hear him say that he recognizes the fact that they are a distinct society? How can he think that this will make us, Quebecers, happy? We certainly know that we are a distinct society and we have known it for quite some time. What we want is the means to make our own decisions, to plan Quebec's future based on our differences. That is what we want, but we are not getting it. There is nothing to that effect in the resolution.
In 2006, it was déjà vu all over again. The Harper government recognized Quebec as a nation. I thought it might be fun to see what Wikipedia had to say about that, and indeed, there is a page on the subject. It is very interesting. At the top, it reads:
It is important to note that this motion is symbolic because it does not amend the Constitution Act, 1867, which states that Quebec is one of Canada's provinces. In addition, it was not endorsed by the Senate, the federal Parliament's second house. There has been very little interest in constitutional amendments since the failure of the Meech Lake accord, and politicians find themselves in a situation where all they can do is issue symbolic declarations.
I will expand on the symbolic nature of these recognitions shortly.
Just last June, the Bloc Québécois got the following motion passed in the House of Commons:
That the House agree that section 45 of the Constitution Act, 1982, grants Quebec and the provinces exclusive jurisdiction to amend their respective constitutions and acknowledge the will of Quebec to enshrine in its constitution that Quebeckers form a nation, that French is the only official language of Quebec and that it is also the common language of the Quebec nation.
Back then, we reiterated the importance of walking the talk. Being recognized as a nation is not the end of the story, and that is why we are moving today's motion.
I would like to make a brief aside on another subject. Quebec has had its own distinct character for some years on the issue of immigration. The two issues are intrinsically tied together. I will link them at the end of my speech. Quebec shares this jurisdiction with the federal government. Immigration is one of the jurisdictions that fall under both levels of government. For several years now, some of these powers have been decentralized. The first agreements that were signed, such as the Lang-Cloutier agreement in 1971 and the Andras-Bienvenue agreement in 1975, made changes that were more administrative in nature. However, an important first step was already being taken in the area of immigrant selection. For the first time, Canada was forced to consider Quebec's opinion with respect to each new applicant headed for its territory. A little later, in 1979, the Cullen-Couture agreement was signed. In this case, issues involving temporary immigration required discussions between the two levels of government, and that forced them to work together even more. The major breakthrough, when Quebec gained the power to choose a large part of its immigration intake, came from the Canada–Québec Accord relating to Immigration and Temporary Admission of Aliens, which was signed by Ms. McDougall and Ms. Gagnon-Tremblay in 1991 and is more commonly known as the Canada-Quebec accord. This document gives Quebec significant powers to welcome people who are able to work. As a result of the agreement, Quebec finally gained full control over the selection process for economic immigrants, as well as powers over integration and francization. In other words, Quebec can determine the entry volumes of these future permanent residents.
One of the reasons we are debating the issue before us today is because it relates to immigration issues, and this has an impact on Quebec's political weight. A few days ago, Paul Journet wrote an article entitled “Quebec is losing its influence”. We often debate immigration thresholds in Quebec. People say it should be between 40,000 and 50,000 immigrants. If we compare Quebec with what Canada is doing, we can see that there really is no comparison. Canada is talking about increasing the number of immigrants it will welcome to its territory from 280,000 to 430,000. Proportionately for Quebec, 40,000 or 50,000 immigrants out of 8.5 million inhabitants represents 5% of the population. For Canada, the threshold of 430,000 immigrants suggested by the Liberals out of 38 million people, minus Quebec's 8.5 million, represents about 1.4% of the population. Population growth due to immigration is three times faster in Quebec than in Canada. This is the result of a choice made by Quebec, which wants to ensure the proper francization and integration of its immigrants. English Canada does not face the same constraint, since English is a more internationally recognized and commonly used language. With that in mind, Quebec is justified in wanting to do something not about Canada's choice of immigration thresholds, but about the direct and indirect consequences that Canada's decisions may have on Quebec. That is exactly what the Bloc Québécois motion today is all about. In fact, when a decision by Canada has a negative impact, for example, if the immigration thresholds are increased and there are not enough resources, this has an impact in Quebec on the processing of our files. In this case, we would like to see more money allocated and more civil servants assigned to the processing of these files. It is the same scenario if it causes the demographic weight of Quebec to decrease. We want representation that is proportional to our special status, which is justified. It is not a whim; it is simply a matter of giving concrete expression to what it really means to be a nation.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have this opportunity to share some thoughts on Quebec's declining political weight.
I can already hear the member for 's snarky comments about the extra weight I am carrying around, but this is not about me. It is about Quebec's political weight.
Quebec's influence is clearly declining in a number of ways. Losing a seat in the House would be one way. That said, there is something else I would like to touch on.
I can see that Quebec is not as influential when I look at the mainstream ideas gaining ground in Canada right now, ideas that do not really apply to Quebec. On the one hand, we have the rise of a kind of conservative populism that denies climate change, has a narrow definition of freedom, is disconnected from Quebec's reality and has nothing to do with Quebeckers' interests. On the other hand, we are seeing the rise of a sort of multicultural political correctness whose adherents view secularism as an obstacle to freedom and pluralism.
These two key political viewpoints show that Quebec's voice may not be adequately represented in this assembly. The same goes for economic interests. Quebec's voice is not well represented in this assembly when it comes to economic interests. The majority of our debates are focused on oil and gas.
There are two major sectors of activity in Canada. One is the automotive sector, and the other is the oil and gas sector. I hear my Conservative colleagues making connections between the current crisis in Ukraine and big oil's agenda. This does not affect Quebeckers. I look forward to seeing my Conservative colleagues from Quebec stand up to address the issues that affect Quebec a bit more. Just look at the softwood lumber sector. Canada has never wanted to go to battle to come to an agreement with the United States that would be good for Quebec. This is one illustration, one manifestation of Quebec's loss of influence.
The same thing goes for Quebec's legitimate aspirations. I will just go over them quickly, but there is Bill 96 on the official and common language of Quebec. Some people have said that this law discriminates against the English-speaking minority, which is probably better treated than any other minority in the whole world. Anglophones make up 8% of Quebec's population, but they get 32% or 33% of the post-secondary education funding. Give me a break.
It is the same thing with the challenges to Bill 21, Quebec's secularism bill. The mayors of some municipalities were quick to portray the secularism law as something racist that should be fought. In a way, that is another illustration of Quebec's waning influence.
What can stand as a bulwark? Well, Quebec nationalism can. Unfortunately, though, Quebec nationalism gets bad press, and perhaps that is what I want to talk about today. I want us to define together what Quebec nationalism is. This is important, because the bill introduced by the dreaded member for Drummond contains a provision about the nation. I would therefore like us to agree on what we mean by “Quebec nationalism”.
First of all, Quebec nationalism is not a bellicose nationalism. There has never been any question of invading Ontario or fighting New Brunswick. Quebec nationalism has absolutely nothing to do with what we understand as bellicose nationalism.
In my opinion, the most interesting thesis on Quebec nationalism comes from Léon Dion, the father of another well-known Dion, the one who still had a Quebec conscience. I mean no offence.
Léon Dion's thesis is that during the first half of the 20th century, a conservative nationalism emerged in Quebec. It was a nationalism associated with the myth of survival. It is true that it is an identity-based nationalism, in which Quebeckers clung to the reference points they had, that is, their language and their religion. That religion has historically been quite problematic for us, as my grandmother, who was forced to have 18 children, could attest. That is why, today, we understand to some extent why our vision of religion differs from that of Canadians.
Léon Dion also talks about a liberal or social-democratic nationalism that is associated with the birth of the Quebec state during the Quiet Revolution.
I would like to share a quote from Jean Lesage, who said: “The only power we have is our state, the state of Quebec. We cannot afford the luxury of letting it sit idle.” This quote gets to the heart of Quebec nationalism. When Lesage said this, he was also alluding to a theme he would champion throughout what would become the Quiet Revolution: The Quebec state will be the driving force of our emancipation.
When I think of nationalism, I think of the Quebec state protecting a national minority that has a different culture. I want to dispel a myth about Quebec nationalism that has persisted for some 50 years now, which is that Quebec nationalism is a form of withdrawal. I disagree.
Hubert Aquin did the best job of debunking that myth about Quebec in 1962. He wrote a response to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the father of another person we know, who had written a passionate critique of Quebec nationalism in an essay called “La nouvelle trahison des clercs”, or the new treason of the intellectuals.
That makes me think of a story that bears repeating. Who here knows the difference between Mr. Trudeau and René Lévesque? During the Second World War, Mr. Trudeau was fortunate to be in Canada, canoeing all kinds of lakes, while René Lévesque was working as a war correspondent for American media outlets. René Lévesque was one of the first journalists to enter Dachau. Meanwhile, Pierre Elliott Trudeau was off canoeing. René Lévesque never equated Quebec nationalism with the type of nationalism based on inward-looking attitudes or aggressive nationalism. Meanwhile, Trudeau senior, who was busy paddling around, did make that dubious connection. End of story.
In “La nouvelle trahison des clercs”, Pierre Elliott Trudeau says it is up to us to be our best selves because being better will show English Canada that French-Canadian culture is vibrant.
In “La fatigue culturelle du Canada français”, Hubert Aquin offered this magnificent response: “Why should French Canadians have to be better? Why must they 'break through' to justify their existence?”
This is one of the bigger Gordian knots in Canada. Why do we have to continually fight to legitimize our existence? This is what Hubert Aquin said.
What Hubert Aquin did that was so fantastic is that he debunked the myth of nationalism as a withdrawal into one's identity. He pointed out that the Quebec nation has never been based on a single ethnicity; that the Quebec nation is the result of diasporas of many nationalities; that it is the result of a history founded by French Canadians, of course, but from a plurality of ethnicities. The only thing that these people share is a common culture.
When Hubert Aquin responded to Trudeau senior in 1962, he said that the fundamental distinction between English Canada and French Canada is that French Canada is monocultural. French Canada is based on one culture, while English Canada is bicultural. In this sense, according to Hubert Aquin, there is an openness to diversity. This openness is possible as long as Quebec's culture is respected.
I will conclude by saying that the best way to protect Quebec culture is to accept the nationalism that goes with it.
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with my colleague from .
It is with great pleasure that I rise to discuss an important issue, the readjustment of Canada's federal electoral boundaries.
My speech today will focus on a key aspect of the electoral boundaries readjustment process, which has now officially begun.
The Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act sets out the process by which the seats of the House of Commons are redistributed every 10 years. Why every 10 years? It corresponds to the timing of the release of decennial census data, which is used by the Chief Electoral Officer to calculate seat allocation.
As all hon. members know, the Chief Electoral Officer used this data to do the necessary calculation in October 2021. Since then, 10 independent commissions have been created, one in each province. These three-member commissions include a chair, who is appointed by the chief justice of the province, and two members, who are appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons.
I would like to take a moment to thank these distinguished Canadians for agreeing to do this work. The commitment they have made cannot be overstated, and I know all my colleagues agree with that.
A cynical person might say that, as MPs, we have a disproportionate level of interest in this process, but I would like to remind members that this work has a direct impact on the way each of us serves Canadians. As a result, public consultations play an essential role in the redistribution process.
I am delighted to say that, when the independent electoral boundaries commissions publish their initial boundary proposals, there will be at least one public hearing held in every province. Thanks to these public consultations, Canadians in all 10 provinces will have the opportunity to have their say about the proposals. What is more, members of the House of Commons will have the opportunity to provide input at the public hearings and voice any objections they may have.
The electoral boundaries commissions have started to develop an initial series of revised electoral district maps, which will be published in the coming months.
Then, pursuant to section 19 of the act, the commissions will publish their respective proposals in the Canada Gazette and at least one newspaper of general circulation. It is important to note that the proposal must include the dates and times of the public hearings. Under the act, the commissions must organize at least one public hearing, and it must be held 30 days after the proposal is published.
It is important to note that the commissions can hold more than one public hearing. In fact, history confirms it. During the 2012 redistribution process, 132 public hearings were held in Canada's 10 provinces.
It will come as no surprise, but the larger provinces held more public hearings than the smaller ones. For example, there were 31 public hearings in Ontario, 23 in British Columbia, 21 in Quebec and 15 in Alberta. What is more, in order to encourage participation, many of the public hearings were held in the evening.
Beyond the Canadians and MPs who made presentations, either orally or in writing, during the public hearings, the commissions agreed to consider comments received by email, fax and other means. Saskatchewan's commission received nearly 3,000 presentations in various forms, including emails, letters and petitions.
It is highly likely that the commissions will do everything they can to reach as many people as possible in their province.
I think it is also fair to say that, given the rapid changes in the information and communications environment since 2012, the commissions can probably reach an even broader public this time around. In other words, this broad public consultation, which is set to begin between April and October 2022, will allow the commissions to gather valuable information when they are revising and finalizing their proposals.
Before getting into the opportunity that MPs have to participate, I must note that in 2012, community groups, municipalities and other organizations submitted many presentations. This contribution is essential, because these stakeholders represent communities' points of view in a way that is different, but equally important for MPs.
As I mentioned earlier, all members can present their views at these public hearings. I therefore encourage any member who feels compelled to do so, since we have unique local knowledge of our constituencies and the needs of our constituents.
Furthermore, once a commission has submitted a revised report, members may also file written objections with the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Once the committee has considered these objections, a copy of the objections and the committee's minutes will be forwarded to the relevant commission. Under section 23 of the act, the commission shall then consider objections that may result in changes to its boundary proposal or to the names of the proposed electoral districts.
Before I close, I would once again like to emphasize a point I made at the beginning of my speech: The electoral boundaries commissions are fully independent and responsible for producing and finalizing the boundary proposals. Although the commissions are solely responsible for this important work, as I tried to explain during my speech, there are many opportunities for the public and every member of the House to participate.
I want to close by emphasizing that all Canadians deserve to have effective representation in the House of Commons. Does this mean that we have to perfectly match a province's population to the proportion of seats assigned to that province? The answer is no, of course not. Representation must reflect the unique character of Canada.
I believe that all members will agree that what is most important here is the notion of effective representation. The commissions will consider the most recent census data, as well as such factors as the importance of protecting communities of interest and historical boundaries.
What does effective representation mean to Canadians? It means knowing that their MP is sensitive to their concerns. I know that is something we all take to heart, and it is probably the reason each of us decided to run for public office. We want to serve the Canadians who voted for us.
Every day, voters turn to their MPs to obtain advice on a certain number of issues. These issues are quite varied. It could concern progress on an immigration or visa application by a family member. Others want information about federal assistance programs. I do not have to tell my colleagues just how important this point of contact and this representation were during the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now more than ever, we must show leadership and help all Canadians be heard. I hope that my colleagues will join me in encouraging that result.
Mr. Speaker, today it is my turn to rise in the House to address one of the important processes of our democracy: electoral redistribution. Indeed, the official process of redistribution of electoral districts must, by law, take place every 10 years.
For 60 years, independent, non-partisan electoral boundaries commissions have been responsible for redrawing our electoral maps. These commissions were created in 1964 when Parliament passed the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. This independent approach was introduced to avoid the risk of political interference in this important process. It is an approach that aims to maintain the integrity and transparency of our democratic systems and institutions. Moreover, we have seen, through several events in recent years, and again recently, how fragile the public's confidence in our democratic institutions can be. This is why it is so important to properly follow the process of redrawing the electoral map.
While this process has already begun, Elections Canada has already made a proposal that, as a member from Quebec, I find surprising. No matter what anyone says or does, it is not the federal government's decision to reduce Quebec's weight in the House. This proposal comes from a completely independent institution and is not a political matter. Still, for the Bloc Québécois, this is another way of trying to create debates and disputes between Quebec and the federal government.
The fact is, the Bloc Québécois is not the only party making sure Quebec's voice is heard in the House. The Bloc Québécois is not the only party fighting for Quebec. The Bloc Québécois certainly does not have a monopoly on being Québécois. As a proud member from Quebec and a proud Quebecker, fighting for Quebec is what I do and have done every day since being elected. The people taking action for Quebec are not the ones on the opposition benches; they are the ones in government. Since 2015, that is exactly what we have been doing every day: delivering concrete results.
We are making a difference in the lives of all Quebeckers. We invested a record $1.8 billion to build housing and tackle the housing crisis affecting all of Quebec, especially our wonderful metropolis. We signed a $6-billion agreement to create thousands of child care spaces in Quebec because we know there is a shortage of spaces for Quebec families. We invested $172 million to take effective action in partnership with cities against homelessness in Montreal and elsewhere in the province. We will connect all Quebeckers to high-speed Internet thanks to record investments in Canada-Quebec operation high speed. We were there with the Canadian Armed Forces to help seniors in long-term care homes at the height of the pandemic. Our armed forces also supported the vaccination campaign during the pandemic in Quebec.
That is what we have been doing. We take concrete action for Quebeckers ever day. Getting things done for Quebec comes from having Quebec MPs in government. I am very proud to be part of a team of 35 Liberal MPs who are getting results for Quebec every day.
What this motion is trying to do, to some extent, is to show that the federal government is disconnected from Quebeckers and that it does not hear their concerns. Quebec's political weight has always been important, and it will not be eroded in 2022 under our government, which is there for Quebec. We must not politicize this debate. Unfortunately, it is being implied that the federal government has contempt for Quebeckers, but the reality is quite different. I still remember an announcement that our government made in 2017. For the first time, the federal government invested $2.4 million to fund Quebec's national holiday. The Bloc Québécois may have already forgotten that this was the first time the federal government funded Quebec's national holiday, that federal money was invested in the national holiday.
It was also our government that invested $750,000 to develop Espace René-Lévesque in New Carlisle, the hometown of one of our great democrats from Quebec. I would like the Bloc Québécois to admit that and to commend the federal government on such initiatives, which preserve the memory of René Lévesque.
It will also be our Liberal government that will bring forward the modernization of the Official Languages Act to protect our beautiful French language. We are also taking action to protect the French language and francophone culture on major digital platforms.
These are several examples of how the Liberal Party is taking concrete action for Quebec.
We still have a lot of work to do, but I can assure the House that the 35 members from Quebec on this side are working hard to improve the lives of Quebeckers. Whether it is to defend our culture, our languages, our progressive values, or the desire to leave a green future, we will always be there to fight for Quebec.
We all agree that the demographic weight of a francophone nation must be preserved. However, I do think that it is a shame that we have politicized this debate today instead of taking a more unanimous stance.
Mr. Speaker, allow me to take a deep breath before I start my speech.
I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
Not too long ago, an anglophone journalist asked me whether Bill , which I recently introduced and which would add a so-called Quebec nation clause to the Constitution, was just another frivolous request from Quebec. After a polite pause, she added that, according to some people, this was yet another temper tantrum by Quebeckers who refuse to embrace living in harmony the Canadian way.
In response to these comments, all kinds of words came to my mind, words that common decency prevents us from using in this place, as we speak on behalf of our constituents. Although my constituents would not hold it against me if I let loose an avalanche of words that would enhance Quebec's chrestomathy for my many Canadian colleagues looking to learn the language of Leclerc and Vigneault, I will refrain from dipping into that vast inventory of words learned over decades spent in the shadows of chasubles and cassocks. I would rather take a step back.
Once I stepped back and calmed down, I could see that the comments of this young journalist were not meant to be disrespectful of Quebec society but unfortunately reflected opinions and ideas that are widespread in the Canadian provinces. It is the fruit of decades of conscious and unconscious efforts to dampen the enthusiasm of the Quebec nation in its quest for autonomy and independence.
I cannot really blame that young journalist for her comments, because she was born at a time when the narrative was already well entrenched. The seed had been planted and when the fruit is ripe, we do not think about how it grew. We are living in a time of intellectual laziness where people swallow everything they are served without asking too many questions. In fact, I would go so far as to say that these are rather sad times.
What do we do about that? I think that we need to avoid confrontation and focus on education and awareness. We have to explain why Quebec is so focused on its uniqueness, its cultural differences and its different vision on so many issues. This rather reductive perception of the Quebec nation, its political and cultural heritage and its place in the history of this country is regrettable. We need not be surprised at this view and misunderstanding of Quebec, its historic weight and its resulting legitimate aspirations, because this is all built upon misperceptions throughout Canada's institutional and political evolution.
We can go all the way back to the origins of Confederation in 1867 to better understand the place Quebec has within the Canadian federation. Again, Quebec is not a province. It is the product and the standard-bearer of one of the two distinct national communities at Canada's very origin. This dualism that people would like to forget or reduce to so little is in fact the foundation of the institutions that we are part of today.
Over the past 40 years, almost all of Quebec's aspirations and claims within the Canadian federation have been rejected. After that night in 1982, when all of Quebec was betrayed, all attempts to remedy this situation have failed. Sometimes, these attempts have been symbolic, other times they have been mere administrative accommodations. There are numerous examples.
Does all this make the quest to affirm the autonomy of the Quebec people less legitimate? No, because, I would point out, Quebec is more than just a province. Quebec is a nation. That was officially recognized in this place in 2006, as my colleague from said earlier. Furthermore, as was reaffirmed not that long ago, in June 2021, Quebec is a nation whose only official and common language is French. It is the only one on the North American continent.
Our responsibility, as difficult as it may be, is to continue the discussion and the ongoing exchanges unabated, without partisanship, to ensure the message is heard and to have Quebec recognized for what it is.
Consequently, the Quebec nation must be much more than just a symbol.
Its recognition must be embodied in concrete actions and provisions that go well beyond declarations and intentions. This is what we will have the opportunity to do in a few weeks when we debate Bill , which I mentioned in my opening comments. And that is what we are doing today as well, as a preamble, by debating this motion, which was moved this morning by my leader and colleague, the member for Belœil—Chambly.
At the beginning of the Quiet Revolution, Quebec accounted for nearly 30% of the Canadian population. Today, roughly speaking, it accounts for 23%, and this is not getting any better. Indeed, Quebec and Canada must make efforts to correct this trend, and this work must focus on immigration. There is talk of wanting to increase immigration levels. Quebec has its own vision. We want to be able to welcome immigration to Quebec in a coherent and intelligent way. We can say that welcoming 100,000 newcomers is unrealistic if we want to welcome them properly. It is up to Quebec to determine the appropriate number or rate for its immigration capacity. That said, we are also relying on the federal government to not hinder immigration to Quebec. For example, as my colleague from Saint-Jean mentioned earlier, the treatment of student visa applicants from French-speaking Africa and the way they are discriminated against are very concerning.
When Quebec declines, French declines. The presence of French in Parliament declines. I say that with the utmost respect and consideration for francophone communities across Canada, who, like Quebec, are fighting every day for the survival of their language and recognition of their language rights within the Canadian federation. It has been recognized that the Quebec nation is one of the two founding peoples. Well, that reality must push us to take action to preserve the French fact, to maintain the Quebec nation's influence here in the House of Commons and around the world.
Canada prides itself on having two official languages and we like to say that they are English and simultaneous translation, but we must recognize that French is one as well. The motion we tabled today is intended to protect Quebec's identity, to protect Quebec's political influence, to ensure that Quebec continues to be represented as a nation, here in the House of Comments and within Canadian institutions as long as Quebec does not decide to stand on its own.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by telling my colleague from Drummond how much I admire him and how much I appreciate his work as a member of Parliament. Sometimes we have to say these things to each other as colleagues. He works so hard, and he is so passionate about everything from his role as heritage critic to his sponsorship of Bill , which he introduced on February 8.
He introduced the bill to promote and protect the interests of people in his riding, in mine and across Quebec, to protect Quebec's weight in the House of Commons by guaranteeing that 25% of the seats here will belong to Quebeckers because Quebec is a nation.
It is therefore with conviction, but also with the certainty that I am doing what is right for Quebeckers and Quebec, that I rise today to debate the Bloc Québécois motion. This motion also addresses Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons, and it reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House:
(a) any scenario for redrawing the federal electoral map that would result in Quebec losing one or more electoral districts or that would reduce Quebec's political weight in the House of Commons must be rejected; and
(b) the formula for apportioning seats in the House must be amended and the House call on the government to act accordingly.
Basically, what the Bloc Québécois is asking the House to do is to commit, as we have, to demanding that the government meaningfully protect Quebec's weight. I repeat, Quebec is a francophone nation within a country that is bilingual on paper.
The Bloc Québécois is certainly not tabling this motion by chance or on a whim. Like pictures, numbers are worth a thousand words. From 1867 to 2021, Quebec's weight in the House of Commons declined, shrinking from 36% in 1867 to 23.1% in 2015, and it is still declining. At the same time, the number of MPs from Quebec has very slowly and humbly risen, from 65 out of 181 MPs in 1867 to 78 out of 338 MPs in 2015.
In the next redistribution, which would take effect in 2024 at the earliest, Quebec's weight would continue to drop, eventually to 22.5%. Moreover, for the first time in history, Quebec would lose a seat, with its number of elected officials dropping to 77 out of 342. For the Bloc Québécois and Quebec, that is unacceptable.
Of course, the decennial process of electoral boundaries redistribution is not a surprise, nor are its mechanics. First, the Chief Electoral Officer determines the electoral quotient, that is, the population per electoral district, by assessing the population increase since the last redistribution exercise. Currently, with a population increase of nearly 10% in 10 years, the population per electoral district is almost 122,000. The number of seats allocated to each province and to Quebec is then calculated by dividing the total population of Quebec and the provinces by the electoral quotient of 122,000.
However, as the Quebec minister responsible for Canadian relations and the Canadian francophonie, Sonia LeBel, has said repeatedly, there is more to it than a simple mathematical formula. It is important to take into account the real weight of Quebec's representation in the House of Commons. We are francophones; we have a special status and a nation to defend. Quebec's specificity must prevent us from losing seats in the House of Commons.
There is more to redistribution than a simple rule of three. If that were the case, Prince Edward Island would have only one member in the next redistribution, and some Prairie provinces would lose members. That is why there are two clauses in addition to the electoral quotient: the senatorial clause and the grandfather clause. I just illustrated this by talking about the Prairies and Prince Edward Island.
The third and final aspect is the following. It is the last element for now, but I hope there will be another.
This third element shapes the electoral redistribution that the Chief Electoral Officer must adhere to. It is called the representation rule. In other words, when a province does not have enough MPs to represent a riding, then more ridings, more members, need to be added.
These clauses and rules were enacted over the past 150 years, roughly, but they are not immutable. I will quote the Canadian Encyclopedia, something I never imagined I would do. It concludes its article on the redistribution of federal electoral districts by focusing on the principle of balance:
Although at first glance, this would seem to be a straightforward mathematical exercise, the principle of political equality exists alongside the fact that Canada is a federal state and the idea that effective representation also requires the recognition of distinct communities. Balancing these principles is at the heart of the redistribution process.
Quebec is nothing less than a nation of more than eight million people who share a territory, a language, a culture and a vision. In 2006, the House of Commons recognized the Quebec nation. This is a nation whose official and common language is French, as the House of Commons recognized in 2021, when it voted in favour of the Bloc Québécois motion to that effect.
As long as Quebec is not a country, it will not have all the tools it should have for self-determination, and this will necessarily have political consequences, namely respect for Quebec's autonomy and its national assembly, the signing of asymmetrical agreements, and the acknowledgement of Quebec's distinct character in federal laws and policies.
That is what Quebec is calling for today. It is calling on the House to take into account our nation and its corollary, in other words, the defence of its political weight.
The Bloc Québécois is waiting for a firm and unequivocal commitment from parliamentarians and wishes to clarify the position of parties in the House.
Let us remember the following. In 1992, the Charlottetown accord guaranteed that Quebec would have 25% of the weight in the House of Commons. The former Progressive Conservative Party was in favour of that. The Reform Party of Canada was against it. John Turner supported it, but Pierre Elliott Trudeau was against it. In 2006, the NDP supported it, but what about now?
Some Canadian political parties have disappeared, and others have transformed into something different, but the Bloc Québécois has remained true to itself: logical, consistent and always ready to defend Quebec's interests.
We want to know if, like Quebeckers, Canadian political parties are worried about the fate of Quebec, if they will reject any electoral redistribution scenario that reduces Quebec's political weight, and if they will act accordingly. To that end, why not add a “nation clause”? That is the role of parliamentarians.
To conclude, I would like to quote my leader, the member for , and the Premier of Quebec, François Legault, who have both made statements since October expressing how Quebec feels about this threat.
The Premier of Quebec said that “the Quebec nation deserves a certain degree of representation in the House of Commons, regardless of how many people live in each province”. He said that “this is a test for [the Prime Minister of Canada]. It is all well and good to recognize Quebec as a nation, but now he needs to back that up with action.” We are calling on the Prime Minister of Canada to “protect the proportion of members of Parliament from Quebec”.
My leader also pointed out at the beginning of his speech that Quebec's weight has been reduced. Quebec absolutely cannot lose a seat, since this so-called bilingual country cannot allow its institutions to diminish the relative weight of its country's francophone territory.
I want to echo what he said. Canada has no idea how big a fight the Bloc Québécois will put up if Quebec's weight continues to decrease while it is still in the federation. If anything, that will make us leave even sooner.
I cannot wait until Quebec is able to make its own decisions.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Laurent.
It is a pleasure to rise to address a number of issues with a focus on what is before us right now. I cannot help but think of what is taking place in Europe. A number of members, when they stood up, started off by commenting on it. I would also like to do that, recognizing that what is happening in Ukraine today is top of mind for millions of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. It is something that will have a profound impact throughout the world. The take-note debate last night had no shortage of members of Parliament wanting to contribute to it.
This is the type of issue that many Canadians would like to see the House possibly spend more time debating. In looking at the motion that the Bloc has brought before us today, we can kind of sense it. When the leader of the Bloc rose to speak, he made reference to Ukraine. I raise it because we should recognize that this is the very first opportunity that the Bloc has had to bring forward an opposition day motion in 2022. What makes it interesting is that the Bloc also has a private member's bill that deals with the same issue, which is also being scheduled for debate.
I am a bit confused as to why they chose this issue: whether it is because of what is happening in the world, with the real threat and possibility of World War III, and the horrendous things taking place in Ukraine today, or whether it is because of local issues. Perhaps it is the pandemic, and providing thoughts and guidance on that. We often hear about the environment. We hear a great deal about housing and so much more, yet the Bloc chose to have this particular debate. I suspect, unfortunately, that it has a lot to do with politics.
Let me provide some thoughts on this issue. Every 10 years, there is a readjustment that takes place. There is legislation that ensures there is an independent review of our boundaries and recommendations that follow. It is based, in part, on population shifts. We all know that populations change within municipalities, provinces and territories, obviously, and with interprovincial migration. That happens every year.
A couple of years back, we released, through Census Canada, a report that clearly showed that with regard to population growth in Canada, whether over the past decade or into the future, immigration had to be taken into consideration. Future population growth is going to very much depend on immigration. Looking at interprovincial immigration, or migration, to immigration, and reflecting on that over the last decade has ultimately brought us to the point where we are today. Back in October, I believe, the recommendation was to reduce a seat in the province of Quebec.
I have said this before in the House. I am very proud of my heritage and lineage that goes back to the province of Quebec. A couple of hundred years ago, my great-grandfathers and grandmothers would have been some of the pioneers in the province of Quebec. We were not the first. As we know, first nations were here before our francophone communities.
Migration, at least in some elements, went out west into the province of Manitoba, where I live today and which I proudly represent.
My passions, in terms of national policies, very much factor in the province of Quebec. I would not want any member to try to give an impression that unless one is a member of Parliament from Quebec, one does not necessarily care for what is happening in Quebec. I care for the province of Quebec in the same manner in which I care for our prairie provinces, the province of Ontario, the Atlantic provinces, our territories or B.C.
We have a lot in common, economically, in terms of things such as the aerospace industry. French is a beautiful language. It is a language that we want to encourage and promote and get more people speaking.
The province of Manitoba, and the St. Boniface community in particular, has a very healthy and growing francophone community. While Manitoba had immigration numbers during the nineties that were probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of about 3,000 to 4,000 annually, we have virtually quadrupled that number through the nominee program. Special attention was given to the francophone factor, which is very important, whether in urban Winnipeg through St. Boniface or in rural communities such as St-Pierre-Jolys, where my great-great-grandfather was born.
For me, it is taking a look at what we are actually doing. A Bloc member said that this is about action. Today, we had the bring forward changes that will have a very positive impact on bilingualism here in Canada with our Official Languages Act. Yesterday, we were debating Bill , which deals with updating or modernizing the Broadcasting Act.
Actions do speak louder than words. I think it is important for us to recognize that the province of Quebec is in fact distinct and contributes so much to who we are overall as a nation.
That is why it is important that we support arts and culture, such as we have seen in Bill . That is why, in part, we brought forward the legislation that we introduced for first reading today.
I understand the magic of 78. We see, in our history, when we have given consideration, for example, to the province of P.E.I. Because of the number of senators it has, it has to have an equal number of members of Parliament. I am very familiar with the grandfather clause that was put in in 1985.
I would have welcomed debate on this when the members opposite brought forward the legislation, because we know it is going to be brought in. I question the politics in that they would choose this particular motion when there is so much happening internationally and here in Canada, and that they would use this as the most important public policy issue on their first opposition day.
It is for them to ultimately make that determination, and I look forward to seeing the private member's bill being brought forward that I understand deals with the same issue.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to discuss the House of Commons seat distribution formula and the redrawing of the federal electoral map.
On October 15, 2021, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada announced the redistribution of seats in the House of Commons.
Under the current electoral boundaries readjustment process, the provinces and territories will be represented in the House of Commons as follows: 43 seats for British Columbia, 37 for Alberta, 14 for Saskatchewan, 14 for Manitoba, 122 for Ontario, 77 for Quebec, 10 for New Brunswick, 11 for Nova Scotia, 4 for Prince Edward Island, 7 for Newfoundland and Labrador, 1 for Yukon, 1 for the Northwest Territories, and 1 for Nunavut.
This distribution is the result of a calculation based on population estimates provided by the chief statistician of Canada and a formula set out in the Constitution Act, 1867.
For nearly 60 years, independent, non-partisan electoral boundary commissions have been responsible for redrawing our electoral maps. These commissions were established in 1964, when Parliament passed the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. The act sets out the rules and responsibilities, the process, and the criteria these commissions must follow when redrawing our federal electoral boundaries.
This independent approach was introduced by design to reduce the risk of political interference in the process and to maintain integrity and transparency in our democratic systems and institutions. Prior to 1964, the House of Commons itself was responsible for fixing the boundaries of electoral districts through a committee appointed especially for that purpose. However, Parliament realized that the manipulation of riding boundaries to benefit members of the governing party was a significant risk to the integrity of our system. That was and remains unacceptable.
The introduction of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act was a critical measure put in place to solve that problem. As outlined in the act, a three-member commission must be established for each province. These commissions are composed of one chairperson and two commissioners. I would like to remind hon. members that, because this process occurs every 10 years, the government does not recommend or appoint members to these provincial commissions. To be clear, they are independently appointed. In fact, the government's role in the entire process is extremely limited.
I would now like to talk about the formula used for redistribution. There are four steps. This is how the Chief Electoral Officer arrived at the result mentioned earlier.
First, the initial number of seats allocated to each province is calculated. To do that, the electoral quotient must be calculated, based on the average of each province's growth rate over the past decade. Quebec, for example, grew by 7.83% between 2011 and 2021. In contrast, Ontario grew by 10.87%, British Columbia by 14.03%, and Alberta by 17.56%. Together, the 10 provinces yielded an average growth rate of 9.65%.
Then the electoral quotient of the previous redistribution, which was 111,116, is multiplied by that average to get a new quotient of 121,891. Finally, the number of seats initially allocated to each province is calculated by dividing the population number of each province by the new electoral quotient.
That gives us five seats for Newfoundland and Labrador, two for Prince Edward Island, nine for Nova Scotia, seven for New Brunswick, 71 for Quebec, 122 for Ontario, 12 for Manitoba, 10 for Saskatchewan, 37 for Alberta and, finally, 43 for British Columbia, for a total of 318 seats.
It is equally important to note that it is this step that determines whether new members will be added to the House of Commons. Although the average growth rate of the provinces over the past decade was 9.65%, the growth rate of the 10 provinces combined was actually 10.90% for the same period.
When the quotient grows more slowly than Canada, there is an increase in the House. However, if the quotient increases at the same rate as the 10 provinces, there would be no change in the total number of seats. Therefore, if the quotient increases faster than the 10 provinces, there would be a reduction in the total number of seats.
That means that the location of the growth has a significant influence on the size of the House.
Getting back to the formula, following the calculation of the initial number of seats allocated to the provinces, the second step is to apply the special clauses, namely the senatorial clause and the grandfather clause. This step guarantees that the provinces have no fewer seats than they have in the Senate and no fewer than they had in 1985 in the 33rd Parliament.
This step adds two seats to Newfoundland and Labrador for a total of seven. It adds two seats to Prince Edward Island for a total of four. It adds two seats to Nova Scotia for a total of 11. It adds three seats to New Brunswick for a total of 10. It adds four seats to Quebec for a total of 75. It adds two seats to Manitoba for a total of 14. Finally, it adds four seats to Saskatchewan for a total of 14.
The third step, the representation rule, applies only to a province whose population was over-represented in the House of Commons after the last redistribution. If such a province becomes over-represented as a result of the previous calculations, it is allocated additional seats so that its share of seats in the House of Commons is proportional to its share of the population. However, it is important to note that this rule applies to the provinces, not the territories. The latter are therefore not included in the calculations.
The representation rule applies to Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. However, after the second step, Quebec is the only one of these provinces whose number of seats is proportionally smaller than its share of the population. Two seats are therefore added to Quebec, for a total of 77 seats.
At the fourth step, three seats are allocated to the territories. One to the Yukon, one to the Northwest Territories and one to Nunavut. This brings the total number of seats in the House of Commons to 342, as announced by the Chief Electoral Officer.
The formula has been amended many times over the years, most recently in 2011. It is not simply a mathematical calculation based solely on the province's population. This formula protects provinces whose populations are dropping, while still providing for provinces that experience rapid growth to get more seats. In conclusion, it is important to note that the redistribution process, which includes the new distribution of seats, is done independently and normatively to prevent any partisan influence.