January 21, 1937

CON

Hugh Alexander Stewart

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEWART:

And Saskatchewan.

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LIB

William Michael Ryan

Liberal

Mr. RYAN:

And Saskatchewan. The

city of Saint John, the metropolitan city of New Brunswick, which I have the honour to represent, is in the constituency of Saint John-Albert, and the people there felt that the last redistribution was somewhat of a slight to that constituency as it meant a reduction in the number of its members.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

One member had to go.

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LIB

William Michael Ryan

Liberal

Mr. RYAN:

The right hon. leader of the

opposition says that one member had to go, and asks how that could be adjusted. But in Manitoba, apparently, in redistributing the constituencies a division was made of certain territory, and something like that might have been done for New Brunswick. At all events Saint John-Albert was formerly represented by two members, one a minister of the crown, and another a gentleman who had been in public life for a great many years. I take it now, from the explanation which has just been given the house, that those who represented New Brunswick in the last parliament, including possibly the former minister, were agreeable to the proposal that Saint John-Albert should lose one member. If that is so, it is an explanation which we have long been seeking.

With all due respect to the hon. member for Leeds, I do trust, when this matter is brought before the committee for consideration at an early stage, as I hope it will be, that the wrong which was done to so important a constituency as Saint John-Albert will be righted and that it will be accorded the representation which it had heretofore.

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CCF

Abraham Albert Heaps

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. A. A. HEAPS (Winnipeg North):

Mr. Speaker, I was a member of the committee of this house a few years ago which was responsible for redistribution. I really cannot see that my friends of the Liberal party have any cause for complaint because I feel sure that if they had made a redistribution to suit themselves they could not have secured better results than they did in the last election.

There was very little friction on the redistribution committee. It is true there was a little behind the scenes, and a number of seats were in dispute in Quebec and Saskatchewan, but I maintain that whatever committee might be appointed by this house to effect a redistribution, if they continued to follow the same methods which we have followed

Redistribution-Mr. Heaps

in this house in the past, the same squabbles would occur as took place in the last redistribution in regard to a few seats. I say that for the simple reason that we have no definite method of creating constituencies. There is no basis of population on which constituencies are created. We have no definite method at all of creating constituencies in the Dominion of Canada, and for that reason we have chaotic conditions in the laying out of constituencies in practically every province.

Manitoba has just been mentioned. I was not satisfied with the way the seats in that province were redistributed. Can any member say why one member from Manitoba should have a seat with a population of approximately 75,000 people, and another seat almost adjoining it should have a population of only 30.000? There is no basis of equity in such a redistribution. There is no reason why one man's vote in one constituency should be more valuable than another man's vote in another constituency. In fact, the whole basis of representation in Canada represents anything but equality.

Prince Edward Island, for instance, returns four members. True, that is fixed by statute, but is there any good reason in equity why Prince Edward Island with a population of about 85,000, no larger than some of the single member constituencies in Canada, should have four seats while a constituency of 85,000 people in an industrial centre should return only one member? That cannot be defended on the basis of equity, and until such time as we have in Canada a definite understanding as to how we are going to redistribute seats we shall always be having some member from his seat in this house saying this is unfair or that is unfair. We all can understand that some hon. member may want to get rid of a little corner of his constituency and pass it on to some other constituency. That is only natural when a member has, perhaps on the boundary of his constituency, a district which has always given him an adverse vote. It is only natural that he should be anxious to get rid of that portion of his constituency.

It has been suggested, Mr. Speaker, that there should be in Canada as there is in other parts of the world, some other body which should be charged with the redistribution of seats, that the task should be taken away entirely from members of parliament and handed over to some permanent body. There is some merit in a suggestion of that kind. The committee that was working last year considering the elections act-

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

Proportional representation.

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CCF

Abraham Albert Heaps

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. HEAPS:

We turned down proportional representation. There was only one member of that committee who tried to get the Liberal party to stand by their promise on proportional representation, and that was my humble self. I know the Liberal party has had proportional representation in its platform, but when the question came before the committee only one member of the whole committee was willing to do justice to that old principle.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE (Quebec East):

I was not there.

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CCF

Abraham Albert Heaps

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. HEAPS:

I am sorry the minister was not, but the fact is that the committee turned down proportional representation, and evidently it has gone for some time.

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CON

John Ritchie MacNicol

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacNICOL:

And the alternative vote.

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CCF

Abraham Albert Heaps

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. HEAPS:

Yes. So we are left with practically the same method of election that we have had for years. I am going to suggest to my hon. friends who are anxious now to have a change in the redistribution that it would be adopting a rather dangerous policy to ask for a change in the redistribution after each election. I fear it W'ould ultimately lead to a gerrymandering of seats, which I object to very much.

From my own particular viewpoint I have no cause for complaint. I have represented the district I now represent in this parliament and on other public bodies for quite a number of years, and if they chop off a little here or a little there it makes no great difference so far as I personally am concerned. But I feel that if we are to have some permanency in the constituencies once they have been distributed, it is a bad policy to reopen the question of redistribution immediately an election has taken place. If there are to be changes in one constituency here and another one there, the whole question is opened up. I for one would like to see redistribution carried out, not from motives of local expediency but on the basis of true equity in all parts of the dominion. I admit that a. good case can be made out for the contention that a rural seat should have a smaller population than an industrial centre; I am willing to concede that point. But I am opposed to the idea that in one area a rural seat should have a population of twenty or twenty-five thousand and in another section it should have a population of fifty or sixty thousand. In my opinion that is where the inequality lies.

Dairy Industry Act

If it is the intention of the hon. members who have supported this resolution to bring about a more equitable redistribution of population so as to have our seats as nearly equal as possible in all parts of Canada, I would be in favour of the motion. But if, on the other hand, their idea is merely to have a redistribution of two or three of their own particular seats which they think have not been fairly dealt with, I am totally opposed to the motion; and until we get some assurance from my hon. friends as to what is intended by this resolution I could not, for the time being, consent to support it.

On motion of Mr. MacNicol the debate was adjourned.

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At eleven o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order. Friday, January 22, 1937


January 21, 1937