Mr. St. Laurent:
When hon. members see the bill they will find that the preamble is in the same form as were the preambles to the bills which became chapter 54 of the statutes of 1933 and chapter 71 of the statutes of 1947. They will find that the statute recites that the results of the last census require, according to the constitution, that there be a redistribution of representation in this house. This is a duty imposed, not upon the government but upon parliament. I understand that the practice since confederation has been for the leader of the majority party in the house to take the initiative in bringing before the house a bill to carry out that constitutional obligation. This bill has been drawn in the form which has been in use as far back as I have been able to go.
It provides for the distribution among the provinces of the number of representatives provided by the rules fixed in the constitution. The representation within the provinces will be by electoral districts according to schedule. In accordance with the time-honoured practice the bill simply provides for the schedule and will leave it to a select committee of the house to draft the appropriate schedule.
The bill is being brought in at this time because it is felt, as it always has been felt, that it is a responsibility of parliament to deal with this matter immediately after the results of a census become known. This was felt to be such an obligation that even during the war, when there was a general feeling that it would not be proper to indulge in the controversies that sometimes arise over this matter, an amendment to the constitution was sought to authorize parliament to postpone until after the cessation of hostilities the consideration of a redistribution bill.
The bill is always brought down in the name of the government, but I feel it is more my responsibility as leader of the majority party in the house than as Prime Minister to introduce it, because it is not a matter for the executive government; it is a responsibility put upon parliament to determine something which is of particular concern to parliament.
Motion agreed to and bill read the first time.
Subtopic: READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS