Hon. P. J. A. CARDIN (Richelieu-Vercheres):
Mr. Speaker, although this question has been under consideration for a number of sitting days, because of its importance I feel not at all disposed to apologize for expressing my views upon it. It has been said during this debate that the question under discussion is one of the most important that we have had to deal with over a very long period of time. I perfectly agree with that view. We are not to-day proposing to amend the Confederation Act of 1867 in the same manner and for the same purposes as we have done in the past. We are dealing to-day with the very foundation of the representation of the provinces in the dominion parliament. We are in a way affecting the basis or foundation of the pact of confederation which has been for a number of years now the source of our liberties and the source of all our powers, politically speaking, socially speaking, and nationally speaking. Therefore we should not approach such a problem without very serious consideration of the consequences of our action.
Being of this view, I regret that such a question has not been, from the very beginning, declared by the government and by the right hon. Minister of Justice (Mr. St. Laurent) a free question upon which all members of the House of Commons would be at
liberty to express their own personal views and the views of the province which they represent in this house, without fear of being jeopardized in their relations with the party at present in power. This question is so important that it should be dealt with from a general, yes, from a national point of view, and not from the narrow point of view of a majority in this house or of a political party in power. It is too important a question to be left to the authority of the government in power or to a majority in this house.
As I said, by this resolution we are touching the very basis of our political, social, and national life, and nobody can say how far we are going to go along that line and what will be the consequences of our action.
It is unfortunate also, Mr. Speaker, that in relation to such an important problem as the amending of our constitution we should proceed in the same manner as if it were proposed that the house should sit on Wednesday night-by a simple resolution presented by a minister, and upon which there can be only one kind of debate, what we generally call a full-dress debate, when no questions can be asked of the minister introducing the resolution, and when no elucidation of any difficult point can be made. We are bound, when this resolution is submitted to a vote, to say yes or no without having had the opportunity of inquiring about the details of the motion and receiving definite answers from the minister, and without having had the advantage and benefit of the views of persons knowing something about constitutional law who are unable to express their views in the House of Commons because they are not members. It is unfortunate, I repeat, that an amendment to our constitution is to be made in such a manner.
It is unfortunate also that we have had propounded in this house from as high an authority as the distinguished Minister of Justice that we can do this without any regard to the views of the provinces whatever may be their interest in the matter. I know there are precedents. I have been a party man and a member of this house long enough to know the precedents that have been cited during this debate. But I contend that precedents such as those that have been referred to should not be the guiding rule when we are dealing with the very basis of the representation of the Canadian people in the House of Commons.
What we are doing now is not a repetition of the precedents that have been referred to. In those days there was no question of changing the basis of representation in the House of Commons. Exceptions were made to the
general rule in favour of minorities. And when I speak of minorities I include small provinces in the Dominion of Canada, because, after all, they are minorities. Exceptions have been made to the general rule established in the constitution of 1867, and all the precedents mentioned provided for such exceptions being made to remedy a difficult situation existing with respect to the smaller provinces. But here we are changing the very basis of the . representation in the house, and we discard the principles and ideas exposed when the act of 1867 was put into force and effect and as they have been interpreted since, on many occasions.
To say that Ottawa is the only authority to amend our constitution, even concerning matters in which the provinces may be interested, is in my humble judgment going a little bit too far. It was never in the mind of the fathers of confederation that the federal parliament would have authority, without the consent of the provinces, without even the courtesy of consulting them, to change dispositions of the act which are material to their welfare and which are essential to the preservation of their way of life, their traditions, laws and liberties.. It was never in the minds of the fathers of confederation that parliament would be vested with such wide authority.
And what is the consequence? We have heard the Minister of Justice say in reply to the hon. member for Calgary West (Mr Smith) that the federal parliament would have the authority to make representations to the imperial parliament to amend the constitution by wiping out section 133 of the British North America Act which protects the French language in this country, and that without consulting the provinces. That is one consequence of the theory which has been expounded by the Minister of Justice in this house, contrary to the views expressed by his distinguished predecessor, the late Right Hon. Ernest Lapointe, and all public men in Canada since 1867.
In all the discussions which took place in regard to amending the constitution' it has always been contended by all parties that we could never touch the privileges of any province, of any race or any religion, without giving them the opportunity of being consulted and of expressing in detail their views on the proposition.
The Minister of Justice rested his case, if I understood him aright, on Professor Kennedy's work on constitutional law. Not later than an hour ago I happened to open the report of a committee which sat in 1935 to consider the constitution of Canada and the proposals
for amendment and the extent of the respective jurisdictions under the act -of 1867. What did Professor Kennedy contend? The minister made the argument that the federal parliament had alone the right to deal with redistribution because it was within the powers attributed to the house, but that we would have no right at all to deal with the rights reserved to the provinces by sec. tion 92. When Professor Kennedy appeared before the committee in 1935 he said clearly, in answer to questions put to him, that the federal parliament could make representations to the imperial parliament to amend the constitution even on matters covered by section 92, and defining the privileges and the authority of the provinces. So, if the federal case rests on the views of Professor Kennedy, we must conclude, from the proposal now oefore the house, that the federal authority claims in fact the right to invade provincial rights and to deprive the provinces of the jurisdiction and powers which were given to them by section 92 of the British North America Act.
If Ottawa enjoyed jurisdiction in matters of that kind, it would amount to the very thing which many Canadians were afraid of at the time of the passing of the act-legislative union. That interpretation would give the House of Commons the authority to deal with everything, including matters of education as well as matters of language and religion. I object to such an interpretation, and I do not want to see the federal authority have the power to deprive the provinces of even the least of the privileges which were given to them.
"Balkanize Canada"! This is a wrong expression which is being popularized because it is a nice-sounding term. Canada is what she is to-day because of the strength of the different provinces, because Canada is a confederation and not a country governed solely by the authority which legislates in Ottawa.
Let us see, Mr. Speaker, how the new theory is applied in the field of practical politics. The contention is that there is no necessity to consult the provinces, that the provinces have no right to dictate to the government in such a matter, that they have no authority to express their views on such a question. I say that it was not the case in 1943. In that year the federal parliament listened to the voice of two provinces, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and the resolution which was then presented to the house, to postpone redistribution until after the war, was passed at the request and ait the insistence of those two provinces. It is to the credit of the min-
isters who represented Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the cabinet that such a thing was done. The government then showed that they were ready to listen to the voice of two provinces, and the ministers from these provinces indicated that they were not only representing Canada as a whole but were thinking first of their own provinces. They insisted upon obtaining the postponement of redistribution in 1943 against the will of the province of Quebec. Sometimes I envy the courage and solidarity of the representatives of the other provinces, and I wish that we in the province of Quebec had the same amount of solidarity and courage to claim what is our due and to insist on our privileges and our liberties.
"Balkanize Canada"! Is the British commonwealth of nations a Balkanized organization? The British commonwealth of nations is composed of nations who claim independence for themselves. The provinces can exert a certain amount of independence. at least in the field which is allotted to them, and to do so is not to Balkanize Canada in any way, shape or form. The opposite would be centralization. And what has centralization done to the world0 It gave Mussolini to Italy; it gave Hitler to Germany. That is the result of centralization. In the centralized organization the value of the individual disappears; he is absorbed in the great mass of the majority, and his identity and personality are lost.
It has been contended that we who come from the different provinces represent the provinces. I claim that we do not represent the provinces. We represent constituencies in the Dominion of Canada, but we do not speak for the provinces as such. We have not the authority to speak for the provinces. We can speak as members for the constituencies which have done us the honour of electing us to this house, but we are not representing the provinces. We are members of the federal parliament coming from different sections of the country, but, I repeat, we cannot speak for the provinces. It would be a little boastful on our part to say that we alone can speak for the provinces, that we alone have the proper light on the general problems affecting the provinces and the country as a whole. That is a mistaken view.
I submit that the constitution of 1867 is a document-call it a statute if you will; call it a pact or a compact-it is a document that must be taken in its entirety and cannot be torn apart so that we can say that on a particular section of the law of 1867 we are masters and can do what it pleases us to do, while on other sections of the pact of
1867, the provinces have the authority. That is a mistaken attitude. We have to accept the pact of 1867, or the statute of 1867, as a whole or discard it. It has been established after many conferences, and it is the result of a compromise, even if it is now in the form of a statute.
I know it has been argued by the very pleasant Minister of Fisheries (Mr. Bridges), and by the distinguished Minister of Justice that we could deal with certain sections which are more clearly within our jurisdiction, and not touch others. May I repeat here that the doctrine upon which the Minister of Justice rested his case is the doctrine of Mr. Kennedy, who says that we can even interfere with the powers that have been given the provinces.
That opinion or view, that the act of 1867 is a statute which can be amended by the imperial parliament on the recommendation of the federal parliament, in certain cases-to accept the views of some members who have spoken-without the consent of the provinces, is a view that is new. In the past it has always been contended that at least in matters of importance the provinces should be consulted particularly on questions in which they thought they Bad an interest. Even on the question of redistribution the provinces are interested. They are as much interested as the federal parliament.
It is true that the parliament at Ottawa has the authority to divide the country into a certain number of seats, to fix the limits of those seats; but the number of representatives in any province in Canada is something that concerns and interests all the provinces. The provinces have the right to be consulted when we change the number of their representatives or when we adopt measures which are capable of modifying their representation in this House of Commons.
This has been the interpretation of all parties. It has been indicated, though not too clearly or too definitely, that certain elements in certain provinces were interested in creating difficulties for the federal authority. Reference has been made to the present government of Quebec and the present government of Ontario. Let me say to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the representatives of all sections of Canada, that what has been said by these provincial premiers reflects the opinion of all the members of their respective legislatures. What has been said by the present premier of the province of Quebec has been said by the Liberals of the province of Quebec sitting in the provincial house.
The protest I am making now is the same protest I made in 1943. That protest I made
in 1943 has been supported by as good a Liberal as the hon. Mr. Godbout, who was premier of Quebec, on June 22, 1943, when he wrote to the Prime Minister of Canada, as follows:
Dear Mr. King:
I regret to hear that you consider delaying the readjustment of representation in the House of Commons according to the 1941 census. This decennial readjustment is an essential part of the compact between the provinces out of which arose the Canadian confederation, and therefore the British North America Act cannot properly be amended, in this respect, without the assent of the provinces.
This is not the Hon. Mr. Duplessis or the Hon. Mr. Drew; it is the present leader of the Liberal forces in the province of Quebec, and the man who is followed by most of the members from the province of Quebec sitting in this house. He concludes this letter:
I have no doubt that due consideration will be given to these representations, and I sincerely hope that no attempt will be made to have the British North America Act amended against the wishes of this province.
These are the words of the then premier of Quebec, the Hon. Mr. Godbout, in 1943; and what is being said by others to-day is only a repetition of what Mr. Godbout himself said in Quebec.
Later, in 1944, there was a debate on this question in the provincial legislature of Quebec and one of the brightest members of the Godbout government, Hon. Hector Perrier, a man of knowledge and experience, a talented man, said, according to the report:
Speaking on behalf of the government, the Hon. Hector Perrier emphasized the strong stand taken by the Prime Minister last year. He added that if the federal elections take place under a redistribution scheme contrary to the constitution, it will be our duty to protest.
May I translate the quotation. Mr. Perrier agreed with the energetic attitude taken by the then premier of the province, Hon. Mr. Godbout, in the previous year. He added that if federal elections took place in accordance with a redistribution which is not in conformity with the constitution our duty will be to protest. That is the attitude and the language of a man of authority. It was the attitude of the Liberal party in Quebec, to which I have given the best years of my life and the strength of my health.
I am in favour of unity, but I am against unification. I am in favour of unity and union of all the contracting parties to the pact of confederation, but I want to respect the privileges, rights and liberties of all the component parts of the Dominion of Canada. This question is so important that it should
have been submitted to a conference of some kind, or at least to a committee, before which
all interested parties would have had the privilege of appearing and expressing their views.
It has been said that in framing the constitution of 1867 representation by population was contemplated. Yes, that was the object and the intent of the fathers of confederation. Have we that measure? We have not representation by population, having made many exceptions to the rule. At the present time we are going even a step farther. The representation of Prince Edward Island is to remain as it is. I am in favour of that, but in so far as Prince Edward Island is concerned it is not representation by population. So far as New Brunswick is concerned it is not representation by population. So far as Nova Scotia is concerned it is not representation by population. I say that the proposed amendment goes a step farther. The exceptions are not being disturbed by the present resolution, not at all. The step farther that we are taking is that we state here that if one of the provinces suffers a reduction in its population to such an extent that the number of representatives might be fewer than the number of senators, then the number of representatives in the House of Commons should be fixed at the number of representatives in the Senate, and that in any future calculation for the representation in the House of Commons the population of that or those provinces will not be taken into account. That is section 4 of the bill which it is proposed to send to the imperial parliament to amend our constitution. Therefore, if any of the maritime provinces or any other has a reduction in population and is exposed to a decrease in the number of representatives to a number fewer than the representatives in the senate, the population of those provinces will not be counted when ascertaining what population will justify electing a member to the House of Commons. We are told that this will be representation by population. It is not representation by population at all.
Some other people try to justify their attitude by saying that it is to correct an injustice. Such injustice could have been corrected otherwise. The injustice which Quebec suffered could have been corrected in 1943. Quebec agreed to the fixing of members for Prince Edward Island and the maritime provinces, but I do not want the same exception to the rule being applied to other provinces in Canada. But we are not correcting the injustice. We had only to listen to the speech delivered by the brilliant Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) to learn
that. He easily dispelled the illusion of some hon. members that this resolution had been prepared to correct an injustice. He said that was not the purpose of the resolution. Therefore he did not agree with those who try to find comfort in the proposed increase of the number of representatives from Quebec.
Yes, Quebec is being given eight more members, but we have to agree to Saskatchewan receiving three or four more than she is entitled to; to Manitoba having three more according to the B.N.A. Act as it stands. We have also to agree to Ontario having one more than she is at present electing, and to British Columbia having two more. We are to have eight additional members, but the rest of Canada are to have eleven more members. That is the consolation that is being offered and the illusion that is being created in order to get our friends to agree, and this without consulting the provinces. Parliament is presently doing what the Hon. Mr. Godbout and others opposed in 1943. We are agreeing to something which is the very opposite to what he proposed-consultation with the provinces.
I do not wish to proceed any longer. In closing, I wish to impress you, Mr. Speaker, and my colleagues in the House of Commons, with the fact that in expressing my views I have been unable to be different from what I have always been.
I have been unable to avoid arguing my point without a certain amount of heat. It is my nature, my temperament; and to those of my party I can only say, as a justification or excuse, that they did not complain of my temperament in the past. They had no objection in the past when I was arguing my case in the same way as I am now presenting it to the House of Commons. My campaigns in the province of Quebec on behalf of my 'party for the last thirty-five years were carried on in the same tone, with the same voice and the same element of sincerity I am exemplifying to-day. I am ageing, but I am the same man I have always been; and even if my views are not in accord with the views of those to whom I have the honour of addressing myself at the present time, I ask that they be treated as the opinion of a sincere man who tries to express himself in his own personal way; who presents his arguments as best he can in the interest of his constituents and in the interest of his fellow Canadians.
Whatever was the tone of my remarks; whatever terms I have used; whatever way I have expressed views, I have always been a Canadian to the core. Though I am attached to the privileges, rights and liberties promised
to my province, I do not want to be looked upon as a narrow-minded Canadian, but rather as a Canadian capable of looking upon his country from the Atlantic to the Pacific. I am not an isolationist. I am a Canadian, strongly in favour of preserving the liberties, rights and privileges of all the component parts of Canada, and I want them to be respected on all occasions and in all circumstances.
I had something else to say. I imagine I am near the limit of my time and I do not want to transgress and speak any longer than I should. I want to close, Mr. Speaker, by saying that I am going to vote in favour of the amendment, because it supports the principle of consultation with the provinces. I am not scrutinizing the motives or interest that may be in the minds of some people who have been supporting the amendment, any more than I am scrutinizing the ideas and motives of other hon. members in this house. I am taking the resolution as it stands. I am taking the amendment as it is and, as it is worded. The amendment asks for consultation with the provinces and the obtaining of at least their advice before proceeding with the resolution. I am in accord with that view, and in that stand I remain in the family of the old Liberals among whom I have been brought up in my political life. I stand with Blake; I stand with Laurier; I stand with Lapointe, and on that constitutional issue I also agree with leaders of the Conservative party in the past. No, I am not alone. I am at present preaching the gospel they all have preached, the gospel I myself have been advocating in my province and in Canada as a whole for the last thirty-five years.
I was in favour of redistribution being carried out in 1943 according to the principles of the constitution of 1867, meaning that I wanted the representation in the House of Commons to be as nearly as possible according to population. I am still in favour of redistribution being carried out. If the government persists in claiming that it alone has the absolute power to deal with the question, and if the amendment suggesting consultation with the provinces is rejected, I shall then have no other alternative but to vote for the resolution.
Subtopic: AMENDMENT TO BRITISH NORTH AMERICA ACT AS TO RULES FOR READJUSTMENT OF REPRESENTATION