Paul-Edmond GAGNON

GAGNON, Paul-Edmond

Personal Data

Chicoutimi (Quebec)
Birth Date
January 20, 1909
Deceased Date
October 23, 1981

Parliamentary Career

June 11, 1945 - April 30, 1949
  Chicoutimi (Quebec)
June 27, 1949 - June 13, 1953
  Chicoutimi (Quebec)
August 10, 1953 - April 12, 1957
  Chicoutimi (Quebec)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 80 of 80)

October 17, 1945

Mr. PAUL EDMOND GAGNON (Chicoutimi) (Translation):

I am pleased to support the resolution moved by the hon, member for Charievoix-Saguenay (iMr. Dorion) and I am glad to have an opportune to champion the rights which the British North America Act confers on the provinces, in connection with their representation in the House of Commons.

May I first tender my hearty congratulations to the hon. members who, in 1943, protested so energetically and eloquently against the spoliatory measure then introduced by the government, and to express the wish that the seeds they have sown may produce an abundant harvest at the end of this debate.

Reading again the motion moved by the hon. the Minister of Justice (Mr. St. Laurent) on July 5, 1943, I find that one of the main reasons put forward by the authorities for postponing the proper readjustment and delimitation of electoral divisions was the fear that the differences of opinion to which that measure might give rise would harm our war effort. So, Mr. Speaker, under the pretext of national unity and good understanding, a serious injustice was done to the province of Quebec, and parliament

as was then said by the hon. member for Terrebonne (Mr. Bertrand)-"took the means at its disposal with a view to checking the influence which Quebec was entitled to have on the political destinies of this country". In order to avoid stirring up the resentment of orangemen and imperialists ever ready to cry shame and to assume a "holier than thou" attitude when it comes to granting to the French Canadians that to which they are entitled in the legislative, economic and cultural spheres, the government sacrificed on the altar of race and creed prejudice the sacred principles of the Canadian constitution.

The time has now come to rectify the mistakes made in 1943 and I hope that other fallacies will not be put forward for delaying


the redistribution of electoral divisions in accordance with the procedure clearly stated in section 51 of the Confederation Act.

In asking and demanding that the government observe the provisions set forth in the British North America Act, we are requesting not a privilege, or a favour, but simply and solely full respect for the prerogatives which were guaranteed to us by the Fathers of Confederation. It is important that the hon. members who represent the maritime provinces, the western provinces and Ontario should not forget that the injustice done to the province of Quebec affects them directly inasmuch as it established as a precedent through which the government will later be enabled to mete out to them a partial and arbitrary treatment.

We do not intend to bother anyone with this problem which must be solved without delay. Every day since the opening of the session, the house has heard hon. ministers complain of the hard times we are going through and admit their helplessness in transforming the dictatorship they inflicted on the country in war time into a real working democracy. I have every sympathy for the government and am willing to cooperate with them so as to ease their burden, but these feelings of mine cannot make me forget that those who brought about the present social and economic chaos are the very ones who now complain of the logical results of the instructions, enactments, orders and abuses approved or issued by them as the case may be during the past six years.

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October 17, 1945

Mr. GAGNON (Translation):

Because of weakness or childish fear, no one would assume, in 1943, the responsibility of guaranteeing to each province the fair share of representation to which it is entitled. We waited in the hope that time would settle everything and that the people, burdened by war and unable to cope with the impending crisis, might, in 1945, allow the central authority to solve the problem as it saw fit. Unfortunately, the evil, to which the wrong remedy was applied, still remains very acute.

The temporary measure voted by the government in 1943 has now reached its date of expiry since it is clearly mentioned in the bill submitted to the privy council that the amendment to the constitution ceases to be effective at the first session held by parliament after the end of the war between Canada on the one side, and Germany, Italy and Japan on the other. I understand that according to the figures obtained through the 1941 census, Manitoba and Saskatchewan will now

have a smaller number of representatives in the House of Commons; the former will elect only 14 members instead of 17, the latter 17 instead of 21. I maintain, however, that as long as the provisions of the British North America Act are not modified, we must abide, in every respect, by the terms of the pact agreed to by the fathers of confederation. At this time, it may be fitting to recall that in 1881, the province of Nova Scotia had 21 members; in 1891, 20; in 1901, 18; in 1911, 16, in 1921, 14 and in 1931, 12. Therefore, if in Nova Scotia, we applied the principle of representation according to the 1867 basis, it is only fair, nowadays, to put the law into effect as regards Saskatchewan and Manitoba. When this latter province joined confederation, it was granted a representation of 4 members and, in 1881, if the legislators of the time had abided strictly by the figures, Manitoba would have been entitled to only three members while it was allowed 5. The same thing holds for British Columbia which secured, on joining confederation, the privilege of sending to Ottawa 6 members representing no more than 40,000 inhabitants. Nowhere is it mentioned in our historical records that these favours brought about any revolution, raised the race cry or destroyed the harmonious understanding of the Canadian people. At present, under subsection 4 of section 51 of the British North America Act, which provides that the number of representatives of a province shall not be reduced unless its population decreases by one-twentieth of the Canadian population, the province of Ontario will still elect the same number of members, 82, that is, one per 46,191 inhabitants, while the electoral quota of the province of Quebec is one member per 51,213, inhabitants. As I said a while ago, however, this advantage in favour of Ontario which, normally, would be entitled to only 74 representatives, will be detrimental to Quebec and the other provinces of the dominion as long as the constitution has not been amended.

In order to amend the constitution, the unanimous consent of the provinces is required. The former minister of justice, the Right Hon. Ernest Lapointe, pointed this out in the House of Commons in 1925 when he stated that confederation is the result of a pact between the provinces which reached a compromise and relinquished certain rights to the central authority, and the dominion cannot amend its constitution without securing the consent of the provinces which have created it and which complement the dominion government in the exercise of their powers. Sir Robert Borden stated during a debate several years ago; "that there is no reason to modify in any way the terms of our constitution and I am inclined to think that it is necessary to consult the


provinces". This was also the view held by Mr. Arthur B. Keith, an authority on constitutional law, who wrote in his book entitled "Responsible Government and the Dominion", that it was expressly recognized in 1907 by the imperial government that confederation is a pact which cannot be amended, except with the consent of the provinces. Lord Carnarvon and Viscount Haldane, jurists of repute, have shared that view, as well as the fathers of confederation, Sir John Macdonald, George Brown and Mr. McGee who said: "What we have on the clerk's table is a contract."

And yet, in 1943, not only the advice of the provinces has not been sought, but those from Quebec who protested were told that the matter concerned the dominion authorities only and that the prime minister and the leader of the opposition of the Quebec legislature had nothing to do with this matter.

I trust therefore that if some day it is decided to amend further the pact of 1867 more concern will be given than in 1943 to the legal procedure to be followed.

In the meantime, however, political or sentimental considerations should not be allowed to delay further the adoption of this resolution, and I trust that this house will deem it its duty to support wholeheartedly this resolution based on justice and security.

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October 1, 1945

1. WThat was the total cost of the land purchased for the airport at Bagotville, Chicoutimi, Quebec?

2. From what person or persons was this land purchased?

3. What was the price paid to each?

4. What was the total cost of the airport?

5. Under what financial conditions are the Canadian Pacific Air Lines using such airport for carrying mail and passengers?

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