Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Issue 5 - Evidence for April 1, 2004


OTTAWA, Thursday, April 1, 2004

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs met this day at 10:59 a.m. to review Bill C-20, An Act to change the names of certain electoral districts.

Senator George J. Furey (Chairman) presiding.

[Translation]

The Chairman: Today we begin our review of Bill C-20, An Act to change the names of certain electoral districts.

[English]

Witnesses today from Elections Canada are familiar faces; they have assisted our committee on numerous occasions in the past. Once again, we welcome the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley, and the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer and Chief Legal Counsel, Ms. Diane Davidson.

Mr. Kingsley, please proceed with your presentation, which will be followed by questions from senators.

[Translation]

Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada: I wish to thank you for inviting me to appear before you during your review of Bill C-20, An Act to change the names of certain electoral districts. Thank you for introducing Ms. Diane Davison who is accompanying me today.

The purpose of Bill C-20 is to change the names of 38 electoral districts that were created as part of the 2003 representation order. It also sets a date for these names to come into effect, namely September 1, 2004. In other words, the proposed name change would not apply for any election before that date.

The latest redistribution began on March 12, 2002 and ended on August 25, 2003, upon proclamation of the new representation orders. Each of the electoral boundaries commissions is independent, and each is responsible for determining the boundaries and names of electoral districts.

The role of the Chief Electoral Officer during redistribution is to provide support services to the commissions through a variety of professional, financial, technical and administrative functions. These include assistance with mapping, census data, publications, advertising and the maintenance of the redistribution website. During the last round, the commissions' work was greatly facilitated by new software developed by Elections Canada, the commission redistricting tool.

The electoral boundaries commissions were provided with guidelines established by the Geographical Names Board of Canada. The principal factors to be taken into account under these guidelines are: a sense of location; a preference for single names over double and triple names; uniqueness in the name; tradition; and clarity in English and French to minimize the need for names to be translated.

The Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act provides for public consultation on the names of electoral districts. Each commission must hold at least one public hearing before completing its report, and the commissions can be requested to hold a hearing for any electoral district.

In 2003, there were 92 commission hearings. The number of hearings increased by 35 per cent compared to the previous redistribution. They were widely advertised and on the whole well attended. Members of the House of Commons have the opportunity to make representations to the commissions at the public hearings, and in fact are encouraged to do so by the statute.

A total of 151 M.P.s sent a notice of their intent to appear before the commission for their province.

Once a commission has completed its report, it is referred to Parliament through the Chief Electoral Officer and tabled by the Speaker of the House of Commons. In turn, it is referred to a committee established by the House to hear objections to the proposed changes from Members of Parliament.

In 2003, the relevant committee was the Subcommittee on Electoral Boundaries Readjustment of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The commissions' reports were referred to the House Committee on Procedure and House Affairs between December 2002 and March 2003.

In a letter sent to all Members of the House of Commons on March 13, 2002, I explained the parliamentary process for filing objections to the commissions' reports. As the commissions' proposals became available, I wrote to the Members of the House of Commons for the respective province. I indicated that the commission's proposal included a description of the proposed boundaries and name for each electoral district.

Finally, as soon as each commission's report was transmitted to the Speaker, I wrote to the Members of the House of Commons for that province to remind them they had 30 days to file any objections with the clerk of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Between February 2003 and July 2003, the committee heard objections filed by Members of Parliament. The office of the Chief Electoral Officer forwarded the committee's reports to the commissions. M.P.s' comments were considered by the commissions before they issued their final reports on which the representation order is based.

An analysis of the commissions' final reports for 2003 shows that M.P.s made 32 formal objections to proposed names. Of these, the commissions accepted 17 and rejected 15. Four of the name changes that were rejected are found in Bill C-20.

[English]

I will now turn to the implications of name changes effected during and between redistributions. As soon as possible after a redistribution round is completed and the representation order is proclaimed, Elections Canada is required by law to print geographical maps for the country. These include a large map of Canada, provincial maps, and provincial atlases, which include a map and a description of each federal electoral district. We also produce descriptions of polling divisions, guides to electoral districts and street indexes. The exact number of products printed depends on the estimate of needs over the ensuing 10 years, that is, until the next redistribution.

Name changes effected outside redistribution under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act have a number of administrative implications for Elections Canada and other institutions.

Should this bill be adopted and should the next general election be held after September 1, 2004, it would cost some $230,000 to reprint a range of election products that are distributed to candidates during an election, including electoral district and polling division maps, polling division descriptions and locaters, poll keys and street locaters.

In addition, various communications services and materials would be affected. A range of documents and maps on our Web site would have to be updated. We would need to record and store the new electoral district names in the voice recognition system that we run with Bell Canada, a new feature for the next election. Various publications would need to be revised. It would cost some $70,000, in addition to the approximate $230,000 I spoke about before, for the translation, editing and proof reading of these documents.

We would also have to update our corporate database. This would allow us to produce a new preliminary list of electors and related products that reflect the new names — for example, our revised software used by returning officers. That is software whereby we move people based on their change of address that is not recorded when we start the election.

In addition, we might be expected to reprint a range of non-election products rather than issuing erratums, as we have done in the past. They include official maps and atlases, the transposition of votes, guides to electoral districts, street indexes and electoral district profiles. This would cost about $200,000. I would welcome this committee's views, as well as those of the House of Commons, as to the best route to follow. Do we reprint, or do we live with the atlases you have now that were recently sent and send you a list of erratums with 38 names on it?

The impact of Bill C-20 extends beyond Elections Canada. Such name changes affect all institutions that use and publish information containing federal constituency names, for example, the House of Commons, the Senate, Statistics Canada and Natural Resources Canada, to name a few.

In addition, political parties rely heavily on information technology, and they would need to update their systems accordingly. Constituency associations, members of the House of Commons and senators would have to face adjustments, and so would Canadians.

I thank you for inviting me here today to make these observations about Bill C-20. I should now be pleased, along with my colleague Ms. Davidson to answer your questions.

The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Kingsley.

For a point of clarification, you indicated that rather than engage in further expenditures you could send out the actual information that you have now with some 38 corrections. How confusing would that be?

Mr. Kingsley: I indicated that there were essentially two series of costs. If the election is held after September 1, $300,000, approximately, is required, no matter what. Whether the election is held on or before or after September 1, the question then arises as to what we do about the products you have already received that are not directly related to the election. To reprints those would cost $200,000. If Parliament, you senators and members of the House of Commons, wish to have the products reprinted, as opposed to having a map of Canada or a map of a province and change the names on an erratum sheet, that is $200,000. An erratum sheet, depending on how it would be formatted, would probably cost less, but not necessarily. It depends on whether it takes the shape of the map.

The Chairman: In any event, it would be more confusing?

Mr. Kingsley: In terms of confusion, the question of what happens vis-à-vis the electors has been debated every time I have appeared before this committee.

Senator Beaudoin: What we are working on this morning is not for the next election if it in is held before September 1. In other words, everything that we change today relates to after September 1.

In some other countries, or in some provinces, I understand the commission has the last word regarding the name of the circumscription. It is perhaps difficult in our system, at this stage, to backtrack on this. On the other hand, however, there are some limits. It is not the end of the world. Are you optimistic or pessimistic with respect to the future? Will we have, one day, the final decision being by the commission?

Mr. Kingsley: I do not know what that has to do with optimism or pessimism. I am an eternal optimist about anything. Whether we achieve that will be part of the review that I understand Parliament may undertake. I know that the subcommittee has just produced a report that has been presented to the House of Commons Standing Committee On Procedure and House Affairs on their recommendations on how to amend the process of redistribution. I do not know the content of that report, because it has not been tabled publicly. I will be studying that.

As I have indicated, I may also wish to make recommendations to Parliament concerning this whole process, based on sessions that I have held with the judges and other members of those commissions. We held a post-event conference with the very people who were involved in the process. I would wish to share the outcome of that with Parliament, at some stage. It may include consideration of this matter.

Senator Beaudoin: Yesterday, I raised a question of the historical factor — which is very important for the members of Parliament. I know in practice, and we all know, that it is not really the history; it is the local history. We have many historical names in our country, in our history — and I agree with that — but sometimes we note that the amendments that are required are based on a certain history, but a very local one.

Perhaps the members of Parliament are very attached to that and do not want to lose that power. Is it possible to have a less historical edition than those ones that are coming every year before us?

Mr. Kingsley: I suppose history is what you perceive it to be as well. I think the board on names recommended that tradition be the factor. I do not think the word ``history'' quite appears as directly in their standards.

However, I shall share with the committee that I have received some very interesting letters from veterans who have recommended that the ridings carry the names of those battlefields where Canadians have lost their lives defending democracy. That is something I would wish to pick up in the recommendations I will make to Parliament. It is a matter of how deep the history goes, and how attached people are to certain events in their riding, and to the names of certain persons or certain places as well.

Senator Beaudoin: If I understood you correctly about the money problem that is involved, it is, in practice, $500,000.

Mr. Kingsley: Yes, should the election be held after September 1, approximately $300,000 is owed to that. In question is the other $200,000: Do Canadians wish to have a reprint of all the products, or just erratum sheets with all the confusion that that entails among those people who have to deal with these things on a daily basis — such as yourselves, members of Parliament, the people in other departments who have to deal with these matters? I am trying to suggest it may be wise, since redistribution has just occurred, that if this were to occur after September 1 we would probably tend to favour a reprint of all the products, because 38 names is a lot. To have to deal with erratum sheets for practically all the provinces is very problematic.

The Chairman: To follow up on that point, perhaps for Ms. Davidson, if Elections Canada were to find themselves, through no fault of their own, in a position where they had to go with the 38 erratum sheets and that were to create some confusion, could you see that as a legal problem in the future for candidates? Have you given any thought to that?

Mr. Kingsley: Frankly, we have not given any thought to that aspect. We have lived with name changes before. We have been able to incorporate them in the new products as they came out, so that at least the members of Parliament or candidates for by-elections or elections were able to receive the documentation.

Part of what we will be doing, as part of the next election, whenever it is called, is coming out with the new riding names. Canadians will be able to go and look up the names of their ridings on our Web site, as well as through a telephone system that we will be providing. Because it is September 1, we would be able to incorporate that in time for a general election held after September 1. In other words, I would have the minimum six weeks that I require to do that over the summer.

Senator Smith: I am comfortable with this bill simply because the parties in the House did agree on a process requiring unanimity, and it is pretty hard to second guess them when it goes through all stages in a day on a unanimous basis.

Second, as to whether you go the erratum route versus the reprint route, I would defer to your judgment. I think I would be supportive of the choice you just indicated for clarity's sake.

However, since you are here, I want to ask you not so much about just the contents of this bill, but the process. In the discussion we had yesterday, Mr. Chairman, there was an assumption on the part of some senators that the officials that are appointed to these commissions for the provinces are the most objective and neutral, and that they will have the most wisdom on what the appropriate names are. I know the ones on the Ontario commission — one of them is a very good friend of mine. However, when you stack up their knowledge — they are dealing with over 100 ridings — against the knowledge of some of the local members, you just know who will have the better background.

I will refer to a specific incident, because I should like your reaction to this. I am aware of all this stuff because, as you probably know, I was the chairman for Mr. Chrétien's election, so I would be about the first guy they would come to if they were upset.

For years, with respect to the ridings represented by Mr. Mills and Ms. Minna — Broadview—Greenwood and Beaches—Woodbine, respectively; now Toronto—Danforth and Beaches—East York, respectively — they had always run north-south, up from the lake, as opposed to east-west. When the first cut came out, the ridings were basically as they had been; therefore, Mr. Mills and Ms. Minna did not say anything, because they were happy. Then they had the hearings — and here was the theory. I will give you this theory without prejudice to anyone.

There was a sometime member of the local council in what used to be known as East York, which was part of a distinct municipality before amalgamation. That was an area where, in the past, there had been a Conservative majority. They had managed a few years ago to elect a Conservative member, which does not happen too often in Toronto in recent years, but that was one. On almost the last day of hearings, a city councillor attended the hearings and argued that, rather than have north-south boundaries, if the ridings ran east-west above the Danforth, it would show respect for this distinct and unique old municipality that had been there and that this would be a great recognition of historical tradition.

Ms. Minna had been happy with the original recommendation, as had Mr. Mills. They had not said anything. The commission, however, agreed with this suggestion. Suddenly, if you did the math, they had a shot north of the Danforth, but this had thrown the historical approach out the window. Mr. Mills and Ms. Minna went nuclear.

My response to them was that they should not have remained silent, that they should have written the commission telling it that they were happy with the status quo. Having been silent, I think, required them to present submissions and to appear and appeal the decision. At the end of the day, they got it reversed.

We have to get the message out to all members that even if they agree with what comes out in the first round that is no reason to be silent. I think the commission, to its credit, finally recognized that it had been led astray somewhat and reversed it to the original, which was the right thing to do.

I am interested in your reaction to that whole process. I do not know if you are familiar with that example.

Mr. Kingsley: I am not familiar with that one — or with any one, as a matter of fact. I have no responsibility to look into these matters. Fundamentally, what I am hearing you say is that the system worked.

Senator Smith: At the end of the day.

Mr. Kingsley: I think that is what matters, that at the end of the day the system worked. You are asking me for my interpretation; that is it.

The Chairman: I want to try to clarify something in my own mind, Mr. Kingsley. If this bill were to be passed today, are you telling us it would require you to expend no monies?

Mr. Kingsley: Based on one view that has been expressed, it would require the expenditure, depending upon when the election takes place.

Senator Smith: Let us assume the election will be before September 1.

The Chairman: If we were to assume that, what would it be?

Mr. Kingsley: Under that scenario, it is a possible expenditure of $200,000. If the election is held after September 1, this bill is passed, a possible expenditure of some $500,000.

The Chairman: Would the expenditure of $200,000 that you would anticipate, should an election be called before September, be new money?

Mr. Kingsley: It is all money.

The Chairman: It would be money that you would need; in other words, it is not money that you have somewhere to accommodate the need.

Mr. Kingsley: These expenditures are covered under the statutory authority of the Chief Electoral Officer, which says the money has to be spent — spend it.

Senator Joyal: It might be a procedural rather than a substantial issue in relation to what we are requested to do, but in looking at the introductory page of this bill, there is the front page, the second page is summary, the third page is the continuation of summary and then there is a blank page. There is no Royal Recommendation there.

I can understand what you are saying, that you have a statutory authority to spend money, but usually there is a Royal Recommendation with a bill that has financial implications.

I should like to have a final interpretation on this. This bill does not have a Royal Recommendation, which is the difference between a government bill and a private member's bill. This is a government bill, as I see it. It is Bill C-20, so it is certainly a government bill.

Maybe, Mr. Chairman, you could inquire into this for our next meeting.

The Chairman: We could, colleagues, if it is the committee's wish, bring someone to the committee to speak to just that issue at our next meeting.

Senator Joyal: We may not necessarily need to bring someone in to speak, but we could get an opinion from our clerk, or the proper authority, that could be read that into the record.

Senator Beaudoin: Unless, because he is the Chief Electoral Officer, he has, in another statute, the money for each ministry. The whole of the money is with the Chief Electoral Officer since the beginning, because of the powers under the electoral act. However, I think it must be checked.

Senator Joyal: I think we should. I am not in a position to contend that the Chief Electoral Officer, who, as an officer of Parliament, has an unlimited statutory authority to spend as much as he needs to spend to meet the purposes of implementing the electoral act of Canada. We are not talking about $200.

We are talking about $500,000. I understand that when you present a budget to Treasury Board and you get approval for such an envelope each item is qualified and so forth. Therefore, this expense was not, in my opinion, in his pre-Estimates, unless you have a contingency fund whereby you can use the contingency items on this budget to use that money.

I was not prepared to ask that question. It occurred to me, as I was flipping through the bill, having heard the testimony of the Chief Electoral Officer and having the figures mentioned, that there was no Royal Recommendation.

The Chairman: Would you care to comment on that, Mr. Kingsley?

Mr. Kingsley: It would be wise for the committee to get its advice from your clerk on that matter, as opposed to relying on my advice on this issue.

The Chairman: We will, of course, do that.

[Translation]

Senator Nolin: Mr. Kingsley, I would like to hear your views on the two specific cases for which Senator Smith provided some clarification. I have a great deal of respect for M.P.s and members of Parliament. At some point, Canadians residing in specific electoral districts must go before the commission and make submissions in order to be heard. Barring any evidence to the contrary, these commissions are relatively independent bodies. As such, the process is far different than it was forty or so years ago.

This is not the first time that we have discussed the issue of name changes. We have tried to be courteous and to send reports and signals to our colleagues at the House of Commons. Senator Joyal has done exhaustive studies to come up with recommendation that have been approved by all committee members. With all due respect to Senator Smith and his position, I thought we had agreed once and for all that these indirect appeals from decisions reached via a relatively independent process were no longer acceptable. Today, we are hearing quite a different tale.

I have no doubt that other members are unhappy as well. Apparently, thirty-eight have decided to proceed by way of legislation to obtain that which they were unable to obtain from the commissions. In the case of the two Toronto area ridings, were people respectful of the most independent of processes for redrawing electoral districts? Does this process not apply to the names as well as to the boundaries of electoral districts?

Mr. Kingsley: I would go so far as to say that the commission process is independent, not just relatively so. It is the very foundation of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act which makes Canada a model on the world stage. Of course, changes could always be made to improve the public consultation process and so forth. Bill C-69 made provision for that very thing. The House subcommittee is now considering some changes. However, we are looking at reforming procedures, not at throwing out the very principle behind the commission system. This independence is vitally important to the Canadian electoral redistricting process.

Senator Nolin: I have great respect for Members of Parliament, but I am not at all inclined to support this bill. When the Parliament of Canada passed a bill to change electoral boundaries, including the names of electoral districts, commission member were issued guidelines on how to analyze and propose changes to riding names and on hearing from citizens before tabling a final report. In this particular instance, are the 38 members the only ones who will not be pleased? By agreeing to change the names of 38 electoral districts, will we be assisting the electoral process in an independent, impartial manner, or are we trying to please 38 members?

Mr. Kingsley: As an officer of Parliament, I recognize Parliament's supremacy over all electoral laws. It is my duty and responsibility to explain the implications of the legislation to you. I would not venture an opinion as to whether the proposed changes are desirable or not. However, I understand full well what you are saying.

Senator Nolin: My question relates to all of the reports drawn up by the committee in response to requests for name changes. On each of these occasions, you participated in the process. I am certain you that you took note of our recommendations and I trust you agreed with them.

We need a process that cannot be interfered with by those who, for whatever reason, have a vested interest in getting their request approved, despite the recommendations of the independent commission. That is the point I was attempting to make with this question. I am not trying to put you in a difficult position vis-à-vis your role as an officer of Parliament. At certain times, Members of Parliament, particularly M.P.s, find themselves in a conflict of interest situation. When the subject of electoral boundaries adjustment arises, anyone listening who is ill informed about this matter might get the impression that a Member of Parliament is, in some respects, the keeper of the riding for a period of time and that as such, the fate of the riding's name rests in that member's hands.

If we go along with this premise, then what we are really saying is that the process is not that independent after all and that members have the final say when it comes to a riding's designation. Requests are submitted by all political parties. It is easy to obtain unanimous consent and to pass a bill in one afternoon. I think this would be a step backward. What do you think?

Mr. Kingsley: I have already answered the question. I cannot comment on this matter.

Senator Nolin: I understand.

[English]

Senator Baker: I have a point concerning Senator Nolin's statement. He said that while the M.P. is representing that district, he or she, at the end of the consultation process and without being answerable to anyone, could change the name of the district. As I understand Mr. Kingsley, an M.P. could, in effect, change the name of a district not while as an M.P. but in the election that follows — that would kick in after September 1. In other words, that M.P. may no longer be around.

It is not just that the M.P. is causing a serious expenditure of money — because we pay careful consideration to the money spent. I note that if an M.P. were to change the name of a riding to more than 50 characters, counting the dashes, without someone being answerable for the actions, it would not even be effective while that person was the M.P. but rather at an election time in the future. I want to correct you on that. You said that it becomes effective while the M.P. is the M.P., but in this case the M.P. could be changing the name at a time when he or she would no longer be the M.P. It depends on the timing of the election, to know the effective date of the change.

Senator Nolin: Senator Baker, it is even worse because, guess what, when a new M.P. appears, what will he ask for? He will ask for a name change. What will he get? He will get a name change. From all parties there will be new M.P.s that will not like the names. They will ask for changes and they will get the changes.

Senator Baker: It seems to be an unusual process. For the 29 years I was an M.P., I did not take advantage of it. I thought it was rather strange that, at the last minute, after the consultations, public hearings and the entire process were done, I could turn around and pick a name that would cost the taxpayers of Canada an additional amount of money for a period of time when I would not be an M.P. It sounded ludicrous to me.

The Chairman: Would you care to comment on that Mr. Kingsley?

Mr. Kingsley: I am doing well so far.

Senator Joyal: I will begin by re-stating an axiom that I feel is important in the Senate of Canada — the corporate memory of Parliament. As I mentioned to Mr. Saada, the Minister responsible for Democratic Reform, we adopted a report in June 2000, which I remember well. I participated in the discussion of the substance of that report. That report is as valid today as it was almost four years ago. It outlines the implications that Mr. Kingsley stated this morning. We made specific recommendations in the report that would seem to meet the concern about a need to maintain the integrity of the arm's-length system put in place when Parliament vested, in the Chief Electoral Officer and the Electoral Boundary Commission, its privileges over election matters.

Senators must remember that prior to having an electoral act that gives responsibility for organizing the election to an officer of Parliament, it was the sole privilege of the members Parliament. Parliament has legislated to establish an officer that will remain above the fray. Along the lines of that decision, there has been a whole system put in place to remove the discretionary aspects of the decisions to be taken. The discretion was removed that day from the hands of the parliamentarians in respect of the drafting of the map to set the boundaries and the riding names. The name is not just a fancy label that you put over new boundaries. Rather, it is an essential and integral part of the system that should remain in the hands of the Electoral Boundary Commission.

It is important to keep the principle in mind that the integrity of the electoral system in Canada has to remain above the direct control of Parliament because it is the only way to maintain the neutrality of the system. That is an important principle and that is why, in our report of June 2000, we made two kinds of specific recommendations. First, we recommended staying with the system of redrafting the map and changing the names. Second, we recommended, at paragraph 9 of the report, and I quote the report: ``Your committee understands that extraordinary situations can arise at other times that may require constituency name changes. Your committee also believes that the process in such cases must be much clearer and more transparent. Your committee received submissions that reinforced the need for public consultation and input, to respect the fact that residents of a constituency strongly identify with its name. There should be a requirement for some form of public notice in the constituency and provision for public comments. Guidelines to this effect could be adapted from the procedures set out under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.''

In other words, if we change something fundamental in the system — the name or the boundaries — the process must be transparent. There must be a process whereby public interest can be expressed through publication, input and hearings. It ensures that the process remains open and accessible to everyone, not confined to a cozy discussion among a few M.P.s who say, ``I do not like this name; perhaps I will have a better chance of being elected in next election if I add the name of a village over there.'' This recommendation is essential because it maintains the integrity of one of the key elements of drafting the boundaries and identifying the boundaries. They are intertwined, as we understood it four years ago.

Since the tabling of this report, have you taken any steps to inform parliamentarians that that should be the system followed in terms of future constituency names to protect the integrity of the entire process of boundaries and name changes?

Mr. Kingsley: Mr. Chairman, through the testimony that I tabled and presented this morning, I indicated that I wrote to members of Parliament at the outset of the process, in March 2002, which is, therefore, after this committee agreed on a set of principles and procedures. I mentioned to them that the boundaries and the names would be reviewed by the boundaries commissions. The fact that this was perceived to be the reality resulted in 32 M.P.s presenting objections to the names. The commissions themselves then analyzed these objections, which were supported by the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, and accepted 17 of them. They modified the name that they had put forward in 17 cases out of 32. They rejected 15. The rejection was a voluntary action. It was a desired action. In effect, the commission says, ``Well, we are sensitized to the role that they played in this, and they had a determining role, at least in their view.''

In answer to your question, I undertook those steps that were necessary for me to undertake with people who were interested in the process, particularly M.P.s, whom I kept abreast every step of the way, as I did senators, by the way, through exchange of correspondence at every step of the way. I did try to achieve that in a significant way.

Senator Joyal: In relation to the new drafting of the electoral boundaries.

Mr. Kingsley: Yes. In my first letter, I even mentioned the fact that the names were also part of what would be involved. I have indicated that at 32 M.P.s understood that, by having brought forward their objections.

Senator Joyal: Yesterday, when the minister testified, I asked him — I do not have the transcript in front of me, but as much as my memory can serve me, I asked why we were facing 38 name changes when the process was just completed. He said that M.P.s made representations for a readjustment after the first draft map, that the commission accepted some of those changes, but he implied that they did not take into account the names readjustment, and that that was the reason there were so many new changes.

This morning, on page 4 of your statement, the last paragraph, you state that four of the name changes that were rejected are found in Bill C-20. In other words, in the context that his argument is valid, there are only four cases. That would not explain the large majority of the name changes that we have in Bill C-20. There are 38. Would you care to comment on that?

Mr. Kingsley: I tried to do that in the presentation itself when I gave you the numbers that I gave. One could read that perhaps the 34 who did not make objections were not conscious of the fact that they could make objections at the stage just before the commissions made their final determination. To me, that is the best case that can be put forward in terms of those 34 name changes.

Senator Joyal: By accepting those 34 changes, we are short-circuiting the system. If they had wanted to change those names, they should have gone to the commission and made their representations. That should have been part of the process of adjustment of the names to the new boundaries. Are we not distorting the mechanism that is in the Electoral Boundaries Act?

Mr. Kingsley: Again, it comes to the primacy of Parliament in this respect. To me, that is the only argument that I could make in favour of the name changes.

Senator Joyal: When they do that, they do not allow for the vetting of the decision through a neutral level of publication and debate. That is essentially what we miss when we say Parliament is Parliament and can do whatever it wants. As a famous British author said, it can even change a man into a woman or a woman into a man, if it wants to.

The objectives enshrined in the act remain as valid at the beginning as at the end of the process. At the extreme limit, it would mean that, through an act of Parliament, after the publication of the map and the names having been done in the way that the system provides it, Parliament could decide to change the boundaries of two ridings, for instance. Two M.P.s can get together, and one could say, ``I will push my limits 10 miles into yours,'' and the other could say, ``I will accept that change being made,'' and we could pass legislation and that would be that. It will not have gone through the process of public hearings, giving the various concerned parties locally an opportunity to come forward and support the changes.

Mr. Kingsley: I can certainly understand the sense of the argument that you are posing. Recognizing the difficulty of just obtaining name changes, I can only imagine that the reaction would be very different, very strong, if there were any attempt to modify the actual boundaries that came out of the process. Dealing with the names and seeing the objections that are raised here, one can well imagine the level of objection if there were an attempt to modify the boundaries themselves.

Senator Joyal: Your recommendation to us is along the line of the report of 2000, that is, to stick to the process in terms of the integrity of the drafting of the new electoral map and keep it as is, as much as we can in the context of the process that has been terminated recently; is that correct?

Mr. Kingsley: I think the phrase you used, senator, was ``remain above the fray'', talking about my office. I shall have to try to achieve this through my appearance this morning.

Senator Joyal: This committee recognized four years ago, as is reflected in paragraph 9 of the report — I hope you have a copy.

Mr. Kingsley: I do.

Senator Joyal: We recognized that new sets of circumstances can happen within the 10 years of the lifespan of a map. If a situation would arise such that a name change would be needed, there should be a public vetting process. We recognized the need to have a system, and we recognized that there should be a public procedure. That is the substance of the ninth recommendation.

Are you in a position this morning to support that recommendation?

Mr. Kingsley: I would not hesitate to say that the report that was produced at that time has considerable merit. I do not hesitate to say that at all. It is certainly something that should inspire future action in this domain.

Senator Joyal: Would you suggest that we restate those objectives to ensure that we maintain the integrity of the system?

Mr. Kingsley: I think it would be entirely consistent with the position that was taken previously by this committee, and it would be natural for it to do so.

Senator Beaudoin: I should like to know what you mean by ``supremacy of Parliament.'' So far, for many centuries, we have said supremacy of Parliament, but we know it is the Constitution that is supreme and not Parliament. Parliament should follow the Constitution.

Here, do you mean by that the supremacy of the M.P.s for the selection of the names of their circumscription? That is the impression that I have.

Mr. Kingsley: I use the expression in the context of the exercise of the office of the Chief Electoral Officer. In other words, I implement the statutes that are passed by Parliament.

Senator Beaudoin: Yes, that is right.

Mr. Kingsley: I do not implement my will over the will of Parliament. It is in that context that I use the expression.

Senator Beaudoin: Yes. I understand that sometimes the powers lie with the commission, but not every time. There may be a case where a member of Parliament may obtain the change and the commission is not involved. Is that the case?

Mr. Kingsley: I am sorry, but I do not get the drift of the question.

Senator Beaudoin: In the sense that an M.P. or a new member may change the title of the circumscription, and the commission has nothing to do. Can this happen?

Mr. Kingsley: No. An M.P. may wish to obtain a change in the name of the riding, but it must be formulated in a text of law, either through a private member's bill or through a bill of the ilk that is before you. One M.P. wishing to have a change in the name is not sufficient for me to act.

Senator Beaudoin: There is no case like that, is that correct?

Mr. Kingsley: Once the commission establishes boundaries and names, I am bound by those until I am told by Parliament that it is different from that.

Senator Beaudoin: That answers my question.

Senator Baker: Mr. Chairman, I wonder if Mr. Kingsley has examined this question as it relates to other jurisdictions and countries. I say that because I could never understand why an M.P. or any politician would want a long name in the name of his or her riding. The media would never carry a news story from that particular M.P.

I will give you an example. What was my riding used to be called Bonavista—Twillingate. Jack Pickersgill had that riding. Then it was changed to Gander—Twillingate. Then it was changed to Gander—Grand Falls. Now, today, under this bill, there will be five names in the new name. Legally, as you say, it is what Parliament decides. I could, at this moment, change the name again — propose an amendment.

Senator Beaudoin: You could.

Senator Nolin: Of course.

Senator Baker: Of course. It would then go back to the House for approval. Suppose I made the suggestion that the name be changed to Bonavista—Wesleyville—Fogo—Twillingate—Lewisport—Springdale—Jackson's Cove—Gander—Grand Falls —

Senator Joyal: That is a nice name.

Senator Baker: — Joe Batt's Arm, Nicky's Nose Cove and all these other places. I cannot imagine any news media carrying the story and saying the M.P. from Gander—Grand Falls—Lewisporte—Jackson's Cove—Peggy's Cove and going on and on and on. There must be a limit.

I listened to you carefully. There is a technical limit on characters, which fits your computer system. However, if I heard you correctly, that limit has even been exceeded on occasion and your computer systems had to be adjusted to allow for over 50 characters — letters or dashes or whatever — in the name. Is that correct? Is there a technical limitation on this, and have you examined this question as it relates to other countries?

Mr. Kingsley: With respect to the number of characters, it includes hyphens, slashes, periods and commas. A computer is dumb; it does not know that it is not a letter.

Thus far, we have never exceeded 50 characters. That is the limit because, at the time, we thought it would not happen beyond 50 characters, and it has not, because we have sensitized parliamentarians to that. If it were to go beyond 50 characters, I would have to double the price tag that I have mentioned to you. It is $500,000 to change my system, just the computer system.

In this particular bill, there is no name change that exceeds the 50 characters. That is why I did not mention that at all in terms of budgetary impact. There is none, because none exceeds it.

In terms of international experience, I would have to review what happens elsewhere. I do know about the history of Canada, and I do know that name changes in the past — this is no longer the case, but in the past — when a riding changed its name, the returning officer lost his position.

Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.

Mr. Kingsley: This is no longer the case.

Senator Joyal: It is pulling a rabbit out of the bag.

Mr. Kingsley: This is no longer the case.

Senator Baker: No longer the case.

Mr. Kingsley: No.

Senator Baker: Explain that.

Mr. Kingsley: The law has been changed such that you can change the name of a riding and the returning officer does not lose his or her position. I thought you should appreciate that element of history in Canada as opposed to what happens in other jurisdictions.

Senator Baker: In other jurisdictions, it is not the final determination. Are you saying it still is, to your knowledge, the determination, the final decision of the legislative assembly of whatever country we are talking about that makes the decision, in that there is no limit on the number of characters in the name of a circumscription?

Mr. Kingsley: I would have to review that before I answer, Mr. Chairman. I would be treading on territory that is less known to me. If you wish, I can come back to this committee and inform it if there are such limits. If there are computer systems in other countries relating to the names, there has to be a limit. That is the proper information system.

The Chairman: I would suggest, Mr. Kingsley, if it is okay with you, perhaps you could provide that in writing to the clerk, and then the clerk could distribute that information to members of the committee.

Mr. Kingsley: Thank you very much for that precision, sir.

The Chairman: I could not help but thinking, Senator Baker, when you were suggesting that rather lengthy name, that one would need some sort of a ``wide-load'' permit to have even a bumper sticker on the road.

[Translation]

Senator Nolin: I would like us to review paragraph 9 of our June 2000 recommendations in order to arrive at a reasonable, impartial decision about this bill.

Obviously, a public consultation process was not an option. However, between August 25, 2003 and the present, in the case of each of the 38 names proposed, have there been any unusual situations which could compel us to legislate changes to the names of electoral districts?

Mr. Kingsley: To be honest with you, I deliberately refrained from considering the proposed changes. My role is not to act on the basis of the criteria that have set. That is the very essence of your role.

Senator Nolin: Mr. Kingsley, the commissions for each province covered in Bill C-20 have commented on the reasons leading up to the approval or rejection of the proposed changes. You indicated to us that 31 M.P.s filed objections with the commissions, and that 17 of them were accepted and 15 rejected.

This brings me to the following question: Has anything unusual transpired since the commissions, in keeping with their quasi-judicial function, decided not to approve the changes requested by M.P.s? Has anything happened between then and now which might lead us to believe that the commissions' decisions should in fact be appealed?

Mr. Kingsley: Again, to be quite honest, I would have to review the commissions' proposals. As I said, I did not have an opportunity to review these proposals in detail prior to today, since I only learned of the minister's testimony ten minutes before arriving here. That is when I received the transcripts and when I pulled the aforementioned report.

With your permission, I could submit a written answer to the question so as to inform the committee of the commissions' findings in the case of the 15 objections rejected.

[English]

The Chairman: I was thinking, Mr. Kingsley, and I am in the hands of the committee on this, that certainly we are sensitive to the issue you raised in terms of having time to review documents. Would it be the committee's wish to have Mr. Kingsley back at our next meeting, or would a written submission be satisfactory?

Senator Smith: I think having it in writing is satisfactory.

The Chairman: If writing is satisfactory, and Mr. Kingsley, if you are prepared to do that, that would be fine.

Mr. Kingsley: I will undertake to do that, Mr. Chairman.

Senator Smith What do you intend to have occur once the witnesses are completed?

The Chairman: The steering committee will review the evidence and the witnesses that we have heard so far.

Senator Smith: I think we might have a discussion as to where to go from here.

The Chairman: That is no problem.

Senator Smith: I should like to speak to it.

The Chairman: That is not a problem, Senator Smith.

Senator Joyal: In relation to the 15 name changes or requests that were rejected, you say that four of those names are back into Bill C-20. In preparation of your report, would you ensure that those four names are well identified, as well as the reasons, so that if Parliament sits as an appeal mechanism to the decision of the commission, we know for which reasons they should be reinstated or not?

Mr. Kingsley: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I will undertake to do that. If the record is not clear, I will so indicate as well.

The Chairman: Thank you very much.

Senator Baker: Could you also clarify — because you did repeat over and over that you had a limitation of 50 characters in your computer. There have been two name changes made that were 53 characters in length since 1996. My understanding is that you had to go through administrative changes to make up for that. Therefore, could you include in your written response how you address a problem, as your computer will not take over 50 characters, when the House of Commons or the Senate passes a bill that makes increased demands beyond the 50 characters, as you have had in two instances since 1996.

Mr. Kingsley: We played with slashes and dashes, but I will explain in greater detail so that the committee appreciates it.

Senator Baker: You did not follow the law that was passed. This gets back to Senator Beaudoin's question: Who is supreme?

Senator Joyal: On the supremacy issue, Senator Baker just took the words from my mouth.

In relation to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, to your recollection, were there any decisions of the Canadian courts in relation to Charter issues?

Mr. Kingsley: I am not aware of any off the top of my head; after consulting, if I am wrong, we will verify this. I will also inform the committee in writing because I obviously did not anticipate that question, either.

Senator Joyal: I know there have been many in terms of the Canada Elections Act, but in terms of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, I do not remind myself, but as it is your responsibility, I feel secure asking you that question. You will come back to us with an answer.

Senator Beaudoin: The two recent cases are Sauvé and Figueroa. They may indirectly be related. Is that impossible?

Senator Nolin: It is possible, but not the case.

Senator Beaudoin: You seem to be quite sure, so you must be right.

The Chairman: If it is, I am sure Mr. Kingsley will include it.

Senator Joyal: There is always the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Saskatchewan case about the effective representation principle of the mapping of the electoral district, which is a very important element in relation to the ratio of differences among various ridings, which is a very important principle, even though it might not have been in the case of the interpretation of Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.

Again, like you, I did not prepare myself this morning for that, but I raised the question since we are discussing the principle of what Parliament can do in relation to this.

Mr. Kingsley: I will have to verify the transcript. I thought you were asking if there were any judgments that overturned any aspect of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, but, in this particular case, the Supreme Court sustained the principle behind the numbers that were there. I will have to verify the transcript and ensure that I am answering the question that was asked.

Senator Joyal: It is on both sides, either in terms of sustaining the act or setting aside some provisions of the act.

Mr. Kingsley: I will look at both aspects in my reply and, obviously, highlight that one instance. There may be others, but I cannot think of them off the top of my head.

The Chairman: Mr. Kingsley and Ms. Davidson, on behalf of the committee, I wish to thank you very much for being here this morning. As usual, your appearance before this committee is always welcome, and I thank you for your comments and your interaction. You certainly have given us some food for thought in our deliberations on this bill. We look forward to your written responses to some of the questions that were raised this morning.

Mr. Kingsley: It is always a pleasure, sir.

The Chairman: Honourable senators, if we could remain for a few minutes, we will discuss the issue raised by Senator Smith.

I should also like to indicate to senators that yesterday, after doing clause-by-clause study on Bill C-14, we indicated that I would report it back but that it would not go to third reading until we received the regulations and interim guidelines. Those have been received and electronically distributed to your offices, so I would ask honourable if it is your will that I report the bill back in the normal fashion. Is that the will of the committee?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: If it is the wish of the committee, I will report the bill in the normal fashion, without any reservation.

Senator Andreychuk: Who requested them?

Senator Joyal: I also requested the letter of the Privacy Commissioner because it is important. I read the letter but not the guidelines this morning, Mr. Chairman. I did not have time, unfortunately, but I read the covering letter of the Privacy Commissioner, and, of course, there are elements in it that are not a total endorsement of the guidelines, and he explained why, but now is not the appropriate time to raise it. However, the letter is definitely an important element; as such, at third reading, we might want to refer to it.

Senator Jaffer: Is it possible to discuss a note with that bill? I think one of the things that we all missed, until the minister came, is that the review process of Bill C-36 has started without a mandatory certificate now. I do not know if it is appropriate to mention that.

The Chairman: I would not think that that would be the place for it with this particular bill, unless the committee so wished. Certainly, we can look into it.

Honourable senators, before we go any further, since we will be talking about future business, may I suggest that we go in camera?

Is that the wish of the committee?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The committee continued in camera.