THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS

EVIDENCE


OTTAWA, Monday, June 16, 2014

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, to which was referred Bill C-37, An Act to change the names of certain electoral districts and to amend the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, met this day at 5 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Bob Runciman (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: We will come to order, please. Good day and welcome, colleagues, invited guests and members of the public who are following today's proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

We're meeting today for the purpose of studying Bill C-37, An Act to change the names of certain electoral districts and to amend the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. This bill changes the names of 30 electoral districts in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, and amends the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act to change the name of the electoral district of the Northwest Territories.

To explain the bill in greater detail, please welcome the Honourable Peter Van Loan, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Minister, thank you for being here. The floor is yours.

Hon. Peter Van Loan, P.C., M.P., Leader of the Government in the House of Commons: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and honourable senators. I apologize for my delay, but we keep voting on things over on the other side.

It is a pleasure to appear before you on Bill C-37 with respect to riding name changes. It’s called the "Riding Name Change Act, 2014."

I used to appear regularly before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in my previous capacity as the Minister for Democratic Reform. I understand it is now over six years since I last did that. I think, with the exceptions of Senators Joyal and Baker, everybody is a new face on this committee.

The riding name change act, 2014, represents in many respects the conclusion of the decennial constituency redistribution process. As you note, the Constitution requires a readjustment of representation in the House of Commons following each decennial census, and the May 2011 Census was no different in this respect.

In addition to changing the actual number of members of the House of Commons, the boundaries of electoral districts, more commonly known as ridings or constituencies, which are represented in the other place, also come under review. Redistribution with respect to both boundaries and names is often a sensitive time for politicians and the areas they represent since the composition of the constituency does go often to the heart of community identification.

For half a century, Parliament has delegated the power to delineate riding boundaries to independent commissions. That has become an accepted and established practice, with Parliament intervening only once to give effect to a second independent commission's work following a successful judicial review of a commission's report originally implemented.

The names by which we call these ridings, however, have presented a different story. I should say that this redistribution process went very smoothly. While some people may not have liked all outcomes, I don't think there was any suggestion by anyone anywhere that there was unfairness or bias in the composition of the commissions and how they carried out their work, which I think is commendable for all those who were on the commissions and those who participated in the process.

Now, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act governs the redistribution process. To summarize it in a nutshell, there's an independent commission for each province. It's chaired by a superior court judge, who is appointed by the chief justice of each province. These commissions prepare a proposed electoral map, hold public hearings, prepare a revised map after that, and submit it to Parliament. Then the House of Commons Procedure and House Affairs Committee has an opportunity to hear objections, provided they are signed by at least 10 or more MPs, and the report of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee is then transmitted back to the commission of each province for them to consider before issuing their final report.

The objections that were filed with the Procedure and House Affairs Committee last year covered a broad sweep of issues related to a given commission's proposals. In some cases, the entire approach adopted for a series of ridings was challenged, or a small adjustment to a boundary might have been requested. In some cases, a revision was suggested for a riding name, or riding name changes were sought within a bigger package of amendments. In several cases, the commissions accepted the findings of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, but in others, they declined to take action, whether on new boundaries or just for a changed name.

For example, I submitted an objection related to an area of my existing riding which is being placed in a new constituency. I proposed a small adjustment to the boundary between what would remain in my constituency of York—Simcoe and what would become Barrie—Innisfil. Although the Procedure and House Affairs Committee agreed with me, sadly, the Ontario commission did not. Even I couldn't get my way. But as I mentioned a few moments ago, Parliament has respected the work of those commissions on boundaries, even when I didn't get my way.

The names, however, have over time evolved a different kind of practice since the names of ridings are how we capture in a very few syllables the diverse communities we represent in the House of Commons.

To be clear, this bill deals only with riding names. It does not deal with any of the boundaries set by the independent redistribution process. None of them will be touched by the bill.

After the boundary commissions do their work, Parliament has often intervened to substitute a new or revised name for a constituency. Since the process of independent commissions was implemented in the 1960s, 185 riding names have subsequently been changed through acts of Parliament, so this is not a new practice.

It is undeniable that geography defines us. I would note in passing that Senate divisions represented by senators, except for the 24, of course, in the constitutionally defined divisions of the province of Quebec, are strictly optional designations that senators get to choose for themselves to style themselves. They have ranged from entire provinces at large to regions or cities or current or former constituencies in the house to small villages, where, you will recall, the senator for Yonge and Bloor represented one intersection where he was a retailer in the city of Toronto.

Bill C-37, with which you are presently seized, is a product of not just all-party cooperation in the House of Commons but also all-party input, despite its being in name a government bill.

I should add that the choice of proceeding through government legislation was adopted, just as it was 10 years ago after the previous decade's redistribution, as the most efficient vehicle available.

The present case, however, does feature a unique exception — one difference — from the usual dialogue between commissions and Parliament. One of the 31 suggested name changes relates to replacing the name for the Western Arctic constituency with the name "Northwest Territories." This requires an amendment directly to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act because the Northwest Territories has a single member in the House of Commons, and there was no commission to consider redistribution of that single constituency, since it represents the entirety of the territory. Legislative intervention is required because we have to update the name, which came into being back in 1976 when the Northwest Territories then moved from one to two constituencies and that name Western Arctic was applied.

Now, of the 31 proposed constituency names you see in Bill C-37, I can tell you that 12 came from Conservative members of Parliament, 14 from New Democratic MPs, and three from Liberal MPs, and an independent member requested two changes to reflect the upcoming division of his riding, and that is the Member of Parliament for Peterborough.

I can also tell you that no recommendation put forward by any one party led to an objection or veto from any of the other parties. Everyone was in consensus about the bill, and that was reflected with the process that followed.

We had all-party cooperation to pass the bill expeditiously through the House of Commons, I think, because of the process we adopted.

I am hopeful of securing Royal Assent for Bill C-37 this spring in order that Elections Canada and all the parties and their riding associations can make the necessary changes required by the act and do so at the earliest possible time when the cost implications are the most modest.

Since the new riding map would have taken effect only upon the first dissolution of Parliament after May 1, 2014, and since the next election is not due until the fall of 2015, there is ample time available to all concerned to embrace the two changes in an orderly manner, but timely enactment of the new names is, in my view, key to ensuring that orderliness.

Bearing in mind that Bill C-37 represents all-party input, all-party cooperation and is a housekeeping measure of relevance to the House of Commons, I would encourage you, honourable senators, to consider and support the bill without unreasonable delay and without amendment, and, with that, I would be pleased to answer any questions you might have.

The Chair: Thank you, minister. The clerk reminded me, when you talked about senators naming a constituency, of Senator Stollery's constituency of the corner of Bloor and Yonge, which you and I will know as the home of Stollerys fine men's wear.

Senator Joyal: I'm not from Toronto, but I know the quality.

Mr. Van Loan: What passes for fine men's wear outside the province of Quebec.

Senator Baker: Welcome, again, to the minister who has always performed his duties very well before this committee, and, certainly, on behalf of the Government of Canada. He's done an excellent job over the years.

I am puzzled, though, about one observation you made, minister. You said you wished to have your riding name changed. However, the commission overruled you, and if the commission overruled you, why didn't you then change the name and have it included in this bill?

Mr. Van Loan: It was not a name change I was seeking. It was a boundary change I was seeking.

Senator Baker: Okay.

Mr. Van Loan: If I made it through the bill, it would be a much more controversial piece of legislation. That's the way they used to do it in the olden days, and there are great editorial cartoons as a result.

Senator Baker: It is an unusual procedure, this custom we have, of the members of Parliament getting together and agreeing with one another after the entire process has concluded. In other words, the MPs have their say during the established process under the act and then at the end of the entire process, when all of the names of the ridings have been decided and they're all printed out on the map, and Elections Canada has produced all of these maps with the ridings changes on them and sent them to everybody on the mailing list, then a bill comes along, by consent of all members, traditionally, to change 31 riding names. A reasonable person on the outside would look at that say, "Well, why incur all this cost of changing and printing these things and everything having to be reprinted again?"

I understand your urgency in the matter because of the seven months, I think it is, that must exist between the calling of the election and the final decision or the old riding change would apply.

Why do you think, minister, we have this unusual custom at the end when everybody has had their say, when everything is printed up, that there be such a substantial change? One tenth of the riding names will change now with this legislation.

Mr. Van Loan: If I were to compare it with the process 10 years ago, there is one significant difference this year, and that's that almost half of the requested name changes in this legislation were actually requested from the commissions, and the commissions declined to enact those changes — 14 of the 31, almost half. So that's interesting. You would have to inquire of the commissions why they thought their judgment was better than that of members of Parliament, and it could be that they had very good reasons. If I were substituting my own personal views, I suspect some of these changes wouldn't be coming forward. However, they reflect what was the process, in our view, that we should respect the ability of members of Parliament to have some judgment as to what is the most appropriate way of describing their constituency that reflects those community values.

I think that's the principle that goes behind this bill. There are some other principles that make sense. One is an effort to preserve historical names to the extent possible. That's one I value greatly that I think makes great sense. I'm a great fan of shorter names. I know there are others who share that perspective, but at the end of the day, the principle we put behind this bill that all parties endorse is that individual MPs are the best judge.

I will also note that our practice has been that you kind of get this shot, this one chance for everybody to throw their changes into one bill. If you miss that, after that, you will have to do it through a private member's bill.

Instead of waiting for 31 private members' bills to come through, changing the map every two months as one of them finally gets Royal Assent, it makes a lot more sense to have an opportunity for one good, quick, clean start. That I think is a practical improvement in doing a single government bill that involves everyone's input.

Senator Batters: Minister Van Loan, thank you for coming to our committee today. Welcome back after a little bit of an absence, as you said.

Just on Senator Baker's question, would it perhaps be the case that the boundaries commissions are primarily looking at the boundaries and that's the main thing they're looking at, so name changes they may perhaps view as not as significant in their scope of duties?

Mr. Van Loan: I wouldn't want to try and divine what goes on in their minds when in some cases they accept the suggestions, in others they don't. In the process of defining boundaries, absolutely, the name is an important part of it. As I say, if we went through all the ridings in the country, we'd all come up with different names for a whole bunch of them. It may be as much as the different views of people based on their experiences.

Senator Batters: Could you please tell this committee about the process that was followed in 2003? That was the last time that this type of legislation was brought forward, and it was brought forward at that point by the then Liberal government — and clearly I have trouble saying that — when a similar piece of riding name change legislation was brought forward.

Mr. Van Loan: It was, in fact, a virtually identical process. I was not here, but the legislation was brought forward, as it is in this case, with the suggestions that all parties, all members of Parliament have an opportunity to provide. I will point out that in our case, we have a number of independents. I don't know that there were any that fit that profile 10 years ago that sought name changes, but we went beyond, obviously, the political parties in our consultation to also include the independent members of Parliament.

Senator Batters: You spoke briefly about that in your opening statement. Although this is a government bill, there are many examples of riding name changes proposed by opposition and independent MPs and that are included with this bill. I noted in your opening statement, you said that there were more opposition member requests that were accepted actually than even government member requests.

Mr. Van Loan: That's correct.

Senator Batters: Could you tell us a little bit about that, please?

Mr. Van Loan: I would have to go to my fancy chart to figure it out, but 12 of the 31 changes are from Conservative MPs.

Senator Batters: Thank you.

Mr. Van Loan: This is mostly an NDP bill. Are there any NDP senators here? I don't think so. I now just secured the defeat of the bill.

Senator Joyal: Thank you, Mr. Minister, for the information you are providing us. When this committee considered the changes following the revision of 2003, this committee published a report with observations. One of the observation that we made, and I was a member of the committee at that time, was essentially to provide for a process through which, if there is a challenge to the recommendations of the commission, as there are for 14 of them that you mentioned, there would be a process through which an MP could have an open consultation process, through which he would be able to establish his request on some kind of popular support.

It is not only a personal initiative, because the commission, when it draws up boundaries or proposes to change names, invites public input. In other words, there is publication that a committee sits, that you can file a representation in a written form; now you can file it through the Internet and so on. In other words, the commission comes to a conclusion with some kind, in general terms, of public input.

I am not challenging the right of an MP to come forward with a name change, but if there is a proposal to change the name, the committee thought in 2004 that there should be a process through which there is at least a period open for public input to react to a proposed name, because some of the names, the way I read the bill, go from short names to very, very long names. Some of the names they refer to, instead of using only the family name, add the first name, like Charles-LeMoyne in Longueuil, for instance. Everyone knows LeMoyne in the region but they propose Charles-LeMoyne. It’s the same with other proposals.

Wouldn't it be better to have a more open process for the public input into that so that, in fact, it is seen, especially when you challenge the recommendation of the commission, that there is a base of support for that at the riding level?

Mr. Van Loan: I'm personally a big fan of the change of the name from Rideau—Carleton to Carleton as a good example of a way of doing it that I think pays respect to historical traditions and shortens it, which are two good principles.

That being said, I think one has to be wary of having too many processes, and the costs and difficulty that go with it. We have a process. It is the redistribution process, and people do have an opportunity for input there, and then we have always recognized that Parliament has an opportunity at the end of the day.

I think the ability to divine public input is one of the challenges commissions face. It would be a fact that at the time they are doing their work, many of the witnesses that appear before them have interests, some of which might even be described as partisan, if I can put it that way, and that becomes the focus of the activity. Although public input is sought, the question of constituency names or riding names is secondary to the main agenda item, which is the boundaries.

Finally, ultimately, because the boundaries aren't final until their final report, in many cases any inputs you are providing on names are presupposing hypothetically what the commission might do with the boundaries in the end.

I would not think it would make sense to then set up a second expensive process, after having set the boundaries, to then go out for additional public consultation to seek input on riding names. While there might be some value in it, I think the value would be out of proportion to the costs and difficulty of the process.

We trust members of Parliament, who are elected, who have a mandate from their community, to provide that voice to that community. That's what we're doing here.

Senator Joyal: What I was referring to was, in fact, a recommendation by the committee of the House of Commons when they considered amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act because they recognized that sometimes there are different views on the names of ridings.

I have here in front of me Recommendation 9. They proposed a system through which it would not be seen as being unilateral only, but open to much broader consultation, and it would be binding. In other words, once you did the consultation process, you could go and there would be no dispute about the fact that the conclusion would be fair and have support among the public. That's essentially the way I read Recommendation 9 that the House of Commons made in those days. I feel there was wisdom in that recommendation. That's why I would want to see that recommendation being acted upon in some way, so it would be easier to streamline the process.

Mr. Van Loan: To me that does not sound like streamlining; it sounds like setting up an additional process that would require effort. If I think of my own constituency, if we were to put notices in newspapers to inquire as to what the name of the constituency might be, I could see only the most interested of the self-interested folks would show up, who might have very bizarre suggestions. Perhaps they would suggest the constituency be named "the great Van Loan constituency" and people could vote for that. Only those people would show up at the hearings, and then it would be binding and we'd be stuck with it.

I think the process, as we have it, is a fairly efficient one and there's no need to deal with something more awkward at the end just to deal with names and make it binding. We can have confidence in our legislators on this one.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: Thank you, Minister. You mentioned the matter of constituency names. I saw, among others, in Quebec, the riding of Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix. I have another example in the south end of Montreal: Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères. If I were elected to one of those ridings, I would need a huge business card, since the names are very long.

Obviously, voters like to identify with their constituency. I assume that people will become accustomed to these names. If they are voting in a riding like Pierre-Boucher, even I, as someone from Montreal, would like to think that Pierre Boucher is a guy from Boucherville. I think that the three parties actually agreed on those names. So I assume that NDP members chose those names, since they are very confusing.

[English]

Mr. Van Loan: The process we followed involved the circulation of the names to all parties. There was an opportunity, if the parties felt an objection to the names proposed by others, to raise that. In this case, none were raised. I'm sympathetic to the points you make, but at the end of the day the principle we have tried to articulate and follow here, which I think is a valid one, is that of entrusting the local members. Those members may have, in the case of the NDP, provided advice and submission through a party submission. It was my understanding that came from the individual members of Parliament.

Senator Frum: Minister, I think at this point you've answered this question three times, but I will try to ask it again. It's interesting, even from a sociological point of view, that you do have a place where Nepean—Carleton is dropping the "Nepean" and Ottawa—Orléans is dropping the "Ottawa," whereas my riding of St. Paul's is adding the "Toronto." There does appear to be a lack of consistency in those kinds of choices. You've made it very clear there is no guiding principle; this is because of the desires of the members.

Could you comment on if you think there's a problem with that lack of consistency?

Mr. Van Loan: I think it would be impossible to try and come up with a general rule that would work as a straightjacket. Though as I said, the principles of seeking shorter names and respecting historical names are good, and I think the commissions in many cases took that into account and did exercise those principles, for whatever reason.

What I would often hear from members seeking to lengthen their names are, "Well, I have an important part of my constituency and they don't see themselves in this," or "The municipal council has asked me to bring this forward," or "Folks in this municipality would like to see this in that name." I think you have to balance these different concepts, and at the end of the day we have, through our process, tried to trust the individual members of Parliament.

Senator McIntyre: Thank you, minister, for being here today and for your presentation. Congratulations; your bill reached consensus and was adopted unanimously in the House of Commons.

I understand the commission prepares a final report, with or without amendments, and that report is then sent to the Chief Electoral Officer and the Speaker of the House of Commons. The CEO then drafts a representation order and transmits it to you as house leader. Do you have power to make any changes to the representation order? Who has the final say on the representation order?

Mr. Van Loan: I believe the effect of the statute to my role is merely one of — I don't want to say it — courier boy, but essentially to transmit and communicate to the House of Commons. There is no discretion in the house leader to change that representation order.

Senator McIntyre: There is not?

Mr. Van Loan: The way in which a change has to be effected would require a decision by Parliament through legislation to either alter the process or to, after the fact, alter the outcome of the process. That would require a legislative change.

Senator McInnis: Thank you, minister, for being here. The objections require 10 MPs going behind any suggested change. Is it possible for the MPs to appear before the provincial commission?

Mr. Van Loan: It is, and some have. I think it's generally discouraged, and some commissions take a bit of a dim view of it; some do not. Each commission appears to be a bit different and is literally different in its people composition. Every 10 years, new commissions are established and there are three-member commissions. The Speaker appoints the other two after the chair, as appointed by the Chief Justice of the province. They could appear as individuals.

The effort, as it's structured, is designed to seek to focus the MP's input through the Procedure and House Affairs Committee. I don't sit on the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, but my understanding of their process is they tried for the most part to recommend only changes both to names and to boundaries to which there was consensus or no objections, that is, all members who appeared before them had the same view. In the event that there were competing provisions, which occurred in the case of certain boundaries — I don't know if it occurred in names but certainly with boundaries — they would report both perspectives without necessarily recommending an outcome.

For the most part, that's what the Procedure and House Affairs Committee did.

Senator McInnis: I should know this: Boundaries are predominantly based on population. Is that right?

Mr. Van Loan: Yes. It's very complex. We come up with this targeted quotient, which should be the target population to ensure every riding is roughly equal. Then the commission will try to have a measure of flexibility to allow them to reflect communities, historical constituency boundaries. It's part science, part art, part math, part politics.

Senator McInnis: Really?

Mr. Van Loan: Yes.

Senator Joyal: The Supreme Court made the same reference.

Mr. Van Loan: We could go through the various floors. There is the Senate floor. No province can have fewer seats in the House of Commons than they do in the Senate. As a result, you're not going to have a target of around 106,000, as it was for Ontario, for a constituency. You will end up with a much smaller number for Prince Edward Island, as an example.

Senator McInnis: The matter of geography really doesn't play a role at all. There are some ridings that are — or does geography play a large role?

Mr. Van Loan: I would say it plays a very large role. You will find a range in populations, especially when you get into more remote areas; for example, in northern Ontario constituencies, you may have a significantly lower population. By virtue of the fact you have larger geography, the commission will create some flexibility in that regard.

Something the commission for Ontario did, which they did not do explicitly, but if you look at what they did in outcome, they tried to take account of high growth areas and perhaps give them a little lower — below the target population — knowing that by the time the next election and the one after came around, they'd be closer to being equal. That's not an explicit principle, but it seems that's what they did in practice.

Geography is definitely a big factor, as is respect for municipal boundaries. For example, the request of change I made no doubt failed because it involved carving up a municipality, and they wanted to keep the municipal boundary as intact as they could.

The Chair: We have some time for a second round. Senator Baker, did you wish to ask a question?

Senator Baker: No.

Senator Joyal: Everything starts in politics and ends up in money. You said it would be minimal cost. Do you have an idea of what the minimum cost is in that case?

Mr. Van Loan: I don't know the cost, but I believe it would have to be a lot less than any cost we would have seen 10 years ago, because we have changed with technology. A lot of these documents never even get printed; they simply appear on websites, and people can print them themselves. To make changes like that, the cost becomes much lower.

Technology has made this a less expensive exercise. The speed at which changes can be made and the fact that we're doing them reasonably early in the process are things that will minimize any costs to Elections Canada.

Senator Joyal: In other words, since the readjustment of the boundaries, there haven’t been any printed materials that would need to be scrapped away?

Mr. Van Loan: I cannot say that for certain, but there would be a lot less than in the past.

Senator Joyal: But you have no figure to propose.

Mr. Van Loan: No, that is something you would have to ask Elections Canada.

However, I believe it would be more efficient to do that all in one go now, rather than having private members' bills coming down the pipe over time.

Senator Batters: Just on that point, I note when this process was started in 2003, it was started late in the going, and then we had an election at the end of June 2004. From my reading of what happened, the final changes weren't even necessarily through Parliament by that time, and they had to do something a few months after the election to make everything official.

In this case, we're doing it 15 months before the election comes. That should also help to alleviate costs, I would imagine, especially because there are a number of new boundaries and ridings created in this particular election. Substantial changes are needed for particular ridings, and this seems like a good time to make these types of changes, as well.

The Chair: Minister, thank you very much. We appreciate your appearance here this evening and for answering our questions.

Our second witness this evening is returning for another appearance before our committee. From Elections Canada, we have Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer. Mr. Mayrand, welcome again, sir. It is good to see you. You have the floor for an opening statement.

[Translation]

Marc Mayrand, Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada: Thank you for inviting me to discuss Bill C-37, An Act to change the names of certain electoral districts and to amend the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.

The purpose of Bill C-37 is to change the names of 30 electoral districts created under the representation order of October 2013. The bill also amends the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act to change the name of the electoral district of the Northwest Territories.

The provisions of Bill C-37 do not create any issues for my office, and we will be able to implement them as part of our preparation for the next general election.

I would like to briefly talk about the administrative implications of changing names after redistribution is completed.

Within seven months of the proclamation of the representation order, Elections Canada is required by law to produce digital and print maps for the country. This includes individual maps of each electoral district showing the boundaries of the district, as well as individual maps of each province and territory showing the boundaries of the districts in that province or territory.

[English]

By May 2014, the Canada map that shows the 338 electoral districts, as well as the related atlases, were distributed to all political parties, MPs and senators. Additionally, digital versions of the maps were published on the Elections Canada website.

When names are changed outside of redistribution, such as Bill C-37 proposes, there are a number of administrative implications. At Elections Canada, many products have to be reprinted, including the maps and atlases just mentioned, as well as various communications tools for political parties, candidates and electors. We also have to update the information in our corporate database and systems.

Indeed, impacts of these name changes extend beyond Elections Canada. They affect all institutions that use and publish information containing federal riding names — for example, the House of Commons, the Senate, Statistics Canada and Natural Resources Canada. Political parties also need to update their systems accordingly.

Depending on the timing, name changes can generate significant costs for my office. With this in mind, I'm pleased to see that changes proposed by Bill C-37 are being made under one single bill and during the current session of Parliament. This allows us to implement the changes in time as part of our preparation for the next general election.

Mr. Chair, I am happy to answer questions from the committee.

The Chair: Thank you, sir. We do have questions.

[Translation]

Senator Joyal: Welcome, Mr. Mayrand. I think you were present when I asked the minister who is sponsoring the bill whether any costs were involved, and he was unable to provide me with any hard figures.

I understand that you certainly prefer to see those changes implemented earlier rather than later following the redistribution. That makes sense.

In the current context, despite everything, can you assess the cost of that operation?

Mr. Mayrand: The main costs are related to products that have already been printed — maps. The approximate overall cost is $80,000. The map of Canada alone has been printed in 10,000 copies at a cost of $8,000. The other expenses are associated to the atlases distributed widely to the members of the Senate and the House of Commons.

In this case, we are not proposing that maps be reprinted. They are available in digital format. We will simply insert an addendum in the copies that will be distributed. We will go through all the copies we have.

Senator Joyal: Do you know whether other institutions that use electoral boundaries — such as Statistics Canada or the Department of Natural Resources —have already printed anything?

Mr. Mayrand: I do not know whether they are printing maps.

Senator Joyal: So the cost to date is $80,000 for your office?

Mr. Mayrand: The real cost will be $8,000 for the map of Canada. We have no choice but to reprint it. As for the atlases, the only change will be the inserted addendum to explain the name changes in various ridings.

Senator Joyal: If a name change proposal is made by a member of Parliament, no specific process needs to be followed, and there is no public consultation. The member takes the initiative to have the name changed. However, when the process is handled by the electoral boundaries commission, the public is invited to make representations in a consultation process, of course, not only on the name, but also on the proposed constituency boundaries. So a public consultation process does take place.

Do you not think that this process should be administered better and that specific criteria should be used to define the process, so that it would be less random, as it currently seems to be?

Mr. Mayrand: The commissions are responsible for deciding what ridings will be called once the electoral boundaries have been adjusted. They make decisions on names by following the guidelines established by the Geographical Names Board of Canada. The proposed names undergo a consultation. They are part of the initial proposal, and the public can make comments.

Problems may arise when, following public consultations, a report is produced by the commissions and submitted to the House of Commons. This is when the House committee will hear any objections from members.

The commissions receive the objections as approved by the House committee. They assess, analyze and often follow up on them. Sometimes, they dismiss the objections for their own documented reasons.

Should an additional public consultation be held? That is a substantive issue in terms of the process. In a review carried out at the beginning of the year, several commissions felt that another public consultation would be desirable for reasons other than the name. With the current process, if someone agrees with the initial proposal, they will probably not participate in the public consultations. Once a report has been produced, it is too late for representations. Reports are often very different from the initial proposals.

A number of commissions would have liked — especially in the case of major changes, such as the addition of 30 ridings — another round of consultations to be held, either after the House of Commons report has been published, or after their own report has been published, but before it is sent to the House of Commons.

Senator Joyal: As the organization in charge of printing voting ballots — and anything that relates to and promotes constituency names — do you have any limitations in terms of the number of characters that should appear on the ballot? That is an objective standard that could be established.

Mr. Mayrand: Our systems and software have an established limit of 50 characters.

Senator Joyal: Fifty characters.

Mr. Mayrand: That makes for a fairly long name, almost twice as long as the alphabet, when you think about it. Anything over 50 characters would incur a considerable cost, and time would be required to modify all the systems and software. Some 20 different systems and applications are involved in the process.

Senator Joyal: I do not want to make you speak on behalf of provincial commissions, since each commission has its composition. What criteria do electoral boundaries commissions follow when accepting or revising a name? There must be some guidelines for name changes.

I hesitate to use specific names, as that would single out ridings and would be a bit unfair. Let us use the example of Pierre-Boucher. Those who are somewhat familiar with Canadian history know who he is, but if just Boucher was used, people in the region would have better odds of knowing who he is than those living in another region or province of Canada.

What criteria can the commission use in that specific case to remove the first name? Is that done to shorten names, or is the idea to preserve a historical connotation? Do you know what the criteria are?

Mr. Mayrand: The criteria — so certain guidelines and suggestions — have been established by the Geographical Names Board of Canada, which suggests 7 practices to follow and 11 to avoid. In particular, compound names — especially those containing three or even four elements — are strongly discouraged.

Of course, those are just guidelines. The name should be, to the extent possible, short, representative and geographically significant.

I know that the Quebec commission caused a bit of a stir when it suggested those names in its proposals. It suggested that more focus be placed on historical names that are well known, without always establishing a direct link to the geographical area. Faced with the various representations made, the commission went back to a more traditional approach, focussing on constituencies’ main geographical features.

Senator Joyal: Are members of Parliament or individuals who make representations on names aware that the commission is trying to establish some sort of guidelines and ensure consistency from one riding to another?

Mr. Mayrand: The commissions refer to those criteria and take them into account.

Senator Joyal: Are members of Parliament or individuals who make representations aware of them?

Mr. Mayrand: I could not say. Those criteria are public. I do not know whether they were formally communicated to members of Parliament or people who make representations. I could not say for sure whether that is the case.

[English]

Senator Batters: Mr. Mayrand, thank you very much for attending before our committee today. On that last point, we were provided with materials. I received a copy of the guidelines for the selection of federal electoral district names. They have a number of different things in them. I'm not sure how widely that's distributed, but it looks like it's prepared by the Secretariat of the Geographical Names Board of Canada.

One question came up while Senator Joyal was asking questions. You indicated that there is a 50-character limit on the Elections Canada software. Are provincial boundaries commissions and MPs aware of the fact that a name with more than 50 characters might make your processes significantly more expensive? Maybe it's in these guidelines, I'm not sure, but I would suggest that if it isn't, it may be helpful to let those places know because maybe they wouldn't propose such long names.

Mr. Mayrand: Yes. The commissions are aware of this constraint. That's a constraint on Elections Canada. If there was good reason to go over that, we would have to adjust, of course.

MPs, at least those on house committee, are aware of this constraint. Bill C-37 takes great care not to exceed 50 characters. It's generally well known. Maybe we can improve the awareness, but it's generally known to the people who deal with those matters.

Senator Batters: That's good to know. Am I correct in this? I believe I heard you say that the cost would be only about $8,000. Is that correct?

Mr. Mayrand: For the Canada map.

Senator Batters: For the maps, right. So far that's been the only cost, and is that projected to be the only cost?

Mr. Mayrand: Those being the atlases but, as I indicated, it's about $73,000 for the atlases, but again, in that case we will fix the issue with the addendum.

Senator Batters: Right, so with the addendum that won't require any additional money to be spent then.

Mr. Mayrand: No, it's minimal.

Senator Batters: Yes, this is a nice example of when technology actually can save us some money instead of cost us.

Mr. Mayrand: The most important thing is the timing; if we had been closer to the election that would have increased the costs very significantly. The fact that this is done well in advance, and hopefully will be done only once, helps save quite a bit of cost.

Senator Batters: Excellent. I was also going to ask you about the benefits from your perspective with Elections Canada of introducing this type of legislation with riding name changes, first, in a comprehensive fashion and, second, at an early stage, because right now we're about 15 months or so before the October 2015 election as compared to the last time this was done where it was done much sooner.

Mr. Mayrand: Closer to the election.

Senator Batters: Exactly. If you could tell us again, you briefly touched on it in your opening statement, but the benefits from your perspective of doing this in a comprehensive fashion rather than individual ridings being done through private members' bills and that sort of thing.

Mr. Mayrand: Again, it's an issue of cost. We're entering the readiness phase for the next election. By the fall we will need to start doing all the coding and the programming for the software and start preparing products like the voter information card and other products, and that's where costs will start to build, if we have to change after that. That's why I'm saying the timing is good from that perspective.

Senator Batters: From your perspective, you'd prefer to have this passed, then, this month if possible?

Mr. Mayrand: Administratively, yes.

Senator Batters: Administratively, yes, thank you.

Senator McIntyre: I would like to know more about the representation order, and I will tell you why. After the MPs have filed their objections, my understanding is that a parliamentary committee studies the reports and reports back to the commission. The commission then prepares a final report with or without amendments. That report is then sent to and the Speaker of the House of Commons, and then you have a difficult task, if I may put it that way, because then you have to draft a representation order and transmit that order to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. The representation order is then proclaimed by the Governor-in-Council.

My question is this: As far as the representation order is concerned, can you make any changes once the commission files their final report?

Mr. Mayrand: No. We can't make any substantive change.

Senator McIntyre: What is your representation order made of? Basically it's a follow-up from the commission's final report?

Mr. Mayrand: Yes, it will be a description of the limits that meet the requirement of the legislation.

Sometimes there may be an error in the spelling in the name. That's the sort of correction we will address. However, we will be extremely careful not to change the boundary. It's basically describing the boundaries as adopted by the commissions.

Senator McIntyre: Is the wish of the three-member independent commission respected?

Mr. Mayrand: Absolutely, yes. It's one of the important features of our system, yes.

Senator McIntyre: Thank you, sir.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: Thank you for your presentation. My colleague, Senator Joyal, mentioned that some ridings in the Montreal area will end up with fairly long names. Here is mine: Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères. We know that residents strongly identify with their constituency name, and I hope they will be able to make sense of the new names. That said, should we not discourage frequent changes of constituency names, so that people would not get confused? Also, should constituents not also be consulted when riding names are being changed?

Mr. Mayrand: Constituents are consulted. Public consultations are held. In fact, during the last fiscal year, the number of representations made to commissions doubled. Progress has been made in that area. Things could get even better, of course, but a public consultation is conducted by each commission. Hearings are held by commissions in various regions of the province where stakeholders can make representations on the changes proposed by the commissions. Those changes are published in advance and made available to the public, and people can respond by making representations.

[English]

Senator McInnis: Do you know how many boundary changes there were across the country? I'm wondering what role the 30 new ridings would have played in this, or whether it was population shifts or additional population. We do it decennially. Should we do it every 15 years? Should we be doing it for a longer period of time, or would that be undemocratic?

Mr. Mayrand: There's a certain requirement to ensure that there's ongoing representation for each of the ridings.

Our demographic is changing quickly in Canada. It is shifting. The fact that there are 30 new ridings is a factor, but it's not necessarily the only factor. Last time around there were far fewer ridings added but as many changes. Again, it is strictly demographic.

In terms of the frequency, I would say that the standard is generally two general elections. Every two general elections, the standard is to review the boundaries. It's true at the provincial level; at the federal level it's every 10 years. The U.S. just went through it. Again, it's based on their decennial census. It's generally the practice.

Senator McInnis: It's practically worthwhile as well.

Mr. Mayrand: Yes. It's to make sure that it's in keeping with the changes essentially in the demographic shift in population.

[Translation]

Senator Joyal: I have one last question, Mr. Mayrand. The minister who sponsored the bill mentioned that 14 of the proposed changes had already been presented to the electoral boundaries commission and were rejected. If the commission set such clear criteria in terms of preferences, why did it end up rejecting so many change proposals? What is your interpretation of that development?

Mr. Mayrand: I have not had an opportunity to speak to the minister, but my figures are a bit different. We would have to sit down and determine how the criteria were established.

There were 43 objections to names the House of Commons discussed. The commissions accepted 25 — so approximately 58 per cent — and rejected 18 of them.

Another thing that should be noted is that the bill only takes up 7 of the 18 objections that were rejected by the commissions. So 23 new objections will be part of the bill, and those were not submitted to the commissions.

Senator Joyal: So the opinion has changed?

Mr. Mayrand: Probably.

Senator Joyal: Could that change of opinion be attributable the fact that, when the representations were made, the electoral boundaries of the constituencies were not set, and once they were set, an element had to be added to the name to cover part of the territory?

Mr. Mayrand: We would have to look at the discussions held in the House committee. All I can say is that, in a number of cases, the changes met with no objections.

Senator Joyal: In the first stage?

Mr. Mayrand: In the second stage. The proposal came first, followed by public consultations. So things happened in the following order: proposal of new name; public consultations; report outlining the name changes; submission to the House of Commons, which looked at the objections and presented them to the commissions.

The commissions received 43 objections from the House of Commons, 25 of which were accepted. I am not sure I know what the common thread is. There may be one, but it eludes me.

Senator Joyal: So, according to the procedure you are describing, a member may fail to object to the proposed name in the first stage, but, once the commission ultimately makes a decision, they can come back to —

Mr. Mayrand: That may be what happened, to the best of my knowledge. Since a good number of situations were not objected to after all, it seems that, once the commission made the order, representations were made to members of Parliament regarding names. I understand that consensus was reached on name changes.

Senator Joyal: Do you not feel this process should be reviewed?

Mr. Mayrand: When my predecessor was in office, Elections Canada made some suggestions to that effect, in 2005. The agency suggested that, once the House committee had shared its objections, the commissions would be bound by those suggestions by the House committee, barring any objections from the public. So that approach would entail a publication, and the public would be invited to raise any objections. In the absence of objections, the commissions would be bound. If any objections were to arise, of course, they would have to be considered by the commission. That approach was suggested in 2005 to try to resolve any potential deadlocks.

Senator Joyal: In the end, the process is constantly left open, and we always manage to redo the work that has already been done.

Mr. Mayrand: That is why I hope this will be the last legislative measure related to this representation order. We will see.

Senator Joyal: Thank you.

[English]

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Joyal, and thank you, Mr. Mayrand. I appreciate your appearance here this evening.

Members, we have agreement to move directly to clause-by-clause consideration. Before we do that, there are a couple of things. We do have representatives of the Privy Council Office here who can come forward if we require assistance from them during the clause-by-clause process.

I wanted to suggest consideration with respect to a number of clauses in this bill. If I had agreement, I could group clauses 2 through 32.

Senator Joyal: We could split them in two, maybe, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Split them in two? I certainly could. Can you suggest just 2 to —

Senator Joyal: Two to 15.

The Chair: All right. Then, fifteen to 32?

Senator Joyal: Let's make them by provinces. I think it would be better, Mr. Chair. We could make from 2 to 14, and then we could do 15 to 24 and have a vote for each province if you agree with that. It is easy because each province is titled before the numbers, so it could be easy to follow.

The Chair: Then 25, Saskatchewan; 26, Alberta.

Senator Joyal: Alberta, 26 to 29.

The Chair: British Columbia is 30.

Senator Joyal: Yes, 30 and 31. Then, we would have section 30 in clause 32 for the Northern part of Canada.

The Chair: Okay, I think we have that straight.

Senator Joyal: We represent regions, so we should be sensitive to the votes on a regional basis, I think.

The Chair: Is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-37, an Act to change the names of certain electoral districts and to amend the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed. Shall the title stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clauses 2 through 15 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed. Shall clauses 15 through 24 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed. Shall clause 25 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clauses 26 through 29 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clauses 30 and 31 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 32 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried. Shall the title carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried. Shall the bill carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried. Does the committee wish to consider appending observations to the report?

Hon. Senators: No.

The Chair: Seeing none, is it agreed that I report this bill to the Senate?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Agreed. Thank you all. Meeting adjourned.

(The committee adjourned.)