THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND
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
SenatorBob Runciman (Chair)
in the chair.
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
Minister, thank you for being here. The floor
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
Senator McInnis: Really?
Mr. Van Loan: Yes.
Senator Joyal: The Supreme Court made the
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
Mr. Chair, I am happy to answer questions from
The Chair: Thank you, sir. We do have
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
Senator Joyal: In the end, the process is
constantly left open, and we always manage to redo the work that has already
Mr. Mayrand: That is why I hope this will
be the last legislative measure related to this representation order. We
Senator Joyal: Thank you.
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
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,
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
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
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Agreed. Shall the title stand
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
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Agreed. Shall clauses 15 through
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Agreed. Shall clause 25 carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall clauses 26 through 29
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