Sat, May
19
2007

What Part of Representation by Population Do You Not Understand?

Sat, May 19, 2007

Well, Gilles Duceppe doesn’t believe in representative democracy.

The government of Canada has introduced legislation that would rebalance each province’s share of seats in the House of Commons to more closely approximate their share of Canada’s population.

Over time, each province’s contribution to the federal legislature has shifted, so that the number of voters in one province’s seats are smaller than the number of voters in another province’s seats. The big problem is that, since Confederation, some provinces have lost population, but it seems that the federal government is reluctant to cut seats, especially in smaller provinces. Prince Edward Island, for example, has four seats, and always has had four seats since its entry into Confederation. Currently about 125,000 people live in Prince Edward Island, which is roughly the amount of people you will find in a single riding in the City of Toronto.

This has been a bone of contention for Albertan and British Columbian voters, who rightly note that together they have the same population as Quebec, but together they only have 64 seats versus Quebec’s 75. This legislation would rectify that imbalance, and Gilles Duceppe is doing himself no favours by railing against it.

Bloc Qu√©b√©cois Leader Gilles Duceppe also went on the attack yesterday, accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper of reducing Quebec’s political clout in an effort to appease members of the Conservative base who opposed the government’s recognition of Quebec as a nation.

“The Quebec ministers in this government have done nothing to defend the political clout of ‘their’ nation,” Mr. Duceppe said.

I simply do not understand Duceppe standing up and demanding more political clout in a country that he hopes to vacate. But aside from that, clout should not be defined on the basis of a lie. People have had revolutions to defend the principle of “one person, one vote”; it’s a fundamental principle of equality. Why should Albertan and British Columbian voters lose influence to provide a sham defence of Quebec’s ‘clout’? In terms of defending Quebec’s interests, that’s what the provincial government is for. But in terms of sitting down as a nation and discussing common interests, the federal government shouldn’t be playing favourites, save for the smaller provinces like Prince Edward Island who deserve at least some voice. Quebec is by no means a small province.

Unfortunately, the government’s legislation is flawed. Because, as big as Ontario is, it is also underrepresented. If we were to apply Quebec’s standard of voters per seat, as is the hope for Alberta and British Columbia, Ontario deserves an additional 20 seats. The proposed legislation only offers 10. In 2021, Ontario’s share of Canada’s population is projected to be around 40%, but we’ll only end up with 36% of the seats. Even the government acknowledges this flaw:

Mr. Van Loan acknowledged that Ontario is under-represented, but said the government’s solution is better than the status quo. “Alberta and B.C. move basically to representation by population. Ontario doesn’t go all the way to representation by population, but they get a lot closer than under the existing formula.”

(link)

I would be interested in hearing the arguments to justify short changing Ontario voters. It seems hypocritical to address Alberta and British Columbia’s legitimate claims of underrepresentation and to throw out that principle when it comes to Ontario. The only arguments I see prejudges the way the new seats in Ontario will vote.

The current legislation is better than nothing. Ontario’s share of federal representation approaches its share of Canada’s population, even if it doesn’t actually meet it (although we do end up falling behind as our population increases). And Alberta and British Columbia’s problems are addressed, as they should be. But I still hope that MPs on either the government or the opposition side amend this legislation, so that Ontario gets its fair share as well. Certainly this Ontarian will be watching, and taking notes.

Hat tip to Greg Bester.


Choke No More

I don’t follow hockey, since I much prefer baseball, but I still get the news on occasion, and I would like to congratulate the Ottawa Senators for showing the speed and the skill and the heart to push past the Buffalo Sabres and into the Stanley Cup Finals. Go, Ottawa!

All I can say is that it’s been a long time in coming. Should make things interesting when I visit the city two weeks from now.


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