Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ontario Deserves 67 More Seats

Some believe that the regions need more say and an “effective” and “elected” senate is the best way of achieving a balance between population centers in Eastern Canada and the rest of us. Harper seems to be of that mind.

The problem is two fold. First such an argument rests on a false contrast; seats in the House of Commons are supposed to be assigned on basis of population, but in actuality that is not the case. For example, PEI has a population of 135,851 and has 4 MPs and people in the Federal riding of Oak Ridges Markham has a population of 169, 642 obviously only has 1 MP. In other words, a vote in Oak Ridges Markham has less the 5th the value of a vote cast in riding of Charlottetown. Harper’s planned increase in the number of seats does not go nearly far enough. The government would have to add a lot more than just 22 seats to insure that no province is overrepresented and no province underrepresented.

Of course no government would ever dare take away seats from a particular province or region and even if they were so bold there are constitutional hurdles. For example no province can have less MPs than senators. This means that it more or less impossible for PEI and the territories to be anything other than outliers. They would still be over represented.

However, if the government would commit to an MP for every 70,000 people, things would be more or less equal everywhere else. Such a commitment to fairness would see Ontario gain 67 seats, Quebec 32, BC 23, Alberta 19, and Manitoba, Nova Scotia 2 each. All told, 145 seats should be added, most of those in urban areas and nearly half in Ontario.

However, even if Ontario, BC and Alberta and Quebec were to given their proper allotment of House of Commons Seats, there is still no need for the Senate. Whatever regional concerns a population of a lesser populated province might have are taken care of by the very fact that live in a such a province. This becomes readily apparent when instead of looking at what province has more clout, as if that makes any sense whatsoever, one instead compares how much clout various populations have. Indeed, the 135,851 in PEI have, for example, a million times the political clout of the 169, 642 people in the Federal riding of Oak Ridges Markham. Indeed, not only do the 135,581 people in PEI have the power to determine everything under provincial jurisdiction, and provincial representation, but they have also have 4 MPs to Oak Ridges Markham one MP. Giving the 135,851 people in PEI the same number of “effective” senators, as per the Triple E Senate model for instance, as 12.1 million Ontarians is grossly undemocratic.

All told, what should happen is the government should add those 145 extra seats. Fairness requires it. The government should then seek to abolish the Senate to pay for such an expansion. The current senate serves no purpose and reformed senate is an affront to democracy. The provinces abolished their senates. Federal government should follow in their footsteps. Let Canada would then join the club unicameral states. Canada would be in good company. New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Sweden, Iceland, Liechtenstein, South Korea and Portugal are all unicameral.


Anonymous said...

I agree to an extent about what you say...but the government should start over rather than adding more politicians to Parliament.

Anonymous said...


I have devised a proposal that may help to address your concerns.

Ontario will get 32 more seats to move up to 140.

Quebec gets 25 more seats to move up to 100.

BC gets 18 more seats to move up to 52.

Alberta gets 10 more seats to move up to 38.

This would be an addition of 86. Half will be elected by constituency, half will be by province wide closed lists.

So it will be 70-70 for Ontario.

So it will be 50-50 for Quebec.

So it will be 26-26 for BC.

So it will be 19-19 for Alberta.

This will be coupled with the abolishment of the Senate. The seats in the other provinces stay the same with half of them elected by closed lists.

Gord said...

I think we need to look at both issues together. Harper is addressing under-representation in the House of Commons and the problem posed by an archaic senate model in which senators effectively represent prime ministers rather than the public. He is taking this approach because of problems he faces with an appointed body that lacks accountability to the electorate. The problem is that this "partial reform" will probably further ingrain a senate representation formula that grossly unfair to BC and Alberta (both provinces have about half the senators of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, even though BC and Alberta populations are 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 times those of NB and NS.

I agree it IS much more likely that we will successfully abolish the Senate than achieve any changes to create a senate with any sort of fair represenation formula.