Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reorganizing Canada: Rep by Pop, or Rep by Special Clauses?

Blogger Far and Wide (one of my favourites, a guy definitely worth reading) came out with a post today talking about how it may not be in the best interests of Canadian democracy and representation to give in to the demands of Quebec that it has a 24% share in the House of Commons come the next reorganization, slated to happen pretty soon.

This is Steve V's basic argument, shortened down a tad:
If the government decides to accommodate Quebec's "threshold" demand of 24% representation in the Parliament, they effectively "screw" other provinces. This desire isn't so much even an Ontario question, many of us in this province could accept lower population representation, in the name of national unity and accommodation. However, when it comes to the western provinces, it's high time that the federation recognize certain inequalities and give deserved clout. Western alienation must be addressed for the federation to function in the future, a seat distribution reform that raises the federal presence, a healthy progression.

In the end, the government faces a very delicate balancing act. Certain interests will use whatever decision for political advantage, but really the questions facing the government are quite simple and clear. Canadians are represented by their MP's, the distribution of which should reflect regional population, a system that attempts to make every vote of equal weight, no matter the address.
You should read the full post for yourself, as it concerns and is justified by other things he mentions, including the Senate's supposed purpose. However, for the intent and purpose of this post, we'll stick with the above argument. He does, after all, have a valid point on the matter.

Another blogger I thoroughly enjoy but who has gone on something of a hiatus since the end of the election is the Election Watcher, a Quebecker who argues using math and his view of common sense that, if the aborted Bill C-12 is to be the blueprint (as it is likely to be), it will be unfair to Quebec (emphasis his):
We know that under Bill C-12, Ontario will likely have at least 119 seats, Alberta 34, and BC 41. (These numbers could be as high as 122, 35 and 42, but let's just take the low numbers, since they work against the argument I'm making here.) Here is the number of electors per riding:

QC: 81,479
BC: 74,739
ON: 74,729
AB: 72,865
National: 72,204

And here's the number of valid 2011 votes per riding:

QC: 50,646
ON: 46,481
BC: 45,650
National: 44,339
AB: 41,098

As you can see, Bill C-12 is extremely unfair to Québec voters, singling them out for unfavourable treatment. Québec voters would be worth 9% less than voters in any other province.
Election Watcher goes on to point out that Quebec is technically already undervalued in the current system, given that "... Quebecers accounted for 25.5% of the country's eligible voters, and 25.8% of actual valid votes. Yet, Québec's weight in the House is only 24.4%," and that under Bill C-12's plan, it would be lowered to between 22.3% to 22.6%, even though Quebeckers represent, and are still likely to after the census, about 23-24% of the vote, and about a quarter of eligible voters.

EW has some fair points here, as well. If you read both posts, they aren't really saying much different from one another, except in the fact that one views Quebec's weight as enough right now, and the other thinks it should be proportional. It's the little disagreements that affect us the most.

Personally I have no one to back in this fight; no matter what, Ontario will get its reorganized seats and we'll be happy to settle for it. Heck, I might even be cut out into a new riding. As an Ontarian, it's not a huge deal to me; but in Quebec and the West, not to mention the grossly over-represented Atlantic provinces, it's a big deal indeed.

Maybe I'll post something more on this one day down the line, once it starts to become more clear who and where the seats are being allocated; right now, here's the contenders, their arguments, and their reasonings. Feel free to make up your own minds in the meantime.


  1. My pleasure, just keep up the good posts and they'll be more I'm sure.