Editorial — Fairness in Ottawa

One of the most annoying inequities in federal politics, other than the Senate, may soon be corrected.

The Conservative government, freshly-elected with a majority of seats, plans to bring in legislation to give B.C., Alberta and Ontario the actual number of Commons seats those fast-growing provinces deserve. It’s long overdue.

While many people think that the House of Commons is a “rep by pop” institution, that is not the case. There are certain constitutional guarantees that keep some parts of Canada vastly over-represented.

While each province or territory should have at least one seat, Prince Edward Island, for example, has four MPs for its 136,000 residents. Residents there have almost four times as many MPs as Langley, which has a population of about 125,000.

In other words, votes of PEI residents are four times more powerful than those of Langley residents.

Unfortunately, because of these guarantees, including one that says Quebec must have 75 seats, the only way to properly represent Canada’s growing population in the House of Commons is by adding seats.

At present, there are 308 MPs. It could be argued that is perhaps 50 too many. However, it is better to have too many MPs than to have some fast-growing areas of the country, like B.C.’s Lower Mainland, severely under-represented in Ottawa.

Under-representation of B.C. and Alberta is perhaps the most glaring problem (the proposal would see B.C. get seven more seats and Alberta five), because both provinces rarely get the attention in Ottawa that Ontario does. Ontario, because of its large and fast-growing population, and its geographic location close to Ottawa, never has any trouble getting attention. The same cannot be said for Western Canada, even though a large proportion of economic and population growth in Canada now comes from the four western provinces.

Fairness is fundamental to a healthy democracy. If this proposal comes to pass, Canada’s population will be more fairly represented in Parliament.

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