The Representation in Representative Democracy

Electoral Ridings in Montreal

Some hullaballoo about new seats for Ontario, BC and Alberta. The NDP and Quebec oppose the change and root their opposition in this decision: Reference re Prov. Electoral Boundaries (Sask.), [1991] 2 SCR 158 Read below for a backgrounder.

“The Commons has 308 seats at present. Our Constitution guarantees 75 of those to Quebec. That’s 24.4% of the seats for a province with 23.2% of the national population. (Ontario, by comparison has just 34.4% of the seats despite being home to 38.8% of Canadians.) Even if the federal Tories move ahead with plans to add 30 seats to the Commons – 18 in Ontario, seven in British Columbia and five in Alberta – Quebec will still have 22.2%.

After adding the planned new seats, Quebec would still come as close as any province but B.C. to having the proper number of seats for its population. If more seats are added, Quebec’s representation will be one percentage point below its share of the national population, Alberta’s will be 1.2 percentage points under and Ontario’s will be 2.1 points under. Only B.C., which would then be 0.6 percentage points under-represented, would be more equitably treated than Quebec. (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and all the Atlantic provinces already are over-represented, and would remain so under the new plan.)

But in 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that electoral districts in Canada do not have to honour the one-person, one-vote standard. (Well, actually, the Supreme Court said the oneperson, one-vote rule was sacred in a democracy, but then listed so many allowable exemptions as to make the rule meaningless.)

The majority on the court explained that “relative parity of voting power is a prime condition of effective representation.” The judges then added that “deviations from absolute voter parity, however, may be justified on the grounds of practical impossibility or the provision of more effective representation. Factors such as geography, community history, community interests and minority representation may need to be taken into account to ensure that our legislative assemblies effectively represent the diversity of our social mosaic.” Other than all those exceptions, though, “dilution of one citizen’s vote, as compared with another’s, should not be countenanced.”” – Thomas Mulcair’s numbers game, Lorne Gunter, National Post

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s