The new seat redistribution bill recently passed the House of Commons, awarding new seats to Ontario, Quebec, BC and Alberta. Rarely have I seen commentary about legislation so thoroughly skewed by short-term partisan and regional interests, and it makes me ill.
I'll get my principles on the table. I favour representation-by-population in the House of Commons. If there are to be regional counterweights in our parliamentary and federalist system, they are supposed to be found in a Senate (which could be revamped) and in the provincial governments (which hold most of the key powers these days anyways). As such, I have no sympathy with the claim that Quebec's share of the House of Commons should remain fixed at a given percentage (a provision of the 1992 Charlottetown Accord that was widely denounced outside that province), and would have no difficulty with reducing the seat tallies of the Maritime and Atlantic Canadian provinces, overturning earlier legislation, if the appropriate legislative and/or constitutional changes were made. As such, there has been a lot for me to take issue with in the craven pandering that both the Liberals and NDP (the two parties I normally vote for) have been engaged in by objecting to this legislation.
And today, Twitter is abuzz with more partisan dreck in response to John Ibbitson's column
hypothetically allocating these new seats according to the 2011 election results. This is not a "Conservative windfall". It's a long-overdue correction in an electoral system that has cheated urban Canada, and particularly Ontario, BC and Alberta of their equitable share of seats in the House of Commons. A decade ago the same allegation could have been made that such a change would have favoured the Liberals. Voting allegiances change over time, and seats are allocated based on population, not the party affiliation of the seats being divided and redistributed. It's not like the Conservative party is able to take the riding of Crowfoot (historically the site of some of their biggest single-riding majorities) and split it into 31 new ridings. And frankly, if you look at the Ontario provincial election, there is extremely good reason to think that new seats created in Mississauga-Brampton would be fair game for all three parties.
If our political discourse is devolving to the point where we refuse to engage in what should be routine corrections to the electoral map, then our system is completely broken. Perhaps the most ardent critics of these changes should openly admit that they are inspired by the political strategies of Maurice Duplessis, the Quebec Premier so well known for turning the rurally-skewed electoral map of his province to the advantage of the Union Nationale machine. It turns my stomach to watch one of the key principles of how Canadian democracy is supposed to operate being undermined for short-term political advantage and media soundbites.
Also, a word to the NDP and the Liberals. Do you honestly think that the Conservative Party of Canada is not keeping a detailed dossier for the next election of your quotes of why your party thinks Ontario, BC and Alberta don't deserve equitable representation in the House? How about making winning those new seats your priority, rather than trying to prevent their creation?
Labels: electoral reform, House of Commons, Liberal, NDP, redistribution