Friday, October 14, 2011

A short history of rep by pop

Fears of a Quebec backlash have delayed the Harper government’s plan to give the growing parts of Canada a larger share of seats in the House of Commons.
As a result, the changes the Tories promised in the spring campaign may not be in place in time for the 2015 election, leaving millions of voters once againunderrepresented in Parliament.
(-- from the Globe & Mail today)
Meanwhile (same source):
A report from the Mowat Centre, an Ontario-issues think tank, is proposing that legislation should guarantee that Quebec’s representation in the House of Commons never falls below what its population warrants [... in order to ] reflect “Quebec’s unique place in the federation”.

 And meanwhile, from the constitution:

The basis of representation in the House of Commons shall be population, as determined by the official census every ten years.

It was established in 1864 that Quebec's representation in the House had nothing to do with its" unique place in the federation."  Quebec got the same representation as every other part of the country: what its population warrants.
And the constitutional obligation of the government is to allocate seats in the House according to what the census shows, not to gerrymander representation according to its calculations of political advantage.
It's worth repeating:  what protects Quebec's unique situation is federalism.  The vital determinates of Quebec's distinctiveness are matters of provincial responsibility, not dependent on what the House of Commons decides.  The province of Quebec runs its own hospitals, schools, cultural institutions, judicial institutions because of federalism, not because of the number of MPs it has in the House of Commons.
Quebec was already hugely outnumbered in the House of Commons in 1867.  If its survival had depended on representation, it could never have assented to confederation in the first place.
It's no different now.

Follow @CmedMoore