“Representation by population” DOA in Canada yet again?

Dec 3rd, 2010 | By | Category: In Brief

John Ibbitson receives literary award from Governor General Jean for his children’s book, The Landing, December 10, 2008.

UPDATED DECEMBER 4: The big Ottawa mystery this Friday afternoon in early December is whether John Ibbitson was right, when he reported yesterday on the Globe and Mail website (appearing in the print edition this morning), that: “The Harper government and the opposition parties have agreed to quietly sink legislation [aka Bill C-12] that would have given Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta more seats in the House of Commons. As a result, urban and visible-minority voters will continue to be discriminated against in Parliament.”

(It is probably worth noting as well that Barbara Yaffe has commented on the same issue today in the Vancouver Sun: “Voters in large urban ridings should be mad as hell at news reports surfacing this week that predict a government plan to rectify seat imbalances in the House of Commons is destined for the garbage heap.”)

The mystery began when, as reported by Kady O’Malley on the CBC News website, “the Conservative Party’s tireless InfoAlerteBot emergency broadcasting system” urged, at 10:54 AM this morning: “In the Globe & Mail, John Ibbitson states the government has come to an agreement with opposition parties to kill C-12, the Democratic Representation Act … This story is completely false … Today the Prime Minister confirmed that our Government will continue to move forward with our representation by population bill … We believe, to the greatest extent possible, each Canadian’s vote should carry equal weight.”

For further nuances here, see: “Senior government liars deserve to be outed” by Robert Silver at the Globe and Mail ; “Psych! Toronto and other big cities lose again” in Toronto Life ; and “The rule of the unelected” on the Toronto Star blogs.

Mr. Ibbitson, many would agree, may be the single best political journalist at work in Canada today. The thrust of all reported nuances so far is that while the Harper minority government — and the opposition parties, for that matter — may go through the motions of pretending that Bill C-12 is not dead over the next few weeks (and beyond), John Ibbitson’s report in the Globe and Mail yesterday was essentially correct.

The good news is that urban Ontario, which has long been accustomed to such treatment at the hands of the rest of the country (in both official languages) has now been joined by new second-class citizens in urban Alberta and BC. As noted elsewhere on this site in other contexts, this may be the highest achievement of the Harper minority regime in Ottawa. And on such new foundations, it seems, some substantial chunk of the future of Canadian unity rests. (Click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or see below for DECEMBER 4 UPDATE and table of  POPULATION PER SEAT IN CURRENT CANADIAN HOUSE OF COMMONS.)

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POPULATION PER SEAT IN CURRENT CANADIAN HOUSE OF COMMONS: Nunavut – 26,745 ; Yukon Territory – 28,674 ; Prince Edward Island – 33,824 ; Northwest Territories – 37,360 ; Saskatchewan – 69,924 ; New Brunswick – 72,950 ; Newfoundland & Labrador – 73,276 ; Manitoba – 79,970 ; Nova Scotia – 82,546 ; Quebec – 96,500 ; CROSS-CANADA AVERAGE – 97,425 ; Alberta – 106,243 ; Ontario – 107,642 ; British Columbia – 108,548.

These numbers show, eg, that the present allocation of seats by province/territory in the elected branch of the Canadian Parliament implicitly assumes one voter and Canadian citizen in Prince Edward Island is worth 3.2 times as much — or is 3.2 times as worthy of being represented — as one voter and Canadian citizen in British Columbia (ie 108,548 / 33,824).

SOURCES: Canadian House of Commons and Census of Canada 2001 data, as tabulated by Toronto Star, and reported in print edition December 4, 2010, A16.  (Current online edition of article, without statistical table: “Bill to expand number of federal seats to be debated.”)

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