Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Fairness and Frugality

Landing in my inbox is the following seat redistribution proposal from MP Derek Lee:

Ontario 113 (up from 106 currently and down from 124 in the gov bill)
Québec 75
B.C. 39 (up from 36 currently, but down from the proposed 43)
Manitoba 11 (down from 14)
Newfoundland 6 (down from 7)
Saskatchewan 10 (down from 14)
Alberta 31 (up from 28, but down from the proposed 33)
New Brunswick 7 (down from 10)
Nova Scotia 9 (down from 11)
P.E.I. 4
N.W. Terr. 1
Yukon 1
Nunavut 1

I actually like this scheme but given the political challenges in removing seats in certain provinces, it will obviously never fly - with either the Liberals or the House of Commons.

Still, the reasoning is sound:

This proposal offers a much more cost-effective alternative to Government Bill C-12, An Act to Amend the Constitution Act, introduced by the Hon. Steven Fletcher, a bill that plans to increase and redistribute the number of ridings per province. The Fairness and Frugality Proposal will provide for improved representation for Canadians while not incurring the over $40 million per year cost associated with the Government’s plan. The proposal recognizes Québec’s standing in our federation and does not diminish its presence in the House of Commons, in that Québec will continue to have the same number and percentage of seats. Finally and most importantly, the proposal provides a system of representation that adheres more closely to the principal of “representation by population” than both the current system and the plan proposed by the Harper Government in Bill C-12.

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  • So some provinces would have more unelected senators than elected MPs? Do the Liberals want to run in their Atlantic strongholds on a campaign of cutting seats in that region? Dead on arrival.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 4:09 p.m.  

  • Guaranteed not to be accepted by the government, if only for the title of the bill. The only word more toxic in Harper's world than "fairness" and "frugality" would be "accountability".

    By Blogger Ted Betts, at 4:09 p.m.  

  • I really like this too! Same number of MP's so no increased price tag, keeps Quebec happy (PEI's 4 can't be changed), and yet redistributes to more fairly represent BC, Alberta and Ontario. Too bad this won't fly.

    By Blogger Tof KW, at 4:13 p.m.  

  • Why increase the number of seats at all?

    Why not just redistribute the current 307/8(?) across the board. Might not be a politically palatable proposal among his MP colleagues, but I can't see anything but public support for that option.

    By Anonymous daveberta, at 4:21 p.m.  

  • I think it would require a constitutional change because Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia and PEI are constituted to have 24 Senators; 10, 10 & 4. And according to the senatorial clause of the Constitution you can not have less seats in the House of Commons than you can have in the Senate.

    There's also the grandfather clause that that says you can't have less seats than you had in 1985, which would be the case for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

    By Blogger Bailey, at 4:26 p.m.  

  • If I was Prime Minister I'd just people on YouTube: Look, fuck the stupid Constitution - if you want more MPs, make or get more people we'll talk. If you've lost people, then you lose MPs - if you don't like it, go fuck your sorry little selves.

    I also think provinces are stupid - federal and municipal are enough.

    And PEI and NB should just be rolled into Nova Scotia - honestly, why are these even provinces?

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 4:46 p.m.  

  • This doesn't solve the core problem - that a voter in PEI has 4-5 times the say that a voter in Ontario has. As long as that senate clause is there, the only solution is to add seats elsewhere.

    By Anonymous Michael Fox, at 5:19 p.m.  

  • Resistance to lowering a provinces representation is more than just risk of offending voters in that province. Minimum levels of representation are enshrined in the constitution act. The numbers as proposed would require an amendment of the constitution, which needs to meet the 7/50 rule.

    Considering 4 of the provinces under the proposed amendment are actually losing what are constitutionally guaranteed seats, I can't see any of those 4 provinces voting for an amendment.

    I am sure the fellow who proposed this specific seat distribution put a bit of work into crunching population ratios, and has probably come out at a fair compromise. However, given the deal-making that was required in order to seal the BNA act and the subsequent constitution act, the proposed changes are simply impossible.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:10 p.m.  

  • Ya know for a smart international lobbyist/lawyer like Derek Lee it's actually a prety silly proposal. As Bailey said, changing the lower limit would require amending the constitution, specifically Section 2 of the Constitution Act, 1915 which states:

    2. The British North America Act, 1867, is amended by adding thereto the following section immediately after section fifty-one of the said Act:

    "51A. Notwithstanding anything in this Act, a province shall always be entitled to a number of members in the House of Commons not less than the number of senators representing such province."

    ...so you can't drop NB and NS below ten seats, which is the number of senators each has.

    And if you're going to change the constitution, why on earth would you leave PEI with four seats? Even two would be pushing it.

    By Anonymous herringchoker, at 6:30 p.m.  

  • Sounds like a proposal made by a number-cruncher sitting in an ivory tower completely out of touch with reality, not to mention constitutional law. Oh right, he's a Liberal MP ....

    By Blogger jad, at 8:24 p.m.  

  • If I was Prime Minister I'd just people on YouTube: Look, fuck the stupid Constitution - if you want more MPs, make or get more people we'll talk. If you've lost people, then you lose MPs - if you don't like it, go fuck your sorry little selves.

    I also think provinces are stupid - federal and municipal are enough.

    And PEI and NB should just be rolled into Nova Scotia - honestly, why are these even provinces?

    Satire, or do you really think that a PM who says "Fuck the Constitution" is in anyone's best interest?

    By Blogger JG, at 8:32 p.m.  

  • Perhaps it would help if Canadians (including Mr. Lee) understood the current Representation Formula and some of its history.

    We see the establishment of the "Senate Clause" and the "Grandfather Clause" to address specific problems which had arisen. We also see a clear problem in the wide variance in the population quotient for each province, in order to address the large imbalances created by those "grand compromises".

    By Blogger Paul, at 9:35 p.m.  

  • If we use the 2009 population with the current representation formula, we would have the following seat distribution (numbers in brackets are before additional clauses): NL 7 (5); PEI 4 (1); NS 11 (9); NB 10 (7); QC 75 (73); ON 122 (122); MB 14 (11); SK 15 (10); AB 34 (34); BC 42 (42); plus one for each territory = 337 seats.

    If we mitigate the damage done to the principle of Representation by Population by the two clauses, we might adjust the provincial quotient to choose one where the clauses just about balance out: 104k is the per-riding quotient for Quebec, and would give us the following distribution: NL 7 (5); PEI 4 (1); NS 11 (9); NB 10 (7); QC 75 (75); ON 126 (126); MB 14 (12); SK 15 (10); AB 35 (35); BC 43 (43); plus one for each territory = 343 seats.

    By looking at what the future adjustment will do we can see the need to adjust not only the numbers going into the formula, but make some adjustment to the formula itself in order to have a rep-by-pop system under our current constitutional constraints.

    By Blogger Paul, at 10:05 p.m.  

  • Err ... my spreadsheet included a slight error on the historic seat count for Saskatchewan. My apologies; in both analyses it should read "SK 14 (10)". The totals should be adjusted accordingly.

    By Blogger Paul, at 10:10 p.m.  

  • I got the same email. Unfortunately the member of Mr. Lee's office who sent the email didn't even bother to ensure that the salutation was correct so my impression of the proposal was tainted from word go.

    The breakdown on its face doesn't seem altogether bad given that it doesn't cost more money and it is more representative. However, none of that matters given that it will never, ever manage to be implemented. It's far easier to "fix" parliament by making it larger than it is to do it any other way, unfortunately.

    If we inflate parliament and then start electing senators we'll be swimming in parliamentary expenditures in no time!

    By Anonymous MadHacktress, at 12:33 a.m.  

  • If the opposition is to be believed, they save us money by finding and eliminating all sorts of inefficiencies that the Government doesn't have time to find on their own. More MPs = more savings.

    By Blogger Paul, at 1:38 a.m.  

  • PEI should have 1 seat. And use that population base to set the rest of the MP's across the country.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:02 a.m.  

  • Add more MPs -- a lot more and abolish the senate piece meal. Simply stop appointing senators until there is none.

    By Blogger Koby, at 5:25 a.m.  

  • First, drastically reduce the number of MPs everywhere - cut it all in half, for instance.

    Then, down the road, increase seats as appropriate for population.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:33 a.m.  

  • Has it not been made clear to Canadians that re-opening the Constitution is a non-starter? Doing so would require the consent of the Provinces, something they will not give.

    Even CG admits that this proposal from a Liberal MP runs counter to Liberal Party Policy.

    By Blogger Paul, at 1:43 p.m.  

  • Why should the number of seats in parliament be fixed at a given number? The larger the seat, the harder it is to represent.

    One of the advantages of our system of government is that many local concerns can get voiced on a national stage (while avoiding the excesses seen in the US thanks to strong party discipline). A rising number of voters per seat makes representation that much more difficult and expensive.

    Those numbers have been going up over time (increasing the cost of campaigning, and the reliance of MPs on funds from the central party). In fact, we would need about 400 seats to get to 1974 levels.

    Number of Canadians per seat
    1974: 86397
    1988: 90841
    2008: 108792

    Lee's proposal would thus eliminate one of the important benefits of the new seats - a [modest] step towards better representation.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 12:35 a.m.  

  • or they can reduce seats for every province until it's more proportional... everyone loses, so it's fair

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:58 p.m.  

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