If you live in British Columbia, Alberta or Ontario, and you are reading this, our condolences! You are – once again – a great, big loser in the Canadian electoral sweepstakes contest!
If you are unfamiliar with the rules of this lottery, here’s the basics: When you live in one of Canada’s three fastest-growing provinces, your vote is worth only one-third of what a vote is worth in Prince Edward Island.
That’s right, Alberta! The average riding in Wild Rose Country is 300% more populous than the average riding on P.E.I. – but no one seems to give a sweet damn about it. Four Members of Parliament represent P.E.I. (pop., 135,000) in the House of Commons, and Alberta (population four million), meanwhile, has 28 MPs.
Do the math. Alberta should have at least 31.
Thinkers at the University of Toronto’s Mowatt Centre think-tank have determined Canada has the greatest amount of electoral inequality of pretty much any federation on the planet. That’s right: In the whole world, we’re the absolute worst at ensuring that every vote is equal. America does best; we’re at the bottom.
Says Matthew Mendelsohn, director of the Mowat Centre: “Our research finds that compared to similar federations, Canada is now way (out) of step internationally in violating the principle of voter equality.”
The three guys who had or have seats in the three fastest-growing provinces are Messrs. Harper, Ignatieff and Layton. You’d think they’d be working overtime to fix this problem, because they potentially have the most to gain. Most of those new seats would go to them.
But, um, no. They’ve mainly done diddley. In fact, one newspaper report last week had “strategists” from all three parties admitting – off the record, naturally – they were in no rush to make Canada less of a banana republic.
Why? Well, because they didn’t want to offend Quebec or the Atlantic provinces, that’s why. Those provinces would see their relative influence diminished if we were, you know, a real democracy and all that.
Now, in their Throne Speech back in March, the Conservatives swore up and down that they were going to finally fix the voter inequality problem. The serious underrepresentation of B.C., Alberta and Ontario in the Commons would be addressed by Bill C-12, they claimed, which would add 30 new seats. The Liberals and the NDP said they mostly liked the idea.
(Gilles Duceppe, the Quebec separatist fellow, was unsurprisingly dead-set against diluting his province’s influence in the national legislature. Whatever.)
Premiers such as Dalton McGuinty and Gordon Campbell were mainly satisfied. McGuinty, in particular, had been pushing for more seats for Ontario for years. For his trouble, one of Harper’s generously proportioned cabinet ministers, Peter Van Loan, called McGuinty “the small man of Confederation.” (Compared to Van Loan, anyone would be, I guess.)
By Friday afternoon, the Cons, Grits and Dippers were all emphatically denying (on the record) what their “strategists” had said (off the record). Now, they all say they are committed to passing C-12.
We’ll see. In the meantime, residents of B.C., Alberta and Ontario can take immediate and concrete action to win in Canada’s lopsided democracy contest: Pack up the kids, and move to P.E.I.!
— Kinsella is a lawyer, consultant and Liberal Party spin-doctor. He blogs at warrenkinsella.com