Liberals on Commons seat redistribution: What are they thinking?

One really has to wonder where Liberal heads are these days. I guess to retain some semblance of relevance on the political scene, the Grits’ brain trust feels it must take controversial positions on issues that will find their way into media reports and commentaries.

The latest case in point is a Liberal Party proposal made by St├ęphane Dion, the Liberal critic for democratic reform. The former party leader suggests we save money by not increasing seats in the House of Commons as proposed in the Fair Representation Act. The Fair Representation Act is legislation before the House that would add 30 seats to the current 308 in response to Canada’s population increase in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, and would also add three seats to Quebec, to maintain a ratio of its seats in the House equal to its proportion of the population.

Mr. Dion proposes redistribution of the current seats while keeping the seat count at 308—Ontario would gain four seats, B.C. would gain two and Alberta would gain three. And, to offset these increases, Quebec would lose three seats, Newfoundland and Labrador would lose one, Nova Scotia would lose one and Saskatchewan and Manitoba would each lose two.

I’m all for saving taxpayers’ hard-earned money, but let’s be realistic. Redistribution is already overdue and would be delayed indefinitely to make the legislative and constitutional changes necessary to implement the Liberal plan, especially if the changes were to stand the test of time.

Under our Constitution, no province can have fewer seats in the House of Commons than it has in the Senate, and current legislation provides that provinces cannot lose seats as a result of redistribution. Surely Mr. Dion and Interim Leader Bob Rae know this, as must Liberal MP Marc Garneau, the sole opposing voice on the parliamentary committee reviewing the proposed legislation.

An surely they must know the furore and delay any change in the status quo would cause. So why make the suggestion? I see this as a not so clever ploy to see their name in print and to get invitations to explain themselves on TV.

I say, let’s pay the $86 million (Liberals’ estimate of the cost over the course of the next election cycle) and add the 30 seats so Canadians across the nation can be more fairly represented in their parliament.

(A version of this article was also published at
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© Russell G. Campbell, 2011.
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The views I express on this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views or posi­tions of political parties, institutions or organi­zations with which I am associated.