Monday, December 19, 2005

Harper on division of seats

The following is from a story in the Edmonton Journal.
Harper made his own grassroots appeal, telling supporters Saturday in Vancouver that the current NDP bears little resemblance to the populist Tommy Douglas or Dave Barrett variety of the past.

“Today’s NDP is no longer a party of ordinary British Columbians. It’s for high taxes, it’s soft on crime, and it puts the demands of special interests ahead of the needs of ordinary working families,” Harper said.

The Tory leader made the pronouncement on the weekend after unveiling a broad “Stand up for B.C.” platform that includes the promise of more House of Commons seats for B.C., Alberta and Ontario — a potentially risky move in Quebec because it would reduce slightly that province’s relative share of seats in Parliament.

Harper, in an intense three-way race with the Liberals and New Democratic Party for B.C.’s 36 seats, predicted that Canadians will be staying up late on election night to see if West Coast voters will boot the Liberals from office.

The Conservatives are locked in a battle with the NDP in many parts of B.C., fighting over the populist, anti-establishment vote that swung to Reform in the 1990s but has started moving back to the NDP.

“British Columbia could elect some opposition MPs for a party (the NDP) that won’t change a government, or they can elect opposition MPs for a party (the Tories) that’s going to throw the entire political establishment out on its ear,” he said in an interview.

Canada’s current formula for redistributing seats every 10 years is biased against Ontario, Alberta, and B.C. because Quebec and the smaller provinces have constitutionally-guaranteed minimum number of seats.

Harper predicted that B.C. would get four more seats to go to 40, Alberta two or three more than their current 28, and Ontario would go from 106 to 116.

Quebec, which has 75 seats in the 308-seat chamber, would see its relative share of seats compared to larger provinces drop slightly under the Tory plan.

“There may be some reaction (in Quebec) on that, but we’re simply doing a fairer system here,” he said, stressing that the Constitution intended to have provinces represented based on population.

“We’ve departed simply too far from the reality.” He said there are “other ways” to deal with Quebec’s concerns, and said he’ll reveal those plans later in the campaign.
Strangely, this is cast as especially effecting Quebec. (Well, not that strangely.) In fact, however, the effect on Quebec would be minor, which would see it's share of parliamentary seats go from 75 of 308 (24.4%) to 75 of 324 (23.2%).

The real effect that this would have would be on the smaller provinces. Under the current system, PEI is overrepresented by 2, NS by 2, NB by 3, NF by 2, Manitoba by 3 and Saskatchewan by 4. Is Harper arguing for fewer seats for them?


Toronto Tory said...

Actually, PEI is over-represented by 3. :)

buckets said...

It's a tough call. On pure arithmetical grounds, their population would justify 1.5 MPs. I round up (would there be any justification for PEI having the most populous riding in the country?)