Sunday, October 30, 2011

Is Harper's version of Fair Representation Fair for You?

Here we go again.  This time Stephen calls it “Fair Representation” and still the con pundits out west still whine and moan about Quebec getting “special treatment”.  Some of them even say that this “special treatment” is in the Constitution of Canada.

If it is, I can’t find it. 

I know our laws governing representation are odd, that’s because they are a compromise.  That seems to be the Canadian way.  Whining about compromise?  That seems to be about 30 odd per cent of this country’s way.

The first compromise was the Senate Clause, that no province would have less MPs than they have Senators.  The second compromise was the Grandfather Clause, that no province would have less MPs than they had in 1976.

Why the compromises?  The laws governing the allocation of seats in the House of Commons are entrenched in the Constitution of Canada.  In order to change them an Amendment to the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982 is required.  That means you must have the support of 2/3rds of the provinces’ legislatures representing 50% of the total population of all the provinces of Canada.  

That’s the 7/50 rule.

You also need majority support in the House of Commons and the Senate but that’s not an issue, the conservative majorities will do what they are told.

A bit of history now...

A few years back, a fellow named Brian Mulroney realized that the existing method to determine representation in Canada was a problem.  If the census people were right, we were going to have over 369 MPs after 2001.  The problems were that there would not be enough seats in the House to accommodate the MPs as well as offices for these folk.  There were also the costs involved.  MPs aren’t cheap.  They require staff and constituency offices and so forth as well as their regular pay.

So they sat down and came up with a new plan to slow the numbers increase in the House of Commons.  Simply take the population of the 10 provinces and divide that by the number of seats that the provinces held at that time to give us the “Electoral Quotient” or EQ.  279.  The population of each province would be divided by the EQ to determine the number of ridings.  Then to ensure that no one loses seats, they were guaranteed at least the number of seats they held in 1976.  That way the majority of the provinces would back the plan.  The population number would be from the census taken each ten years, like the 2011 census.

Stephen’s new plan is to take the population number from the 1991 to get his base EQ, and then uses a percentage growth to determine the new EQ actually used to determine the number of seats per province.  This allows seats to accumulate faster.

Instead of adding 7 MPs at the next reallocation, we magically end up with 30 more MPs at the trough next allocation.  That means an extra 23 nodding ninnies heads in the Marionette Theatre in Ottawa.

Quite simply, we do not need more MPs.  We need our MPs to do more.

We, the people of Canada, elected our MPs to represent us and our constituencies in Ottawa.  Not to march in lock step with their given leader.  I for one would love to hear a back bencher stand up and say the proposed law is not good for MY constituency and force the Minister to defend the legislation rather than waste Question Period time tossing softballs for these Ministers to try and knock out of the park.  They do it in the UK, why can’t we do it here?

If the farmers in your constituency support the Canadian Wheat Board, why are you voting to kill it?

The representation method was altered in 1985 using the Constitutional Amending formula.  The Harper gang seems to imply this is not the case, but that a simple majority in the House and Senate is enough.  They quote section 44 of The Constitution Act, 1982 but seem to miss the important part.  “Subject to sections 41 and 42”

Section 42 calls for the amendment to The Constitution Act, 1982 to alter the representation of the provinces in the House of Commons can only “be made only in accordance with subsection 38(1)”.

Subsection 38(1) is the 7/50 amending formula that needs to be followed.

This is to prevent a government from tweaking the act to ensure re-election the next time around.  No gerrymandering allowed.

The bottom line is it appears that the Harper crew is hell bent on trying to fix the next election by trying to pad the regions they think they can win.  This is an abuse of democracy.  By shrinking the number of constituents in a riding by basing their numbers on a 20 year old census is going to put more power into the big cities and the rest will just follow along.

In Ontario, around 41% of the seats in the province are within the Toronto and Greater Toronto Area.  This new method will put even more power into that area at the expense of smaller communities.  Calgary and Edmonton will eat up the bulk of the new seats in Alberta.

With smaller communities and rural areas losing population to the large metropolitan areas it will soon be the cities dictating all policy in the provinces and for Canada.  Recent provincial elections prove that out.  Win the GTA and you own Ontario, win Winnipeg and you own Manitoba.  Stephen thinks he can win the GTA again.

Stephen Harper’s conservatives call this “Fair Representation”.

Fair for whom?

By the way, the extra seats in Quebec?  Stephen’s idea.

The Constitution Acts 1867 to 1982:  Refer to sections 51 and 52.

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