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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Do the math

StatsCan has just published its latest population estimates and, for the first time, the combined population of Alberta and B.C. is greater than that of Quebec. The New West rises.

And, remind me again, why is it that Quebec has twice as many seats in the Senate as British Alberta, and 11 more seats in the House of Commons?

Posted by Terry O'Neill on September 27, 2006 in Canadian Politics | Permalink


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I think the short answer to your question Terry is: Legacy power structures. However, as the actual sources of power redistribute, those structures that are no longer appropriate will eventually change, or fail (and be replaced by something else).

A hundred years ago, the west did business with the world through Toronto. Now we do business though Vancouver, direct international air flights, and the Internet. We do more business across the Pacific, than we do across the Atlantic.

I think that at this time, there are a non-trivial number of people in the west who are thinking that Mr. Harper is Canada's last chance. If the old-power oligarchy conspires to overthrow this final attempt at a Canadian reformation, I think it might be over for Canada.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-09-27 3:22:18 PM

Well said, Vitruvius. If the numbers Terry is presenting us lead to a Liberal victory or another CPC minority because of the Quebec seat count, Canada is done.

Terry, what about the Maritime seat count?
Don't Maritimers have more seats for their populations than British Alberta too?

Posted by: Speller | 2006-09-27 3:35:45 PM

"and 11 more seats in the House of Commons?"

Uhh.. maybe because they haven't gotten around yet to playing with the riding boundaries in BC?

It's not like BC is any kind of Conservative hotbed, either. Them B. Columbians are kind of fickle at times.

Posted by: Ian Scott | 2006-09-27 3:54:42 PM

This news is certain to open up the seat redistribution in the House of Commons debate.

Quebec has what, 75 seats?

Alberta at 26 and BC at 36 total (is that correct, anybody) account for 62 seats.

Seems a rep by pop distribution would allocate 43 seats to BC and 33 to Alberta, according to Statscan numbers.

Is Quebec guaranteed 75 seats?

If so, that meant the Common House will become more crowded.

Posted by: Set you free | 2006-09-27 3:56:59 PM

I think the whole system needs revamping! It only makes sense, that if there are more voters in the east, the east would be the deciding factor in an election!

Posted by: trish | 2006-09-27 4:00:57 PM


Just like the Pilgrims did not migrate to America because of their superior social programs, people migrating to western Canada tend to be coming here because there are jobs, jobs, jobs.

Another note on the Statscan chart: It seems like Ontario is severly under-represented with only 100 seats, considering their population of 12.whatever million.

I'm sure there would be a fair way to even it out, even though we would hear plenty of howling if it was actually attempted.

Posted by: Set you free | 2006-09-27 4:14:19 PM


"Just like the Pilgrims did not migrate to America because of their superior social programs, people migrating to western Canada tend to be coming here because there are jobs, jobs, jobs."

You don't realize how false your analogy ("just like...") is, do you?

In fact, Pilgrims did not migrate to America for jobs, jobs, jobs.

Indeed, it would be more truthful to say that Pilgrims migrated to N. America to flee the statist religious social programs going on in Europe.

Posted by: Ian Scott | 2006-09-27 4:18:30 PM

The fact is that all provinces except Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia are over-represented in Parliament and this won't change anytime soon since it is a constitutional issue.

Some stats that are highly offensive to democracy follow. Take the 5 smallest provinces (SK, NL, NB, PEI, and NS) plus the territories and you come up with a total population of 3.42 million, slightly more than Alberta's population of 3.38 million (40,000 more people in the former). This group of small provinces and the territories have 49 seats compared to Alberta's 28. If you take Canada's 9 smallest regions by population (the above group plus Manitoba) you come up with a total population of 4.60 million compared to BC's population of 4.30 million. The 9 smallest have 63 seats compared to BC's 36. Add Quebec to the 9 smallest and you get a population of 12.25 million, slightly less than Ontario's population of 12.69 million. You guessed it -- the former group has 138 seats compared to Ontario's 106. Each of these stats, regardless of which regions tend to vote for whom, should be highly offensive to any person who believes in one person, one vote.

The fix, in my opinion, is to get around the minimum number of seats as set out in law and the constitution by increasing the number of seats to 500 or 600 and distribute the seats strictly by population. While the cost of government would increase a little (a small amount compared to the size of the budget), I believe this would not only fix the systemic misrepresentation currently built into the system but it would also reduce party loyalty. In Britain, where the House of Commons has about 650 seats, party loyalty isn't as strong because, in part, there is less chance that sticking to the party line will lead to a Cabinet post or whatever other pocket-lining appointment backbench MPs fight over.

It'll never happen but one can dream.

Posted by: Mad Eye Moody | 2006-09-27 4:20:39 PM

The Constitutional Amendments Act of 1996, which was brought in by the Liberal Government, says that Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia MUST agree to any major constitutional amendment. This means that if at least one of these provinces doesn't want change, then it won't happen.

Of the three corresponding Liberal premiers, only Gordon Campbell would be likely to agree to any changes to the number of seats in either the House of Commons or the Senate; it seems that Dalton McGuinty and Jean Charest are willing to use their vetoes to prevent changes. It's too bad that these two men don't have the same cooperative spirit that the founders of Confederation had.

Posted by: Cory Schreyer | 2006-09-27 4:22:56 PM

I agree with Vit on this one. We have already seen how these established power-grabbers cling to their power. Never shall I forget what happened when due to the economy in Alberta, the population started shifting from east to Alberta including head offices of banks and companies. Ottawa/Toronto/Quebec under Trudeau brought in the "big guns" to kill the oil industry, thus the change.

I doubt that these people will willingly accept the change though and suspect the future of the west will be to separate. Unlike Quebec, we can succeed, and unlike Ian I would not rule out BC being in favour.

Posted by: Alain | 2006-09-27 4:28:54 PM

500 or 600 seats? Yargh! That's too many politicians in the House! Mad Eye, please don't say such things; you'll give me a heart attack!

I think that there should be a cap on the number of seats for the House of Commons -- let's say, make it 250 seats. A quarter of a thousand is a nice round number.

Posted by: Cory Schreyer | 2006-09-27 4:30:45 PM

Cory, I don't disagree with your sentiment. When I first heard the idea, I had the same thought. But upon further reflection, I believe the small increase in cost would be more than offset by less party loyalty and a more fair regional representation. Besides, if we go to 250, Quebec will still get its 75.

Posted by: Mad Eye Moody | 2006-09-27 4:36:51 PM

Rep. by Pop.
That's it folks. Enough of this bullshit about "asymetrical federalism"or whatever this horseshit is supposed to mean.
One person, one vote. That's democracy.
The rest is just crap. You all can navel gaze as much as you want but the bottom line is until we have a true democracy, this shit is gonna continue.

Posted by: Ralph Rattfuc | 2006-09-27 4:43:22 PM

Ralph, is that seriously your last name? Rattfuc?

I dunno.. not making fun of it.. or perhaps you are using a fake name with a funny sound to it. I'm curious.

Posted by: Ian Scott | 2006-09-27 4:44:53 PM

I crunched the numbers and based on a 308 seat House of Commons make up here is the data:

Canada Total 308 On Pop. bais
Newfoundland and Labrador 7 4.8
Prince Edward Island 4 1.3
Nova Scotia 11 8.8
New Brunswick 10 7.1
Quebec 75 72.2
Ontario 106 119.8
Manitoba 14 11.1
Saskatchewan 14 9.3
Alberta 28 31.9
British Columbia 36 40.7
Yukon 1 0.3
Northwest Territories 1 0.4
Nunavut 1 0.3

BC needs 5 seats, Alberta needs 4 and Ontario 14, all the rest lose to get true representation by population.

Posted by: qwerty | 2006-09-27 4:49:22 PM


Like that will happen... Its more likely that they will simply increase the number of seats in the house. Sadly government doesn't have a good track record when it comes to decreasing itself... And decreasing a province's seats in the house might as well be a declaration of war against that province -- at least that's what the opposition will make it out to be...

Posted by: Daniel | 2006-09-27 4:53:19 PM

One federal parliamentary seat for every 100,000 voters would be fine with me. That would give us about 325.47 seats at this time. But I think that riding boundaries should be allocated to ensure that there is a deviation of no more than, say, 2%, or 2,000 voters, per riding.

I also think we should have a proper senate based on equal representation between geographical spaces, not populations, delineated according to broad market and cultural considerations. With, say, a half-dozen regions, and ten senators per region. The reason I'm in favour of a proper bicameral structure is its usefulness in mitigating the risk of tyranny of the majority.

Emotionally, I'd like to keep Canada. Intellectually, there hasn't been much cause for me to care, lately. Maybe that's changing -- Mr. Harper seems to be making some small progress, perhaps that will continue for twenty years and Canada will be happily on her way.

On the other hand, maybe we will eventually find that it is too hard to reform Canada, and easy enough to split her into a few parts.

Of course, there's always the option of forming a federation out of set of split parts, which might keep the "have" regions in. After all, we're not against helping out our fellow man, we're just tired of being uncerimoniously milked and then spat upon.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-09-27 4:53:58 PM


Can I interest you in Alumbia?

Posted by: Daniel | 2006-09-27 4:55:59 PM

"Emotionally, I'd like to keep Canada. Intellectually, there hasn't been much cause for me to care, lately."

Quite possibly the sentiments of many. Even those who don't like Harper.

Posted by: Ian Scott | 2006-09-27 4:57:38 PM

Personally, Daniel, I think we should call it John Stuart Mill Land ;-)

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-09-27 4:58:36 PM

Man, I cant believe how under reported this democratic deficit is in Canada. If you are surprised to learn about the disproportionate amount of MPs that are from PQ. Try checking out the maritimes. PEI has a population of 150K+/- about the size of a reasonable riding in AB or ONT. but it elects 4 MPs. NB NL and NS aren't a lot better. Isn't this a Charter of Rights issue ie. equality of representation. Where's a good pro bono lawyer when you need him.

Posted by: Mike Miller | 2006-09-27 5:00:26 PM

hahaha I guess that's something we'll have to take up in the process of making our constitution...

Posted by: Daniel | 2006-09-27 5:00:55 PM

The Maritime provinces have their number of seats cast in stone (no province can have less MPs than senators) but as far as I know, the minimums of 75 for Quebec and 14 each for Man and Sask are set only by amendments to the the Canada Election Act and can be amended again. (God and Quebec willing). Any constitutional experts among us who are positive about the status of Quebec's minimum?

Anyway, it's because of Quebec's guarantee of 75 that the zoo population keeps growing to give some semblance of rep by pop. If they increase it again, they'll need to blow a billion or so on a new house as the members are virtually hanging from the ceiling now.

GB's huge number of MPs can be more or less controlled because, except for Scotland, regional differences in the House aren't too severe. With 500 Canadians to deal with, Mr. Speaker would need an automatic on his lap. Cory's idea of 250 makes a lot of sense, and since the full cost (including office, staff, travel, benefits etc.) of an MP is about a million dollars a year, would also save some serious change.

Each U.S. Congessman represents about 650,000 people compared to a little over 100,000 for each of our MPs.

Posted by: Zog | 2006-09-27 5:31:29 PM

There's a related article about this weekend's Calgary Conference here:


Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-09-27 5:34:41 PM

Q: Why is it that Quebec has twice as many seats in the Senate as British Alberta, and 11 more seats in the House of Commons?

A: Because they are swing voters, they are poorer than Britalbertans, and because under the constitution and by popular consent they can use the federal legislature, judiciary and police force to give themselves anything they want (none of which is coincidental).

I wouldn't expect to get any particularly good results from rebalancing your democracy and making it more "fair". The achievement of universal sufferage in the British parliament coincided with the descent of Britain into socialism. The same is true of the Americans' conversion of their Senate into one elected by direct popular vote. Surrender your rights to democratic demagogues, and your rights will very quickly be lost - through the magic of tubthumping and horsetrading. Making your legislature more "fair" is only going to give them a bigger fig leaf to hide behind when they confiscate your income and turn your grandchildren into tax slaves before they've even been born.

People put so much faith in democracy that they think it is by far the most moral way of giving law. Even when it does immoral things, such as commit theft and murder, people assume that it can't possibly be a crime, if a plurality of voters are in favor of it.

If enough Albertumbians understood what private property is, and what liberty is, then not even a million MPs and Senators and Quebec, or ten thousand socialist supreme court judges would be able to deprive them of it. Whining for more democracy instead of demanding *real* rights is simply begging for the chance to give them more of your ass to bite.

Posted by: Justzumgai | 2006-09-27 5:44:29 PM

Mike, I wonder what would happen if Ezra or another lawyer accepted your challenge? The Charter is a Liberal document that will be interpreted by judges that were appointed by Liberals, so the odds of success might not be too good.

Posted by: Cory Schreyer | 2006-09-27 5:48:33 PM

i've go the answer. stop the land rape, or the oil sands project, the jobs will end, the pilgrams will move away, then everyone will be happy, except alberta, which is for the best

Posted by: Stones | 2006-09-27 6:22:50 PM

Say, that's a good idea, let's all join hands now, sing kumbayah, and freeze in the dark. Yup, that will sure keep the country together.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-09-27 6:35:03 PM

Jeez.... Justzumgai

I can see your property now littered with Quansa huts each holding an incredible array of guns and explosives. What are you?, some sort of conspiracy/survivalist/Unabomber nut!

Posted by: dipoldisorder | 2006-09-27 7:40:09 PM

Please don't project your Unabomber fantasies on me.

There is no need to use weapons to insist that your rights be respected. Try standing up for your *actual* rights in political discussions, for example, instead of dithering endlessly about this meaningless electoral reform versus that meaningless electoral reform. Passive disobedience will get you farther than rebellion. You can act like Mahatma Gandhi or you can act like the Chechens.

That is, if you have any clue what your rights are, or what justice is made of. (hint: they don't come from legislatures, and it isn't made by men with badges)


Posted by: Justzumgai | 2006-09-27 8:02:21 PM

but it will protect the environment and force us to finally invest in alternat form of energy, solar, wind, geothermal...

Posted by: Stones | 2006-09-27 8:02:30 PM

Stoney, you've got it all wrong. Go nuclear all the way.

Posted by: Mike_RoA | 2006-09-27 8:30:52 PM

Just: Don't use the Chechens as an example if you want to be taken seriously...the school attacking, child killing Chechens.

Posted by: MarkAlta | 2006-09-27 8:33:44 PM

let me get this straight, equalization means the haves give to the not haves, yet the have nots have more power because they are helpless?

Posted by: kelly | 2006-09-27 10:10:15 PM


the senate needs to be triple E as it is in the US in order to fufill its true purpose to provide equal status among the provinces at the federal level.

Others counter that the pops of the provinces are too different (ont vs PEI) for that to work. To that I say okay, then lets weld NB NS and NL and PEI together and split both Ontario and Que into three.

Posted by: Gord Tulk | 2006-09-27 10:37:54 PM

Posted by: Ian Scott | Sep 27, 2006 4:18:30 PM

Oh, yeah.

Almost forgot.

The Pilgrims were on their way to Canada because of their superior social programs, but decided to veer off to the States, where they could actually work for a living.

Posted by: Set you free | 2006-09-27 11:25:03 PM

No, it's not my real name and yes, you may make fun of it if you wish.
Thanks for asking.

Posted by: Ralph Rattfuc | 2006-09-28 4:33:54 AM

What is needed to sort this Electoral seat mess out is a simple reference to the Supreme Court. Section 15 of the Charter (Equality Rights) should force the government of the day to guarantee that each voter is represented equally with a small allowance for low population area. Say 1 seat.

With regards to the House of Commons, set the size to a permanent number say 250 seats, everybody loses seats initially so there is less for the provinces to gripe about and less MPs to pay.

PEI should drop to 2 seats, the territories are fine at 1 seat each, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan would have at most 1 seat in the difference. Manitoba would have more sets than Saskatchewan and Alberta, BC and Ontario would get more seats relative to Quebec.

Posted by: Ian B | 2006-09-28 5:58:09 AM

It appears that Stones is truly a good communist; impoverish everyone, then everybody's equal ("except the pigs"*, of course)

*George Orwell, 'Animal Farm'


Posted by: Buddhist | 2006-09-28 6:11:23 AM

Ian B:

PEI's pop is barely 100000. One seat would be more like it. NL would get 3 down from 7 according to your formula. PEI's current count of 4 is constitutionally guaranteed If I recall correctly.

Posted by: Gord Tulk | 2006-09-28 7:26:31 AM

Here is a joke for you all:

The number of MPs from each region does not matter because they are only dealing with federal matters like defence, criminal code, and foreign affairs. These areas are little affected by regional politics. Most of the power is with the provinces, who look after EI, pensions, health, income tax, language laws, etc., and municipalities, who look after police, fire, water, sewer, snow removal, etc..

If only....

John M Reynolds

Posted by: jmrSudbury | 2006-09-28 7:57:21 AM

Yes, John, that IS funny.

I wouldn't much care if there were not Federal Ministries of: Energy, Environment, Culture, Education, Labour and Economic Development, Natural Resources, Public Safety, Western Economic Diversification, Human Resources and Social Development, Heritage and Status of Women, Industry, Health and Economic Development of Northern Ontario.

If the Feds got out of these areas then I would be a happy man.

Baby steps, I guess.

Posted by: Speller | 2006-09-28 8:22:36 AM

The quicker Quebec leaves the happier I will be. Let them take the east coast with them...

Posted by: Warwick | 2006-09-28 8:37:50 AM

Marc's agreeing with Warwick here.

Posted by: Marc | 2006-09-28 8:51:55 AM


It does seem that's where (Quebec/Ont border) the disproportionate representation begins.

That would mean the only practical solution to achieve a rep by pop balance would be to increase the size of the Common House.

Posted by: Set you free | 2006-09-28 8:53:24 AM

The http://www.gc.ca/depts/major/depind_e.html page lists over 160 Departments and Agencies many with sub departments (many that show up elsewhere in the main list). That list grew over the past 50-100 years in baby steps. People would cry with each step if we got rid of many of those departments/agencies. They, like on the http://www.wernerpatels.com/musings/2006/09/harper_cuts_pro.html page, think this "country will have been altered to a dangerous extent" if we were to remove these programs from the feds and send them to the provinces and territories where they belong or for the minority groups to get their own funding for their social engineering endeavours.

John M Reynolds

Posted by: jmrSudbury | 2006-09-28 8:57:12 AM

John, some of the cuts do make sense (I probably did not elaborate on that in sufficient detail in the post you quote), but some programs such as those that involve educational aspects (e.g., literacy) should not be cut, because, sadly, a lot of our people in Canada are in dire need of such government assistance.

The whole outcry over the cuts has more to do with the fact that this might be the start of more things to come that might take us down a slippery slope.

Posted by: Werner Patels | 2006-09-28 9:21:02 AM


Although there has already been much discussionon on the name, I feel ALumbia sounds too much like ALbumia. Sure, the rest of Canada treats their own individual rear ends with more respect than they do us in the west, but must we internalize that feeling?

Personally, I would rather call us Western America, or just The West! If we leave things to those leftists, we will end up with nothing but their debt and a slogan that sounds like this: Albumia, land of the Great Canadian Eastern Plunder, and home of those who flee from the free.

Posted by: Lady | 2006-09-28 9:28:59 AM

Lady !
It's been a while ! I'm glad to hear from you.
"Western America" souds great end very representative.

Posted by: Marc | 2006-09-28 9:33:00 AM

I would like Alberta and BC to be separate Nations with trade agreements between them.

I don't want to leave an abusive marriage and get into bad one on the rebound.

Posted by: Speller | 2006-09-28 9:36:08 AM

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