Never ones to worry much about democratic principles, the New Democratic Party, through its Quebec separatist-sympathizer and interim leader Nycole Turmel says fairer representation for British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario in the House of Commons “is really divisive right now. It’s not constructive, it’s not nation-building.”
“The Tory government proposed legislation in 2010 that would expand the 308-seat chamber with 18 new Ontario seats after the next scheduled redistribution, which would be based on the 2011 census, giving it 124 MPs. B.C., which had 36 seats, would get seven more seats, while Alberta would go from 28 MPs to 33.”
This is rich, wouldn’t you say, coming from the same Nycole Turmel whose past membership in the Bloc Québécois and a Quebec-based separatist party raised questions this summer about her commitment to a united Canada.
By some tortured logic, Turmel sees, as divisive, legislation to redistribute House of Commons seats to ensure that fast-growing provinces are adequately represented in the Commons.
Of course, one has to consider that Turmel was a labour union leader and, therefore, a stranger to democratic representation. Most of us who worry about such things as fair representation believe votes across Canada should have similar weight. The Tory legislation, which Turmel opposes, is designed to do just that.
As things stand, some seats in large urban centres in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta have three times as many voters as some rural ridings, especially in Atlantic Canada. This imbalance penalizes the faster-growing cities of Ontario and the West and discriminates against the voters who live there.
In the last Parliament, Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to “rebalance” the House by expanding the number seats as follows: 18 for Ontario, seven for British Columbia and five for Alberta. Quebec and some rural MPs opposed the move because their relative influence in the House of Commons would decline.
Now that the NDP caucus has been hijacked and led by so-called soft-sovereignists (and some hard one too, I’m sure), the idea that Quebec will have roughly equal representation in the House of Commons is distasteful to them, notwithstanding the fact that the principle of representation by population is a cornerstone of Canada’s democracy and is at the root of the electoral system in Canada.
Yes, there has to be compromise, just are there is in the cases of Prince Edward Island, which receives greater representation because if its very small size, and Ontario, which is under-represented because if its large size. But there seems little justification for creating an artificial imbalance in Quebec’s favour thereby rewarding that province’s inability to attract newcomers.
Nycole Turmel and her NDP followers must decide whether they believe in a strong, democratic, united Canada and are a party capable of representing all Canadians, or whether they wish simply to be a Bloc Québécois-like regional party—or perhaps Nycole Turmel, as her rhetoric suggests, has already made the latter choice for them.