Harper wants to give more voting power to Ontario, Alberta and B.C. It’s going to be at Quebec’s expense.
The Stephen Harper government plans to add 30 more seats to the House of Commons. None will be in Quebec.
The seats would be going into Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
The number of seats in Commons would increase from 308 to 338. That’s a huge jump. The Commons chamber is already crowded enough.
So all the MPs’ desks will have to be tossed out, and from now on, MPs will sit on benches without desks in front of them, just as they do in the British House of Commons.
But it’s Quebec being left behind that’s the problem.
Eighteen of the 30 new seats will be in populous Ontario, dividing up ridings in the greater Toronto area that voted overwhelmingly conservative on May 2.
Seven more seats will be in British Columbia south of Vancouver where they voted overwhelmingly conservative. Five more are going into Alberta which has voted Conservative for the last two decades.
Not a single new seat will be added in Quebec which voted overwhelmingly Democrat. Quebec will retain its 75 seats, but will get no more. Nor will any of the Atlantic provinces nor Saskatchewan or Manitoba get more seats.
Harper wants redistribution of electoral ridings in time for the next election.
He can justify giving more voting power to his three Conservative provinces because the population has shot way up in those provinces. But it doesn’t hurt Harper’s chances of re-election, since it just so happens the new seats are going into provinces that support him so decidedly.
There is no secret in all this. During the recent election campaign, Harper announced his intention to give more seats to the rest of Canada because the population has increased in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. more quickly than it has in Quebec.
Ontario, which is the most populous province, will have more seats than ever, from 105 seats to 123 seats. This is where the Conservative Party went to get his majority this year.
Back in the Trudeau era, there were 264 seats in the Commons. Quebec still had only 75 seats. Then it went to 282 seats; still no more for Quebec. This last election it went to 308 and Quebec still had only 75 seats. More babies or more immigration is the answer.
This is the third time Harper has tried to have his scheme adopted, and every time he’s been blocked by the Opposition. But at the time he had only a minority government. Now he has a majority. That makes all the difference in the world.
The New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois cried foul the last time and demanded that Quebec be given a guarantee in perpetuity of 25% of seats in the House of Commons, regardless of any changes in the Canadian population.
Such a guarantee was proposed in the Charlottetown Accord, which unfortunately was never adopted by the provinces.
David Christopherson, the NDP spokesman for parliamentary reform, wants Quebec to have 24.4% of the seats in perpetuity, which happens to be the percentage Quebec had in 2006 when Harper declared the Quebecois are a nation within Canada.
Talk about hoisting Harper up on his own petard.
The NDP is now the de facto Quebec party, with 59 of the 75 Quebec seats, so expect them to put up a lot of opposition to Harper on this issue in the next parliament.
And those MPs with no desks in front of them?
Well, they can write on their knees.