Evidence of meeting #11 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was formula.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Andrew Sancton  Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Western Ontario, As an Individual
  • Michael Pal  Fellow, Mowat Centre, University of Toronto - School of Public Policy and Governance
  • Nelson Wiseman  Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, As an Individual
  • Kenneth Carty  Professor of Political Science, University of British Columbia
  • Ned Franks  Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Studies, Queen's University, As an Individual
  • Louis Massicotte  Professor, Department of Political Science, Laval University, As an Individual

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

I mean if we don't act with a future version of C-20 and further adjust the formula.

11:45 a.m.

Fellow, Mowat Centre, University of Toronto - School of Public Policy and Governance

Michael Pal

I did some numbers on that.

In 2021 prior to redistribution, using StatsCan projections, which of course are projections, Ontario would have about 123,000 people per riding; Alberta, just under 123,000; and British Columbia, 134,000, whereas the rest of the provinces would be at just a bit above 81,000 or 82,000. After the redistribution those numbers get better under C-20. They average about 120,000 or 122,000 in the three fast-growing provinces. If you keep 111,000 as the quotient, then the average riding population will be about 110,000 or 111,000 for those three provinces. It's still quite a large gap, but it's closer under the formula that we're proposing at the Mowat Centre than it would otherwise be. If we keep the 279 formula, C-20 is a big improvement. We're suggesting further refinements to that formula if the goal is to enhance rep by pop.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Very quickly, did you have any numbers as to what kind of seat total you would get if you used your proposal looking ahead.

11:45 a.m.

Fellow, Mowat Centre, University of Toronto - School of Public Policy and Governance

Michael Pal

There would be, I guess, 30 additional seats in this round, and you would add something in the range of an additional 20 the next time. So there is a consequence for--

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Our formula doesn't allow you to add minutes to your speech. I will give equal time to Ms. Charlton, so please go ahead for four minutes and twenty-two seconds.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Thank you very much, Chair.

I want to take the conversation in a little bit of a different direction. I appreciate the arguments you've been making, and when I look at the Liberal proposal for Ontario, for example, the average riding size would be 121,573. Under the government's bill it's 110,000.

Professor Wiseman, you said that having 260 MPs would be fine, because with closure we're not getting additional debate anyway. I think that's a point well taken, but what we do in the House is only one side of our job. We do have significant responsibilities in the riding for things, including case or advocacy work on behalf of a number of people within our ridings. I have to tell you, in a riding where we have a huge newcomer, immigrant population that isn't reflected in these numbers in terms of their ability to vote, it's difficult to be able to meet all of the demands at the riding level. I've often pined or wanted to be a member from P.E.I., where the riding size is 36,000.

In your comments, you focus solely on size of the House, based on our responsibilities here as parliamentarians and participants in debate. I wonder if you'd want to comment on the impact on riding representation.

11:50 a.m.

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, As an Individual

Dr. Nelson Wiseman

You make an excellent point and I'm sympathetic to MPs who have to represent that many more constituents. One way it can be addressed, I think, without adding more MPs is, perhaps, providing for greater administrative support, more money so you could hire more people. That would help you discharge the responsibilities of MPs who have more constituents. That's how I think it could be done.

There are other jurisdictions that have ceilings, the United States, for example, and they have greater support for their senators and congressmen.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

But we're dealing with this bill at a particular point in time, where the pressures on constituency offices are actually increasing because of cutbacks to federal bureaucracies and to the services government is providing in constituencies. So there's not going to be an appetite to enhance our budgets based on regional variations. We are dealing with this bill at a particular point in time and I am really worried about our ability to represent our constituents, not only here but at home.

Professor Sancton, I wonder if you might be able to speak for a minute. I don't know if you've done the number crunching, but do you know how many seats Manitoba and Saskatchewan would lose?

11:50 a.m.

Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Western Ontario, As an Individual

Dr. Andrew Sancton

It would depend on whether you had a cushion proposal in there or not, but effectively, if we kept the House at 308 seats and got rid of the grandfather clause, they would each go down to 10 seats. But if they weren't allowed to lose more than 15% of their population, it would be around 12, I believe.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Thank you.

My last question is for Professor Wiseman again. I know that you were cut off by the chair because we had to allow more time for Mr. Reid, so I wonder whether you might be able to finish your presentation, particularly your thoughts on Quebec.

11:50 a.m.

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto, As an Individual

Dr. Nelson Wiseman

I've heard the NDP speak on Quebec. Actually, Quebec has lost seats in the past. I'm not as sympathetic. I believe the people of Quebec accept the principle of proportionality. They accepted it in the Constitution Act of 1867, which hadn't been the case before that, when we had a double veto principle in the old Province of Canada.

I also noticed many references in this committee to Quebec as a nation motion. But motion is just a motion, like a toast to the Queen on her birthday. It doesn't have legal status and it doesn't have any more status than the motion I would remind you was passed by Parliament in 1995, that whenever Parliament considered a bill, it would take into account that Quebec was a distinct society. That was passed soon after the referendum.

I come back to the point: What are we debating here? It's whether Quebec should have 23% or 24% of the seats. The point that is important to me is the partisan colouration of the MPs, because they vote on that basis. To pretend that you're sitting around here as provincial representatives...that's just not the case.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Mr. Kerr, four minutes or thereabouts.

November 22nd, 2011 / 11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Kerr West Nova, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and certainly, welcome to the witnesses today

I want to follow on from Ms. Charlton. One of the great misconceptions, at least for some of us who have been elected for a long time and perhaps at different levels--and you hear this a lot in the media and in the academic world--is that we're strictly parliamentarians and that our job is strictly about what goes on, in this case, in Ottawa. The reality on the ground is that we were elected by the people; we represent the people and we're responsible to the people. What we often find is that even though we're only at work when we're in Ottawa, the vast majority of the work for most of us is not in Ottawa.

I'm looking for a little comment on the loss of seats. It would be different if you were in a province that's going to receive additional seats compared to one that's going to lose seats. I think there would be a vast difference in the reaction.

But I will comment on the rural-urban divide, because you've raised it a couple of times in your conversation. I've talked to many of my colleagues from urban areas who say that there's such a commonality. Five or ten members can have the same issues going on at the same time as far as public conversation is concerned, whereas in many of the rural seats you'll find there are many different conversations going on, even by district or region.

I don't think any of us is intending to be influenced by provincial governments--I don't think that was the intent--but we are very much influenced by the people whom we represent, the area that we represent. So I'm wondering how you deal with that issue as we get into this complicated urban-rural formula process, where the demands and workload, I believe, in the rural area are not going to diminish. How do you not lose representation for those people if, in fact, you reduce the number of members? I ask because the reduction will take place, according to what you're saying, in the rural areas.

I leave that as a general question, and not specifically for any person, but I would like to hear your comments on that.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Mr. Sancton.

11:55 a.m.

Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Western Ontario, As an Individual

Dr. Andrew Sancton

This is an issue that has come up repeatedly in electoral boundaries commissions. The fundamental principle that we're dealing with here is representation by population. A vote in suburban Toronto should be equal to a vote in any other part of Canada. Unfortunately, we don't have that issue solved right now.

What I do find very difficult to accept is that, right now, a vote in rural Ontario.... Indeed, a rural Ontario member of Parliament has 30% more people and much bigger ridings, in many cases, than in other rural provinces. I understand the issue about servicing constituents, but that is an issue that has to be dealt with after we sort out the issue of representation by population, in my view.