Madam Speaker, I am very happy to have this opportunity to speak about fairness in House of Commons representation. Addressing the significant and increasing under-representation of Canadians living in the fastest-growing provinces is a long-standing commitment of our government and of our party.
First, though, I note that our government's top priority is the economy. We are focused on the mandate Canadians gave us to secure our economic recovery through a low-tax plan for jobs and economic growth. In addition to securing our economy recovery, our Conservative government has a strong, stable national majority government and a mandate to strengthen and enhance Canada's democratic institutions. In the last election and in previous ones, our party committed to Canadians that we would address representation fairness.
I would first like to outline the problem we need to fix, which is the primary motive of Bill C-20. This problem has been mentioned at length during debate, but I believe it warrants underlining again.
The representation of the provinces in the House of Commons is readjusted every 10 years using a formula established in section 51 of the Constitution Act of 1867. The current formula dates to 1985 and was designed to provide modest increases to the size of the House.
While the 1985 formula has been successful in limiting the size of the House of Commons, it has created a representation gap for the fastest-growing provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. It has prevented these provinces from receiving a share of seats that is more in line with their relative share of the population.
To illustrate the significance of this representation gap, we look no further than my riding of Bramalea—Gore—Malton in Ontario. Bramalea—Gore—Malton is home to the fourth-largest number of Canadians in any riding, at 152,698 people. I note this population figure was as of the 2006 census, over five years ago.
During the last election, we made three promises to ensure that any update to the formula allocating House of Commons seats would be fair for all provinces. First, we would increase the number of seats now and in the future to better reflect the population growth in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta; second, we would protect the number of seats for smaller provinces; third, we would protect the proportional representation of Quebec according to its population.
Our government received a strong mandate to move toward fair representation in the House of Commons, and we are delivering on that commitment with the fair representation act. Bill C-20 moves every single Canadian closer to representation by population.
The size of my riding, with over 152,000 people, compares to an average national riding size of fewer than 113,000. Only four provinces even have an average riding size of over 90,000 people. Ontario is one of those provinces. The Greater Toronto Area has nine of the 10 largest ridings in the country. All of these ridings have over 130,000 people. The largest in Canada, Brampton West, has 170,000 people.
My riding and many others in the Greater Toronto Area are home to a significant and increasing number of new Canadians. New Canadians, who tend to settle in large cities with large riding populations, are among the most significantly under-represented Canadians in this country, simply by virtue of living in fast-growing communities in fast-growing provinces.
Is it fair that new Canadians, many of whom come to our country to enjoy the democratic freedoms denied to so many millions of people around the world, and indeed all Canadians living in regions like Bramalea—Gore—Malton, have a democratic voice that is significantly diminished merely because of where their home is located? We believe it is not fair.
Every Canadian's vote, to the greatest extent possible, should carry equal weight. If we are left with the status quo, the representation gap experienced by Canadians living in fast-growing provinces, and in particular Canadians living in regions like mine, will only grow more prominent. This is a serious problem that requires an immediate solution.
Bill C-20 proposes the best formula to address the representation gap without pitting Canadians against Canadians and regions against regions. This formula is a principled and reasonable update designed to bring Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta closer to representation by population, while at the same time maintaining the seat counts of low-growth provinces and ensuring that Quebec maintains representation directly proportionate to its population. In fact, the fair representation act brings every single Canadian closer to representation by population.
The practical result of applying the new formula will add an additional 30 seats to the House of Commons, for a total of 338. In terms of provincial breakdown, Ontario will receive 15 new seats, Alberta will receive six new seats, British Columbia will receive six new seats and Quebec will receive three new seats, as a result of being the first beneficiary of the representation rule, which will ensure that its seat total does not become less than what is proportional to its population.
In my province, Ontario's average riding size is down from 126,160 to 110,521. Thanks to this legislation, Ontario's percentage of seats in the House of Commons will more closely reflect its share of Canada's population. This is a great thing for Ontario and indeed a great thing for all Canadians.
Even more significantly, the bill provides an adjustment to the formula in order to adjust for future increases in population following future censuses. Unlike the formula on the books today, the formula in Bill C-20 accounts for population growth and trends. This is good news for all Canadians, both now and in the future.
To conclude, this bill, the fair representation act, is a principled, nationally applicable update to the formula allocating House of Commons seats. It is reasonable, principled, and fair for all Canadians. It addresses a problem that needs to be fixed, a problem that will grow worse if we fail to act. It will achieve better representation for Canadians living in fast-growing provinces while maintaining representation for smaller and slow-growth provinces. Again, it brings every single Canadian closer to representation by population.
The fair representation act delivers on this government's long-standing commitment to bringing greater fairness in House of Commons representation. I strongly encourage the opposition to work with us in passing this principled and reasonable legislation as quickly as possible. I look forward to continuing my work with all of my colleagues in the House to make sure that happens.