Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

New federal seats for BC are not nearly enough!

with 8 comments

Post Media news decides to work itself up into a froth over how much this will cost. That way the most significant part of the story can be buried in the tables at the bottom. Making parliament bigger is costly – but it is a lot easier than simply trying to make the current distribution of seats fairer. Let us concentrate on that word “fair”. Indeed the government is trying to convince us that is new arrangement is  “fair”. In fact the Fair Representation Act is anything but.

Quebec: Will have 78 seats representing 23.28 per cent of seats in Commons with 23.22 per cent of population. Under current seat distribution, it has 75 seats or 23.28 per cent of seats in the Commons.

So currently, in terms of representation by population they are doing OK – but under the “Fair” act they will do rather better.

British Columbia: Will have 42 seats and 12.54 per cent per cent of seats in Commons with 13.31 per cent of population. Under current seat distribution, it has 36 seats or 11.8 per cent of seats in the Commons.

Look at those numbers. The current situation is clearly unfair: under the proposed arrangement is still unfair – just not quite so bad as now. There can be no justification for this.

I could get equally annoyed about PEI – but what would be the point of that?

We also, of course, being an overwhelmingly urban population should also be incensed that rural votes still count for much more than urban votes. The actual seat distribution within provinces is not yet determined – there are going to be independent commissions. Which I am willing to bet will find all sorts of implausible excuses as to why this injustice has to be continued.  The fact that some people decide to live in sparsely populated areas does not give them any greater rights to determine who should form the government – nor should it.

And this is not the time to argue for a better electoral system – though tinkering with this one is not the answer either. I am still baffled about what a country that is supposedly in favour of democracy remains steadfast in its opposition to becoming democractic in reality. The outcome of course is continuing growth of what is termed “apathy” but in fact is widespread distrust and distaste. Which is really sad given how hard some other countries are now fighting – with our assistance – to get some form of democracy established.

And, of course, to get elected Mayor here, one of the candidates is already announcing her highest priority is to get rid of a rather obvious manifestation of discontent with our current system. Just what I would expect from those who conceive of the status quo as the best of all possible worlds – for themselves and their paymasters.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

October 27, 2011 at 9:55 am

Posted in politics

8 Responses

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  1. This is a profoundly important issue.

    The current overbalance of power favouring conservative rural to liberal urban ridings also helps the more conservative provincial governments.

    The shenanigans of the old Social Credit party were unbelievable compared to today’s electoral world. They took advantage of the rural-urban misbalance and created 12 two-seat ridings, 11 of them in conservative ridings that then usually voted Socred. Other ridings remained at one seat.

    Then there was Gracie’s finger. Three decades ago the old Socred matron Grace McCarthy lost her riding to the NDP. The party backroomers took immediate action and had the Electoral Officer append a long, skinny sliver of Socred blue from the next riding to hers and – like magic! — she was elected AFTER she lost.

    What gets me is that a lot of this crap happened after the Charter was introduced by Trudeau … so why didn’t the Civil Liberties groups sue the government on behalf of thousands of disenfranchised voters? It was seriously disappointing that later governments decided not to press charges over these clearly illegal acts by sleazy cabinet noted for its unusually high number of car salesmen and collective lack of post secondary education.

    It’s not just six additional seats for BC where there should be eight or ten, but where the seats are located that will influence the make-up of government. Would that the Conservatives establish an independent, arm’s length commission similar to the one they set up for the recent award of the shipbuilding contracts to distribute the seats in strict proportionality with population. Keep the politics out of it. It doesn’t matter that some remote ridings are vast. With today’s communication technology distance matters less than ever and the public budgets for travelling around these ridings should be increased.

    MB

    October 27, 2011 at 11:28 am

  2. It does seem like Quebec whined its way into getting 3 more seats to maintain its 23.28% share. As for us, 12.5 % of the seats with 13.3% of the population isn’t ‘unfair’ enough to get too upset about. Since PEI and NB can’t lose seats, they’ll always have more than they deserve, so others will have less than they deserve (and it’s usually Ontario that is the most ‘underrepresented’ despite having 100+ seats)… other than adding even more seats, 74 have been added since the mid 70s

    MB, to be fair the Norris commission also added more double member ridings, in places like Burnaby and Coquitlam, but was pre-empted by the ’75 election. Also, it was Fisher commission appointed by Vander Zalm that finally abolished double member ridings, and the last of the rotten boroughs (Atlin and Columbia River)

    I also dispute your Gracie’s Finger Timeline…” Three decades ago the old Socred matron Grace McCarthy lost her riding to the NDP. The party backroomers took immediate action and had the Electoral Officer append a long, skinny sliver of Socred blue from the next riding to hers and – like magic! — she was elected AFTER she lost.

    How can that be? Grace lost Little Mountain in ’72, the party backroomers in power were NDP, not SC. In fact, when she won the ’75 election, the boundaries were the same as ’72…. the finger wasn’t added until the ’79 election… The final irony? The Socreds won Little Mountain in ’79, ’83, and ’86 by large enough margins that the extra support from the polls in the finger likely weren’t needed, but may have prevented Pat McGeer’s loss to Darlene Mazari in 1986, had they remained in Point Grey

    The Other David

    October 27, 2011 at 11:48 pm

  3. Be careful what you wish for. Most new growth is in conservative leaning suburban ridings, not in “liberal urban ridings”.

    Bill Kinkaid

    October 28, 2011 at 7:29 am

  4. Bill – I assume your comment is directed at me – my concern is with democracy, not political partisanship. I also want to see rep by pop in election results – where pop means those who voted i.e. Proportional Representation.

    David – Quebec will have over representation of 0.06% (even though it is currently correct represented) and that is said to be “acceptable”.BC gets under representation 0.77% and we have to live with that?

    Stephen Rees

    October 28, 2011 at 9:35 am

  5. Stephen, sure, we have to live with that… . HOC seat distribution is hamstrung by a few clauses dating back to Confederation, and really, is being under-represented by 0.77% worth getting our knickers in a knot? Does the fact that NB has 3 “too many” seats and PEI 2 or 3 “too many”, but does that really affect our day-to-day lives?

    0.77% is a pretty small discrepancy, perhaps made worse by Quebec’s insistence on maintaining their _exact_ proportion of seats (Their hand still contains the separation card, not unlike Scotland… unlikely to be played, but held close at hand ). at least the guarantee of 25% of the seats for Quebec that was part of the Charlottown accord of ’92 isn’t in effect.. That artificial over-representation would have to be balanced out somewhere… not from the provinces already at their constitutional minimum, but from Alberta, BC, and Ontario.

    Then there’s the senate, BC has 6 seats, unchanged since 1871, 6/105 is 5.7%

    The past 50 years…. BC’s share

    ’61 Census 8.9%
    ’68 23/264 8.7%

    ’71 Census 10.1%
    ’79 28/282 9.9%

    ’81 Census 11.2%
    ’88 32/295 10.8%

    ’91 Census 12.0%
    ’97 34/301 11.3%

    ’01 Census 13.0%
    ’04 36/308 11.7%

    ’11 Census ??
    ’15? 42/338 12.4%

    It is “interesting” that the 2011 census figures have not been released yet. What would the distribution be under the current formula http://www.elections.ca/scripts/fedrep/federal_e/red/representation_e.htm The current formula was adopted in the 80s after an aborted re-distribution in the early 80s (delaying the new distribution until ’88); the previous formula added 4 seats to Quebec every 10 years… They’d be up to 91 if that had continued…

    The Other David

    October 29, 2011 at 1:00 am

  6. It’s taken a long time for me to come around to the idea of PR (preferring the STV system) but I’m beginning to agree that that’s what we need. A situation where less than 40% (of those who even bother to vote) can regularly elect a majority of the seats is not acceptable. Unfortunately, at least two provinces have recently killed the idea of electoral reform.

    Bill Kinkaid

    October 29, 2011 at 10:07 am

  7. @ TOD, obviously you have researched the nuances of BC provicial ridings, but the niggling over minutia doesn’t excuse the overriding violation of democratic principles that Gracie’s Finger and the highly selective and profoundly undemocratic two-seat ridings (when all other ridings had single seats) represent were unacceptable then, and wouldn’t get past the starting gate in the 21st Century.

    I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s good those days are over. I’m with Bill K. on PR.

    MB

    October 31, 2011 at 11:59 am

  8. In 1982, McCarthy was suspected of interfering in the re-drawing of the electoral boundaries of her Little Mountain constituency, to include an appendage of a wealthy westside Vancouver area, thus helping ensure her electoral success. This appendage and subsequent scandal became known as ‘Gracie’s Finger’. The actual area in question was between 16th and 33rd Avenues in Vancouver around the Arbutus Street corridor.[1]

    From Wikipedea: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_McCarthy

    MB

    October 31, 2011 at 12:05 pm


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