The current division of seats in the Senate of Canada provides neither representation-by-population nor provincial equality, nor any compromise between the two. It is based on no consistent formula or principle. It is an incoherent hodge-podge of obsolete nineteenth-century regionalism and later exceptions and adjustments. This paper proposes three fundamental principles that might assist future leaders in rethinking seat distribution. First, the obsolete regionalism that formed the basis of the current distribution of Senate seats ought to be abandoned and seats distributed on a strictly provincial basis; second, the distribution of seats ought to give some weight to the equal franchise of each province as a member of the Canadian federation; and third, to the extent that the number of seats held by each province is based on a variable (such as population), the constitution should entrench a formula responsive to that variable instead of a fixed allocation, to reduce the necessity of future constitutional amendments.
At present, there are 105 regular seats in the Senate. One province has four seats, five provinces have six each, two have ten each, two have 24 each, and the territories have one each. These various levels of representation are purely arbitrary, and not connected to population, geographic size, cultural distinctiveness or any other factor. The Prime Minister may appoint either four or eight extra Senators to pass contentious legislation. None of those extra Senators may come from Newfoundland and Labrador or any of the territories. Many Senators represent entire provinces, but many others choose a specific area within the province as their ‘senatorial designation.’ Only Quebec has permanently delineated senatorial districts. None of those districts are in Quebec’s north, so that region is formally without any representation in the Senate.