Representation in the House of Commons: A Long Term Proposal

Article 7 / 10 , Vol 35 No 1 (Spring)

Representation in the House of Commons: A Long Term Proposal

On December 16, 2011 Bill C-20 An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and the Canada Elections Act received Royal Assent (now Chapter 26 of the Statutes of Canada, 2011). It increased the number of seats in the House of Commons from 308 to 338 by giving extra seats to Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec. While representation in the House of Commons is now settled for at least a decade the issue of representation by population will arise again as mandated in section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and protected in section 42 of the Constitution Act, 1982. This article makes a number of suggestions for the next time rep by pop is debated in Canada. Among other things it calls for improved provisions for the smaller provinces, a new mechanism for adjusting the Electoral Quotient and future constitutional negotiations to deal with problems that have developed over the years.

Section 51 of the Constitution Act 1867 provides that the number of members of the House of Commons and the representation of the provinces therein shall be readjusted on the completion of each decennial census, according to a number of rules. Rule 1 calculates the initial seat allocation for all the provinces strictly according to representation by population. Rule 2 adds seats to the provincial numbers based on two minimums: the “Senate Floor” (no less than the number of senators) and the “Grandfather Clause” (no less than the 1976 numbers). Rules 3 and 4 add seats to any province that was previously overrepresented such that it will not become underrepresented. Rule 5 provides that more accurate provincial population estimates are to be used in the calculation rather than the actual census figures. And rule 6 sets out an electoral quotient (constituency size) for rule 1 and provides for a specific method of recalculation every ten years.