BCCLA says Parliamentary seats must be based on population

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The BCCLA is urging the federal government and opposition parties not to abandon the principle that seats in the federal parliament be assigned based on population. Quebec’s premier and opposition parties have said Quebec should be guaranteed 24% of the seats in the House of Commons regardless of population. Some federal politicians have announced interest in doing that.

“Guaranteeing Quebec 24% of the seats in the House of Commons without regard to its population does violence to the principle of proportionate representation. It is undemocratic and unfair. It is also, in our view, unconstitutional,” notes Robert Holmes, Q.C., President of the BCCLA. “In a democratic society, it is essential that each voter’s vote be given equal weight. Anything that erodes that does violence to democratic principles.”
The BCCLA notes that courts have ruled that “equality of voting power is the single most important factor to be considered,” and the Association argues that providing one province with more seats than it is proportionately due would infringe upon the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects the right to vote as a fundamental democratic right.

“While exceptions have been made historically for some smaller provinces and territories with few MPs, it is simply untenable for anyone to argue that a province that is allocated 75 seats lacks sufficient representation so as to have its message heard in the House of Commons,” said Holmes. “Setting aside the extra seats given smaller provinces and territories, the allocation of 75 seats to Quebec already gives it proportionately more MPs than it is due.”

Section 52 of the Constitution Act provides that, “The number of members of the House of Commons may be from time to time increased by the Parliament of Canada, provided the proportionate representation of the Provinces prescribed by this Act is not thereby disturbed.”

Click here to read the BCCLA’s letter to the government and opposition

Robert Holmes, Q.C., President, 604-838-6856
David Eby, Executive Director, 604-630-9752 or 778-865-7997