“Fair representation” reform anything but, says BCCLA

The BCCLA has joined with other groups and individuals critical of the federal government‟s long-awaited Fair Representation Act. The government announced the bill on October 27, 2011 as helping “move every province towards representation by population in the House of Commons.” But the BCCLA says the Bill accords one province – Quebec – “proportional representation”, while shortchanging Ontario, BC and Alberta.

“Canada was founded upon a principle of proportional representation in the House of Commons, yet this new legislation fails to adhere to that,” said Robert Holmes, Q.C., President of the BCCLA. “By guaranteeing over-representation to smaller provinces and the territories, and „proportional representation‟ to Quebec, the government is embedding unfair under-representation for the remaining provinces – B.C., Alberta and Ontario. Instead of putting the nation‟s engines into reverse, the government should push forward with legislation that would be genuinely fair – by eliminating over-representation of any province.”

The Minister of State for Democratic Reform, Tim Uppal, issued a news release announcing that the government‟s goal was to have seats in the House of Commons allocated to provinces in a way that was “roughly proportional to their populations while ensuring that smaller or slower-growing provinces continue to be represented in a fair manner.”

“‟Fair‟ means a fair share,” noted Holmes. “The constitution defines „fair‟ as proportional, with the only exception being that provinces cannot be allocated fewer MPs than they have Senators. It does not say that the formula used should be one „moving towards‟ proportionality or „roughly proportional‟ or any other euphemism for over-representing some at the expense of others.” He said that pressure from groups opposed to each vote carrying equal weight has caused the government to give in when it should be standing strongly in favour of proportionality and the Constitution.

“One would have hoped that the government would have lived up to the ideals that Canada‟s democracy is based upon, rather than engaging in political moves aimed at mollifying the unreasonable demands of some at the expense of the rights of everyone,” Holmes added.


Robert Holmes, Q.C., President, (604) 838-6856