Rebalancing provincial seats in the House of Commons will not create voter equality

Today the Harper government moved to add 30 seats to the House of Commons to reflect the growing populations of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia – but failed to address a more egregious problem: the partisan inequities created by the electoral system.

Last week the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation issued a study indicating that the current allocation of seats to each province gives votes cast in some provinces more weight than those cast in others. According to the study, a vote in Saskatchewan is worth 54% more than a vote in British Columbia. A vote in New Brunswick is worth 38% more than a vote in Ontario. The Mowat Centre study called those figures "startling" and emphasized the need to adjust the provincial seat allocations.

But partisan inequities created by the first-past-the-post voting system are even more startling, according to Fair Vote Canada, a national multi-partisan citizens’ campaign for voting reform.
If all votes had an equal effect, the ratio of seats to votes for each party would be equal.
The results from the last federal election show the dramatic inequities for those who cast votes for the various parties.

  • Bloc Quebecois: 1 seat for every 28,163 votes
  • Conservatives: 1 seat for every 36,427 votes
  • Liberals: 1 seat for every 47,184 votes
  • NDP: 1 seat for every 67,981 votes
  • Greens: 0 seats for 937,613 votes.
The weight or effect of a Bloc vote was 2.4 times that of an NDP vote. A Conservative vote was worth 1.3 times that of a Liberal vote. A Green vote had no weight at all.

Within the provinces, the inequities were even more outrageous. In Alberta, the weight of a Conservative vote was 5.3 times that of an NDP vote. In Quebec, a Bloc vote was worth 2.8 times a Conservative vote and 2.2 times a Liberal vote.

“Voter equality requires two conditions,” said Larry Gordon, Executive Director of Fair Vote Canada. “The first is having the same number of voters per MP. The second is having a voting system that gives equal weight to all votes.”

“We will never achieve perfect voter equality,” said Bronwen Bruch, President of Fair Vote Canada, “but we can move very close to that goal by scrapping first-past-the-post, like most major countries did in the last century, and adopting a fair and proportional voting system.”

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