Friday, November 25, 2011

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OPINION AND INFORMATION

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"e-worm" 11 11 25 friday - early!
Editions emailed to 2,900+ email addresses. Publisher is Alan Heisey, 38 Avoca Avenue, L.P.H #6, Toronto, ON, Canada, M4T 2B9    Phone 416 923 5381, 239 513 0444, 705 756 3289. From Naples & T.O. S.V.P. pass along to political chums and let me know number!

Publisher comments

Lowell Murray's suggestion to a tory, grit and crat via Hize

Legit St. Paul's option, - a public debate on 308 seats, or 338?

Adams and Hize critique academics' defence of status quo
 
Lowell Murray's another suggestion to press 5% variances

Wm. Walton's rep/pop is best option eventually - for later!

Letter from Simon Chappelle

To be removed from this mailing list:

Publisher comments

Lowell Murray's suggestion to a tory, grit and crat via Hize

     (Readers of “-worm” should know that Lowell Murray lowell.murray@ bellaliant.net is a recently retired Progressive Conservative member of the Canadian senate who for more than a decade has answered my numerous queries with facts and authoritative opinions on rep by pop. In 2002 I wrote a pamphlet urging that the house of commons should become more rigorously linked to one person one vote before modifying the senate. Lowell provided data on how much variation between constituency populations existed in the various provinces, none as distorted as Ontario. A decade later distortions in parliamentary representation are being haltingly reduced by the fast approaching Fair Representation Act. We are to approve that act while not one word has been published about proposed numbers and distributions of seats in an all-elected senate.

      Your reporter is one of a large number of Canadians long, and strongly opposed to adding additional seats to the present 308 in the house of commons, when a more rigorous re-distribution could see the present total serve the country well.  The Conservative governent’s present bill requires an additional 30 parliamentarians, and the minister for democratic reform even assured the country that there would be more seats added in the future in the fast-growing provinces as their population grows.

       More particularly I have lamented in this email newsletter and in newsprint in Georgian Bay Today about the sheer lack of will of the national government with it long-sought-for solid majority to use that majority to aggressively address the anomalies and unfairnesses in parliament. I dared to vaguely suggest some months ago that the Liberals might come up the centre in Ontario. 

       Well, by jove, the Grits have done just that!!

Seat Distribution in the House of Commons: Alternatives to C-20

Bill C-20, an Act meant to ensure "fair representation" of the provinces in the House of Commons, contains a major flaw: it would needlessly increase the number of MPs from 308 to 338, as well as the cost associated with adding these new seats. 

Canadians are concerned about the additional cost of such an inflationary measure. The government's new proposal sends the wrong message: that it wants to gorge itself with more politicians while it slashes the public service and services to the public! This makes no sense. In these days of financial restraint, Parliament must take the lead.

As Liberal Leader Bob Rae recently insisted, the number of MPs cannot keep growing forever. We already have a higher MP-to-population ratio than is the norm in other democracies. Let's not forget that in our decentralized federation, there are many pressing issues ­  such as schools and hospitals ­ that members of Parliament  don't have to address.

Australians do very well with their 150 federal MPs. In the United States, a country almost ten times as populous as ours, the House of Representatives is limited to 435 seats.

Currently, Canada is the only federation that deems it necessary to increase its number of federal MPs every time there is a need to rebalance regional representation in Parliament. This is an unnecessary and unsustainable practice. We must put a stop to it ­ the  sooner, the better.

Stephen Harper would have liked that to occur in 1994. As a Reform Party MP, he declared that "a smaller House offers considerable cost savings" and that "Canadians are already among the most overrepresented people in the world"

We can easily rebalance the House's seat allocation, in order to address the needs of the provinces with strong population growth while maintaining proportionate representation of the other provinces, without raising the total number of MPs.

Some provinces will then have fewer MPs than they have now. But what is important is not the absolute number of seats; it's the number relative to the whole. This is the reasoning adopted today by other democracies, and that also applied to Canada not so long ago. So why not return to this common sense position?

The attached table compares current seat distribution with one possible, cost-saving, alternative proposal. It shows that we can achieve the same proportionate number of MPs per province with the existing number of 308 seats. There is no need to raise the number to 338. By keeping the number of MPs at 308, this alternative option also has the benefit of saving Canadian taxpayers an estimated $86 million at a minimum, over the course of the next election cycle.

This result is achieved thanks to a much simpler formula than the government's very complicated scheme. In this proposal, proportionate seat representation (based on the July, 2011 Statistics Canada data) is modulated via the Constitutional rule outlined in section 51(A) of the Constitution Act, which says that a province cannot hold less MPs than Senators. Since the law also applies to the Territories, they have been included in our calculations; there is no reason, Constitutional or other, not to do so. Then we apply the government's proposed "Representation Rule", which ensures that any currently overrepresented province does not become underrepresented.

However, we propose replacing the so-called "grandfather clause" with a rule, that was used in the 1950s, that says a province cannot lose more than 15% of its seats as a result of a redistribution exercise. This way, we can ensure that any reduction remains modest.

Let us not forget that this grandfather clause, which stops us from reducing the number of federal MPs representing a province, can be revised by Parliament since it is Parliament that enacted it in 1985.

The application of the 15% rule and the requirement to ensure that no province has fewer MPs than Senators results in a total of 324 seats.

Finally, the 16 seats in excess of 308 seats are deducted from the total seats belonging to the three provinces with strong population growth. Each province's portion of the deduction is equivalent to its percentage of the total seat count of those provinces. The result is a 308-seat House of Commons.

That's how we can achieve a fair and balanced House of Commons without adding any seats.
Stephane Dion
Member of Parliament for Saint-Laurent­Cartierville
        Table 1                                                                
                                                 Current seat             Status quo               Population
                                    distribution                 (1985 formula)               
                                                                                
        PROVINCE OR TERRITORY            SEATS    % TOTAL          Seats    % Total          %
         Ontario          106      34.42             109      34.60             38.78
         Quebec           75       24.35             75       23.81             23.14
        British Columbia         36      11.69             37       11.75             13.26
         Alberta          28       9.09              31       9.84              10.96
         Manitoba                 14       4.55              14       4.44              3.63
         Saskatchewan             14       4.55              14       4.44              3.07
        Nova Scotia              11       3.57              11       3.49              2.74
        New Brunswick   10       3.25              10       3.17              2.19
         Newfoundland and Labrador                7        2.27              7        2.22              1.48
        Prince Edward Island             4        1.30              4        1.27              0.42
        North West Territories           1        0.32              1        0.32              0.13
         Yukon            1        0.32              1        0.32              0.10
         Nunavut          1        0.32              1        0.32              0.10
                                                                                
         TOTAL            308      100%              315      100%              100%
                                                                                
                                                                                
        *Based on Statistics Canada’s Population Estimate as of July 1, 2011                    
        
Table 2                                                                
                                       House:                             House:              Population
                          Government Bill               Equitable Plan               
                                                     PROVINCE OR TERRITORY            SEATS    % TOTAL          SEATS    % TOTAL          %
         Ontario          121      35.80             110      35.71             38.78
         Quebec           78       23.08             72       23.38             23.14
        British Columbia         42      12.43             38       12.34             13.26
         Alberta          34       10.06             31       10.06             10.96
         Manitoba                 14       4.14              12       3.90              3.63
         Saskatchewan             14       4.14              12       3.90              3.07
        Nova Scotia              11       3.25              10       3.25              2.74
        New Brunswick   10       2.96              10       3.25              2.19
         Newfoundland and Labrador                7        2.07              6        1.95              1.48
        Prince Edward Island             4        1.18              4        1.30              0.42
        North West Territories           1        0.30              1        0.32              0.13
         Yukon            1        0.30              1        0.32              0.10
         Nunavut          1        0.30              1        0.32              0.10
                                                                                
         TOTAL            338      100%              308      100%              100%
                                                                                
        *Based on Statistics Canada’s Population Estimate as of July 1, 2011                    

1 Procedure and House Affairs Committee, 25-11-1994, pp. 33: 38-39.

            However late in the process, examining exactly all the same dimensions of our society that the Tories evaluated sooner, the Grits propose re-aligning seats between the provinces and territories in a manner that will keep the total size of the house of commons at 308 seats. I personally do not buy into protecting Quebec's share of seats to mirror its population, while Ontario is to be content with 10% fewer seats, I am quite opposed with that discrimination, but see it as a point where a finally, slowly aroused Tory caucus could and should debate. But the much larger issue is the number of productive parliamentarians we taxpayers are to support, and the Grits have it, 308. Bingo.

       I frankly have no idea of how exactly this much more attractive seat count should be brought frontally into the proposed bill. I recognize that the Liberals strategy is a better one for the country and am curious  how graciously our democratically elected Tory majority government can bring itself to paying the new proposal the attention that it demands.

        I have had several emails from Lowell in the last several days, the last one of which offers his specific suggestion at the riding level:)

Al:  I presume you've seen the National Post editorial this morning (Saturday) in which they completely pull in their horns on their earlier editorial dismissing Garneau's (now Dion/Garneau's) proposal. They also acknowledge their previous error where they had asserted that a change to the 1985 Representation Act would require the consent of the provinces affected. As you know it's amendable by Parliament acting alone.
 
From a purely political point of view, it's rather interesting. I saw a piece somewhere reporting that Harper spent many hours mulling over the politics of the government's bill before it was presented. Obviously he thought he had a virtually watertight proposition and that while there would be criticism of enlargement of the Commons, no Opposition party would present a politically viable alternative. One thing he had probably ruled out was a proposal such as the Liberals' present one, which suggests to me that the Liberals have done a very cold-blooded political calculation , weighing the virtues of their fiscally and constitutionally attractive proposal against any losses it might bring in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec. For the first time in a long time it looks to me that the Liberals are playing hardball. They've got Hize  and the National Post straying away from the "Big Tent".  What next?

What might be worth a try is if you, together with a Liberal militant and even an NDP person who have in common a track record of interest-involvement in these issues were to issue a statement or do a joInt interview with sympathetic media to th effect that initiatives affecting our parliamentary democracy are always more effective, credible and acceptable to the general Cdn public when they are the subject of the broadest possible consensus among our political representatives; that while you appreciate the considerations that motivated the Harper bill, there now seems unexpectedly to be an alternative on the table that may be politically viable and that the Commons committee that I presume still has the bill should be mandated to review the whole issue on the basis of the Liberal proposal and with a view to getting a bill through pre Xmas. LM

Legit St. Paul's option, - a public debate on 308 seats, or 338?

     This independent-minded, life-time Tory, in company with John Adams, former councillor of the city of Toronto, supports the view that some measures of local city Conservative associations' endorsements would add clout to our repeat, planned presentation to Toronto city council.  About the time of the 2001 census we made a formal presentation to the operative committee of council which endorsed public electoral district variances being reduced to +/- 5%. The Ontario re-districting commission took the city's request seriously and for the most part kept city electoral district populations on the high side of that variance, (of the higher Ontario average, not the lower national one,) while much wider variances stayed all around in the g.t.a.
         We think the case will be greatly strengthened for "MAX5 %" variations nationally if we can make common cause with deputations from other major cities of Ontario and of the faster growing provinces particularly. While this issue can lap easily into 2012 policy statements, such is not the case with the recent Liberal proposal to hold the size of the house of commons to its present 308 members, which appears to have received shockingly light attention in the media.

        These two, major aspects of democratic institutional refinement would lend themselves to a firey, inter-party public meeting right in St.Paul's within the next 30 days. My experience, here in St. Paul's  this very Thursday evening, November 24th, is revealing in that the usual monthly gabfest of the Avoca Vale current events group voted 12 to 0 to support the Liberal 308 platform, as moved by myself!

       One of my GTA operatives think the issue may get early, T.O. traction but will not matter that much in our smaller centres. Besides which there is, regrettably, no easy \ at this stage in the life of our party that riding levels meetings on major public issues with the public invited will be countenanced! I come back from a near month in the more genuinely excited states to find a more productive parliamentary structure concept has not got through to our media literatti and so the feds will probably press on irregardless.

       As a proponent of tighter, more productive parliaments and legislatures, I am profoundly tempted to join the national, but never the provincial, Liberal party on this central issue. Let's see this crucial choice for the public, via our parliamentarians, play out first!

        It is worth considering what significance in this unfolding bloat drama will be paid to the Toronto radio report  this very morning that the provincial legislature for New Brunswick, proportionately to population the largest across the country, is to be reduced!

          This is also an appropriate time to remind the the bloaters of our national parliament that not only does the U.S. lower house function with 435 maximum congresspersons, but that the state of California, population somewhere near 30 million, functions with just 52 legilators!

Adams and Hize critique academics' defence of status quo


On 2011-11-15, at 9:44 AM, John Adams wrote:

Hize:  Check out the text and status at http://www.parl.gc.ca/LegisInfo/BillDetails.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&billId=5194714
 
The Government Bill is changing a few aspects of the boundaries adjustment process but this version of the Bill does not touch the area of the plus or minus 25% of the population norm, administrative discretion of the individual boundaries commission for each province to amend riding boundaries.
 
I wonder whether someone (Lowell, whomever) could make a case for an amendment to reduce the administrative discretion to 5%, either at the House of Commons committee stage or the Senate committee stage?  Just an idea.
 
John Adams
Global Director of Business Development
OZ Systems International
President, Canadian PKU and Allied Disorders Inc.
(888) 727-3366 ext 2437
www.oz-systems.com

On 2011-11-20, at 9:31 AM, John Adams wrote:

To make sure you have seen this. The debate among competing principles is engaged. John

Fair isn't always equal

Saturday, November 19, 2011

By Paul Thomas, Michael MacKenzie and Peter Loewen, The Ottawa Citizen

When introducing the government's new Fair Representation Act recently, Minister of Democratic Reform Tim Uppal declared that it "moves every single province towards the principle of representation by population." In introducing the Liberal party's response Friday, Stéphane Dion has prioritized the same principle.

What Uppal and Dion did not mention is that while "rep-by-pop" is certainly one principle for representation in Canada, it is not the only one. In fact, Canada's election laws state that constituency boundaries must deviate from rep-by-pop in order to ensure that communities of common interest, like regions, towns and neighbourhoods, are effectively represented in Parliament.

This second principle recognizes the fact that voters don't make decisions in isolation. Rather they are situated in communities - communities that often face unique needs and common challenges because of the makeup of their population or where they are located.

In many cases these two principles of representation come into conflict. Attempts to preserve or protect specific communities of interest mean that some areas (usually rural ones) are over-represented at the expense of faster-growing areas (usually urban ones). What effect does this have? Is this harmful to democracy?

Despite the obvious importance of these questions, we know surprisingly little about this subject. One study found that over-represented rural ridings receive a little more government spending and pay slightly less tax on a per-capita basis. Until recently no one had investigated whether citizens' experiences of democracy are affected by the size of the population in their constituency. To help fill this gap in our knowledge we used data from the Canadian Election Study to test whether discrepancies in representation-by-population affect how individual voters experience democracy. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, our findings showed that riding population had no substantial impact on the democratic experiences of individuals.

While those living in more populated ridings were marginally less likely to be contacted by parties during an election, they were just as likely to ask their MPs for assistance. Perhaps most importantly, we found that there is no relationship between the population of the riding in which a citizen lives and his or her satisfaction with democracy.

Of course, surveys are never perfect. So we went further and conducted an "audit experiment" examining how MPs respond to email requests from constituents. Once again, we found that the rate or quality of assistance that constituents receive from MPs didn't vary with the population in an individual's riding.

One final issue of concern for some is that the over-representation of rural areas may undermine the voting power of visible minority citizens, who tend to be concentrated in urban areas. This situation is certainly concerning and should be studied closely. However, while rural communities may not be as ethnically diverse as their urban counterparts, the challenges they face are many and varied. For instance, the needs of farming communities alone differ widely across the country, without even considering the needs of fisheries, mining, or forestry communities.

Our research also showed no clear evidence that visible minorities have worse democratic experiences than other Canadians. In part this may be because visible minority citizens don't vote primarily as members of a particular ethnic group, but rather as residents of a particular community. Furthermore, even though rural areas are over-represented, Canada's high levels of urbanization mean that the bulk of parliamentary seats are still urbanbased. Consequently, the party winning the majority of urban seats is still likely to form the government, as was demonstrated by the recent Ontario election.

The Fair Representation Act will certainly go a long way toward improving the population equality between federal electoral constituencies. However, rep-by-pop is not the only objective that should be considered when ridings are being designed. Instead, democracy may be best served when citizens feel they are fairly represented, not equally represented.

Peter Loewen is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto. Paul Thomas and Michael MacKenzie are PhD candidates in political science at the universities of Toronto and British Columbia, respectively.

From: alan heisey <hize@earthlink.net>
To: John Adams
Sent: Sun Nov 20 20:19:23 2011
Subject: Re:

j, reading this thesis over again i cannot distinguish it from the concept of "effective representation" as enunciated by our supreme court in which some one dozen different criteria, beside populations are to be weighed, population to be the single most important one. this statement does not move the ball ahead one iota, merely confirms the present position of the court, and in application is used regularly to underweight urban populations! cz

From:   John Adams <jadams@oz-systems.com>
        Subject:        Re:

Agree 100%.  These academics are sucking up to conventional thinking. John
 

Lowell Murray’s ‘nother suggestion to press 5% variances

Al:
 
It would probably be helpful if some MP or Senator sent out a strong message that anything over 10 per cent should be resorted to by the Boundary Commissions only in the most extreme cases, which are well known. Such a speech should also document how well the Commissions performed last time, with the vast majority under 10 per cent variance from the provincial quotient and of those a very large number under 5 per cent. An amendment to reduce the variance to 5% or 10% will go nowhere unless accompanied by an escape clause, the nature of which would not be agreed upon in a debate taking place under time constraints as this one is. The important thing is for parliamentarians to send a strong message to the Commissions, and this can be done during House debate and perhaps even more effectively in Committee. Indeed, the Committee could, without trying to amend, append “observations” to their report along the lines suggested. This is a not infrequent practice in the Senate. Above all, no pretext must be offered that will let parties delay this bill beyond the calendar year. L.M.
 
All you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask.  Cheers. L.M.

Letter from Simon Chappelle

On 2011-11-14, at 8:33 AM, S & D Chapelle wrote:

 
All the best,
Simon Chapelle
CPC National Council - Ontario

Hize replied, November 21, 2011

s, very pleased at the kind thoughts, but want to know where you, as another national council representative, come in on narrowing variances somewhere south of 25%!? cz

Wm. Watson’s rep/pop is best option eventually - for later!

William Watson:

One man, nine votes: Vast differences in riding size cry out for a 21st-century remedy

It’s time to rename the New Democratic Party. With their adoption of the view that Quebec should have 24.35% of the seats in the House of Commons now and forever ­ because that’s the  proportion it had when the Commons voted that the Québécois represent “a nation” within Canada ­ the New  Democrats have pretty much given up on the “Democratic” part of their name. The NUP for New Undemocratic Party or NCP for New Collectivities Party would be more appropriate. Or just NPDQ, for Nouveau Parti Démocratique du Québec because it was PDQ ­" pretty damn quick ­ after winning 58 of Quebec’s 75  federal seats last May that it morphed from what had always, to its credit, been a very pan-Canadian party to one that now evidently sees its main purpose as “defending” the interests of Quebec.

By the way, while we’re talking about changing names maybe after 50 years it’s finally time to give up on “New.” Or make clear that while “New” used to modify “Party,” now it modifies “Democratic” or “Democracy.” Maybe the NDP wants to be the New Democracy Party. Because the kind of electoral system it now favours isn’t democracy as most people understand it. Maybe NDP could be the Not-Democracy Party.

Whatever may have been its faults, and they were legion, you always felt the old NDP was concerned with principles. That’s why they lost so often and so badly. They wouldn’t let political expedience trump their principles, however misguided these principles might be. One of the most fundamental principles of democracy is “one man, one vote” or, as we would now say, “one person, one vote,” assuming (you never know) no social group will take offence at being called persons.

We are currently far from that democratic ideal. If one ranks the 308 federal ridings from least to most populous, using the number of eligible electors in each as calculated by Elections Canada for the most recent federal election, one sees that in the country’s most populous riding, Oak Ridges-Markham, in Toronto, there are 153,972 electors, while in the country’s least populous riding, Nunavut, there are only 17,349 electors. The ratio of the one to the other is 8.875. The MP for Oak Ridges-Markham (Conservative Paul Calandra) has the same number of votes in the House of Commons as the MP from Nunavut (Conservative Leona Aglukkaq), but represents almost nine times as many voters as she does. Each Nunavut voter has nine times the influence Each Oak Ridges-Markham voter has. One person, nine votes.

The 20 most populous ridings in the country range from 99,867 eligible voters in Thornhill, also in Ontario, all the way up to Oak Ridges-Markham’s 153,972. The average number of voters per Canadian riding is 78,758, so these top 20 ridings have between 20,109 and 75,214 too many voters. Seventy-five thousand! Of the 20 overpopulated ridings, 11 are in Ontario, five in Alberta, three in British Columbia and two in Quebec.

The 20 least populous ridings range from Nunavut’s 17,349 to Madawaska-Restigouche’s 62,593. (That’s in New Brunswick.) So they have between 61,409 and 16,165 too few voters. Of these 20 overrepresented ridings, three are in the Northwest Territories, four are in Prince Edward Island, one each is in Newfoundland and Ontario, fully eight are in Saskatchewan and three are in New Brunswick.

Prince Edward Island’s overrepresentation is easy to understand. It’s in the Constitution that it can’t have fewer MPs than senators and it has four senators. The result is that each of the four ridings has fewer than half the average number of electors in the rest of the country and barely one-fifth the number in Oak Ridges-Markham.

We can understand why the P.E.I. exception exists. P.E.I. wouldn’t come into Confederation unless it was promised that. There’s nothing anyone can do about that now. But why would we want to compound the undemocratic unfairness by introducing new electoral provisions that would have the same effect regarding Quebec ­ or any other  province, for that matter? And speaking of the Constitution, shouldn’t this sort of thing really go into the Constitution? The NDP might argue that the “Quebec is a nation” vote had quasi-constitutional weight. But if so, why weren’t MPs, not to mention the rest of the nation, told before the Commons voted that what most people thought was a symbolic gesture of friendship carried this very real electoral consequence? Will Quebec have its 24.35% of seats even if its population share falls to 15% or 10% or even lower? And why 24.35%? Why not 32.3%, which is what Quebec’s population share was in 1871, the closest census year to Confederation?

There is a perfectly reasonable argument that if all ridings were required to have the same number of electors, some sparsely populated ridings would be even vaster than they are now. For instance, since the combined electorate of Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories is only 70,710, which is less than the national average, they should really only have one MP among them ­ if that. That MP would then spend  his or her life, which might not be very long as a result, in an airplane shuttling from hamlet to hamlet.

Fine. Give underpopulated ridings their MPs. But don’t give them weight in Parliament disproportionate to the population they represent. The math isn’t hard. There were 24,257,592 eligible electors last May. Let there be 24,257,592 votes in Parliament. Let Ms. Aglukkaq cast 17,349 each time she votes and Mr. Calandra from Oak Ridges-Markham cast 153,972.

Cumbersome, you say? With 19th-century quill and ink technology, perhaps. But this is the 21st century. All these MPs have voted themselves iPads, haven’t they? All it would take to run a fair system is a spreadsheet program and basic numeracy. It seems a small price to pay for democratic fairness.

Posted in: FP Comment  Tags: Democracy, NDP, New Democratic Party, Nunavut, Quebec, Representation By Population, William Watson

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