Fulfilling a Campaign Promise: Restoring the Principle of Representation by Population
May 21, 2021

Our Government has continued to deliver on its campaign promises to hard working Canadian families since forming Government in January 2006. We have delivered on lowering taxes, tackling crime, offering parents choice in child care, improving health care through Patient Wait Times Guarantees, and cleaning up the environment. While each of these priorities has proven to be significant achievements, Canadians have also demanded our Government strengthen accountability and democracy. We recently achieved this promise by introducing the Constitution Act, 2007 (Democratic Representation).

On May 11, 2007, the Honourable Peter Van Loan, Minister for Democratic Reform and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons introduced the Constitution Act, 2007 (Democratic Representation), to restore the principle of representation by population for the provinces with faster growing populations, while protecting the seat counts of provinces with slower growing populations.

Under the Constitution, seats in the House of Commons are readjusted among the provinces after each decennial census according to a formula. This formula is based primarily on provincial population, but also incorporates minimum seat guarantees for provinces with relative declining populations. The current formula leaves provinces with faster-growing populations significantly under-represented in the House of Commons. Therefore, the Constitution Act, 2007 will address this inequity by updating the formula provided for in section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867 so that future readjustments better account for population changes in faster-growing provinces.

The new legislation introduced by Minister Van Loan will also ensure that any rapidly growing province with a population smaller than that of Quebec will have an average riding population similar to the average riding population of Quebec.

The Constitution Act, 2007 will restore representation by population most effectively in British Columbia and Alberta and will significantly improve the representation of Ontario, while also protecting the seat counts of provinces with relative declining populations and moderating the overall size of the House of Commons. Based on the current population projections for the 2011 census (assuming medium growth and medium migration trends), the proposed formula would result in additional seats for Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia in the next readjustment. No province would lose seats due to constitutional seat guarantees.

There are several benefits to the proposed formula. Firstly, it will mean smaller ridings in provinces that receive additional seats, which means Members of Parliament (M.P.s) will be able to more effectively represent their constituents and there will be greater representational equality between ridings in different provinces. Secondly, smaller average constituency populations will be of particular benefit for constituents and M.P.s in these faster growing provinces. It will allow rural Canadians to be more easily heard by their representatives. Thirdly, the proposed formula will be more responsive to future population growth rather than fixing a ceiling on the rate at which growing provinces can gain seats, leaving them falling behind. Fourth, the proposed formula will provide significant improvements for Ontario. Ontario is expected to receive 10 new seats rather than the four new seats under the existing formula, which means that the average population of an Ontario M.P. will be reduced from 121,588 constituents under the current formula, to 115,299 constituents under the proposed formula. Ontario will also continue to have the greatest representation in the House of Commons with over 35 per cent of the House of Commons seats.

Our Government is committed to continuing our efforts to strengthen accountability and democracy for all Canadians. The Constitution Act, 2007 (Democratic Representation) builds on our accomplishments to date in achieving this goal; another promise made and kept.

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