Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Friday, October 21, 2011

99 Percenters should be equal when they vote

Now with a majority in Parliament, the Harper government looks serious about introducing legislation in the House of Commons to redress the under-representation of Canadians who live in the growing provinces of Canada and the over-representation of Canadians who continue to live in places that were relatively bigger in the past.

(Federal constituencies vary wildly by population—from as little as 34,000 people in tiny Prince Edward Island to more than 170,000 in the most populous district. Some ridings near Toronto have grown so fast over the past decade that they are 50 per cent or more over the national average. In other words, one vote in Markham has half the influence of a vote elsewhere.)

However, redress is a winning and losing business; it makes enemies and needs friends.

It’s not surprising but it’s reassuring that Canada’s most respected national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, remains willing to insist that only one principle should determine representation in the popular assembly of a democratic Canada:

“One person, one vote: It is democracy’s first law. In Canada, representation by population is supposed to give it life, with each constituency having a more or less equal number of electors. The Conservatives must stay true to their previously enunciated principle when they introduce legislation to enlarge the membership of the House of Commons.”

“Conservatives should not waver on Rep-by-Pop” the Globe’s editorial insisted. What’s unsurprising and sad as well is that the Globe decided to beseech only Conservatives to honor this great liberal principle.

The Globe is a small-l liberal paper and was founded in 1844 by George Brown, Canada’s first great liberal reformer—a lifelong champion of the simple slogan: rep-by-pop. Yet, today, organized liberalism can’t be counted on to know its own mind on this basic democratic principle.

Acting Leader of the Liberal Party Bob Rae stands for secure representation for Quebec, fair electoral reform nationally and, of course, for the 99 Percenters in his park. Rep-by-pop stands shoulder-to-shoulder with other (unrepresentative) considerations. There is, however, no room for more than one liberal principle in allocating House of Commons seats, in a demographically changing Canada.

Smaller provinces and Quebec can be protected with a minimum number of seats in the Commons and, as well, by regional representation the present and, hopefully, in a reformed and elected Senate someday.

Canadian federal institutions and parliamentary democracy serve several objectives: representing individuals, representing founding languages, and individual provinces, and protecting individual and minority rights. However, individual votes in national elections should all pretty well weigh the same.

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