Canadians generally split on current provincial distribution of House seats

By DAVID COLETTO | Dec. 12, 2011

OTTAWA—Parliamentary or democratic reform is not always the sexiest or salient topic debated in Parliament, but it can certainly have important and lasting consequences for Canadian democracy. One only has to look at the impact of the election finance reforms introduced by the Jean Chrétien government and passed by Parliament in 2003 as evidence to their importance.

In October, the Harper government introduced legislation to add 30 new seats to the House of Commons with 15 added in Ontario, six in British Columbia and Alberta, and three in Quebec. In response, the Liberal caucus proposed an alternative plan that would keep the number of seats the same but redistribute more evening according to the population distribution.

In early December, Abacus Data asked a representative sample of Canadians their thoughts on the current seat distribution of the House of Commons and the Harper government’s legislation.

The survey interviewed 1,004 Canadians over the age of 18 between Dec. 2 and Dec. 4, 2011, and displayed the distribution of seats by province before and after the legislation as well as the current distribution of population.

Here is what we found:

1. Canadians are generally split on whether the current provincial distribution of seats in the House of Commons is fair or unfair. Thirty-five per cent of respondents said they believed the distribution was fair while 37 per cent believed it was unfair. The remaining 28 per cent were unsure. Reaction to the current arrangement in the House of Commons was strongly related to province or region of residence. Atlantic Canadians, Quebecers, and Ontarians were the most likely to consider the current distribution fair while Albertans, British Columbians, and residents of Manitoba and Saskatchewan were the most likely to believe the current arrangement is unfair.  Interestingly, there was no significant partisan difference on the issue of fairness in the current House of Commons.

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