When Stephen Harper met with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty last week, he made an important concession – he’s agreed to give Ontario 21 more seats in the House of Commons.
If you recall, in the last Parliament the Conservatives put forward a bill that would amend the seat redistribution formula to account for population growth in the country, but whereas BC and Alberta would get their full allotment of new seats, Ontario would only receive 10, where the formula said that they should get 21.
Now, it doesn’t take a lot of rocket surgery to figure out why this was the case – the Conservatives have a much greater base in Alberta and to a large part BC (well, the interior part of it anyway), and Ontario’s population growth was largely urban – areas that largely vote Liberal, with a few NDP thrown in for good measure. How better to help rig a future majority than to try and allot yourself more seats – much the way the Alberta provincial government have been carefully redrawing electoral ridings to more favour the rural voters than the urban ones for decades.
But now, in order to help keep the peace – and try and win over more Ontario voters – Harper has given in to this demand. A demand that once had his pit bull Peter Van Loan call McGuinty the “small man of Confederation” over. There are suggestions that this may be because Harper has given up on trying to win over Québec voters to get his majority, and will focus on Ontario instead. (And this proposal will piss Québec off even more, since they want a guaranteed 25 percent of the seats in the Commons while their population isn’t growing to reflect that).
Others have suggested that the quid pro quo of this concession may be that McGuinty gives up his constitutional objection to Harper’s (unconstitutional) plans for Senate reform, which is certainly a possibility. Either that, or Harper’s sweater-vest persona is now on overdrive as he turns up the charm to convince Canadians that he’s really not the partisan bully that he has so frequently demonstrated himself to be.
Either way, giving Ontario equal representation was the right thing to do. But we should be on guard for just what the reasons for doing the right thing really are (and no, “out of the goodness of his heart” is not a valid answer).