Voter Equality & Other Canadian Values: Finding the Right Balance

“Voter Equality & Other Canadian Values: Finding the Right Balance” (2011) (Toronto: Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation) (with M. Mendelsohn).

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Representation by population (rep-by-pop) was one of the principal forces behind the creation of Canada and is a key pillar of democracy. Although some deviations from the norm of voter equality are acceptable, they should be grounded in principles that are widely accepted and viewed as legitimate. Canada’s federal electoral districts deviate from the rep-by-pop principle more than they ever have in our history. This is the result of Canada’s increasingly outdated rules and practices governing the distribution of seats in the House of Commons and our demographic changes. This problem is getting worse and, unless there is fundamental reform, will continue to do so in the future. Moreover, the character of voter inequality is changing. For decades, citizens in Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia, and urban centres have suffered from declining voting power. But in the face of massive immigration, the dilution of some Canadians’ votes and the amplification of others increasingly disadvantages Canadians from non-European backgrounds who are more likely to live in ridings with the largest populations. This Mowat Note identifies the constitutional, legislative and policy reasons why Canada so dramatically deviates from the principle of voter equality. It then explains if and how each of these factors can or should be addressed at present. It concludes with a proposed framework for a compromise piece of legislation that would deal with many, but not all, of the issues that produce such a skewed electoral map.