Prime Minister Stephen Harper is giving Premier Dalton McGuinty an early holiday gift – greater representation for Ontario in the Commons.
In a seasonal change of heart from his previous Grinchlike stance, Harper has privately assured McGuinty that Ontario would not be shortchanged when the government introduces seat redistribution legislation in the new year.
“I spoke to him about that and I think we’ve … fixed it,” McGuinty blurted out to reporters yesterday. “I think there was a sense that it was the right thing to do.”
Asked if he were getting what Ontario wanted – 21 additional seats to complement the existing 106 in the 308-member Commons – the premier said: “Yeah, on the basis of that conversation, yes. It’ll be the necessary proportionality, whatever it should be.”
Under Harper’s previous legislation, which died on the order paper before the Oct. 14 federal election, B.C. would have gained seven seats and Alberta five, but Ontario would have received only 10 – less than half the 21 it should be entitled to due to rising population numbers.
— Ontario to get fairer Commons share ,Toronto Star
Naturally I’m all in favour of Ontario getting its “fair share” of seats in the Commons: rep by pop and all that. I just have one question: What does this have to do with McGuinty?
The House of Commons is a federal body. McGuinty is a provincial premier. Since when does a federal Prime Minister make decisions about the composition of a federal representative body in obeisance to a provincial premier? If Harper were issuing edicts about the over-representation of rural ridings in the Ontario legislature, would McGuinty be rushing to satisfy him? Or would he denounce it, rightly, as an unwarranted interference by one level of government in another’s affairs?
The under-representation of Ontario, Alberta and B.C. in Parliament is a continuing scandal, and the failure of the previous Conservative legislation to redress Ontario’s grievance, even as it was putting things right for the other two provinces, only compounded the offence. That should have been a matter for Ontario’s Members of Parliament — Conservative, Liberal, or NDP — to take up. That they did not, that it was left to the premier of Ontario to do their job for them, is testament to the decline of Parliament as a national institution.