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Government House Leader Peter Van Loan speaks in the Commons foyer on June 2, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan speaks in the Commons foyer on June 2, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Conservatives seek 'fairness' in reallocating Commons seats Add to ...

Stephen Harper's Conservatives want to move closer to a one citizen, one vote system to "see some fairness" for provinces whose populations are increasing, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan says.

Speaking to reporters in advance of the House getting back to work Thursday, Mr. Loan said some votes are not worth the same as others - and this is undemocratic.

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"What has happened is that we've have had a situation arise where votes are worth very different amounts across the country," he said. "This is because the existing formula restrains the growth of seats in areas that are experiencing high growth, particularly in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia."

Mr. Van Loan was reacting to a report in The Globe and Mail that revealed the government wants to increase seats in the House of Commons to 338 from 308. The additional seats would go to Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia.

Legislation on this initiative would not be introduced immediately, Mr. Van Loan said. "It's a fundamental principle of democracy to move closer to equal weight for [voters]"

But Quebec - and this could be where the Tories are vulnerable - would not see any increase from the 75 seats currently allotted to the province.

Mr. Van Loan didn't buy the notion that Quebeckers will be upset or that the Tories are wading into dangerous waters.

"I think fundamentally people understand that democracy should have democratic values behind it," he said. "I know that there are some who will try to exploit issues like this, create divisions but we live in a democracy."

However, opposition leaders had their own take on the proposed legislation, arguing that the bill must reflect fairness in all regions of the country - including Quebec.

"We have suggested in the House that work be done to try to find a way of balancing these various principles in a way that can work," said NDP Leader Jack Layton, who holds 59 seats in the province. "We're heartened to hear that from some sources ... that the government is looking at this sort of thing."

The Official Opposition Leader added, however, that his New Democrats want this considered in a "careful and proper fashion," suggesting Commons committee look at the issue.

Liberals struck a similar tone. "We'll see the distribution and we'll be sensitive," Interim Leader Bob Rae said.

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