Ontario will no longer be shortchanged under the Harper government's plan to add new seats to the House of Commons, says Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has agreed to revise his proposed legislation, which is designed to reflect population growth across Canada by adding new seats to the 308 currently in the Commons, Mr. McGuinty said on Thursday.
"I spoke to Harper about this, and I think we fixed it," Mr. McGuinty said at a year-end news conference.
He did not elaborate on exactly how many seats would be added in Ontario under the proposed changes but said, "we will get the necessary proportionality." That translates into another 21 seats in Ontario, bringing the tally for the province to 127, a government official confirmed.
The changes will allow Ontario and Ottawa to bury the hatchet on an issue that sparked a new round of bickering between the Harper and McGuinty governments. The tensions took a nasty turn in November, 2007 when then federal Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan accused Mr. McGuinty of being "the small man of Confederation" after the Premier appealed to his federal counterparts for help fighting the proposed legislation.
Under the original proposal, Ontario was to get 10 of 22 newly created seats. Mr. McGuinty had complained that the proposed legislation to change the formula for seat distribution would leave Ontario the most unrepresented province in Canada. The proposed legislation would give every province, with the notable exception of Ontario, enough ridings to match the size of their population. All of the new seats would be in fast-growing Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
Mr. McGuinty said on Thursday that Mr. Harper had a change of heart after the two met privately in Ottawa last Friday to discuss a Canadian bailout package for the ailing auto sector. During the one-hour meeting in Mr. Harper's office, Mr. McGuinty also raised the seat legislation.
He said Mr. Harper reiterated his traditional argument that Ontario would be better off than it was with the addition of new seats. "I said, 'that's not the point. The point is, we should be working toward fairness and over time we would have continued to fall behind.'"
The legislation was written in such a way that Quebec's ratio of voters to MPs became the benchmark. But any provinces larger than Quebec - Ontario is the only one - would not enjoy the full benefits. Ontario's share of the national population will hit 40.4 per cent in 2021, while its share of seats in the Commons will be 35.6 per cent, an under-representation of 4.8 per cent. according to the government's projections.