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Ottawa set to reveal revised seat-allocation formula

Canada's Minister of State for Democratic Reform Tim Uppal speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa October 18, 2011.

CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters/CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

The Conservative government will unveil legislation Thursday that reveals the latest and probably last formula for rebalancing the House of Commons by giving additional seats to Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

Democratic Reform Minister Tim Uppal will release the new formula in Brampton, Ont., on Thursday. The CBC reported Wednesday evening that the new legislation would give Quebec three additional seats – not two, as leaked information earlier this month suggested.

The bill has gone through many permutations. A first attempt during the first Harper minority government went nowhere, when it was revealed that Ontario would receive considerably fewer seats than it needed to come even close to its fair share of representation-by-population in the House of Commons.

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Ontario, B.C. and Alberta are seriously underrepresented in the House, thanks to constitutional and legislative provisions that ensure smaller provinces don't lose seats. Quebec is currently properly represented.

A second effort during the second minority government failed when a new formula would have left Quebec slightly underrepresented. MPs from rural ridings in all parties also protested, encouraging the Conservatives to drop the bill.

The third effort, to be released by Mr. Uppal, seeks to prevent Quebec from dropping below its proper level of representation, while still improving the standings of the three growing provinces in the House.

Earlier this month, leaked information suggested that in the latest bill Ontario's seat count will increase by 13 from its current allotment of 106, down from the 18 seats it was to have had in the previous version of the bill.

British Columbia would receive five seats instead of its original allotment of seven. Alberta's situation would actually improve, increasing its count by six instead of its original five.

In that version, Quebec was to receive two seats, to keep its representation in the House from dropping below its 23-per-cent share of the population.

Speculation will finally end Thursday, when the bill, the formula, and the reasoning for the formula are all revealed.

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About the Author
Writer-at-large

John Ibbitson started at The Globe in 1999 and has been Queen's Park columnist and Ottawa political affairs correspondent.Most recently, he was a correspondent and columnist in Washington, where he wrote Open and Shut: Why America has Barack Obama and Canada has Stephen Harper. He returned to Ottawa as bureau chief in 2009. More

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