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Jeffrey Simpson on urban-rural redistribution Add to ...

Urban and suburban ridings across Canada are "getting shafted by the electoral map that heavily favours rural and northern areas," Jeffrey Simpson wrote in a column published Wednesday. Some of these rural ridings already have many fewer voters than their urban counterparts due to longstanding political deals, but a redistribution is due, according to census figures. However, despite denials, there appears to be a quiet agreement by the Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats to shelve a bill that would have addressed this lopsided representation.

Join Mr. Simpson, a longtime national affairs columnist for The Globe, was online at 3 p.m. ET Wednesday to respond to reader questions about the politics surrounding this thorny issue. Here are some highlights from the discussion - click below for a full transcript.

Moderator's question: Representatives of the main federal parties have denied agreeing to shelve Bill C-12, which would add 30 seats to the Commons to address underrepresentation in Canada's fastest-growing provinces. Yet, a deal has been widely reported in the press. Where is the discrepancy, Jeffrey?

Jeffrey Simpson: The parties are moving on this in such a way as to ensure that the legislation doesn't go anywhere. They want plausible deniability, so that no party's fingerprints will be on the knife. That is why they insist they have a "deal," whereas in fact they do not. The Liberals are saying they want the matter sent to a committee, where it will likely languish. The Conservatives introduced the bill in April of this year, having done nothing in the previous 18 months, and have not called it back before Parliament. And the NDP, as if sometimes the case, are all over the map (see gun registry).

Question from reader Tom: Mr. Simpson, why do you think the parties prefer an unfavorable distribution to rural areas?

Jeffrey Simpson: Change is always hard. Entrenched interests encrust themselves around the status quo. Therefore, when a Parliament is already heavily weighted to rural areas, do you think the MPs from those areas are busting to see the map changed?

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