More MPs proposed for B.C., Alta., Ont.
The House of Commons could grow by 30 seats under legislation introduced Thursday that would give more MPs to Ontario, B.C. and Alberta.
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Ontario would get 18 new seats, Alberta would get five and British Columbia seven. The additions would bring the total number of seats in the Commons to 338.
The seat count in the remaining provinces would not change.
"If passed, this legislation will give fair representation to the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, while protecting the seat counts of the other provinces," said Steve Fletcher, the minister of state for democratic reform.
Bloc Québécois MPs accused the government of seeking to redistribute seats for political gain during question period Thursday.
"The Conservatives are unable to obtain a majority government," MP Claude DeBellefeuille said. "The only way they found is to increase the number of seats west of Quebec.
"This reform is nothing but a partisan maneuvering at the expense of the Quebec nation."
House of Commons: Is the proposed redistribution fair?
The Liberals and NDP were more measured in their reaction.
Liberal Bob Rae said MPs have to listen to competing interests.
"Nobody should assume that the balance is easy," he said. "This is something where the House is going to have to listen … to what various parts of the country are saying."
Jack Layton of the NDP urged calm.
"This is part of nation-building, and I think a careful and thoughtful approach is what's needed," he said. "That is why we're suggesting it go directly to a committee.
"Let's not precipitate a conflict right off the bat. Let's try to find a solution."
The legislation proposes changing the formula for seat distribution in the House of Commons, with the actual readjustment coming after the release of the 2011 census. The representation of the provinces is updated after every decennial, or 10-year, census according to a formula established in the Constitution.
The government said Ontario, B.C. and Alberta — the fastest-growing provinces — have been penalized under the current seat adjustment formula, which has been in place since 1985.
Members of Parliament from Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia represent, on average, 26,500 more constituents than MPs from other provinces. Under the 1985 formula, this difference is projected to increase to at least 29,000 following the next readjustment, the government said.
In the 2002 redistribution that brought the House to its current total of 308 seats, Ontario got three new seats, while Alberta and British Columbia both got two seats.
A seat redistribution bill introduced in 2007 was withdrawn over concerns it would leave Ontario under-represented.
Ontario was pleased at news of the new plan.
"Initially, they weren't going to increase the number of seats and were going to turn a blind eye to the actual numbers, so I'm glad that they've seen the light on that," said provincial Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.
"My understanding is these things are done based on population increases … It simply reflects the growth in the Ontario population.
"We'll look forward to working with however many federal members there are from Ontario."
With files from the Canadian Press