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Mar 24, 2010

New Mowat Studies Document Canadian Violations of Rep-By-Pop

March 24, 2010

Two studies released today provide new evidence regarding significant deviations from accepted norms.

Toronto – The Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation at the University of Toronto released two studies today that provide new evidence regarding Canada’s current deviations from the principle of representation by population (rep-by-pop).

The studies find that violations of rep-by-pop are significantly greater in Canada than in other federations around the world, and that the deviations are far greater than they’ve ever been in Canada’s history.

“The balance between voter equality and ensuring that sparsely populated provinces have their voices heard is a delicate one,” says Matthew Mendelsohn, Director of the Mowat Centre. “Our research finds that compared to similar federations, Canada is now way of step internationally in violating the principle of voter equality.”

“Canada has a constitutional commitment to rep-by-pop among the provinces. It is only in recent decades that we’ve abandoned this commitment and gone way beyond what would have tolerated previously,” says Andrew Sancton, a professor at the University of Western Ontario and author of one of the studies.

The research suggests that the matter may also be unconstitutional. When courts last considered these issues in 1987, violations of rep-by-pop were far smaller than they are today. Courts have also never even considered the relatively new argument that violations of rep-by-pop affect new Canadians most severely because they are concentrated in Canada’s most populous ridings.

The government’s Speech From The Throne, delivered on March 3, made a commitment to fix the inequity. “We now have an historic opportunity for the federal government to address an issue that has been simmering for years,” says Mendelsohn. “The notion that all Canadians are equal and all have equal power in determining who will govern was a core principle of Confederation. The weight of your vote should simply not depend on what province it is cast in.”


The Principle of Representation by Population in Canadian Federal Politics

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Some are More Equal than Others

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