December 17, 2008 - 18:25
Keith Leslie, THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO - Ontario and Ottawa settled a lengthy and often bitter feud when Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed last week to give the province 21 additional seats in the House of Commons, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.
McGuinty's officials said late Wednesday that he and Harper did not specifically discuss how many seats would be added in Ontario under the proposed changes, but if the province got the "necessary proportionality" as the premier stated, it would translate into another 21 seats.
That's 11 more new Commons seats than the Conservatives initially said the province would get under a redistribution plan announced last year to reflect growing populations in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
B.C. was set to receive seven additional seats and Alberta five under the government's original plan to give Ontario 10.
However, the Prime Minister's Office would not answer questions Wednesday about how giving Ontario 21 additional seats would affect others when the initial plans called for only 22 new seats for all three provinces.
"I would say they are valid questions, although premature," said PMO spokesman Dimitri Soudas.
"We made a commitment in the speech from the throne to increase seats for Ontario, Alberta and B.C., and that's all I have for now."
In his end-of-year news conference Wednesday, McGuinty confirmed he and Harper had resolved their disagreement over the distribution of seats in Parliament when they met in Ottawa last Friday.
"I spoke with him about that and I think we've fixed it," McGuinty said when asked if the seat issue had come up during their meeting.
Harper finally saw that Ontario's argument was valid and agreed to give the province the 21 additional seats in Parliament, without Ontario having to give up anything in return, McGuinty added.
"I think there was a sense that it was the right thing to do."
Ontario currently has 106 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, and the Conservatives said they originally planned to increase the total number of seats to 330.
The PMO also declined to say how the government felt the increase in seats for Ontario would be received in Quebec, where the Conservatives failed to make any gains in the October election.
David Docherty, a political science professor and dean of arts at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., said Harper has to make "some kind of peace with Ontario" to placate the federal Liberals and McGuinty so they can work together on aid for the auto and forestry sectors.
"The Conservatives have essentially written off Quebec for any kind of seat growth in the next couple of elections," Docherty said in an interview.
"If Harper is going to win a majority, he's got to win more seats in Ontario, so he creates more seats in Ontario."
Ontario complained loudly that Ottawa's original plan would have given Canada's most populous province only one member of Parliament for every 115,000 people, while other provinces moved to what McGuinty called the "Quebec standard" of one MP for every 105,000 people.
The seat issue erupted into such an angry war of words that Peter Van Loan, then Conservative government house leader, called McGuinty "the small man of Confederation."
The Conservatives had said Ontario should have been pleased with 10 new seats because if the government hadn't changed the formula, the province would have received only four additional members of Parliament.
During last Friday's meeting, Harper initially made the "traditional" argument that Ontario would be better off than it was before with 10 more seats, McGuinty said.
"I said, 'Yeah, that's true, but that's not the point,"' McGuinty said.
"The point is we should be working towards fairness, and over time we would have continued to fall behind."
Docherty said giving Ontario more seats in Parliament won't go over well in Western Canada if Alberta or B.C. get fewer new seats than originally promised.
"One could imagine the sense of alienation in the West," he said.
"Harper can't expect to go to Calgary for Christmas if it turns out (Alberta) is getting one seat and B.C. is not getting any."
The change on seats in the Commons marks the third time in recent weeks the Conservatives have climbed down from a previously held position. They have also backed away from initiatives in the economic update to ban public service strikes and to strip public, per-vote financing from political parties.
Source: Bitter feud over new seats in Commons settled; Ontario to get 21 | Macleans.ca - Canada - Features
-Ontario's Seat Count just grew by a Manitoba and half of a Saskatchewan...
-Interesting that this news sort of slid under the wire out here in the West...
-Alberta & BC together have very close to the same population as Quebec, but
Alberta & BC together have 64 Seats vrs Quebec's 75 Seats...
-Alberta has 125,000 per MP, BC has 124,000 per MP, Ontario had 121,000 per MP.