Voter equality means that the votes of all Canadians are equal. In practice, electoral districts should all have about the same number of voters. However, this is not the reality in Canada’s larger cities.
Many larger city ridings have more people per riding than smaller centres. Many Canadians are under-represented in the House of Commons. Rapidly growing suburban communities, often with high rates of immigration, fare the worst.
This is a problem that affects many Canadians. The under-representation of their voices in Parliament results in a diluted urban voice on the many issues that matter the most to them: economy, urban infrastructure and transit.
However, there are some solutions before us.
What you need to know
According to the Mowat Note “Voter Equality and Other Canadian Values: Finding the Right Balance”, ”Representation by population (rep-by-pop) was one of the principal forces behind the creation of Canada and is a key pillar of democracy. The principle that all votes have equal weight reflects the democratic norm that all citizens should have an equal say in who will be elected, who will raise issues in Parliament and who will have the right to use the legitimate power of the state to make decisions on our behalf.”
Every ten years (after each full census) federal boundaries commissions redraw the electoral districts to reflect changes in the population. A process to redraw federal boundaries is currently underway. This provides an opportunity for urban centres, particularly in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, to gain a greater voice in Ottawa.
The number of seats in the House of Commons allocated to each province and territory was recalculated based on new population numbers and a formula set out in the Constitution. Your electoral district – which is where you live and vote for your member of Parliament – may change as a result of the redistribution process. Recent changes have added 30 new ridings across the country. Ontario will receive fifteen.
Ten electoral boundaries commissions have been established. They operate independently in each province to propose new boundaries, consult with Canadians and create the new electoral map for their province. They are seeking your input now.
So what can you do?
On August 7, Maytree President Ratna Omidvar moderated a webinar by the Mowat Centre to consider these issues. Matthew Mendelsohn, Director of the Mowat Centre, and Michael Pal, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, discussed voter equality, why it matters, and how you can get involved at a public hearing in your province.
Participating in the public consultation, either by appearing in person or making a written submission, on the proposed electoral riding maps is the best way for urban residents to support voter equality. Go to voterequality.ca to learn more about the process, why it matters and how to get involved.
Watch the webinar.
- Is Voter Equality a Canadian Value? Finding the Right Balance
- Maytree Policy Insights – Democracy and Participation
- Maytree Policy in Focus, Issue 1: Listening to the voices of newcomers will create stronger cities (PDF)
- Michael Pal and Sujit Choudhry. “Is Every Ballot Equal? Visible-Minority Vote Dilution in Canada” (2007) IRPP Choices. Vol. 13, no. 1. (PDF)
- Mowat Note “Voter Equality and Other Canadian Values: Finding the Right Balance”
- Redistribution – Federal Electoral Districts – general information from the federal government about the 2012 Redistribution of Federal Electoral Districts