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Eroding Representation-by-Population in the Canadian House of Commons: The Representation Act, 1985*

  • Andrew Sancton (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

The Representation Act, 1985 amended both the Constitution Act, 1867 and the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. This article shows that in each case the amendments erode the principle of representation by population by increasing the likelihood that federal electoral districts across the country will have widely varying populations. The first section examines the legislative history of the Representation Act, 1985 and its implementation in 1986 and 1987. The second analyzes the unsuccessful legal challenge brought against it by the City of Vancouver in Campbell et al. v. The Attorney General of Canada. The third addresses more explicitly John Courtney's main conclusions about the redistribution process in Canada as he expressed them in his 1988 CPSA presidential address.

Résumé

La Loi de 1985 sur la représentation électorate a amendé à la fois la Loi constitutionelle de 1867 et la Loi sur la révision des limites des circonscriptions électorales. Le présent article explique que, dans chaque circonstance, les amendements diminuent le principe de la représentation proportionnelle par la population parce qu'ils augment la possibilité que les circonscriptions électorates à travers le pays aient des populations très inégales. La première partie examine l'histoire législative de la Loi de 1985 sur la représentation électorale et son implantation en 1986 et 1987. La deuxième analyse le défi légal infructueux contre la loi que la ville de Vancouver a engagé avec Campbell et al. v. The Attorney General of Canada. La troisième traite plus explicitement des conclusions de John Courtney sur le processus de la redistribution au Canada telles qu'il les a exprimées dans son discours présidentiel de l'Acsp en 1988.

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1 Lyons W. E., One Man—One Vote (Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 1970), chaps. 1–3.

2 Courtney John C., “Parliament and Representation: The Unfinished Agenda of Electoral Redistribution,” this Journal 21 (1988), 675–90.

3 Canada, Statutes, 1964–65, chap. 31.

4 Canada, President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, White Paper on Redistribution (Ottawa, 1985), 6. The White Paper is reprinted in Canada, House of Commons, Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, June 25, 1985, 13A:2–22.

5 Canada, House of Commons, Debates (November 16, 1985), 8800.

6 Canada, Elections Canada, Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, Office Consolidation (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1986), section 13 (1) (b); emphasis by the author.

7 Ibid., section 13 (1) (c).

8 Canada, Elections Canada, Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Newfoundland, Report 1987 (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1987), 19.

9 Canada, Elections Canada, Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Ontario, Report 1987 (Ottawa: Ministerof Supply and Services Canada, 1987), 2425.

10 Canada, Elections Canada, Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Quebec, Report 1987 (Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1987), 49.

11 Canada, House of Commons, Standing Committee on Elections, Privileges and Procedure, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, May 4, 1987.

12 Canada, Elections Canada, Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Newfoundland, “Supplementary Minority Report,” July 3, 1987, 1.

13 Canada, House of Commons, Standing Committee on Elections, Minutes, May 28, 1987, 14:26.

14 Ibid., 14:25.

15 Canada, Elections Canada, Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Newfoundland, “Supplementary Majority Report,” July 3, 1987, 3.

16 Canada, Elections Canada, Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of British Columbia, “Disposition by the Commission,” May 4, 1987, 3.

17 The author discussed the case with Ian Waddell and Thomas Berger and was retained by the latter to provide research and advice.

18 Berger Thomas R., “Statement of Claim,” in Campbell et al. v. The Attorney-General of Canada, July 14, 1987, Supreme Court of British Columbia, 6.

19 Donegan Gerald, Q.C., “Statement of Defence,” in Campbell, September 11, 1987, Supreme Court of British Columbia, 4–5.

20 “Reasons for Judgment of the Honourable the Chief Justice” in Campbell, December 30, 1987, Supreme Court of British Columbia, 20.

21 For the 1980 Senate Reference case, see Russell Peter H. (ed.), Leading Constitutional Decisions (3rd ed.; Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1982), chap. 43, especially 492.

22 “Reasons for Judgment of Mr. Justice McFarlane et al.,” in Campbell, March 18, 1988, British Columbia Court of Appeal.

23 “Reasons for Judgment of the Honourable Mr. Justice Lambert,” in Campbell, March 18, 1988, British Columbia Court of Appeal, 15. The phrases Justice Lambert is quoting are from section 42(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982.

25 Thomas R. Berger, “Appellants’ Factum” in Campbell, British Columbia Court of Appeal, 25–27.

26 “Reasons of Mr. Justice Lambert,” 16. Justice Lambert's apparent confusion seems to have its origins in statements made in the “Appellants’ Factum” at 24.

27 Canada, Statutes, 1974–75, chap. 13, section 5(2)(b).

28 Qualter T. H., The Election Process in Canada (Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 1970), 113.

29 For relevant Statistics Canada population projections, see Canada, While Paper on Redistribution, Table B.

30 Courtney, “Parliament and Representation,” 680.

31 Ibid., 681, note 13. In note 13, “1983” should read “1987” (letter from John Courtney to the author dated March 1, 1989). Courtney explains the Gini index as follows: “A Gini Index score of complete equality of constituency population size is indicated by 0 and complete inequality by 1. The closer a group of constituencies (for example, within provincial boundaries) approach 0 or 1, the closer it will be to perfect equality or inequality, respectively” (Ibid., 678, note 7).

32 Ibid., 681.

34 In its decision in Re Education Act, [1987] 40 D.L.R. 19, the Supreme Court of Canada held that “It was never intended that the Charter could be used to invalidate other provisions of the Constitution….”

35 The case is Re Dixon and the Attorney General of British Columbia. See Ruff Norman J., “The Cat and Mouse Politics of Redistribution: Toward Fair and Effective Representation in British Columbia,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association, Universite Laval, Sainte-Foy, Quebec, 1989.

* An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association at Université Laval, Saint-Foy, Quebec, 1989. I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of John Courtney and Elections Canada in providing data used in this work. John McDougall, Bob Young, David Henry, Jennifer Smith, Thomas Berger and two anonymous reviewers made helpful comments on earlier drafts.

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Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
  • ISSN: 0008-4239
  • EISSN: 1744-9324
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-of-political-science-revue-canadienne-de-science-politique
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