Academics attack feds' seats plan

Andrew Sancton is a political science expert at the University of Western Ontario. (HO)

Andrew Sancton is a political science expert at the University of Western Ontario. (HO)

Kristy Kirkup, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 5:07 PM ET

A group of professors say the government hasn’t done its homework on a bill that would add more seats to the House of Commons.

Academics who appeared before a parliamentary committee Tuesday said more thought should be given to carving up riding boundaries before Prime

Minister Stephen Harper rams through legislation this winter that would add 30 chairs to the 308-seat Commons.

The Conservative government says expansion is needed to reflect population growth in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. Quebec would also get additional seats to prevent it from becoming under-represented.

Some scholars say the government should consider alternative formulas, including capping the number of seats in the lower chamber.

Under the bill, Ontario would get 15 new seats, Alberta and B.C. would get six and Quebec would receive three more.

“My fear is that Bill C-20 is repeating a crucial mistake from the past,” said Andrew Sancton, a political scientist at the University of Western Ontario. “You might not feel the full effect of the anger now, but if this bill is enacted in its current form, I believe you will increasingly feel that anger as the prospect of many more additional MPs becomes real.”

The professors proposed amendments, but they will likely never be accepted if the government pushes the bill through at lightning speed, which it is doing with an omnibus justice bill and bills to scrap the wheat board and gun registry.

Liberal MP Stephane Dion says the government is unwilling to listen or consider other options, including the Grits’ plan to maintain the current 308 seats by redrawing riding boundaries to reflect the status quo.

“They know that we don’t need more MPs. That’s why they’re rushing this way,” Dion said. “They don’t have the modesty to accept that sometimes the opposition has better arguments than them.”

Kristy.Kirkup@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @kkirkup


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