The CBC is reporting that Ontario is to receive 21 additional seats in Canada’s Parliament as a result of population changes. The CBC quotes population figures from 105,000 (the “Quebec standard,” they call it) to 115,000 (which is what Ontario was due to receive before this increase) per federal electoral district.
The 1873 Prince Edward Island Terms of Union with Canada guaranteed Prince Edward Island four members of Parliament, one each for Prince and Kings Counties and two for Queens County. One hundred and thirty-five years later that’s exactly what we still have.
The population figures from the 1871 census were used in the Terms of Union: Canada had a population of 3,689,257 and Prince Edward Island had a population of 94,021, meaning that, on union, Islanders represented about 2.5% of the country’s population.
In the interim, according to the 2006 census, the population of Canada has grown to 31,612,897 and Prince Edward Island’s population is now 135,851. Because Canada’s population has increased since 1871 by 750% and the Island’s only by 44%, PEI now accounts for only 0.42% of the population of Canada.
One of the by-products of these population changes is that the Island’s electoral districts are now among the smallest, by population, in the country. The 2006 census by electoral district shows that only Labrador, Nunavut, and Yukon have smaller districts.
The district of Charlottetown, with a 2006 population of 32,174, is the smallest district on PEI, and the fourth smallest in the country. By comparison, the district of Brampton West has a 2006 population of 170,422, or just over five times the population.
The proposed changes in Ontario’s allotment of districts are still going to leave the province drastically under-represented when compared to the Island. With a 2006 population of 12,160,282, to achieve the same level of representation as Prince Edward Islanders — an average of 33,962 people per district — Ontarians should be alloted 358 districts rather than the 106 (they currently have) plus the 21 (they will receive).
Of course, applied across the country, this would leave us with a Parliament with 930 members rather than the current count of 308 — probably unworkable (although, by comparison, the United Kingdom has 646 constituencies).