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McGuinty Seeks Fairness For Ontario

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McGuinty Seeks Fairness For Ontario

Federal Legislation Would Weaken Ontario Representation In House Of Commons

Office of the Premier

Premier McGuinty released the following statement in response to federal legislation that would weaken Ontario's representation in the House of Commons:

"Today, the federal government introduced legislation that would change the number of seats in the House of Commons.

This legislation is of great concern to me, to my government and to all Ontarians.  

It will weaken democratic representation for Canadians living in Ontario by granting us fewer seats than we are entitled to in the House of Commons.  It will undermine some of our most cherished democratic rights: representation by population; one person, one vote; equality under the law and effective representation.

When important national decisions are made, Ontarians will not have the same right to have their voices heard, or their views count compared to Canadians living in B.C., Alberta or Quebec.  In fact, Ontarians will have weaker representation in the federal Parliament than Canadians living anywhere else in Canada.

Given Ontario's growing population, the proposed legislation makes little sense. Under these changes, both Alberta and B.C. will get a new seat in the readjustment following the 2011 Census for every increase of approximately 100,000 people. However, Ontario will get only one new seat for roughly every 200,000 people.  As time goes by, Ontarians would become increasingly under-represented with each new readjustment following a census.

For more than a decade, the governments of Canada's three fastest-growing provinces -- B.C., Alberta and Ontario -- have stood together and asked the federal government to restore the principle of representation by population. In 2006, the federal government promised to do so.

The legislation introduced today breaks that commitment. It would benefit Canadians living in B.C. and Alberta, but not Ontarians.

Ontarians are proudly Canadian.  Yet for 20 years, we have seen our federal representation decline even as our population has grown rapidly. 

We must have fair and equal standing in the House of Commons.  Equal representation is the best safeguard to ensure that laws debated and passed by the national Parliament properly reflect the will of the people and are viewed as legitimate by Canadians from all regions of the country.

Ontarians accept that Canadians in smaller provinces or those with slower population growth may need protection for their existing number of seats in the federal Parliament.  However, providing citizens in Ontario with less representation than citizens in Alberta or B.C. is unjust.

All Canadians should oppose the federal government's plan to entrench in the Constitution a gradual disenfranchisement of the citizens of any province. 

The Ontario government is surprised and disappointed that the federal government has chosen to weaken the voting rights of Ontarians.  That is why our government will take all necessary measures to halt this constitutional amendment.

We also believe that changes to the Senate as proposed in new federal legislation cannot be undertaken unilaterally by the federal government.  Such changes require the consent of the provinces as outlined in the general amending formula of the Canadian Constitution.

Now is not the time to thrust the country into a lengthy constitutional process of Senate reform. Ontarians do not support reopening the constitution at this time, and we again urge the federal government to refrain from embarking on this risky and distracting path.

If the federal government insists on pursuing Senate reform, our preference is abolition.

During my first mandate, I fought hard to ensure that Ontario received fair treatment from the federal government in fiscal transfers. After decades of being short-changed fiscally, we have made real progress.  But there is still more work to be done, and I will continue to stand up for fiscal fairness.

As Premier, I also have a responsibility to protect the fundamental democratic rights of Ontarians. 

I will stand up for fair and equal treatment under the constitution for all Ontarians -- and will not stand by while those rights are eroded."