The government says it needs to cut services. Does it make sense then to add 30 new MPs?

Ted Hsu
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First published in Kingston This Week and EMC, March, 2012

Recently the Conservative government rushed through a bill that will add 30 new MPs to the House of Commons. While claiming this was necessary to maintain the democratic goal of representation by population, they actually limited debate and denied many elected members of Parliament the right to speak.

The provinces were not allowed to weigh in, and no amendments were accepted that did not support the increased number of seats.

My issue is this: every new MP, with staff and overhead, will cost taxpayers about one million dollars a year. At a time when the government is eliminating the jobs of public servants – such as people working in veterans affairs, employment insurance services, or environmental science – and cutting services that Canadians count on, the government chooses to spend more money on MPs.

How will a government that currently limits debate and denies MPs the opportunity to speak on behalf of their constituents, accommodate 30 more MPs?

Canada is growing and populations have shifted regionally. The reorganization of ridings to provide the highest levels of representation is essential. But the number of MPs cannot keep expanding forever.

We already have a higher MP-to-population ratio than other democracies. No other country keeps adding politicians when its population increases.

We can have representation by population without increasing the number of MPs. My colleagues in Parliament have constructed a possible electoral map that is proportional and representative, and uses the existing number of ridings, 308 or fewer.

With the release of the latest census data, the government is proceeding to add the 30 new seats. While I do not know how this might affect the riding of Kingston and the Islands, I sincerely believe that the cost of adding more MPs every time we need to rebalance representation is unnecessary and unsustainable.