Toronto Star

Conservati­ves say Liberals won’t ‘play fairly’

Party casts doubt on task’s neutrality

- STEPHANIE LEVITZ

The Conservati­ve party is preparing to go to war over the allocation of seats in the House of Commons.

The party is casting doubt on the political neutrality of seat redistribu­tion and putting together a team devoted to scrutinizi­ng every step of the process that will rejig electoral boundaries over the next few years, the Star has learned.

In a letter to party members, executive director Janet Fryday Dorey raises concerns that the Liberals will seek to improve their own electoral prospects with riding boundary changes.

She points out the Speaker of the House of Commons, a Liberal, helps set up the provincial commission­s to draw the new lines, and says the party has no confidence the Liberal government won’t intervene to benefit their own electoral chances.

The Liberal government’s record of ethical violations means they can’t be trusted, reads the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Star.

“I don’t trust them to play fairly when it comes to redistribu­ting the seats in Parliament,” Fryday Dorey said.

The party asks members to help raise $150,000 to fight “tooth and nail” for fair boundaries, which she calls a battle that might be “even more important” than preparing for the next election. The letter says the money will fund Canadians who want to speak out against boundaries that don’t benefit their communitie­s, supporting the work of MPs who want to do the same, and fight “if and when the Liberals try to interfere in the process to give themselves an unfair advantage, like they always do.”

The number of House of Commons seats is recalculat­ed after each 10-year census to ensure the makeup of MPs reflects current provincial demographi­cs.

The process involves determinin­g how many seats ought to be in the House of Commons, and then where all the riding boundaries should be drawn.

The number of seats is set by a constituti­onally-entrenched formula, and earlier this fall, the chief electoral officer said based on the last census, the seats count should rise to 342 from 338. Ontario, B.C. and Alberta are set to receive additional seats and Quebec loses one.

That’s already set up the issue for a political fight — the Bloc Québécois and provincial Quebec government, furious that their status in the Commons could be diminished.

While the recommenda­tion is based on a constituti­onally-entrenched formula and census data, there is legislativ­e wiggle room to change the formula without amending the Constituti­on itself — the Conservati­ves did so in 2011 when they were in power.

Liberal party spokespers­on Matteo Rossi blasted the Tories for inferring political interferen­ce. “This is another example of Mr. O’Toole and the Conservati­ve party doubling down on divisive politics instead of offering a positive plan to build a better and fairer future for Canadians,” he said in an email.

The provincial commission­s overseeing riding changes have a chair — a judge appointed by the chief justice of the province — and two other members appointed by the Speaker.

The commission­s consult with the public, MPs, and their determinat­ions are also reviewed by a House of Commons committee.

Some of the same allegation­s the Conservati­ves have today were thrown their way when they were last in power and the seats readjusted.

Issues in 2011 ranged from ridings drawn in such a way that urban/rural splits favoured the Conservati­ves to accusation­s the legislatio­n the Tories introduced to adjust the seat count was unnecessar­y. That bill followed political promises by the Conservati­ves to give more populous provinces more seats, while also pledging that Quebec — which is overrepres­ented by population — wouldn’t lose any seats, and in fact actually gained three of them.

A spokespers­on for the Conservati­ves did not answer a question Tuesday about whether the party will go to bat for Quebec this time around.

The new electoral map is expected to be completed in 2023 but wouldn’t come into effect until after Parliament is dissolved.

 ?? PETERBOROU­GH EXAMINER FILE PHOTO ?? Federal election riding boundary changes will be completed in 2023, but won’t come into effect until Parliament is dissolved.
PETERBOROU­GH EXAMINER FILE PHOTO Federal election riding boundary changes will be completed in 2023, but won’t come into effect until Parliament is dissolved.

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