Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Bigger Piece of the PEI

I would like to bring your attention to the issues in our modern politics as represented by the province of Prince Edward Island. The island province is the smallest in Confederation, with under 150,000 residents. In fact the population of Prince Edward Island is roughly the same of the city of St. Catharines, Ontario. I’ve personally been to P.E.I. several times in my life. It is really quite an amazing place.

That being said, Prince Edward Islands represents a lot of the foibles in the Canadian political system. As I’ve mentioned in a previous posting the principle of any democracy is that each citizen gets one vote. Prince Edward Island has four Members of Parliament in the House of Commons. Each MP in PEI represents about 34,000 people. The national average is that each MP represents over 100,000. Therefore, right from the start voters in Prince Edward Island have three times the electoral voice over the national average. The province with the greatest disparity is Alberta. Alberta’s 28 MPs represent 3.7 million Canadians, which is over 133,000 per representative.

Each Member of Parliament is meant to represent Canadians, based on equal representation on a geographic basis. Clearly, not all Canadians are being represented equally. The next closest province to Prince Edward Island is Saskatchewan, which has about 70,000 Canadians per MP, double PEI’s. Four provinces, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, have over 100,000 people per MP. Fair and balanced, our system is not.

The Senate is even worse, believe it or not. Prince Edward Island has four senators, and so the ratio of senators to population is the same as the MPs. British Columbia, population of 4.5 million has 6 senators. Each British Columbian senator represents nearly 700,000 people! The Senate is rife with problems, but Prince Edward Island remains the outlier in this system again.

Since the end of World War II P.E.I. has been the 10th fastest growing province in Canada. It lags behind. It is an aging province. The population is getting older. A massive percentage of their provincial budget is spent on healthcare, and the province is highly reliant on federal transfers to maintain its quality of life.

It’s difficult to “fix” the “problem” of P.E.I. Mainly because not everyone will agree there is an issue here. Can we really allow this pattern to continue as Prince Edward Island continues to become more disproportionately powerful in comparison to its more massive peers. The key is simple political reform, however, I wonder if in the long term will it make sense for P.E.I. to remain a province on par with British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta?

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