Friday, March 03, 2006

Ut incipit sic fidelis non permanet

What is Dalton McGuinty smoking?

Abolish the Senate, because it doesn't adequately reflect Ontario's population?

This is heresy. Of the first order. For two reasons.

First, the whole point of the Senate is that it doesn't reflect population, but rather regions. Twenty-four seats for Ontario, for Quebec, for the Atlantic, and for the West. Six for the Newfies, and one for each territory. It means, of course, the Atlantic is horrendously overrepresented in terms of population and Ontario, as McGuinty notes, is underrepresented.

Again, though, that's the point. The "rep by pop" thing is in the House. It mirrors, in a way, the US system, where California, population some 30 million, gets as many senators as Wyoming, population some 500,000 - i.e. one sixtieth of California (I can look out my office and probably look over more people than live in Wyoming).

Forget, though, that McGuinty is actually calling for two redundant houses (as he himself notes), which would be a complete nightmare. The second, more important point, is that McGuinty is suddenly buying in to the sort of politics of regional grievances that every other province (ahem, Quebec, Alberta, and Danny Williams' little flag spat) that Ontario always avoids.

I've always been proud of Ontario as the fixer of the federation, the Ontario that realizes, okay, it's the big brother of the country, and because of that exercises a little more responsibility than the upstart children that make up the other provinces. The Ontario that accepts it has to get less than its fare share, so that things work. Other legislatures might be treated by their premiers as provincial baronetcys, putting their own interests first, but Ontario would always remain above it.

Sure, this comes at some cost - a sort of Ontario hubris that thinks of Canada as nothing more than Toronto writ-large (We always hear about how "multicultural" Canada is - get 10km outside a city and it's pretty damn white).

But when McGuinty, in order to get votes, stirs up some sort of regional sense of grievance that hitherto has not existed in Ontario, you know things are bad in the federation. If McGuinty starts playing this 40% card at every meeting, we're going to have trouble.

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