Friday, May 11, 2007

On unintended consequences

In and of itself, the Cons' proposal to increase the number of Ontario, B.C. and Alberta seats in the House of Commons looks to act as little more than an ineffective temporary diversion: a readjustment was set to take place around the same time anyway, and the likely anger from provinces which will receive proportionally less seats figures more than outweigh the gratitude of the provinces which will receive more.

But it's worth noting that while the plan may have little practical impact on the federal political scene, it may have a far greater effect in helping one of the Cons' least-desired democratic reforms to take root in Ontario.

After all, one of the most immediate criticisms of Ontario's proposed MMP system - and likely one of the most effective from a sheer populist perspective - has been the complaint that the province doesn't need more politicians.

But at last notice, the provincial Cons figured to be the primary opponents of the MMP plan. And it'll be awfully tough for Tory and company to make use of that argument when their federal cousins - led by some of the most prominent figures in the last provincial Con government - are actively increasing the number of legislators on the federal scene. Which means that the Ontario discussion figures to spend substantially more time on much more favourable territory for the "Yes" side.

In the end, Harper's most significant contribution to real democratic reform may be in the last way his party would have expected - or wanted - to influence how Canadians choose their leaders. And with any luck, a successful Ontario move toward more proportional voting will only be the beginning of a national trend.

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