In the U.S., each state's representation in the House is determined by population counts during the decennial census. Our "one-man-one-vote" principle helps minimize malapportionment -- in other words, there is relatively little disparity between the power of voters in each state with respect to representation in the House.
The most overrepresented state in the U.S. as of this census is Rhode Island, whose two districts contain 528,000 residents each. The most underrepresented is Montana, whose single at-large district contains all of the state's 994,000 residents. Between these two extreme cases, most states are well-weighted, averaging somewhere in the vicinity of 700,000 people per district.
That's not how it works in Canada, though. Their system is badly malapportioned. It prevents some laggard provinces from losing representation -- no matter how much population they lose -- but it does not provide for automatic increases in representation for the provinces that gain. As a result, voters on Prince Edward Island (where the average riding or district has fewer than 35,000 people) are overrepresented by a factor of three or even four in comparison with voters in some British Columbia ridings (which have more than 100,000 people).
The National Post writes today that the Conservatives, newly armed with a majority of Parliament, will finally be able to go some distance toward righting this wrong -- and probably to their own political benefit, as their strongholds in the West are among the most badly underrepresented. The Post notes:
Before Parliament was dissolved for the May 2 election, there was a bill on the order paper that would have gone a long way to correcting this inequity. Under Bill C-12, 30 additional seats would have been added to the Commons, 18 in Ontario, seven in B.C. and five in Alberta. That still would not have been quite enough, but it would have gone a long way to restoring the principle of one-Canadian, one vote. Sadly, just before Christmas, the opposition parties signalled that they would no longer support this vital reform because Quebec objected to the way the bill would dilute that province’s disproportionate influence over federal affairs and the Tories permitted it to languish.
The Conservatives' parliamentary majority includes only six members from Quebec. That leaves them free to create a fairer system that is less ridiculously malapportioned.