"The right to vote and the right to be a candidate for election to
the House of Commons are necessary but not sufficient conditions to ensure that
the electoral law promotes both the equality of the vote and effective
representation. How we assign Commons seats to provinces and territories and
draw the constituency boundaries within provinces can also affect the degree to
which we realize these three objectives" (Reforming Electoral Democracy, Report of the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing,
1991, Vol. 1, p. 123).
Several principles underlie Canada’s system of parliamentary
representation. The first of these is territorial representation, meaning that
each elector is represented in the House of Commons on the basis of a
geographical division, called the electoral district or constituency or riding.
On a country-wide basis and within each constituency, the democratic goal of the
electoral system is embodied in the principle of "one elector – one vote," which
is set out in the Canada Elections Act. The application of this
principle was clarified in a 1991 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, which
held that the true meaning of the right to vote is not absolute equality of
voting power but a right of effective representation. It is on these principles
that electoral districts are drawn.
This publication has been
prepared to shed some light on two fundamental but little-known aspects of the
federal electoral system, namely:
the principle of representation in the House of Commons, in other
words, how the seats in the House of Commons are divided among the ten provinces
and three territories;
how the electoral district boundaries are determined and
periodically readjusted to reflect changing representation in the House of
Commons and population movements from one region to another, as well as within
This is not a comprehensive account of these topics, but rather an
overview, which, it is hoped, will serve to stimulate further interest in, and
study of, Canada’s electoral system.
The simple act of marking a ballot determines who will represent us in the House of Commons.
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