The state of democracy in Canada was on the menu last week when Conservative MP Tim Uppal spoke at a Ladner Rotary Club lunch meeting.
Uppal, who is currently serving his second term representing EdmontonSherwood Park, is the minister of state for democratic reform.
He has been touring the country during the summer break from the House of Commons speaking to residents about how democracy works in Canada and how it can be improved. A Rotary Club member himself, Uppal said he has been trying to schedule his sessions with local clubs when it works with his scheduled stops.
Uppal touched on some of the things the government has already been working on before taking questions and comments from the audience.
"It's about making sure your voice influences the decisions of the government," he said, adding that Canada has a history of democratic reform.
"But our work is never done, we should never become complacent."
Uppal said that with increasing populations in some areas, provinces such as B.C., Alberta and Ontario are becoming significantly underrepresented in Ottawa. In response, last year he introduced new legislation to update the formula used to allocate House of Commons seats. Under that new formula, B.C. and Alberta will receive six additional seats each, while Ontario gains 15 new MPs.
Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington questioned Uppal on the need to keep increasing the size of the House of Commons.
"It's just going to be ridiculous at some point," she said, asking if any thought had been given to increasing the amount of staff for each MP instead.
Uppal said the constitution guarantees a minimum number of seats for each province and the only way to really ensure adequate representation for all is to add MPs.
Also last year, he said, the government introduced the Senate Reform Act, which allows for a process for provinces to elect senators and limits them to one nine-year term.
Currently, senators are appointed and can serve starting at age 30 until age 75.
So far, Alberta is the only province sending elected senators to Ottawa however, New Brunswick has made a commitment to hold senator elections in the future, he said.
"It's important that the senate is refreshed with new ideas," he said.
Rotary member Guillermo Bustos asked Uppal about proportional representation and said that the current electoral system - first past the post - does not truly represent how Canadians vote.
"Canadians will vote for a party but not have representation," he said.
The minister said that the government explored different options but found that the majority of residents support the current system.
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