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Constituencies

The 308 Members of the House of Commons are elected by popular vote to represent the Canadian people. For this purpose, the country is divided into electoral districts, also known as ridings or constituencies, and each is entitled to one seat in the House of Commons. The composition of the House of Commons has grown considerably since 1867.

At the time of Confederation, the Fathers of Confederation adopted the principle of representation by population. Representation was based on Quebec having the same number of seats that it had in the Legislature of the Province of Canada; the other provinces were granted representation in proportion to that number. At the opening of the first Parliament, 181 Members sat in the House of Commons, representing the following provinces: 82 for Ontario, 65 for Quebec, 19 for Nova Scotia and 15 for New Brunswick. As provinces and territories joined Canada and the country's population distribution evolved, Parliament amended the formula for calculating the number of seats on numerous occasions.

In the early years of Confederation, boundary lines were drawn by the government, and they were usually set in order to maximize the electoral success of the governing party. Today, following each decennial census, the number of seats to be apportioned among the provinces is decided on the basis of population. The boundaries of each electoral district are then determined by provincial electoral boundaries commissions appointed in each province. This ensures that the drawing of electoral boundaries is in the hands of non-partisan bodies.

There are currently 308 Members from 10 provinces and 3 territories: 36 for British Columbia, 28 for Alberta, 14 for Saskatchewan, 14 for Manitoba, 106 for Ontario, 75 for Quebec, 10 for New Brunswick, 11 for Nova Scotia, 4 for Prince Edward Island, 7 for Newfoundland and Labrador, and 1 each for Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

Members sit in the House of Commons to serve as representatives of their constituents who have elected them to that office. They have wide ranging daily responsibilities that include activities in the Chamber, committees and their constituencies. Members of Parliament act as ombudsmen by providing information to constituents and by resolving problems.

A Member of Parliament can have more than one constituency office, especially if the Member's riding is large or densely populated.

Constituency offices help citizens with various government application forms such as social insurance numbers and passport applications. Canadians often turn to the constituency office with questions about, among other things, income tax, the Canadian Pension Plan, Old Age Security benefits, Employment Insurance and various immigration and citizenship issues. The constituency office provides assistance in dealing with the federal government and provides information about federal government legislation, programs and services. Canadians can also request celebratory greetings or certificates of achievement, or they can invite the Member of Parliament to a community event through the constituency office.

Canadians can visit the constituency office in person, or they can call, email or send regular mail. To contact their Member of Parliament, constituents can log on to the Parliament of Canada Web site at www.parl.gc.ca. There, they can type their postal code to access the contact information for their Member of Parliament's parliamentary and constituency offices.

 

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