OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Senate reform plan will sabotage the interests of booming B.C. and Alberta and give a boost to Canada’s have-not regions, according to a new study by an Atlantic Canada-based think-tank.

The two western Canadian powerhouses, exploiting soaring world demand for natural resources, are leading the country in economic growth and will be a powerful magnet drawing immigrants and workers from elsewhere in Canada, according to the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

That power is already translating into political might, although Harper’s Senate plan could hurt the West’s advances because it is “chiefly in the interests of smaller provinces, not larger ones,” and will give extra power “not to the New West but the Old East — the declining power base of the Liberal party,” writes AIMS president Brian Lee Crowley.

The idea of a Triple E Senate — giving all 10 provinces equal representation in an elected and effective upper chamber — was born out of a frustrated Alberta a quarter-century ago when the Liberals imposed the hated National Energy Program on Western Canada.

Now the West, with growing clout in the House of Commons and an Albertan in the prime minister’s office, no longer needs it, Crowley argues.

“Senate reform is a second-best strategy for people who think they can’t win political power,” he wrote in an AIMS policy paper released this month.

Harper has promised to establish a federal election mechanism to fill vacancies in the 105-seat chamber, perhaps soon enough to coincide with the next federal election.

He also said during the election campaign he would propose to provincial governments more fundamental Senate reforms that would require support from at least seven provinces representing half Canada’s population.

The Harper changes would make the Senate, which already has legislative powers almost equal to the House of Commons, an “effective, independent and democratically elected body that equitably represents all regions.”

B.C. and Alberta, which combined have 23 per cent of Canada’s population, now have only a dozen of the 105 seats in the patronage appointee-laden upper chamber.

The four Atlantic provinces, with seven per cent of the population, have 30 seats.

Crowley said an equal Senate would be bad enough, in that it would give Canada’s have-not provinces control of the chamber at the expense of Ontario, B.C. and Alberta.

But he said the western provinces would be hurt even more if Harper starts appointing elected senators, giving democratic legitimacy to a powerful institution where poor provinces have a massively disproportionate influence.

“I think that’s a recipe for disaster,” he said.

While Alberta Premier Ralph Klein supports Senate reform, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell has been silent on the issue and could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

A political economist, Crowley was a member of the Nova Scotia delegation that helped negotiate the failed 1992 Charlottetown constitutional accord.

He said in an interview this week that B.C. has long understood that Senate reform isn’t in the West Coast’s interests, and that it is only Alberta that continues to push the agenda.

“I was face-to-face with the B.C. representatives for months as part of the [Charlottetown] discussion, and it was very clear that B.C. saw itself as a big province and therefore not one to see its power diluted by a Senate that would give equal representation to P.E.I. and Ontario,”

He said former premier Mike Harcourt’s NDP government agreed to the Charlottetown plan for an equal Senate, with diluted powers, with “a terrific lack of enthusiasm.”

“There was really no sympathy for this idea, and they were dragged into it kicking and screaming.”

To read Brian Lee Crowley’s column, click here.