Saskatchewan electoral boundaries redrawn

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Saskatchewan federal electoral boundaries commission - 2BNew boundaries reflect the changing province

 

Article: Alec Salloum – Contributor

Saskatchewan Electoral Boundaries have been redrawn and adjusted as of Aug. 21 in response to the 2011 Census and correlating population changes.  This standard practice, carried out by Elections Canada, has been met with contention by the Conservative Party as the redrawn borders now include urban-only ridings, which may result in fewer Tory MP’s.

As it currently stands, 13 of Saskatchewan’s 14 MPs are conservative as of the 2011 Federal Election. This overwhelming win can be contributed to the electoral boundaries at the time, specifically the hybrid riding system.  The hybrid ridings combine urban and rural populations, combining the votes of these distinct population bases to determine the victorious candidate.  The obvious problem with this system is that the interests of rural and urban voters are fundamentally different.  Dr. Lee Ward, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Campion College, gave context for the hybrid ridings and their current failings.

“Nowhere else in Canada were these kinds of ridings common practice; Saskatchewan[is] unique. This came from a thinking in the 1960s that Saskatchewan is an agricultural province, therefore every single MP should have a rural area in his or her riding… the obvious problem with that, is things change.”

That change is the growth of population in Regina and Saskatoon over the past few decades. This has resulted in “the urban vote in these larger hybrid ridings actually being diluted,” says Ward.

A testament to this claim would be the 2008 and 2011 results from the riding of Saskatoon – Rosetown – Biggar, where conservative MP Kelly Block won by as few as 300 votes.  These 300 votes came largely from rural voters across the nearly eleven thousand square kilometers district.  This issue has been addressed by adding entirely urban ridings to Regina and Saskatoon, in a bid to more accurately represent the voting results.  Considering that in the last Federal Election the NDP received 32% of the vote, but they received no representation in the House of Commons.

This outcome is particularly disproportionate when considering in the past general election the only other party with elected MLAs were the NDP, garnering 9 out of 58 seats.  This result, as well as with receiving the second most votes in the past Federal Election, clearly demonstrate the large NDP support in Saskatchewan that has been marginalized at the national level.

The district of Regina – Qu’Appelle still remains largely hybrid. It’s important to note this is Andrew Scheer’s constituency, the Speaker of the House.  Scheer’s duties include tabling documents from Elections Canada, the body that drafted the new boundaries, so it’s not surprising no change occurred there. However, the new district of Regina-Lewvan should prove to be a close and competitive race, as should all the new urban ridings.

Ultimately, this redistribution is long overdue, as the hybrid districts have proved ineffective and inaccurate in representing its voters.  Unfortunately, the redistribution of electoral boundaries is often brushed under the rug as boring political jargon.

When asked why Saskatchewanians should care and pay attention, Ward said, “It has to do with the vote, not simply a policy matter, this gets to the fundamentals of democracy – whether people vote counts.”

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