By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 0 Comments
Political science professors at the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina have written an open letter to defend the riding boundaries proposed by the Saskatchewan boundaries commission and respond to the dissenting report of David Marit.
We feel that arguments made in the dissenting report by Commissioner Marrit are not compelling enough to overturn the will of the majority on the Commission. He claims that the number of MPs representing Saskatoon and Regina will be reduced from eight to five. Yet, this argument ignores the realities on the ground. Marrit does not take seriously that eight MPs currently representing Saskatoon and Regina are forced to split their time and attention between the rural and urban portions of their ridings. A better way to look at the new situation, we assert, is that Saskatoon and Regina gain five MPs solely devoted to their interests and rural areas now have more MPs entirely devoted to their interests.
Marrit also states that 75% of the people who contacted the commission were against the proposed changes. However, the other commissioners note that most of that 75% came in the form of pre-formatted postcards sent in at the behest of local MPs who wanted to maintain existing boundaries.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 10:18 AM - 0 Comments
Alice Funke offers a guide to riding boundary process and some interesting background on the current fuss around Saskatchewan.
Far from the earshot or awareness of Ottawa, the last highlighted sentence set off a prairie firestorm, because of what it meant. To local Conservative Party activists in Saskatchewan it meant that party headquarters had dropped the ball on the pre-submission phase, and that from that point forward they would be fighting a rear-guard action. Fingers were pointed during a behind-closed-doors meeting for over an hour, with Ottawa bearing the brunt of the blame and resentment. Party Operations Director Jenni Byrne is said to have demanded in return that she wanted to see 8,000 submissions in the public hearing phase against the ending of the rurban seat boundaries.
… The Prime Minister asserted yesterday that 75% of interventions in the public hearing phase had opposed the rurban boundaries, but CBC Saskatchewan reporter Stefani Langenegger questioned on Twitter after her interview with Justice Mills whether those numbers were a bit of a stretch. They certainly didn’t include any of the pre-submissions from the first round of public input. The Prime Minister and party robo-calls also claimed that the old rurban boundaries represented the history and traditions of Saskatchewan representation. This is a little ironic, as when the 1966 redistribution (the first conducted under the newly independent EBRA) recommended two rurban seats each in Regina and Saskatoon, then-Conservative leader John Diefenbaker complained that they did not follow the “historical” precedent until 1966 of all-urban Regina and Saskatoon seats, proving that where you stand depends so often on where you sit.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:30 PM - 0 Comments
Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski says Conservative party director of operations Jenni Byrne is responsible for the “deceptive” robocalls in Saskatchewan. Meanwhile, Leslie MacKinnon goes through the boundary commission’s report to check the public backlash that the Conservatives say they’re representing.
The Saskatchewan commission, in its final report issued in December, noted that it heard 230 public submissions, far more than it had expected, and found that “a majority opposed the proposal.” However, it said, a “significant minority supported it,” without giving any figures. The commission also reported it had been sent 3,000 emails, including many identical postcards and petitions. It concluded, “Clearly, a large number of contacts were inspired by the encouragement of members of Parliament opposed to the abolition of rural-urban hybrid districts.”
The report went on to say, “The Commission has little doubt that the general public accepts the new electoral districts,” without giving any reasons why it believed this to be true. However, it said, it had ignored contacts it considered were attempting to gain political advantage for any party.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 6:16 PM - 0 Comments
The NDP leader had asked a straightforward question and the Prime Minister had not quite responded with a straightforward answer and so now Thomas Mulcair, the NDP leader forced to gesture demonstratively this day with only his left arm on account of a fall on his right arm this morning, leaned forward and stared down the Prime Minister.
“Mr. Speaker, Canadians deserve a straight answer,” he ventured. “Did the Prime Minister know his party was behind these fraudulent calls, yes or no?
The New Democrats applauded their man’s strict advisement of the options.
“The independence of the Canadian Electoral Boundaries Commission is fundamental to our democracy,” Mr. Mulcair continued. “Conservatives paid for fraudulent robocalls using a fake company name to misinform voters and manipulate an important part of our democratic system. Worse yet, Conservative Party officials lied to Canadians to try to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Who will the Prime Minister hold accountable for this fraud?”
Alas, Mr. Harper was unimpressed with Mr. Mulcair’s presentation. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 1:20 PM - 0 Comments
Back in August, Brent Rathgeber explained why he wasn’t going to be commenting on the riding boundary review process.
I have publically stated that it is inappropriate for Members of Parliament to actively lobby for or against a particular electoral map or configuration. This has both an ethical and a practical aspect. Ethically, I believe that MPs, who intend to run again, are in a complete conflict of interest when lobbying for or against a certain boundary configuration and therefore ought to recuse themselves from a conflict, real or perceived. If I were to make a submission to the Boundary Commission, which if accepted, assisted in a narrow electoral victory, certainly allegations of gerrymander would follow thereafter.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 3:55 PM - 0 Comments
Four days after denying any involvement with phone calls made to Saskatchewan residents about changes to riding boundaries in the province, the Conservative party admits it was responsible for the calls. Here is the statement from party spokesman Fred DeLorey.
In regards to the calls last week that went into Saskatchewan concerning redistribution, the calls came from the Conservative Party. There was an internal miscommunication on the matter, and the calls should have been identified as coming from the Conservative Party.
As I said in the past, we are not polling on this issue, we already know where people stand – 75% of people who attended the public hearings and submitted written submissions opposed these drastic changes to the boundaries. But we are doing a host of things to communicate with voters and get their feedback.
Not only were these changes opposed by 75% of the public, but an actual member of the commission also opposed these changes, which led to an unprecedented Dissenting Report by the boundary commission.
We agree with the Dissenting Report of Commissioner David Marit on the basis that:
—These drastic changes were opposed by 75% of the public who presented at the Commission’s public hearings;
—There will be fewer MPs representing urban areas than under the previous maps, a fact pointed out by the residents, city-councillors, and business leaders in Regina and Saskatoon;
—Because of population growth, the next boundary commission will have to change the ridings back to rural-urban blends; and
Rural Saskatchewan plays a vital role in supporting the urban population centres and it only makes sense to have MPs that represent both rural and urban areas to reflect that important characteristic of the province.
Colby Cosh covered the dispute within the boundary commission last week. As I noted a few weeks ago, the new boundaries theoretically turn a province with 13 Conservatives and one Liberal into a province with 11 Conservatives, two New Democrats and one Liberal.
And as I noted shortly after the last election, the popular vote result in Saskatchewan is a glaring example of first-past-the-post failing to reflect the province-wide will of voters. Here again are those numbers from the 2011 election.
Conservatives 256,004 votes (13 seats)
NDP 147,084 votes (0 seats)
Liberals 38,981 votes (1 seat)
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 10:07 AM - 0 Comments
Mitch Wexler at PollMaps.ca has applied 2011′s election results to the proposed new riding maps. The Conservatives gain 25 seats, the NDP pick up eight seats and the Liberals somehow manage to lose two seats.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, August 30, 2012 at 12:13 PM - 0 Comments
Chris Tindal figures the NDP are in a good position to win the new Toronto Centre.
In 2011, that half of the riding favoured the NDP candidate over the Liberal by 3%. Add in the votes from the section of Trinity-Spadina that’s to move over and the NDP margin increases to 5%, or 1,700 votes. That may not sound like an orange nail in the red coffin, but keep in mind the NDP earned that much support in the current Toronto Centre without any reasonable prospect of winning. With these improved odds will come a more high-profile candidate, more motivated voters and volunteers, and increased money. Liberals, on the other hand, will have moved their money, volunteers and best candidate north to the new riding of Mount Pleasant.
And Tindal figures the Liberals could be threatened by the Conservatives in Mount Pleasant.
See previously: Another one for the Conservatives?
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 27, 2012 at 2:47 PM - 0 Comments
The proposed riding boundaries for Ontario have been released. Most of the new ridings would be created in and around Toronto: one in Oakville, two in Brampton, one in Mississauga, two in Markham and two in the city of Toronto itself. There is also plenty of smaller adjustments.
The reasons for the proposed changes are offered here.