House down­siz­ing piques mayor’s cu­rios­ity

Spa­niard’s Bay split be­tween Har­bour Grace-Car­bon­ear, Port de Grave dis­tricts

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

For years, Wayne Smith has been of the opin­ion that Spa­niard’s Bay would be bet­ter off rep­re­sented by one MHA in the House of Assem­bly in­stead of two, as is cur­rently the case.

“When they de­cided to split us down the mid­dle, they ba­si­cally took our punch away from us as far as be­ing able to get our MHA to de­pend on us to get elected,” Smith re­cently told The Com­pass. “Now we’re sort of half in one dis­trict, half in the other dis­trict, and we re­ally don’t mean much as far as the vot­ing goes to the two MHAs.”

Based on head­lines Premier Paul Davis made last week about his de­sire to re­duce seats in the House of Assem­bly from 48 to 38, it ap­pears the town’s mayor might get his wish sooner than he an­tic­i­pated.

“I knew that it had to be done through leg­is­la­tion, but I wasn’t aware that the premier could fast track it as much as that,” Smith said last Fri­day, one day after Davis an­nounced his in­ten­tions.

About two-thirds of the town’s res­i­dents fall within the bound­aries set for Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive MHA Glenn Lit­tle­john’s dis­trict of Port de Grave. Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace MHA Sam Slade rep­re­sents the rest of them.

The New­found­land and Labrador Elec­toral Bound­aries Com­mis­sion es­tab­lished the cur­rent dis­trict bound­aries in 2006. The com­mis­sion was due to be re­con­vened next year to re­view those bound­aries.

How­ever, Davis has de­cided he wants the num­ber of seats avail­able in the House of Assem­bly re­duced be­fore the next provin­cial elec­tion is held later this year. He hopes to see that work looked after by the com­mis­sion in 90 days — lit­tle over onethird of how long it took to com­plete the same work in 2006.

“It’ll be an op­por­tu­nity for us to have our two cents worth in there and hope­fully get our bound­aries changed to ei­ther the Port de Grave dis­trict or the Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace dis­trict,” said Smith.

Spa­niard’s Bay is not the only com­mu­nity with two MHAs. In fact, Up­per Is­land Cove is in the same boat. While the vast majority of res­i­dents fall within the Port de Grave dis­trict, there were 40 regis­tered Up­per Is­land Cove vot­ers in Slade’s dis­trict as of last April.

Sim­i­lar size

When the 2006 re­port was pre­pared, the two dis­tricts were almost iden­ti­cal in size based on 2001 Cen­sus data. Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace had 12,051 res­i­dents, while Port de Grave had 12,015. The ideal dis­trict size at the time was con­sid­ered to be 11,024.

If only 38 seats are up for grabs in the next provin­cial elec­tion, that ideal size will in­crease sub­stan­tially. Work­ing with a 2011 Cen­sus pop­u­la­tion of 514,536 for New­found­land and Labrador, the new bench­mark would be 13,540. That rep­re­sents a 22 per cent in­crease.

Lit­tle­john, who won his dis­trict for the first time in the 2011 provin­cial elec­tion, ad­mits there are un­doubt­edly chal­lenges for the town hav­ing to work with MHAs in two dis­tricts.

“Ide­ally, my own per­sonal pref­er­ence would be to rep­re­sent all of a com­mu­nity,” he told The Com- pass last week. “It makes it that much eas­ier, and I’m sure Mayor Smith would agree that hav­ing one con­tact ... would make it eas­ier, but we all in this business deal with the cards that are dealt.”

Slade told The Com­pass he works closely with the Town of Spa­niard’s Bay and feels it’s a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship.

“I work very close with the coun­cils to make sure that things get done for those com­mu­ni­ties,” he said.

Common in­ter­ests

Lit­tle­john and Slade have not spo­ken much re­cently, but Lit­tle­john said there have been in­stances where they would chat about a common con­cern in­volv­ing their shared ter­ri­tory.

Lit­tle­john is com­fort­able with the idea of re­duc­ing the num­ber of seats in the House, though he ad­mits there’s some trep­i­da­tion about see­ing col­leagues lose their jobs, whether it be within gov­ern­ment or the op­po­si­tion par­ties.

“From a per­sonal point of view, I have no is­sue with re­duc­ing the num­ber of seats in the House of Assem­bly.”

Within the Con­cep­tion Bay North re­gion, ex­pand­ing bound­aries may be less of a con­cern than in other parts of the prov­ince, given com­mu­ni­ties are lo­cated rel­a­tively close to each other.

Smith cau­tions that the town’s po­si­tion is in no way meant to re­flect neg­a­tively on its re­la­tion­ship with Lit­tle­john or Slade. He also has no pref­er­ence be­tween the two dis­tricts.

“We’re get­ting co-op­er­a­tion from both of them, there’s no two ways about that. We ap­pre­ci­ate the work that Sam Slade is do­ing for us, and we cer­tainly ap­pre­ci­ate the work that Glenn Lit­tle­john is do­ing for us,” said the mayor. “But look­ing at it from our point of view, we’d have a much big­ger clout with one MHA in one dis­trict than we have with two MHAs in two dis­tricts.”

Glenn Lit­tle­john

Wayne Smith

Sam Slade

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