House downsizing piques mayor’s curiosity
Spaniard’s Bay split between Harbour Grace-Carbonear, Port de Grave districts
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.
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.
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.”