Fits and starts
Why would you start a process that has a deadline you can’t meet?
That’s the question we’re asking in the wake of Premier Paul Davis’ recent decision to reduce the number of seats in the House of Assembly. The initial proposal called for 10 seats to be eliminated, but government agreed late last week to change that number to eight. We don’t disagree with the principal of the idea. We have no argument that the electoral boundaries of this province need change, not just as a cost-saving measure but for geographic and social conformity.
To use two districts as an example: the MHA for Trinity North — finance minister Ross Wiseman — drives past Musgravetown and Lethbridge (about a 20minute drive from his home base in Clarenville) — chewing up more travel time to get to Port Rexton and other communities in Trinity Bight that are in his district.
If Bonavista South MHA Glenn Little is travelling the same day, he and Wiseman might pass each other going in opposite directions, as Little heads to Musgravetown and Lethbridge, which are in his district and an hourlong drive from his home base of Bonavista.
Of course not.
Both MHAs could spend less time driving if they could switch up these communities.
In our view, a bounda r y realignment could correct such idiosyncrasies throughout the province.
In terms of the number of constituents MHAs should represent, we agree they could probably handle a little more than 8,000-10,000. Given that they have district office staff to help handle the load, and that email, texting, video conferencing and social media offer efficiencies in communicating with the people they represent, a population base of up to 15,000 is not unrealistic.
So why the premier’s apparent rush to change up the whole thing before the next election, based on a number — eight seats — that appears to be based on theory rather than hard facts from Statistics Canada? Pure politics, is our theory. The NDP and Liberals have been preparing for the next election. The Liberals, in particular, have been gaining momentum in recent months with a handful of byelection wins, and with the nomination process over and done with, or about to be done, in most districts.
The day before Davis made his announcement, in fact, the Liberals — the real threat to the Tories — had just finished the nomination process in Fortune BayCape La Hune and had called for nominations for Liberal candidates in Trinity North.
And candidates have already lined up for the Liberal nominations for Bellevue and Bonavista South, and were even expecting a nomination date to be called within days.
The announcement by the Progressive Conservative premier effectively puts the Liberal’s preparations for the next election in limbo.
And if the electoral boundary changes do take place before the writ is dropped this fall, the Liberals and the NDP may have to redo some of the nomination work they’ve already done.
Al Hawkins, the Liberal candidate in Grand Falls, can start building support in Grand Falls-Windsor, for example, but can only wonder what doors he might have to knock on further afield if the boundaries are changed.
Hawkins will also have to wonder whether he will have to go through the nomination process once again, if the district in which he was nominated is changed to incorporate an area that has another Liberal candidate contender eager to jump into the political fray.
It may not get to that, but until the electoral boundaries are determined for the next election, neither the NDP nor the Liberals can move ahead on nomination calls.
Hence, the premier and his PC government may have killed the Liberals’ momentum, in particular.
Ninety days is just not long enough to complete an electoral boundaries review, redraw the map and do the necessary communications work to ensure voters know the districts they now live in.
We would suggest that Davis and his government know this, and don’t really intend to meet that deadline.
Our bet is that by mid-summer the PC government will have another announcement to let voters know that the plan to change electoral boundaries needs more time and, therefore, won’t be accomplished before the next election.
Slowing down the Liberals may have been the only aim all along.
So why the premier’s apparent rush to change up the whole thing before the next election, based on a number — eight seats — that appears to be based on theory rather than hard facts from Statistics