Fits and starts

The Compass - - OPINION - Bar­bara Dean-Sim­mons is a re­gional ed­i­tor for TC Me­dia based in Clarenville.

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.

Make sense?

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


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