New ter­ri­to­ries

The Compass - - OPINION - An­drew Robin­son is The Compass’ edi­tor. He can be reached at edi­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca.

An in­ter­est­ing thought for sure, but hav­ing the Port de Grave and Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace dis­tricts ex­ist as one is hard to fathom.

That was a sug­ges­tion put for­ward by for­mer MHA John Ef­ford, who rep­re­sented the for­mer dis­trict for years. He said this a few weeks back on CBC’s The St. John’s Morn­ing Show while dis­cussing the prov­ince’s plans to elim­i­nate seats in the House of As­sem­bly.

Ge­o­graph­i­cally, it’s not out­landish to pon­der hav­ing one MHA cover Vic­to­ria to Clarke’s Beach. Get­ting from one com­mu­nity to the other takes 30 min­utes by car. When you look at the ter­rain MHAs cover in dis­tricts like The Staits-White Bay North on the North­ern Penin­sula or Bonavista North, politi­cians in th­ese parts have it pretty good by com­par­i­son.

As it stands now, you’re prob­a­bly look­ing at ap­prox­i­mately 25,000 res­i­dents within those two dis­tricts. That’s a lot of hands to shake and doors to knock on, no doubt.

In the past, each dis­trict had to be no more or less than 10 per cent off from the ideal pop­u­la­tion — that’s some­where around 12,850 in a 40-seat house. Un­der the terms of leg­is­la­tion re­cently passed in the House of As­sem­bly, two dis­tricts will be ex­empt from that rule.

If Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace and Port de Grave be­comes one (per­haps it could be called Con­cep­tion Bay North), drama would no doubt un­fold. It doesn’t take much to sur­mise that res­i­dents in each for­mer dis­trict would not like the ar­range­ment.

Nom­i­na­tion bat­tles for Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive and Lib­eral can­di­dates would be pretty con­tentious, par­tic­u­lar among sup­port­ers for the lat­ter party. While Sam Slade is a sit­ting MHA, Port de Grave his­tor­i­cally has been a Lib­eral strong­hold. There was a lot of in­ter­est in the vote for last fall’s dis­trict nom­i­na­tion, claimed in the end by for­mer NTV jour­nal­ist Pam Par­sons. Res­i­dents there will prob­a­bly fight hard to get the nom­i­na­tion for one of their own.

Ef­ford cer­tainly un­der­stands the job of serv­ing as a ru­ral MHA in New­found­land and Labrador. His will­ing­ness to of­fer this sug­ges­tion is no doubt in­formed by his own past ex­pe­ri­ence.

That be­ing said, if a mega dis­trict such as this were to come into ex­is­tence, the higher ups might want to con­sider of­fer­ing some olive branches. To help man­age dis­trict af­fairs, an ad­di­tional staff per­son would prob­a­bly be nec­es­sary.

The re­view com­mis­sion will have 130 days to get the job done for lay­ing out how eight seats will be elim­i­nated in the house. If the job is not fin­ished within that pe­riod, then the next elec­tion will pro­ceed with 48 seats up for grabs.

If in­deed the com­mis­sion com­pletes its task, it’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see how the new bound­aries play out.

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