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.