More opposition at Whitbourne meeting
Concerns expressed over proposed Placentia-St. Mary’s boundaries
It was a full house at the St. John the Baptist Anglican Church Hall in Whitbourne Wednesday, April 29, for the Newfoundland and Labrador Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission public consultation meeting.
The boundary that affected most of the 40-or-so people in the room was where the proposed Trinity-Carbonear and PlacentiaSt. Mary’s districts met.
Four communities – Cavendish, Whiteway, Green’s Harbour and Hopeall – were heavily represented at the meeting to show their support for presenters arguing against the boundaries. Those communities are being placed in the Placentia-St. Mary’s district.
Limiting seats and constituents
The current legislation says 13,550, plus or minus 10 per cent, should be the ideal number of residents in each of the 36 proposed districts. The commission can choose to go over or under, up to 25 per cent with cause, and two districts can exceed the 25 percent variation. All presenters weren’t convinced placing a limit on people in a district would be feasible for representation.
Trinity-Bay de Verde MHA Steve Crocker spoke about the ne- cessity for the region to stay intact.
“I feel strongly that the people from (Cavendish to Hopeall) would be better served with a higher quotient than they would being in a much, much larger geographical district,” he explained.
Whiteway Mayor Craig Whelan wants his town to remain in a Trinity Bay district, and not move to Placentia-St. Mary’s.
“Our history is here, our economic interests are shared. Our homes and our hearts and our harbours are in Trinity-Bay de Verde.”
Whelan fears the large proposed district of Placentia-St. Mary’s may hinder electors from going out to vote, especially if the names on the ballot aren’t from nearby.
“How can somebody vote for somebody they don’t know, or have never seen or met? By their looks? By their policy they speak of? By their party colours? Not the majority of people in this room today. They vote for the person first,” he explained.
Both men would like to see a Trinity Bay district starting around Bay de Verde and following the coastline to Bellevue. A lesson on parity Bay Roberts lawyer Judy Morrow, also past-president of the provincial Liberal party, suggested the system for determining boundaries was flawed.
“I believe tying the hands of this commission as to the number of seats was not appropriate to begin with,” Morrow said.
She believes the proposal is off by two or three seats outside the northeast Avalon, noting that can make a big difference for representation.
With a shift of younger people to larger municipalities, like Paradise and Conception Bay South, the rural areas of the province are aging. Morrow explained the average age of residents in Paradise in 2011 was 35. In Baie Verte it was 45. It is more likely the younger families have children under the voting age, but are still included in the census. This means the rural areas, with fewer young children, have more voters per capita than urban centres.
“I respectfully submit that the rural districts in this province under the proposed changes do not have parity and that other factors such as geography, community, history, community interests and minority representation were not adequately taken into account to ensure effective representation of all citizens of the province,” she stated. “One could argue that very point in and of itself violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
She referenced a Saskatchewan Supreme Court case, where boundaries were challenged after it was determined they violated the Charter. The court rejected population restrictions for districts in favour of “effective representation.” Resident weighs in David Prior of Whiteway would like to see the boundaries stay the same, so his town can stay with Trinity-Bay de Verde.
“We have… an MHA who has recently been elected... He went through a nomination process, he went through an election with flying colours and he’s been there for a few weeks, no doubt at some expense of his own and his family,” Prior said. “And what does the government do? Say goodbye, go find another job, have a nice day. That’s not democracy, that’s not the way to treat people… It’s not only a disgrace, but disrespectful.”
Commission chair Justice Robert Stack said all the comments and suggestions would be taken into consideration before making their decision in June.
Judy Morrow makes an informative presentation at the Newfoundland and labrador Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission public forum in Whitbourne