More op­po­si­tion at Whit­bourne meet­ing

Con­cerns ex­pressed over pro­posed Pla­cen­tia-St. Mary’s bound­aries

The Compass - - NEWS - Melissa.jenk­ins@tc.tc BY MELISSA JENK­INS

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.

PHO­TOS BY MELISSA JENK­INS/THE COMPASS

Judy Mor­row makes an in­for­ma­tive pre­sen­ta­tion at the New­found­land and labrador Elec­toral Dis­tricts Bound­aries Com­mis­sion public fo­rum in Whit­bourne

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