Proposed electoral boundaries reveal Saskatchewan's population is shifting to cities

·2 min read
An interim report issued by the Saskatchewan Constituency Boundaries Commission proposes 59 of 61 borders be redrawn to ensure each riding contains the appropriate number of residents. (Matthew Howard/CBC - image credit)
An interim report issued by the Saskatchewan Constituency Boundaries Commission proposes 59 of 61 borders be redrawn to ensure each riding contains the appropriate number of residents. (Matthew Howard/CBC - image credit)

Saskatchewan's shifting population means the province's electoral ridings could be moving as well.

The province is required by law to reassess voting boundaries every 10 years. The idea is to ensure each riding has a population of approximately 14,306, plus or minus five per cent.

An interim report issued by the Saskatchewan Constituency Boundaries Commission proposes 59 of those 61 borders be redrawn to ensure each riding contains the appropriate number of residents (the two northern ridings, Athabasca and Cumberland, are fixed by legislation and thus not considered).

The commission, whose membership includes chair Donald Layh, a Court of Queen's Bench justice and representatives from the Saskatchewan Party and the NDP, is required to look at certain criteria when writing recommendations.

Saskatchewan Constituency Boundaries Commission
Saskatchewan Constituency Boundaries Commission

"The commission is guided in its work by the principle that every vote should bear an equal value to the extent practical, subject to those variations considered necessary because of sparsity, density, or relative rates of growth; accessibility, size, shape, or physical features of regions; or special community or diversities of interest, as permitted by the governing legislation," reads the interim report, which was released Wednesday.

Population shift part of equation

Relative rates of growth appear to be driving much of the changes.

Of the 59 constituencies analyzed, 2021 census data shows the only ridings that have grown include cities in their borders. One Regina riding has grown 69 per cent above the 14,306 benchmark.

There are 45 ridings whose population has dropped below the target, some by as much as 15 per cent.

One area of significant growth is the riding of Warman-Martensville, which is now 29 per cent above the benchmark population. They are the fastest- and second fastest-growing cities in Saskatchewan, according to the latest census data.

The commission has recommended Warman become a stand-alone urban riding, while creating a new Martensville-Blairmore constituency.

Warman Mayor Gary Philipchuk was not surprised by the recommendation, as both cities have grown to more than 10,000 residents, making change all but inevitable.

"We're the only place in the province that has two cities within its boundaries for an MLA to represent. So two fast-growing cities really need their own representation."

Saskatchewan Constituency Boundaries Commission
Saskatchewan Constituency Boundaries Commission

He believes having different representatives is appropriate, as Warman and Martensville often compete for funding and services.

Regina and Saskatoon will maintain the same number of ridings, though some names and borders will change.

Maps outlining the proposed changes show Regina-Wascana Plains and Saskatoon-Stonebridge Dakota would be redrawn to create urban-only ridings, while several rural constituencies would see their borders expand.

The commission will hold nine public hearings, including one virtual session, in September to allow residents to give feedback. Written submissions will also be accepted.

The final report must be submitted to the province by the end of October.

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