'Shared circumstances' and the proposed changes to Sask.'s federal electoral districts

·4 min read
Multiple houses are shown under construction in the east end of Regina, Sask., on April 21, 2022.  (Cory Herperger/CBC - image credit)
Multiple houses are shown under construction in the east end of Regina, Sask., on April 21, 2022. (Cory Herperger/CBC - image credit)

Saskatchewan will be getting a new federal electoral map — it's just a question of what the end result will look like.

Earlier this week, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Saskatchewan released a map of its proposed changes to the 14 electoral districts in the province.

The proposals are being welcomed by Ken Coates, a professor and Canada Research Chair with the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.

"I think they've done a very, very good job with a very difficult assignment. They've kept it non-partisan. They've kept it non-political and it does represent a diverse province that is actually changing," Coates said.

The process of electoral district redistribution plays out every 10 years, with Canada's Constitution requiring the districts to be reviewed after each decennial census.

Justice Georgina Jackson, the chair of the commission, told CBC News it's an important part of the democractic process.

"It's about effective representation, good representation, good government and and a re-analysis every 10 years to make sure that that we have the best system possible," she said.

CBC
CBC

The process is supposed to make sure districts reflect changes in the Canadian population.

Coates said the proposed map doesn't favour one party over another and reflects an understanding that the people in the proposed districts have "shared circumstances."

"I think it actually reflects well on the country as a whole that we can have these kinds of very dramatic political changes without it being very controversial as well," Coates said.

CBC
CBC

The review isn't over yet. The commission still requires input from the province's people.

The commission will hold a series of hearings across the province throughout June and July looking for feedback.

Here's what the proposed changes look like:

Saskatoon

CBC
CBC

Saskatoon currently has three federal electoral districts: Saskatoon West, Saskatoon-University and Saskatoon Grasswood.

Under the proposed map, Saskatoon would see some modifications due to the growth of the city.

One of the more significant changes is the creation of a core urban electoral district known as Saskatoon Centre.

Coates said that although some people might think this proposed riding would result in a favourable outcome for the NDP, he believes it is once again about common interest and shared circumstances.

The proposed riding would include expensive high-end condos as well as a modernized downtown core.

"They are sharing very similar central city concerns about, you know, maybe homelessness and high rise accommodations and services downtown," Coates said.

CBC
CBC

One of the reconfigured districts would see the communities of Warman, Martensville and Humboldt join with a section of northern Saskatoon to form a district known as Saskatoon Wanuskewin.

Once again this reflects a district with shared circumstances. The riding takes a part of northern Saskatoon that is not densely populated and unifies it with communities that now have a commuting lifestyle as a result of urban sprawl, Coates said.

The boundaries of Saskatoon-Grasswood would shift dramatically as a result, while Saskatoon University would stay similar to what it is currently.

Indigenous representation and northern Sask.

The proposed changes for the riding of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River also deserve attention, Coates said.

The commission is cutting away some of the non-Aboriginal, agricultural areas currently attached to the district.

That means in the future its more likely that the representative chosen by people in the area will reflect a collective choice of the Indigenous people who live there.

"I think you'll actually get more Northern Indigenous involvement in the campaign as a consequence, because it will be seen as an Indigenous-Metis-Dene riding, rather than as a much more complicated riding that has some very interesting dynamics within it," Coates said.

Regina

The proposal slightly modifies Regina's electoral districts to comply with the electoral quota.

Jackson said that if the riding of Regina-Lewvan kept its current borders, its population will have grown by 21.7 per cent since the last census.

CBC
CBC

That means that without modification the representative for Regina-Lewvan would be representing nearly 100,000 people, or 30,000 more than the district of Souris-Moose Mountain.

It would mean one district's vote is more heavily weighted than another district.

"That's the type of reflection that takes place through the electoral boundaries process," Jackson said.

CBC
CBC

If adopted, the new map would be used in the first federal election that occurs at least seven months after the final maps are adopted. Elections Canada has said it doesn't expect the new map to come into effect until at least April 1, 2024.

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