New federal constituency boundaries have been proposed for Saskatchewan. This is part of a redistribution which follows automatically based on the most recent census.
Early on in the process, there were widespread calls from academics, from media and from basically anyone with a lick of sense for the commission to move away from the gerrymandered "rurban" constituency model which saw the cities of Regina and Saskatoon split into four separate ridings with vast rural components.. The net effect of the old model was a massive electoral advantage to the Conservative Party. Indeed, Saskatchewan had the unique distinctions of a) being the only province where there was not a single all urban constituency and b) being the province where the Parliamentary representation was most at odds with the actual election results.
Overall, the commission has done some fairly good work. Saskatoon will consist of two all urban constituncies and one mixed riding with a small proportion of rural voters. Likewise Regina will have two virtually all urban ridings, but the third riding will have a larger proportion of rural voters than the rurban seat in Saskatoon. Indeed, the proposed new Regina - Qu'Appelle is virtually unchanged from the current version except for the addition of the Walsh Acres neighbourhood in Regina and a few minor tweaks in the rural boundary at the east end of the seat.
As mentioned, the changes to Regina - Qu'Appelle are very minor, much to the joy (no doubt) of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer. But the changes to Wascana are also very limited, principally in the loss of rural areas. Long time Liberal MP Ralph Goodale should be pleased - although he may decide not to run again in 2015 since he'll be collecting his Canada Pension and eligible for a very handsome Parliamentary pension as well. If Ralph (who wins despite being a Liberal, not because of it) were to retire, the seat would likely become a Conservative - NDP marginal with a slight edge to the Conservatives.
The principle change is the combination of the Regina parts of the former Palliser and Regina - Lumsden - Lake Centre seats into the all urban Regina - Lewvan. Notionally this seat would have gone NDP by a narrow margin in the 2011 election, and that despite the former RLLC having not been a priority riding. Former Palliser candidate Noah Evanchuk would be the obvious frontrunner for the NDP nomination here in what should be a highly winnable priority seat.
The only point that has been questioned in my hearing has been the choice to carve out the Walsh Acres neighbourhood from Regina - Lewvan to Regina - Qu'Appelle. Obviously this was to equalize the population numbers, but it does look a trifle odd. If Walsh Acres were to be put into Regina - Lewvan, obviously a comparably sized neightbourhood would have to go the other way.
I don't claim to know Saskatoon well enough to say much, though I'm told that there are some odd spots where the proposed boundaries slice through neighbourhoods. Notionally all of these are competitive seats for the NDP.
Most of the proposed rural boundaries seem sensible enough, with the exception of the west central region of the province. I don't see the sense of a pair of constituencies that run from the Alberta border to past Saskatoon. It would seem to me that splitting that area between east and west would make more sense. I don't have the detailed census data to suggest a precise line, but the following gives you the sense of what I'm suggesting.
The next stage is a series of public hearings. Here again, Saskatchewan proves unique in that all of the hearings are during business hours, which hardly encourages a broad response. The hearing schedule can be found here. Anyone wishing to speak at the hearing must inform the commission prior to September 3, 2012.
Ignoring my own self-interests, since I live in Walsh Acres and would rather be in Regina Lewvan than Regina Qu'appelle this is looking pretty good.
Not sure how this will play out in the end, but I am hoping that re-drawing the boundaries will improve the quality of our Saskatchewan MP's and our representation in Ottawa.
I work all over this province, and I don't think guys like Hoback or Lukiwski do a good job of speaking for the average person in either rural or urban Saskatchewan.
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