I write in response to your call for preliminary comments on Saskatchewan’s electoral boundaries. I am a Regina-based lawyer and writer commenting solely in my personal capacity.
While I will leave to others the task of proposing new boundaries, I will discuss briefly the disconnect between Saskatchewan voter preferences and representation under the current riding boundaries.
Over the course of the four federal elections conducted under the current boundaries, Saskatchewan has seen a more glaring gap between party preferences and the resulting representation in the House of Commons than any other Canadian province:
- In 2004, the Conservative Party won 93% of Saskatchewan’s seats with 42% of the province’s votes. This was the widest gap in Canada in any of the past four elections.
- In 2006, the Conservative Party won 86% of Saskatchewan’s seats with 49% of the province’s votes. This was the second-widest gap in the country behind only the Liberals’ sweep of Prince Edward Island’s four seats with 52.5% of that province’s votes.
- In 2008, the Conservative Party won 93% of Saskatchewan’s seats with 54% of the province’s vote. This was the widest gap in Canada.
- Finally in 2011, the Conservative Party won 93% of Saskatchewan’s seats with 56% of the vote. Once again, this was the largest gap in Canada.
Moreover, the distortions in every other province at least fluctuated over the course of four elections which saw a wide variety of outcomes, as only Prince Edward Island placed among the top two distorted outcomes more than once in the past four elections (and not since 2006). In contrast, Saskatchewan’s gap between seat distributions and vote distributions ranked as worst or second-worst of any Canadian province in all four elections.
As a result, there would be a compelling need to revisit the “rurban” riding structure as it stands even if there had been no other changes in the meantime. Over the past decade, the current boundaries have benefitted the Conservative Party. However, it is entirely plausible that a relatively small shift in voter preferences among relatively uniform groups of voters (urban or suburban) could create a similar distortion in the opposite direction.
Meanwhile, the preservation of a “rurban” riding structure is becoming less justifiable with time as Saskatchewan as a whole becomes more urbanized. Unlike in previous redistribution cycles, there is now an ample population base in each of Saskatoon alone and the Regina-Moose Jaw urban corridor to justify the allocation of three seats apiece to these areas, while ensuring focused representation for rural areas through constituencies centered on their differing needs and interests.
I thank you for your consideration and your participation in the boundary review process, and I look forward to your proposals.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Electoral Boundaries Commission Submission
For those interested, here's the text of my submission to the Saskatchewan Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission. I've added to and tweaked the analysis from my earlier column on the subject, but the themes should be familiar.