With the Election Boundaries Commission having started up, I've been thinking for awhile doing something on it. I wrote a couple of stories back when I was with The Express on it, and it's a story I've been watching closely.
Then Liam posted something on it, mostly about how disappointed they won't be getting rid of more seats in the House of Assembly. Then Ed got involved and then things went normally the way a conversation goes with the two of them go at it.
So let's ignore the question of whether or not 48 is too many seats for Newfoundland. Let's instead look at where those seats are going to end up. Because that's where the racket is going to be.
Now, a caveat off the top here. I'm doing this from memory. I'm coming down with a flu this evening and I'm not in the mood to dig through government documents to verify every fact. So if I get something wrong, I apologize, but kindly don't beat it to death with a hammer.
My understanding is this: Each provincial district has to be within 10 per cent of each other when it comes to population. There are exceptions to this rule, and they're in Labrador. Because of the size of some of these districts, they allow up to 25 per cent difference in population. Besides, if they stuck to the hard and fast rules, Labrador would lose at least one, maybe two seats in the House through redistribution. Good luck being the party that wants to run that one through and ever win another seat in Labrador.
Where things get interesting is that rural Newfoundland has been decimated since the last time a boundary commission was formed. Some districts have lost a lot of their population. On the other hand, the St. John's metro area has, if not increased in population, certainly significantly increased in its proportion of the total population of Newfoundland. In 1993, when I think the last commission happened, St. John's made up 15 to 20 per cent of the province's population (a guess, I admit), the St. John's Metro area (the city, Mount Pearl, Paradise, CBS, Torbay, St. Phillips, etc) makes up, what 40 per cent of the population now?
So here's the question to ask: Do you give St. John's the proper number of seats, even if then gives it more political power (and doesn't it deserve that power, based on its size?). Or do you introduce the 25 per cent rule from Labrador to the island. Because aside from political power being concentrated in the city, most urban MHAs do dick all. However, the rural MHAs are normally going flat out trying to answer the concerns of their constituents.
I think the 25 per cent rule is coming to the island because giving too much power to St. John's is also political suicide. But it'll be interesting to see what happens.
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