News Brief

LUKIWSKI PLAYS HIDE THE STEEPLE

The Conservative Party sure doesn’t want Regina’s Cathedral residents voting in an urban-only riding in the next federal election.

Last year, the electoral boundary commission proposed a new federal riding map for Saskatchewan that would replace the province’s current “hub and spoke” arrangement. Regina and Saskatchewan would be split up into several urban-only ridings, with Regina-Qu’Appelle — seat of House of Commons speaker, Andrew Scheer — remaining as a rural/urban split riding.

Not surprisingly, these changes have been strongly resisted by a Conservative Party caucus that benefits from the current maps rural/urban split ridings.

But in a surprise turn, during his appearance before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC), which was gathering input from MPs for the boundary commission’s consideration, Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre Member of Parliament Tom Lukiwski diverged from the Conservative script.

Instead of merely opposing the commission’s map, Lukiwski attempted to strike a compromise in Regina.

“I am also a realist and I firmly believe that the commissioners are steadfast in their resolve to see urban-only seats in Saskatchewan. And that is their right. While I respectfully disagree with their approach, I am going to make some suggestions,” he said, before launching into a description of how he’d like to see the commission carve the Cathedral neighbourhood out of the new urban-only riding of Regina-Lewvan and add it into Andrew Scheer’s rural/urban split riding of Regina-Qu’Appelle. Lukiwski argued this will allow Regina-Lewvan to grow as the population of Regina expanded in the city’s southwest.

His suggestion was quickly embraced by the entire Conservative caucus.

Did Lukiwski, who did not grant Prairie Dog an interview despite repeated requests made over the course of a week, display flagrant, self-serving and disgraceful contempt for democracy with his transparently partisan suggestions? That’s up to the public to judge.

Certainly, the residents of Cathedral don’t seem to be quite so enthusiastic for a proposal that, perhaps not coincidentally, would neutralize their characteristic anti-Conservative vote by moving it from one strong Tory riding to another strong Tory riding.

Nathan Cullen, House Leader for the NDP and a member of the PROC, says that he’s been hearing from a surprisingly large number of Cathedral residents.

“I haven’t had correspondence like this from any other constituency anywhere else in the country,” said Cullen. “Their reaction has been quite strong. The terms people have used in those letters have been very, very strong. They’re unhappy,” says Cullen.

However, he notes that the PROC  doesn’t pass judgement on the boundary commission’s proposals. They merely report back to the boundary commission with what they’ve heard from MPs.

As for whether there is a chance that the boundary commission may take Lukiwski’s suggestion seriously, Cullen says he doesn’t know. PROC has made suggestions in the past that have influenced the commission, but usually, he says, the suggestion will have more substantial evidence and support behind it.

In this case, says Cullen, all they have is a last-minute suggestion from a lone MP and the commission will have to weigh that in their deliberations. /Stephen Whitworth with files from Paul Dechene

2013-05-02