In the 2011 federal election, Saskatchewan voters returned 13 Conservatives and one Liberal MP to Ottawa. Massive landslide for the Harperites and huge embarassment for the NDP, right?
Well, not exactly. If you break down the vote totals, the Conservatives got 256,040 votes. The Liberals, meanwhile, garnered 38,981 votes. As for the NDP, they received 147,084 votes.
If we had proportional representation instead of first-past-the-post, the seat allocation would have been in the neighbourhood of 8 Conservative, 5 NDP and one Liberal. We don’t have PR, of course. But that’s a rant for another time.
In Saskatchewan, another huge factor that distorted the electoral outcome was the screwy way our seats are distributed. Following the 2001 census, a three-person electoral boundaries commission held hearings and created the current electoral map. What they ended up doing in Regina and Saskatoon was carving up the cities into four quadrants in ridings that also included huge swaths of rural Saskatchewan.
By doing so, they perhaps hoped to reinforce bonds that ideally should exist between people from urban and rural Saskatchewan. In subsequent elections, however, what ended up happening is that the rural vote typically overwhelmed the urban vote so that we ended up with massively skewed results where the NDP, as in 2011, got roughly one-third of the popular vote, but failed to elect a single MP.
Following the 2011 census, a new electoral boundaries commission has been created to again adjust the province’s federal ridings. In the intervening 10 years, the province’s population has increased from 978,933 to 1,033,381. Much of that growth, I imagine, has occurred in Saskatoon and Regina.
Commission chair is Justice Ronald Mills, and his fellow commissioners are John Courtney, who is affiliated with the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy; and David Marit, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities.
The Commission is supposed to publish a revised electoral map in a few months, then hold public hearings. If the electoral map is properly redrawn, it might be possible to ensure that the MPs we send to Ottawa more accurately reflect the diversity of political opinion that exists here. It’s a story we’ll be following, I’m sure. For more information visit www.federal-redistribution.ca