More so, a cynic might suggest that where some political interests have been unable to secure power through platforms and sound policy, they choose to do so now by manipulating the electoral system. Learned academics would call that gerrymandering. If this proposal sees the light of day, there will never be room for dissent and certainly the objective of accessible and participatory democracy will be at risk.
The above quote was lifted from a column by Alan Thomarat, CEO and President Canadian Homebuilders’ Association — Saskatchewan, that appeared in the Homes section of last Saturday’s Leader-Post.
The section typically focuses on the buying and selling of real estate and different ideas for renovating homes and gardens. In this particular column, though, Thomarat chose to address the recent proposal to revamp federal electoral boundaries in Saskatchewan to create dedicated urban and rural ridings similar to the arrangement that exists in every other province in Canada.
We’ve written on this issue numerous times since the boundary review began last fall. In his column Thomarat regurgitates most of the arguments that were made against the proposed changes at public hearings ie. Saskatchewan’s unique character justified the continued use of blended urban/rural ridings, Regina and Saskatoon’s clout would actually decrease in Ottawa if the two cities only had six urban-based MPs to represent their interests instead of the eight hybrid rural/urban MPs we have now, etc.
Thomarat also champions the minority report of boundary commissioner David Marit, CEO of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, and laments that his “common sense” position to maintain the hybrid ridings had been “marginalized by seemingly narrow and self-serving urban interests”. To Thomarat’s credit, he does add that one day he hopes the R in SARM will stand for regional instead of rural. But for that to happen the 296 rural municipalities that currently exist in Saskatchewan (which have an average population of 590, with the smallest being 73) will have to consider the possibility of amalgamating which they have thus far refused to do.
Overall, I found the column to be pretty remarkable. For several elections now, a sizeable percentage of the Saskatchewan electorate has had zero representation in the mix of MPs that have been sent to Ottawa. To me, that puts “participatory democracy” at risk as there is a severe disconnect between the popular vote and the electoral representation we have in Ottawa. As well, the boundary review commission is supposed to be an impartial process. Yet somehow Thomarat believes that the electoral system has been manipulated and even gerrymandered by “narrow and self-serving urban interests”.