The federal boundary redistribution process was not a particularly accessible democratic tool. For something as significant as how we vote in federal elections, there was stunningly little buzz last summer when the opportunity arose for public involvement.
After more than a year of uncertainty, the new federal electoral boundaries in the province have been finalized. The report and responses to House of Commons objections were released yesterday, and though two of ten MP objections were addressed, Saskatchewan is now the proud home of 5 exclusively urban ridings, 3 in Saskatoon and 2 in Regina.
These changes represent a shift away from the hybrid urban-rural ridings which have been blamed for our funky federal electoral results. Because the opportunity to redraw the federal voting districts only happens every decade, it is something to be taken seriously. We made an effort to cover this process as it happened, and called for changes, trying to avoid outcomes like the 2011 elections which allowed federal Conservatives to secure 92 per cent of the seats with just over half of the vote.
There was widespread support for a shift away from hybrid ridings and the creation of urban ridings in the submission phase, an argument propelled by a team of political scientists from the U of S and U of R, and echoed by urban residents of Regina and Saskatoon seeking better democratic representation through urban ridings.
There was no shortage of angry buzz from opponents of urban ridings in the hearing phase where Saskatchewan’s federally-appointed three person commission was bombarded with rhetorical pleas from a number of self-interested parties (not to mention hyper-partisan elected officials).
The buzzing continued when the commission released its recommendations in late summer, in support of the logical and well-evidenced arguments for urban ridings. It became almost a roar the when obviously self-interested MPs came forward publicly bemoaning the decision, questioning the performance of the panel members, and exhausting every imaginable federal tool to halt the process (including the infamous robo-call mess).
Considering how few functional democratic tools our fine citizenry have access to these days, I am considering these results a HUGE
SUCESS SUCCESS. One that transforms Saskatchewan from a political anomaly – a scar in Canadian electoral representation, but also hopefully helps some of our province’s apathetic to recognize change is possible, to participate in politics, and to cast a vote.