With the Sask. Party preaching austerity in the run-up to Finance Minister Ken Krawetz delivering the 2012-13 provincial budget on March 21, the government’s move to boost the number of MLAs from 58 to 61 has a lot of commentators going “WTF?”
The official party line is that with Saskatchewan’s population on the rise, and the size of the average rural constituency growing because most of the population growth is occurring in urban areas, more MLAs are needed to ensure that constituents won’t face massively long drives whenever they get a notion to drop by the office of their local MLA to shoot the breeze/present a grievance or whatever else it is that people do when they feel the need to interact face-to-face with their political champion.
Saskatchewan already has one of the lowest citizen to MLA ratios in the country, though. If Ontario (population 12.8 million) had the same ratio, for example, then its Legislative Assembly would have over 600 members, as opposed to 107. So the government’s argument seems pretty specious.
Another problem is that the government is set to alter the criteria for determining constituency size. Currently, its based strictly on population. Under proposed changes, those under 18 will be excluded from the calculation. Why? Good question. As citizens of Saskatchewan, minors, although not entitled to vote, presumably are entitled to representation from their MLA in the Legislature, and therefore should be included in the figures that the province uses to apportion seats, shouldn’t they?
I’m no demographer, so I wouldn’t want to speculate on whether this move will shortchange urban voters at the expense of rural voters. In the column I linked to above, that’s an idea that Murray Mandryk floats. But one area where the political landscape definitely will be skewed is in ridings with significant First Nations populations. With its high birth rate in comparison to the non-aboriginal community, there’s more First Nations people who have yet to reach the age of majority, and under the changes that the government is proposing they’ll simply disappear from the formula we use to determine seat size.
Seems like a pretty sketchy move to me.