Right now, the federal electoral districts are being redistributed. Next time a federal election rolls around, all the ridings will be different, and the map is set to change fairly dramatically in the province. The proposed changes have been revealed in preparation for public consultations, and the planned map for Saskatchewan is going to have a few significant differences. I don’t envy the people who have to draw that map.
Some of the changes are good, those being a move towards some urban-only ridings in Saskatoon and Regina. The current setup, which has an urban-rural split in most areas, is a poor compromise at best. Given that rural and urban constituents have very different needs and concerns, the split doesn’t really effectively represent the entire constituency. In many cases, the winner of the seat is dictated by which side of the rural/urban split is larger, leading to disenfranchisement of many voters, since their fate is dictated by a group with many different needs and concerns. While a great MP would work twice as hard to balance the different and sometimes even contradictory needs of the major split in their riding, it’s also tempting to just go with the larger half of the split, working hardest for the group that actually voted for you.
Since the number of ridings aren’t changing, we will be seeing those rural ridings get bigger. I don’t envy the people who have to redraw the map, given that it has to balance population numbers and geography, but the proposed changes are a bit odd to say the least. For example, one of the ridings is Kindersley-Rosetown-Humboldt, which is a combination of towns that don’t really go together. In fact, the map wraps around Saskatoon in order to fit Humboldt into the picture, and I can’t help but think that Humboldt could be more easily integrated into one of three different ridings that actually neighbor it. Our riding, Yorkton-Melville, will get very close to the small city without quite including it, for example.
Of course, in making that suggestion, I recognize that I’m introducing complications, something that I’m sure has caused many headaches for the people actually redrawing the map. Cutting out the several thousand people east of Saskatoon would require the Kindersley-Rosetown map to change to include something else, as well as tweaks to Yorkton-Melville, Prince Albert or Moose Jaw-Lake Centre-Lanigan because of the increased population. Each move requires redrawing every other boundary, a frustrating puzzle. That said, the boundaries should still make sense from a geographic standpoint. The MP would still, ideally, have to travel between points in their riding, something that becomes difficult when some of the main points in your constituency are approaching four hours apart by car.
While I’ve long been an advocate of redrawing the map, I think that some of the lines have been based on population alone, rather than any thought to where that population actually is located. There are ridings that are physically massive – Cypress Hills-Grasslands stretches across most of the province’s southern half – and those that are just oddly placed. In some ways, the redrawn map will be an improvement, but I hope this work in progress gets a little more work done.