The new proposed federal electoral map proposes to eliminate every hybrid urban-rural split district in Saskatchewan, except Regina-Qu'Appelle.
The Souris-Moose Mountain riding in the southeast would be significantly changed. The north border of the constituency would move northward to the southern border of Regina, taking over the rural area previously in Wascana and an eastern portion of Palliser, southwest of Regina.
Every 10 years, after the census is conducted, the number of electoral districts and their boundaries are revised to reflect population shifts and growth.
For this reason, on Wednesday, the Federal Electoral Boundary Commission in charge of making these changes, met at the Weyburn Legion to hear public responses to the proposed changes to the federal electoral map.
The 2011 census established the population of the province of Saskatchewan at 1,033,381. This was an increase of over five per cent over the 2001 population of 978,933. Saskatchewan's representation in the House of Commons is 14 members and the province is divided into 14 electoral districts. The population of the province divided by 14 gives an electoral quota for each electoral district of 73,813. Souris- Moose Mountain is proposed to be 71,089, nearly four per cent lower than the quota.
The Commission's proposal to create strictly urban ridings is based on the observation that between 2001 and 2011 the majority of the population lived in one of the hybrid urban-rural ridings of Regina and Saskatoon. The population in these districts increased over 15 per cent in the observed decade, while the remaining ten has increased only 1.5 per cent.
The change would break a five-decade tradition in Saskatchewan. The proposal returns to an earlier period (1933–1966) when both Regina and Saskatoon were designed as single electoral districts within the boundaries of the two cities.
"The major difference between that period and the present one is that, with a significantly greater share of the province's total population now residing in the two principal cities, the number of entirely urban districts has reached an historic high," said Chair of the Commission, Ron Mills.
"The population shifts of the past decade called into question the continued suitability of the composite urban-rural electoral districts. This issue is central to the Commission's proposal for the province's 14 electoral districts," said Mills.
Mills added that communications "almost unanimously voiced opposition to the continued use of hybrid urban-rural districts in Saskatchewan."
Of those who attended the public meeting on Wednesday, views differed, both in support and opposition to the proposed map. There were nine separate presentations to the Commission, including MP for Souris-Moose Mountain, Ed Komarnicki, who was against the proposed changes. Presentations centred around the change from the traditional hybrid ridings to the strictly urban-rural ridings.
"I thought with what was going on in Souris-Moose Mountain, with the oil and gas, that we would be left alone, because it is probably the hottest of the hottest of the hot spots in Saskatchewan," said Komarnicki.
He continued by saying that Souris-Moose Mountain taking over communities in Wascanna makes little sense, because the main place of business for these communities is Regina, not Weyburn or Estevan.
He said the numbers don't even make sense.
"When we look at the ones (the communities) that you added … you have added 5,600 people and have taken away 2,800 people. You have ended up with a net increase of 2,700 (people) for no particular good reason," he said.
Although many were in agreement with Komarnicki, others were in favour of the proposed changes.
Gerald Borrowman, who ran in the last federal election for the Liberals, supported the changes, arguing that having strictly urban and rural ridings would allow Members of Parliament to focus on the specific needs of their ridings.
"Urban voters tend to water down the focus on rural issues, just as rural voters tend to water down the focus on urban issues," argued Borrowman.
Tribune area farmer David Pattyson presented to the commission and said he likes the way the map has been drawn and believes the Commission is on the right track.
"I am sure these boundaries have not been developed in isolation from a broader picture from across the country … I certainly would encourage you (the Commission) to stay with the principles that things have been developed on," Pattyson said.
In crafting the new boundaries the Commission has been required to stick to certain principles.
The Commission must consider the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district. They must also consider the geographic size of districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province must be considered.
The commission has the ability to designate districts with lower population than the 73,813 quota in ridings to make them smaller in geographic size.
For example, Cypress Hills-Grasslands proposed population is 66,693, nearly 10 per cent smaller than the quota. Ridings must remain within 25 per cent of the electoral quota. This is more flexible than the five per cent leverage of the provincial electoral map.
A closer look at the proposed districts can be found at http://www.redecoupage-federal-redistribution.ca/