Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Drawing Manitoba's new electoral divisions



I spent some time reviewing the proposed electoral boundaries this weekend. Overall, I find the proposed changes to be impressive in that most constituencies face minor changes to their boundaries.

The boundaries aren’t final, of course. Many will make great arguments that some communities should be put in a neighbouring constituency given their history or natural boundaries, that geography makes some boundaries impractical due to transportation links, or that strict rep by pop should be excepted for special reasons. Others will target the constituency names, arguing that a traditional or alternative name is more appropriate than the one proposed. Once responses are taken into consideration, a new set of maps will be released.

It’s surprising to me that some folks would rather stoop to accusing the boundaries commission of making partisan decisions than address whether the boundaries are appropriately drawn. The
comment made by Doug Schweitzer (PC Party of Manitoba CEO) to the Free Press was completely astonishing in its ignorance of the process behind the new boundaries. I had a great rebuttal written up, but I think Dan Lett, Curtis Brown, PolicyFrog, and Hacks and Wonks all have more than said what’s needed.


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I’ve started with the non-Winnipeg seats this time, and have focused mostly on what the outcome will mean for the Manitoba political scene, rather than whether the boundaries could be redrawn better, which is very important.


Southwestern Manitoba


The only constituency to completely disappear this time is Minnedosa, and the decline in population for all seats in the region certainly warrant make the loss of one seat there unavoidable. It makes things tough for Minnedosa MLA Leanne Rowat, who may have to duke it out for the nomination with veteran MLA Len Derkach. Once the boundaries are finalized, expect Tory brass to work hard behind the scenes to find a solution – perhaps one of the region’s Tory MLAs will agree to retire, be appointed to a plum position somewhere, or run for something at another level of government.

Minnedosa-Russell is the proposed new constituency that rises from the ashes. Created mostly from the old Russell and the Tory-leaning communities of Minnedosa, Cordova and Rapid City from the old Minnedosa riding, the new constituency can be expected to elected Tories for some time yet.

The new Turtle Mountain takes some of the old Minnedosa’s strongest NDP regions (i.e., Justice and neighbouring towns). They won’t make much difference in the solid Tory new riding.

The new Arthur-Virden adds some relatively strong Tory regions of Minnedosa to the already strongly Tory constituency.

Dauphin-Roblin, takes the Ste. Rose du Lac (Tory-leaning) and Laurier (NDP-leaning) portion of old Ste. Rose (renamed Agassiz).


Southeastern Manitoba


Population growth of Morden and Winkler has led them to form the new, mostly urban Morden-Winkler constituency. The rest of Pembina is merged with Carman to form the new Carman-Pembina.

Emerson gains the somewhat NDP communities of St. Malo and St. Pierre Jolys from Morris, but loses the somewhat NDP communities in the southeastern corner of the province to La Verendrye.

La Verendrye has largely been split into two, with the eastern half inheriting the old constituency’s name and the western half mostly forming the new Tache. While the new La Verendrye gains the somewhat NDP communities from Emerson, it gains Tory leaning communities from Lac du Bonnet and the overwhelmingly Tory communities of Grunthal and Sarto from Steinbach. The new constituency is likely to lean Conservative, making PolicyFrog’s prediction of Ron Lemieux running in Tache (made up of mostly NDP-leaning francophone communities) a good bet.

St. Paul is the old Springfield, minus Anola (NDP-leaning; now in Tache), but plus West St. Paul (NDP-leaning; gained from Gimli). It remains staunchly Conservative.

Morris, a traditional Tory seat that nevertheless saw a sharp increase in the NDP vote in the last election, gains some Conservatives from the old Steinbach and loses some New Democrats to Emerson.

Portage stays much the same, but gains Long Plain First Nation from Carman. A quick glance at the Statement of Votes suggest this puts the seat about 60 votes closer to an NDP win.

Interlake, Gimli and Lakeside see a few other small changes, but they’re unlikely to make a big difference.


Northern Manitoba


Flin Flon has been altered to take a huge swatch of Rupertsland, including Churchill and Gillam. The Pas and Thompson don’t change at all.


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I have to agree with PolicyFrog that Pembina-Jubilee is a pretty painful constituency name. However, the disjointed name unfortunately represents the disjointed combination of four part-communities that make up the constituency: a chunk of the Jubilee neighbourhood (formerly part of Lord Roberts), the “planets” streets of Fort Garry, a piece of Taylor Avenue, and Wildwood Park. I definitely tend to favour constituencies with boundaries approximating natural boundaries of communities, but I see how it isn’t always doable. In any event, Pembina-Jubilee is a lot easier to swallow than a lot of federal riding names, which seem to want to form exhaustive lists of every community represented. Try Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor or Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou or Desneth√©—Missinippi—Churchill River.


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Some folks have been wondering about the especially long break that Prairie Topiary has taken from posting. With most of the massive number of work, family, travel, and social commitments that landed on my plate through the Spring now behind me, I’m hoping I can post a little more regularly. Thanks to all those who still tune in from time to time.


Photo: A map of the proposed consitituency boundaries.

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