Paranoia Politics

More so, a cynic might suggest that where some political interests have been unable to secure power through platforms and sound policy, they choose to do so now by manipulating the electoral system. Learned academics would call that gerrymandering. If this proposal sees the light of day, there will never be room for dissent and certainly the objective of accessible and participatory democracy will be at risk.

The above quote was lifted from a column by Alan Thomarat, CEO and President Canadian Homebuilders’ Association — Saskatchewan, that appeared in the Homes section of last Saturday’s Leader-Post.

The section typically focuses on the buying and selling of real estate and different ideas for renovating homes and gardens. In this particular column, though, Thomarat chose to address the recent proposal to revamp federal electoral boundaries in Saskatchewan to create dedicated urban and rural ridings similar to the arrangement that exists in every other province in Canada.

We’ve written on this issue numerous times since the boundary review began last fall. In his column Thomarat regurgitates most of the arguments that were made against the proposed changes at public hearings ie. Saskatchewan’s unique character justified the continued use of blended urban/rural ridings, Regina and Saskatoon’s clout would actually decrease in Ottawa if the two cities only had six urban-based MPs to represent their interests instead of the eight hybrid rural/urban MPs we have now, etc.

Thomarat also champions the minority report of boundary commissioner David Marit, CEO of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, and laments that his “common sense” position to maintain the hybrid ridings had been “marginalized by seemingly narrow and self-serving urban interests”. To Thomarat’s credit, he does add that one day he hopes the R in SARM will stand for regional instead of rural. But for that to happen the 296 rural municipalities that currently exist in Saskatchewan (which have an average population of 590, with the smallest being 73) will have to consider the possibility of amalgamating which they have thus far refused to do.

Overall, I found the column to be pretty remarkable. For several elections now, a sizeable percentage of the Saskatchewan electorate has had zero representation in the mix of MPs that have been sent to Ottawa. To me, that puts “participatory democracy” at risk as there is a severe disconnect between the popular vote and the electoral representation we have in Ottawa. As well, the boundary review commission is supposed to be an impartial process. Yet somehow Thomarat believes that the electoral system has been manipulated and even gerrymandered by “narrow and self-serving urban interests”.

Author: Gregory Beatty

Greg Beatty is a crime-fighting shapeshifter who hatched from a mutagenic egg many decades ago. He likes sunny days, puppies and antique shoes. His favourite colour is not visible to your inferior human eyes. He refuses to write a bio for this website and if that means Whitworth writes one for him, so be it.

7 thoughts on “Paranoia Politics”

  1. One-third of the Province voted NDP. Under the riding breakdown Thomarat champions, that one-third got zero political representation.

    Nationally, the Harper government holds a majority with (at peak) 40 per cent support.

    Are some political interests that have been unable to maintain power through platforms and sound policy manipulating the electoral system? You know, I think he might be right about that.

    I wonder if he realizes it’s his actually side that’s putting participatory democracy at risk.

  2. Mr. Thomarat may be reiterating the speaking points of others before him, but he manages to outshine them all when it comes to using condescending and pseudo-intellectual language.

    His argument implies that the current structure consists of an accessible and participatory democracy that allows for dissent. Highly questionable considering the tendency of our 13 conservative MPs to vote in lockstep with their party.

  3. The Electoral Boundary Commission exists for one reason, and one reason only: to set boundaries that maximize the fairness and effectiveness of our representation in Parliament. To allow any other considerations to enter the process undermines the very foundation of our representative democracy: proper representation.

    The core of Mr. Thomarat’s argument is that the Electoral Boundary Commission should have another goal: to encourage cooperation and unity in the province. While this is an admirable goal, it is not — and cannot be — the goal of the Electoral Boundary Commission.

    In order to achieve its goals, the EBC is encouraged to identify existing communities of interest and — where possible — group them together. In addition to his concerns over the consequences of the proposed boundaries, Mt. Thomarat seems to be a proponent of the common argument that, because Saskatchewan’s rural and urban communities are so dependent on each other and integrated, there are no such things as distinct urban and rural interests in this province. And if you disagree, well then you must be part of the “narrow and self-serving urban interests”.

  4. Stephen, I’d be careful in your use of “participatory democracy”. While you and I both agree on the importance of participation in our democracy, the use of the term “participatory democracy” typically implies more involved and systematic mechanisms for participation than those found in Canada’s representative democracy. In fact, some writers reserve the use of the word for some form of direct democracy.

  5. By “cooperation and unity’, Thomcat obv means between conservative forces only…

    All that…and, not to mention that mixed rural-urban ridings are an electoral defect available still only in Saskatchewan; the ‘lead-paint’ of electoral divisions, the Thalidomide of Canadian voting boundaries.

    “Hey, I hear they still allow smoking in Saskatchewan neo-natal units when it comes to urban voting…”

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