Rural ridings most at peril if committee agrees to slash seats from 27 to between 21 and 23
© Guardian photo
Olive Crane doesn’t think P.E.I. needs 27 MLAs and that perhaps a more workable number is between 21 and 23. Ms. Crane recently tabled a motion in the legislature calling for public consultations on the issue. The Morell-Mermaid independent MLA should be careful what she wishes for, as she might be the one left in political limbo under any redistribution arising from her motion.
It was an unusual suggestion to come from the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of P.E.I. who fought the last provincial election largely on the issue of rural P.E.I. being neglected for the benefit of the urban areas of Charlottetown and Summerside.
Ms. Crane must realize that reductions in seats and MLAs will surely come at the expense of rural P.E.I. as the flight to the cities and their suburbs continues. Fewer rural seats will mean less influence for what used to be her power base in Kings County so one wonders where this idea came from and why now?
It was a court ruling that forced seat redistribution of P.E.I.’s old electoral map which had basically remained unchanged for generations. City litigants argued the small number of city ridings compared to their large population was unfair compared to the large number of rural seats with small populations. The court agreed and ordered that seats become more even in terms of population.
The most dramatic shift was the elimination of the dual ridings with their assemblyman and councillor designations and the arrival of single member ridings. We’ve had several electoral maps since that historic court ruling. Then-Justice John McQuaid had created a revised map some 10 years ago, as required after every three elections. His map made sense and seats had commonality within each riding, but the former government of Pat Binns chose to disregard it and instead opted for a bizarre hodge-podge collection of seats, most of which made no sense. It was dubbed the “Cletus Dunn Map” because someone had to take the blame for it. Whatever the motive for Mr. Binns, it backfired badly and Premier Ghiz reaped its benefits in two massive electoral victories.
We have 27 MLAs in a province with a population of less than 145,000 people which means there are approximately 5,300 people for every MLA. If nothing else it should make for strong local representation in the house.
Ms. Crane says many Islanders are telling her there are too many MLAs and she would like a committee to hear from the public and send a report to Elections P.E.I. for a final decision.
She suggested the timing is right for a review of P.E.I.’s political system because of the recent issues with the Senate and problems with municipal politicians.
In response to Ms. Crane’s motion, we have the premier getting whimsical, as he liked P.E.I.’s old system of dual constituencies and 32 seats because larger ridings allowed members to make decisions without being influenced by one pocket of their riding. He also thinks a cabinet could function with 10 members, so why not take his own advice and drop three immediately to save the province some money?
Then we have Island New Democrat Leader Mike Redmond saying the number of MLAs should be reduced to a mere 15.
Mr. Redmond says a premier and five cabinet members could to the job and seems to think that four recent massive majority governments are the reason for a litany of problems facing the Island.
And what would a fractured, tiny government, with the workload on just six people bring, but dysfunction and gridlock?