Following the publication of new census numbers last year, a Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission was appointed, as required by law, to re-draw the map of Saskatchewan’s 14 federal constituencies.
The Commission consists of a Queen’s Bench Judge (Mr. Justice Ron Mills), a Professor Emeritus from the University of Saskatchewan (Dr. John Courtney) and the President of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (Dave Marit). Their report was made public last week, and the Conservatives have been having a hissy-fit ever since.
Political parties may disagree with the Commission, but it’s the Commission – not any politician – that has the legal authority to determine where the boundaries go. That independent, arm’s length, non-partisan approach is fundamental to fair and honest elections.
Drawing electoral maps is a tough job. People can have differing views. The Commission had one dissenter, Mr. Marit. But the Mills/Courtney majority position was strong, clear and well-reasoned, with the backing of SUMA (the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association) and a great many others.
The proposed new map provides Saskatchewan with a fair and balanced outcome that more accurately reflects the province’s reality, including six rural ridings (one more than before), five urban seats (instead of none before), and three rural/urban blends.
In a bizarre twist last week, residents of Regina and Saskatoon began receiving automated telephone calls attacking the proposed new boundaries. The tone was abusive, suggesting those who agreed with the new map – including the majority of the Commission – were betraying Saskatchewan’s values.
Conservatives immediately tried to distance themselves from these despicable robocalls. Local MPs and Conservative headquarters in Ottawa both denied having anything to do with them. “Not something we would do”, Conservatives claimed.
Complaints were filed with the CRTC (Canada’s telecommunications regulator) and once a forensic voice-analysis expert matched the voice in the Saskatchewan calls to the owner of the company that sent out the infamous Pierre Poutine robocalls, the Conservatives had to confess that these calls were, indeed, a Conservative scam. Their initial attempt to hide their involvement shows they knew what they were doing was wrong.
It was wrong to mislead Saskatchewan people and try to intimidate them. It was wrong to interfere with what was supposed to be a totally independent process. It was wrong to discredit the commissioners and their work. It was wrong to try to cover it up.
The last time a scam of this kind was discovered, the Conservatives had to admit to a deceitful “disinformation” campaign maligning Montreal-area MP Irwin Cotler. The Speaker of the House of Commons (Regina MP Andrew Scheer) quite properly called the Conservative tactics “reprehensible”. This latest escapade is no less so.