Urban growth demands another MLA, riding changes

Several MLAs may have to make a decision on where to run in the next election, even if they feel safe in their existing riding.

Several MLAs may have to make a decision on where to run in the next election, even if they feel safe in their existing riding.

The Yukon Electoral District Boundaries Commission is recommending several riding boundaries be tweaked.

The alterations will create a new riding, bringing the total number of MLAs sitting in the legislature to 19.

The arm’s-length, non-partisan, five-member commission submitted its 43-page final report to MLAs this week.

Its report must be tabled in the legislature by the fall.

If approved, the changes would apply to the next election.

Rapid growth in Whitehorse requires the addition of another riding, said the commission’s report.

Most rural ridings would remain untouched, while those in Whitehorse and surrounding areas would be carved up and amalgamated.

NDP MLA Steve Cardiff’s Mount Lorne riding, for example, could include Yukon Party MLA Patrick Rouble’s Southern Lakes riding.

Part of Mount Lorne would be combined with a new riding of Copperbelt South, which would be cut from the existing Copperbelt riding held by Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.

Copperbelt North would be carved out of that riding, and also include parts of Whitehorse West.

Eligible voters in Copperbelt increased by almost 500 between 2002 and 2006.

More expansion in the Copper Ridge subdivision planned for 2008 has forced the change, said the commission.

These are positive changes, said Kirk Cameron, an electoral reform advocate.

He chairs the meetings for an informal group called Yukon Citizens for Electoral Reform.

“This indicates that our system of governance needs constant vigilance,” said Cameron.

“As the territory’s population changes, the boundaries need to be looked at to ensure proper representation.”

Based on 2006 election numbers, there are 20,828 eligible voters in the Yukon.

The average number of voters per district is 1,147, but this does not take into account the 176 electors in the Vuntut Gwitchin district.

That riding was created to accommodate the small number of residents in a large area.

The Teslin Tlingit Council suggested the Teslin area should have its own district, too, and the Village of Teslin council wanted the Pelly-Nisutlin riding amalgamated into the Southern Lakes district with Carcross and Tagish.

But the commission disagreed.

Proponents argued the vastness of the constituency made it hard to deliver proper representation.

The population — 714, or about 38 per cent below the recommended population for a district — is too small to justify another MLA, said the commission.

The commission is attempting to maintain a fair balance between urban and rural ridings, said Cardiff.

“Unfortunately, they’ve had to deviate from that, but they’re doing the best they can with the numbers,” he said.

“There weren’t a lot of choices. They had to draw the new lines and I’m willing to live with that.”

It’s too early to say where he’ll run in the next election, Cardiff added.

An odd number of MLAs in the legislature could make for an interesting election, but there are only hypothetical situations, said Rouble.

With 19 seats, the voters will make that decision for the politicians, he added.

“It could go six-six-six — there’s too many scenarios,” he said.

He’s still committed to Southern Lakes residents and looks forward to meeting new constituents, he said.

While the changes are welcome, the system of governance is the biggest problem, said electoral reform advocate Dave Brekke.

“People aren’t voting and they’re realizing their votes aren’t worth anything,” he said.

There’s a problem when someone has 100 per cent of the power with only 40 per cent of the vote, said Brekke, who advocates a form of mixed proportional representation.

Other changes in the recent electoral boundary report include creation of a new district, Mountainview.

It will include the subdivisions of McIntyre, Valleyview, Granger and Hillcrest.

Copperbelt will now absorb the existing McIntyre-Takhini subdivision.

A new district called Takhini-Kopper King will be created, and will include Takhini, Takhini North, Mountain View, Yukon College and three mobile home parks.

The boundaries for three districts — Porter Creek Centre, South and North — will be adjusted to accommodate proposed developments.

The existing electoral district of Whitehorse West would be altered to include the proposed development in the Arkell subdivision.

Districts remaining unchanged would be Klondike, Kluane, Lake Laberge, Mayo-Tatchun, Pelly-Nisutlin, Riverdale North, Riverdale South, Vuntut Gwitchin, Watson Lake, and Whitehorse Centre.

Contact Jeremy Warren at: jeremyw@yukon-news.com

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