Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Three Musketeers...Or Rather, the Three Must-We-Here?

After the depressing nature of the last post, considering the federal budget, I've decided we'll take a look provincially and maybe see some greener pastures. While things aren't great here either, considering the ideology of the party in power, there has at least been the illusion of some give and take between the government and the people it represents. (Nuclear power discussion panels in their first term, as an example.)

But perhaps being emboldened by a second term and a weakened opposition, the Wall Government has given up the illusion of give and take with the citizenry and has set their sights solely on rushing ahead with their own ideological ideas. This is perhaps exemplified by the government's decision to increase the numbers of MLAs in our province by 3, adding between $650,000 - $700,000 in additional expenses from our government.

There has been some objection to the idea of having 3 new MLAs, starting with when the idea came forward, but now there's more concrete proof of the objection people in the province have with the idea. A poll done by Insightrix Research has found that 65.5% of people in a poll opposed or strongly opposed the government's plan to introduce three new MLAs.

Now, while occasionally it is necessary to increase the size of our representation (as population increases), we find ourselves asking the question as to whether or not three new MLAs are necessary.

Some facts and figures have come out, namely revolving around the citizen to politician ratio. According to these research numbers, Saskatchewan currently has about 20,000 people to every politician. Our nearest neighbour, Manitoba, has about 21,000 to every politician, and they already have ONE LESS politician than we already have.

And a place like Ontario has a staggering 124,981 people to a politician. So, these figures raise the question over whether or not we truly need another 3 politicians in the legislature.

As mentioned, there are times when population growth demands that we increase the members of representatives that we have in our province, but as it stands now we have not reached that point. There is a possibility that in a number of years we might, but we should wait to ensure that if we're adding MLAs they are being added to the areas that are experiencing population growth.

For example, let's say that the government adds the 3 MLAs between Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw. But Moose Jaw's rate of growth was lower than, say, Prince Albert. Since we do know exactly where the population growth is going to occur (We could be wrong on the major cities, and instead see an influx in smaller communities on the outskirts of these major centres), it is irresponsible to assign additional MLAs to an area we're not sure is going to experience population growth.

And that brings us to the most boneheaded move in the entire operation.

A good indicator of population growth is the amount of young people in a given area; as it suggests young families who are more likely to stay in a given area. As such, the consideration of people under the age of 18 would be a good indicator to determine which cities and towns in our province are experiencing the benefit of a population increase.

But rather than consider this, the government is deciding that people under the age of 18 are not going to be considered when looking at who MLAs represent in the legislature. As mentioned above, this is a useful means of determining population growth and future projections for the population of a given area. Furthermore, it can actually increase the number of people that a MLA represents.

There is an idea that a lot of young people don't care about politics; and sadly, there is some truth to this idea. However, there are also young people who are engaged and active and care about politics. I was one of those teenagers; in fact, the first time I met with (and questioned/challenged) my sitting MP was when I was 16 years old.

And we have seen that young people are getting more involved as things begin to affect their lives. The student protests in Quebec, for example, or the core of the Occupy Movement are all driven by younger people.

As such, there are youths under the age of 18 who are going to get in touch with their MLAs and MPs. But now these people are not being considered when looking at how MLAs represent their constituencies thanks to the government's decision.

This enhances the chances of young people being disenfranchised in the future when it comes to their representation in their home constituency.

That brings us to the cost. Our government has constantly stated that our province is in a boom, yet at the same time our government has brought forward an austerity budget and moved towards decreasing expenditures in the province (as seen in the slashing of civil service jobs). So, how can they justify adding almost $1 million dollars by adding 3 new politicians to the provincial budget?

Quite frankly, the cost and the method being undertaken by the government to increase the number of politicians in the legislature is not worth pursuing at this time. There may come a time when we will need to add more politicians in our legislature, but we need to wait until we know the best way to proportion these new constituencies and ensure that an area does not become over-represented while another becomes under-represented.

When the time comes to add new politicians, the demand should come from the people who need representation with sound demographic data to prove that the demand exists, rather than from a government who seems to only want to increase their own caucus for no clear reason.

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