How many MHAs is too many? Liberal Leader Dwight Ball says 48 is definitely too many, and as the province looks at ways to cut budget costs, maybe reducing the number of elected officials is a good way to go.
“I think there needs to be changes,” Ball said. “I don’t think we need 48 members anymore.”
Ball made the suggestion as a way to curb the projected $1.6-billion deficit in the 2013 provincial government budget, and another deficit of the same amount in 2014.
“The objective would be to get to smaller government,” Ball said. “It goes a long way because as we make decisions today about deficits, we’ve got to factor in what our responsibilities are going to be within seven, eight, 10 years.”
Ball didn’t redraw the whole map, but made a point of saying that if you’re eliminating seats, you have to consider a lot of factors.
Ball said making sure that the population is roughly equal in each electoral district is important, but there are more important things to consider.
“You would actually do the redistribution not simply on population. You’d have to consider density. You’d have to consider the transportation network. You’d have to consider technology,” he said. “Of course, we’ve got to keep in the back of our mind that one person, one vote is important, but we need to be able to include some of the other things.”
Premier Kathy Dunderdale said that’s not something she’s thinking about right now.
“It’s not a proposal we’re considering,” she said. “Seats have been reduced before. It’s not something I’m opposed to, but that requires a larger debate than just people around the cabinet table. I mean, people around the province have something to say about that.”
Dunderdale said the focus right now is on government spending that can be reduced over the next two years during the worst of the deficits.
“We have to examine everything, program by program. We have to go under every heading and every department,” she said. “That’s what we’ve been at for months and months.”
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said she’s fine with the idea of reducing the number of MHAs, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with the budget.
Any changes likely wouldn’t take place until the next Electoral Boundaries Commission review in 2016, and the changes wouldn’t come into force until after that.
“I’m not talking about which ones, I’m saying that I’m open to the possibility of the number of districts being decreased, and entering into a process of what that might look like,” she said.
But Michael said she would also like to look at proportional representation as an option for electing MHAs.
“I would like to see a real study of proportional representation,” she said. “I do think the time has come in Canada for us to be looking at proportional representation and what’s working in other places.”