Bill 42 was rushed and did not reflect evidence based decision making or public input but the whim of a dying majority government, aided and abetted by the Official Opposition. The anti-democratic government picked a populist measure and the Liberals fell for it hook, line and sinker rather than take a principled stand against the obvious rushed political maneuvering.
The seriousness of the democratic deficit and leadership vacuum facing our province is evident when our esteemed academics feel they must become engaged publicly to demand the best outcomes for the citizens of our province and protect our democratic institutions from partisan interference.
Please find the letter for your consideration. It continues after the break.
January 25, 2015
House of Assembly
Newfoundland and Labrador
PO Box 8700
St. John’s, NL
We the undersigned would like to express our extreme disappointment at
the manner in which Bill 42, An Act to Amend the Electoral Boundaries Act
(2015), has been hurriedly pushed through the House of Assembly.
While improvements to the democratic governance of the province are
desirable, and Members’ attention to this issue is valuable, the changes
contained in Bill 42 only further undermine the effectiveness of the House
of Assembly. As an institution, the House is intended to act as
representative of the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador, and as a
check on the executive power of cabinet and the office of the premier. The
proposal to cut the number of seats diminishes its ability to fulfill those
roles. To put it bluntly, the legislation is undemocratic and ill-informed.
More to the point, the process by which this decision has been made is
alarming. It is a long-standing Canadian principle that effort must be made
to ensure that redistribution be a fair and non-partisan process and that
citizens have a chance to participate in the deliberations. The legislation
sets an extremely tight timeline for citizens to give feedback on the
eventual proposals for electoral boundaries. It also sets a series of
limitations on how the independent Boundary Commission should allocate
representation throughout the province, limitations that were drafted in the
middle of the night and passed before ANY member of the public had a
chance to review and comment on what was transpiring. This simply is not
an acceptable way to manage the province’s electoral system. Why was it
necessary to rush and pass this Bill in the dark of the night?
Bill 42 appears to be the product of partisan political maneuvering. The
basic operation of our democratic institutions should be above this. The
decision to start redistribution a year (and an election) ahead of schedule,
while also drastically cutting the number of seats in the House, may reflect
the interests of the premier and the leader of the opposition, and they may
be the product of a cynical strategy to take advantage of public
dissatisfaction with the state of the House of Assembly, but all this only
reinforces the suspicion that the goals of Bill 42 are partisan. And partisan
interests are not the same as the general public interest.
Bill 42 is a poor piece of legislation. It appears to have been hurriedly
thrown together to serve a variety of partisan goals, and it has been passed
without any serious public participation. Rather than improve democratic
governance, the Bill, and the events of January 22-23, illustrate much of
what is wrong with the state of democracy in our province.
We call on the government to suspend this effort at redistribution. If the
Government and official opposition wish to reform the house and make it
more effective, we, along with the rest of the public, would appreciate the
opportunity to participate in a dialogue about how best to achieve this goal.
Russell Alan Williams, Department of Political Science, Memorial University
Liam Swiss, Department of Sociology, Memorial University
Sonja Boon, Department of Gender Studies, Memorial University
Amanda Bittner, Department of Political Science, Memorial University
Christopher Dunn, Department of Political Science, Memorial University
Byron Sheldrick, Department of Political Science, University of Guelph
Vicki Hallett, Department of Gender Studies, Memorial University
Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant, Department of Political Studies, Queen’s
Josh Lepawsky, Department of Geography, Memorial University
Stephen Tomblin, Department of Political Science, Memorial University
Scott Matthews, Department of Political Science, Memorial University
Robin Whitaker, Department of Anthropology, Memorial University
Kelly Blidook, Department of Political Science, Memorial University
Lucian Ashworth, Department of Political Science, Memorial University
Arn Keeling, Department of Geography, Memorial University
Ailsa Craig, Department of Sociology, Memorial University
Marica Cassis, Department of History, Memorial University
Mark C.J. Stoddart, Department of Sociology, Memorial University
Dr. Jennifer Selby, Department of Religious Studies, Memorial University
Carol-Lynne D'Arcangelis, Department of Gender Studies, Memorial University
J. Andrew Grant, Department of Political Studies, Queen’s University
Dr. Patricia Dold, Department of Gender Studies, Memorial University
Dr. Karen Lochead, Department of Political Science, Laurier University