Electoral boundaries public hearings poorly attended

 

Angele Cano/NNSL photo
Ian McCrea, left, Shannon Smallwood and Charles Furlong stand beside maps of proposed changes to the NWT electoral boundaries. Members of the electoral boundaries commission are taking submissions from their final round of public hearings this week.

You could have heard a pin drop at two meetings on electoral boundaries last week.

The sparsely-attended public hearings were held in Hay River and on the Hay River Reserve on March 5 & 6, with no more than three members of the public present for each meeting.

Hay River North MLA Robert Bouchard noted the poor attendance, while encouraging residents to give their input.

We need public inputinto this important issue,” said Bouchard. “As MLAs, we will be deciding the fate of the future of theNorthwest Territories, but we need feedback from the general public and we need tohear from them.”

Under one proposal, the Hay River Reserve – now in Deh Cho district – would become part of Hay River North.

The proposed changes have drawn opposition from both the Hay River Metis Council and the Fort Resolution Metis Council. They particularly disagree with the proposed creation of a massive new district which would absorb Tu Nedhe district, which currently consists of Fort Resolution and Lutsel K’e. Those two communities would be part of the new district – for the moment called NWT 2 – which would also include Fort Providence, Kakisa, Enterprise, Whati, Gameti and Wekweeti.

The creation of NWT 2 would attempt to join three distinct aboriginal groups into one riding,” said Hay River Metis Council president Wally Schumann in a statement to the commission. “Due to the proposed size of the riding, no one MLA could adequately represent their riding in a fair and equitable manner.”

Schumann said the council also opposes the idea of adding more MLA positions, saying the financial cost would be too great on an already “over-governed” territory.

The three-member NWT Electoral Boundaries Commission was in Hay River and on the Hay River Reserve.

The hearings are part of a process to gather feedback before final recommendations on electoral boundaries are made to the Legislative Assembly in May.

The commission has been asked to give the Legislative Assembly three scenarios – staying at 19 seats, or changing to 18 or 21 seats. In each scenario, the boundaries would change to better balance the populations of each district.

As of March 8, only 125 submissions had been received by the commission. So far, there have been 11 public hearings of the 15 planned.

David Brock, the commission’s public hearing secretary, said the purpose of the hearings is to gather input on the proposed electoral districts in the commission’s interim report.

It certainly encourages as much input as possible,” he said.

Brock said attendance at the public hearings has varied, from zero up to 37.

The final public hearing will be held today in Dettah.

Residents of the NWT can also participate by letter or by completing an online submission by March 28.

The commission’s final report is due to be presented to the Legislative Assembly in late May.

— Angele Cano