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The Yukon Commission’s proposal to reduce the number of MPs in rural areas was met with criticism

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Commission for the delimitation of constituencies checks boundary lines, numbers and names

The Yukon Electoral District Demarcation Commission is proposing a plan to reduce the number of rural electoral districts and increase the number of electoral districts in Whitehorse. The proposal has drawn criticism from the Association of Yukon Communities (AYC), which passed a motion earlier this month expressing concerns about the commission's interim report on electoral district demarcations.

The motion, by Whitehorse Coun. Kirk Cameron, expresses concern about the “diminishing of the voice of rural people” and calls on the commission to personally consult with all AYC members. A press release cites the negative impact on the ability of rural Yukon residents to make their voices heard in the legislative process.

“It would be easier to form majority governments without rural representation in Yukon – further marginalizing remote communities,” the AYC press release said.

According to its interim report of 9 May, the Commission proposes increasing the number of rural constituencies from eight to six and urban constituencies from eleven to 13.

The interim report proposes minor or major changes in 17 of the 19 constituencies.

The total number of districts remains unchanged in the proposal.

Two additional districts in Whitehorse will represent the population of Whistle Bend, while the other constituencies in Whitehorse will be adjusted to balance current population numbers and future growth.

Outside the capital, the commission proposes merging the Vuntut Gwitchin and Klondike districts. Pelly-Nisutlin would be split: Ross River and Faro would join the Watson Lake electoral district, and Teslin and Johnson's Crossing would be added to the Mount Lorne Southern Lakes district. Minor boundary changes in Kluane and Lake Laberge would increase the number of voters in Kluane.

The commission is tasked with reviewing Yukon's existing electoral districts and proposing changes to the Legislative Assembly's electoral district boundaries, number and names. The goal is to ensure effective representation of Yukoners in Parliament.

“Effective representation means the ability of a member of a legislative assembly to effectively represent the people in his or her constituency,” the interim report says. “It is a legally defined concept that requires consideration not only of the population in each constituency, but also of factors such as geography, community history, community interests and minority representation in each constituency.”

The Commission will examine how the area has changed in each of these aspects since the last electoral district change in 2008 in order to maintain and improve effective representation.

While the current boundary lines were in place for the 2011, 2016 and 2021 territorial elections, Yukon experienced significant population growth, particularly in the capital city. The proposed changes are intended to accommodate this unprecedented growth.

The Commission determines that an acceptable number of voters per district is between 1,250 and 2,082, a variance of 25 percent. Based on Yukon's population size, people in the district are considered over- or underrepresented if the number of voters falls outside this range.

“No other province or territory in Canada has such a large proportion of electoral districts with voter numbers outside the 25 percent deviation,” the interim report says.

As noted in the interim report, the proposed changes to the number of constituencies will result in only two of the proposed wards being outside this 25 per cent deviation, and the number of residents in the proposed Whistle Bend North constituency is expected to increase enough to bring it into this acceptable range.

The interim report notes that the commission plans to seek suggestions from Yukon residents on the names of the new constituencies.

The people of Yukon may continue to submit written comments to the Commission on this interim report until August 26. The Commission will visit Yukon communities in May and June to hear their views. In-person public hearings are planned.

Yukon residents will have their say again once the final report is completed, probably in September.

The AYC also expressed concern that some of the hearings scheduled outside of Whitehorse are taking place during normal business hours, which “limits the ability of rural Yukon residents to participate meaningfully,” while the hearings inside the city are taking place outside normal business hours.

“This means that participation may be easier for Whitehorse residents than for those in rural areas,” the AYC press release said.

The independent, non-partisan commission, appointed in December 2023, will consist of one member elected by each of the three major territorial parties, as well as Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan, Presiding Judge, and Chief Electoral Officer Maxwell Harvey.

The commission will submit its interim and final reports to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Assembly will introduce a law to establish electoral district boundaries based on the commission's proposal, the commission's website said. The electoral district boundaries will come into force six months after the proposed law is approved.

Contact Dana Hatherly at [email protected]