Friday, March 12, 2021

Antics of Saskatchewan Rural Municipality of McKillop number 220

 It is not often I delve into municipal politics, but, I felt this deserved an exception. My attention to this issue came via a tweet made by ksituan about the gerrymandering that had occurred. The map confused me, as it mentioned the incumbent council wanting to gerrymander districts along the lakeshore. Let me share with you a map I've made to help myself make heads or tails of the situation:

In blue you can see the existing divisions, while in red are the new ones.

While I worked through the issue, I thought I had solved it; and that the blue divisions (hereafter called ridings; as most Canadians understand the concept of a riding) were gerrymandered. However, I've uncovered that both sets of ridings are actually horrendously gerrymandered, pending how you interpret the right to vote. 

There are a ton of various news articles about the place; but I think I've discovered the unmentioned controversy at the heart of the dispute. 

The municipality has 732 permanent residents, and, it seems, about 1000 non permanent residents (or more)

Here in Ontario we could call these non-permanent residence houses, Cottages, and their part-time occupants, Cottagers. As this is a term I am most familiar with, I will use it. The remainder of the municipality appears to be heavily agriculture based. There appears to only be one non-agriculture based permanent settlement called Uhl's Bay, that appears to have between one and two dozen houses. The remaining houses, coloured in dark yellow on the map, belong to the Cottagers. 

An interesting, but not uncommon, fact, is that the building that houses the HQ for the municipality is outside of it, residing in one of the grey areas; which are separate municipalities. The Green area, for reference, is a provincial park; while the lake and land outside the municipality boundaries have been appropriately coloured. Also to note; this whole area is about an hour north of Regina, just across from Regina Beach. 

The dispute seems to be based on the following fact:

People who pay residential taxes in a municipality in Saskatchewan, can vote in the municipality. This means people who live in Regina but own cottages up in Saskatchewan Rural Municipality of McKillop number 220, can vote in both. With them making a majority of the voter base, they can effectively decide on issues for the entire municipality, something the people who live there full time do not seem to care for. Personally, I do not blame the full timers one bit. I may be biased, but from my prospective this is equal to someone from another city, who has money, buying their way into an equal vote to mine in my own municipality. On the other side, is taxation without representation really something we want to be encouraging? 

The old map was clearly gerrymandered against non-permanent residents. The new one, however, appears to be gerrymandered against the permanent residents. I say this because of the very weird shape of riding #5. Not only did they move Uhl's Bay into it, but there appears (to me) to be no reason why ridings 2 and 5 could not have been split with a simple straight line. The new ridings also seem to have been drawn specifically to over-represent the cottager vote, by packing farmers into ridings 2 and 5; similar to how the old ridings packed cottagers into riding 4. 

I don't suspect the solution - to give cottagers control over the municipality - will result in any good healthy permanent changes; and as such, we might hear about the antics of Saskatchewan Rural Municipality of McKillop number 220 again in a few months or years. 

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