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City proposes alternative to electoral boundaries commission

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The Manitoba Electoral Divisions Boundaries Commission was in Dauphin seeking input on the constituency boundaries laid out in its May interim report.
Among the recommendations included in the report is a realignment of the Parkland which would see the area from Gilbert Plains west to the Saskatchewan border included in the Riding Mountain constituency, while Dauphin would be connected north with the Swan River Valley to form the Dauphin-Swan River riding.
And while presenters at the hearing did not necessarily agree on the solution, all were adamant that the union of Swan River and Dauphin to form the Dauphin-Swan River electoral division makes no sense, economically, geographically or socially.
In its presentation to the committee, the City of Dauphin agreed that representation by population is an equitable system however, how you arrive at the final population number also matters, Mayor Al Dowhan told the commission.
“Being a small province, historical and traditional trading patterns in communities of like regional interests should be given a consideration,” Dowhan said.
“The traditional area patterns follows an east-west pattern, while the boundaries commission proposes a north-south trading pattern.”
Proposing a riding named Parkland, Dowhan presented the commission with a plan which encompasses the City of Dauphin, RM of Dauphin, Crane River, Ebb and Flow, Ethelbert, Gilbert Plains, Grandview, Hillsburg-Roblin-Shell River, Mossey River, Ste. Rose, Valley River, Waterhen, Mallard, Rock Ridge, Salt Point and Ochre River.
The proposal, Dowhan said, maintains the representation by population principle and connects similar community interests in terms of school boundaries, medical, dental, recreational, airport and other services.
It also maintains east west commerce interests with respect to farm machinery, car dealerships, retail trading, entertainment and small business enterprises, he said, and encourages regional economic development to sustain and grow the population.
Also of concern to the city is the fact the commission’s proposed riding does not include the area’s indigenous population.
“Our indigenous population forms a large part of our east-west trading, service, health and cultural pattern and should be included in the Parkland electoral boundary,” Dowhan said.
The city’s position was echoed by Dauphin annd District Chamber of Commerce executive director Stephen Chychota.
The boundaries, as proposed by the commission could have the local chamber dealing with three MLAs in the trading area.
“It can pose difficulties when it comes to advocacy issues,” Chychota said, adding the communities of Gilbert Plains and Grandview could potentially be represented by some one from southern Manitoba.
“Let’s say Hamiota, or somewhere in the southern area, that’s the representation for that whole riding that encompasses Gilbert and Grandview. There could be misrepresentation for the communities neighbouring Dauphin, ones that we are looking after. We would just have to be dealing with three potential MLAs for this area from an economic development standpoint.”
While he did not necessarily agree on the solution, Swan River Mayor Glen Mckenzie agreed that Dauphin and Swan river should not be contained in the same electoral boundary.
Speaking on behalf of all the municipalities in the Swan River Valley, Mckenzie proposed a division with the 53rd parallel as its northern boundary comprised of all municipalities bordering the Duck Mountains including Swan Valley West, Mountain, Minitonas-Bowsman, the Town of Swan River, Ethelbert, Mossey River, Gilbert Plains, Grandview, Roblin and the First Nations of Sapotewayek, Wuskwisipik, Pine Creek and Valley River.
“None of these municipalities have a great deal in common with the City of Dauphin and would have little influence in a constituency dominated by a city of over 8,000 people,” Mckenzie said.
Reiterating that the proposed boundaries are just that, proposals, commission chair Richard Chartier, the Chief Justice of Manitoba, told the hearing based on the feedback it has received so far, the commission will be making changes to its recommendations.
“We know we are already going to be changing things on our maps,” Chartier said.
“Our challenge will be to try to meet the needs and expectations of as many people as possible. That’s our goal. We know at the end of the day we won’t be able to do that for everybody, but we will give it the college try.”
Among the other presenters at the Dauphin hearing were Swan Valley West municipal councillor David Minish, Swan Valley School Division chair Keli Riehl, former Swan River MLA Ron Kostyshyn and Camperville mayor Sonny Klyne.
The commission will have its final report submitted to the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the Assembly by Dec. 31.
Submissions received by the commission during its 13 community hearings can be viewed on its website at boundariescommission.mb.ca.