Nfld. & Labrador

New electoral boundaries could mean MHAs have to battle for seat

Some sitting members in the House of Assembly may have to battle one another for a seat if redrawn district lines from the Newfoundland and Labrador Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission are approved.
Liberal MHA Jim Bennett says he thinks the provincial electoral boundaries commission could have done a better job of minimizing the impact on the rural areas of the province when reorganizing district lines. (CBC)

Some Newfoundland and Labrador MHAs are going to have to fight for a seat if the proposed electoral boundaries are approved, pitting some members against colleagues.

The provincial boundaries commission, chaired by Justice Robert Stack, released its proposal for the redrawing of electoral lines in the province, reducing the number of MHAs from 48 to 40 if approved.

The new lines will see the elimination, or reorganization, of some districts and that means some MHAs no longer have seats — like Liberal Jim Bennett.

On the island's west coast, the district lines for St. Barbe, The Straits-White Bay North and Humber Valley have been redrawn to two districts in the area.

If the proposed lines are approved by government, Bennett has the option to run against Liberal Leader Dwight Ball or MHA Christopher Mitchelmore, or select a different region to run.

Bennett said he has no intention to run against his party's leader, and doesn't like the option of running against a fellow Liberal MHA.

"If people in that district can convince me that they want me instead of Christopher Mitchelmore, who I think is a pretty good MHA in any event, then I don't see going up against a colleague," he said.

'Pit one MHA against another'

According to Bennett, he'd rather consider running in another area of the province than against a colleague.

"This is the type of game that [Paul] Davis government wants," he said. "They want to pit one MHA against another MHA and rather than have us fighting among ourselves I'd rather go knock off one of their ministers."

Bennett said he's not happy with the new proposed district lines, and hopes for a free vote in the House of Assembly so each individual member can have their say.

This is the type of game that [Paul] Davis government wants. They want to pit one MHA against another MHA and rather than have us fighting among ourselves I'd rather go knock off one of their ministers.- MHA Jim Bennett

"I don't see how I can support a vote that eliminates my district. How do I say to the people who elected me I'm going to go into St. John's and vote against you having your own member?"

He added he was "disappointed" by the commission's proposal, adding they didn't utilize all options and could have conducted the process differently to have a smaller impact on rural areas.

"They could have done a much more effective job and I think they ended up with a very flawed result simply by not using the tools that we gave them."

The Progressive Conservatives will have their own battle, with the possibility of cabinet ministers squaring off for a seat.

Terra Nova and Trinity North will be largely merged together if the proposed boundaries are approved, meaning Finance Minister Ross Wiseman and Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Sandy Collins could end up fighting for the same nomination.

However, Collins said he's considering other options including running in Gander — a district which now includes part of his old district, and the former area where Kevin O'Brien announced he won't be running in the next provincial election.

The commission is in the process of conducting public consultations for the proposed changes to district boundaries, which will then move to the legislature.

With files from Peter Cowan

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