Nfld. & Labrador

Paul Davis says no link between MHA cuts, election date

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis denies that his move to trim the number of seats in the House of Assembly is connected to a desire to push the next provincial election to 2016.

Premier says pushing election back 'a big risk for me'

Premier Paul Davis, seen in the CBC Radio studio in St. John's, says cutting the number of MHAs and moving the date for the next provincial election was a big risk for him. (CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis denies that his move to trim the number of seats in the House of Assembly is connected to a desire to push the next provincial election to 2016.

"In all fairness, that's a huge statement to make and wouldn't that be a big risk for me?" Davis said Friday, in response to a question from CBC CrossTalk host Ramona Dearing about whether or not he was looking to give his party a boost.

Davis took questions from callers about his Thursday announcement that he would like to see the number of MHAs cut from 48 to 38.

Government served notice Friday afternoon that the House of Assembly will open Monday to deal with the proposed MHA cuts.

Such a reduction would save the province $2.5 million a year.

"Every million dollars, every half a million dollars, every fund that we can find will help," Davis said.

Following Thursday announcement, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael accused Davis of gerrymandering — a process in which a political party changes the districts to its benefit.

'Risk for me'

However, Davis said the decision isn't about trying to give his party any advantage in the next provincial election. To the contrary, he said his decision is more of a risk than anything.

"For a matter of a few weeks, if I'm going to say we'll extend the house by a few weeks into November, for example, [and] not hold the election until November 2015, for me to do that just to give me an extra short period of time and risk that criticism, wouldn't that be a huge, huge risk for me to take?" said Davis.

"It's not one that I would take. It's about us doing everything we can do as a government to deal with a significant financial and fiscal challenge we have."

The most recent Corporate Research Associates poll found that the governing Tories continue to trail behind the Opposition Liberals by a margin of about two to one. 

The poll also found that Davis' own popularity among the party leader was far behind that of Liberal Leader Dwight Ball. 

Davis added that he has already come out in support of the idea of reducing the number of seats in the legislature, and his decision Thursday was about dealing with looming fiscal challenges the province faces.

Davis outlined Thursday he would aim for an independent commission to complete its work in a 90-day time frame.

Process will take months

When the house sits on Monday, the Electoral Boundaries Act will need to be amended to allow the commission to start work earlier than the previously set 2016 date.

Once completed, the commission's report would have to go back to the legislature.

Members would then need to pass an amended House of Assembly Act that would define the new electoral boundaries.

Elections Newfoundland and Labrador said its part of the work for changing district boundaries would need to be completed two months before an election, and would therefore need the commission's report four months before an election could be held.

An election at the end of November 2015 thus would mean that a report would need to be finished by the end of July at the latest.

With files from Peter Cowan


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