Federal electoral districts redistribution 2022

Public Hearing Brandon, Manitoba (Victoria Inn) September 8, 2022 – 7 p.m

List of Intervenors

Madam Chairperson (Honourable Justice Diana M. Cameron): Hello, everybody. I'm going to be calling this public hearing to order. And bonjour, good evening, my name is Diana Cameron and I am a judge at the Manitoba Court of Appeal. This evening, however, I'm here as the chairperson of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the province of Manitoba.

I think that probably the two people beside me need no introduction. Nonetheless, I will start by introducing the other two members of the commission, Dr. Paul Thomas, professor emeritus in political studies at the Uni-versity of Manitoba, and Dr. Kelly Saunders, associate professor of political science at Brandon University.

We are also accompanied by the secretary of the commission, Mr. Kevin Young, in the orange shirt. He's the one who makes sure that the commission runs smoothly, that everything is in order and that we remain within the parameters of our jurisdiction.

We also have Mr. Eric Diotte. He is on loan to us from Ottawa, from Elections Canada. He's our geographic expert and statistician. He's also the one that assists us with all the technical and numerical aspects of the map drawing process. So when you make a submission or you give a map, he explains to us what that is, or he'll take a written submission and put it on a map for us. So, he's very, very helpful to us–both of them are, and I thank both of them.

I also want to thank you for coming here tonight and taking part in this very important democratic process. And usually I have quite a few other things to say, but I'm–I understand I'm in very sophisticated company tonight.

So, what I will say is we have our guidelines. You've probably read them in our proposal. I won't go through them again here and now, but they're certainly in our proposal.

Our proposal is exactly that. It's not set in stone. We are here to listen. We are, as Professor Thomas said yesterday, just three people and we can't know the entire province, and it of–it is a fact that, even with other commissions, after the public hearings, the proposals have been changed.

So, I'm–what we are now going to do is go into the presentations. We have found that around 10 minutes is about a perfect effectual presentation. We'll let you know when you're getting close to that through our secretary. He'll keep you in line, too, for a little bit, I guess. And what we do with our presentations is we go in the order that people have made submissions or registered. So we starting with the Swan River Council, who–all right. Please, come forward. If you want to bring a chair and sit and make your submission, you can do that, as well.

Derek Poole: No, I'm fine standing, if everyone can hear me.

Good evening, commissioners. Derek Poole, chief administrative officer for the Town of Swan River, and I just want to thank you for letting me speak this evening.

Madam Chairperson: Oh, I just wanted to say one more thing that I forgot to say. I apologize.

These hearings obviously are being recorded and there will be transcripts posted on our website, the submissions that are made to the commission.

Thank you.

D. Poole: Sounds good. I won't be 10 minutes, but it doesn't mean that what I have to say isn't important.

So, I'm here representing the mayor and council for the Town of Swan River. We have reviewed the com-mission's proposal to increase the electoral district of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski–I'll call it CKA district–and extending it into the Swan River Valley. Please accept our comments in opposition as we propose that our federal boundaries for our electoral district remain unchanged for the following reasons.

The proposed reduction of the Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa boundary draws a line directly through the Swan River Valley. We have, as a valley, our own identity. It's a social mosaic made up of contributing commu-nities from Benito to Sapotaweyak Cree Nation. We believe this area should not be separated.

The Rural Municipality of Minitonas-Bowsman and the RM of Mountain's economies and livelihoods–these are the two municipalities that are being proposed to be separated–their livelihoods and economies are mainly agricultural-based, where they don't exactly fit in with the CKA district's ridings, where predominantly those economies are resource-based.

For these communities, the proposed–to join the CKA district, Swan River has been a hub for their repre-sentation in which our MP has been able to attend valley events. With this change, these communities will lose that hub, which would be normally 20 minutes. Now, potentially, those residents would have to drive over an hour to attend those meetings, depending on the MP's schedule, of course.

We are skeptical as to how the northern MP will be able to provide service and appearances at a similar level to our current MP. Given the impractical task of representing a large area, such as the C-K district, suggests to us that keeping the size the same to maintain effective representation should be an important consideration to the commission.

Regarding the plus or minus 5 per cent desired population equity, the commission has stated that we need to explore different responses to the simple answer of making the C-K district larger. We believe the time to explore that is right now. We don't believe this problem will be going away as populations decrease, and we feel this issue will be even more significant in 10 years at the next review.

And I just want to add that our opposition stance is supported by the municipalities in the Swan River-Dauphin district and also supported by the municipalities that the commission poses–proposes to separate from the Swan River Valley, which are the Rural Municipality of Mountain, the Municipality of Minitonas-Bowsman. Chief Nelson Genaille of Sapotaweyak Cree Nation and Chief Elwood Zastre of the Wuskwi Sipihk Cree Nation are also in support of our opposition stance.

Thank you.

I do have some–just some paperwork for the commission, if I can.

Madam Chairperson: Yes.

Sorry, could you just clarify for us which First Nations are in agreement with your opposition?

D. Poole: That'd be the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation and Wuskwi Sipihk Cree Nation, who in conversation with those chiefs, also–they did mention they're not too pleased that this government-imposed division would further separate their First Nation communities from Treaty 4.

Madam Chairperson: Is that in the materials that you gave to us?

D. Poole: No, that's verbal.

Madam Chairperson: Okay.

D. Poole: Just a communication to the commission through conversations with Chief Zastre and Chief Genaille.

Madam Chairperson: All right. Thank you.

D. Poole: Thank you.

Madam Chairperson: Did you have any questions? Did anybody want to clarify?

All right. Our next presenter is Larry Maguire.

Larry Maguire: Thanks, Justice Cameron, doctors, commissioners.

It's a real pleasure to be here tonight, as well, on this sad day with the passing of our Queen in Canada and–our sovereign. It's a sad day in Canada, but I appreciate you still being here in Brandon tonight to take on the work of the electoral boundary review because it is a big part of our democracy and it's how we need to, I think, continue to be forward. There'll be enough days of remembrance and dealing with the situation with Queen Elizabeth II's death as we move forward over the next several weeks, I'm sure. And many–I only raise this because a lot of things have been changed and schedules already. So, thanks for being here tonight.

But first and foremost, I want to thank you for the work that you've done already in the boundary review and drafting these proposals. I was saying to Dr. Thomas earlier, these types of things occur every 10 years, and they're not easy. So I thank you for that.

I've got some kind of informal–but I've got some formal remarks here that I'll just go through with you.

And so, I want to thank you, as the others have, for the opportunity to provide some suggestions, as I'm the Member of Parliament for Brandon-Souris, and I want to look at a few draft proposals for the constituency that I represent. And as stated by the commission's website, you found no basis to deviate from the precedent and principle of deviating from the five–plus or minus 5 per cent population variances with the provincial average now at 95,868.


As Churchill-Keewatinook Aski was the only riding to lose total population in the last census and the average provincial riding's population has risen in the last 10 years, the ridings–that riding now deviates 15.24 per cent.

So, due to its population loss and the commission's decision to maintain the precedent, the draft proposal is recommending Churchill-Keewatinook Aski now include municipalities on the west side of the province.

This has resulted in Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa losing the RM of Mountain, the RM of Minitonas-Bowsman and moving further south to now include all the RM of Wallace-Woodworth, the town of Virden, Norfolk Treherne and Long Plain First Nation.

So, in consultation with my colleague, Dan Mazier, Member of Parliament for Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa, the member–and after my conversation with Ms. Niki Ashton as well, the Member of Parliament for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, MP Mazier and I previously submitted the letter to your commission. We recom-mended that, in line with legislation that sets the parameters of the commission's work, that consideration be given for the Churchill-Keewatinook Aski to deviate from the riding population average.

So, our arguments are based on section 15(2) of the Constitution Act. That states that within the province, a commission may depart from the rule contained in paragraph 15(1)(a) in any case where the commission considers it necessary or desirable to depart therefrom (a) in order to respect the community of interest or com-munity of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province, and (b) in order to maintain a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural and northern regions of the province.

So, since then the commissions of Saskatchewan and Ontario have now issued their draft proposals. And I'd like to draw to the attention of the two ridings that border Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, which are also almost similar in every way possible and how their proposals deviate considerably from their provincial averages.

In Saskatchewan, their commission is proposing the northern riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River be given a population variation of minus 45.72 per cent, which has resulted in a–having a population of 45,524.

As stated in their rationale, they said, quote: The Saskatchewan commission observes that the large geographic division size of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, coupled with its cultural and linguistic mix, could be viewed as extraordinary circumstances, justifying a variation from the quota by 43.72 per cent. Even with the proposed adjustment in the geographic size, Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River occupies 50 per cent of the land mass of the province and is 5.1 times larger than the second largest electoral district of Kindersley-Rosetown in Saskatchewan, end quote at Rosetown.

In Ontario, their commission granted the status of extraordinary circumstance, quote: to the proposed riding of Kiiwetinoong-Mushkegowuk which is directly to the east of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski.

The Ontario commission is proposing the riding of a population of 36,325 which deviates from the provincial average by 68.84 per cent. The commission concluded the sparse population throughout this remote and expansive area and the Indigenous communities of interest that are predominant in this part of northern Ontario justified this one proposed extraordinary circumstances district.

Taking all of that into consideration, the existing riding of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski is only 15.24 per cent, which is considerably smaller than what both the Ontario and the Saskatchewan commissions are proposing for their northern ridings.

I'd also like to raise the issue that Churchill-Keewatinook Aski was the only riding in Manitoba to lose total population since the last census. There is no evidence to suggest that trend will reverse in the coming years. As the population of Manitoba continues to grow in southern municipalities, I would humbly suggest it is better now to allow it to deviate from the average population per riding due to its impact on other communities, which I will comment on shortly.

Inevitably, the next commission will grant this concession, since if the rising–riding grows any larger in size, which is already larger than some countries, it'll be next to impossible for a member of Parliament to properly serve their constituents.

Moreover, if it grows further south, it'll incorporate farming in agrarian-based communities, which do not have any communities of interest with the North.

The reason I have outlined these points is to highlight the impact it's having on both Brandon-Souris and Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa. Due to increase in the size of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, the domino effect of the town of Virden and the former municipality of the RM of Wallace are being proposed to move into Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa.

After speaking with both municipalities, they've also expressed their desire to remain in Brandon-Souris due to the historical, economic and numerous other connections that have bonded both municipalities with their neighbours to the south and the east. Since 1896, these communities have been part of the same riding as the city of Brandon. This is over 126 years which, I would argue, has served our region very well.

I know both municipalities will be presenting their own arguments, but I will just highlight some of my thoughts. Taking Virden and the surrounding area out of the same riding as the towns of Pipestone, Reston, Oak Lake, Cromer and Sinclair will result in our natural economic trading areas being separated. It would split up the multiple oil service businesses for most of the oil wells and service sites in the south. This would leave a significant amount of people working and living in separate federal constituencies. This would result in multiple students and families living in one federal constituency and attending school in another, and this would separate Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation from the town of Virden, which have their own historical bonds and economic interests.

After speaking with local community leaders and everyday constituents that live in the town of Virden and the former RM of Wallace, I have yet to find someone who believes their community should belong to Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa.

In closing, I know the commission had to make tough choices due to the increase in size of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski. I believe there is ample evidence to suggest that the commission can now break with precedent by allowing it to deviate from the provincial population average. If we only look to what is happening to both northern ridings in Saskatchewan and Ontario, their commissions made the decision to give them con-siderable leeway in population, which is far more significant than what I'm suggesting here today.

I also believe you will find concerns from a few of the municipalities in Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa who do not want to move to avoid dividing communities of interest. They are primarily farming and agrarian-based economies.

So, thank you once again for your time and I hope the comments I've provided today will help you in your deliberations.

Madam Chairperson: Is anything–any questions?

Dr. Paul Thomas: I just wonder, Mr. Maguire, if you have a copy of those notes that you spoke from today? That would be very helpful to us. We will get the transcript eventually, but probably not–

L. Maguire: I can give you the only copy I have, certainly. I can get another one.

Dr. Thomas: Okay. Well, thank you very much. Where's our crack secretary? Could you make–and give Mr. Maguire back his copy?

L. Maguire: Oh, I can get another copy.

Dr. Thomas: Oh, okay.

Madam Chairperson: All right. Thank you very much. That was a very clear and concise presentation. We appreciate it.

Thank you.

Murray Wright: Good evening. Thank you very much for allowing me to attend tonight to voice our concerns regarding the boundary changes. Our council and myself have great concerns regarding these boundary changes that–[interjection]

Madam Chairperson: When you say our council, Mr. Wright, you are speaking about–

M. Wright: The town council of Virden–town council.

Madam Chairperson: Thank you. Okay.

M. Wright: –that the federal elections boundary, especially the moving of the town of Virden from the Brandon-Souris constituency to the Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa constituency. As Mr. Maguire–pardon me–just stated, the town of Virden, and its surrounding municipality of Wallace-Woodworth, have been part of the constituency for close to 120-some years. Within that constituency, there are deep historical bonds that connect each of the communities that may not have the same connection to those to the north of Virden.

Virden is a hub for the area, with people from surrounding communities in the Brandon-Souris constituency, such as Pipestone, Reston, Kola, Oak Lake, Elkhorn and even Brandon working in Virden and attending culture and recreational venues and events as well as being their primary service centre.

Virden hospital is the main health-care facility in the region with patients attending two doctors at the Virden clinic from across the constituency. Students who reside in the RM of Wallace-Woodworth, Pipestone, Sifton and the Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation attend school in Virden, connecting the youth of our community as well. Many of the businesses, primarily with the oil and ag industries, base themselves out of Virden. These businesses service each industry across the constituency. The oil industry, which is primary based in the Brandon-Souris area make our area somewhat unique with different challenges and opportunities than other areas.

With all of this, our understanding that the members of Parliament on both Brandon-Souris and Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa constituencies agree that Virden should stay in the Brandon-Souris area. It is the hope of council and our community that it will.

On behalf of our council, the Town of Virden, I trust you will give serious consideration to our request.

Thank you.

Any questions?

And you do have a copy of my presentation in that envelope in front of you?

Madam Chairperson: In the envelope? Oh, okay. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thanks.

So, that's it for people who have been–who were registered to speak tonight, but as we do at–have done at our other meeting, if there's anybody else in the room that wants to get up and say a few words despite the fact that they haven't registered, we would welcome that.

Clayton Canart: I think–I apologize, I–we were supposed to have been registered, but maybe it never got done.

So, I'm Clayton Canart, then, the reeve of Wallace-Woodworth municipality. So I apologize that that never got through. A lot of the things that I would like to touch on have already been touched on by Mr. Maguire and Mayor Wright, but in reading through, you know, your principles–your guiding principles, there was a few things that we agree as Wallace-Woodworth we would like to stay in–

Well, so I guess I will clarify: we are currently–our municipality is split into two ridings. We have part of our municipality, because of amalgamation that it split our municipality into sharing Dauphin-Swan River and Brandon-Souris. We would like to stay status quo. If anything, we would be willing to move the portion in Dauphin-Swan River into Brandon-Souris.

And a few reasons for that. So, basically, we–again, as Larry mentioned–we've had 126 years of history with Brandon-Souris. Our trade routes, for lack of a better term, travel more east-west and south due–with our industry and agriculture. We share common industry and agriculture to the south, being the oil sector, which is a major contributor and economic driver for our area. With that, we have developed, with the town of Virden and the municipality of Pipestone, the Dennis County partnership–development partnership, which was three entities trying to encourage and promote–

Madam Chairperson: Sorry, what was that?

C. Canart: The Dennis County Development Partnership, DCDP is the short–so, we've developed that to try and encourage and promote economic development and growth in the area. The changes in the electoral boundary would split Pipestone–or, us away from Pipestone. Virden and us, I guess.

We've also, in the past few years, developed what's called the western caucus group, which is a group of southern Manitoba–southwestern Manitoba municipalities who share–also share common industry and agricul-ture. So we've developed that and advocate for similar values and goals for our area, which would, again, move us–the change would move our municipality outside of that.

Employment–the–one of the largest employers in our area is an oil and gas company, Tundra Oil & Gas, and most of their employment happens to the south, so their main office in the area would be in Virden and their office would then, basically, be removed from the riding of where they employ most of their industry in the province. So, most of our workforce does travel south to work, and I would say, as a majority.

And so, in that, your guiding principles are geography, community history, which I think 126 years of being part of Brandon-Souris is a strong message for part of why that fits in the community history as one of your community interests. As I've mentioned, the oil sector is a large part of–agriculture and the oil sector has grown to be large part of our municipality and the town of Virden, which we surround as a municipality. So removing–moving us to the north would kind of separate us from the common interests that we have and community interests currently. And with the geography, Larry also mentioned it, but in your guiding principles, that you must consider manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated rural and northern regions of the province.

Now, I'm not sure if any of you have had the pleasure of serving as an elected official, but as I look at the map and any comments with Dauphin-Swan River–with Swan River, their riding, I can't imagine what it will be like for the MP of that riding to manage any more geographic area, not only because of the size but because of the remoteness of much of that area. You can't drive to a lot of the areas that that MP would represent; you're either going by train, plane or an ice road. I know, in my municipality, it's a fairly large geographic area for municipal standards, and it's difficult to get to all of that.

So, I think increasing the size of that riding for whoever that MP may be is, in a sense, unfair to that riding. I don't know that they can give the representation. I think the geographic area will probably–I'm trying to think of the words I want to use but–so, in your guiding principles, it says that you're supposed to be dealing with voter power parity–is really what the goal is. I think representation is important too. And I don't think that that–the MP, if you make their riding any bigger, can fairly represent the constituents that they are representing.

The other thing that will happen with our municipality is we will actually have a school division that will be split off; Fort La Bosse School Division would then be actually spaced into two different ridings because the Pipestone municipality schools are within the Fort La Bosse School Division, so we would actually be separating them out into a separate riding.

So, from the Wallace-Woodworth standpoint, we would like to stay with Brandon-Souris. We would stay status quo with–split municipality within Dauphin-Swan River or we would be open to moving the entire munici-pality to the south to stay within Dauphin–or within Brandon-Souris.

Thank you.

Madam Chairperson: Thank you.

Is there anybody that would like to speak tonight? No?

Okay, I don't know if my commissioners–the commissioners would like to have–say anything before we close?

Dr. Thomas: Maybe just an observation.

Population shifts occur, and over 10 years a lot can change, and then that forces you to make changes to boundaries, obviously.

But the act also tells commissions, each of which in the province in question is independent and–to make–to balance a series of considerations, one of which is continuity in boundaries, and we've been mindful of that.

And the cynical interpretation is that members of Parliament find it easier to run on–in the same territory from one election to the next. But we adopted a more positive view to say that representational relationships are developed over time, and a Member of Parliament who served one or two decades, or something like that, will know the community intimately and will know the economics of the constituency, the local government officials, the school division people; all of those kinds of relationships are important.

So, if the other criteria is effective representation, you don't want to be too drastic in drawing radical changes to constituencies. On the other hand, we're pressured by court decisions and by fairness in terms of voter parity not to go too far–too wide a gap between what one–what votes count for in electing a Member of Parliament in one part of the province and how many votes it takes to get elected in another part of the province. And we've had, in our Winnipeg hearing, a couple of presenters speak strictly in favour of a 5 per cent tolerance above and below the provincial average.

So it's a very tricky balancing act, and I just want to say we've heard some very interesting things here, local knowledge that we can't possibly possess to the level of detail that you people have, and so I think this is very helpful to us. When you put out a proposal and you hope to get constructive responses, I think you've given us constructive responses, not just say, you made a mess of things; why don't you go away and do it again. That's not much help. We've done–we spent enough time in air-deprived rooms and we need to go and do–rethink some of the things we've been pondering, so I appreciate the comments.

Dr. Kelly Saunders: Yes. No, I just want to echo that and say thank you very much, here. All of your ideas were very thoughtful and constructive and we've heard you and we'll certainly consider what you had to say as we rethink our proposals.

Madam Chairperson: And I–both of my fellow commissioners and just want to say thank you. Speaking for myself I certainly learned a lot tonight and we do really appreciate the constructive responses that you've given us. Thank you. They were very helpful.

C. Canart: Can I ask one question?

Madam Chairperson: Sure.

C. Canart: First of all, I forgot to say thank you for being part of the commission. It's never an easy job because it's never going–we know what it's like, I guess, to make decisions and then be questioned.

But I just have a question regarding the population of registered voters, because when I was looking at the previous stats, just out of curiosity, between Brandon-Souris, Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa, and Churchill, the populations are very similar, but there's a pretty significant difference in the number of registered voters. So moving and aligning the numbers to do with population may not actually give any more voter parity because the registered voter number, if they're not equal, it doesn't–you can have 100,000 in each place; if one place has 10,000 registered voters and the others have 90,000 each, you really haven't created any parity.

So, I'm just curious how you view that.

Madam Chairperson: Yes. That's mandated by legislation.

C. Canart: Okay.

Madam Chairperson: That's not something that we have control over, but that's the way the quotient is deter-mined and that's federal legislation. That was brought to our attention actually last night in the city hearings by a member of the community–one of the communities that is in the university district where there's a lot of–he said a lot of his Chinese community live. He said we're not registered voters but you're splitting us up and I don't really understand why, because we don't have a vote anyway, so–and we don't want to vote because we're going to do something else. But it was a really insightful observation.

Dr. Thomas: Yes. We work with the census numbers, which–and that's different from the registered voters, and then the people who turn out to vote are a smaller population again, and so members of Parliament, when they say they have a mandate to represent, are representing a portion of the registered voters, and so it–the numbers can be confusing, I think, and so obviously not everybody that's in the census is eligible to vote even, so.

C. Canart: Well, and that kind of was my question because it seems almost like it's one of those feel-good things, like we feel good because we say there's 100,000 people in each riding, but at the end of the day, your voter parity isn't actually any different than what it was before because the registered voter numbers, that's really where the voting power is, right? Sorry, it was just a question I'd seen and–thank you.

Madam Chairperson: Anybody else wants to ask a question or has a comment? No? Okay. All right.

Thank you.

C. Canart: I will say you made me feel good tonight because you said you were in sophisticated company and you were saying we were sophisticated where people are sitting at the–on the commission. I feel pretty good about myself today.

So, thank you very much.

Hearing concluded.