The Yukon Electoral District Boundaries Commission tabled an interim report Monday that suggests major changes to the boundaries of seven electoral districts.
“Concerns regarding the existing electoral district of Pelly-Nisutlin” have prompted the independent commission to propose the dissolution and restructuring of the current districts of Mayo-Tatchun, Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes, Pelly-Nisutlin, and Watson Lake into four new electoral districts.
The commission held a public and stakeholder consultation period from June to Oct. 1 in which it called for written submissions as mandated by the Elections Act.
The seven submissions received during that period were posted on the commission’s consultation website.
One group of significant proposed alterations affecting Whitehorse is a direct response to what the commission calls “unprecedented growth in the Whistle Bend community,” as well as development in Porter Creek.
The district of Whistle Bend would be created and the district of Porter Creek Centre would dissolve. The Porter Creek North and Porter Creek South district boundaries would be adjusted to accommodate the change.
While the current elector population in the proposed Whistle Bend constituency sits at 357, this is projected to rise to more than 2,100 by 2026, according to the commission.
Meanwhile last June, Faro resident Keith Austin wrote the commission asking that Faro be moved to a separate riding from Teslin, as he doesn’t feel the two communities have a lot in common.
“They seem to be the overriding part of the riding,” he wrote of Teslin. (Faro had its own riding during the 1970s to ’90s heydeys of its mammoth lead-zinc mine, which once employed several hundred people.)
Last July, Faro Mayor Jack Bowers wrote to the commission on behalf of town council, the Ross River Dena Council, the Teslin Tlingit Council and the Village of Teslin council, asking for Pelly-Nisutlin to be split into two separate constituencies.
“The new ridings should represent those communities whom have much in common, both geographically and culturally,” Bowers wrote.
He also mentioned the challenges the current Pelly-Nisutlin MLA, the Yukon Party’s Stacey Hassard, faces in trying to reach all the communities in his riding.
“Having our MLA living in or near our community would make it possible for Faroites to enjoy the privilege of their company more often, as most Yukon riding residents do,” Bowers stated.
He also went on to mention that “this letter in no way is meant to reflect negatively on Mr. Hassard’s efforts to represent us, but focuses on the geographical and cultural barriers separating our communities.”
In September, Chief Richard Sidney of the Teslin Tlingit Council and Teslin Mayor Clara Jules wrote to the commission. They suggested new boundaries that recognize there are “few cultural or historical connections” between Teslin and the Faro/Ross River area.
Sidney and Jules suggested that Teslin would more appropriately be grouped with Carcross and Tagish.
Meanwhile, Ross River and Watson Lake are “more aligned culturally and politically” as part of the Kaska Nation, Sidney and Jules noted.
The commission appears to have incorporated all of these suggestions in its proposed transformation of the Pelly-Nisutlin area into three new electoral districts.
One of the new districts would be Carcross-Tagish-Teslin.
Created from the southern portions of the Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes and Pelly-Nisutlin districts, it would include Carcross, Tagish, Teslin and Johnsons Crossing.
“The proposed electoral district combines communities that share similar characteristics and elector populations, and respects the commonalities of
members of the Teslin Tlingit Council and the Carcross/Tagish First Nations,” the interim report reads.
The second riding, Mayo-Carmacks-Faro, would see Faro and Little Salmon join the communities currently encompassed in the Mayo-Tatchun district: Carmacks, Elsa, Keno Hill, Mayo, Pelly Crossing and Stewart Crossing.
The report explains that “this change combines the community of Faro with others that share a common transportation corridor and history of economic dependence on mining activity.”
The third new district proposed is Watson Lake-Ross River.
It would replace and extend the current district of Watson Lake, reflecting “the historic connection between the communities of Watson Lake and Ross River, as well as the relationships amongst the Kaska people.” It would include Rancheria, Swift River and Upper Liard.
The proposed changes in the Pelly-Nisutlin area would also see the adjacent Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes district become the Mount Lorne-Marsh Lake district. It would no longer include Carcross, Tagish or Jake’s Corner.
“This change will establish the electoral district of Mount Lorne-Marsh Lake as a country-residential area with similar characteristics to urban electoral districts,” the report reads.
A second change in the current Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes district would see the inclusion of Golden Horn to recognize its commonalities with the other country residential areas in the district – the hamlet of Mount Lorne, the Carcross Cut-off, the Annie Lake Road, Marsh Lake and area, Lewes Lake and the Robinson subdivision.
Another community cited its considerable and growing size in a written submission on boundary changes.
The Association franco-yukonnaise asked the commission Oct. 1 to “examine the statistics at its disposal to see if electoral districts could be redistributed to create a district where francophones would have considerable weight.” According to the submission, this proposed district would be in Whitehorse.
The suggestion was not reflected in the commission’s interim report.
The commission is, however, proposing minor changes to the boundaries of the Klondike and Copperbelt South electoral districts.
The former reflects a change requested in a written submission from Klondike returning officer Charles Brunner.
He asked that Klondike’s eastern boundary be adjusted to include electors living on the west side of the McQueston River “who are more connected with Dawson than with Mayo.”
Despite the proposed changes, the total number of electoral districts in the Yukon would remain at 19.
According to the report, the commission weighs a variety of considerations in making proposals for future electoral districts. These are:
• density and future growth;
• accessibility, size and geographical features;
• facilities, travel patterns and means of communication;
• census data, current elector population and demographics;
• any special circumstances of existing electoral districts;
• municipal and First Nations boundaries; and
• public input.
“The proposals represent the unanimous view of the members and were guided by public input, projected future development and population growth, judicial decisions on redistribution from jurisdictions across Canada and all considerations prescribed by law,” the report reads.
The boundaries commission, established by the Elections Act, is appointed after every second general election in the territory.
It’s comprised of Lori McKee, the territory’s chief electoral officer, Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale, and a partisan appointee from each political party represented in the legislature: Darren Parsons, Anne Tayler, and Jonas Smith.
The commission will host another period of consultation on the changes proposed in the interim report. The public is invited to comment by written submission or by presentation at public meetings in February and March 2018, dates and locations to be announced.
The commission’s final report will be submitted by April 20, 2018.
It will be tabled in the legislature, after which the government will introduce legislation that establishes electoral districts for the next two general elections.
The full interim report and the commission’s contact information are available at www.yukon boundaries.ca.