Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An end to Gerrymandering?

New federal constituency boundaries have been proposed for Saskatchewan.  This is part of a redistribution which follows automatically based on the most recent census.

Early on in the process, there were widespread calls from academics, from media and from basically anyone with a lick of sense for the commission to move away from the gerrymandered "rurban" constituency model which saw the cities of Regina and Saskatoon split into four separate ridings with vast rural components..  The net effect of the old model was a massive electoral advantage to the Conservative Party.  Indeed, Saskatchewan had the unique distinctions of a) being the only province where there was not a single all urban constituency and b) being the province where the Parliamentary representation was most at odds with the actual election results.

Overall, the commission has done some fairly good work.  Saskatoon will consist of two all urban constituncies and one mixed riding with a small proportion of rural voters.  Likewise Regina will have two virtually all urban ridings, but the third riding will have a larger proportion of rural voters than the rurban seat in Saskatoon.  Indeed, the proposed new Regina - Qu'Appelle is virtually unchanged from the current version except for the addition of the Walsh Acres neighbourhood in Regina and a few minor tweaks in the rural boundary at the east end of the seat.


As mentioned, the changes to Regina - Qu'Appelle are very minor, much to the joy (no doubt) of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer.  But the changes to Wascana are also very limited, principally in the loss of rural areas.  Long time Liberal MP Ralph Goodale should be pleased - although he may decide not to run again in 2015 since he'll be collecting his Canada Pension and eligible for a very handsome Parliamentary pension as well.  If Ralph (who wins despite being a Liberal, not because of it) were to retire, the seat would likely become a Conservative - NDP marginal with a slight edge to the Conservatives.

The principle change is the combination of the Regina parts of the former Palliser and Regina - Lumsden - Lake Centre seats into the all urban Regina - Lewvan.  Notionally this seat would have gone NDP by a narrow margin in the 2011 election, and that despite the former RLLC having not been a priority riding.  Former Palliser candidate Noah Evanchuk would be the obvious frontrunner for the NDP nomination here in what should be a highly winnable priority seat.

The only point that has been questioned in my hearing has been the choice to carve out the Walsh Acres neighbourhood from Regina - Lewvan to Regina - Qu'Appelle.  Obviously this was to equalize the population numbers, but it does look a trifle odd.  If Walsh Acres were to be put into Regina - Lewvan, obviously a comparably sized neightbourhood would have to go the other way.


I don't claim to know Saskatoon well enough to say much, though I'm told that there are some odd spots where the proposed boundaries slice through neighbourhoods.  Notionally all of these are competitive seats for the NDP.


Most of the proposed rural boundaries seem sensible enough, with the exception of the west central region of the province.  I don't see the sense of a pair of constituencies that run from the Alberta border to past Saskatoon.  It would seem to me that splitting that area between east and west would make more sense.  I don't have the detailed census data to suggest a precise line, but the following gives you the sense of what I'm suggesting.


The next stage is a series of public hearings.  Here again, Saskatchewan proves unique in that all of the hearings are during business hours, which hardly encourages a broad response.  The hearing schedule can be found here.  Anyone wishing to speak at the hearing must inform the commission prior to September 3, 2012.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Thoughts on St. Dominic's Day

I've has this huge collection of links that I've been intending to post.  Mostly I've been waiting for the opportunity to put them all in the context of a narrative.

This evening, as I put together the service sheets for tomorrow's midweek eucharist, St. Dominic gave me the narrative.

Dominic realized that the people could not be brought back to the Church so long as bishops and priests made the rights of the institution their primary concern. So he adopted a life modelled on today’s gospel: he renounced all property except for the robe on his back and travelled up and down the countryside, preaching to strangers on the road and to crowds in the market-places.
The first five articles - every one of them worth the read - speak to the problem of an institutional church that is confused about the proper focus.  We are concerned with the survival of an institution - preferably a survival accomplished without making any serious change to how we do things.  Christendom is over, and we need to stop pretending it isn't.  We desperately need to change.  The sixth article, writing from a secular perspective, talks about why change is so hard, and how leaders often undermine their own attempts at reform.

Perhaps the difference is that this cohort of clergy is that they aren’t critiquing an institution we just assume will still be here in ten years. They are calling us out of the cloud of denial - telling us that if we don’t act, it won’t be - and that we have to talk about it.
It is time to give up our excuses for not engaging in God’s mission to make disciples, and, by doing so, to make a difference in our communities.

Washington DC Baptist Pastor Amy Butler calls for the end of the church as we know it.
Our work is not to control the trends of society or to prop up a comfortable model we’ve become accustomed to. Our work is to make faithful disciples of Jesus Christ: to bring the gospel to the world, to nurture people in their faith, to live as good stewards of what we’ve been given and to bring justice and peace to a society desperately in need.
The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, at least here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating. We have given the atheists less and less to disbelieve. And the sort of Christianity many of us have seen on TV and heard on the radio looks less and less like Jesus.
Theologian Wendy Daxon, guest posting at Lay Anglicana, questions if the Church is serious about reaching the spiritual seekers.
What other institution does this? When a retailer or manufacturer does not reach its intended market, does it say, ‘We’ve got a tremendous product, how silly are they to reject it? We’ll just keep it on the shelf, gathering dust, not bringing anyone through our doors, because we know how good it is.’ Of course not. A smart, entrepreneurial business venture asks questions, and adapts. It brings in new people on staff, it welcomes new points of view—even uncomfortable ones. Hearing hard truths about why something is not working, and acting on what one hears, is the fastest way to get things working again. And yet, this is exactly what the churches refuse to do.
The answer or a key leverage point for overcoming this problem lies somewhat deeply or unconsciously within the human psyche. We all make personal and work-related commitments to change. Why do we fail so often to do what we say we want to do? It is because we have secret, hidden commitments beyond our awareness that counteract our espoused commitments. These hidden commitments are often based on false assumptions. It is as if we have one foot on the gas with our espoused commitments and another on the brake with the hidden commitments. This realization came to me clearly while I was recently reading the work of Kegan and Lahey (Immunity to Change).

So read 'em and weep.  And when you're done, go change the Church and the World.