In Stephenville, Mayor Tom O’Brien doesn’t like the new setup because his town will lose representation by one of the two MHA positions that currently exist.
The town is currently cut in half with representation with the western portion of the town in with Port au Port district and the other side in the St. George’s-Stephenville East district.
Under the new configuration, the entire Town of Stephenville will be in with Port au Port district, meaning just one MHA for the town.
On the other side of the St. George’s-Stephenville East District, the mayors of the St. George’s and Stephenville Crossing, Fintan Alexander and Brian Joy, respectively, have strong concerns about the size of the new district they would be part of.
The proposed Humber South-St. George’s District would stretch from communities in Bay St. George South right into a section of Corner Brook. The biggest concern for Joy is being grouped in with an urban area like Corner Brook and he’d prefer remaining in with smaller communities where the issues are more in tune with their own.
There’s also a fear that a MHA serving such a big area would have a lot on his or her hands and the smaller communities like Joy’s would get less attention. He said the last MHA Joan Shea and the current MHA Scott Reid has always been close at hand, with no trouble to get a meeting set.
O’Brien said while he’s aware the restructuring is much a numbers game when it comes to outlaying the districts, he believes that the cutbacks in the number of districts strongly favours the Avalon Peninsula to the detriment of western Newfoundland.
With the number of seats on the Avalon Peninsula, the answer could be to take out a seat or two and leave the west coast boundaries as they are — travel would be much easier for an MHA on the east coast.
That’s a good suggestion, especially since MHAs spend most of their time in St. John’s anyway and it would be less travel for them even if their district was a little larger.
Joy, Alexander and O’Brien all plan to present to the public consultation on electoral boundaries when it comes to Stephenville on May 1.
Whether these presentations will make any difference remains to be seen, as there’s not a lot of time to make changes between now and a fall election.
But saying nothing is not the answer, and the more community representatives that get out and have their say against these new proposed districts, the better.