11 February 2015

The Boundary Commission Fun is closer #nlpoli

The Chief Justice has named Justice Robert Stack as the chair of the boundary commission appointed under the Electoral Boundaries Act.

We now have to get four other members of the commission, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Assembly so the whole crowd of them can start their 130 adventure.

Will it be done on time?  And if it isn’t,  will we be trooping to the polls on schedule in the fall to vote in 48 districts instead of 40,  as NHTV reported on Monday night.

Amazing as it is, some people still haven;t quite sorted it through.  Let’s save them further anguish and lay out the possibilities.

The Commission will either be able to complete its work inside the 130 day limit or it won’t.

If the commission can draw the boundaries and hold some sort of public consultation,  the government can and likely will accept the report, no matter how bad it is. They promised to cut the number of seats.  If they have a map that looks passable, they will accept it.  They will ram it through the House of Assembly, with or without the support of the opposition parties, and put the 40 districts in place.

If the commission doesn’t get the job done in 130 days,  the government has two choices:

  • They can accept failure, or,
  • They can reappoint the commission/appoint a new commission.

Given that it’s unlikely the Conservatives will accept failure,  they will have to do something else besides the option NTV offered.

That’s right, folks.  The next general elections will NOT feature 48 seats.

The Conservatives will either appoint a new commission or reappoint the old one because they can.  There is nothing in the Electoral Boundaries Act  - as revised in January - that prevents them from doing it.

The Chief Justice must appoint a chairman if he receives a request from the cabinet.  He has no choice.  The law says he must do it. If anyone in this three-ring political circus of a province will obey the law it is the judges..

The Speaker alone has the power to appoint the four members of the commission. The opposition parties might get a request from the Speaker to suggest some people to serve on the commission.  They might not.  It doesn’t matter.  Legally, the Speaker makes the choices and, if need be,  the Conservative Speaker will do what the Premier tells him to do.  That’s just the way the Conservatives roll.

If the Commission gets re-appointed,  the opposition parties will most likely go along with it.  If they don;t get a seat on the commission, they risk letting the Conservatives make all the decisions.  They will play along with a re-appointed committee because they fundamentally support. the cut in seats.  Well, because of that and the fact they don;t want to run the risk of not having someone on the commission. 

Neither party has the political credibility to oppose the commission on any principle because they have already abandoned that.  If the Liberals object, the Tories can easily neutralise them with the simple observation is so close to what the Liberals so fully support.  It would be a waste of money and time to abandon the cuts now that they are so close.

and the election got further away.

And as your humble e-scribbler has noted before,  the Conservatives will delay the election by whatever means they have to, if the polls don’t give them a reasonable chance of winning.  They will use whatever excuse they need to use, including a problem with the commission.  

And anyone who believes what the politicians have been telling them need only remember Judy Manning.  Back when Paul Davis appointed the unelected minister,  they sloughed off any objections with assurance there’d be an election soon.  Implicitly they meant this spring.

And then things got closer to this spring and so there isn’t an election now.

Come the fall, when there is supposed to be an election either the polls or the federal election or both will become the reason to delay the fall elections. The reality is that the Conservatives will just use whatever reason they can find to delay the election.

They have time.

They will use all the time they can get.

To go to the polls now, or any time when the opinion polls are against them, guarantees the Conservatives will lose. They would be stupid to go to the polls. The Conservatives are a lot of things but stupid is not one of them.

The longer the Conservatives delay, the more likely it is that oil prices will rebound or the Liberals will screw up or both or some other miracle will save their political asses.

Even if the Conservatives get their 40 seats within the 130 days set by the new version of the boundaries commission law, the next election will come when – and only when – the Conservatives are ready.

The only limit is the five year one set in the Constitution. Everything else, - like the appointment of cabinet ministers or the spring election that never happened or the fall one that likely won’t – all of that is just so much hot air.