The contents of leaked correspondence has Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson concerned about the future of northern Saskatchewan’s federal riding.
The letter, sent from Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River Conservative MP Rob Clarke to members of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, expresses disagreement with proposed electoral boundary changes.
In response to the leaked document, Cook-Searson is sending her own letter to the committee in support of the changes, which will bump the riding’s southern edge northward.
“The new boundaries will give us a voice for aboriginals and northerners in Ottawa,” she said, noting that the proposed changes bump a handful of non-aboriginal communities into the Prince Albert riding.
“As northern and aboriginal people we have a common interest and a common voice, and moving the boundary north makes more sense to us.”
The proposed boundary change pushes the towns of Choiceland, Love, White Fox and Smeaton into the Prince Albert riding.
“I have already spent four years representing these constituents and established personal and working relationships with those people,” Clarke’s letter reads. “This relationship is being cast aside at the expense of the constituents and the rest button is hit.”
On top of that, Clarke notes that the Prince Albert riding already boasts a population five per cent over the riding quota, meaning this population jump of almost 1,000 people bumps the riding’s population even higher -- a jump that isn’t offset anywhere else.
Since he already serves the RM of Shellbrook, Clarke suggests that including the Town of Shellbrook into his riding would equal out the ridings’ populations.
One line in Clarke’s letter is of particular concern Cook-Searson; “The already large percentage of First Nations has increased and it diminishes the influence of the rest of the communities.”
“He’s saying there are already enough First Nations people in his riding,” Cook-Searson said. “It’s almost like he’s saying it’s a weakness to have First Nations people in your community … I see it as a strength, and this way we would have a stronger voice in Ottawa and a better representation.”
As northern and aboriginal people we have a common interest and a common voice, and moving the boundary north makes more sense to us. - Chief Tammy Cook-Searson
Elsewhere in Clarke’s letter, he suggests that the First Nations communities of Shoal Lake, Red Earth and Cumberland House be subsumed by the Yorkton-Melville riding.
“It seems that he’s looking at it more of his own self interest rather than looking at the First Nations and northern residents’ interests,” Cook-Searson said.
The proposed boundary change, which Clarke is against, would result in a greater First Nations representation that is less likely to vote Conservative, she noted.
The non-partisan decision made by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs should be approved, and not the partisan suggestions made by Clarke, she said.
“It’s not politically driven in any way, so I think when they looked at creating the new boundaries in Saskatchewan … they looked at it at an objective level.”
The end result, she added is mean to “best represent the community large” -- a sentiment she plan on expressing in her letter of support to the committee.
Although Clarke’s Ottawa-based office stated that he’s declining comment on this topic, it was noted that he plans on talking to the media later on in the month, after the committee has had time to consider his letter.
Although his office noted that Clarke hadn’t intended on his letter being made public, he has no problems or concerns with its content.
Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.
A full copy of Clarke’s letter opposing electoral boundary changes can be found online at Cook-Searson’s website, at www.tansi.ca .