Reviews of Division Boundaries
Res #: 14-23M
Responses Received: Yes
Departments: Saskatchewan Ministry of Government Relations
WHEREAS Section 49.1(2) of The Municipalities Act states that “The council shall establish a policy setting out the manner in which it will review the divisions of the rural municipality within 2 years of the coming into force of this section for the purpose of providing that each division of the rural municipality has, as nearly as is reasonably practicable, the same population or number of voters.”
WHEREAS the RM of Meadow Lake has had no issues with operating under the status quo that has each division boundary allocated based on approximate geographic size. The review of each division’s population, census taking, and subsequent alteration of boundaries and map changes would be costly and unwarranted.
WHEREAS most RM services are provided on a regional basis and not necessarily based on population density and the amendments to The Act were created because of a few special situations. Also, Section 49( 4) of The Act states that “The minister may, by order, alter the boundaries of, eliminate, or create one or more divisions or renumber the divisions in a rural municipality,” at any time.
BE IT RESOLVED that SARM lobby the provincial government to amend The Municipalities Act to make division boundary changes within an RM a discretionary decision by council or based on a request of the Minister of Government Relations.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that division boundary changes be based on optional considerations such as geographic area instead of only population.
Responses From: Saskatchewan Ministry of Government Relations
December 7, 2023
- The current legislation regarding division boundary reviews does not prescribe how or when a review is done, and it does not require division boundaries be changed after a review – only that the results of the review be made Public awareness of the facts about the distribution of population or voters between divisions is a great way to begin the conversation about whether the status quo is working.
- It is council that decides whether to request the province to alter its division boundaries after having received the report from the review and making the results public. Further, according to the legislation, divisions in rural municipalities are only for the purpose of voting. If service delivery or other operations were aligned with the division boundaries before a review was conducted, there would be no need to change those structures if division boundaries are altered. This would again be a council decision.
- The policy to review division boundaries ensures that councils are aware where population imbalances exist, so they can thoughtfully consider whether it is justified and within reasonable limits. Councils should then decide on next steps to achieve effective representation, and whether division boundaries should be changed. Some factors, such as geographic characteristics, history, and communities of interest, may justify unequal representation, within reasonable limits. The current legislation explicitly provides for a council’s division review policy to require these factors to be considered in a review.
- A council may also decide to not have a policy to review division boundaries and move to elections at large. With this option, every vote would have equal weight.
The Honourable Don McMorris – Minister of Government Relations, Saskatchewan Ministry of Government Relations