Reducing Seats in a Legislature Must Be Looked at in Context.

AuthorMichael, Lorraine

In this article, the author explains why people may not be better served by having fewer elected representatives. She outlines the multifaceted dimensions of constituency work and explains how geography--particularly in rural or northern areas--can challenge a politician's ability to effectively reach constituents and hear their concerns. She notes that while technological innovations can help build connections with constituents, not all areas have adequate communications networks. The author notes that potential cost savings of having fewer politicians is not as straight forward as it may seem, that backbenchers are not all as underworked as people may believe, and having fewer seats in a legislature won't necessarily make it easier for parties to run a full slate of candidates. She concludes by contending that changes to the system itself should be where efforts are directed and proposals to reduce or increase the number of representatives in the system should be examined in context.

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An elected representative does a lot of work that the public doesn't see. There is so much more than what occurs in the chamber of the legislative assembly. The public may not be aware of the multifaceted dimensions of constituency work. When someone proposes to reduce the number of seats, the public picture is that there will be fewer politicians. What they miss is the harm that it does for our democracy.

If you lessen the number of parliamentarians, the same amount of work becomes spread among fewer people. Upping their workload is problematic. Members of a legislative committee conduct a lot of background work.

In a small province like Newfoundland and Labrador, private members may not have enough resources to support their advocacy for constituents or to research issues being discussed in the legislature. MHAs have one constituency assistant. There is some research support available through the caucus, but that is not available to Independents, and there are times that members have to conduct the research themselves due to a lack of support staff. It is a very different situation in Ottawa where Members of Parliament have many supports.

If a parliamentarian has to represent a larger constituency, the number of people contacting your office increases, and members can become overloaded. It is a problem for the democratic system if constituents complain that their phone calls are not getting returned. The more that citizens feel disconnected from...

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