Saskatchewan Electoral Boundaries (Reference)

The reference on Saskatchewan electoral boundaries (1991) comprised an important decision by the Supreme Court on the right to vote as set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The reference on Saskatchewan electoral boundaries (1991) comprised an important decision by the Supreme Court on the right to vote as set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In this reference, the Supreme Court clearly distinguished the Canadian right relating to the exercise of the franchise from American case law. A majority of the Court rejected the principle of "one person, one vote," established by the United States Supreme Court, substituting for it the principle of "effective representation." In this case, a commission had been established to revise provincial electoral boundaries. The statute setting up the commission laid down 2 conditions: (1) a strict quota, respectively, for urban and rural constituencies; (2) the conformity of constituencies with existing municipal boundaries. The result of this revision was the creation of deviations in representation ranging from 15% to 25%. By a majority the Supreme Court was of the opinion that these deviations did not undermine section 3 of the Charter. Judge McLachlin observed that "... the purpose of the right to vote in section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is not equality of voting power but the right to 'effective representation'. Our democracy is a representative democracy. Each citizen has the right to be represented within the governmental edifice." Judge Cory dissented. The provincial legislature should not have predetermined the result by imposing conditions on the commission. According to him, the imposition of these conditions undermined section 3 of the Charter.