The population of Saskatchewan as determined by the 2011 Census was 1,033,381. This represented an increase of 5.56% over the 2001 population of 978,933. For their part, the two major cities (Regina and Saskatoon) grew at a substantially faster rate than the province as a whole. The 2011 population of the City of Regina was 193,100, or 8.34% greater than the city's 2001 population. The 2011 population of the City of Saskatoon was 222,189, or 12.89% greater than the city's 2001 population.
Statistics Canada data for the 2001–2011 decade demonstrate that the shift in the population of the two principal cities rested on three facts: (1) continued intra-provincial migration from farms, villages and towns to the cities; (2) a net gain for the cities of inter-provincial migrants; and (3) increased numbers of international migrants settling disproportionately in the two cities.
The obverse of these findings is that areas outside the two major cities attracted relatively fewer out-of-province and international migrants, and in general recorded slower levels of growth. In some regions of the province the population declined in absolute numbers, although the Commission noted that the rate of out-migration from farms, villages and towns to cities appeared to have been lower than in recent decades.
Saskatchewan's four fastest growing electoral districts over the past decade are of the "mixed urban-rural" variety. These are districts (used infrequently outside Saskatchewan) in which the majority of the population resides in a quadrant of one of the province's two major cities and the minority in an adjoining, often geographically large aggregation of towns, villages and farms. The 2011 Census confirmed that the expanded population of four of these districts (Blackstrap, Saskatoon—Humboldt, Saskatoon—Wanuskewin and Wascana) had resulted in large measure from the increase in the urban component of the mixed districts. Between 2001 and 2011 these four districts averaged a population increase of 15.22%. By contrast the remaining 10 districts grew by 1.5% over the same period.
The population shifts of the past decade called into question the continued suitability of the composite urban-rural electoral districts. This issue is central to the Commission's proposal for the province's 14 electoral districts. It was also central to the concerns expressed by a considerable number of Saskatchewanians who contacted the Commission with communications ranging from brief, one-sentence or one-paragraph notes to formal documents presented on behalf of a group or association. These communications almost unanimously voiced opposition to the continued use of hybrid urban-rural districts in Saskatchewan. The Commission is grateful to those who contacted it at the outset of this redistribution process and wishes to thank them for their participation in this important democratic exercise.
The Commission's proposal for the province's districts reconfigures the electoral boundaries in a manner that incorporates the basic principles set out in the legislation: voter equity, community of interest and manageable geographic size. To that end the proposal calls for the establishment of two exclusively urban districts in Regina and three in Saskatoon. One of the 14 districts would be mixed urban-rural (Regina—Qu'Appelle), and one would contain an entire city whose population is greater than that of the district's rural component (Prince Albert). The remaining seven would be primarily rural, although of those seven, six would each contain at least one small- to medium-sized urban centre (Lloydminster—Battlefords—Rosthern, Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Prince Albert, Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, Souris—Moose Mountain and Yorkton—Melville).
The Commission is mindful of the fact that in creating five strictly urban districts, the majority of the rural districts would be set to increase in geographic size. To mitigate the impact of Regina's and Saskatoon's growth on the geographic size of rural districts, and to guard against the excessively large districts that would result if the electoral quota were strictly applied to all 14 districts, four of the districts (Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan and Souris—Moose Mountain) have had their populations kept below the quota of 73,813. Three other districts (Lloydminster—Battlefords—Rosthern, Kindersley—Rosetown—Humboldt and Yorkton—Melville) are marginally above the quota. Two districts with predominantly urban populations (Prince Albert and Regina—Qu'Appelle) and the five exclusively urban districts are, on average, 2.84% above the quota.
The Commission has attempted to ensure that municipal boundaries have been respected wherever possible and that towns and small- to medium-sized cities have not been divided with different portions assigned to each of two adjacent districts. It has also endeavoured to ensure that every First Nations reserve has been placed in its entirety within a single district. Where a number of First Nations reserves are geographically concentrated in the province, the Commission has respected that fact by including them within the same electoral district.
The proposal represents a significant change in Saskatchewan's federal electoral map. To accomplish the goal of strictly urban seats, the Commission broke with a five-decade tradition in Saskatchewan. Introduced first in the 1966 redistribution, mixed urban-rural districts had become a standard feature of the federal electoral boundary readjustments.
The proposal returns to an earlier period (1933–1966) when both Regina and Saskatoon were designed as single electoral districts within the boundaries of the two cities. The major difference between that period and the present one is that, with a significantly greater share of the province's total population now residing in the two principal cities, the number of entirely urban districts has reached an historic high.