Guiding principles – Manitoba
The Commission has established a number of principles that will provide guidance in the development of the 14 electoral boundaries and bring predictability to the process.
First, the Commission accepts as a fundamental principle the desirability of voter parity among ridings (such that each vote cast in the province shall have approximately the same weight). This is consistent with the Supreme Court of Canada case of Reference re Prov. Electoral Boundaries (Sask),  2 SCR 158 (the Saskatchewan Reference decision) wherein a majority of the Court stated that relative parity of voting power, while not the only factor, is of prime importance in ensuring effective representation and section 15(1)(a) of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act (the Act). Other considerations listed by the Court include a) geography; b) community history; c) community interests and d) minority representation. Nonetheless, the Court reinforced that, beyond consideration of these factors,
dilution of one citizen's vote as compared with another's should not be countenanced.
In pursuing the goal of voter parity in Manitoba, the electoral boundary commissions of 1992, 2002 and 2012 set a tolerance goal of plus or minus 5% from the provincial average of people in a riding. This guideline offers the Commission a variance range of 10% (from -5% to +5%). During past redistribution processes, no one challenged, in general terms, the reasonableness or fairness of this guiding principle, although there have been objections to how it has been applied to the boundaries proposed for particular constituencies. Considering the significant precedent set by our predecessors, the Commission finds no basis to deviate from this principle and, thus, adopted a ± 5% guideline.
The second guiding principle is that the Commission will take into account population growth projections, as far as reasonably possible, to ensure that the population of each riding will remain within the + or - 5% range until the next redistribution 10 years hence. This is consistent with the statement in the Saskatchewan Reference decision that
projected population changes within that period may justify a deviation from strict equality at the time the boundaries are drawn.
Finally, we are guided by the principle of keeping communities together as much as reasonably possible. In the Saskatchewan Reference decision, the Court stated that the reason that factors such as community interest and minority representation may need to be considered is so that legislative assemblies
reflect the diversity of our social mosaic.
In Manitoba, this involves protecting constitutional rights of the Indigenous communities (sections 25 and 35 of the Charter) and the French- and English-language communities through sections 16 and 23 of the Charter. Section 16 grants the right to use English and French in all the federal government institutions of Canada; and section 23 protects English-language education in Quebec and French-language education outside Quebec. So, in making the boundaries, we will endeavour to keep those constitutional communities together.
In addition to recognizing the existence of groups designated in the constitution, boundaries commissions must seek to accommodate other types of communities of interest and community identities. Section 15(1)(b) of the Act provides that in preparing its report the Commission must consider (i) the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province and (ii) a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province.
The application of this provision as well as the guiding principle of keeping communities together as much as possible involves paying respect to different entities such as municipalities, as well as the boundaries of local government and administrative units. In addition, such communities can be based on physical features like geography, transportation and economic links, and communications patterns. Communities of identity can involve cultural and psychological factors, including membership in distinctive ethnic and cultural groups and a history of living together, which can lead to a shared perception of belonging to a community.
The challenge for the Commission is to draw constituency maps that achieve relative voter parity, while also identifying communities whose recognition is necessary to ensure effective representation of individuals in a particular area. The Commission welcomes advice on performing the task of balancing a range of considerations to support effective representation for all Manitobans.