Introduction and Overview – New Brunswick
Establishment and Membership
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the province of New Brunswick (the Commission) submits its report for presentation to the House of Commons pursuant to section 20 of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-3 (the Act).
The Commission was established on November 1, 2021, to readjust the boundaries of New Brunswick's federal electoral districts using the data from the 2021 Census.
The Commission is an independent body and makes all final decisions as to where these boundaries will lie. The chair of the Commission, appointed by the Chief Justice of New Brunswick, is the Honourable Madam Justice Lucie A. LaVigne, of the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick. The other members of the Commission, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons, are the Honourable Thomas Riordon, a retired justice of the Court of King's Bench of New Brunswick, deputy chair of the Commission; and Dr. Condé Grondin, a retired professor of political science from the University of New Brunswick.
Statutory and Constitutional Obligations
The 2021 Census established the population of New Brunswick at 775,610. New Brunswick's representation in the House of Commons is 10 members, corresponding to 10 electoral districts (also called ridings), which therefore amounts to a provincial average, or electoral quota, of 77,561 residents per electoral district.
When drawing the electoral boundaries, the Commission was mindful of its statutory obligation to establish electoral districts with populations as close to the provincial average as reasonably possible. However, population parity is not the sole consideration. As required by section 15 of the Act, the Commission also considered the communities of interest and identity, historical pattern and geographical size of each district when determining whether deviation from the electoral quota was either necessary or desirable to achieve fair and effective representation. Each of these factors can, just like the population, influence the ability of a member of Parliament to effectively represent his or her constituents. In proposing a new electoral map for the province, the Commission was also guided by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the jurisprudence.
Before drafting its proposed redistribution plan, the Commission welcomed public input. Many of the suggestions received were incorporated into the initial proposal. The redistribution proposal altered the boundaries of all the electoral districts as well as the names of 5 of the 10 districts. Although the Commission was of the view that its proposal would provide effective representation for New Brunswickers in Parliament, it also acknowledged that it was not set in stone.
The Commission submitted its proposal dated June 2, 2022, outlining the proposed names and boundaries of the 10 electoral districts in New Brunswick, with supporting reasons (the Proposal). It was published online and in the Canada Gazette. An insert was placed in newspapers throughout the province. It contained the proposed names of the ridings and the maps illustrating their proposed boundaries, outlined the process for submitting written submissions and making public presentations, and specified the locations and dates of the public hearings.
A more detailed consideration of the process that guided the Proposal, including a more thorough explanation of section 15 of the Act, the Charter and the jurisprudence, as well as the reasons for the recommendations, can be found in the Proposal. Readers are referred to the published document for these details as they will not be repeated here, although they remain very relevant and are to be considered to form part of this report.
The Commission scheduled one in-person public hearing in each electoral district. Hearings were held in the following municipalities between September 7 and September 28, 2022: Woodstock, Saint-Quentin, Newcastle (a neighbourhood in the city of Miramichi), Shediac, Moncton, Rothesay, Saint Andrews and Fredericton. The hearings scheduled for Saint-Léolin and Sussex were cancelled as there were no expressions of interest to make a representation at these hearings. A virtual public hearing was held on September 29, 2022.
In reaction to its Proposal, the Commission heard 37 presenters, most of whom also provided written submissions. It also received at least another 20 written submissions from individuals and groups who did not wish to make oral presentations. The Commission considered all these submissions, plus those received during the advance public consultation, before making the final decisions contained in this report.
The proposed changes that attracted the most feedback, some positive and some negative, were the division of the city of Saint John into two electoral districts, the transfer of the community of McAdam from New Brunswick Southwest to the proposed district of Tobique—Mactaquac and the transfer of the remainder of the town of Riverview from the current riding of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe to Fundy Royal. The dividing line between the ridings of Beauséjour and Miramichi—Grand Lake also generated a lot of discussion and received many different suggestions for change, even though the Commission had not suggested any change to this boundary. These matters will be discussed further in the sections on the individual ridings.
The information and views provided by the public enriched the Commission's understanding of this province's diversity. The need to balance various competing interests inevitably led to not all requests being accommodated.
The Commission endeavoured to draw electoral districts in a manner that respects the integrity of the boundaries of municipalities and First Nations reserves. However, it found it necessary to divide the cities of Saint John and Dieppe in order to respect the objectives of effective representation and greater electoral fairness.
Local governance reform is continuing in this province. The new entities list and maps depicting the future state of the local governance structure for New Brunswick are known. However, maps are not for legal use. Maps with final boundaries will become legal only on January 1, 2023.
The general rule is that commissions use the territorial divisions in existence on January 1 of the year that a commission was established. Therefore, in its Proposal, the Commission used the boundaries and names of entities as they existed on January 1, 2021, except for Fredericton, whose limits were drawn using the expected new limits, as requested by the City of Fredericton during the advance public consultation. However, the Commission reserved the right to readjust other boundaries to take into account some or all local governance reform should it conclude that there was a need to do so before submitting its report.
Throughout the public consultation, both in writing and orally, participants continued to refer to the names and boundaries of the current entities. There was very little mention of the new entities. Notwithstanding the reform, the identity of the communities does not change, and the addresses of its residents stay the same. Therefore, unless otherwise stated, the Commission will continue to employ the territorial divisions used in its Proposal, which was the basis of public consultation and input.
In this report, the Commission has made exceptions for the cities of Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John, and the towns of Oromocto, Quispamsis and Rothesay. It has adjusted the boundaries of these municipalities to reflect the territorial limits that will be effective on January 1, 2023, as a result of local governance reform. These adjustments account for the difference between the population numbers indicated in the Proposal and those specified in this report, for the various impacted ridings, where no other changes were made. The changes in population are not very significant. All are within 155 people of the original count except for the riding of Moncton—Dieppe, which has an increase in population of 628, and Fundy Royal, which has a decrease in population of 707. The names of these entities have not changed.
Reconfiguring the federal electoral districts to realign them with the limits of some of the other new entities would have required more significant changes to the Proposal, as is evidenced by examining the new entities of Five Rivers, Maple Hills, Valley Waters and Butternut Valley, all of which cut across at least two federal ridings. The Commission was not convinced that other changes should be made to the electoral map at this time. The federal electoral districts will be revised again in 10 years. At that time, further consideration should be given to the names and boundaries of the new entities as the public will probably have become accustomed to them.
Alternative Provincial Boundary Changes
Although the Commission received many suggestions for how a specific district could be configured differently, many participants agreed with the Proposal. Only one member of Parliament, the Member for Saint John—Rothesay, disagreed with what the Commission had proposed for his riding and asked that the current riding be maintained.
Most participants who suggested changes to the Proposal targeted chiefly one riding. However, four participants suggested complete provincial boundary changes. One suggestion was received from the Kent Regional Services Commission (Kent RSC) (alluded to in the Proposal), one was submitted by a Saint John resident, one was presented by a Fredericton resident and a written submission suggested an electoral map for the whole country (the author did not identify as a New Brunswicker).
These changes to provincial boundaries resulted in ridings with smaller deviations from the quota than outlined in the Proposal; in fact, all the deviations were within 12%. However, redistribution is more than a purely mathematical exercise. These changes would have involved drastic and sweeping changes to the boundaries of many ridings, basically requiring the Commission to scrap its Proposal and start all over from scratch.
Rather than making fundamental and radical changes to New Brunswick's electoral map, the Commission opted for an approach of generally maintaining established electoral districts and making incremental changes where necessary to achieve fair and effective representation. As far as reasonably possible, the Commission aimed to maintain some continuity between old and new boundaries so that citizens could continue to identify with their riding and their elected representative.
Effective representation can be achieved by various configurations. The Commission's proposal for most ridings was generally well accepted except for these provincial changes. In such circumstances, unless an option proposed by others represented an obvious improvement over the Proposal, substantially changing the redistribution plan suggested in the Proposal, which formed the basis of extensive public consultation and input, could undermine confidence in the electoral boundaries readjustment process. The Commission is of the view that this would be contrary to the spirit and intent of the Act. Public consultation and feedback are integral and essential to the process, and the Act does not provide for a second round of public consultation.
After reviewing the four alternative provincial boundary changes, the Commission remains unconvinced that any of these proposed options would improve the overall redistribution. The Commission believes that its Proposal, with some minor adjustments, offers the best solution for the province.
Not Within the Commission's Mandate
A few matters that are beyond the Commission's mandate were the subject of written submissions or comments from presenters during the hearings. Two individuals advocated for a system of proportional representation. Two others argued that the Act should be changed to (1) remove all limits on the number of people allowed in each electoral district and (2) prevent members of Parliament from making both a submission during the public consultation process and objections after the report is presented to the House of Commons.
The Chair of the New Brunswick Coalition of Persons with Disabilities made a presentation during the virtual public hearing, advocating for an inclusive society. She offered different suggestions, which, she submitted, would make voting and being involved in the electoral process easier for people with disabilities, such as improving public transit, making sure that polling stations are accessible and keeping separate data on registered people with disabilities to facilitate them accordingly in upcoming elections, especially if boundaries change.
These matters are for Parliament or Elections Canada to consider rather than the Commission. However, they form part of the record of the Commission and are accordingly available for review and discussion by others who may wish to pursue them.
Summary of Changes Made to the Proposal
The Commission reaffirms the proposed names of all the electoral districts, except for the proposed electoral district of Fundy Royal—Riverview, which reverts to Fundy Royal.
The Commission reaffirms the boundaries of all the electoral districts as proposed, subject only to the following:
- The community of Four Falls is transferred from the proposed electoral district of Madawaska—Restigouche to the reconfigured electoral district of Tobique—Mactaquac.
- The community of McAdam is transferred from the proposed electoral district of Tobique—Mactaquac to the electoral district of Saint John—St. Croix.
- Adjustments have been made to the boundaries of the cities of Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John, and the towns of Oromocto, Quispamsis and Rothesay to reflect territorial limits that will be effective on January 1, 2023, as a result of local governance reform.
The names, populations and variances from the electoral quota of 77,561 for all the electoral districts are shown in the table below.
|Electoral District||Population 2021||Variance (%)|
|Saint John—St. Croix||80,192||3.39|
This redistribution plan maintains the status quo concerning the linguistic profile of the electoral districts. New Brunswick has three predominantly French-speaking electoral districts (Acadie—Bathurst, Beauséjour and Madawaska—Restigouche), one bilingual district (Moncton—Dieppe) and six mainly English-speaking districts (Fredericton—Oromocto, Fundy Royal, Miramichi—Grand Lake, Saint John—Kennebecasis, Saint John—St. Croix and Tobique—Mactaquac).
The next section of this report provides additional reasons for the final names and boundaries. The Appendix contains legal descriptions and maps of the electoral districts.