Addendum – Disposition of Objection – New Brunswick
The Report of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of New Brunswick (the Report) was tabled in the House of Commons and referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on November 30, 2022. By the end of the 30-day period, the clerk of the Committee had received one objection. The objection is outlined in the Twenty-Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, 44th Parliament, 1st Session, which was transmitted to the Commission by the Chief Electoral Officer on March 23, 2023. The prescribed period for the consideration and disposition of the objection by the Commission is 30 days, ending on April 22, 2023.
The objection pertains solely to the name of a reconfigured electoral district which the Commission named Saint John—St. Croix as a replacement for the name of an existing district known as New Brunswick Southwest. Mr. John Williamson, Member of Parliament for New Brunswick Southwest, objected to the name chosen by the Commission and proposed that the reconfigured district continue to be called New Brunswick Southwest. The Standing Committee supported the objection and recommended that the Commission consider it favourably.
The Commission appreciates the input and has re-examined its Report in light of Mr. Williamson's objection as well as the minutes of proceedings, evidence and report of the Standing Committee. The Commission recognizes the valuable information elected representatives contribute to the redistribution process, and appreciates the effort and thoroughness demonstrated in the submissions received. The Commission is an independent body and is therefore not bound by the representations.
The Commission met on March 27, 2023, and carefully considered the objection submitted to it as well as the Standing Committee's recommendation but dismissed the request for a name change. The following reasons explain the Commission's decision.
The Commission's Reasons
The Commission readjusted the electoral boundaries of the current electoral district of New Brunswick Southwest. In its Proposal, the Commission proposed to transfer several communities from the current electoral district of New Brunswick Southwest to the proposed district of Tobique—Mactaquac, and to add to the riding the parish of Burton and that part of the City of Saint John that lies west of the Saint John River and Saint John Harbour. Approximately 19,000 people who reside in the City of Saint John are now part of the reconfigured district. They represent approximately 24% of the population of Saint John—St. Croix. The Commission suggested that the new electoral district be renamed Saint John—St. Croix for the reasons stated in the Proposal, which are still relevant.
The Commission published its Proposal on June 16, 2022. It then consulted the public. There was very little indication that the community objected to the new name being proposed. During the consultation, the Commission received only two comments concerning the suggested new name of Saint John—St. Croix. One was a one-line written comment from a citizen who asked: "Why change a district identity if it didn't really change that much?" The only other comment came from Mr. Williamson.
In its Report dated November 28, 2022, the Commission adopted the name and the boundaries of the electoral district of Saint John—St. Croix as proposed, except that the community of McAdam remained in the riding instead of being transferred to Tobique—Mactaquac as originally proposed. The fact that McAdam is a starting point for the St. Croix River further justifies keeping the name Saint John—St. Croix. Having considered the arguments advanced by Mr. Williamson during the public hearings, the Commission remained convinced that Saint John—St. Croix was the better name.
Before the Standing Committee, Mr. Williamson acknowledged that the names St. Croix and Saint John were historically significant. He explained that the St. Croix River is the boundary line between the United States and Canada, and Saint John is the name of our country's first incorporated city. However, Mr. Williamson does not believe the new name adequately reflects the whole of the new riding as certain communities do not lie near the St. Croix River, nor are they part of the City of Saint John. He stated that the name New Brunswick Southwest is a more appropriate name because in his view, it continues to properly reflect the new riding much more precisely.
He noted that the citizens living in the current riding of New Brunswick Southwest have a historical connection to the name, as the riding has borne that name almost continuously since 1997.
Mr. Williamson worries that some people will mispronounce the name Saint John—St. Croix, in that they will pronounce it "Saint John—St. Croix" instead of "Saint John—St. Croy," which he argues is the correct pronunciation. He claims that if it is pronounced "Saint John—St. Croix," this will create confusion about its geographic location in Canada. We agree that some will pronounce the name "Saint John—St. Croix," while others will pronounce it "Saint John—St. Croy." However, we do not share Mr. Williamson's concern.
Mr. Williamson indicated to the Standing Committee that he had spoken with a number of mayors and councillors about the riding's name and that broad agreement existed that New Brunswick Southwest should continue to be used. Some leaders of the community of Saint John—St. Croix, including two mayors and two councillors, were present at the public hearings. The Commission specifically asked one councillor, present in Saint Andrews, if he had any comments on the proposed name of Saint John—St. Croix. He indicated that he did not see an issue with the name at that point. During the public hearings, no one other than Mr. Williamson objected to the new name proposed by the Commission for the reconfigured district.
When choosing a name, various factors are considered, such as culture, geography, history and other identifying characteristics of the electoral district. New Brunswick Southwest is a name representative of geographical location only. Furthermore, the reconfigured district of Saint John—St. Croix is not entirely situated in the southwestern quadrant of New Brunswick. Some municipalities are in the southeastern quadrant. And technically, most—if not all—of the electoral district of Fredericton—Oromocto, as well as parts of Tobique—Mactaquac and Miramichi—Grand Lake, are also situated in the southwestern quadrant of the province.
Even if it does not capture all the communities included in the riding, or if sections of the riding are beyond the usually understood area comprising the prominent characteristics for which it is named, the name of a district can still be a good choice. A riding comprising two unique geographical names united by a dash is normally a good choice, as are names of important historical places and natural features.
The St. Croix River is a prominent natural feature of the electoral district and forms part of its western boundary. The new name also reflects the fact that part of the City of Saint John was added to the reconfigured district. Mr. Williamson stated that, while there were a few communities in this district with a population of approximately 6,000, most communities have fewer than 2,000 people. With the new electoral boundaries, the riding of Saint John—St. Croix now has a population of 80,192 people, approximately 19,000 of whom reside in the City of Saint John.
Since New Brunswick is an officially bilingual province, the fact that the new name does not require translation is a bonus. The name of Saint John—St. Croix, as well as the names of all other federal ridings in New Brunswick, remain the same in both official languages without the need for translation. The use of Cardinal points requires translation between official languages. Therefore, whenever it is necessary to use the name in both official languages, such as a map, sign or logo, the name becomes "New Brunswick Southwest/Nouveau-Brunswick-Sud-Ouest." It is a cumbersome name. As far as we can tell, having federal riding names that do not require translation has been the norm in New Brunswick since Confederation. New Brunswick Southwest/Nouveau-Brunswick-Sud-Ouest is the exception.
The name New Brunswick Southwest came into existence not as a result of a name given by a commission, as required by the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, but through legislation. It was changed by legislation in 1997 from Charlotte to New Brunswick Southwest and again by legislation in 2004 when the new name of St. Croix—Belleisle, chosen by the commission, was changed back to New Brunswick Southwest.
Most arguments made by Mr. Williamson before the Standing Committee were also made by him before the Commission during the public hearings. The Commission considered them before issuing its Report.
However, there was no evidence before us that anyone from the community, other than Mr. Williamson and the other citizen previously mentioned, objected to the new name. In the circumstances, it may well be unfair to now change the name from Saint John—St. Croix to New Brunswick Southwest without any opportunity for public consultation and input from the community.
The Commission continues to view Saint John—St. Croix as the preferable identifier for this reconfigured district.
The objection is dismissed. The name of Saint John—St. Croix will remain for this electoral district. The Commission's Report dated November 28, 2022, is unaltered. This completes the work of the Commission.
We wish to express our pride in having been able to contribute, to the best of our abilities, to a process that is so crucial for a sound democratic system.
Dated at Edmundston, New Brunswick, this 14th day of April, 2023.
The Honourable Madam Justice Lucie A. LaVigne, Chair
The Honourable Thomas Riordon, Deputy Chair
Dr. Condé Grondin, Member
Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of New Brunswick