Federal electoral districts redistribution 2022


The Commission released its proposal for changes to the federal electoral boundaries in the province in June 2022. Since then, a number of written comments have been received, and, as well, 12 public hearings were held throughout the province. All the comments and submissions have been taken into consideration in preparing this report. In several cases, substantial changes to the boundary recommendations contained in the proposal have been made. In addition, the Commission has considered the comments on the names of the ridings and has responded appropriately.

In preparing its proposal, the Commission took as the starting point the decennial census. In 2021, the Chief Statistician of Canada reported that the population of the province was 510,550. That represents a small decline in population. The result means that there is no change in the number of seats in the House of Commons for the province. It remains at seven seats.

The Act provides that the population of each electoral district shall correspond as nearly as possible to the electoral quota for the province. The electoral quota is determined by dividing the population, as determined by the decennial census, by the number of seats allocated to each province. In this province, the electoral quota is 72,936 inhabitants per district.

The Act then goes on to set out the factors that must be considered by the Commission in setting the boundaries. It is useful to quote the provisions of section 15 of the Act:

15 (1) In preparing its report, each commission for a province shall, subject to subsection (2), be governed by the following rules:

  1. the division of the province into electoral districts and the description of the boundaries thereof shall proceed on the basis that the population of each electoral district in the province as a result thereof shall, as close as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province, that is to say, the quotient obtained by dividing the population of the province as ascertained by the census by the number of members of the House of Commons to be assigned to the province as calculated by the Chief Electoral Officer under subsection 14(1); and
  2. the commission shall consider the following in determining reasonable electoral district boundaries:
    1. the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province, and
    2. a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province.

(2) The commission may depart from the application of the rule set out in paragraph (1)(a) in any case where the commission considers it necessary or desirable to depart therefrom

  1. in order to respect the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province, or
  2. in order to maintain a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province,

but, in departing from the application of the rule set out in paragraph (1)(a), the commission shall make every effort to ensure that, except in circumstances viewed by the commission as being extraordinary, the population of each electoral district in the province remains within twenty-five per cent more or twenty-five per cent less of the electoral quota for the province.

While in its proposal the Commission attempted to ensure that the population of each of the ridings on the island portion of the province would have rough equality, the oral and written submissions received during the public consultation process were sufficiently compelling to prompt reconsideration of that approach. For example, a decision was made early in the proposal process that, with the exception of the capital city, no municipality would be divided between two ridings. This decision was strongly supported by the feedback submitted. However, representations from several municipalities, as well as from one MP, persuaded the Commission that this principle ought to be extended to groups of municipalities that had a history of working together. This caused the Commission to reconsider several of the boundary proposals and led to a major reconfiguration of several boundaries on the Avalon Peninsula.

In addition, several submissions pointed out that two of the largest ridings by geographical area also had the largest populations. Given the greater difficulty of servicing a widely dispersed rural riding, it was argued that it was reasonable to make adjustments in this regard. Without deviating substantially from the principle of rough population parity, the Commission decided that it was reasonable for the mainly urban ridings to have slightly greater populations than large, sprawling, rural ridings. In this report, the Commission has responded to this concern.

There was a well-thought-out submission from one resident, who suggested major changes to the current distribution of seats within the province. Taking the concept of geographic paramountcy and putting it ahead of a population-based distribution, the submission went beyond the mandate of the Commission and would be contrary to the legislation governing the process. But the Commission wanted to acknowledge the thoughtfulness of the submission, and it will form part of the Commission's permanent record.

In preparing its proposal, the Commission thought carefully about the electoral district boundaries for the seven existing ridings, and it proposed small adjustments to the boundaries, where necessary, to accommodate population shifts (both up and down: while the population in the province as a whole had decreased since the previous census, some districts had increased in population, while others had decreased). The Commission sought to find a balance between seeking to adhere closely to the electoral quota and ensuring that communities of interest and identity are protected; it also wanted to take into consideration the representational challenges that are linked to both population size as well as the geographical size of ridings. Based on the submissions received, the Commission has made substantial changes to several of the ridings, as contained in this report.

In the proposal, the Commission reached the conclusion that the status of Labrador as comprising a single riding, notwithstanding its small population, should be maintained. Because the Act permits a substantial departure from the legislated quota, greater than a 25% deviation, only if the Commission determines that extraordinary circumstances exist, it was thought necessary, as a first task, to articulate the reasons underlying such a finding. The following section sets out the reasons why the Commission found that extraordinary circumstances exist in the case of Labrador to keep it as a separate riding. Since accommodating that departure from the quota will, of necessity, have a significant impact on the calculation in the other districts, this report will address that issue first.