Federal electoral districts redistribution 2022


As will be demonstrated herein, the Commission has made a number of changes to the initial Proposal. To explain how the Commission reached its final conclusions, it is helpful to begin with an explanation of how we approached our work. We will begin with broader principles adopted (or rejected) by the Commission, and then proceed to our riding-specific determinations.

Redistribution is more than a "numbers game"

The Commission accepts there is validity to the view, expressed in the public feedback, that we placed undue reliance on seeking to decrease the variance between the 11 electoral districts in the Proposal. In saying this, the Commission is mindful there are commissions elsewhere in the country that have adopted the view that the variance between ridings should be no more than 10%, or even less. There is also support in the academic literature for closing the gap and moving away from the wide variance of plus or minus 25% permitted by law. While we respect these views, the Commission has concluded we should not apply such an approach within the Nova Scotian context, notably due to our geography and historic patterns of settlement.

Since the arrival of the earliest Europeans, settlement in the province has been predominantly adjacent to the coastline and in-land water sources. This has resulted in much of the interior of the province being lightly populated. The geography of the province, combined with the settlement patterns, makes unworkable an approach that focuses on obtaining close equivalency of population among the 11 electoral districts. As one presenter said, taking the view that all ridings should be within a pre-determined percentage of variation, "would be like fitting a square peg in a round hole." In our deliberations, the Commission was mindful of balancing all of the considerations mandated by law and did not view itself as having a primary goal of minimizing the variance among ridings.

Effective representation

Every citizen is constitutionally guaranteed the right to "effective representation." As will be recalled from the Carter decision, the right to vote found in the Charter does not mandate absolute equality of voting power but "relative parity." The Commission accepts that "effective representation" is not absolutely tied to the number of persons in an electoral district.

The role of a member of Parliament is to effectively represent their constituents. How a member undertakes that responsibility, however, and the challenges involved in doing so, may vary greatly. The Commission was pleased to receive representations from seven sitting parliamentarians, all of whom provided valuable information not only with respect to their particular constituencies but also regarding how they undertake their responsibilities.

The Commission accepts that members of Parliament in rural electoral districts face challenges that are different from those of their urban counterparts. Rural ridings, because of their lower populations, are geographically large, some with challenging terrain. Services such as a reliable Internet connection, cell phone reception and public transit—which facilitate the ability of constituents to readily engage with their representatives in urban areas—simply do not exist in many rural regions of the province. We acknowledge this poses practical difficulties for members of Parliament representing rural ridings. The Commission is mindful that expanding the geographic area of a rural electoral district in an attempt to bring it closer to the electoral quota may have negative consequences for the ability of a representative to effectively serve their constituents. In other words, in a rural riding, a member of Parliament may be challenged to effectively represent a geographically dispersed population of 70,000, whereas their colleague in an urban riding may readily provide effective representation to 100,000 or more constituents. The acceptance of this proposition provides support for wider population variances between urban and rural constituencies being justified and in accordance with the fundamental goal of "effective representation."

A fifth urban riding

The proponents of adding a fifth riding in the Halifax area made a compelling argument based on the growing population of the Halifax Regional Municipality. In short, approximately 42% of the province's population resides within this urban area, yet it only accounts for 4 of the 11 electoral districts. Proponents say adding a fifth riding is not only justified but required by a numerically strict application of the principles governing redistribution.

The population data speaks for itself, and the Commission takes no issue with the proposition that a fifth urban riding would have the numeric effect of bringing those district populations closer to the provincial quota (albeit overshooting somewhat to the low side). However, as noted above, achieving relative voting parity and ensuring effective representation is more than a "numbers game." We respectfully disagree that the addition of a fifth riding in the Halifax region (and the resulting net loss of a riding elsewhere in the province) is required in the present circumstances.

It is acknowledged that, in the Commission's final report, the four most highly urbanized ridings are all well above the electoral quota of 88,126. However, all electoral districts, urban and rural, are within the acceptable variance of plus or minus 25%. We are satisfied the higher populations of the four urban ridings do not prohibit their residents from being effectively represented by their members of Parliament. It should be remembered that the Commission's mandate is to consider whether the entirety of the province is being effectively represented. (Recall our reservations about the potential negative impacts of further expanding the size of rural ridings.) We are satisfied that, notwithstanding the higher populations demonstrated in the four urban electoral districts, the redistribution in this final report will not jeopardize the effective representation of their residents.

Riding-specific determinations

Early in our deliberations, the Commission was able to readily identify several riding-specific changes that would be implemented in our final report. Based on the feedback received, we were satisfied that:

  • The East Hants "Corridor" should not be divided, as was initially proposed. The Commission accepts that the community of interest in this area strongly supports the area remaining together and as a part of the Kings—Hants riding. This change has been implemented in our final redistribution.
  • Preston, North Preston and East Preston should be in a riding associated with the Halifax Regional Municipality. The Commission had two choices in this regard. The Prestons could be added to the Dartmouth—Cole Harbour riding; or it could remain affiliated with the Fall River and Sackville area, as they have been since the 2012 redistribution (Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook).
  • Shelburne County will be returned to the South Shore—St. Margarets electoral district. The Commission accepts the view that this region shares a stronger community of interest with the area identified as the "South Shore." The Commission was equally influenced by the concerns expressed in relation to the impact of the addition of this predominantly anglophone population to the effective representation of the Acadian linguistic minority in the formerly proposed Acadian Shore—Shelburne riding.
  • The "Sambro Loop" area will be returned to the Halifax electoral district. The Commission accepts that the proposed boundary served to practically divide this area from the remainder of the South Shore—St. Margarets riding, a factor not sufficiently considered in our Proposal.
  • The Eastern Passage area should not be geographically separated from the rest of its electoral district. Accordingly, it will remain in the Dartmouth—Cole Harbour riding as the Commission originally proposed.

Other decisions were not so easily made and required more in-depth consideration and deliberation, notably the boundaries of the electoral districts (or district) in Cape Breton, the placement of Antigonish County, and the constitution of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour:

  • The Commission was intrigued with the suggestion of a single Cape Breton riding encompassing the entirety of the island. We undertook the exercise of calculating the population of a single Cape Breton Island electoral district. It became apparent that this was presently not an option, as the population variance was well in excess of the allowable +25%.
  • The Commission also explored whether it was feasible to divide Cape Breton Island into two electoral districts without the necessity of having one of the ridings extend into the mainland. Again, the Commission undertook population calculations, which quickly demonstrated that placing two ridings entirely within Cape Breton was not possible, as both would fall well below the permissible -25% variance. This meant that one of the electoral districts in Cape Breton would also need to serve areas of the mainland (as has been the case since the 2003 representation order).
  • The Commission agrees Cape Breton should have an urban riding and spent considerable time debating the location of its boundaries. The newly created Sydney—Glace Bay, incorporating "industrial" Cape Breton is the result.
  • Notwithstanding public input suggesting the Commission should keep Pictou and Antigonish Counties together in a single electoral district, we have determined all of Antigonish County should be included with Guysborough and rural Cape Breton in the newly named Cape Breton—Canso—Antigonish electoral district. As noted earlier, the Commission also received feedback in support of such a division. We are satisfied that, although there is a connection between the communities of Antigonish and Pictou counties, the same can be said for the Canso Strait area.
  • As noted earlier, the Commission received strong public feedback for retaining Dartmouth—Cole Harbour in the configuration established by the 2012 redistribution. However, maintaining the status quo was simply not an option. We have already explained why the Eastern Passage area geographically belongs in the riding. Some suggested Preston, East Preston and North Preston shared a close community of interest with Cole Harbour and also belonged in the electoral district. Further, as we already set out, the Commission received many complaints about its proposal to remove former City of Dartmouth neighbourhoods from the riding. However, keeping all of these areas in the electoral district created a variance well beyond the permissible +25%. The Commission was faced with some difficult decisions, as noted below.
  • Although acknowledging the close connection between the Prestons and Cole Harbour, the Commission determined these communities should continue in a riding with a similar makeup as what had been implemented in the 2012 redistribution (the newly named Sackville—Bedford—Preston).
  • The Commission prepared a number of boundary scenarios in relation to the Dartmouth neighbourhoods in an attempt to respect, as much as possible, the public feedback received. Areas were added and removed from adjacent ridings to find a resolution. The Commission's final determination sees some areas in contention (Burnside and much of Windmill Road) remain outside the constituency. However, several neighbourhoods have been added back to Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, as requested. Ultimately, the boundaries established for the electoral district produces a variance of +18.95%, making Dartmouth—Cole Harbour the most populated riding in the province. The Commission has a level of discomfort with this outcome. However, our attempts to lower the riding's variance by moving population to neighbouring districts, only served to push those ridings into the same elevated variance range.

At the conclusion of our deliberations and based upon the above considerations, the Commission has finalized the boundaries and names of the 11 electoral districts. The legal descriptions and maps for each follow at the end of this report. The population data for the ridings, the deviations from the electoral quota (88,126), as well as the names of the ridings are presented in the following table.

Riding name, Population, Deviation
Riding name Population Deviation
Acadie—Annapolis 76,252 -13.47%
Cape Breton—Canso—Antigonish 75,141 -14.73%
Cumberland—Colchester 82,014 -6.94%
Dartmouth—Cole Harbour 104,825 +18.95%
Halifax 98,885 +12.21%
Halifax West 99,228 +12.60%
Kings—Hants 95,063 +7.87%
Pictou—Eastern Shore 76,210 -13.52%
Sackville—Bedford—Preston 100,416 +13.95%
South Shore—St. Margarets 79,130 -10.21%
Sydney—Glace Bay 82,219 -6.70%