Federal electoral districts redistribution 2022


By Order in Council dated November 1, 2021, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Nova Scotia (the Commission) was established pursuant to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-3 (the Act).

The Commission is comprised of three members: Dr. Louise Carbert, Dr. David Johnson and Justice Cindy A. Bourgeois. Both Dr. Carbert and Dr. Johnson are political science professors, at Dalhousie University and Cape Breton University, respectively, and were appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons. Justice Bourgeois sits on the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal and was appointed by the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia. The Commission is assisted in its work by its Secretary, Ms. Carol Moulaison.

The role of the Commission is, in response to the 2021 decennial census, to examine and readjust the boundaries of the federal electoral districts (also known as constituencies or ridings) within the province. There are currently 11 electoral districts, and that remains unchanged.

The 2021 decennial census documented the population of the province as 969,383. Dividing the total population by 11, gives an average or "electoral quota" of 88,126 people in each district. Section 15 of the Act says that the number of people in each electoral district must correspond as closely as is reasonably possible to that electoral quota. In attempting to achieve that goal, the Commission must consider two factors:

  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.

Those factors can also provide justification to depart from the electoral quota in an electoral district. However, the Act provides that, except in extraordinary circumstances, the population in the electoral district must remain within 25% more or 25% less of the electoral quota. For the Commission's work, that means an electoral district can have no fewer than 66,095 people and no more than 110,158, unless there are extraordinary reasons to depart from that variance.

In conjunction with the Act, the Commission's decisions must also be guided by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly section 3, which guarantees Canadian citizens the right to vote in federal and provincial elections. This right has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada in a manner that sets constitutional criteria for the drawing of electoral boundaries. In what is known as "the Carter decision", the Supreme Court said the right to vote means the right to "effective representation," not just an equality of voting power. The Court ruled "effective representation" requires "relative parity of voting power." Absolute equality of population size among electoral districts is not required. However, deviations from equality resulting in "relative parity of voting power" for the purpose of accommodating geography, community of interest or minority representation must be "justified on the ground that they contribute to better government of the populace as a whole." In other words, the variation from the electoral quota established under the Act must be justified.