Introduction – Prince Edward Island
Mandate of the Commission
Each decade, a commission is established in the province to undertake a review of the federal electoral districts. Such reviews occur nationwide and are a legislated mechanism to ensure that the population shifts that naturally occur are periodically taken into account. The shifts in demographics can affect the distribution of voting rights, and this is subject to review after each decennial census. The Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. E-3 (the Act) sets out the procedure for the review.
The Commission consists of three people: the Honourable John K. Mitchell, who was appointed Chair of the Commission by the Chief Justice of Prince Edward Island, Don Desserud, professor of Political Science at the University of Prince Edward Island, and Kerri Carpenter, a lawyer with the law firm of Kerri Carpenter Law Office, who were appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons.
The commission of each province works separately to achieve the following consistent objectives:
- Propose a new electoral map for their province by considering such criteria as average population numbers, communities of identity and interest, historical patterns of an electoral district and geographic size of electoral districts
- Consult with Canadians through public hearings
- Submit a report on their considerations and propose an electoral map to the House of Commons
- Consider objections from members of the House of Commons
- Prepare a final report outlining the electoral boundaries for their province
It is important to note that commissions consider the input received from Canadians and members of the House of Commons when determining the boundaries. However, as independent bodies, they make all final decisions as to where these boundaries will lie.
The decennial census was taken in 2021 and it reported that the population was 154,331.
The province is divided into four (4) electoral districts, designated as Cardigan, Charlottetown, Egmont and Malpeque. In Prince Edward Island, the designated number of electoral districts is protected by legislation and, despite varying electoral quotas across the country, the province is guaranteed four (4) 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 Prince Edward Island electoral quota is 38,583 inhabitants per electoral district.
Factors for Consideration
It is necessary to take into consideration certain factors stated in section 15 of the Act. That section defines the applicable factors for redistribution as follows:
- 15(1) In preparing its report, each commission for a province shall, subject to subsection (2), be governed by the following rules:
- (a) 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
- (b) the commission shall consider the following in determining reasonable electoral district boundaries:
- (i) the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province; and
- (ii) a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province.
In reviewing the legislated factors, the Commission has determined that the geographic size mentioned under 15(1)(b)(ii) is not a relevant consideration in this small province. Rather, the key to effective representation is to achieve a close proximity to the electoral quota.
The 2012 redistribution resulted in variances from electoral quota of 2.72% in Cardigan, -1.4% in Charlottetown, -1.29% in Egmont and 0.03% in Malpeque. However, population growth and shifts since then have changed those variances to 3.33% in Cardigan, 0.59% in Charlottetown, -6.89% in Egmont and 2.98% in Malpeque.
The Commission is of the view that a variance of 10% between the electors in Egmont compared to Malpeque and Cardigan is too great for this small province. The Commission feels that by moving the boundaries of Egmont and Malpeque a little to the east, we can bring the variances down to a desirable level and, at the same time, respect the community of interest and community of identity. We therefore propose to move the Egmont boundary to the east to include such communities as Lower Bedeque, North Bedeque, Central Bedeque and Bedeque, and to move the boundary of Malpeque to the east to include such communities as Grand Tracadie and Corran Ban. In this way, the variance from the electoral quota province-wide will range from approximately -2% to 2% as shown in the table below.
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