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 are subject to review after each decennial census. The Electoral Boundaries Redistribution Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-3 (the "Act") sets out the procedure for the review.
In the summer of 2021, the Honourable John K. Mitchell was appointed Chair of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Prince Edward Island by the Chief Justice of Prince Edward Island. Thereafter, Don Desserud, Professor of Political Science at the University of Prince Edward Island, and Kerri Carpenter, a lawyer with the law firm of Atlantic Fusion Law Group, were appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons to serve as Commission members.
The commissions for all provinces work separately and independently toward the following 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 geographical size of electoral districts;
- Consult with Canadians through public hearings;
- Submit a report 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 the boundaries will lie.
The decennial census was taken in 2021, and it reported that the population of Prince Edward Island had grown to 154,331. This represents an increase in population of approximately 10%. 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, Prince Edward Island is guaranteed four 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 the 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 geographical 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 Commission published its proposed changes on May 2, 2022.
Thereafter, pursuant to the legislation, the Commission held three public hearings for the purpose of receiving public input on the matter of their proposed electoral districts. The dates and locations of these meetings are provided below.
|Location||Place of hearing||Date of hearing|
|Summerside||Loyalist Country Inn & Conference Centre,
195 Heather Moyse Drive
June 7, 2022
2784 Bayshore Road
June 8, 2022
June 9, 2022
A geography specialist attended each meeting to assist attendees understand the maps which were on display and subject to discussion. An interpreter (English to French/French to English) attended the virtual meeting on June 9.
At each meeting, the Commission reviewed the rationale for the proposed changes as well as the proposed maps for each electoral district. The questions and discussion at each meeting were generally positive.
At the Summerside meeting on June 7, Dr. Herb Dickieson from the riding of Egmont suggested that we recommend to the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada that Elections Canada and Elections Prince Edward Island work together on drawing the poll boundaries so that, as much as possible, these boundaries be identical in both provincial and federal elections. Ideally, the polling stations would also be the same. This would decrease confusion and improve poll identification for voters and, thereby, increase voter turnout.
While this is not specifically in our mandate dealing with electoral boundaries and names, we applaud and endorse this recommendation. It is, in our view, a matter of common sense which will assist in voter turnout at very little or no cost.
At the virtual meeting, one of the presentations was made by Madame Dasylva-Gill, on behalf of Société acadienne et francophone de I'Île-du-Prince-Édouard. Her presentation was in French.
She asked to be allowed until mid-September to make a further, more fulsome presentation. The request was made because Statistics Canada would be releasing statistical information on linguistic communities in Canada in or around mid-August. They wanted to see that information before making further comments.
The Commission agreed with that request.
The written presentation of the Société acadienne et francophone de I'Île-du-Prince-Édouard was received September 23. The Société opposes any change to the electoral district of Egmont. The Société points out that the proposed changes represent a loss of 0.3% of the demographic weight of francophone vote in Egmont. This, together with a loss of 1.5% of the French speaking population of Egmont between the 2016 and 2021 census, represents, in their view, a significant loss.
The Société is of the view that the principle of effective representation, taking into account geography, history, and interest of the community, as well as minority groups, would justify leaving Egmont's boundary untouched.