New boundaries in Atlantic Canada could flip two seats to Liberals
First in a series of analyses on the federal riding redistribution
We have to wait 10 years for it, but it is finally federal riding re-distribution season!
And, in my first look at the new electoral map, it appears that the Liberals might come out of Atlantic Canada with a couple of extra seats.
Every decade, independent commissions re-draw Canada’s electoral map to reflect the changing population of the country. The proposals for each province have been tabled and public hearings are going to get started. Once those are finished, the commissioners will go back to the drawing board and submit their final proposals.
But before they do that, I’m going to take a deep dive into the preliminary proposals and see what electoral impact the new boundaries could have (with the help of J.P. Kirby’s excellent Riding Builder tool).
Today, we’re going to start with the 32 ridings in Atlantic Canada.
First, let’s get one thing out of the way. The commissions are independent. They are non-partisan. While not everyone will agree with the reasoning behind the changes that are made, those changes aren’t motivated by partisan advantage.
The United States has a gerrymandering problem. Canada doesn’t.
The commissioners need to ensure that ridings across a province have roughly equal populations or that any significant divergence from the norm is based on geographical or demographical requirements.
For instance, the commissioners propose that Labrador continue to have its own seat, despite the population there being just under 27,000, less than half of the population of any of the six ridings on the island of Newfoundland. The commissioners explain their decision as follows:
“the Labrador region's history, geography and community of interest, as well as the strength of its many distinct Indigenous communities, warrant the continuance of a separate electoral district. Because of its immense geographic size, effective representation in this region is extraordinarily difficult to achieve. If Labrador were part of a riding that extended to the island portion of the province, it is clear that adequate representation for all constituents would be difficult to achieve.”
The “community of interest” is key. Ridings need to make sense not only from a numbers perspective but from a people perspective, too — you don’t split communities between two ridings or bolt two very different communities together if it can be avoided. Sometimes, it can be worth having some ridings that have more or fewer people than the provincial average if it means keeping a community together.
In the case of Atlantic Canada, the region was awarded no extra seats so the commissioners’ changes were due to shifting populations.
For paying subscribers to The Writ, I’ll go through each province in detail. But before getting to that, here’s the TL;DR of what you need to know:
Atlantic Canada Redistribution Briefing: While there are some significant changes to the map in some areas, overall the electoral situation doesn’t change drastically. However, there are two seats that the redistribution could flip from the Conservatives to the Liberals.
There are also two seats in which the Liberal margin would be significantly reduced, enough to make the seats much more competitive. The Conservatives are the beneficiary in one and the New Democrats in the other.
Overall, the redistribution in Atlantic Canada is a net positive for the Liberals in two seats at the expense of the Conservatives, though the Conservatives could mitigate their loss with an improved position in one seat and the NDP could also make one gain.
Now let’s find out which seats we’re talking about.