Proposed Boundaries – New Brunswick

Part I – Preamble

Pursuant to subsection 3(1) of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-3 (the Act), the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of New Brunswick (the Commission) was constituted by proclamation dated February 21, 2012.

The Commission is composed of Mr. Justice Alexandre Deschênes as Chairperson, and Mr. Justice Thomas Riordon and Dr. Patrick Malcolmson as commissioners. The chairperson of the Commission was appointed by the Chief Justice of New Brunswick while the other two commissioners were appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons.

The Commission is legally required to readjust the boundaries of the 10 electoral districts (the word "riding" is often used in lieu of "electoral district") in New Brunswick, using the results of the 2011 decennial census.

The last census established New Brunswick's population at 751,171. Under the rules prescribed by the Act, the provincial electoral quota must be calculated by dividing the provincial population by the number of members of Parliament for New Brunswick, namely 10. The provincial electoral quota therefore stands at 75,117. That number is significant as the Act provides that each electoral district shall have a population "as close as reasonably possible" to the provincial electoral quota (see s. 15(1)(a) of the Act).

However, this important rule is tempered by other rules that allow the Commission to depart from the electoral quota by a variance of up to +/-25%. In addition, the Act allows a variance from the quota beyond +/-25% "in circumstances viewed by the commission as being extraordinary" (see s. 15(2) of the Act). As this proposal is being made, the Commission does not know of any extraordinary circumstances that would allow any electoral district to be drawn with a variance of more than 25% from the electoral quota, with the exception of the electoral district of Miramichi.

The rules clearly provide for a departure from the electoral quota of up to +/-25% in any case where the Commission considers it necessary or desirable "in order to respect the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district", or "in order to maintain a manageable geographic size" in a sparsely populated or rural region of the province (see s. 15(2) of the Act).

Although the Commission considers voter parity as a factor of considerable importance in drawing an electoral district, the ultimate or primary goal being pursued by the Commission is "effective representation" (see Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.) [1991] 2 S.C.R. 158). In that context, attempts to respect the provincial electoral quota are significant not only because of the important objective to preserve an equal value of each citizen's vote, but also because voter parity impacts upon the concept of effective representation. All things being equal, no one takes issue with the proposition that an elected representative can more effectively represent 50,000 people in a riding than his or her colleague who must represent 100,000 people in a similar riding.

The population count in an electoral district, however, must not overshadow the importance of other factors such as community of interest or identity, historical pattern or geography. Each of these factors can, like the size of the population in the riding, have an impact on the ability of a member of Parliament to effectively represent the people he or she was elected to represent.

This proposal makes it quite obvious that the Commission has no hesitation in moving up or down within the 25% variance with emphasis on community of interest or identity and other statutory factors, including relative voter parity, in an effort to ensure that the primary objective of effective representation is best achieved.

The 10 electoral districts in our province have followed a long-established historical pattern of the three major urban centres (Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John) each having their own riding, while the other seven ridings are either mixed urban/rural (e.g. Acadie–Bathurst ) or primarily rural (e.g. Tobique–Mactaquac). Over the last few decades, the overall population of New Brunswick has not increased to a significant extent. However, the population continues to shift from the rural areas to urban areas so that the three major urban centres have reached, or soon will reach, the maximum allowable variance from the provincial electoral quota. The Commission is thus obligated to readjust these riding boundaries in order to ensure that the principle of effective representation continues to serve as an equitable basis for an equitable population distribution.

Two approaches could be taken to resolve this problem. One is to add population and area obtained from surrounding ridings to the three major urban districts. This would enable the creation of two urban ridings for each of the three major cities, for a total of six; but this would reduce the number of mixed and primarily rural districts from seven to four. A second approach is to readjust the population size of the major urban ridings by redrawing the boundaries to transfer some of the urban population into the surrounding mixed urban/rural ridings.

The Commission has opted for this second approach for the following reasons. First, this approach recognizes the continued importance of the long-standing historical pattern of representation in the province for its 10 existing electoral districts. To reduce the seven mixed and primarily rural ridings to four would entail a major disruption of this pattern and distort the existing communities of interest that have served as the basis for these districts. In the Commission's view, to do so would not be accepted by New Brunswickers at this time without a long period of consultation and discussion, which would extend well beyond the time limitations in the current process. Most importantly, the approach we have taken best allows for the most effective representation by ensuring that important communities of interest and identity continue to be recognized while relative voter parity is maintained.

Part II of this proposal provides an overview of the Commission's recommendations in regard to each electoral district of New Brunswick, including any changes to electoral district names. Detailed legal descriptions and population numbers for each district are provided in Schedule A to this proposal.

The Act calls for public hearings so that the Commission can receive representations from interested persons. Such hearings will be held for all the electoral districts of the province between September 10 and 24. The dates and locations of these hearings are set out in Part III of this proposal. Advertisements about this proposal and the hearings will appear in the provincial daily newspapers during the summer months.

The Commission has adopted rules for the conduct of these public hearings and the making of representations. These rules are set out in Part IV of this proposal. Simultaneous translation will be available in both official languages. Persons with accommodation needs who intend to attend the proceedings should inform the Commission of those needs.

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