Part I – Initial Report to the House of Commons (November 15, 2012) – Newfoundland and Labrador – Introduction and Overview

The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador (the Commission) was established on February 21, 2012, under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-3 (the Act). It is the duty of the Commission to consider and report on the readjustment of the boundaries of the electoral districts of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador (the Province) as required upon completion of the 2011 decennial census.

The Commission is composed of the Honourable Mr. Justice Keith Mercer, Chairperson, Herbert Clarke, Deputy Chairperson, and Julie Eveleigh, Member.

The 2011 decennial census established the population of the Province at 514,536. Pursuant to subsection 14(1) of the Act the Chief Electoral Officer determined that population estimates in the decennial census year and section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867 dictate that the representation of the Province in the House of Commons remain at seven (7) members, therefore requiring seven electoral districts.

Section 15 of the Act requires the Commission to "proceed on the basis that the population of each electoral district ... shall, as close as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province". That electoral quota is determined by dividing the population of the Province by the number of electoral districts. The Act allows the Commission to deviate, up or down, from the electoral quota by as much as twenty-five (25) percent where such deviations are necessary or desirable having regard to various named factors. These factors are community of interest and identity, historical patterns and manageable geographic size in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the Province. These factors are also to be considered in the determination of reasonable electoral district boundaries. Furthermore, in circumstances viewed by the Commission as being extraordinary, a deviation from the electoral quota in excess of 25 percent is permissible.

In its application of the foregoing provisions of the Act, the Commission must ensure that its decisions comply with the Constitution Act, 1982 – in particular with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees citizens the right to vote. That right has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada, which has thereby provided guidance for the redrawing of electoral boundaries.

In Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.) [1991] 2 S.C.R. 158 (Carter) the Supreme Court of Canada held that the purpose of the right to vote is not equality of voting power but the right to effective representation. Effective representation requires relative, not absolute, parity of voting power. Factors such as geography, community history, community of interest and minority representation merit consideration. Departures from absolute voter parity can be justified on the grounds "that they contribute to better government of the populace as a whole...." (Carter, para. 32).

The electoral quota for the Province as determined in accordance with section 15 of the Act is 73,505 (population of 514,536 ÷ 7 = 73,505). The populations of the current electoral districts as determined in the 2011 decennial census are stated in the following two tables. Table 1 shows the populations of the electoral districts in 2001 and 2011 as well as the absolute and percentage changes therein. Table 2 states the 2011 populations of the districts and the variance from the electoral quota for each district.

Table 1
Newfoundland and Labrador Population Change, 2001 to 2011
Electoral District Population Change
2001 2011 Number Percent
Avalon
79,548
78,908
−640
−0.8%
Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
89,743
84,735
−5,008
−5.6%
Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte
76,467
71,563
−4,904
−6.4%
Labrador
27,864
26,728
−1,136
−4.1%
Random—Burin—St. George's
76,089
69,192
−6,897
−9.1%
St. John's East
81,007
100,559
+19,552
+24.1%
St. John's South—Mount Pearl
82,212
82,851
+639
+0.8%
Total Province
512,930
514,536
+1,606
+0.3%


Table 2
Variances from the Electoral Quota (73,505)
Electoral District Population
2011
Variance
from 73,505
Avalon
78,908
+7.4%
Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor
84,735
+15.3%
Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte
71,563
−2.6%
Labrador
26,728
−63.6%
Random—Burin—St. George's
69,192
−5.9%
St. John's East
100,559
+36.8%
St. John's South—Mount Pearl
82,851
+12.7%




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