Part I – Initial Report to the House of Commons (November 15, 2012) – Newfoundland and Labrador – Public Hearings and Conclusions

Overview

In accordance with the Act, the Commission gazetted its Proposal and held public hearings throughout the Province to receive representations from interested persons in respect of the boundaries of the Province's electoral districts. The hearings were advertised as required, and the Commission took steps to ensure broad dissemination, including additional and separate communications to all municipalities in the Province. Nine public hearings were held, and representations were received there. Written submissions were filed by certain presenters and also by several people who did not appear at the hearings. Schedule A lists the hearings, presenters and individuals who made written submissions. The transcripts of the hearings and the written submissions will be filed with the Chief Electoral Officer at the end of the Commission's mandate and will be accessible to the public upon application to that office.

Most representations focused on the details of proposed adjustments to a particular electoral district. Each proposed electoral district and the representations in respect thereof will be reviewed below. There are some general observations arising from the presentations that can first be stated:

  • There was broad acceptance throughout the Province of the continuance of the separate electoral district of Labrador for the reasons stated in the Proposal.
  • Except for a brief comment by one presenter, there was no suggestion that the boundaries should be drawn so that urban electoral districts would have higher populations than the rural electoral districts.
  • There was broad support for the redrawing of the electoral boundaries west of the Avalon Peninsula on the island portion of the Province on a north–south basis to reflect current realities pertaining to community of interest and community of identity.
  • One presenter questioned the reference by the Commission to "population trends" as pertinent to boundary adjustment. As stated in the hearings, this factor was utilized by the Commission only to provide a level of comfort that the contemplated variances from the electoral quota would not soon become more substantial variances that would be at odds with the principal criterion of relative parity of voting power.
  • The names of the electoral districts continue to be of interest to many. There was a strong feeling, particularly from members of the House of Commons, that the names ought to be as inclusive as possible and that, apart from the St. John's area electoral districts, names referencing particular communities ought to be avoided. Accordingly the proposed name of the west coast electoral district, "Long Range Mountains", met with considerable approval. There was a recognized difficulty in finding similarly general names for other electoral districts.
  • For the most part, the presenters recognized that, given the criterion of relative parity of voting power, any change which they proposed, principally arising from concerns about community of interest, would likely require boundary adjustments which could result in similar or more substantial concerns being raised by others.

One presentation proposed a new approach to the determination of the total number of electoral districts in Canada and their distribution. Under that approach the Province would have eight seats in the House of Commons. As acknowledged by the presenter this submission is beyond the Commission's mandate. It forms part of the record of the Commission and is accordingly available for review and discussion by others who may wish to pursue that matter.

Electoral Districts

The Commission carefully considered the much-valued feedback and suggestions for changes to the proposed electoral boundaries that were provided in presentations at hearings and in written submissions. These, together with the Commission's own reflections and review of all previous recommendations, have resulted in modest but important modifications to five of the seven electoral districts.

The Commission's comments and conclusions will now be stated on an electoral district basis, starting with Labrador and proceeding from west to east on the island portion of the Province as was done in the Proposal. The Commission emphasizes that this particular order of presentation was selected for ease of explanation. It does not reflect the sequencing of the Commission's analysis and decisions, which were grounded in an ongoing review of the implications of any proposed boundary adjustments on all electoral districts.

Labrador

The continuance of the separate electoral district of Labrador, though its population is greatly below the electoral quota, received nearly universal support.

One submission to the contrary was received from an Ottawa resident who suggested the following: (a) that the Commission had not considered adding a portion of the island to the Labrador electoral district; (b) that the circumstances of Labrador, though extraordinary, were not sufficiently extraordinary to warrant the lowest population of any federal electoral district; and (c) that the northern tip of the Great Northern Peninsula should be added to create the district of Labrador—St. Anthony with a population of 36,969, being approximately 50 percent below the electoral quota.

That submission was tabled at the public hearings of the Commission and its contents made known. The Commission ensured that the submission was specifically brought to the attention of political and community organizations in Labrador and the current member for Labrador in the House of Commons. The Commission did not receive any representations from residents of Labrador.

The Commission rejects the contention that, in developing its Proposal, it had not considered the notion of "allying Labrador with a portion of the island". That possibility was thoroughly examined by the Commission and reasons given for its conclusion that Labrador should continue to constitute a separate electoral district. The clear meaning of the Commission's stated reasons and conclusions was that there were geographic factors and community of interest, community of identity and historical pattern factors pertaining particularly to Labrador which were "extraordinary" and which, accordingly, ruled out including part of the island of Newfoundland in the same electoral district.

The Commission observes that the suggested inclusion of the northern tip of the Great Northern Peninsula in this district would still result in a district with a population variance greater than 25 percent of the electoral quota, and, in the Commission's view, without as coherent a basis for a finding of "extraordinary circumstances".

The Commission repeats that there was widespread support from presenters across the Province for continuance of the Labrador electoral district, including from the member of the House of Commons who represents the Great Northern Peninsula.

It is the conclusion of the Commission that Labrador should continue as a separate electoral district.

Long Range Mountains

In its Proposal, the Commission recommended the creation of an electoral district that spanned the entirety of the west coast of the island of Newfoundland and included the portion of the south coast whose transportation links and community interests were aligned with the west coast.

That recommendation was well received. The presenters accepted that current transportation links, community services and government services, whether federal or provincial, are organized in a manner that treats the west coast as a region. The member for the current district of Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte endorsed the proposal, and though the population of the proposed electoral district would be high, he regarded that district as being totally manageable. The member for the current electoral district of Random—Burin—St. George's affirmed her commitment to that district but did acknowledge that the proposed changes, which essentially eliminated that district, were supportable in terms of enhancing the ability of elected members to provide service to constituents – time and cost of travel being of paramount concern.

The only objection to the recommended electoral district was from a Stephenville resident who insisted Stephenville would suffer if it were placed in an electoral district with Corner Brook. He cited past experiences in which school and health board services had been centred in Corner Brook and the Deer Lake airport had received stronger government support than the Stephenville airport.

That objection is not persuasive. Electoral boundaries must be based on relative parity of voting power, adjusted where necessary to reflect factors including current (not past or desired) community of interest and identity and manageable geographic size. Stephenville is now in the electoral district of Random—Burin—St. George's. In the Commission's view continuance of that district is not an option in keeping with a reasonable application of the guidelines of the Act. The eastern and western parts of that district do not have easy transportation links and generally do not share the many important community and government services that are organized on a regional basis. It logically follows from an application of the guidelines of the Act that Stephenville and its surrounding area should be included in an electoral district comprising the west coast of the island.

The relatively high population of this new electoral district is acceptable, considering the following: (a) the area has been experiencing population decline (recently at a slower pace); and (b) there is no area within this electoral district that could be severed and attached to an adjoining electoral district without creating significant problems respecting community of interest and identity.

The Commission reaffirms the suggested boundaries of the new electoral district as set forth in the Proposal. The proposed name of Long Range Mountains received only positive comments and is recommended.

Bay d'Espoir—Central—Notre Dame

There was widespread support for this proposed electoral district, which would include the Baie Verte Peninsula and Springdale area (formerly in Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte) and the Bay d'Espoir-Connaigre Peninsula area (formerly in Random—Burin—St. George's). It was accepted that these inclusions properly addressed prevailing community of interest and identity factors.

Submissions were received asserting that adjustments to the eastern boundary of the proposed electoral district would better reflect community of interest and identity factors. These presenters emphasized that residents to the north of Terra Nova National Park (i.e. on the Eastport Peninsula and in Bonavista North) have a greater community of interest and identity with the Town of Gander and therefore ought to be in the same electoral district. The Commission examined the suggested boundary adjustments, which included the following: (a) moving the eastern boundary to Gambo, thereby adding approximately 10,000 people to the district; and (b) from Gambo, moving the eastern boundary to Terra Nova National Park, thereby adding the Eastport Peninsula and an additional 8,000 people to the district.

The Commission acknowledged the legitimacy of the above-noted concerns and reflected on whether either of the suggested boundary adjustments could be accommodated. The Commission concluded that the principal criterion of relative parity of voting power precluded these suggested adjustments of the eastern boundary. Acceptance of the more extensive proposed adjustment, (b) above, would result in a population variance greater than 25 percent. Acceptance of the Gambo boundary adjustment alone would still result in a population considerably in excess of the electoral quota and would, for voter parity reasons, necessitate boundary adjustments in electoral districts to the east that would likely have more consequential community of interest and identity issues associated with them.

Another submission was for the Commission to ensure that four small communities (Noggin Cove, Frederickton, Davidsville and Main Point) be placed in the same electoral district as the nearby larger community of Carmanville, proposed to be in the new electoral district of Bonavista—Burin—Trinity. The population shift in this instance would be 819 people. The Commission accepts the logic of the submission, which is grounded on community of interest. The implications on voter parity are minor, and the boundary adjustments will therefore be made.

The Commission accordingly reaffirms the proposed boundaries of the electoral district, subject only to the exclusion of the four small communities noted above. The population of this electoral district will be 78,092.

The proposed name of Bay d'Espoir—Central—Notre Dame was generally accepted as suitable and is therefore recommended.

Bonavista—Burin—Trinity

The combination of the Bonavista and Burin peninsulas, the Clarenville area and the Isthmus of Avalon in the same electoral district was widely supported and did not attract any negative comments at the hearings. In its Proposal the Commission included the Bonavista North area in this electoral district, recognizing the voter parity requirement and the long-standing and ongoing association between communities across Bonavista Bay with regard to fishing and the marine environment generally.

The principal objection to the proposed boundaries of this electoral district was to the inclusion of a portion of the Bay de Verde Peninsula from Trinity South to Kingston in Conception Bay. That had been proposed by the Commission to address the principal criterion of relative parity of voting power in the context of a major increase in the population of the northeast Avalon Peninsula.

Submissions were received from the Joint Councils of Trinity Bay South–Bay de Verde, the mayor of Bay de Verde, the member for the electoral district of Avalon, and a concerned citizen. The thrust of the submissions was that the affected area shared interests and services with areas to the east, particularly the Conception Bay area of Carbonear-Harbour Grace and Bay Roberts, and should not "be placed on the fringes and set adrift" by being included in an electoral district with the Burin and Bonavista areas. They requested that the area remain in the electoral district of Avalon.

Specifically, the member for Avalon suggested that the continuance of the existing electoral districts on the Avalon Peninsula, adjusted so that each has a population of 85,000, would address the population shift revealed by the census. Alternatively, he proposed including the Placentia Bay and St. Mary's Bay areas (rather than part of the Bay de Verde Peninsula) in Bonavista—Burin—Trinity. A third suggestion was to move the boundaries of two districts further to the west by including the Deer Lake area in Bay d'Espoir—Central—Notre Dame and the Gander area in Bonavista—Burin—Trinity so that all of the Bay de Verde Peninsula could remain in the electoral district of Avalon.

The Commission acknowledges the level of concern revealed by these submissions. After careful consideration, the Commission remains of the view that the principal criterion of relative parity of voting power makes it appropriate that the western portion of the Avalon Peninsula identified in the Proposal be included in the adjoining electoral district to the west.

The alternatives are neither necessary nor desirable. Maintaining the existing three electoral districts on the Avalon Peninsula, with boundary adjustments necessitated by the burgeoning population of St. John's East, would result in three districts approximately 19 percent over the electoral quota in the area of the Province that has experienced the highest population growth. The suggested shift of the Deer Lake and Gander areas, referenced above, would not resolve the voter parity issue raised by population growth on the Avalon Peninsula; nor would it be advisable to resolve the concerns of the Bay de Verde Peninsula by boundary adjustments in two other areas of equal or greater population with similar community of interest concerns.

Furthermore, although the western part of the Bay de Verde Peninsula may share many interests and services with the eastern Avalon, it is worth noting that certain important services (school and health boards) are shared with the Burin and Bonavista areas. Historically, the area in question was for many decades part of the electoral district of Bonavista—Trinity—Conception. In the view of the Commission, many issues facing the western part of the Bay de Verde Peninsula, which is predominately rural, are the same as those faced elsewhere in the electoral district, which is also predominately rural. The Commission considers that the alternative of including the Placentia Bay and St. Mary's Bay areas in the electoral district to the west is not preferable as it would raise similar community of interest concerns and would create greater transportation problems for the affected population and its elected member.

There are, however, three boundary adjustments of lesser population effect which the Commission considers to be appropriate, in light of the submissions received at the public hearings.

The first of these is in the area of Long Harbour-Mount Arlington Heights, with a population of 298. We are persuaded that there are strong community links between that area and Placentia, particularly in connection with an ongoing industrial development. The Commission has therefore adjusted the boundary of this electoral district to exclude Long Harbour-Mount Arlington Heights, which will be included in the Avalon electoral district.

The second adjustment is to include the Town of Salmon Cove in this electoral district. That community is part of the Joint Councils of Trinity Bay South–Bay de Verde and therefore pursues community planning and development issues with other municipalities in that association. It is therefore fitting to include the Town of Salmon Cove within the same electoral district. That adjustment will bring 847 people into the electoral district of Bonavista—Burin—Trinity and decrease the population of the electoral district of Avalon correspondingly.

The other boundary adjustment was discussed in respect of the boundaries of the district of Bay d'Espoir—Central—Notre Dame. Four communities to the west of Carmanville, namely Noggin Cove, Frederickton, Davidsville and Main Point, with a total population of 819, will be included in the electoral district of Bonavista—Burin—Trinity.

The population of this electoral district after the three boundary adjustments just noted will be 76,704. The name proposed for this district was selected by the Commission as referencing historic bays and peninsulas, not particular towns. The name met with general approval and is recommended.

Avalon

As explained above, the Commission has decided upon modest changes to the Proposal in respect of the boundaries between the newly created electoral district of Bonavista—Burin—Trinity and the electoral district of Avalon. In the Avalon district, these were the inclusion of Long Harbour-Mount Arlington Heights and the exclusion of the Town of Salmon Cove. Other changes are also warranted.

In order to accommodate the growth in population in the electoral district of St. John's East, the Proposal set forth readjustments to the boundaries of two of the three electoral districts on the Avalon Peninsula. One essential part of the readjustment involved the western Avalon, discussed above. Another part was an extension of the eastern boundary of the Avalon electoral district. That boundary extension placed the entire Town of Conception Bay South in the Avalon electoral district, a transfer of 11,064 from the St. John's East electoral district. That change was welcomed by all who commented on it, including the current members for those electoral districts. The eastern boundary was proposed to be placed in the Town of Paradise, thereby dividing that town between those electoral districts (6,433 to Avalon and 11,262 to St. John's East). The current members for those electoral districts did not favour dividing the town between two electoral districts. No representation was received from municipal officials or individual residents of the town.

Following further consideration of that proposed boundary and the other representations received in respect of boundaries of the three electoral districts in this area, the Commission considers that certain limited changes can and should be made to the boundaries initially proposed for these three electoral districts. These changes address community of interest and historical factors while enhancing voter parity.

With respect to the Avalon electoral district, there are two further changes to the boundaries set forth in the Proposal.

The first is to move the boundary with the St. John's South—Mount Pearl electoral district so that the towns of Bay Bulls and Witless Bay are within the electoral district of St. John's South—Mount Pearl. That would transfer 2,462 people from the Avalon electoral district. Recent residential and commercial developments in the Bay Bulls area and improved transportation links from there to the City of St. John's favour this modest adjustment.

The second is to adjust the boundary in the Town of Paradise so that the area north of Topsail Road and west of Paradise Road and Camrose Drive will now be in the Avalon electoral district. That would transfer an additional 4,495 people to the Avalon electoral district. The Commission has concluded that a division of the Town of Paradise between the two electoral districts cannot reasonably be avoided without triggering a more complex shuffle elsewhere. This adjusted boundary is much shorter than that in the Proposal and results in the larger and more rural part of the Town of Paradise being in the Avalon electoral district. In the Commission's view the division does not result in significant community of interest and identity concerns.

The result of the foregoing changes is that the population of the Avalon electoral district will be 81,540. There was no objection to the continuance of the name of this electoral district, and it is recommended.

St. John's North

In its Proposal, the Commission addressed the very high census population in the district of St. John's East by adjusting its western boundary, as previously stated, with respect to the towns of Conception Bay South and Paradise. The name of the district was changed to St. John's North.

The name of this electoral district will first be addressed. The Commission accepts the submission that, having regard to historical and identity factors, the name of this electoral district should remain St. John's East.

Upon reflection, and considering the representations received, the Commission has decided upon certain modifications to the boundaries proposed for this electoral district.

The first is moving the boundary in the Town of Paradise, as previously discussed in regard to the Avalon electoral district. This leaves the area north of Topsail Road and east of Paradise Road and Camrose Drive with the St. John's East electoral district. The result is that the population of St. John's East is reduced by 4,495 and the population of the Town of Paradise is divided so that 10,928 are in the Avalon electoral district and 6,767 in the St. John's East electoral district.

The second modification is an adjustment to the southern boundary of St. John's East with the electoral district of St. John's South—Mount Pearl so that the area in downtown St. John's east of McBride's Hill, including the areas of Signal Hill and the Battery, are in the St. John's East electoral district. This is a reversion to the historical boundary between the two St. John's electoral districts. Community of identity and historical factors support the submissions in this regard. The population effect is modest, involving a transfer of 3,656 people to this electoral district.

Following the changes noted, the population of the St. John's East electoral district will be 82,223.

St. John's South—Mount Pearl

The Commission's Proposal had recommended no changes for this district. Consideration of the submissions received at the public hearings and the Commission's further reflection have resulted in the changes indicated in the previous discussion concerning the districts of St. John's East and Avalon.

The first is the adjustment of the boundary with the St. John's East electoral district in respect of the areas in the east end of downtown St. John's, including the areas of Signal Hill and the Battery. This involves a reduction of 3,656 people in the St. John's South—Mount Pearl electoral district.

The second is the extension of the southern boundary with the electoral district of Avalon so that the towns of Bay Bulls and Witless Bay, with a population of 2,462, are added to the St. John's South—Mount Pearl district.

The net effect of the changes is that this electoral district will have a population of 81,657. The name of St. John's South—Mount Pearl attracted no criticism and should be continued.

Summary

The results of the Commission's deliberations following the public hearings can now be summarized:

  • The Commission affirms the continuance of the Labrador electoral district.
  • In the electoral districts of Avalon, St. John's East and St. John's South—Mount Pearl, adjustments were made that resulted in population levels very close to each other and to the reference quota.
  • In two of the three remaining electoral districts, boundary adjustments were made in response to expressed community of interest concerns without a significant effect on voter parity.

The final boundaries for electoral districts on the island portion of the Province result in population variances ranging from −5.7 percent to +7.7 percent of the reference quota of 81,301, as illustrated in Table 6 below.

Table 6
Variances from the Reference Quota (81,301)
Island Electoral District Population
2011
Variance
from 81,301
Avalon
81,540
+0.3%
Bay d'Espoir—Central—Notre Dame
78,092
−3.9%
Bonavista—Burin—Trinity
76,704
−5.7%
Long Range Mountains
87,592
+7.7%
St. John's East
82,223
+1.1%
St. John's South—Mount Pearl
81,657
+0.4%

The population variances from the electoral quota of 73,505 for each electoral district in the Province are set forth in Table 7 below. The Commission notes that the continuance of Labrador as a separate electoral district means that the populations of the other electoral districts will, on average, be 10.6 percent above the electoral quota.

Table 7
Variances from the Electoral Quota (73,505)
Electoral District Population 2011 Variance from 73,505
Avalon
81,540
+10.9%
Bay d'Espoir—Central—Notre Dame
78,092
+6.2%
Bonavista—Burin—Trinity
76,704
+4.4%
Labrador
26,728
−63.6%
Long Range Mountains
87,592
+19.2%
St. John's East
82,223
+11.9%
St. John's South—Mount Pearl
81,657
+11.1%

The variances from the electoral quota are within the range permitted under section 15 of the Act.

Attached as Schedule B are the descriptions of the seven electoral districts. Maps follow in the last section.

The Commission gratefully acknowledges the valuable contribution of the Commission Secretary, Ms. Madonna Morris.

After careful deliberation and consideration of the various submissions received, the Commission hereby submits its report in accordance with the Act.

Dated at St. John's, in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, this 15th day of November, 2012.

Honourable Mr. Justice Keith Mercer
Chairperson

Herbert Clarke
Deputy Chairperson

Julie Eveleigh
Member

Madonna Morris
Commission Secretary






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