Friday, June 29, 2012

New Brunswick Redistribution

The report of the New Brunswick Electoral Commission is out and I am not impressed.

The baseline - with a 2011 population of 751,171 the average population of a New Brunswick riding should be 75,117. This means:

  • +-5% is 71,361 to 78,873 - this is the ideal range should be the primary goal of the commission
  • +- 25% is 56,338 to 93,896

Existing boundaries and populations:

  • Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe - 98,539 - 218th out of 308 ridings
  • Fredricton - 93,181 - 232/308
  • Saint John - 84,670 - 253/308
  • Beausejour - 78,076 - 274/308
  • Acadie-Bathurst 77,792 - 276/308
  • Fundy Royal - 73,484 - 281/308
  • Tobique-Mactaquac - 68,709 - 291/308
  • New Brunswick Southwest - 63,618 - 296/308
  • Madawaska-Restigouche - 61,106 - 297/308
  • Miramichi - 51,996 - 300/308

Proposed boundaries and populations

  • Beausejour-Dieppe - 92,072 +22.57%
  • Saint John - 85,838 +14.27%
  • Moncton-Riverview - 80,825 +7.60%
  • Fundy-Quispamis - 79,387 +5.68%
  • Acadie-Bathhurst - 79,340 +5.62%
  • Fredriction - 78,359 +4.03%
  • Tobique-Saint John River Valley - 73,656 - 8.53%
  • New Brunswick Southwest - 65,592 -12.86%
  • Madawaska-Restigouche - 62,515 -16.78%
  • Miramichi - 53,587 -28.66%

Miramichi - Not Appropriate
Only two ridings fall into the +-5% range and one is not even within the +-25% range.  The population difference between the most populous and least populous riding is almost 40,000 people

I do not think there is a case for Miramichi to have such a small population.   The addition of part of the northern reaches of the proposed Beausejour-Dieppe.  The addition of Richibucto, Saint Charles and Saint Louis parishes, Saint Louis de Kent and Rexton villages, and Richibucto town would move 8743 people from Beausejour-Dieppe to Miramichi meaning their respective populations would be 83,329 and 62,330. It also only increases the Miramichi riding by only 702.81 sq km

The commission considered doing this move but decided not to do it for specious reasons.

A riding is only allowed to be outside of the +-25% range under special circumstances.   On no level do I think this test has been met in the case of Miramichi.  

  • It is not a large riding by Canadian standards at 17,000 square kilometres.   Cariboo Prince George is more than five times the size and has a population that is twice as large.
  • Not every community of interest can always be within one riding - even then I do not think this applies here in any case.
  • The access to the riding is not difficult, the airport in Moncton is only about a 140 kilometer drive from Miramichi, a drive of 1 hour and 40 minutes

Special circumstances are places like Labrador, Churchill in Manitoba, Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River in Saskatchewan, or Abiti-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou.  All four of these are many times large than all of New Brunswick and all four of them have numerous communities that do not have year round road access.   They really are ones special circumstances were intended for.  The Saskatchewan reference gave latitude to consider these unique northern ridings but was never intended to be common.

Allowing the proposed Miramichi riding is an insult to the idea of voters in Canada having equal representation.

Rural versus Urban
I am a big supporter of rural communities in Canada and do not want to see their representation reduced but in the case of New Brunswick I think there needs to be some changes.

There are three urban ridings in New Brunswick but I think there should really be more.  Here is the trend for the three main urban areas over the last 15 years

  • Census area      2011     2006    2001    1996
  • Moncton CMA     138,644 126,424  118,678 113,495
  • Saint John CMA  127,761 122,389  122,678 125,705
  • Fredricton CA    94,268  86,226   81,346  78,950
  • Total           360,673 335,039  322,702 318,150
  • Pct of Province  48.01%  45.90%   44.24%  43.10%

The trend is clear and means that by 2016 half the population will live within the area of one of the three urban centres and that by the next redistribution in 2022 the urban areas are likely to have 53-54% of the provincial population.  

The proposed riding of Fundy-Quispamsis takes in suburbs for Moncton and Saint John.  It makes no sense as a riding.  Is the MP there to represent the suburbs of one or the other urban centres of the small rural sandwich between the two?

With the proposed changes Moncton will effectively have two MPs, one from Moncton-Riverview and the other from Beausejour-Dieppe.  Fredricton does not have the population to talk about two ridings so one is enough.   It is Saint John that should really have a second MP.

I would add the remainder of Albert county to the Moncton area and move the northern boundary of Beausejour-Dieppe south by moving all of Kent county into Miramichi.   This means the two ridings have a combined population of 173,004 or 86,502 each.  Miramichi ends up with 79,006, above average for the moment but over the next ten years the population will continue to decline and likely mean this riding would be under the quotient by 2022.

The two Saint John ridings would contain all of Saint John and Kings counties for an average of 73,108 per riding.   You move the remaining Queens county to New Brunswick Southwest which then has a population of 58,495, low but still within the range.

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