Althia Raj
GET UPDATES FROM Althia:

Electoral Boundary Commissions: Canadians May Be Sidelined From Major Revamp Of Ridings Under New Tory Rules

Posted: 04/25/2012 8:07 am Updated: 04/25/2012 2:57 pm

Electoral Boundary Commissions Canada
Ten electoral boundary commissions, one in every province, are quietly at work devising ways to re-jig overpopulated ridings in their region based on new census data. (Shutterstock)

Canadians risk being sidelined from a major reconfiguration of the country’s electoral map by new rules brought in by the governing Tories that limit public consultation and dramatically accelerate the pace of the process, critics say.

Ten electoral boundary commissions, one in every province, are quietly at work devising ways to re-jig overpopulated ridings in their region based on new census data.

PHOTOS: HOW MANY SEATS IS EACH PROVINCE GETTING AND HOW FAIR WILL THE MAP BE?

The chore, which is revisited every 10 years when new population data is released, is made more difficult this time around by the addition of 30 new ridings, seats that will be added at the next federal election in 2015. The Conservative government has argued the additional MPs are necessary to give voters in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec fairer representation.

This is the first part of an ongoing series on the redrawing of Canada's electoral map. Thursday, we'll look at fears the process may be manipulated for political gain and Friday an example of a riding where those fears have become all too real. On Friday, we'll also be looking at some of the most important ridings likely to be affected by the coming changes. As always, you can find these stories and more on HuffPost Canada's Politics page.

The addition of new seats in Canada’s most populous provinces, which will cost $19.3 million annually, made headlines when it was announced last fall, but few noticed the same Tory bill shrunk the timelines for public input by more than two months. The government also limited notice periods and imposed tighter deadlines on the commissions to report their findings.

“It’s just a way of silencing civil society,” said Liberal MP Hedy Fry, who accused the Tories of making it more difficult for people to participate in the process. “It’s just one way of making sure that input isn’t heard.”

Quick Poll

Are you going to participate in the redrawing of the electoral map?

VOTE

The independent three-member panels, which consist of a judge appointed by the chief justice of the province and two commissioners chosen by the Speaker of the House of Commons, face a delicate task.

They must re-draw the electoral map with an eye on each provinces’ electoral quota, the maximum number of electors each riding should have, a figure that ranges from 35,051 in Prince Edward Island to 107,213 in Alberta. All this must be done while taking into account the unity of various communities of interest, such as ethnic and religious groups, linguistic minorities, cultural groups and people of similar socio-economic status. Commissioners must also be mindful of not creating ridings that are too geographically large and therefore unmanageable to represent.

In the coming months, the commissions will each release a draft map suggesting boundary changes for their province. The public will have 23 days, down from 53, to signal their intention to comment during public hearings, which could be held as early as June but will likely begin early this fall. After hearing from residents, commissioners will go back to the drawing board and finalize a list of changes, which they will hand over to MPs just before Christmas. The House of Commons’ procedure and house affairs committee will then study the reports and if MPs who disagree with the commissioners’ changes gather support from ten colleagues they may be able to tweak some of the recommendations. The three-person panels, however, retain final say and are expected to deliver their final reports by next June.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW SLIDESHOW


PHOTOS: HOW MANY SEATS IS EACH PROVINCE GETTING AND HOW FAIR WILL THE MAP BE?

Loading Slideshow...
  • As <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/04/25/electoral-boundary-commissions-canada_n_1451484.html" target="_hplink">electoral boundary commissions begin to carve up ridings</a> to make way for the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/12/14/house-of-commons-seats-senate_n_1149540.html" target="_hplink">30 new seats being added to the House of Commons</a>, we take a look at how many seats each province is getting and just how fair representation really is in Canada.<br><br> Except in extraordinary circumstances, the population of each electoral district must be within +/-25% of the provincial quota.<br><br> (Shutterstock / <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomatogeezer/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Tomato Geezer</a>)

  • Ontario

    Ontario will gain 15 new seats under the Tory bill, bringing the province's total to 121.<br><br> Ontario's population is now 12,851,821 people.<br><br> The size each riding should now be is 106,213 people.<br><br> Percentage of House: Approximately 36 per cent.<br><br> Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 38 per cent.<br><br> (Alamy)

  • Quebec

    Quebec will gain three new seats under the Tory bill, bringing the province's total to 78.<br><br> Quebec's population is now 7,903,001 people.<br><br> The size each riding should now be is 101,321 people.<br><br> Percentage of House: Approximately 23 per cent.<br><br> Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 24 per cent.<br><br> (Alamy)

  • British Columbia

    B.C. will gain six new seats under the Tory bill, bringing the province's total to 42.<br><br> B.C.'s population is now 4,400,057 people.<br><br> The size each riding should now be is 104,763 people.<br><br> Percentage of House: Approximately 12 per cent.<br><br> Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 13 per cent.<br><br> (Alamy)

  • Alberta

    Alberta will gain six new seats under the Tory bill, bringing the province's total to 34.<br><br> Alberta's population is now 3,645,257 people.<br><br> The size each riding should now be is 107,213 people.<br><br> Percentage of House: Approximately 10 per cent.<br><br> Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 11 per cent.<br><br> (Alamy)

  • Manitoba

    Manitoba will gain no new seats under the Tory bill. The province currently has 14 seats.<br><br> Manitoba's population is now 1,208,268 people.<br><br> The size each riding should be is 86,305 people.<br><br> Percentage of House: Approximately 4 per cent.<br><br> Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 4 per cent.<br><br> (Alamy)

  • Saskatchewan

    Saskatchewan will gain no new seats under the Tory bill. The province currently has 14 seats.<br><br> Saskatchewan's population is now 1,033,381 people.<br><br> The size each riding should be is 73,813 people.<br><br> Percentage of House: Approximately 4 per cent.<br><br> Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 3 per cent.<br><br> (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/justaprairieboy/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Just a Prairie Boy</a>)

  • Nova Scotia

    Nova Scotia will gain no new seats under the Tory bill. The province currently has 11 seats.<br><br> Nova Scotia's population is now 921,727 people.<br><br> The size each riding should be is 73,813 people.<br><br> Percentage of House: Approximately 3 per cent.<br><br> Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 3 per cent.<br><br> (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ojbyrne/" target="_hplink">Flickr: ojbyrne</a>)

  • New Brunswick

    New Brunswick will gain no new seats under the Tory bill. The province currently has 10 seats.<br><br> New Brunswick's population is now 751,171 people.<br><br> The size each riding should be is 75,117 people.<br><br> Percentage of House: Approximately 3 per cent.<br><br> Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 2 per cent.<br><br> (Alamy)

  • Newfoundland And Labrador

    Newfoundland and Labrador will gain no new seats under the Tory bill. The province currently has 7 seats.<br><br> Newfoundland And Labrador's population is now 514,536 people.<br><br> The size each riding should be is 73,505 people.<br><br> Percentage of House: Approximately 2 per cent.<br><br> Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 1.5 per cent.<br><br> (Alamy)

  • Prince Edward Island

    P.E.I. will gain no new seats under the Tory bill. The province currently has 4 seats.<br><br> P.E.I.'s population is now 140,204 people.<br><br> The size each riding should be is 35,051 people.<br><br> Percentage of House: Approximately 1 per cent.<br><br> Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 0.5 per cent.<br><br> (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilwillsey/" target="_hplink">Flickr: n_willsey</a>)


Because some deadlines could be as short as one week, Fry worries that smaller community groups won’t be able to participate in the process.

“Many people who are going to be coming are local community groups, who don’t have money, (can’t) pay somebody to write a submission for them and are trying to do it on their own, and they don’t have a whole heck of a lot of time,” Fry said.

Democratic Reform Minister Tim Uppal’s spokesperson Kate Davis said the government has streamlined the process but that commissions have been given the ability to waive notice requirements for those wishing to be present at hearings, allowing for possible exceptions to the 23 day deadline.

“Canadians continue to have the same opportunity to voice their opinions on boundary changes during public hearings held by the commission,”she wrote in an email.

STORY CONTINUES ON NEXT PAGE


FOLLOW CANADA POLITICS