She calls it a “transparent plan for gerrymandering.”
He calls it smart politics.
Like several ridings across the country, Saanich-Gulf Islands was a close race on election day, May 2, 2011. With deep support in the outer regions of the B.C. riding, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May defeated incumbent cabinet minister Gary Lunn by 7,346 votes and obtained her party’s first ever seat in Parliament.
But now, May believes her opponents are trying to use the redistricting process currently underway to ensure she doesn’t have a chance for a repeat performance in the next federal election.
This is the third part of an ongoing series on the redrawing of Canada's electoral map. First, we looked at how the process will work and how new Tory rules may sideline the public from getting involved. Then we examined fears the process may be manipulated for political gain. This piece looks at a riding where those fears have become all too real. Friday, we also look at some of the most important regions likely to be affected by the coming changes. As always, you can find these stories and more on HuffPost Canada's Politics page.
She points the finger at Bruce Hallsor, the election planning chair of the Saanich-Gulf Islands’ Conservative riding association, who in a newsletter last fall described parts of the riding that could be sliced off to give the Tories a boost. He says he was only doing what every good partisan would do.
As The Huffington Post Canada reported this week, 10 independent boundary commissions are already at work re-drawing the electoral map to ensure ridings in each province have approximately the same population. The commissioners’ work is made more difficult this year by the addition of 30 new seats, including six in British Columbia. And many opposition MPs have voiced concerns that the Conservatives will try to influence the process in order to create safe Tory seats.
May believes she has proof that’s what the Conservatives intend to do in her riding.
Pointing to that fall newsletter from the Conservative riding association, May told HuffPost her opponents have laid out clear plans for winning the riding back — by having the “greenest” parts removed.
In a section of the newsletter titled ‘campaign corner,’ Hallsor describes four reasons why he thinks the Tories will be able to stop May in 2015. At the top of his list is the redistribution process.
Because Southern Vancouver Island is expected to receive an additional seat, Hallsor suggests the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands can expect to lose one of three areas or a combination of the three: the Gulf Islands, the area South of MacKenzie Avenue or Gordon Head.
“If you removed all three of these areas, and only had the area from Sidney to Broadmead, we would have won the last election,” Hallsor writes. “Any likely redistribution scenario will either make the results of the last election closer, or make us the winners.”
STORY CONTINUES BELOW NEWSLETTER
May, whose strongest support came from the Gulf Islands, said she is cautiously optimistic the process will be fair but fears “having the riding gerrymandered” to remove the areas that voted most for the Green Party.
“It makes me nervous that the Conservative Party riding association felt so confident that they would write that about what their plans were to win back the riding,” she said.
“From their newsletter it is clear that they see certain areas as particular strong Green areas and they are hoping that those areas get removed from my riding,” she added.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW SLIDESHOW
Here are some of the largest ridings likely to see major changes, and what those changes might mean.
Pop: 144,141 Density: 160/km2 2004, 2006, 2008: BQ - Roger Gaudet 2011: NDP - Manon Perreault, pictured, Though there is no more than a residual BQ vote, this and neighbouring ridings used to give Bloc strong majorities. If BQ returns, new ridings in the area could be close NDP/BQ battles. If NDP holds strong, they will increase the party's numbers in the House(Handout)
Pop: 147,096 Density: 1,885.7/km2 2004, 2006, 2008: LPC - Navdeep Bains 2011: CPC - Eve Adams, pictured, (45% to 35% LPC) Riding has areas of Liberal strength towards Mississauga, where neighbouring ridings are also more supportive of the Liberals.(CP)
9th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, and 16th largest: Ridings in Calgary and Edmonton. All have given Conservatives strong majorities, and the added ridings in Alberta are accordingly expected to deliver five or six seats for the Conservatives. Pictured: Calgary West Tory MP Rob Anders and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, MP for Calgary Southwest.(CP)
Pop: 159,032 Density: 141/km2 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011: CPC - Pierre Poilievre, pictured, (54% to 25% LPC in 2011 Very large riding that stretches from suburban Ottawa to rural areas. Likely to have parts of it attached to more urban sections of Ottawa, including the strongly Liberal riding of Ottawa South.(Handout)
Pop: 160,129 Density: 1,511.3/km2 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011: CPC - Nina Grewal, pictured, (48% to 33% NDP in 2011) Has voted Conservative, but western section of riding has significant NDP support, and the two ridings to the west are held by the New Democrats.(Handout)
Pop: 160,663 Density: 3,445.6/km2 2004: LPC - Carolyn Parrish 2006: LPC - Omar Alghabra 2008, 2011: CPC - Bob Dechert, pictured, (47% to 34% LPC in 2011) Pockets of Liberal support scattered about, but bordered by another Liberal riding to the northeast.(Handout)
Pop: 192,020 Density: 1,342.4/km2 2004, 2006, 2008: LPC - Gurbax Singh Malhi 2011: CPC - Bal Gosal, pictured, (34% to 34% NDP) Very close three-way race, with Liberals finishing third with 29% support. A patchwork of Liberal, Conservative, and NDP support, but surrounding areas are relatively strong Conservative ridings.(Handout)
Pop: 196,068 Density: 897.5/km2 2004, 2006, 2008: LPC - Maurizio Bevilacqua 2010, 2011: CPC - Julian Fantino, pictured, (56% to 30% LPC in 2011 Solidly Conservative after a close by-election in 2010, but has a long Liberal history and is bordered to the south by two Liberal ridings and one close three-way contest.(CP)
Pop: 204,146 Density: 1,977.9/km2 2004, 2006: LPC - Colleen Beaumier 2008: LPC - Andrew Kania 2011: CPC - Kyle Seeback, pictured, (45% to 35% LPC) A dense riding surrounded by other highly populated ridings. Large pockets of Liberal support, particularly near a region of Liberal support in neighbouring Mississauga - Brampton South.(Handout)
Pop: 228,997 Density: 336.8/km2 2004, 2006: LPC - Lui Temelkovski 2008, 2011: CPC - Paul Calandra, pictured, (51% to 27% LPC in 2011) Strong Conservative riding, but the area around Markham has more NDP and Liberal support. Two bordering ridings in Markham held by the Liberals and NDP.(Handout)
Reached at his law office in Victoria, Hallsor told HuffPost his newsletter was not articulating some grand strategy to manipulate the process but simply speculating on what the independent boundary commission may decide.
“It is entirely my speculation and I think it is clear from that newsletter and I think for Ms. May to suggest otherwise is completely grandstanding on her part. I mean she has absolutely no evidence that there is any — I don’t have any power, I am just a volunteer at the riding level,” Hallsor said.
The Conservative riding association’s election planning chair points to the fact that the newsletter says his group “cannot really control” or “predict” what will happen.
The Conservatives plan to engage in the boundary process by sending their members to public hearings, Hallsor confirmed, something he suggested was simply smart politics.
“I would think that every political party looks at what polls they win and what polls they lose and when riding boundaries are going to change, you know, you’re interested in how that will affect things. Certainly, we will be interested in that and I expect Ms. May would also be interested in that aspect.”
Since May’s support is mostly in the extreme parts of the riding and not so much in the middle, Hallsor said that “if the riding was to lose something off the top or off the bottom, that’s probably good for us.”
Hallsor said there was no question the riding would shrink, the only question was where the contraction will take place.
May confirmed her former campaign manager is also crunching the numbers and looking at poll by poll data in order to make a proposal to the commission about what areas should be carved off, if a new riding is created.
The focus, the Green Party leader said, should be on keeping communities together even if that means keeping strong Conservative voting blocs intact.
She’s hoping that by raising the alarm and speaking out against what she views as the Conservatives’ intention to influence the process that she may stop any such action from happening.
"I am hoping they will back off from any such plans and we will have a fair boundary process that delivers as much as possible a non-partisan assessment of where a new riding should be created on southern Vancouver island," she said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story contained a slideshow which stated Conservative MP Paul Calandra was first elected in 2011. He was actually first elected in the riding of Oak Ridges-Markham in 2008.
As electoral boundary commissions begin to carve up ridings to make way for the 30 new seats being added to the House of Commons, we take a look at how many seats each province is getting and just how fair representation really is in Canada. Except in extraordinary circumstances, the population of each electoral district must be within +/-25% of the provincial quota. (Shutterstock / Flickr: Tomato Geezer)
Ontario will gain 15 new seats under the Tory bill, bringing the province's total to 121. Ontario's population is now 12,851,821 people. The size each riding should now be is 106,213 people. Percentage of House: Approximately 36 per cent. Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 38 per cent. (Alamy)
Quebec will gain three new seats under the Tory bill, bringing the province's total to 78. Quebec's population is now 7,903,001 people. The size each riding should now be is 101,321 people. Percentage of House: Approximately 23 per cent. Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 24 per cent. (Alamy)
B.C. will gain six new seats under the Tory bill, bringing the province's total to 42. B.C.'s population is now 4,400,057 people. The size each riding should now be is 104,763 people. Percentage of House: Approximately 12 per cent. Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 13 per cent. (Alamy)
Alberta will gain six new seats under the Tory bill, bringing the province's total to 34. Alberta's population is now 3,645,257 people. The size each riding should now be is 107,213 people. Percentage of House: Approximately 10 per cent. Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 11 per cent. (Alamy)
Manitoba will gain no new seats under the Tory bill. The province currently has 14 seats. Manitoba's population is now 1,208,268 people. The size each riding should be is 86,305 people. Percentage of House: Approximately 4 per cent. Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 4 per cent. (Alamy)
Saskatchewan will gain no new seats under the Tory bill. The province currently has 14 seats. Saskatchewan's population is now 1,033,381 people. The size each riding should be is 73,813 people. Percentage of House: Approximately 4 per cent. Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 3 per cent. (Flickr: Just a Prairie Boy)
Nova Scotia will gain no new seats under the Tory bill. The province currently has 11 seats. Nova Scotia's population is now 921,727 people. The size each riding should be is 73,813 people. Percentage of House: Approximately 3 per cent. Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 3 per cent. (Flickr: ojbyrne)
New Brunswick will gain no new seats under the Tory bill. The province currently has 10 seats. New Brunswick's population is now 751,171 people. The size each riding should be is 75,117 people. Percentage of House: Approximately 3 per cent. Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 2 per cent. (Alamy)
Newfoundland and Labrador will gain no new seats under the Tory bill. The province currently has 7 seats. Newfoundland And Labrador's population is now 514,536 people. The size each riding should be is 73,505 people. Percentage of House: Approximately 2 per cent. Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 1.5 per cent. (Alamy)
P.E.I. will gain no new seats under the Tory bill. The province currently has 4 seats. P.E.I.'s population is now 140,204 people. The size each riding should be is 35,051 people. Percentage of House: Approximately 1 per cent. Percentage of Canada's population: Approximately 0.5 per cent. (Flickr: n_willsey)