POLITICS

Newfoundland's electoral district redrawn ahead of election in November

06/08/2015 03:01 EDT | Updated 06/08/2016 05:59 EDT
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Newfoundland and Labrador has taken a big step toward redrawing its electoral map and reducing the number of seats in the provincial legislature.

The province's Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission released Monday its final report describing how the number of electoral districts should be reduced to 40 from 48. Debate on the proposals is expected to start this week in the house of assembly.

Earlier in the day, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Paul Davis announced voters will go to the polls in a provincial election Nov. 30 using the new map.

The commission held public hearings across the province and released an initial proposal April 10.

Many of the electoral boundaries on the island of Newfoundland have been redrawn, but the four districts in Labrador have remained untouched.

The populations of all but two island districts are within plus or minus 10 per cent of 13,550 — the number considered ideal to ensure voter parity across the province.

In general, many of the rural ridings have less than 13,000 people while most of the ridings on the more populated Avalon Peninsula, which includes St. John's, have more than 14,000.

"Canadian courts have recognized that rural ridings are more challenging to serve because of difficulties in transportation and communications," the report says.

On Jan. 23, the governing Progressive Conservatives and Opposition Liberals agreed to a reduction of eight seats, not 10 as originally proposed.

Judge Robert Stack, the chairman of the commission, was appointed to the post Feb. 9.

The premier had said the government needed to act swiftly to save money in light of a shrinking budget caused by plunging oil prices.

Some critics raised concerns that rural Newfoundland would suffer with a reduction in the number of seats, but Stack has said population wasn't the only consideration when altering the province's political map.

Geography was the biggest concern for the districts of Burgeo-La Poile and Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune, both found on the island's remote and sparsely populated south coast.

In Burgeo-La Poile, the population is 20.9 per cent smaller than the average, and in Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune, the population is 45.4 per cent smaller.