09/17/2014 12:30 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:55 EDT

New Brunswick Riding Changes Cause Confusion Among Voters

Elections NB
FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's political leaders say they're encountering a lot of confusion among residents and even their own candidates as the result of the province's redesigned electoral boundaries map, leaving some unsure where to vote or campaign ahead of Monday's election.

New Democrat Leader Dominic Cardy said the redistribution of ridings caused some issues for his party when it was setting up new riding associations.

The result was some conversations that bordered on the comical, Cardy said.

"There were almost Monty Python-like arguments with people who didn't believe they were now in a different riding," Cardy said.

He said such discussions were inevitable, particularly when you look at some of the province's larger ridings.

Take Gagetown-Petitcodiac, a riding that would take you 90 minutes of highway driving to travel across, for instance.

"You can understand why someone who lives in Petitcodiac could not possibly believe that they were going to be represented by someone who could easily live just outside the city limits of Fredericton," Cardy said.

A commission of the provincial legislature released the new electoral map in April 2013, reducing the number of ridings to 49 from 55 and redrawing the boundaries in an effort to put roughly the same number of people in each riding. The commission is mandated to review the riding boundaries every 10 years.

Green Leader David Coon said he has met baffled voters himself while campaigning in his own riding.

"I hear confusion at the door in Fredericton South, particularly on the fringes of the riding, because some side streets are out of the riding and some are in the riding on some of our main thoroughfares," Coon said.

Some city intersections that are on the dividing line between ridings are adding to the confusion as drivers are greeted with campaign signs for multiple candidates from the same parties.

As well, some people checking their mailboxes have received campaign material for up to three candidates for the same party.

"It's unfortunately a bit of a setback when we do this," Liberal Leader Brian Gallant said of redrawing the electoral boundaries.

"Hopefully we can, as best as possible as a party, inform people of who their candidates are, and I assume the other parties will do the same thing."

Progressive Conservative Premier David Alward said he feels for people who have to adapt to the changes, but he encourages voters to visit the Elections New Brunswick website and become informed.

Alward also said it was time for the number of ridings in the province to shrink.

"The reality is New Brunswick was over-governed," Alward said. "We had too many MLAs. It was the responsible thing to do to see a change take place."

Michael Quinn, New Brunswick's chief electoral officer, said any time there are changes it is a learning exercise and generally everyone understands the revisions after the first election.

Quinn said voters can find out what riding they are in on Elections New Brunswick's website and voter information cards have been mailed to homes across the province.