|Current boundaries (Elections Canada)|
On Friday, the New Brunswick federal riding boundary commission released its proposal as to how the province will be divided up over the next decade. New Brunswick automatically gets 10 seats, and with a population of 750,000, that means each riding ideally should get about 75,000 people.
New Brunswick has seen a fairly slow growth in recent years, and there has been migration from its rural areas to its cities, especially Moncton and Fredericton. The major changes the commission proposed reflected this migration. However, for the most part, the boundary commission offered few changes in its boundaries. While many ridings have proposed name changes, all of the ridings will have the same character as before, and no ridings would change parties based on their proposal. The most populous ridings will still remain the most populous, while the least populated ridings will remain as so. The commission did not try to maintain population equality at all, but instead opted to fix minor issues, and only made significant changes where they had to, by making the Moncton and Fredericton ridings smaller. They even left one riding (Miramichi) below the 25% allowable variance, making the excuse that the riding is too large and isolated which is an amusing excuse for such a small province.
The following is an analysis of the proposed changes and how the political make up of each riding would change:
At 78,000 people, Acadie—Bathurst has slightly more than the provincial average, but the commission decided to add the Village of Belledune to the riding. This adds just 1500 people to the riding, so it is not a huge change in the population. The decision was done for community of interest reasons. Presently, Belledune is in the riding of Miramichi but it is geographically separated from the rest of the riding. You actually have to drive through Acadie-Bathurst to get to the rest of Miramichi. It makes sense to add it to Acadie-Bathurst.
Interestingly, despite falling in the Conservative riding of Miramichi, Belledune voted NDP in 2011, which will bring it inline with the very strongly NDP riding of Acadie-Bathurst. Much of that support is for the person (MP Yvon Godin) rather than the party, but it is clear his strength and the strength of the party has leaked into Belledune as well as other areas bordering the riding. Politically, this minor change does not effect the partisan make up of the riding.
The present riding of Beausejour also has 78,000 people, making it at present an ideal riding size for the province. However, due to large growth in the Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe riding, Beausejour needed to be altered to take in some of this growth. Presently, Beauejour contains 18% of the city of Dieppe which is mostly in the Moncton riding. The commission proposed uniting Dieppe into one riding, by putting it in Beausejour to help alleviate the over sized Moncton riding. Dieppe is also very Francophone, which means its a good fit for the largely Francophone Beausejour riding.
Uniting Dieppe makes the riding too big, so some territory had to be lost. The commission proposes removing the parishes of Harcourt, Huskisson and Weldford, and the First Nations community of Richibucto Indian Reserve No. 15 and giving them to neighbouring Miramichi riding. This is actually a fairly minor change as the combined population of those four places would be just 3000 people. The changes give the riding a population of about 92,000. This is barely within the 25% allowance as it is 17,000 people more than the provincial average. The commission seems to be okay with this however, although I wouldn't allow for it myself. The riding name is proposed to be Beausejour—Dieppe to incorporate the new territory it has gained. However, I think keeping the name “Beausejour” would be fine, since it's just a general name for the region anyways.
Politically, Beausejour remains as the only remaining Liberal riding in the province of New Brunswick. The 2011 election was a close one for them, as they won it by just 2500 votes over the Conservatives. Luckily for the Liberals, the proposed changes strengthen the riding for them. Dieppe is a Liberal city, and its addition to the riding only helps them. Also, the small part of the riding lost to Miramichi voted Conservative in 2011.
With 93,000 people, the riding of Fredericton is a full 18,000 people bigger than the provincial average. To compensate for this, the commission proposed removing most of the rural parts of of the riding and giving them to neighbouring ridings. This is good for community interest, because rural areas are very different from urban areas. Fredericton's high growth rate has meant that it will get to have a more urban riding now.
The new Fredericton riding will basically just consist of the City of Fredericton and some of its suburbs, namely Oromocto and New Maryland. The proposed riding will have a population of 78,000- which is still too large, but not far off the provincial average. My biggest issue with the proposal is that it still contains some rural areas and their inclusion is somewhat random, and it gives the riding a strange barbell shape. The commission has split up the Parish of Burton without much explanation as to why, and it is giving the riding its strange shape. Perhaps if the rest of the Parish was removed, the riding would be closer to the provincial average, would be more urban, and it would have a more compact shape.
The proposed changes to the riding make Fredericton far more competitive. At present, the riding is a safe Conservative seat. However, all of the territory that is proposed to be removed is strongly Conservative. What is left is still a Conservative riding, but one that might go NDP if the Liberal vote in Fredericton collapses. The south side of Fredericton voted NDP in 2011, and if the Liberal vote collapses into the NDP, the riding will become a tossup.
The current riding of Fundy Royal has a population of 73,000 which is just under the provincial average. The commission proposes making some minor changes to the riding to alleviate some continuity issues as well as to take in some of that territory lost from Fredericton.
The commission proposes moving uniting the Town of Quispamsis in this riding which currently has a small part in the riding of Saint John. It also proposes removing the Parish of Simonds from the riding as it is geographically isolated from the rest of the riding, having its only road link go to Saint John. It also would gain the Parish of Studholm and the Village of Norton from New Brunswick Southwest thanks to Studholm's polling station being moved to Fundy Royal and the desire to unite the divided Norton village. The commission also proposes adding the Parishes of Canning and Chipman and the Village of Chipman from the Fredericton riding into this new riding. The total changes give the riding a population of 79,000 people, not too much bigger than the provincial average.
The proposed changes are good ones, but my biggest complaint is the new proposed name. There is no reason to change the name of the riding under these proposed boundaries. Adding “Quispamsis” to the riding name is unnecessary because most of Quispamsis is in the riding already, and the town is not already in the name at present. Removing “Royal” from the name is unnecessary as well. The “Royal” part of the name refers to the counties of of Kings and Queens, which will still be part of the riding. The new parts of the riding around Fredericton are in Queens County, which means it even more “royal” than before.
Politically, the new territories gained by this riding are all Conservative, which will not change the character of this safe Conservative seat. The riding also loses one NDP poll from Simons Parish.
At 61,000, Madawaska—Restigouche is the 2nd least populated riding in the province, but still within the 25% allowance of the provincial average. The commission only decided to make a minor change to the riding, by giving it the Parishes of Colborne and Durham from the riding of Miramichi. These areas are geographically isolated from the rest of Miramichi, and have no business in that riding. This is a good move by the commission. This change adds 1500 people to the riding making it a tiny bit closer to the provincial average.
Politically, the new parishes added to the riding voted NDP in 2011. Madawaska—Restigouche was a tight Conservative-Liberal race in 2011, but the NDP did win some polls in the riding, mostly in the eastern part of it close to where the new additions are. The Conservatives did finish 2nd in the area though, so it might make the riding ever so slightly more Conservative.
New Brunswick's least populated riding is Miramichi, which presently sits at 52,000 people. This area has fallen on hard times recently, and is also the riding in the province which saw the biggest decline in its population between 2006 and 2011. It's well under the 25% population allowance, but the commission has decided that they are okay with this. They feel that due to the area's isolation, and being geographically the largest riding in the province, it qualifies as being a “special circumstance” and entails falling outside the allowance. I'm not sure I buy that, since New Brunswick is such a small compact province that no part of it is that truly isolated. It's not even the furthest riding from New Brunswick's largest cities, as it is not far from Moncton.
The commission did make some minor changes to the riding, resulting in only a slightly larger population. First off, the riding does lose its communities on Chaleur Bay, as they are geographically isolated from the rest of the riding. It offsets this by losing some southern parishes to the new riding of Beausejour—Dieppe, and by uniting the community of Upper Miramichi in one riding. Presently, part of that community is in the riding of Tobique—Mactaquac.
While the commission makes for some compelling arguments as to why Miramichi should exist with such a small population, I do not think they are strong enough arguments to offset its size. The riding may be isolated, but it wont be the end of the world if it took some territory out of the over sized proposed Beausejour—Dieppe riding. Perhaps uniting all or parts Kent County in Miramichi would work, considering that was what the riding was like in the 1990s.
Politically, this safe Conservative riding would become slightly more Conservative. The areas lost along Chaleur Bay voted NDP last time, while the new parts of the riding in Kent County being taken from Beausejour voted Conservative, despite being in a Liberal riding.
The present riding of Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe is the most populated riding in the province, and is way oversized at 99,000 people. The commission proposed removing all of Dieppe from the riding, and giving it to the Beausejour riding. This change brings the population of the riding down to 81,000, which is still oversized, but better. One wonders if they could reduce the riding even more. Currently, the Town of Riverview is only partly in this riding, so if it is already divided, why not take out even more? After all, the riding is the fastest growing in the province, and will soon once again be oversized. The City of Moncton itself has a population of 69,000 which while small, might not be a bad size for a growing riding. Food for thought.
According to the map and proposed riding description, the new riding also gains part of Moncton Parish, but the commission didn't mention this at all in their report.
The proposed changes are good news for the Conservatives. The Tories won the riding in 2011 for the first time in 27 years. They won it with 36% of the vote thanks to a 3-way vote split with the Liberals and NDP close behind. The changes would remove Dieppe from the riding, which is the strongest Liberal part of the riding, taking away much of the Liberal support. Dieppe also had some strong NDP pockets, weakening them as well. What's left is an NDP friendly urban core and a strong Conservative suburban region in the city with only a few pockets of Liberal support.
New Brunswick Southwest
This rural riding at present has a population of 64,000, and is the third least populated riding in the province. Despite being on the small size, the commission only proposed minor changes to the riding. Firstly, the riding gains some rural parts of the Fredericton riding (parts of Lincoln and Burton Parishes). The riding also loses some territory, as Studholm Parish and the Village of Norton are removed. Also, the riding loses a suburban part of the Parish of Kingsclear. Due to community of interest reasons, the area has more to do with Fredericton, and thus the commission believed it belongs in that riding. These changes bump the riding up to a population of 66,000.
New Brunswick Southwest is a messy riding. While it is based in the southwestern corner of the province, it has a random appendage that stretches more than half way across the province. The commission's proposal didn't change much. While the riding is fairly compact, it just doesn't seem like it is one coherent community of interest. I also hate the name, but what else do you call a riding that seems to be the left over riding after every other one was carved out? Maybe “Charlotte—Lower Saint John Valley”. The name is not a new name that this commission has proposed (just kept), it was a name given to the riding twice, after two previous names proved to be duds. It was renamed after being called “Charlotte” in 2000 and then again in 2006 after the last commission attempted to name it “St. Croix—Belleisle”.
Politically, the proposed riding does not change much. Both the territories gained and lost voted Conservative in 2011. The riding will remain a safe Conservative seat.
Presently, the riding of Saint John has a population of 85,000, which is 10,000 more than the provincial average. The commission seemed to be okay with this, proposing only minor changes to the riding. It loses all of its territory in Quispamsis, as that town would now be united in one riding (Fundy—Quispamsis). It also gains the Parish of Simonds, as that area was geographically isolated from its riding. These changes actually increase the size of the riding to 86,000.
These minor changes do little to change the political character of the riding. All of the area lost voted Conservative, while most of the area gained voted Conservative (except for one poll that voted NDP).
Tobique—Saint John River Valley
The current riding known as Tobique—Mactaquac presently has a population of 69,000 which is not that much smaller the provincial average. The commission proposes moving some of the rural parishes of the Fredericton riding (Maugerville, Northfield, Sheffield) and the village of Minto into the riding as Fredericton is now too large for them, and it makes sense for these areas to be in a rural riding. Also, the parts of the riding in the community of Upper Miramichi have been removed as the commission sees fit to have it all in one riding (Miramichi). The new riding would have a much more ideal population size, with 74,000 people.
These are decent changes, but my beef is with the new name. The commission totally removed “Mactaquac” from the name, despite that area still being in the riding. In its stead, the commission has elected to replace it with “Saint John River Valley” because of the new territory around Fredericton that would not be encompassed by either the names Tobique nor Mactaquac. The problem with this new name is that this new territory doesn't actually border the Saint John River, although it may be in its valley. The River flows right through most parts of the riding, so it might make just as much sense to rename the riding “Saint John River Valley”, or better yet “Saint John Valley”. Now that has a ring to it. But, if that doesn't suffice, expanding the current name to “Tobique—Mactaquac—Sunbury” would do just as well, as it would encompass the new territory gained by the riding.
Politically, not much changes in the riding as both the territories gained and the territories lost are Conservative, and this riding remains a safe Conservative seat.
I am none to pleased with the New Brunswick commission's proposals. While the Newfoundland commission was bold and made some necessary major changes, the New Brunswick commission tried to skirt changes as much as possible, leaving some ugly looking ridings, that vary too much in size. I do plan on making an alternate proposal to this map, as I am not a big fan of it.
You can read the commission's proposal here.