Friday, July 20, 2012

Quebec federal riding proposal analysis (part 1 - Western and Northern Quebec)

Current boundaries

On Monday, the Quebec federal riding boundary commission released their proposed map. And anyone who has been following my commentary since then knows my views on the subject. Quebec is due to get three more ridings. But that's not the real story of the proposal. The commission has decided to only retain the names of 19 of the ridings. The rest of the ridings will be getting new names. And some of those names are down right bizarre. But, my biggest complain with the new names is the fact that 24 of them will be named after people, including celebrity (but historically important) athletes such as Maurice Richard and Gilles Villeneuve. Some of the new ridings employ unnecessary historical spellings of regions, like adding an e to Shawinigan- “Shawinigane” or turning Lachute into “La Chute”. Not only that, but many of the new ridings have some bizarre boundaries and ignore community of interest in the name of making most ridings within 5% of the provincial average. Some Liberal MPs have already stated their displeasure.
Proposed boundaries

Anyways, as with Alberta and BC, there's no way I can analyze all of Quebec's 78 proposed ridings in one post. So, I will have to break the province down as well. Part one of my Quebec analysis will focus on the part of the province I know best. Western (and Northern) Quebec (I live across the river in Ottawa).

Presently, the region has just 5 ridings, but the large amount of growth in the region has meant the area will get an addition of one riding. The two northern ridings will stay largely unchanged, so the major changes in the area were made in the Outaouais area, the part of Quebec that is located in the Ottawa Valley. Presently, the Outaouais has 2 urban ridings (Gatineau and Hull—Aylmer), plus a third exurban/rural riding (Pontiac) that makes up the rest of the region. The commission has decided to re-orient the urban ridings, by creating one strictly urban riding, named Outaouais (consisting of Hull and part of the Gatineau sector), and two “rurban” ridings named Aylmer and Petite-Nation that take in urban parts of the City of Gatineau and some rural and exurban areas outside of the city. The left over area outside the city becomes the new riding of “Haute-Laurentides—Pontiac” which takes in the rual parts of the Outaouais and gains new territory in the Laurentians.

While I'm not a big fan of the proposed Outaouais riding, as it spans a natural boundary- the Gatineau River- the proposal for western Quebec isn't that bad. At least not compared to the rest of Quebec. Politically, it benefits the NDP the most, as it gains one more riding, and I see no reason for the NDP to not win it under the current political climate.

Here is my analysis of the six proposed ridings:


This riding combines the Hull sector (except the neighbourhoods of Birch Manor and Plateau) of the City of Gatineau with the neighbourhoods of Pointe-Gatineau, Templeton-Ouest, Touraine, Riviera, Cote d'Azur, and most of the Versant District in the Gatineau sector. This riding connects the more urban parts of the city of Gatineau together, in a sort of “Gatineau Centre” type riding. It contains both “Downtown Hull” and “Downtown Gatineau”. The commission named the riding “Outaouais” after the Ottawa River, which is named Outaouais in French. I think this is misleading, as “the Outaouais” is also a geographic term that is usually used to refer to the whole Gatineau region. This is why it is a bad name. I would suggest calling the riding “Hull—Gatineau”. 

I'm not a big fan of connecting these two parts of the city, as they are separated by a natural boundary- the Gatineau River. However, the two parts of the riding are similar in their demographics, so it's not a huge problem. Also, if the riding didn't exist, another larger riding would have to be created spanning the Gatineau River further upstream, connecting rural and exurban communities surrounding the city of Gatineau. This may prove to be the worse of the two options, and so this district might not be so bad. I would make one change however, trading the Versant District with Limbour neighrbourhood, as these proposed boundaries currently isolate Limbour from the rest of the new riding of Petite-Nation being created from the rest of the city.  

Politically, the riding is easily NDP. Both ridings it would be carved out of voted NDP at around 60% in 2011. The big question is who would run in this seat, Nycole Turmel (MP for Hull—Aylmer) or Francoise Boivin (MP for Gatineau). My guess is it will be Turmel, as the Hull part of the riding has more people.


This riding contains the western suburban part of Gatineau and the surrounding exurbs. It contains the Aylmer sector of the city, the neighbourhoods of Plateau and Birch Manor in the Hull sector along with the municipalities of Cantley, Chelsea, Pontiac and La Peche. The commission named the riding after the Aylmer sector, where much of the riding would live. However, this name ignores the diversity of this riding which spans from the Ottawa River in the south, into the Gatineau Hills, across Gatineau Park and across the Gatineau River. It would make more sense to reference the Gatineau Hills in the riding name, perhaps calling it “Aylmer—Les Collines-de-l'Outaouais”, or “Aylmer—Les Collines”.

The proposed Aylmer riding takes in part of the current riding of Hull—Aylmer and part of the riding of Pontiac. All of the Aylmer sector went NDP in 2011, while the parts of the Pontiac riding in this new Aylmer riding are very NDP friendly as well (except for the community of of Quyon. Pontiac's MP, NDPer Mathieu Ravignat would see his riding split up with this map. However, most of his strength came in the part of the riding that would be transferred to this riding. As well, he would live in this riding too. I predict that if he runs again, it will be here.


This riding takes in eastern Gatineau suburbs and surrounding exurbs. It contains the municipalities of L'Ange-Gardien, Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette and Val-des-Monts as well as the communities of Buckingham, Masson and Angers and the neighbourhoods of Limbour, Mont-Luc, Templeton-Est and Old Gatineau. The riding was named after the Petite-Nation seigneury acquired by Joseph Papineau in 1803. The problem with this is, the seignuery is actually located further downstream the Ottawa River. And, it is also the name of a river, which is also found in that area. I fail to see the connection between the proposed riding and a region that is located downstream from the area. Perhaps a better name for the riding would be “Gatineau—Du Lievre”, after the Du Lievre river which flows through the eastern part of the riding.

Petite-Nation would be carved out of the present ridings of Gatineau and Pontiac. Both portions of those ridings given to Petite-Nation are very NDP friendly, with just one Tory poll in Val-des-Monts in the Pontiac riding. It is likely that Gatineau NDP MP Francoise Boivin would chose this riding to run in.


This proposed riding would included the Regional County Municipalities (MRCs) of Pontiac, Antoine-Labelle, Papineau, La Vallee-de-la-Gatineau and the western 2/5ths of Les Laurentides. The riding is quite large, taking in much of rural western Quebec. It stretches from the communities along the Ottawa River upstream from Montabello into the interior of the province, taking in the communities of the Laurentian Mountains. The riding would encircle the Outaouais region which would be in the three previous ridings I mentioned. This riding would take in parts of three current ridings. It takes the MRCs of Pontiac and La Valee-de-la-Gatineau from the riding of Pontiac, it takes the MRC of Papineau from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel and it takes in Antoine-Labelle and part of Les Laurentides from Laurentides—Labelle. The proposed name for the riding takes in the fact that the riding consists of the Pontiac region of Quebec, as well as the Upper Laurentian Mountains (Laurentides in French). However, the name excludes the MRC of Papineau, which is in neither region. Perhaps calling the riding “Pontiac—Hautes-Laurentides—Papineau” would be better.

This riding has no real predecessor riding, as it takes in large parts of three previous ridings. I don't think any of the current Members of Parliament will run in this riding. In any event, the NDP will have the upperhand in the riding, as it won the most polls here out of all the parties. However, it does take in some of the least NDP parts of the three ridings it comes from. The Pontiac MRC is very Conservative, while the Papineau and Antoine-Labelle MRCs have strong BQ areas. However, these will not be enough to hurt the NDP's chances in this new riding. The Conservatives did hold the riding of Pontiac from 2006 to 2011 thanks to the heavily Anglo Pontiac MRC which will now be in this proposed riding. However, this new riding would be considerably less Anglo, as it leaves out the northern Gatineau exurbs which helped the Tories win the Pontiac riding.


At 104,000, this riding is slightly above the provincial average of 101,000. To bring the riding down to size, the commission proposes removing the Valcanton area of the riding, which is currently the northern appendage of the riding. On paper, this move makes sense, as the area is the only part of the riding not in the Abitbi—Temiscamingue region of the province, as it's located north of region's border, in Nord-du-Quebec. However, removing this part of the riding is a mistake in my opinion, because the area is more linked to the Abitibi region to its south, rather than the riding of Abitibi—Nunavik it would be joining. It is connected by a highway to the nearby community of La Sarre in Abitbi, but to get to the rest of the Nunavik riding, you have to travel by unreliable forestry roads that are not provincially maintained. The population of 104,000 is fine, and since the region might end up losing population (something it has avoided, surprisingly) due to economic reasons, it is okay to be a bit over the average. Plus, the loss of Valcanton only reduces the riding size by 800 people. Politically, the change would make no difference, as the 3 polls in Valcanton voted NDP just like most of the rest of the riding.


The present riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou geographically takes up more than half the province's land area, but is also the least populated riding in the province, with 85,000 people. But, considering the size of the riding, this is completely acceptable, and it also falls with the 25% variance. Considering other province's liberal use of creating ridings that are deemed “exceptional circumstances” and fall below this threshold, it's a surprise that Quebec never did this considering how big this riding is.

The commission decided to just make two alterations to the riding's boundaries. First, it added the Valcanton area. As noted, I feel is unnecessary, especially considering that despite the riding being under populated, Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou is still a growing riding (it saw a population increase) that doesn't need areas
added to its already huge size. The second change was to move the east-west border it shares with the riding of Manicouagan up from the southern boundary of Kativik (th 55th parallel) to the 56th parallel. This unites the non-contiguous parts of the riding that existed due to the Kativk boundary “going through” the boundary with Labrador. This is only done for esthetics however, since the communities affected are only connected to the rest of Quebec through Labrador anyways. This boundary change does not affect anyone, as the area is uninhabited. There is a Naskapi vilage municipality in the area (Kawawachikamach), but it is uninhabited. All together, the riding only loses about 800 people. These changes do no affect the political make up of the riding. It is already an NDP riding that would be gaining 3 NDP-won polls.

Despite the lack of major changes to the riding, the commission decided to renamed the riding, to much shorter “Abitibi—Nunavik”. This probably won't fly because it neglects all of the territory between the Abitibi city of Val-d'Or and the Inuit region of Nunavik in the far north. This ignores the Cree villages and the White communities in between. That is why the present name of the riding has been settled. Considering the current MP for the riding (Romeo Saganash) is a Cree, the dropping of “Eeyou” from the riding name probably will not fly. Eeyou Istchee is the name of the Cree controlled territory in the riding. Since the riding consists of all of the region of “Nord-du-Quebec” plus the Abitibi area MRC of La Vallee-de-l'Or, perhaps a better and more neutral name for the riding (and shorter!) should be Abitibi—Nord-du-Quebec. I know, I have expressed a distaste at using names that use a directional and a province in the title, but “Nord-du-Quebec” is an official region of the province, so I can make an exception. Of course, one can always keep the current name, despite how long it is.

You can read the proposal here.


  1. My only real dissent from your comments is on terminology. You say "Aylmer and Petite-Nation take in urban parts of the City of Gatineau and some rural and exurban areas." I prefer Stats Can's geographic terms. They say all of Aylmer and Petite-Nation are within the Gatineau Census Metropolitan Area and are therefore either urban or suburban. By Stats Can's definition the only possible "exurbs" in the Outaouais Region are Thurso, Papineauville, Saint-André-Avellin, Shawville, and Fort-Coulonge, all within the new Hautes-Laurentides—Pontiac.

    Although I wonder about your assumption that Nycole Turmel, pulled out of semi-retirement by Jack Layton in early 2011, will run again in the fall of 2015 at age 73.

  2. Well, I would say that places like Chelsea and Luskville, Wakefield, Buckingham, Cantley, etc are very exurban. StatsCan doesn't really define exurban areas. Certainly much of even Aylmer is rural, as well. But that's just me.

    As for Turmel, yeah I suppose she may not run. My point is to point out where MPs will run if they do plan on running again, not to speculate as to when they will or not.

  3. Thanks for this, I enjoyed reading it. I'm still waiting for the rest of BC and Alberta and I hope you get to those soon!

  4. One option I wonder about: would Papineau prefer being combined with adjacent francophone areas rather than be in a far-flung crescent surrounding Gatineau and Les Collines-de-l'Outaouais.

    If you moved Papineau (22,541 residents) into a Outaouais-est alignment with about 56,000 Gatineau residents and L'Ange-Gardien, Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette, Val-des-Monts and Cantley (26,116), you could move the rest of Les Collines-de-l'Outaouais (Chelsea, Pontiac and La Pêche, 20,277) into Hautes-Laurentides—Pontiac (97,826, 3.4% under quotient). Then the remaining Gatineau residents (about 209,349) would make two ridings each about 3.3% over quotient, much like the existing two ridings but shifted slightly west to bring their numbers down. Gatineau City is still split between three ridings, but two of them are entirely within the city, rather than only one being entirely within the city.

    One merit is that the new Outaouais-Est is clearly the "new" riding, while the other three follow the present three as closely as reasonably possible. For example, the bilingual suburbs -- Chelsea (52% English home language), Pontiac Municipality (49%, not to be confused with Pontiac MRC 65% English), and La Pêche (40%) -- would stay in Pontiac riding with many anglophones.

  5. Part of the confusion for Anglophone Canadians right now is that most of us aren’t prepared to have Pauline Marois and a Parti Quebecois government be elected on Sept. 4th, 2012.