Monday, December 31, 2012

Newfoundland and Labrador - an alternate proposal

The commission's report boundaries

Five provincial boundary commissions have submitted their proposed federal riding boundaries that will sent to the House of Commons for review. The deadline for submissions was December 21, so one can assume that the other five boundary commissions asked for a two month extension.

This next step in the federal riding boundary redistribution process means a whole new set of maps of the provinces from the original proposals we saw earlier in the year. These new maps came as a result of a series of public consultations held across the country. These next set of maps will not be the final boundaries, but they will be pretty close to finalized.

Alberta, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island (which saw no changes), Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador's boundary commissions all released their reports, while the remaining provinces we will not see for at least two months.

Today, I will present an alternate proposal to the Newfoundland and Labrador map. It will be one that does not guarantee Labrador its own riding.

My alternate proposal. (Inset is St. John's)

The boundary commission did not deviate drastically from their originally proposed map. The public seemed supportive of the new north-south alignment of the three rural Newfoundland ridings, which makes more sense, as it follows transportation links better. The commission only made minor changes such as moving a few villages or neighbouhoods from one riding to another for community of interest reasons. The commission also renamed their “St. John's North” riding to “St. John's East”, as I predicted.

The commission briefly considered the issue of Labrador, currently Canada's least populated riding. Only one submitter (from Ottawa – not me I promise!) proposed doing away with this riding, which is less than one third the size of the average Newfoundland riding and has less people than any of Canada's northern territories. Large, remote ridings, such as Labrador are often exempted from taking on larger territories, and Labrador has been one such exemption. The riding is geographically isolated from the rest of the province by the Strait of Belle Isle, and is for all intents and purposes very much different from the rest of the province. But the fact of the matter is, the area has seen its population stagnate in the last decade, and, as mentioned is the least populated riding in the entire country. There is no reason that Labrador should be more over represented than any of Canada's territories. I feel that the commission should have at least considered a riding which would have consisted of Labrador plus some of Newfoundland.

My proposal is to link Labrador with the northern peninsula of Newfoundland, which is geographically the closest part of the island to Labrador. There is also a link from this region to Labrador via ferry. My proposal is to make Labrador roughly 50% of this riding, so that the area is not over-represented by the Newfoundland portion. This ensures that Labrador will keep its weight in parliament even though the riding will be twice the size. However, due to Labrador's size, a riding even twice the size of it will still be much smaller than the rest of the province (53,000 people compared to 77,000), but at least it would be closer to the average.

To make it to 53,000 (Labrador has 26,500 people), the Labrador riding would have to include all of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland plus the Baie Verte Peninsula. If you include all of these areas you get 51,441 people- close enough. I made the eastern boundary of the riding at King's Point to keep the larger community of Springdale out of the riding. I would name this riding Labrador—St. Barbe—Baie Verte.

The remainder of the province gets six ridings, with an average population of 77,000 people. This new Labrador riding would take a significant chunk out of the current Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte riding, meaning that riding would need to expand. My proposal would take a page out of the commission's proposal by linking the left over area (the Humber region) with the St. George's region to its south. However, this would not make a large enough riding. So, my proposal would be to link the west coast of the province (Humber and St. George regions) with the isolated south coast region. The St. George's area and the south coast are already linked together by the riding of Random—Burin—St. George's. The south coast is fairly isolated as it is, and while it may have road links to central Newfoundland (hence why the commission put the area into the central riding) it still has ferry links to the west coast of the province, and the community of Burgeo also has a road link. This riding would have a population of 76,713 and I would name it “Humber—St. George's—Bay d'Espoir”.

The creation of the new Labrador riding has meant that some of the existing Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte riding has been lobbed off. This is the area around Springdale. While this region does have better transportation links with the Baie Verte peninsula, it had to be excluded from the Labrador riding so that Labrador would still be more than 50% of that riding. This area, which is located on the west coast of Notre Dame Bay, I would have united with the rest of the Notre Dame Bay shore area which is presently in the riding of Bonavista—Gander--Grand Falls-Windsor. This new riding would consist of much of the same areas as this riding, however the addition of the Springdale area would make it too over-populated. This is why removed the Bonavista Bay area. I made the eastern boundary of the riding between Gambo and Glovertown. This was done for population reasons, but it also makes for a good natural boundary as it separates the communities on the western shore of Bonavista Bay (which I would keep in the new riding) from the communities along Highway 310. This new riding would have a population of 75,552 and I would call it Gander—Grand Falls-Windsor—Notre Dame.

With the rest of the Bonavista Bay area removed from its current riding of Bonavista—Gander--Grand Falls-Windsor, I had to put the area somewhere. The riding boundary proposal created a new north-south aligned riding which united the Burin Peninsula, the Bonavista Bay area, the Bonavista Peninsula and the Trinity Bay area in one riding. My proposal would call for a similar riding. It would also include the Burin and Bonavista Peninsulas, as well as most of the Bonavista Bay area. The riding would also extend into the Avalon Peninsula and would contain most of the Bay de Verde peninsula as well. The boundary commission's proposed boundary in the area goes as far as Salmon Cove on Conception Bay, but due to population reasons, I had to go further down the peninsula and stop before Spaniard's Bay. This would add a significant population centre (Carbonear) to my riding which is why my name for the riding (Bonavista—Burin—Bay de Verde) would be different than the commissions proposed name of “Bonavista—Burin—Trinity”. My proposal contains more of the Bay de Verde peninsula, and more of an area not on Trinity Bay, but on Conception Bay. The population of this riding would be 78,132,

This leaves us with an area of the province very similar to area proposed by the commission. However, my proposal of what to do with the remaining three ridings is somewhat different. I started with the riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl which has a population of 83,000- which is a bit too big for quotient of 77,000. My proposal would be to remove the portions of the riding in the downtown area, and give those areas to St. John's East. My proposed boundary, which encircles the downtown core, is somewhat more natural than the present boundary along Gower St. These changes would bring down the size of the riding to 77,011- a perfect fit.

Adding the Downtown area to St. John's East would dramatically increase the size of that riding, even more than it's already huge size of 101,000. Presently, the western boundary of the riding splits up the municipalit of Conception Bay South. The commission's proposal and it's current report split up the City of Paradise. All of these boundaries seem rather arbitrary (the report isolates two neighbourhoods in Paradise from the rest of the city), and my proposal would be to remove all of CBS and all of Paradise from the riding. This makes the Paradise city limits the western boundary of the riding, which makes more sense. And it makes for a good riding size at 77,620.

This leaves us with one last riding, Avalon, which is very similar to the commission's report for the riding. The commission's version of the riding would be slightly larger (81,540) than my proposed version (77,532) as it excludes the Carbonear area, the Bay Bulls area and the Long Harbour area.

That concludes my proposal. If you want to read the commission's report, it can be found here.