Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Newfoundland and Labrador's new electoral map

The results of the 2011 election on the new map
Voters in Newfoundland and Labrador will be heading to the polls on November 30th in the province's 19th election held since joining confederation in 1949. This election will be held on a new electoral map, as the size of the House of Assembly (the province's legislature) has been reduced from 48 seats to 40. This will be the first election since 1959 that the province will have this few seats.

Due to these changes, I took the initiative to calculate the results of the last provincial election in 2011 and transpose them on the new boundaries, using the same process I had done for New Brunswick's recent redistribution. Much like New Brunswick, Elections Newfoundland and Labrador did not publicly release their own transposition numbers, unlike Elections Canada and some other provincial elections agencies.

Actual results of the 2011 election


New premier Paul Davis was gung-ho in his plan to reduce the size of the legislature, and was quick to do so after becoming leader. A boundary commission was created, and new boundaries were drawn over the course of the Spring, in order to give the province's election agency enough time to be ready for the November 30 election. What is usually a long and drawn out process that can take a couple of years (as we saw with the last federal redistribution) was done in a few months.

While the reduction of government is consistent with conservative ideology (Davis is a Tory), the move may backfire for his party. Recent polls have shown the Tories could be wiped off the electoral map, a feat that is easier to do with larger, more populated ridings. Smaller ridings are more likely to overlap with pockets of opposition support, and are therefore more likely to elect more opposition members. It is harder for opposition members to get elected (especially in landslide elections) with larger ridings, as areas of traditional opposition support are more likely to be lumped in with non-opposition areas, when the ridings grow in size. 

This redistribution process has already hurt one of those opposition parties, the NDP. The NDP won five seats in the 2011 election, but would have only won three seats on the new map. This is because in two of those ridings, the boundaries were extended to encompass enough non-NDP areas to have swung the seats to other parties. The Liberals were less hurt, as they would have won five seats on the new map, compared to the six seats they actually won in 2011. The Tories saw a bigger numerical drop, winning 32 seats on the new map, down from the 37 they actually won.  Proportionally however, they were not hurt as bad, as the two other parties, and losing five seats is no big deal considering they still would have won a majority government on the new map.

Redistributed results of the 2011 election by riding

Regional analysis

The St. John's area loses one riding, with the resulting domino effect meaning the NDP would only have won three seats in the city on the new map (down from the four they actually won). This loss is due to the riding of St. John's North (renamed to “Mount Scio”) gaining some heavily Tory areas in the Paradise area. The PCs would have won the remaining 10 seats in the region. While the boundary shifts in Mount Scio gave the Tories an extra seat, they would have lost one in the south end of the city, with the merger of St. John's South and Kilbride into the new riding of Waterford Valley. Another big shift in the city was in the east end, where the two ridings of St. John's East and Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi have re-oriented themselves into St. John's East-Quidi Vidi and Virginia Waters-Pleasantville. Both seats went NDP in 2011.

The rest of the Avalon Peninsula also loses one seat. This seat loss is on the west side of Conception Bay, where the riding of Carbonear-Harbour Grace is being split up. The Carbonear half is going to the new riding of Carbonear-Trinity-Bay de Verde (formed from the former riding of Trinity-Bay de Verde), while the Harbour Grace half has joined the new riding of Harbour Grace-Port de Grave (formed from the old riding of Port de Grave). All the ridings in this region voted PC in 2011, meaning a net loss of one seat for the Tories.

Eastern Newfoundland goes from having six seats to just four, following the redistribution. One seat (Burin-Placentia West) was removed from the Burin Peninsula, with a part going to the new riding of Burin-Grand Bank and a part going to the new riding of Placentia West-Bellevue. The other seat loss comes from the Bonavista Bay area, which will see the old ridings of Terra Nova and Trinity North be merged together forming a new Terra Nova riding. This seat loss hurts the Tories the most, as all six ridings voted PC in 2011.

Central Newfoundland also loses two seats. The former riding of “The Isles of Notre Dame” will see the Twillingate area join the new riding of Lewisporte-Twillingate while Fogo Island joins the new riding of Fogo Island-Cape Freels. Meanwhile, the riding of Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South will split up with the Grand Falls-Windsor area of that riding being absorbed by the riding of Grand Falls-Windsor-Buchans while the Green Bay South area will join the new redundantly named riding of Baie Verte-Green Bay. All nine ridings in the region voted PC in 2011, so the seat reduction is a net loss of two ridings for the party.

Western Newfoundland also loses two seats, with the Humber area losing both ridings. The new riding of Humber-Grose Morne was created as a merger of St. Barbe and Humber Valley while Humber East has been fragmented into the new riding of Corner Brook (formed from Humber West), St. George's-Humber (formed from St. George's-Stephenville East) and Humber-Bay of Islands (formed from Bay of Islands) Both the NDP and the Liberals were the losers in this region. The addition of part of Humber East into the new Humber-Bay of Islands would have made that riding go PC in 2011, when its predecessor riding of Bay of Islands went Liberal.  Meanwhile, the northern riding of The Straits-White Bay North, which went NDP in 2011, has been increased in size, taking in a Liberal part of St. Barbe,. This boundary change would have been enough to shift the riding to the Liberals, and to compensate for the merger of the two Liberal ridings of St. Barbe and Humber Valley. While the new map gives would have given the PCs the new Humber-Bay of Islands riding, the abolition of the Humber East riding gives them a net gain of 0 seats in the region.

The redistribution process came with the promise that Labrador would retain its four seats in the House of Assembly. As such, the region saw no boundary changes, despite two of the ridings (Torngat Mountains and Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair) being extremely underpopulated. In 2011, the Liberals won those two seats, while the Tories won the other two (Lake Melville and Labrador West).

Newfoundland and Labrador's new election map (click to enlarge)

Of course, these numbers only show the results of the 2011 election on the new boundaries, an election which saw the Progressive Conservatives win a large majority of seats, and a majority of the popular vote. With the Liberals heading for what may be an historic landslide victory, this map will look very different come November 30.

Note: An earlier version of this blogpost indicated the the riding of Humber-Bay of Islands would have gone Liberal in 2011, however this was based on an error in the data. It has since been corrected.


  1. I'm confused over your Humber-Bay of Islands numbers - did you include the portion of Humber East within the new boundaries? That portion boosts the PC numbers up significantly.

  2. You're right! I put those polls in the wrong riding. Looks like the riding actually went PC (will have to re-vamp the whole blog post lol). Thanks for letting me know.

  3. Per my poll-by-poll redistribution, St. John's West 2011 results mapped into 2015 boundaries yields a narrow NDP notionally-transposed win.

    1. Hmm, I didn't make any glaring errors with that riding. Which polls did you put into the new riding?

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