HOUSE OF COMMONS
The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has the honour to present its
1. Pursuant to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-3, as amended, the Committee has considered the matter of the objections to the report of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for New Brunswick.
2. After each decennial census an electoral boundaries commission is established for each province. The Chief Electoral Officer calculates the number of Members of the House of Commons assigned to each province according to the provisions of section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867. Following advertisements and representations from interested persons, each commission prepares a report on the division of the province into electoral districts based on population and corresponding as closely as reasonably possible to the quotient of Members per population for that province.
3. In its considerations, each commission is to take into consideration the community of interest or community of identity or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province, as well as what constitutes a manageable geographic size in cases of sparsely populated, rural or northern regions. The commission may depart by a variance of up to plus or minus 25% of the quotient in order to accommodate such circumstances.
4. Each commission’s report is forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer, who in turn sends it to the Speaker of the House of Commons, who tables the report in the House. The report is referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
5. In accordance with the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, after each commission report has been tabled in the House of Commons, Members of the House of Commons have 30 calendar days in which to file objections to the proposals contained in each report. The Act requires that objections must be in the form of a motion, in writing, specify the provisions of the report objected to and the reasons for the objection, and must be signed by not less than 10 Members of the House.
6. If objections are filed, the Committee has 30 sitting days, or such longer period of time as may be approved by the House of Commons, to consider the objections. Following this, the commission report, the objections, and the minutes of proceedings are returned to the Speaker, who transmits them to the Chief Electoral Officer. The Chief Electoral Officer returns the material to the relevant electoral boundaries commission, which has 30 days in which to dispose of the objections. The commission then finalizes its report.
7. Once all the commission reports have been finalized, the Chief Electoral Officer prepares a draft representation order setting out the boundaries and names of the new electoral districts. This is sent to the Governor in Council, which must proclaim it within five days. No changes can be made by the Chief Electoral Officer or the Government. The representation order comes into effect one year after it is proclaimed, and is in force for any federal general election called after that date.
8. The Report of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for New Brunswick, 2003 was tabled in the House of Commons on 12 February 2003. By the end of the 30-day period, six objections (from five Members) had been filed with the Clerk of the Committee. The Subcommittee on Electoral Boundaries Readjustment of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was appointed to consider these objections. This report contains the comments and recommendations of the Subcommittee, as adopted by the Committee, on the proposed changes for the Province of New Brunswick contained in the Report of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for New Brunswick, 2003.
9. Mr. John Herron, Member of Parliament for Fundy-Royal, filed two objections.
10. One objection was to the proposed transfer of the Town of Rothesay to the riding of St. John. Mr. Herron’s objection was based on a community of interest. Rothesay and the neighbouring town of Quispamsis – commonly referred to together as the Kennebecasis Valley – share regional protective, planning and emergency services, as well as a library and recreational facilities. They have shared infrastructure projects and are currently discussing the development of a regional wastewater facility. Both Quispamsis and Rothesay town councils have passed formal motions against their separation into different electoral districts. Rothesay took the unusual step – and expense – of commissioning a poll to support their council motion. In the Commission’s report, it was stated that evidence presented at the hearings supported the need to keep the Kennebecasis Valley intact.
11. It is evident from hearings that Rothesay and Quispamsis form a community of interest that should be represented as a whole. This community, the Kennebecasis Valley, is separate from St. John. Both towns have taken strong measures to ensure that their opinion in this matter be heard. We support Mr. Herron’s objection to the proposed transfer of the Town of Rothesay to the riding of St. John.
12. Mr. Herron’s other objection was to the proposed transfer of the parishes of Kars, Springfield and Studholm to the riding of St. Croix. This objection was based on a community of interest. Mr. Herron argued that it would be practical to keep these three parishes with Fundy. If transferred, they would be the only three parishes east of the St. John River – the significant historical and natural demarcation for the region – not in the electoral district of Fundy. Also, according to Mr. Herron, the riding of St. Croix is a large riding which includes three islands in the Bay of Fundy that present, for New Brunswick, unique travel and representation challenges. Servicing these three parishes at the far end of St. Croix would be more difficult for the Member for St. Croix. With a population of 5,500 persons, the three parishes would alter neither riding significantly.
13. Mr. Herron also proposed in this objection that the name of the riding remain Fundy Royal. These three parishes comprise a significant portion of Kings County. Queens County and Albert County – named for the Prince Consort to Queen Victoria – are also in the proposed riding. These associations reflect a long-standing, historical connection with the Canadian monarchy which should be reflected in the name of the riding.
14. When questioned on Mr. Herron’s objection and comments, Mr. Thompson, Member of Parliament for New Brunswick Southwest indicated equanimity towards Mr. Herron’s objection only if the loss of these areas were redressed by the restoration of the northern portions of (what is currently) New Brunswick Southwest, which are to be transferred to Tobique-Mactaquac. No objection has been filed with respect to Tobique-Mactaquac, and the Committee has no mandate to redraw the entire electoral map of New Brunswick, or to make recommendations for doing so.
15. The Committee acknowledges from the evidence of both Mr. Thompson and Mr. Heron that the proposed riding of St. Croix does present geographical challenges that justify it having a substantially smaller population compared to the electoral quotient. Visiting Deer, Campobello and Grand Manan Islands, which comprise parts of the riding, is a day or two’s journey by available transportation. The Committee, however, also believes that with regard to representation of the other end of St. Croix, it makes lesser or little difference whether the riding stretches more to the east rather than the north.
16. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it would also seem to the Committee that the parishes of Kars, Springfield and Studholm share a commonality with adjacent parishes in both St. Croix and Fundy. Either riding forms a potential communal representation of rural New Brunswick interests.
17. With regard to the numbers and according to Elections Canada data: adding Rothesay back into the proposed riding of Fundy would increase Fundy’s variance to +11.7%, but would still leave St. John within the ideal variance of 5%, at –4.5%. The addition of Quispamsis to the riding of St. John would put St. John at +30.3%. The inclusion of the parishes of Kars, Springfield and Studholm, in conjunction with the inclusion of Rothesay, would put Fundy at a variance of approximately +19.4%, which would be high. The removal of Kars, Springfield and Studholm from St. Croix would place it at –21.11%, which is close to 25%, the maximum variance allowed by statute, for exceptional circumstances. The inclusion into Fundy of Kars, Springfield and Studholm, but not Rothesay would put Fundy at +3.58%.
18. The Committee therefore strongly recommends that Rothesay and Quispamsis remain together in one electoral district. The Committee does believe that an urban constituency over the provincial quotient is easier to service than a rural constituency under the provincial quotient.
19. Given the split of Kings and Queens counties between the proposed ridings of St. Croix and Fundy, the Committee believes that if the proposed boundaries remain, the proposed riding name of Fundy should stand.
20. Mr. Greg Thompson, Member of Parliament for New Brunswick Southwest, filed an objection that the name of the new constituency be St. Croix-Belleisle instead of the proposed name of St. Croix. Mr. Thompson believes that the name St. Croix-Belleisle would better reflect the major water systems of both the eastern and western boundaries of the proposed electoral district.
21. According to Mr. Thompson, Belleisle has great historical significance in New Brunswick and to the parishes of Kings and Queens counties that are included in the proposed riding. As the Commission noted in its report, St. Croix has great significance to the western part of the constituency, but Mr. Thompson has concerns that the name may be less well known and recognized by the residents of the other five counties that compose the constituency. Therefore, he argues, the addition of Belleisle to the name would be suitably descriptive of the entire community and would accord with the Commission’s desire to reflect the area’s geography and history and as well the bilingual nature of New Brunswick.
22. In the Subcommittee’s hearings, evidence indicated that the name change might, in part, be somewhat contingent on whether the counties of Kars, Springfield and Studholm are transferred to St. Croix as proposed. (See section on Fundy above.) The Committee agrees with Mr. Thompson’s arguments that the southern and eastern sections of the riding be appropriately reflected in the name of the riding and supports Mr. Thompson’s suggestion.
23. Mr. Andy Savoy, Member of Parliament for Tobique-Mactaquac, filed an objection to the proposed transfer of portions of the parishes of Maugerville and Northfield, which are currently in two separate ridings – Fredericton and Fundy–Royal – to the proposed electoral district. In his view, this would render Tobique-Mactaquac too large to provide fair and equal representation. Tobique-Mactaquac is already the largest riding in the Maritimes and the Commission’s proposal would enlarge it from 14,105 sq. km to almost 17,000 sq. km.
24. In the Subcommittee hearings, Mr. Savoy noted that Andy Scott, Member for the adjacent riding of Fredericton, supported Mr. Savoy’s objection. The Subcommittee received a letter from Mr. Scott confirming Mr. Scott did not oppose Mr. Savoy’s objection. Both Mr. Savoy and Mr. Scott praised the Boundaries Commission for listening to the comments made at the public hearings and returning the boundaries from the Commission’s original proposals to the status quo, save for the apparent oversight of these two areas.
25. In discussion and according to data from Elections Canada, it appears that the portions discussed comprise two polls and 605 people in total. The transfer of these polls to Fredericton would take Tobique-Mactaquac from a variance of about –3.3% to –3.6% and Fredericton from about +12.9% to +13.1%. There seem to be no other objections that could trigger a domino effect to affect these numbers further. The Committee is also satisfied that these areas in question form a community of interest with Fredericton, and, therefore, supports Mr. Savoy’s objection and recommends the portions in question be transferred to Fredericton.
26. Mr. Yvon Godin, Member of Parliament for Acadie-Bathurst, filed an objection against the proposed transfer of part of the county of Gloucester – specifically portions of the parishes of Bathurst and Suamarez and the parish of Allardville – from the electoral district of Acadie-Bathurst to that of Miramichi. The reasons for the objections are:
a) Community of identity was not given due weight; these are essentially francophone communities being appended to a riding where the majority is anglophone.
b) The Commission did not take into account the rules governing community of interests, including language, culture and history. These are communities that describe themselves as having much more in common economically and in outlook with the greater Bathurst and Tracadie-Shiela region than with Miramichi.
c) Members of the public who appeared before the Commission during the public hearings spoke out against the proposed boundary changes.
d) The issue of the electoral quota is not a major concern for Acadie-Bathurst if one looks at other New Brunswick ridings and the New Brunswick electoral quotient as a whole. Acadie-Bathurst’s variance of +14% is under the allowable maximum of 25%, other ridings in the province also have variances greater than 5% from the ideal.
27. Any proposed boundary adjustment to Acadie‑Bathurst will affect the objection filed for Miramichi, so the discussion and recommendations below will include both Acadie-Bathurst and Miramichi. The Committee is also aware that there may also be repercussions for Madawaska-Restigouche and Beauséjour, whose proposed changes have prompted no objections to be filed.
28. The Subcommittee received over 6,000 postcards from Mr. Godin’s constituents supporting his objection, and 46 Members of Parliament from across Canada signed the motion filing his objection. At the hearing, Mr. Godin brought to the Subcommittee’s attention the comments of the Federal Official Languages Commissioner following a complaint that Mr. Godin had lodged. The Commissioner responded that the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for New Brunswick had not met its responsibilities under section 41 of the Official Languages Act, pertaining to the Government of Canada’s commitment to promote the development and vitality of anglophone and francophone minority communities in Canada. This issue was also brought before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages, whose Fifth Report comments and makes recommendations, in part, on the proposed Acadie-Bathurst boundaries readjustment.
29. The Committee cites these examples as evidence of the depth of feeling that some members of the Acadie-Bathurst electoral district hold and the very public nature of the debate. The essential issues, however, remain the same.
30. The core problem, as the Committee sees it, is that Miramichi is significantly under the electoral quotient while Acadie-Bathurst is over. Without the addition of sections from Acadie-Bathurst, the proposed riding of Miramichi would fall to approximately – 23% variance from the electoral quotient. This puts it very close to –25%, the maximum variance allowed by statute. It does appear that the Commission focused primarily on the issue of these numbers and attempted to straighten out what has been an apparently chronic situation with regard to meeting the statutory principle of one person, one equal vote.
31. There are several adjustments that seem to have been made to take into account a domino effect of transferring populations within these northern ridings of New Brunswick. The additions to Miramichi – particularly Belledune, Colborne and Durham – appear to redress the transfer of sections of Miramichi – already substantially below the electoral quotient – to Beauséjour. The Committee infers, in the absence of an objection, that this adjustment between Miramichi and Beauséjour was also done to meet the requests of a linguistic community. The Committee, however, cannot, nor should it, intervene where objections have not been filed.
32. With regard to the proposed transfer of Bathurst Parish, Allardville and parts of Saumarez, it seems clear to the Committee that the region forms, most vociferously, a community of identity with the rest of Acadie-Bathurst. With regard to Bathurst Parish, evidence presented by Mr. Godin indicates that Bathurst Parish forms, additionally, a community of interest with Bathurst.
33. In the circumstances here, the desires of the local community seem at first to be at variance with the principle of an equal vote province-wide. While individuals are important, so too are communities, which are composed of individuals. The Electoral Boundaries Adjustment Act, like other laws and accepted practices and traditions in Canadian society, attempts to balance individual and societal interests. In the case of electoral boundaries, these sometimes-competing interests are joined by issues relating to democratic rights, minority concerns, and effective representation.
34. The case made by Mr. Godin, with the added weight – literally the added weight in the case of the thousands of postcards received by the Committee – of supplementary evidence indicates that Members of Parliament represent communities as much as they do individual voters. Once elected, the representation and services a Member provides the community – the “surgery” as the riding office is called in the original British system – is integral to that community, be it a community of interest or a community of identity. Mr. Hubbard’s representation to the Committee indicated too that his objection has to do with the quality of service and of “connectedness” to the riding, albeit due to distance. Splitting the communities of Acadie-Bathurst and attaching them to Miramichi makes little sense to that richer sense of providing an equality of vote and equality of responsible representation after the voting is done.
35. With regard to the numbers and according to data from Elections Canada, leaving Acadie-Bathurst boundaries as they currently are would place Acadie-Bathurst at a variance of approximately +14% and Miramichi at approximately – 23%.
36. The Committee, therefore, agrees with Mr. Godin’s assertion that in this case, leaving the current boundaries alone and accepting a variance of approximately +14% is both allowable and preferable.
37. The Committee directs the attention of the Boundaries Commission and other readers to its general comments below, which look to a more practicable approach aimed at achieving a long‑term solution to an issue which it suspects will re-occur.
38. Mr. Charles Hubbard, Member of Parliament for Miramichi, filed an objection to the proposed addition of some of Gloucester and Restigouche counties to the electoral district of Miramichi. Miramichi will expand to have extremities some 250 kilometres apart. The economic centre has few connections to the territories added in Gloucester and Restigouche, and the Member of Parliament will need to travel through “the woods” or through another constituency to get to these new areas.
39. While the Committee is sympathetic to Mr. Hubbard’s objection, it recognizes that if the parishes from Restigouche County – Belledune, Colborne and Durham – were returned to Madawaski-Restigouche it would place Miramichi at a –27% variance from the provincial quotient: below what is allowable by statute. The geographical unwieldiness of the boundaries proposed by the Commission is most unfortunate. At the same time, however, the Committee understands there is considerable reluctance to separate Charlo from the parish of Colborne, as currently proposed; as we have recommended for Rothesay and Quispamsis and on the basis of a community of interest, we agree that Colborne should be in the same constituency as Charlo.
40. The Committee does not wish to set too great a precedent for elaborate or philosophical commentary on its recommendations or role in this process, but in certain circumstances, such as the strong and public argumentation brought to electoral boundaries adjustment in New Brunswick, it feels a few general comments might be worth making.
41. Electoral boundaries can be contentious when they touch upon people’s sense of identity and community. One of the privileges of being Canadian, however, is the quality of tolerance, fairness and proper representation Canadians can – and should – expect to receive wherever they vote and whenever they deal with their Members of Parliament. The concerns and feelings expressed over some individual cases of electoral representation should not prevent those who do not receive all they expect from this process from taking the larger view: that there is a quality of excellent representation which exists wherever the polling booth. The Committee also points out that compromise and hard work to ensure compromise works is the Canadian remedy par excellence to most differences of opinion or interest.
42. In that light, we also hope that the reported comments of the Chairman of the New Brunswick Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission do not reflect an unwillingness to revisit their proposals in light of this report. The Commission has had difficult circumstances and it would set a fine object lesson in Canadian democracy to continue their hard work in a spirit of compromise.
43. Finally, it seems to the Committee that given current and previous challenges presented by the adjustment of New Brunswick’s electoral boundaries, all parties involved need to take an imaginative, proactive stance – today – for the next decennial census.
44. Serious attention should be paid all the comments of the previous and current boundaries commissions, particularly the minority reports of 1996 and the supplementary opinions provided in 2003. It may be that the next census might demand more radical changes. Therefore, the groundwork and preparation for a proper redrawing of the electoral boundaries needs to be laid in anticipation of the next decennial census in order that all can participate in and become acclimated to the next round of boundaries adjustments.
45. In accordance with the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, the report of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for New Brunswick, the objections, and the minutes of proceedings of the Committee and Subcommittee will be returned to the Speaker and the Chief Electoral Officer. We urge the Commission to consider carefully the objections, and the comments and recommendations contained in this report.
A copy of the relevant Minutes of Proceedings (Meeting No. 39) is tabled.