Proposed Boundaries – Newfoundland and Labrador

Part I – Introduction and Overview

The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador (the Commission) was established on February 21, 2012, pursuant to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E–3 (the Act). The Commission is composed of Julie Eveleigh, Member, Herbert Clarke, Deputy Chairperson, and the Honourable Keith Mercer, Chairperson.

The Commission's task is to consider and report on the readjustment of the boundaries of the electoral districts of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador (the Province) as required upon completion of the 2011 decennial census.

The 2011 decennial census established the population of the Province at 514,536. In accordance with subsection 14(1) of the Act, the Chief Electoral Officer has determined that the census and section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867 dictate the representation of the Province in the House of Commons remaining at seven (7) members, therefore requiring seven electoral districts.

The Act provides that the population of each electoral district shall correspond as closely as reasonably possible to the electoral quota for the province, which is determined by dividing the provincial population by the number of electoral districts. The electoral quota for the Province according to that calculation is 73,505. The Act further provides that the Commission may deviate from that quota having regard to the factors of community of interest or identity, historical patterns and manageable geographic size. Section 15 of the Act specifically states:

15. (1) In preparing its report, each commission for a province shall, subject to subsection (2), be governed by the following rules:

(a) the division of the province into electoral districts and the description of the boundaries thereof shall proceed on the basis that the population of each electoral district in the province as a result thereof shall, as close as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province, that is to say, the quotient obtained by dividing the population of the province as ascertained by the census by the number of members of the House of Commons to be assigned to the province as calculated by the Chief Electoral Officer under subsection 14(1); and

(b) the commission shall consider the following in determining reasonable electoral district boundaries:

(i) the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province, and

(ii) a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province.

(2) The commission may depart from the application of the rule set out in paragraph (1)(a) in any case where the commission considers it necessary or desirable to depart therefrom

(a) in order to respect the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province, or

(b) in order to maintain a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province,

but, in departing from the application of the rule set out in paragraph (1)(a), the commission shall make every effort to ensure that, except in circumstances viewed by the commission as being extraordinary, the population of each electoral district in the province remains within twenty–five percent more or twenty–five percent less of the electoral quota for the province.

In its application of the Act, including section 15, the Commission is governed by the Constitution Act, 1982 – in particular, by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees Canadian citizens the right to vote in federal and provincial elections. That right has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada, which has thereby established constitutional criteria for the drawing of electoral boundaries.

In Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.) [1991] 2 S.C.R. 158 (Carter), the Supreme Court of Canada held that the purpose of the right to vote is not equality of voting power but the right to effective representation. Effective representation contemplates recognition of factors such as geography, community history, community interests and minority representation. Departures from voter parity may be justified on the ground "that they contribute to better government of the populace as a whole, giving due weight to regional issues within the populace and geographic factors within the territory governed" (Carter, para. 32).

In developing this proposal, bearing in mind the guidelines of the Act and the principles stated in Carter, the Commission proceeded in the following manner. The Commission first reviewed the population in each electoral district of the Province and the changes in each from the previous decennial census, illustrated in Table 1 below.

Table 1
Newfoundland and Labrador Population Change, 2001 to 2011
Electoral District Population Change
2001 2011 Number Percent
Avalon 79,548 78,908 -640 -0.8%
Bonavista–Gander–Grand Falls–Windsor 89,743 84,735 -5,008 -5.6%
Humber–St. Barbe–Baie Verte 76,467 71,563 -4,904 -6.4%
Labrador 27,864 26,728 -1,136 -4.1%
Random–Burin–St. George's 76,089 69,192 -6,897 -9.1%
St. John's East 81,007 100,559 +19,552 +24.1%
St. John's South–Mount Pearl 82,212 82,851 +639 +0.8%
Total Province 512,930 514,536 +1,606 +0.3%

The Commission then considered whether there were "extraordinary circumstances", as referenced in subsection 15(2) of the Act, that would warrant moving outside the ± factor of 25 percent of the electoral quota for the Province in respect of any proposed electoral district.

For the past 25 years, the Labrador portion of the Province has constituted a separate electoral district though its population has been significantly below the provincial electoral quota. The 2011 decennial census found the population of the Labrador electoral district to be 26,728. That population is widely dispersed over an extensive land mass, which continues to pose serious transportation challenges for its residents and elected representatives. Residents of that electoral district, both Aboriginal and non–Aboriginal, and whether residing in small coastal communities, in or near the major service centre in Upper Lake Melville or in the major natural resource development towns of Labrador West, are all known to assert the existence of a shared community of interest.

Having regard to its history, geography, community of interest and the strength of its distinct Aboriginal communities, the Commission views the circumstances of the Labrador portion of the Province as being extraordinary and as warranting the continuance of a separate electoral district.

The Commission's next task was to determine whether there was a need to adjust the remaining electoral boundaries in the Province based on the 2011 decennial census.

From 1991 to 2001, the population of the Province declined by 55,545. As indicated in Table 1, the 2011 decennial census showed a stabilization in the total population of the Province but a shift of population to the Avalon Peninsula, in particular to the electoral district of St. John's East. The electoral districts that experienced significant declines were Random–Burin–St. George's (-9.1%), Humber–St. Barbe–Baie Verte (-6.4%) and Bonavista–Gander–Grand Falls–Windsor (-5.6%).

Consideration was given to the variances for each electoral district from the electoral quota for the Province. The continuance of Labrador as a separate electoral district has an effect upon application of that electoral quota to the remaining six districts. The population of the Labrador district is 26,728, which is 46,777 below the provincial electoral quota of 73,505. Clearly, the remaining six districts must have that 46,777 distributed amongst them.

To address this issue, the Commission found it useful to calculate an electoral quota for those remaining six electoral districts as follows: 514,536 - 26,728 = 487,808 ÷ 6 = 81,301. That quota of 81,301 (the reference quota) is well within the 25 percent variance authorized by subsection 15(2) of the Act. Given the requirement of relative parity of voting power as tempered by the other factors stated in section 15 of the Act, the reference quota assisted the Commission in addressing the implications of its decision respecting Labrador. Table 2 provides details regarding variances for those six districts.

Table 2
Variances from Statutory Electoral Quota (73,505) and from Reference Quota (81,301)
Electoral District Population 2011 Variance from 73,505 Variance from 81,301
Avalon 78,908 +7.4% -2.9%
Bonavista–Gander–Grand Falls–Windsor 84,735 +15.3% +4.2%
Humber–St. Barbe–Baie Verte 71,563 -2.6% -12.0%
Random–Burin–St. George's 69,192 -5.9% -14.9%
St. John's East 100,559 +36.8% +23.7%
St. John's South–Mount Pearl 82,851 +12.7% +1.9%

Recognizing the principal criterion of relative parity of voting power, the Commission also considered many factors pertaining to the concepts of community of interest or identity, historical patterns and manageable geographic size. These included:

  • transportation links;
  • access to government services and commercial, social and recreational amenities;
  • existing municipal boundaries and the boundaries of regional planning or economic development areas;
  • population trends;
  • the desirability of minimizing changes to existing electoral boundaries.

The Commission recognizes that matters such as community of interest or identity, historical patterns and manageable geographic size are open to differing interpretations as they apply generally or to particular electoral districts. We welcome submissions on these matters.

Following its consideration of the factors noted above, the Commission concluded that changes in the boundaries and names of certain electoral districts are required to better promote voter parity while recognizing other factors including community of interest and geographic realities. The proposed changes with supporting rationale are detailed in Part II below. Technical boundary descriptions and maps are attached as Schedule A to this proposal.



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