Proposed Boundaries – Nova Scotia

Preamble

By proclamation, on February 21, 2012, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Nova Scotia (the Commission) was established under and by virtue of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-3 (the Act).

The Commission is composed of Dr. Louise Carbert, a political science professor, and Dr. David Blaikie, a law professor, both of Dalhousie University, who have been appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the Honourable Allan P. Boudreau, the undersigned Chair, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, who has been appointed by the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia.

The Commission's task is to establish, or more properly stated to readjust, the boundaries of federal electoral districts (sometimes called constituencies or ridings) in accordance with population figures established for the Province by the 2011 decennial census. The Province is now divided into 11 electoral districts, and that number will not change.

The 2011 decennial census established the population of Nova Scotia at 921,727. The population divided by the number of electoral districts gives an average, or "electoral quota", of 83,793 people per electoral district. The population of each electoral district must correspond as closely as is reasonably possible to that electoral quota. The Act provides, however, that the Commission may deviate from that quota to take account of certain factors such as community of interest and identity, historical patterns, and manageable geographic size. Section 15 of the Act specifically directs that in establishing boundaries, the Commission be governed by the following rules:

  • (1)[...] (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 per cent more or twenty-five per cent less of the electoral quota for the province.

In conjunction with the provisions of the Act, the Commission's decisions must be guided by the Constitution Act, 1982, in particular the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees Canadian citizens the right to vote in federal and provincial elections. This right has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada in a manner that sets constitutional criteria for the drawing of electoral boundaries.

In what is known as "the Carter decision", released on June 6, 1991, which deals with provincial electoral boundaries in Saskatchewan, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the purpose of the right to vote, as guaranteed by section 3 of the Charter, is not equality of voting power by itself but the right to "effective representation". First and foremost, the Court ruled, "effective representation" requires "relative parity of voting power". Absolute equality of population size among electoral districts, the Court ruled, was not required. However, deviations from equality resulting in "relative parity of voting power" for the purpose of accommodating geography, community of interest or minority representation must be "justified on the ground that they contribute to better government of the populace as a whole". In other words, the variation from the electoral quota permitted by the Act is not a licence to be used without justification.

In implementing the guidelines of the Act and adhering to the guidelines of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter decision and subsequent Canadian superior court decisions, the Commission proceeded in the following manner.

This Commission, as did the previous commission, first considered whether there were any "extraordinary circumstances" which might necessitate or justify moving beyond the given plus or minus 25% of the quota in any of the 11 federal electoral districts, as permitted by subsection 15(2) of the Act. The Commission decided that there was no such necessity and that there were clearly no such extraordinary circumstances requiring it to invoke the provisions of subsection 15(2) of the Act.

The Commission then considered the need, if any, for a redrawing of the federal electoral boundaries in the Province, based on the official population figures for 2011. It was readily apparent that the shift in population between 2001 and 2011 would require some adjustment of those boundaries. The Commission, therefore, set out to make the adjustments with a minimum of disturbance to the current boundaries, while at the same time considering all of the factors set out in section 15 of the Act.

It is relevant to note that the population of Nova Scotia increased from 908,007 in 2001 to 921,727 in 2011, which is a net increase of 13,720. At the same time, the population of the four ridings in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) increased from 341,026 in 2001 to 370,654 in 2011, which is a net increase of 29,628. Therefore, the total population of the federal ridings outside of the HRM has diminished by 15,908.

It can be seen from Table 1 (below) that several ridings, particularly those in the HRM, are well above the electoral quota of 83,793. When one compares the population of the four HRM ridings with the electoral quota, one can see that the deviation of those ridings exceeds the quota by 6.41% to 16.61%. It can also be seen from Table 1 that the ridings of Sydney—Victoria, Central Nova and Cape Breton—Canso are below the quota by 12.49% to 18.33%. The Commission, therefore, proposes to adjust the boundaries of three of the HRM ridings as well as those of Cape Breton—Canso and Central Nova to bring them into closer alignment with the electoral quota. While making the boundary proposals, the Commission considered the principles of community of interest and identity, historical patterns and manageable geographic size.

Table 1 shows population information after redistribution in 2002 side by side with the same information for 2012 using the new electoral quota. From Table 1, it is easily discernible that Nova Scotia's population has shifted from rural areas, particularly Cape Breton, to Halifax.

Table 2 shows the same information as it would be if the boundaries were readjusted as proposed. If these proposals are effected, the most populous riding (Halifax) will have a population 10.41% greater than the electoral quota, and the least populous riding (Sydney—Victoria) will have a population 12.49% less than the electoral quota.

It is worthwhile making it clear at this time that when one adjusts the boundary or boundaries of one riding, it results in the adjustment of adjoining ridings, which can have a domino effect on other ridings. In consideration of this, the Commission proceeded first to adjust the boundaries of the ridings of Halifax West, Sackville—Eastern Shore, Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and Cape Breton—Canso. This, of necessity, required the adjustment of the boundaries of Central Nova, Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, Kings—Hants and South Shore—St. Margaret's. It was also necessary to adjust the boundary between South Shore—St. Margaret's and West Nova to maintain an appropriate level of voter parity, while at the same time considering manageable geographic size.

The Commission recognizes that change should not be made just for change's sake. The Commission, however, also recognizes that the only way to adjust the population numbers and corresponding electoral boundaries of the HRM ridings is to take away from those ridings and add population, and therefore territory, to adjoining rural ridings, all the while considering urban/rural communities of interest and identity and historical patterns.

For the reasons stated above, the Commission proposes a realignment of the 11 federal electoral districts for the Province in accordance with Table 2 below and the legal descriptions and maps of the proposed electoral districts as set out in Appendix 1. Because of the proposed changes to the boundaries, the Commission also considered it appropriate to make slight changes to the names of two of the proposed districts to better describe their geographic locations. These proposed changes are as follows: Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley to Cumberland—Colchester; and Sackville—Eastern Shore to Sackville—Porters Lake.


Table 1 – Population Information After Redistribution in 2002 and Prior to Redistribution
in 2012
After Redistribution in 2002
(Electoral Quota 82,546)
Prior to Redistribution in 2012
(Electoral Quota 83,793)
Electoral District Name 2001 Population Deviation 2011 Population Deviation
Cape Breton—Canso 75,221 -8.87% 68,435 -18.33%
Central Nova 73,722 -10.69% 72,114 -13.94%
Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley 87,507 6.01% 87,982 5.00%
Dartmouth—Cole Harbour 88,507 7.22% 89,163 6.41%
Halifax 88,931 7.74% 92,515 10.41%
Halifax West 79,933 -3.17% 97,710 16.61%
Kings—Hants 79,286 -3.95% 83,306 -0.58%
Sackville—Eastern Shore 83,655 1.34% 91,266 8.92%
South Shore—St. Margaret's 83,694 1.39% 82,254 -1.84%
Sydney—Victoria 79,294 -3.94% 73,328 -12.49%
West Nova 88,257 6.92% 83,654 -0.17%
Total 908,007   921,727


Table 2 – Population Information As It Would Be After the Proposed Boundary Readjustments
(Electoral Quota 83,793)
Electoral District Name 2011 Population Deviation
Cape Breton—Canso 74,297 -11.33%
Central Nova 77,678 -7.30%
Cumberland—Colchester 82,321 -1.76%
Dartmouth—Cole Harbour 88,890 6.08%
Halifax 92,515 10.41%
Halifax West 86,193 2.86%
Kings—Hants 87,619 4.57%
Sackville—Porters Lake 85,675 2.25%
South Shore—St. Margarets 82,745 -1.25%
Sydney—Victoria 73,328 -12.49%
West Nova 90,466 7.96%
Total 921,727  

You will also find as part of this document the proposed places, dates and times for public hearings, at which any interested party or parties may make representations in accordance with the rules in this proposal. The Commission looks forward to hearing from all interested parties, either in person or in writing. We strongly recommend that all interested parties pay particular attention to the rules herein and check the Commission website (www.federal-redistribution.ca) regularly for any changes of schedule or cancellations of public hearings.





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