READJUSTMENT OF ELECTORAL BOUNDARIES
AND REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Representation in the House of Commons is readjusted after
each decennial (10-year) census to reflect changes and movements in Canada’s
population in accordance with the Constitution Act, 1867, and the Electoral
Boundaries Readjustment Act.
Federal electoral boundaries commissions
Readjustment of federal electoral boundaries is carried out
by independent commissions. Ten federal electoral boundaries commissions are
established, one for each province, to consider and report on any changes required
to the boundaries of the electoral districts. As the Northwest Territories,
Yukon and Nunavut constitute only one electoral district each, no electoral
boundaries commissions are required. Each commission is chaired either by a
judge appointed by the Chief Justice of that province, or by a person resident
in that province appointed by the Chief Justice of Canada. As well, the Speaker
of the House of Commons appoints two other members who are resident in that
The independent commissions prepare proposals. The proposals
are published in the Canada Gazette and public hearings are held to ensure
public participation in the redistribution process. Following the hearings,
the commissions determine if changes should and can be made. The commissions
then prepare their reports and forward them to the Chief Electoral Officer of
Canada who forwards them to the Speaker of the House of Commons for tabling.
Members of the House of Commons have 30 days to examine
the reports and file objections with a specified Committee of the House of Commons.
The Committee then has 30 sitting days to review the objections for each
Commission. The objections, as well as the minutes of the committee’s
discussions and the evidence heard, will be sent to the Chief Electoral Officer
and forwarded back to the appropriate Commission.
The commissions then have 30 days to consider the objections
from the members of the House of Commons and make their own final decisions,
independent of the Chief Electoral Officer and Parliament. The commissions will
consider these objections in the same manner as they considered input from the
public hearings. In all cases, the final decisions rest with the boundaries
The Chief Electoral Officer refers the commissions’ final
reports to the Speaker of the House of Commons and prepares a draft representation
order. The representation order:
- specifies the number of members of the House of Commons to be elected for
- divides each province into electoral districts
- describes the boundaries of each district
- specifies the population of, and the name to be given to, each district
On March 13, 2002, following the release of the population
figures from the 2001 Census, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada published
in the Canada Gazette the result of the calculations required by the
Constitution Act, 1867. The result was an increase in the number of seats
in the House of Commons from 301 to 308, with three additional seats attributed
to Ontario, two additional seats to Alberta, and two additional seats to British
Columbia. Federal electoral district boundaries are now being revised in all
To ensure public participation in the process, public hearings
were held from August to December 2002. The commissions had all submitted
their reports by the end of March 2003. The reports will be examined by
a parliamentary committee and then reconsidered by the commissions, if necessary,
but the commissions are under no obligation to adopt any suggested changes.
A new representation order was proclaimed on August 25, 2003,
and will come into force with the first dissolution of Parliament to occur after
August 25, 2004.
The 1996 Representation Order remains in effect for all federal elections and
by-elections until the new representation order takes effect. The current representation order
allocates 7 seats to Newfoundland and Labrador, 4 to Prince Edward
Island, 11 to Nova Scotia, 10 to New Brunswick, 75 to Quebec,
103 to Ontario, 14 to Manitoba, 14 to Saskatchewan, 26 to
Alberta, and 34 to British Columbia. The Constitution Act, 1867
allocates 1 seat to Yukon, 1 to the Northwest Territories and 1 to
Nunavut. There is currently a total of 301 seats in the House of Commons.
The Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act also requires
the Chief Electoral Officer and Natural Resources Canada to publish maps showing
the new electoral district boundaries resulting from the redistribution process.
Previously, this requirement was fulfilled by the publication of separate electoral
district maps that were available only on an individual basis. In 1996, Elections
Canada published these electoral district maps in book form for the first time,
making all electoral district maps relative to a specific province or to the
Northwest Territories – as it was at the time – available in one
volume. These atlases are available from Elections Canada.
The federal electoral boundaries commissions are independent
bodies that make all decisions regarding the proposed and final federal electoral
The role of Elections Canada is to provide support services
to the boundaries commission in each province. Elections Canada is the non-partisan
agency of Parliament responsible for the conduct of federal elections and referendums.
For more information:
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