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Electoral Insight – Readjustment of Federal Electoral Boundaries

Electoral Insight – October 2002

The Chief Electoral Officer's Message
Readjustment of Electoral Boundaries

Jean-Pierre Kingsley
Jean-Pierre Kingsley
Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

The delimitation of electoral districts is an important component of our parliamentary system. It determines the territory and the people that each member of the House of Commons will represent. Our democracy is based on the principle of representation, and the delimitation of electoral districts is certainly one of its most obvious manifestations. For these reasons, we have chosen the current process of readjusting federal electoral boundaries as the theme for this edition of Electoral Insight.

Since this readjustment work occurs only once a decade, after every decennial census, to take account of the changes and movements in Canada's population, it is important that we inform everyone affected about how the process works and the possible timetable for implementation. Barring delays, the new representation order should be proclaimed by July of 2003 and the new federal electoral boundaries would then come into effect at the next dissolution of Parliament taking place at least one year later. This minimum period of one year allows political parties, electoral administrators, candidates, and sitting members of the House of Commons time to adjust and set their machinery to work in accordance with the new electoral map. The number of electoral districts is to increase to 308, seven more than the current number.

An important fact, not always realized by Canadians, is that neither the federal Parliament of the day nor Elections Canada decides the new district boundaries. Rather, the work of developing proposals for new boundaries that take into account the most recent census data and various other considerations is done by independent commissions (one for each province). They were given the census results I received from the Chief Statistician of Canada on March 12, 2002. Under the provisions of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, Elections Canada provides a variety of professional, technical, administrative and financial services to the commissions. After public hearings and input from any interested Canadians including members of Parliament, the commissions make the final decisions.

The 2001 Census determined that Canada's population had increased almost 10 percent since 1991, to 30 007 094. The electoral district boundaries used for federal elections in Ontario are also adopted for use in provincial elections in that province. The federal electoral boundaries commissions are required by law to take into account considerations other than census data. Another major consideration must be "the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district." This edition includes summaries of papers presented on "community of interest" by three prominent academics at a conference, held in March of this year, for the newly-appointed chairmen, members and secretaries of the commissions.

As always, I trust the articles in this edition will encourage discussion. I welcome your comments and suggestions for new topics to explore.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley


The opinions expressed are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.