The report of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Ontario was published on February 8th2023.
It lays out the final electoral districts drawn by the Commission designed to establish, as closely as reasonably possible, a level of voter parity across the province as mandated by the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act which was established in 1964. This legislation has been credited with a significant reduction in voter inequality within each province, but not across the provincial borders where according to the report, increasing disparities continue to develop.
Math is the starting point for this process. Using 2021 Census data, the population of Ontario – 14,223,942, was divided by the number of seats in Parliament allocated to the province, which is now 12- one more than in 2012. This established a population target or quota of 116,590 for each electoral district. Quotas are guidelines only. Other factors including historical patterns, communities of interest and identity and manageable geographic size in remote and sparsely populated areas also factor into the boundary decisions.
Our riding falls in the Central East Ontario, whose population grew by 9% between 2011 and 2021, slightly lower than the provincial average growth of 10.8% in the same period. There are five electoral ridings in this district. The current boundaries reflected a 21.3% discrepancy between the least and most populous districts. The largest population was found in Peterborough which contained a population of 7.6% above the target, while the lowest population was in Hastings Lennox Addington, whose population was 13.7% below the target. Some realignment was clearly required to make the population distribution among the electoral districts more equitable.
The report included information about existing boundaries, proposed changes and final recommendations, which reflect the Commissions response to feedback received during the consultation phase. In the first proposal, Cavan Monaghan Township was split amongst three electoral districts. After submissions by residents and municipal staff, the Commission acknowledged that this division would be problematic for the municipality, and returned Cavan Monaghan to the Haliburton Kawartha Lakes district, creating a riding with a population of 2.2% above the quota.
The only other riding in the Central East district with a population exceeding the target is the redrawn Peterborough riding, which now includes a population which exceeds the target by more than 10%.
The Commission sought to make the Peterborough riding a smaller, urban riding, however residents from five municipalities within Peterborough County supported by their municipal officials asked to be included in that district. Peterborough now includes the Municipality of Trent Lakes, the Township of Havelock-Belmont-Methuen, the Township of Asphodel-Norwood, the Township of Otonabee South Monaghan and the Township of North Kawartha.
The remaining three ridings in Central East Ontario all have populations below the quota: from the low of 5.5% below in the Bay of Quinte’s population; Northumberland Clarke with 8.6% below and Hastings-Lennox and Addington-Tyendinaga, whose population falls 8.7% shy of the target.
While the report outlines final boundaries, the exercise is not complete. The plan will be presented to the House of Commons which will perform their own analysis before the new boundaries are proclaimed.
Confirmation of the revised electoral map is scheduled to occur in September 2023, and will apply to general elections called after April 1st, 2024. KG