Monday, March 7, 2011

New ridings unlikely to clear path to majority government

Canada’s population is growing, and as the country grows so does the House of Commons. After the next election, new ridings will be created and Canada’s political landscape will be tweaked and transformed. Though recent poll numbers make a majority government more plausible than it has been in years, the country’s four-party system has some wondering whether anything can break the cycle of minority governments. Will a few extra seats outside of Quebec do the trick? 

You can read the rest of the article on The Globe and Mail website, as well as the graphic and a summary of the piece in today's print edition.

Of course, with the re-distribution of ridings having to wait until around 2013, it is difficult to look that far forward into the future to determine who will benefit. The next election will play a role in shaping the profiles of the regions I looked at, and it is quite possible that whatever happens in the next election will completely change which parties I estimated would have the advantages in these new ridings.

Figuring out where they would be also required a bit (well, more than a bit) of speculation, particularly since we don't know what the results of the 2011 census will be.

I looked at what the largest ridings were according to the 2006 census to estimate where the new ridings will likely be created. When the ridings were re-distributed in 2003, most of the largest ridings from the 2001 census were the ones being split up, so it followed that this would be the case again in 2013.

I looked at who held the largest ridings, who has been competitive in these ridings in the past, and who held adjacent ridings to estimate how the newly created ridings would likely go.

Note that I estimated that the newest ridings in Ontario would likely be created around Ottawa, Toronto, Barrie, and Kitchener-Waterloo. There are other regions which could potentially be rewarded with new seats, such as the patch of the province between Peterborough and Kingston, the Hamilton area, and the Windsor area. If Hamilton and Windsor get new seats, the NDP could benefit.

The areas likely to get new ridings that I listed in British Columbia and Alberta are almost certainly the only areas to get new ridings, as there doesn't seem to be other parts of these provinces that are under-represented.

If Bill C-12 passes, you can expect the Bloc Québécois to make a lot of noise about it. Currently, Quebec has 24.4% of the seats in the House of Commons, while Bill C-12 would reduce that to 22.2%. To put that into perspective, relatively speaking an increase in the size of the House of Commons from 308 to 338 ridings would be the equivalent of reducing the Bloc's current standing in the House from 47 to 43 seats.

But with an election on the horizon, (The Hill Times is even reporting the Liberals might drop a non-confidence motion before the March 22 budget) it appears that Bill C-12 might not become law before it is time to re-distribute the ridings. But who knows what a Conservative majority would do with this law if such a government is formed.

UPDATE: A commenter has quite rightly pointed out that, contrary to what I have written in my article, provinces can be granted fewer seats than they are currently allocated. But they cannot be granted fewer seats than they were allocated in 1976, which is when the grandfather clause kicks in. Apologies. I have requested that this error be corrected in the Globe article.