New Brunswick’s Electoral Boundaries and Representation Commission ran into stiff opposition to its proposed riding map from several groups and politicians on Wednesday in Fredericton.
The independent commission was given the task of cutting the number of ridings to 49 from 55 and then creating a new map of the province’s ridings.
The commission was also given strict guidelines on how many people could be in each of the 49 ridings.
Chris Baker, a Fredericton resident and former senior civil servant in the provincial government, said he isn't happy with what the commission has come up with.
"We think that the boundaries that they're proposing, fly in the face of historic principles, traditional values and disrespect the communities of interest in our area," he said.
Specifically, Baker said the commission created a series of rural-urban hybrid ridings. He said it will be difficult for MLAs to represent these ridings.
"The differences in between urban and rural New Brunswickers can be strikingly different even though they may live in relative proximity to each other," according to Baker’s presentation to the commission.
"Likewise, just as members of our two linguistic communities share many of the same views, there are important differences that need to be respected, if not recognized, in the way these communities are represented in the legislature."
Baker, along with a "volunteer, non-partisan group," offered a counter proposal to the commission, which he said would better reflect the communities of interest around the province.
He said the group’s proposal closely resembles the current riding map, while still adhering to the legal constraints imposed by the provincial government.
Jean-Marie Nadeau, the president of the Acadian society, said the new electoral boundaries do not consider the needs of different linguistic communities.
'Equality' of linguistic communities missing
"I don't understand how the spirit of the equality of our two communities is not at all present in that," Nadeau said.
"I don’t live in Saskatchewan, I live in New Brunswick. Let’s create a modern New Brunswick for all our people helping each other in respect for each other."
Nadeau said there are regional complexities that appear to be ignored in the commission’s preliminary report.
"You know, it’s like putting Charlo with Petit-Rocher. It’s not that the people of Petit-Rocher [don’t] like Charlo and that Charlo doesn't like [Petiti-Rocher], it's only that it doesn't fit," he said.
When designing the new map. the commission was guided by an electoral quotient of 11,269, which was the number of voters divided by the 49 ridings.
Each proposed riding had to be within plus or minus five per cent of that quotient.
The commission’s preliminary map formed six regions: Northern, Miramichi, Southeast, South, Capital and River Valley.
Of those regions, Northern will lose 1.5 seats; Miramichi, South, Capital and River Valley will all lose one seat; and Southeast will lose a half a seat compared to the old map. (The half seat distinction is because the old map straddles regional boundaries.)
The commission will send its final report to the legislature and the changes will be in place by the 2014 provincial election.