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Premier David Alward is cutting six provincial ridings. (CBC)

The New Brunswick government is moving ahead with a plan to redraw electoral boundaries to eliminate six ridings.

The Alward government has appointed an independent commission to do the job. The biggest cuts will come to rural ridings.

Joanna Everitt, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick, said it’s a controversial move.

"Electoral commissioners, as they try and move a riding boundary just a few blocks over, find it very, very difficult.  We're going to see the riding map of New Brunswick change dramatically," she said.

Under the new criteria, several areas are likely to be affected:

  • Saint John would lose one of its seven seats. 
  • North-eastern New Brunswick would be cut from 15 ridings to 13.
  • North-western New Brunswick’s six ridings will be shrunk to five.
  • South-western New Brunswick’s five will be cut to four.

The areas that see reduction will have the extra ridings dissolved and divided among neighbouring districts. The ridings of Nepisiguit and Southwest Miramichi are the smallest in north-eastern New Brunswick, meaning they are likely to be cut.

The reduction and boundary realignment also means some MLAs will compete with other incumbents at the next election. In total, the 55 ridings existing today will become 49 ridings in the next legislature.

The number of voters in each riding be the same, plus or minus about 600 people. 

Annise Hollies, a former chief electoral officer, and Allan Maher, a former Liberal finance minister, will be the co-chairs of the Electoral Boundaries and Representation Commission.

The commission will send its final report to the legislature and the changes will be in place by the 2014 provincial election. The province’s ridings were last redrawn in 2005.