New ridings, new boundaries could affect election outcome

The CBC's Adrienne Arsenault explains what electoral redistribution could mean for this upcoming election. Thirty new ridings. Completely different riding names. More than a third without an incumbent MP. Plus, who even decides where to draw these seemingly arbitrary lines on the map?

More than a third of electoral districts have no incumbent member of Parliament

Adrienne Arsenault explains what electoral redistribution could mean for this upcoming election. 3:02

We're halfway through the election campaign but one very important question remains — do you even know what riding you live in anymore?

And who actually draws the boundaries for the ridings in which you live and vote?

The redistribution that occurred in 2012 added 30 new ridings and carved up existing ridings, with some areas hived off in favour of others. To add to the confusion, many ridings have changed their names to better reflect — at least in theory — the local communities that fall within the new boundaries. 

Not to mention that more than 60 MPs are retiring, which has left a record number of open seats.

According to calculations from Alice Funke, of Pundits' Guide, more than a third of the 338 House of Commons seats up for grabs on Oct. 19 will be new or have either an unfamiliar sitting member of Parliament or no sitting member on the ballot.

Avoidance of gerrymandering

Unlike in the United States — where electoral boundaries are determined by state legislatures — ridings in Canada are determined by independent electoral commissions in each province.

This ensures that lines on the map aren't redrawn to give one political party in particular an unfair advantage, a practice known as gerrymandering.

This wasn't always the case in Canada. As the CBC's Adrienne Arsenault recounts, in the 1960s under the leadership of former prime minister John Diefenbaker, Parliament began the arduous task of taking the politicians out of the process and handing it over to independent officers of the electoral redistribution committees.

The result was some of the fairest electoral boundaries in the Western world. 

Watch above for Arsenault's explanation of the changes to our electoral system.