Analysis

Federal riding boundary changes add to 2015 election intrigue

The redrawing of Canada's electoral boundaries and the addition of 30 new ridings for 2015 through redistribution means the election map has changed a lot since the Conservatives won their majority in 2011. Bob Weiers looks at how the effects of the changes could ripple through an election year.

But path to a majority for any party appears to be a steep climb

Many voters in the next federal election will find their electoral districts changed in some way - and some may not even have the same choice of incumbent elected in 2011. Changes to the electoral map under redistribution will add to the parties' political calculus as the election approaches. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

The redrawing of Canada's electoral boundaries and the addition of 30 new ridings for 2015 through redistribution means the election map has changed a lot since the Conservatives won their majority in 2011.

The changes add another layer of unpredictability for an election year.

The purpose of redistribution is to try to ensure each riding represents roughly the same number of people, taking into account political and constitutional requirements.

Prince Edward Island keeps its four seats, despite its small population, while Ontario adds 15 new ridings for 2015, B.C. and Alberta each get six more and Quebec gets three.

But there is more to it than that. The boundaries in 70 per cent of the remaining ridings in the country have changed. Many of the riding names have changed, too. (You can find maps of all of them on Elections Canada's website.)

As part of the process, the individual poll-by-poll riding results from the most recent votes (including byelections) were re-assigned based on the new boundaries across all 338 ridings.

That leads to some drastic, if hypothetical, changes in a handful of seats.

For example, if you live and vote in the riding of Winnipeg North, in 2011 your riding elected a Liberal, Kevin Lamoureux, with a margin of just 44 votes. Using those same 2011 votes, based on the new boundaries that riding now would elect a New Democrat by a 108-vote margin.

Eight more would flip to different parties in redistribution going by past results:

  • In Newfoundland, Avalon goes from a Liberal win in the 2011 election to a Conservative win after redistribution.
  • In Quebec, the riding of Ahuntsic gets a new name, AhuntsicCartierville. The Bloc Québécois won it in 2011, but with redistribution, the BQ finish in third place. The riding flips to the Liberals and the NDP ends up in second place.
  • GaspésieÎles-de-la-Madeleine was won by the NDP in 2011; with redistribution, the result is a win for the BQ.
  • In Ontario, Brampton East is the new name for the riding of BramaleaGoreMalton. With the new boundaries, the 2011 win by the Conservatives turns into a win for the NDP. The Liberals finish second.
  • In Don Valley East, the redistribution flips the result from a Conservative win to a Liberal victory.
  • In Saskatchewan, some potential good news for the NDP in 2015. They pick up two seats from the Conservatives in redistribution: Regina–Lewvan, which used to be Regina–LumsdenLake Centre, and Saskatoon West, which is the old riding of SaskatoonRosetownBiggar.
  • Only one riding in British Columbia switches parties. The riding of Burnaby–Douglas is now called Burnaby North–Seymour. Voters living south of the Lougheed Highway are no longer part of this riding and are replaced by voters in North Vancouver, on the other side of Burrard Inlet and Vancouver Harbour. With 2011 results matched against the new boundaries, this riding is won by the Conservatives rather than the NDP.

Overall, redistribution favours the Conservatives. They still win most of the seats based on the results of the last vote:

PartyNew2011Change
Conservative188166+22
NDP109103+6
Liberal3634+2
Bloc Québécois44-
Greens11-

The path to a majority

These redistributed results are really just a starting point for politicians, political strategists, pundits and the media as we head to the 2015 election. They don’t have any effect on the current standings of the parties and the elected members of Parliament.

The redrawn results might help an MP faced with a choice of ridings in which to seek re-election. But they also help set a benchmark for measuring the path to a majority for each of the main political parties.

The Conservatives can only afford to lose 18 seats in the next election and still keep their majority.

That could prove to be tough with 30 additional seats. In the 2011 election, 20 of the ridings the Conservatives won were decided by a margin of less than four percentage points.



The Liberals need to gain a whopping 134 seats to get to the majority number of 170 seats. Granted, their 2011 defeat was a history-making disaster, making it seem certain that they will win more than they did last time — but they have a long way to go.

The target for the NDP is closer. They need to add 61 seats. The party did about as well as it could have hoped in Quebec in 2011. To get those added seats, it will likely need to look for growth in other provinces. Based on redistribution, the NDP might hope to gain a couple of ridings in Saskatchewan. But, in the other provinces, it’s been a tough couple of years for the NDP.

There have been provincial election setbacks in Ontario, B.C. and the defeat of Darrell Dexter’s NDP government in Nova Scotia. In this year’s New Brunswick election, the NDP again failed to win a single seat. In Manitoba, NDP Premier Greg Selinger’s cabinet staged a revolt over his leadership with an election less than a year away. In Newfoundland too, the provincial NDP has hit the rocks. After a strong showing in the 2011 election, winning five seats, the party turned on itself. When the internal fighting was over, only three NDP MLAs remained in the legislature.

The bad news for the federal NDP included two municipal elections in 2014. Former federal MPs Olivia Chow in Toronto and Judy Wasylycia-Leis in Winnipeg began their campaigns for mayor as front runners. Both were soundly defeated.

As things stand now, the path to a majority for any party in 2015 appears to be a very steep climb.

About the Author

Bob Weiers

Elections

Bob Weiers is a Senior Producer at CBC News, primarily assigned to elections and live events. He's been covering politics since joining the CBC in 1990. His first election as a member of the CBC Core Group (the production team that travels the country setting up all that's needed to do an election night show) was in Alberta in 2004. He has worked on every one since.

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