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Commissioned Ridings

Commissioned Ridings: Designing Canada's Electoral Districts

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Commissioned Ridings
    Book Description:

    Where did the idea for nonpartisan constituency redistributions come from? What were the principal reasons that Canada turned to arm's-length commissions to design its electoral districts? In Commissioned Ridings John Courtney addresses these questions by examining and assessing the readjustment process in Canada's electoral boundaries. Defining electoral districts as "representational building blocks," Courtney compares federal and provincial electoral readjustments in the last half of the twentieth century, showing how parliamentarians and legislators, boundary commissions, courts, and interested members of the general public debated representational principles to define the purposes of electoral redistricting in an increasingly urban, ethnically mixed federal state such as Canada.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6943-0
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Tables and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
    John C. Courtney
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    The term “representation” has assumed a variety of meanings in the modern democratic state. It can denote the presence of elected or appointed agents who have been authorized to act on behalf of others with the expectation that at some time in the future they will be held accountable for their actions. It can be used descriptively as a way of comparing the racial, linguistic, gender, or occupational composition of an elected assembly with that of the general population. Or it may in some symbolic fashion embrace myths or images, such as flags and anthems, that have developed as part...

  6. 2 Electoral Districts in a Federal State
    (pp. 9-34)

    Regardless of whether a state is federal or unitary, the regular readjustment of its electoral boundaries has the same effect: it has the potential to provoke a measure of conflict in both the political and public arenas. The reason is obvious. Institutions permit the marshalling of resources in alternate ways, and what benefits some voters, candidates, or parties in one configuration of territorially defined electoral districts may under an alternative arrangement work against their interests. Elected members of the same party from neighbouring constituencies may be pitted against one another for re-nomination because of changes made to their respective districts....

  7. 3 Institutional Role-Modelling: Canada’s First Provincial Electoral Boundaries Commissions
    (pp. 35-56)

    A distinguishing feature of federalism is its capacity to enable one jurisdiction to try out institutional arrangements or processes different from those of other jurisdictions. James Bryce, then British ambassador to the United States, noted over a century ago in his classic study of American government that

    federalism enables a people to try experiments in legislation and administration which could not be safely tried in a large centralized county. A comparatively small commonwealth like an American State easily makes and unmakes its laws; mistakes are not serious, for they are soon corrected; other States profit by the experience of a...

  8. 4 Going Down Under: Canada Looks to Australia
    (pp. 57-73)

    By the early to mid-1960s, the three streams needed to ensure the opening of a policy window were in place for changes to the federal electoral boundary readjustment process. The 1962 election had given no party a majority in the House, which meant that for the first time in Canadian history the design of electoral maps based on the latest census would not be firmly in the hands of a majority government. When the Conservatives led by John Diefenbaker were replaced by the Liberals under Lester Pearson following the 1963 election (which, like the one a year earlier, had given...

  9. 5 Drawing the Maps
    (pp. 74-93)

    Canada’s Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act (EBRA) of 1964 represented a fundamental break with the previous practice of designing electoral districts. It took the actual drawing of the maps out of the hands of politicians and entrusted that to a small group of nonpartisan commissioners in each province. For the first time in Canadian history it acknowledged the value of public opinion on boundary readjustments by requiring every commission to hold open hearings and to accept written submissions on its initial set of proposed maps. A second set of maps, possibly different from the first as a consequence of the public...

  10. 6 Professional and Independent Commissions
    (pp. 94-121)

    From the 1950s on, support for adopting independent electoral boundary commissions gradually spread across Canada. Some provinces (Ontario and Saskatchewan) moved more quickly than others (notably the Atlantic provinces), but by the late 1990s all federal, provincial, and territorial jurisdictions in Canada had gone through at least one boundary readjustment, some more independent than others. Several had held two or more. With five decadel redistributions by the late 1990s, Manitoba held the record by the end of the 1990s, followed by four at the federal level. By the beginning of the new millennium it was clear that in less than...

  11. 7 Participation, Objections, and Delays
    (pp. 122-150)

    It would be a mistake to paint an overly idyllic picture of the electoral boundary readjustment process and to leave the impression that the work of the commissions has been carried out without interruption or criticism. The process of designing a representational building block may have been reformed, but that does not guarantee that the efforts of those who do the designing are without their critics. If anything, every statute establishing an independent electoral boundary readjustment process provides opportunities for both the public and elected officials to voice their views on the proposed maps.

    With very few exceptions, the participation...

  12. 8 “A Full and Generous Construction”: The Courts and Redistribution
    (pp. 151-171)

    The debate over the relative weight to be attached to population and territory in the design of electoral districts will almost certainly never disappear from the floors of legislatures and parliaments in Canada. It has raged since Confederation, and it seems unlikely in the foreseeable future that the debate will end. The issue is simply too close to the hearts (and self-interests) of politicians to expect members to become disinterested observers in the exercise. MPS and MLAS, however, are no longer the only players in the game. The circle of participants in the electoral boundary readjustment exercise first began to...

  13. 9 Life with Carter: Commissioned Ridings in the 1990s
    (pp. 172-203)

    With the 1991 Supreme Court of Canada decision inCarter, Canada entered a new phase of electoral boundary readjustments. By a six-to-three majority, the court had held that the purpose of the right to vote enshrined in section 3 of the charter was not equality of voting power per se, but rather relative parity of voting power and the right to effective representation. In addition, the ruling allowed for deviations from relative parity of voting power when the move could be justified on grounds of minority representation and cultural and group identity.

    How, if at all, didCarterinfluence the subsequent...

  14. 10 Community of Interest and Effective Representation
    (pp. 204-234)

    Manitoba, the first of the Canadian jurisdictions to establish independent commissions for the redistribution of electoral boundaries, introduced the concept of community of interest to Canadian electoral boundary readjustment legislation in the mid-1950s. Borrowed from Australia where it had been a part of their Commonwealth Electoral Act for many years, the term (or some variation of it) has since become a staple of most statutes governing boundary readjustments in Canada. It is now familiar coinage to politicians, boundary commissioners, and interested members of the general public who follow the periodic reconfigurations of electoral districts.

    We have noted how federalism both...

  15. 11 Looking Back and Looking Ahead
    (pp. 235-260)

    When a new Canadian prime minister and cabinet are sworn in, media reports and public comment typically focus on the representational composition of the cabinet. How many women and visible minorities were appointed? Will all the provinces be present at the table? How many ministers are from Quebec? Ontario? Did a coastal province get fisheries? Alberta resources? Did Finance go to Toronto or Montreal? And so on. Such questions relate to the territorial and demographic variables of the cabinet as a representative body in Canada. They are raised without reference to the varying size of the electoral constituencies of the...

  16. APPENDIX A: Decennial Boundary Readjustment Process (Canada)
    (pp. 261-263)
  17. APPENDIX B: Chronology of Redistribution Related Events, 1993–7
    (pp. 264-266)
  18. Interviews
    (pp. 267-270)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 271-316)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 317-324)
  21. Index
    (pp. 325-337)