Don asked me to comment on the federal electoral redistricting that will take the House of Commons to 338 seats. I don’t have anything specific to say about the new boundaries, so I’m going to complain about how districting is done in general in Canada:
Baring all other considerations (of which there are many), boundary commissions see this as an optimal districting for a city:
This usually reflects how cities have grown historically so it makes power brokers happy. For example, Esquimalt started out as a port town that gradually grew toward Victoria and until the Songhees First Nation was uprooted there was a political barrier between their developments. It means that every district can have political offices in the commercial area that the majority of residents access.
I think that it would be better to group similar density regions together into nested districts:
I believe that two people in suburbs on opposite sides of a city have more in common than a person in a West-side condo and a person in a West-side farm. In order to have a representative democracy, similar voters should be grouped.
Federal electoral districts are so big that this is less of a problem than with provincial districts. Some of the most dysfunctional districts:
- Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca stretches from Vic West to Port Renfrew, which will likely elect someone with urban environmental preservation concerns rather than someone to champion rural resource development
- Prince George is cut in half into Prince George—Peace River and Cariboo—Prince George, where the semi-urban concerns of Prince George will be drowned out by the hinterlands (I suspect this cut is entirely to avoid the inconvenience of a district with no popular center, like the provincial district Bulkley Valley-Stikine)
- Saanich—Gulf Islands will continue their battle between Victoria government workers (NDP), Saanich peninsula retirees (Conservative) and Gulf Island hippies (Green)
I don’t know enough about Vancouver to know whether concentric districts would make a difference. Wouldn’t it be interesting if Fort St John, BC and Grand Prairie, Alberta could be in a district together?