Constituency Boundaries in Canada

“Constituency Boundaries in Canada” in H. MacIvor, ed., Election (Toronto: Emond Montgomery, 2010) 87-105 (with M. Pal).

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In Canada, independent non-partisan bodies known as electoral boundary commissions delimit electoral boundaries for federal ridings. While a marked improvement over the nakedly partisan process of the past, the current Canadian system for drawing electoral boundaries remains a work-in-progress. In this chapter we touch on a number of important questions regarding the criteria that should be used to design electoral districts. Should the number of persons living in each federal riding (the standard measure of riding size) be uniform across Canada, or vary by province and region? Should legislation constrain the power of electoral boundary commissions to tailor riding boundaries to local circumstances, or should they be given broad discretion? What values should be applied in determining where boundaries should be drawn? Does the relative number and size of urban or rural ridings matter? Should electoral districts be drawn to maximize the voting power of minority groups?