Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Take a Seat

The Conservatives have introduced a bill to give us...just what we need...more MPs:

OTTAWA — New government legislation will add 30 new MPs to the House of Commons.

Under the bill introduced Thursday, the Commons would grow to 338 seats, with Ontario getting 18 new MPs, British Columbia getting seven and Alberta getting five.

The representation for the other provinces would not change.

Steven Fletcher - minister of state for democratic reform - said the idea is to give greater representation to the faster-growing regions of the country.

"If passed, this legislation will give fair representation to the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, while protecting the seat counts of the other provinces," he said.

A similar bill was introduced in 2007, but was withdrawn over complaints that Ontario would remain under-represented.

More seats for the West, which the Tories like, but the faster growing parts of these provinces are urban, which bodes well for the Liberals and NDP. So what will this mean when all is said and done?

Without knowing the 2011 Census numbers or how the new boundaries will look, it's hard to project exactly what this new House of Commons would look like (except that, I suppose, a few MPs will have to sit on each others laps). But we can still give it try.

The tricky part is eyeballing where the new seats will go. To do this, I took the 2006 Census numbers, calculated the new average riding size for each province, then found the "extra" voters in each riding above and beyond this average. The principle of this is that areas with lots of people will get new ridings, but stagnant areas won't.

For example, once Alberta gets 33 seats, the average riding population there will be 99,708. The Red Deer riding has 124,000 people, so around 24,000 Red Deerians become 24% of a new riding on my spreadsheet.

This gives us the voter pool for the 5 new Alberta ridings (i.e. 24% of Red Deer, 8% of Wetaskiwin, 26% of Calgary South East...). So we can estimate the popular vote in the new ridings: 64% Conservative, 12% Liberal, and 12% NDP...surprisingly close to the results of the last election.

But what does this mean in terms of seats? Well, in Alberta, it's pretty easy to do the math (spoiler alert - more Conservative seats), but how do you do it in places where elections actually matter?

The best bet, in my opinion, is to look at who's currently getting elected in the areas which will get new MPs. Since Red Deer will get 24% of a new riding and they have a Conservative MP (quick quiz: Name him), we add 0.24 MPs to the Tory column.

Since the lone Tory hold out (NDP-held Edmonton Strathcona) isn't growing, this gives us 5 new Conservative MPs in Alberta. Of course, that isn't to say new maps won't mix things up. Strathcona's boundaries could be redrawn. The NDP hot bed of Edmonton East and Anne McLellan's old Edmonton Centre riding have both grown considerably and will have their boundaries shifted. Even in Calgary, redrawing the old Joe Clark Calgary Centre could put the Liberals in the game.

So what does it mean in other provinces? Here's the summary (with their popular vote in the "new" ridings in brackets):

5 Alberta Ridings: 5 CPC seats (64%), 0 Liberal seats (12%), 0 NDP seats (12%)
7 BC Ridings: 4.4 CPC seats (44%), 1.4 NDP seats (25%), 1.3 Liberal seats (21%)
18 Ontario Ridings: 9.2 CPC seats (40%), 7.2 Liberal seats (36%), 1.6 NDP seats (16%)

Add it all up, and you get 18.6 new Conservative seats (45%), 8.5 new Liberal seats (28%), and 2.9 new NDP seats (17%). Which, when added to the current House of Commons, would creep the Tories to within 5 seats of a majority (CPC 164, LPC 85, BQ 48, NDP 40, Ind 1).

And yeah, that's somewhat to be expected since the Conservatives are in power now. But if we adjust the 2008 election numbers so that the Liberals and Tories are tied in popular vote, the Conservatives come out 5% up in the "new ridings".

So the moral of the story is that the country is growing, and parties which ignore places like Alberta and BC do so at their own peril. Spotting the Tories another 8 or 9 seat advantage west of Winnipeg just makes it that much harder for the Liberals to make up the ground in Ontario and out East.



  • Interesting stuff. It matches what I would have thought but I do like seeing the numbers.

    The original plan would have been even better for the cons, since it had the same ab and bc numbers but less in ontario.

    By Anonymous Shawn, at 9:30 AM  

  • Let's keep in mind that the next redistribution will also shift boundaries even in provinces where the overall seat count won't change. For example in Saskatchewan I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't renewed pressure to get rid of the "rurban" ridings and have Regina and Saskatoon each have three purely urban seats.

    By Blogger DL, at 10:13 AM  

  • DL - Agreed. And one imagines that bringing some semblance of sanity to the Saskatchewan map would give the Libs or (more likely) the NDP a good shot at picking up the urban seats.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:27 AM  

  • I'm surprised not a single media outlet or blogger has noted that this could also have implications for the seat distribution at Queen's Park. Mike Harris'
    "Fewer Politicians Act" made it law that the Ontario provincial boundaries and ridings must match the federal ones. Kind of now turns the name of that legislation on its head, but I do believe it is still the law, so now wouldn't this require Ontario to create 18 new seats provincially as well?

    Where would those seats go according to the 2007 Ontario provincial election numbers Dan?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:12 AM  

  • I read that the last census found the population of Toronto had decreased by one per cent. Barrie had the biggest growth in Ontario at five per cent.
    Montreal has stagnant growth, with population moving to the north and south shores off the island.
    Seats may be redistributed to give more clout to the suburbs, rather than the big urban centres.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 11:15 AM  

  • Anon - I don't have the Ontario numbers in my DB, so I may not crunch them quite yet.

    But, as mentioned by Nuna, most of the Ontario growth is coming in the 905. The north ridings are still well below average and even downtown T.O. isn't growing imensely.

    So it would probably be bad news for the NDP, and good news for whoever wins the 905 turf war.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:33 PM  

  • "the faster growing parts of these provinces are urban, which bodes well for the Liberals and NDP"

    ... Except that, as your analysis demonstrates, it isn't actually so.

    The faster growth is not actually found in the Urban centres, but in the Suburban areas outlying, where the Conservatives do well. As your analysis demonstrates.

    But regardless of which Party might be seen to benefit, we must commit to the principles of representation by population, and add seats where numbers warrant.

    It is worth noting that, despite the rhetoric from Quebec's Sovereigntists, MPs in that Province come close to the so-called National Quotient in population per riding.

    By Blogger Paul, at 1:34 PM  

  • Paul

    I wouldn't say the Cons do well in the suburbs necessarily, those seats are entirely up for grabs. You could argue a move away from rural clout, which this redistribution does, can work for the Libs as much as the Cons.

    As for Ontario, there is also growth in the 416, so extra seats in a region which is pure swing country.

    By Blogger Steve V, at 2:09 PM  

  • once again Dan proves why he is one of the best bloggers in Canada... great post, lots of effort.

    By Anonymous luke, at 2:45 PM  

  • Andrew Coyne talks about the growing power of the west today too:

    The Liberals need to be competitive out west if they ever want to form another majority government.

    By Anonymous Western Liberal, at 3:09 PM  

  • I wonder if the NDP will ever feel stupid for having backed the "rurban" map of Saskatchewan back in 1996?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:01 PM  

  • Most Ontario seats will go in the GTA where growth has been predominantly in ridings including Mississauga, Brampton, Scarborough, Vaughan, Richmond Hill. Liberals will do very well in the 18 ontario seats. There has been no growth in northern ontario, some growth in the ottawa area where the tories have a chance.
    in alberta you are bang on.
    and of course, no bloc seats get us closer to majority for some party.

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