The changing political landscape in Canada could potentially favor the federal Conservatives, although this advantage is unrelated to the polls or recent developments in Ottawa.
Independent commissions throughout the country have completed the task of creating new federal ridings. These new ridings will be implemented in the upcoming election, as long as it takes place after April of the following year.
The process entails adjusting the boundaries of electoral districts to consider population changes and factors such as economic and cultural connections among communities within the districts. While some changes may involve shifting a district boundary by a few blocks, others may extend it by several hundred kilometers.
Éric Grenier, the operator of thewrit.ca and an expert in polling, stated that the modifications could potentially benefit the Conservatives.
Grenier stated to CBC News that, in general, he believes the map provides a greater advantage to the Conservatives compared to any other political party.
Grenier mentioned that although boundary modifications can be significant, the greatest advantage for the Conservative party could potentially arise from the inclusion of additional seats in the House of Commons. The number of federal seats is scheduled to increase from 338 to 343.
“Three extra ridings in Alberta — all three of those are probably new seats for the Conservatives. The extra seat in the B.C. interior is an area where the Conservatives are likely to win,” he said. “So they are the ones that benefit from the new seats that are being added.”
According to Grenier, the addition of a seat in the Brampton, Ontario area could potentially benefit the Liberals.
Grenier said it’s important to keep in mind that broader trends in party support and the state of the campaign play much more significant roles in an election’s outcome than changes to the riding map. A changing to a riding boundary that yields a few hundred more votes for the Liberals wouldn’t matter much if they lose thousands more votes in broader support, he said.
“No one wins an election or forms the government just because of the change of the map,” Grenier said. “But if we end up in the next election and it is really tight and it comes down to a few seats, then yeah, the map will be really important.”
Fred DeLorey, the Conservative strategist who ran former leader Erin O’Toole’s 2021 campaign, is more enthusiastic about what the map means for Conservative support.
He expressed uncertainty about his ability to create a more suitable map for the Conservatives during an interview with CBC News.
The impact of localized effects can be substantial.
Dan Arnold, a strategist who ran polling for the federal Liberals from 2015 to 2022, said parties will be closely analyzing the final maps to help with the process of identifying target ridings.
However, he agreed with Grenier’s assessment that the changing boundaries will probably not have a significant impact on the upcoming election.
He informed CBC News that individuals tend to focus too much on the changes in votes when the map is redrawn.
According to Grenier, modifications to boundaries can still have a significant impact on specific electoral districts. He mentioned that new maps could potentially result in a riding in the Laurentians switching to the Bloc, or a Toronto riding expanding into the greater GTA, thereby increasing the Conservatives’ chances of success.
Arnold expressed his belief that the Liberals might be interested in Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, a constituency located in northern Saskatchewan primarily comprising Indigenous communities.
He stated that although the redraft that occurs every ten years may only have minimal impacts, the larger demographic shifts, such as the increasing influence of Western Canada, are important factors that Liberals should consider.
The drawing of boundaries by independent commissions is not influenced by partisan outcomes. MPs, on the other hand, actively express their concerns about changes to their ridings and attempt to influence the process by participating in public consultations and formally objecting to the commissions’ decisions.
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The decisions made by independent commissions that generate the most controversy are the ones where ridings are completely removed. For instance, in Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, the number of MPs representing the peninsula will decrease from three to two. Similarly, Northern Ontario will lose a riding, and a seat in Toronto will be divided among neighboring areas.
These choices not only result in a decrease in the number of MPs representing a particular area, but they also compel current MPs to contemplate whether they should compete for nominations in nearby constituencies. According to Grenier, this diminishes the advantage that parties usually enjoy from having an established candidate.
“It slightly equalizes the competition,” he stated. “And if in certain instances there are incumbent MPs competing against each other for nominations, that’s disadvantageous for the party, isn’t it? They would prefer to have two incumbents.”
DeLorey stated that the nomination matter holds significant importance, and it will be the responsibility of the parties to determine whether to protect current officeholders. In the previous redistribution, he mentioned that the Conservatives permitted open nominations.
“He said that all of our current officeholders had to experience it. They were required to do so. Additionally, a few of them were unsuccessful. This is an integral aspect of the democratic procedure,” he stated.
It would be intriguing to observe whether the parties adhere to that.