Electoral boundaries commission sticks to plan that splits Saint John between 2 ridings

The federal electoral boundaries commission for New Brunswick is holding firm in its plan to split the city of Saint John between two different federal ridings. (Julia Wright/CBC - image credit)
The federal electoral boundaries commission for New Brunswick is holding firm in its plan to split the city of Saint John between two different federal ridings. (Julia Wright/CBC - image credit)

The commission tasked with redrawing New Brunswick's federal electoral districts is sticking to its earlier proposal of splitting the city of Saint John.

Despite criticism from residents as well as Saint John-Rothesay MP Wayne Long, the commission plans to split the city into two separate electoral districts along the St. John River.

The new electoral district of Saint John-St. Croix would comprise Saint John residents living west of the St. John River, along with communities to the north and west all the way to the U.S. border ,who largely reside in what is currently the riding of New Brunswick Southwest.

The rest of Saint John's residents would be included in the district of Saint John-Kennebecasis, which largely mirrors the current Saint John-Rothesay riding, but would include the town of Quispamsis.

Redistribution Canada
Redistribution Canada

The decision and the reasons justifying it were contained in a report the commission tabled in the House of Commons Wednesday.

"Both the urban and the rural populations of Saint John-St. Croix are significant," wrote Justice Lucie LaVigne, chair of the commission, in the report.

"Therefore, the elected representative will have to attend to the interests of both, and the Commission is satisfied that neither the urban nor the rural voices will be lost."

Decision 'mind-boggling': MP

This week's report comes after a series of public consultation sessions the commission held in each electoral district earlier this year.

Much of the report discusses feedback heard from attendees, with the commission noting that the changes affecting Saint John garnered some of the most responses.

Long aired his concerns at the consultation session held in Rothesay in September, and said he was disappointed it didn't have an effect on the commission's decision.


"It's just mind boggling to me that what they've done for Moncton and Fredericton was basically consolidate those ridings around one MP, and they've done the exact opposite in Saint John," he said on Thursday.

"It's unthinkable, it's wrong, and it's a sad day for Saint John."

Long said his concern is west Saint John residents will go neglected under an MP serving an electorate living largely outside of the city.

"West Saint John is in that riding, but 20 per cent of that riding is going to be Saint John, the other 80 per cent is going to be Charlotte County.

"So with the greatest respect, where's the focus going to be? Where's the voter accountability going to be? It's going to be Charlotte County. It's not going to be in west Saint John."

Long said he plans to appeal the commission's decision and will need to get signatures from 10 other MPs to do so.

Once that happens, the appeal will be considered by a Parliamentary standing committee, he said.

Relenting on other proposals

Not all of the originally proposed changes to New Brunswick's electoral districts are going ahead.

The commission initially proposed moving McAdam into the neighbouring riding of Tobique-Mactaquac, which includes communities as far north as Victoria County.

The commission heard opposition to that at one of its public consultation meetings and ultimately decided to include McAdam in the Saint John-St. Croix riding.

McAdam Deputy Mayor Taylor Gallant said he's pleased by the commission's decision.

Gallant said McAdam residents have strong social and economic ties with communities like Saint Andrews and St. Stephen.

Taylor Gallant/Submitted
Taylor Gallant/Submitted

Plus, the village shares the same regional service commission and provincial MLA with those communities to the south.

"So it doesn't make much sense to separate us," Gallant said.

Name of Fundy Royal remains unchanged

The commission also decided to keep the rural community of Four Falls in the Tobique-Mactaquac riding, instead of moving it into Madawaska-Restigouche, as earlier planned.

The reason given is that the community of about 500 is largely made up of anglophones who are more closely aligned with the communities of Aroostook and Perth-Andover, which are already included in Tobique-Mactaquac.

Another change to the original proposal made didn't involve boundaries, but rather the name of one of the ridings.

The commission originally proposed renaming the riding of Fundy Royal to Fundy Royal-Riverview, because the boundary was being redrawn to include all of Riverview.

However, LaVigne wrote that Fundy Royal MP Rob Moore disputed the name change, arguing it was unnecessary as Riverview is already in Albert County, and that the county is named after Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria.

"He submitted that the current name achieved a fine balance of fair representation of all communities in the riding," LaVigne wrote.

"Considering the Member's arguments and the fact that the Commission had sought to retain the current riding names wherever appropriate, it is now satisfied that no name change is necessary for this riding," her report said.