Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Drawing Winnipeg's new electoral divisions

Like clockwork, that decennial ritual has begun again. The creaks and groans of the long-cold body can only mean it's beginning to stir. Soon, arisen, it will reclaim the mantle it once knew and the power it can still taste. That’s right; as readers of Curtis Brown's blog will know by now, the Electoral Divisions Boundaries Commission is back, and it will be sure to draw amazement from some and strike fear into the hearts of others.

Cheesy metaphors aside, I noted last year in my post-provincial election post that the redistribution of electoral boundaries will set off some pretty intense jockeying among incumbents over who gets to run where, particularly in regions where a seat has been eliminated. For example, in a region where five MLAs of one party see their seat count reduced to four over the same geographic region, you can bet it'll lead to some heated poll number-scanning, political organizing, and quiet deal-making. It’s Survivor: Manitoba for political junkies - literally, provincial politicians will be getting voted off the island.

I’m too intrigued by the whole process to wait patiently for the Commission to come up with their first set of proposed maps, so I’ve taken a close look at the numbers they've provided, which are based on the 2006 census data, to speculate on what they're likely to propose. While southern Manitoba is likely to see some dramatic redrawing of boundaries, I started first with my observations on Winnipeg. I'll consider non-Winnipeg and political implications of the demographic changes in future posts.

Winnipeg overview

I stated in my post last year that I thought the City of Winnipeg would see its share of the 57 seats go up from 31 to 32. However, based on the numbers, I no longer think that will be the case.

Based on the 2006 census data, the population of the city’s current 31 seats divided by the population quotient provided by the commission gives the city 31.44 seats, on average. Given that seats north of 53° (of which there are currently four) are allowed to be significantly below the quotient (with all other seats within 10% of 21,147), Winnipeg should stand a little above the quotient, which means the same 31 seats it’s had for the last ten years. By 2018, the number will likely move up again.

Within the city, the seats with the largest populations are Fort Whyte (a whopping 47% over the quotient), Southdale (22% over quotient), Seine River (15% over quotient), and Kildonan (7% over quotient). The smallest is St. Norbert (7% below quotient). What I found most interesting was that inner city seats are all very close to the quotient. It seems to me that in the last couple of redistributions, the inner city lost considerable numbers of voters and saw seats disappear as a result. This time, with an apparently more stable population, the inner city thankfully isn’t likely to lose any MLAs.

So if it’s clear that south Winnipeg -- driven by Fort Whyte, Seine River and Southdale -- must see improved representation, but that the city will stay at 31, where will the extra representation come from? The only reasonable answer is that existing constituency boundaries will be dragged southward to accommodate the growth in the south. My map's arrows (click on the map to get a larger, more readable version) and accompanying discussion illustrate what I speculate will happen.

East Winnipeg

On the east side of the Red River, there are 11 seats. Of these, seven (River East, Rossmere, Concordia, St. Boniface, St. Vital, Riel, and Transcona) are about 1,000 below the quotient, while Elmwood is close to the quotient, Radisson is above by about 1,000, and Seine River and Southdale are considerably up.

If the seven that are below quotient expand to their quotient level of voters, this will almost exactly match the amounts by which Seine River and Southdale need to shrink. This likely means that Radisson will move southward to become much more of a Windsor Park constituency; much of its northern portions will become part of expanded Rossmere, Concordia, and Transcona constituencies. Then, by taking of more of Windsor Park from Southdale, the old Radisson constituency allows the former to shed voters to achieve a near-quotient level.

Seine River also needs to shed voters to new constituencies. To achieve this, St. Boniface will likely expand southward, which will push St. Vital southward and Riel southward into former Seine River territory.

Southwest Winnipeg

In the southwest, things get interesting: Fort Whyte is 9,000 voters over quotient, which means it’s grown to nearly the size of 1.5 constituencies. How to rearrange the seats here to accommodate half of a new constituency? The one that seems an obvious answer is to take the south half of Fort Rouge (the only constituency to be divided by a river, something to be generally avoided in the creation of constituencies, I would argue) and turn it into a whole constituency. This generates the additional half a constituency needed to accommodate Fort Whyte’s growth.

How then to redraw the boundaries in the south end? I think it’s likely the commission will fall on tradition and carve out a Crescentwood, which was first created for the 1970s, then vanished in the 1980s, was re-created in late 1988, and then vanished again in 1998. As with its 1990s incarnation, Crescentwood would likely take the eastern portion of River Heights, the “planets” portion of Fort Garry, and the western portions of Lord Roberts and Fort Rouge.

With the Osborne Village piece of Fort Rouge, Lord Roberts will become much like the 1990s-era Osborne constituency. River Heights would move several blocks west to accommodate Crescentwood, which would push some of Tuxedo southward to take up some of Fort Whyte’s current territory. The new Fort Garry, robbed of the “planet” streets, would also snatch some of Fort Whyte’s current terrain. St. Norbert, with its below-quotient voting population, would also expand into Fort Whyte to ease some of the latter constituency's excess numbers.

North and west Winnipeg

The downtown portion of the old Fort Rouge riding may mean the revival of the old Broadway constituency, if it gets merged with the eastern part of Minto. That would mean Minto would get pushed westward into St. James which, along with Assiniboia, is slightly below quotient. As mentioned above, most inner city constituencies aren’t below quotient and so won’t be so much enlarged as shifted around.

An alternative for north Fort Rouge is to merge into the southern part of Point Douglas, the northern half of which would then get merged into some new redrawn versions of St. Johns, Burrows and Wellington. Wellington would then probably take part of Minto from the north, which would get several blocks of St. James in return. Overall, below-quotient Assiniboia, St. James, St. Johns and Inkster are likely to see some growth to balance the addition of Fort Rouge’s Downtown into its neighbours and the accommodation of over-quotient Kildonan.

Photo: Map of Winnipeg consituencies, from Election Manitoba's 2007 Statement of Votes, with arrows suggesting 2008 boundary movement.


Anonymous said...

Interesting, but why is it based on the premise that Winnipeg doesn't deserve another seat?
If the population has moved into Winnipeg then its citizens deserve representation. The Fort Whyte area also contains the Waverley West so further growth is expected.
In fact if you do the math the Winnipeg seats hold 57% of the population so we should have 57% of the seats. That would be 32.49 so we can round off to 32 or 33. Although 32 seems more likely.

Prairie Topiary said...

Thanks for your comment. I based my numbers on those provided by the boundaries commission, which led me to 31 seats for Winnipeg.

Looking at Statistics Canada's 2006 census data confirms this: the City of Winnipeg has 55.17% of the Province's population, which is the same share as 31.4 of 57 seats. So 31 it will be!

Winnipeg CMA population numbers, which are often quoted, are higher at 60.5%.

Anonymous said...

To clarify my earlier post, 57%
(633,455 people) is the the total population of the 31 seats currently defined as "Winnipeg" even though seats like: Southdale, St. Norbert & Seine River extend outside of the perimeter.
43% (483,790) is the total population of the remaining seats.
57% of 57 seats is 32.49.
Hence the number of "Winnipeg" should be increased.
The definition of population was the current parameter not the statistical one.

Prairie Topiary said...

You're right in that census definitions are probably not the best to use in this case. However, either way, I'm still getting different numbers from you.

Like you, based on the Boundaries Commission data, I get 633,455 people in Winnipeg, but I get 514,955 for non-Winnipeg, for a total of 1,148,410. I think you might be missing a couple of constituencies in your sum.

Anonymous said...

Interesting idea's. I agree that Fort Rouge needs to be changed, as a long time Assiniboine Avenue resident I find it strange that I live in the only riding that is on both sides of the river.

Anonymous said...

Really what matters here is how it effects NDP MLA's.

Lord Roberts right now is pretty much a yellow dog NDP riding, but Fort Gary has been close in the past, plus even Fort Rouge became a race last time around with the Liberals making some big gains in some areas of the riding.

In the south, with some tinkering maybe Fort Whyte could be made less Tory friendly, and the suburban NDP seats made safer.

What is the point of being in power if you can't gerrmander?

I kid...I kid...

Prairie Topiary said...

I hope to spend another blog post just on the political implications of these hypothetical boundary shifts. Some quick thoughts, though:

A new Crescentwood would probably be more Liberal-friendly and less NDP-friendly than either the current Fort Rouge or Lord Roberts, but would likely stay NDP even in a future election in which they lost power.

If River Heights moves westward, then it probably becomes more Tory-friendly (possibly making it tough for the good doctor to hold).

St. Norbert and Ft. Garry probably become more Tory-friendly as they take pieces of Fort Whyte.

The loss of Windsor Park from Southdale may may it tough for Erin Selby to hold in any future Tory resurgence.

The strength of the NDP margins last year thankfully mean an uphill battle for the Tories in Winnipeg no matter what the redistribution.

Anonymous said...

How about a downtown riding?

It would go from Assiniboine to the Exchange District. Taking in all of the downtown residents, plus the new uraban condo's. The other boundaries could be the Red River over to Spence, taking in the Centential Park area and the area around U of W.

Might do the province some good to have an MLA commiteed to downtown issues almost exclusivly as his/her constiuents. I've lived on Edmonton Street for almost a decade and it would be nice having an MLA that almost only had apartment residents. Right now I feel in Fort Rouge that we often get ignored in favour of the home owners on the other side of the river.

Prairie Topiary said...

A downtown riding would be a great idea. I like the idea of having constituencies with boundaries that roughly approximate the boundaries of actual communities (rather than constituencies that cross rivers, expressways, railroads and other boundaries that often divide communities from one another.

The Broadway riding of 1988 to 1998 was one that encompassed all of downtown. It was held by Conrad Santos who, rumour has it, won the NDP nomination race by one vote over Marianne Cerilli in the late 1980s. When broadway vanished in 1998, he skipped over to run in Wellington.

A single downtown ward at the municipal level would be a great idea, too. Right now, the downtown is divided between two giant wards that cover huge swaths of the city. I'd much prefer having double the number of wards so that city councillors can legitimately represent communities. That, however, is the subject of another blog post.

Anonymous said...

What kind of control do MLA's have over this?

I think Erin Sleby, Jen Howard and a few others might object if the changes makes their reelection a lot harder.

Prairie Topiary said...

If MLAs think the proposed boundaries are unreasonable, they'll have a chance to state their case at the hearings that follow the proposed maps. These hearings are an important part of the public debate and often lead to changes in the boundaries.

Critiques of proposed boundaries usually have more to do with what consitutes a community and whether boundaries could be better drawn, or whether certain regions are being "treated" unfairly. For example, if all inner city seats came out at quotient +5%, you can bet that there would be criticism on the basis that inner city folks would be consistently underrepresented, even if the margin was within the 10% allowed. Similar debates are likely to occur over what constitutes appropriate representation for rural and northern areas.

I'm not sure crass statements about it being harder to win would wash; such statements, if expressed, would probably be cloaked behind more general critiques about adequate representation.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that this boundary review will have quite a bit of politcal backroom manuvering since with a few subtle changes the landscape can be changed quite a bit, espically in some Winnipeg ridings. The Tories, NDP and even the lowly Liberals will have their people coded in the language of "better representation" try to shift the boundaries to benifit themselves.

Good thing we have a mostly non-partisan group that reviews these things because the threat of gerry mandering could be huge.

It looks like from your post that MLA's Jen Howard, McGifford, and Ross might have the biggest changes in terms of wholesale shifts in their riding make-ups. Could one of them be pushed out like Santos was, in terms of having a riding disapear? How do nominations work if this happens?

Prairie Topiary said...

If the boundaries are close to the those of the old seat, I think the sitting MLA typically makes a go of it in that seat even if it may be a little tougher to win.

If there is more than one incumbent for a newly-created constituency, a number of things can happen:

(1) Sometimes, long in the tooth MLAs will see it as a good time to retire gracefully and move on to other things.

(2) If party fortunes are good, a higher profile MLA may choose to move over into a seat held by another party in the hopes of snatching a victory -- this is what Becky Barrett did when she gave up Wellington to Santos and took on Liberal Lamoureux in Inkster (she won, but retired in the next election, which opened the door for Lam to take his seat back). Doing this can be risky, but it's likely to pay off in the event of a victory in the form of a cabinet position or high-profile critic position.

(3) Sometimes, something is worked out in a hotel room or backroom somewhere. For some reason, more often than not, this involves writing notes on a paper napkin.

(4) Barring any of the above, two MLAs may just duke it out for the nomination by letting the party members decide.

Anonymous said...

McGifford is done for anyways.

She is not running again.

Bring on Jamie Allum!

Anonymous said...

Whaaa? McGifford leaving and being replaced by a man? Isn't that blasphemy in South Winnipeg?

Anonymous said...

Jen Howard and her people will find someone elese to take over from McGifford and it won't be Allum.