Electoral Map Shifts Could Boost Conservatives in Next Election, Experts Say

Electoral Map Shifts Could Boost Conservatives in Next Election, Experts Say
Canada's getting a new electoral map and it could have an impact on the outcome of the next federal election. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Recent adjustments in Canada’s electoral boundaries may work in the federal Conservatives’ favor in the upcoming elections, independent commissions report. However, this prospective advantage for the Conservatives is unrelated to current political dynamics in Ottawa or the polls.

New Riding Boundaries Finalized

According to CBC News, the independent commissions across Canada have completed the task of redrawing the federal ridings which will be effective in the next election, provided it is held after April of the coming year. The redrawing process aims to reflect population changes and also considers factors like the economic and cultural connections between communities within ridings. These modifications range from minor tweaks of just a few blocks to larger changes spanning several hundred kilometres.

Conservative Edge?

Éric Grenier, a renowned podcaster and polling expert of thewrit.ca, shared with CBC News his belief that these changes might primarily benefit the Conservatives. “Overall, I think the map does benefit the Conservatives more than any other party,” Grenier stated.

Furthermore, Grenier emphasized the significant role of adding new seats to the House of Commons. The total seat count is expected to grow 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 explained.

However, the Brampton, Ont. area’s additional seat might be a win for the Liberals, Grenier speculated.

Broader Trends Still Paramount

Grenier also underlined the importance of broader party support trends and the overall election campaign state. He believes these factors play a more significant role than mere boundary changes. “No one wins an election or forms the government just because of the change of the map,” he 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, a Conservative strategist who oversaw Erin O’Toole’s 2021 campaign, expressed enthusiasm about the map alterations, telling CBC News, “I don’t even know if I could have designed a better map for the Conservatives. It’s fantastic.”

People line up to vote in the advance polls for the federal election, Friday, September 10, 2021 in Chambly, Que.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Localized Impacts

Dan Arnold, who managed polling for the federal Liberals between 2015 and 2022, suggested that while the shifting boundaries might not be a definitive factor in the next elections, localized effects could be profound. Parties will be analyzing the final maps to identify target ridings meticulously.

According to Grenier, these boundary alterations can be decisive for individual ridings, potentially giving the Conservatives or other parties enhanced chances in specific areas.

The Role of Independent Commissions

It’s worth noting that these independent commissions, responsible for drawing the boundaries, don’t consider partisan outcomes. Despite this, MPs actively voice their concerns and opinions about the changes and often attempt to influence the process through public consultations and formal objections.

Controversies often arise when the commissions decide to eliminate ridings. Such decisions can lead to fewer MPs representing an area and sitting MPs being compelled to pursue nominations in neighboring ridings. This situation, Grenier said, “levels the playing field a little bit.”

In light of these changes, parties have the task of deciding on their nomination strategies. DeLorey mentioned that during the last redistribution, the Conservatives opted for free nominations, a decision rooted in the democratic process.

“It would be interesting to see if the parties stick to that,” he concluded.