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Frequently asked questions

Redistribution of federal electoral districts

Basics

Timeline

Seat allocation

Establishing commissions

Process

Getting involved


What is a federal electoral district?

A federal electoral district (also called "riding" or "constituency") is a geographical area represented by a Member of Parliament (MP). During an election, electors vote for an MP to represent the residents of their electoral district in the House of Commons. Each electoral district therefore corresponds to a seat in the House of Commons.

See the list of current federal electoral districts.

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What is the redistribution of federal electoral districts?

The redistribution of federal electoral districts is a process by which:

  1. The number of electoral districts (and therefore House of Commons seats) given to each province is recalculated according to new population estimates, using the representation formula found in section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867
  2. The district boundaries are redrawn to account for a change in the number of electoral districts given to each province, or simply to reflect changes and movements in the population of that province.

The rules for carrying out the redistribution process are set out in the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.

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Why are Canada's federal electoral districts changing?

It is a legal requirement. The Constitution Act, 1867 and the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act require that the number of seats in the House of Commons and the boundaries of federal electoral districts be reviewed after each decennial (10-year) census. This mechanism allows for changes and movements in Canada's population to be reflected in House of Commons representation.

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How will changes to Canada's federal electoral districts affect me?

Your electoral district will likely change in some way. For example:

In the previous two federal redistribution processes, about 90 percent of federal electoral districts changed in some way.

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When will the redistribution of federal electoral districts start?

The next federal redistribution process is expected to begin in September 2021, when Statistics Canada publishes its population estimates for Canada and the provinces as at July 1, 2021. At that time, the Chief Electoral Officer will calculate the number of House of Commons seats to be allocated to each province.

The main component of the federal redistribution process is expected to start in February 2022, when Statistics Canada releases population numbers from the 2021 Census.

The population numbers will be given to independent commissions responsible for readjusting the federal boundaries. With those numbers in hand, the commissions can get to work and draft a new electoral map for their province.

Consult the redistribution timeline for more information.

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Will the new federal electoral boundaries be in force during the next general election?

The redistribution process is expected to take several months. The new boundaries can only be put in place at a general election called at least seven months after the new electoral districts have been set. This time allows for Elections Canada, political parties, candidates and sitting MPs to prepare for the next general election (e.g. hire or reappoint returning officers, adjust the National Register of Electors, reorganize electoral district associations). We expect that the new federal electoral boundaries will take effect during a general election held after April 1, 2024, at the earliest.

Consult the redistribution timeline for more information.

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Could my province get additional seats or lose seats in the House of Commons?

The number of seats given to a province is determined by the representation formula found in section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867. The new seat allocation will only take effect seven months after the new representation order is proclaimed. Consult the redistribution timeline for more information.

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How do we calculate the allocation of seats in the House of Commons?

Please consult the page on the representation formula to find out how seats are allocated in the House of Commons following each decennial (10-year) census. This representation formula is found in section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

The CEO does not decide how many House of Commons seats will be allocated to each province. Although the CEO calculates the number of seats allocated to each province, this calculation is merely a mathematical operation over which the CEO exercises no discretionary authority.

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Who appoints the members and chairs of the commissions?

Each electoral boundaries commission is composed of three members. It is chaired by a judge appointed by the chief justice of the province and has two other members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons. Historically, many commission members have been university professors or civil servants who have worked for legislative assemblies.

For a list of commission members appointed for the 2022 redistribution, please refer to the Order-in-Council.

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How many commissions are there in Canada?

There are ten independent electoral boundaries commissions in total, i.e. one per province. The commissions are responsible for determining the new federal electoral boundaries.

Canada's territories—Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut—are allocated one electoral district each under section 51 of the Constitution Act, 1867. As no boundary readjustments are needed, they do not require federal electoral boundaries commissions.

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How are commissions formally established?

The Governor in Council establishes, by proclamation published in the Canada Gazette, an electoral boundaries commission for each province.

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When are commission members appointed?

The commission members are appointed by the earliest of the following:

  • within six months of the first day of the month in which the decennial census was taken
  • within 60 days after publication of the census

For the 2022 redistribution, appointments were made on November 1, 2021, i.e. within six months of the first day of the month (May 1, 2021) in which the decennial census was taken.

For a list of commission members appointed for the 2022 redistribution, please refer to the Order-in-Council.

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Are Elections Canada or the Chief Electoral Officer involved in the member appointment process?

Neither Elections Canada nor the Chief Electoral Officer are involved in the member appointment process.

However, Elections Canada assists the Office of the Speaker of the House of Commons—which is tasked with appointing two members—by providing a list of academics. This list is compiled according to specific search criteria, such as their field of study, publications and specialization, particularly in political science or any field related to electoral representation and the democratic process.

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Who determines the new federal electoral boundaries?

Ten independent electoral boundaries commissions—one in each province—determine the new federal electoral boundaries.

Each electoral boundaries commission is composed of three members. It is chaired by a judge appointed by the chief justice of the province and has two other members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons. Historically, many commission members have been university professors or civil servants who have worked for legislative assemblies.

As part of the redistribution process, boundaries commissions consult with the public and MPs. The commissions will consider this input but retain the right to make all final decisions about the new electoral boundaries

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Can elected officials be members of federal electoral boundaries commissions?

The redistribution of federal electoral districts is independent and non-partisan. For this reason, no sitting member of the Senate or of a federal or provincial legislature can be appointed to these commissions.

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Are Canada's territories involved in the federal redistribution process?

No. Canada's territories—Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut—each constitute only one federal electoral district. As a result, no boundary changes are required in the territories.

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What criteria are used to determine the new federal electoral boundaries?

The main criterion for electoral boundaries is population equality. The Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act requires that the population of an electoral district in a given province be as close as is reasonably possible to the average population size of a district for that province (that is, the province's population divided by the number of House of Commons seats allocated to that province).

However, in addition to population equality, commissions must consider other social and geographic factors. They may choose to create electoral districts whose populations vary from the average, if they consider it necessary or desirable to do so in order to:

  • Respect communities of interest or identity (for example, communities based around language or shared culture and history),
  • Respect historical patterns of previous electoral boundaries, or
  • Maintain a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province

Commissions should make every effort to ensure that the population of a district is not more than 25 percent above or below the average district population. In extraordinary circumstances, however, commissions may create districts that vary from the average by more than 25 percent.

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Are federal and provincial electoral boundaries the same?

In most cases, no. The only province that currently has a majority of matching federal and provincial electoral boundaries is Ontario. All other provinces have completely different federal and provincial electoral boundaries.

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What is Elections Canada's role in the federal redistribution process?

During the federal redistribution process, Elections Canada provides a variety of professional, financial, technical and administrative support services to the commissions.

This includes liaising with Statistics Canada, Natural Resources Canada and the Speaker of the House of Commons on behalf of the commissions, as well as assisting with mapping and data.

Note that Elections Canada does not determine the representation formula for calculating a province's seats in the House of Commons, nor is it involved in the decisions made by the boundaries commissions regarding the electoral map.

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How can I get involved in the federal redistribution process?

You will have the opportunity to participate in public hearings after boundaries commissions publish their initial proposals. Information will be available through the federal redistribution website in the spring of 2022. The website will include the commissions' proposals, once they become available, as well as the public hearing schedule.

Visit our website in the spring of 2022 to find your commission's web page and learn about public hearings in your province.

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How are members of Parliament involved in the federal redistribution process?

MPs have two opportunities to give input into the federal redistribution process: during public hearings held by the commissions and through the House of Commons review process for the commission reports.

Boundaries commissions will consider all comments received, but they are not obliged to make changes based on them. Commissions make all final decisions with respect to the new electoral boundaries.