Statement made on 29 June 2012 by Senator Fernand Robichaud
Hon. Fernand Robichaud:
Honourable senators, I would like to continue my speech on this inquiry.
My speech could be labelled "best before June 22" because the New Brunswick Commission issued its report on the redistribution of federal electoral districts last Friday.
I live in Saint-Louis-de-Kent, located in the northernmost part of the riding of Beauséjour. Beauséjour is located next to the riding of Miramichi, which has a population of 52,000. As the average population for a riding in New Brunswick is approximately 75,000, Miramichi is clearly shy of the permitted 25 per cent variance.
The riding of Beauséjour is also bordered by the riding of Moncton, which includes the cities of Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview. The riding of Moncton currently has a population of 98,000, which is over the allowable variance of 25 per cent.
Changes had to be made, and I believe that the Commission has done a good job because it has endeavoured to balance the different populations. This has resulted in the reversal of the situation: the number of constituents in the riding of Moncton has been decreased from 98,000 to 82,000.
Beauséjour was at 78,000 and now it is up to 92,000 making it New Brunswick's most populous riding because the entire city of Dieppe was added to the riding of Beauséjour.
There is still one problem. Earlier, I talked about the riding of Miramichi, whose boundaries were changed. At one time, it included the region of Belledune, which was right on Chaleur Bay, making the MP's work quite difficult, I think. Now I believe it is part of the riding of Acadie—Bathurst, which is within the limits.
But the riding of Miramichi is still below the 25 per cent limit. When there is justification for it, the commission can allow the riding to remain with a population below the 25 per cent limit. That is what it did. And I have no problem with that. Had I spoken to this before June 22, I would have reminded the commissioners that they should take into account both rural and urban regions because I believe it is more difficult for an MP in a large rural riding to serve the people than it is for an MP in an urban riding where the population is much more concentrated.
They kept the riding of Miramichi below the allowable limit, and I agree with that. Whether I agree or not, the people will decide, but I think this is good because the riding covers a lot of territory.
There is one thing that I would not have changed had I been there. The upper Richibouctou region, home to the Elsipogtog Aboriginal community and all of the communities along the river, was added to the riding of Miramichi. I believe that region should have remained part of Beauséjour simply because the community has more in common with Richibouctou and Moncton.
It is not easy for a commission to take a whole province and play around with population, communities and territory. We just have to wait now as the commission will hold hearings, and I hope that people will take the time to express their views on the new boundaries.