"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Misrepresentation of population

P&P claims:

Despite the significant population shift to the Avalon in the past two decades, the electoral boundaries have not been dramatically adjusted. In fact, I believe that if the current arrangement could be successfully challenged in the Supreme Court because rural political power greatly exceeds it's population and entitlement to seats under in a system where every vote should be equal.
When are Townies ever going to get over their very bad case of demographic biggerexia?

The Electoral Boundaries Commission last reported, per statute, in 2006, based on the 2001 census of population.

In 2001, the Avalon Peninsula (Census Division 1) had a population of 242,875, or 47.4% of the provincial total. That's up from 44.5% in 1991, but it also masks two demographic currents which flow past one another. The St. John's metro area has been (generally) increasing in both absolute population* and relative population share, while the rural Avalon has been losing both**. In fact, the Avalon Peninsula taken as a whole, both urban and rural alike, has lost in absolute population in every census since 1991.

Going on the 2001 census figures, and assuming a 48-seat legislature, the Avalon Peninsula as a whole "should" have had 23 provincial electoral districts, of which 16 would have been in the city of St. John's and the suburban municipalities which make up the rest of the metro area, and 6.5 districts in the rural rest of the Avalon.

Instead, there are 14 seats in the St. John's metro area — a whopping difference of two from strict rep-by-pop — and six in the rural Avalon, not counting Bellevue, which takes in the isthmus. There, more or less, is the fractional district.

However, as per s. 13 of the Electoral Boundaries Act, it's not a region's share the population of the province which counts for the purpose of redrawing the district map... Instead, for districts on the island of Newfoundland, the relevant figure is the share of Newfoundland's population.

In the 2001 census, the St. John's metro area had 35.6% of Newfoundland's population, which would have merited about 15.5 of Newfoundland's 44 House of Assembly seats... a staggering difference of 1.5 seats. The rural rest of the Avalon had 14.4% of the population, which would yield 6.3 electoral districts — which is more or less exactly what the Electoral Boundaries Commission ended up giving it, again with the Avalon portion of Bellevue counting as the fractional seat.

Now, it is true that the demographic trendlines have continued since the 2001 census. However, even using the 2006 census as a baseline, metro St. John's would had 37.8% of Newfoundland's population, which "should" have yielded 16.5 districts instead of 14; the rural Avalon had 14% of the population, which "should" have yielded 6.2 districts instead of, um, the 6.2 or so that it actually has; and the rest of Newfoundland off the Avalon had 48.1% of the population, which would yield 22 seats under strict rep-by-pop instead of 24.

Is St. John's "under-represented" compared to what a strict application of rep-by-pop would yield? Are rural areas, by the same measure, "over-represented"? Yes to both counts, but not to nearly as great a degree as P&P (among others) would suggest.

And is the "the Avalon" under-represented"? Nope. Not unless your definition of "Avalon" is conflated with that of "St. John's and its suburbs"; in fact, the rural Avalon has almost as perfect a rep-by-pop as the last redistribution achieved anywhere.

* Except between 1996 and 2001, when greater St. John's lost over 1000 of its population. However, the rest of the province lost population at a greater rate, so the metro area still gained population share, from 31.5% in 1996 to 33.7% in 2001.

** Between 1991 and 2006, the non-metro Avalon lost 17.3% of its population, a greater rate of loss than Newfoundland as a whole (11%) or the province as a whole (11.1%)



At 3:14 PM, May 31, 2011 , Blogger Edward Hollett said...

Is this surprising given the dubious nature of every comment in the post after "Back in 2004..."?


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