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UARB gives suburban voters more power than urban voters 

HRM electoral district decision announced this morning.

The Utility and Review Board this morning released its decision about HRM's new electoral boundaries.

The board mostly agreed with city staff's recommended Scenario 1 -- Revised, with these major exceptions:

Cole Harbour was completely reformulated to be its own district, rather than split between three adjoining districts.

Upper Sackville was broken off as its own electoral district, including Lucasville and Beaverbank.

The Eastern Shore was split in two, one northern and one southern section, meaning that the Old Guysborough Road corridor out through the Musquodoboit Valley is now part of the Fall River district.

The Cow Bay/ Eastern Passage district was eliminated by taking the northern areas and adding them to the new Cole Harbour district, and adding the remaining southern and western regions to the district containing Portland Hills and Portland Estates.

The decision has numerous other, lesser changes as well. The main effect of the changes are found in this table:
In practical terms, this means that voters in Fall River and Upper Sackville have a more powerful vote than do voters on the peninsula.

The UARB attempted to justify giving disproportionate voting power to those areas because:

In the Board's opinion, this rural area of District B/2 represents one of exceptional cases which justifies a departure from the ±10% variance that normally applies. Likewise, the larger negative variances i n the Upper Sackville and Sackville polling districts (Le., -18.8°Al and -13.2%, respectively) are also justified because of the significant growth expected in/the Margeson Drive area.
But this doesn't reflect the population increases called for in the city's regional plan:
The citizens of HRM have indicated through consultation that a balanced approach to growth across the Municipality is the desired approach. To achieve this, approximately 25% of growth will be targeted to occur on the Halifax Peninsula and in downtown Dartmouth, inside the Circumferential Highway (Regional Centre), approximately 50% will occur in the suburban areas, and the remaining 25% will occur within the rural areas. This is consistent with projected housing demand in HRM12.
It's true that Upper Sackville is expected to see more growth in coming years, although none of the planning documents I've reviewed attempt to quantify that growth.

Planning documents do, however, put specific numbers on expected growth in what is now just two electoral districts on the peninsula, calls for:

This Plan provides for short, medium and long-term development growth targets. Within the next 15 years, this Plan provides capacity for at least 16,000 [more] residents, 15,000 jobs, and up to three million square feet of office development within downtown Halifax.
Got that? Sackville is going to get some unknown number of new residents, so that voting district gets to be a lot smaller---that is, each vote will count more than all other votes in HRM-- but downtown, which is going to get a whole lot more new residents, has bigger electoral districts, meaning each vote counts less than votes elsewhere in HRM, because, well, just because.


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