FREDERICTON - A commission of the New Brunswick legislature has redrawn the province's electoral map, reducing the number of ridings by six as it was directed to by the provincial government in a bid to cut costs.
The Electoral Boundaries and Representation Commission released an interim report Thursday following public hearings last fall. It was asked by Premier David Alward to cut the number of ridings from 55 to 49.
"We feel that we have done a good job and that we were fair to every riding in the province," co-chairwoman Annise Hebert Hollies.
Deputy premier Paul Robichaud said he was pleased with the commission's report, adding that reducing the number of ridings would save between $2.5 million and $3 million annually.
The commission used the voter registry and public input in an effort to have roughly the same number of people in each riding, allowing for a five per cent variance.
Hollies said they managed to accomplish that in every riding, adding that the proposed map fairly distributes the reduction in the number of ridings across all regions of the province.
She said the need to balance the urban-rural divide wasn't a major issue.
"New Brunswick is really rural," Hollies said. "Our big cities are not that big compared to other provinces."
One of the proposed changes would result in the premier living in the riding now held by Conservative member Carl Urquhart.
"Hopefully he'll vote for me," Urquhart quipped.
A spokesman for the premier said Alward was not commenting on the proposed changes Thursday.
Liberal Rick Doucet said his riding of Charlotte-The Isles would lose some areas, but extend closer to Saint John.
"I want to take some time to adjust and adapt to it and get a better understanding of some of the new areas I'll be covering," Doucet said. "But initially my knee-jerk reaction is, 'I'm pleased with it.'"
The commission will hold a second round of public meetings starting Feb. 17 before presenting a final report this spring.
The final changes will be in effect for the next election in 2014.
The distribution of ridings is reviewed every 10 years following the release of Census figures.
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