Speaking Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took an offhand swipe at the United States’ notoriously gerrymandered congressional districts. “Our electoral district boundaries are determined every year — every 10 years by fully independent commissions,” Trudeau said, referring to Canada’s 338 House of Commons districts. “So you get actual, you know, reasonable-looking electoral districts, and not some of the zigzags that you guys have.” Ouch. Here’s the thing, though: Trudeau has a point.
In the United States, politicians are typically in charge of drawing state and federal electoral districts. That creates a strong incentive to draw the districts in a way that gives their own political party an advantage, and disadvantages the other guys — a process known as gerrymandering.
Canada used to have a problem with this, as well. But in 1964, legislators passed a federal law mandating that each of the country’s provinces draw their districts via a three-person independent commission. Each commission is chaired by a judge selected by the chief justice of each province, and the additional two members of each commission are selected from the general population by the speaker of the House of Commons.