Big changes are being proposed for New Brunswick’s electoral map. A commission of the provincial legislature wants to reduce the number of ridings from 55 to 49.

The new map was made public this morning.

The Electoral Boundaries and Representation Commission held public hearings last fall after it was asked by Premier David Alward to cut the number of ridings by six.

The commission’s co-chair, Annise Herbert Hollies, believes a reduction in ridings would balance representation in all areas of the province.

She also says the new electoral map fairly distributes the reduction in ridings across all regions of the province.

“Like I said, some people are not going to be happy, but I think at the end they will be happy,” she says. “The 49 are as equal as possibly we could make them.”

The report divides the province into six regions. The northern region is dropping the equivalent of 1.5 ridings, while the southeastern region loses only half a riding.

Each of the other four regions will lose one riding.

Some see the changes as a power shift from rural areas to urban ones.

“What I see is what I don’t see, and I don’t see as many ridings as there was before, so obviously there’s less representation,” says Roland Hache, Liberal MLA for Nigadoo-Chaleur. “And less representation from rural New Brunswick certainly means less power from rural New Brunswick.”

The re-drawing of the map could also pit current MLAs against each other in party riding nominations.

Tory MLA Carl Urquhart’s new riding now includes much of the riding currently occupied by Premier David Alward.

“Some of us, I suspect, are going to decide we’re going to take on other members,” says Urquhart. “Some of us are going to be mad and go home for two or three days and think about it I guess.”

The commission will now hold a second round of public meetings before presenting a final report to the legislature this spring.

A provincial election is expected in New Brunswick in roughly 18 months.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Andy Campbell and The Canadian Press