Map Monday: election results and cartograms

Canadian politics flies under the radar screen for most of the world, but Canadians are all well aware that we just completed a 5-week snap election last week.

It’s been a while since Map Monday looked at cartograms, but it turns out that they are brilliant at displaying a far more informative picture of the distribution of seats won than a traditional “geographic” map.  For example, this is what the results of our recent 2021 federal election look like using a traditional map.  Each riding, representing one seat in Parliament, is marked by its geographical boundaries.


First of all, I should let non-Canadians know that the Parties currently represented in our Parliament are Liberals (red, exact opposite from the U.S.), Conservatives (blue, again, exact opposite), NDP (New Democratic Party, orange), Bloc Québécois (dusky blue), and Greens (green!).

The next thing I should review for you is that the country is divided into ridings (called electoral districts in the U.S.) that more or less approximate equal numbers of population.  Some rural ridings, even though they’re very large in area, have fewer people than some urban ridings that are teeny-weeny in area, but it’s intended to result in more or less equal representation.  One Member of Parliament (MP) is elected in each riding.

OK, so here’s what the recent election results look like as a cartogram.  Each riding is represented by seven hexagons, coloured according to who won the seat for that riding.  The map looks VERY different, doesn’t it?! (Click on the map to see more details.)

MM-CanadaCartogramIf you look back at the traditional map above, you’ll see as an example that the vast riding of Nunavut in the far north, is coloured orange, indicating an NDP win for Nunavut.  On the cartogram, that riding is shown as the seven orange hexagons near the top right of the image.  Quite a difference.

In order to get a real idea of why there are so many red hexagons (Liberals) in the southern part of the cartogram, you need to see what happens when the traditional map is expanded.  Here’s a blown-up section of the federal map, focusing on southern Ontario.  The black box I’ve added includes the Greater Toronto area, a further blow-up of which follows.


And here’s the further blow-up showing all the ridings from the greater Toronto area to Niagara Falls, an area that actually accounts for nearly one in 6 people in Canada.  Lots of hexagons, but barely a blip on the traditional map by area.


Zooming in on the greater Montreal area explains why Montreal has so many hexagons on the cartogram.


And zooming in on Edmonton shows us that a few non-blue ridings really do exist in Alberta, which is impossible to detect on the large map without a magnifying glass!


Now that you’ve got the hang of what the cartogram provides – the reality of representation by population as opposed to representation by geographic size – let’s take a look at some other recent elections.

The UK 2019 election, as mapped by WorldMapper:


And finally, the U.S. 2020 presidential election, as mapped by WorldMapper:


Isn’t it fascinating how much information can be communicated through innovative mapping techniques?!

Images sources:, CBC newsinteractive,

This entry was posted in History and Politics, Map Monday and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Map Monday: election results and cartograms

  1. Jean says:

    Alberta federal final vote didn’t change much. Only 1 Liberal won in whole of Calgary.

  2. Roy McCarthy says:

    Fascinating and definitely informative. A casual observer could easily jump to the wrong conclusion about the Canadian election glancing at the traditional mapping, for example. Someone had fun with the population view of the UK, it looks a bit like a scarecrow. Maybe I’ll stick to figures though.

  3. This was really fascinating, Jane. I’m laughing at how the colors are opposite for the political parties in CA and U.S. Montreal looks like a rather unique political environment. Interesting! – Marty

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Lol, yes, I find I always get confused when watching US election returns; I’m so used to thinking “Liberal” when I see the red on the map in totally counterintuitive areas I remember I have to reprogram myself! Montreal looks different because it’s a multicultural city in a French-speaking province that’s trying very hard to maintain its culture and heritage, hence the surrounding Bloc Québécois.

  4. Yup, really gives a visual sense of what’s going on.

  5. This is fascinating! Thank you for putting this together and sharing,


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