The MP for the federal riding surrounding Sault Ste. Marie says she will fight any reorganization that would result in Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing being erased from the electoral map.
Carol Hughes has represented the Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing riding since 2008 under the NDP banner. She said changes proposed by the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission would result in one fewer riding in Northern Ontario, with the territory covered by her riding being absorbed by adjacent ridings.
“The rural areas need to have a voice and it can’t be diluted by the greater cities. I think that is extremely important,” said Hughes. “The voices in Northern Ontario have to be heard, those representations need to be maintained.”
The proposed expansion of the Sault Ste. Marie riding would add Bruce Mines, Thessalon, Wawa, most of Huron Shores, Chapleau, Dubreuilville, Hilton, Jocelyn, Johnson, Laird, Macdonald, Meredith and Aberdeen Additional, Plummer Additional, Prince, St. Joseph, Tarbutt, and White River, as well as Hilton Beach.
“Certainly we are very concerned about the fact the commission’s proposal is to remove the riding of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing completely, which means there would be one less voice for northern Ontario in parliament,” said Hughes by telephone on Monday.
The current Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing riding covers over 93,000 square kilometres and represents a population of about 79,000 people.
If the proposal is accepted, the rural areas of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, as well as the First Nations and the smaller municipalities within, would be lumped in with other adjacent ridings.
“We know in the rural areas we don’t have access to the services like they do in the larger cities, especially in the south. It’s not a hard thing for them to hop on the bus or the GO Train and get to a Service Canada office or an immigration office. We just don’t have a lot of those services in the north, so the MP offices are the direct contact and often the ones who do this work,” said Hughes. “Having an office in Nickel Belt isn’t going to serve the needs of Manitoulin Island or Elliot Lake. Accessibility to your MP is watered down.”
The erasure of the riding would also result in the loss of over a million dollars in Canada Summer Jobs funding, said Hughes.
The proposed changes would not take place until Apr. 1, 2024 at the earliest. Hughes said the issue is not about keeping her seat in parliament.
“I never know if I’m going to be the MP or not — we don’t know if it’s going to be a Liberal or NDP or Conservative riding — but we need to fight to maintain representation in Northern Ontario and we need to make sure the rural areas are well represented,” she said.
Northern Ontario MPs from those three parties have begun talking to find a way to fight the proposed changes.
“I am working with other parties in the north here, so we are reaching out to each other,” said Hughes. “We all believe that losing a seat here in Northern Ontario is not an option. We would be happy to work with the commission to see what adjustments could be made to the ridings without losing a riding in Northern Ontario.”
While Northern Ontario would be reduced from having 10 ridings to nine, some more populous areas of the province would gain additional representation.
“I see they want to add an extra seat in Brampton, so they would go up to six seats from five seats. They want to add another seat in London, Ontario, which means they will go to four seats from three seats,” said Hughes. “If you look at the demographics in those areas and the square footage of the riding, those constituents down there would have much more representation, they have much more access to public transportation to get to where the services are. We just don’t have that.”
“They are almost getting an MP on each street corner of their riding, which to me is wrong. I think everyone should get representation,” she added.