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Northern MPs express concerns regarding new riding boundaries

A letter signed by MPs from across the north references a concern with paying the price 'of having its representation dwindle in order to satisfy the population growth in bigger centres which have access to better infrastructure and resources'
The proposed new ridings for Northern Ontario.

In a letter released today, Members of Parliament from across continue to have concerns regarding new riding boundaries in northern Ontario.

"Northern Ontario should not pay the price of having its representation dwindle in order to satisfy the population growth in bigger centres which have access to better infrastructure and resources," the letter states.

The full letter follows:

Open Letter to the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission of Ontario

Re: Redistribution of Federal Boundaries in northern Ontario

As Members of Parliament representing the federal electoral districts of northern Ontario, we have substantial concerns regarding the proposed boundary changes. Chief among these concerns are the loss of an electoral district, the creation of electoral boundaries that will be more challenging to serve, and the limited number of consultations.

We understand that the commission has been seized with the difficult task of reviewing and adjusting riding boundaries, but northern Ontario should not pay the price of having its representation dwindle in order to satisfy the population growth in bigger centres which have access to better infrastructure and resources.

Effective representation should ensure that Members of Parliament are accessible, and that Canadians have equal access to federal government services, regardless of where they live. This has traditionally been a challenge for northern Ontario residents, particularly in rural and remote communities where there is a lack of: public transportation; reliable cellular and internet services; and access to government agencies. For these Canadians, Members of Parliament are a gateway to the federal government. To reduce the number of representatives for these individuals is to diminish their access to federal government services and to lessen their voices in parliament.

The mix of physical and human geography should be balanced by what can be reasonably expected of any single Member of Parliament and what level of representation can be seen as being the most balanced and fair.

For example, the proposed electoral district of Kiiwetinoong-Mushkegowuk would be 520,307 square kilometers, the geographical equivalent of the nation of France. When you compare this to Brampton, which the Commission is recommending a 6th riding be created in a city that is only 266 square kilometers, you can see why it is difficult to substantiate the loss of a northern riding.

The Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act provides the grounds for departing from the normal rules set out and for exceptions to population variances “in circumstances viewed by the commission as being extraordinary.” That was the basis for maintaining Kenora as an undersized riding in the last redistribution and should continue to be the basis in ensuring the viability of the existing ridings in northern Ontario, especially those ridings which are made up of small rural communities such as that of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing.

We share further concerns, such as the limited number of public hearings, especially given the fact that most public consultations are not being held in northern communities that are directly impacted by the proposals, including Indigenous communities who indicate not having been consulted. We are also concerned that the consultation process is taking place during municipal elections, which may restrict the ability of affected municipalities to engage in the process.

In conclusion, we strongly urge the Commission to reconsider reducing the number of electoral districts in northern Ontario. We are not opposed to adjustments, but the current number of electoral districts in northern Ontario must be maintained.

Eric MeLillo, MP Kenora
Charlie Angus, MP Timmins-James Bay
Marcus Powlowski, MP Thunder Bay-Rainy River
The Hon. Patty Hajdu, MP Thunder Bay Superior North
Carol Hughes, MP Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing
Terry Sheehan, MP Sault Ste. Marie
Marc Serré, MP Nickel Belt
Viviane Lapointe, MP Sudbury
The Hon. Anthony Rota, MP, Nipissing-Timiskaming
Scott Aitchison, MP Parry Sound-Muskoka

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