George Valin, chairman of Ontario's Federal Electoral Boundary Commission, on Wednesday said public input has convinced them to recommend not to remove four Northwestern Ontario communities from the Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding.
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Thunder Bay-Rainy River isn’t getting a facelift after all.
George Valin, chairman of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario said a proposal to move a pair of communities and two First Nations into the Kenora riding met with plenty of opposition, convincing commission members it was a bad idea.
“At the public hearing staged yesterday in Kenora, and again here today, we have heard that is not a wise thing to do because of the remoteness and travel difficulty getting from that municipality to Kenora,” Valin said.
“We were unaware of the road problem or the length of driving time. And we were unaware that it’s only half the driving time to Fort Frances, where the MP that currently serves those municipalities maintains a satellite office.”
Affected communities included Morson and Bergland, as well as Big Grassy River and Big Island Mainland First Nations.
Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP John Rafferty, who opposed the change, said the commission’s reversal in this particular case shows the system works.
“That’s good news for those constituents, a couple of communities and two First Nations. Their connection really is with the district of Rainy River and Thunder Bay, not so much Kenora,” Rafferty said.
The hearings are part of the federal government’s commitment to change the electoral map and ensure that each riding maintains similar population figures. They’re held every 10 years and the commissions – there’s one in each province – look at a number of factors when making the decision to change boundaries.
They also take into consideration past history and community interest, as well as geographical size. According to Valin, Northern Ontario should only have eight ridings if population was the sole deciding factor, but that would be too difficult for MPs to manage.
Overall Canadians will have 30 more seats in the House of Commons, 15 in Ontario, six each in Alberta and British Columbia and three in Quebec.
Thunder Bay-Superior North is also on the grow, if the changes are approved when the final report is sent to the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, who will ultimately prepare a representation order that will allow the boundary changes to take effect in the first general election held at least seven months after the changes are approved.
Manitouwadge and Pic Mobert are being added to the riding, a move Manitouwadge mayor John MacEachern fully supports.
MacEachern, one of five people to make a deputation to the commission at public hearings held Wednesday in Thunder Bay, said it simply makes more sense to be aligned with their neighbours to the west, a fact they underlined in a resolution passed by town council earlier this year.
“We believe that the change would be fair and equitable to our community. And I would like to add, since we passed a resolution I have had numerous people thank me for doing it and I haven’t had one person say they didn’t want it,” he said.
Independent MP Bruce Hyer, who represents Thunder Bay-Superior North, said he’s OK with the move, but doesn’t see the need to add more seats in Ottawa.
Hyer would like Parliament to come up with more money to cover travel expenses in a district he called vast, an issue he was told was outside the commission’s boundaries.
“My budget is inadequate for both staffing and for travel, meals, accommodations and advertising in a number of media in 30 communities. The prime minister’s budget has grown several hundred per cent in the last four years. But he’s frozen the operating budgets of the Members of Parliament,” Hyer said.
“The larger ridings, and I’m not the only one, have trouble adequately serving our constituents with the current budget.”
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