The province announced Monday that longtime Thunder Bay judge Joyce L. Pelletier will head the Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission, with the other members including two former First Nation chiefs, a University of Ottawa law professor, and Ontario Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essence.
With the province looking to increase Northern Ontario's representation at Queen's Park, the commission is tasked with recommending whether the current ridings of Kenora-Rainy River and Timmins-James Bay should be re-drawn into three or four new ones.
The commission is due to make its recommendations by Aug. 1, which means the new ridings could be in place by the next provincial election scheduled for June, 2018.
As stated in an editorial in the Oct. 26, 2106 edition of the Fort Frances Times, any move to expand the north's voice in the legislature—however marginal—is welcomed.
But what also needs to be reiterated is that the creation of these one or two new seats does not involve ripping Rainy River District from Kenora and attaching us to Thunder Bay-Atikokan, as is the case here federally (Thunder Bay-Rainy River).
Again, we have much more in common with the Kenora, Dryden, and Red Lake areas than Thunder Bay—which is even more the case when it comes to issues at the provincial level.
Equally important, the voice of our district is much stronger in the current riding alignment compared to if we were lumped in with the big-city population of Thunder Bay.
While there's no indication it will recommend Rainy River be added to Thunder Bay-Atikokan, let's make it clear to the commission that such a move is not in our best interests.
After all, the province opted to mirror federal electoral boundaries back in the mid-1990s, when Rainy River was joined with Kenora. What's to say it won't do so again?