Monday, September 1, 2014

Local federal ridings to remain status quo

The federal ridings of Thunder Bay-Rainy River and Kenora will remain status quo, according to the final report from the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission earlier this week.
It initially had proposed that the Township of Lake of the Woods be removed from the electoral district of Thunder Bay-Rainy River and instead be included in the electoral district of Kenora.

In the report, which was tabled Monday in the House of Commons, the commission noted that proposal “was based on the assumption that the First Nation communities located within the township had a stronger community of interest with Kenora than with Thunder Bay or Fort Frances.”
“The commission learned at the public hearing in Kenora that its assumption was mistaken because of the significant travel distance between the township and the City of Kenora,” the report added.
Lake of the Woods Mayor Val Pizey, who attended a public consultation the commission held in Kenora late last year, said this morning she was not surprised by the decision.
“It was fairly obvious to me at the end of that meeting that the commissioners were going to listen,” she remarked.
While Mayor Pizey told the commission that Lake of the Woods has more in common with Kenora than Thunder Bay, she also stated that “we were part of the Rainy River District and always have been, and wish to stay that way.”
“The issue is not so much part of being part of Kenora versus Thunder Bay; the issue is being part of Kenora versus being part of the Rainy River District, when our nearest town of any size, if you can call it that, is Fort Frances,” she explained.
“Kids go to school in the Rainy River District, and everything is Rainy River District—that’s what we’re part of,” Mayor Pizey reiterated.
“That’s where we want to stay—part of the Rainy River District.”
Mayor Pizey said she believes the commission already had half made up its mind when it left the public meeting in Kenora, so by the time it got to the one in Thunder Bay a few days later, all local MP John Rafferty had to do was “stand up for what we said [in Kenora].”
“We’re quite happy where are, thank you very much,” she remarked.
“Not that I am always sure I like the Rainy River District—I’ve got my problems—but I’d much rather be in it than Kenora.”
Meanwhile, referring to Northern Ontario in general, the commission concluded the current ridings would be maintained in the region.
The region currently has 10 electoral districts. If the provincial quota was strictly applied, it would have only eight.
For example, the electoral district of Thunder Bay-Rainy River has a population of 82,984, which is 21.87 percent below the provincial quota.
The electoral district of Kenora, meanwhile, has a population of 55,977, which is 47.30 percent below the provincial quota.
The Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act permits deviation beyond the maximum allowable variance of 25 percent above or below the provincial quota in extraordinary circumstances.
But the commission said it continues to believe it is appropriate to apply the extraordinary circumstances rule in the act to the electoral district of Kenora, given that it is geographically the largest in the province and one of the largest in Canada.
During public hearings conducted in Northern Ontario, the commission received submissions urging it to establish a separate population quota for that region in order to preserve a minimum of 10 electoral districts.
The commission is of the view that it does not have jurisdiction to establish a lower population quota for Northern Ontario, and that any changes to the legislation in that regard are matters for Parliament to determine.
But it did say it “believes that Northern Ontario requires a minimum of 10 electoral districts in order for citizens of the region to have effective representation.”
The final report noted the advice received at several public hearings in Northern Ontario, “combined with the inappropriate involvement of at least two Members of Parliament, persuaded the commission to conclude that the status quo, with a few minor boundary adjustments, is the best solution it can achieve for Northern Ontario.”
Check out the full report at www.federal-redistribution.ca

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