Members of provincial parliament from across the north are standing together against the federal government’s proposed redistribution of electoral districts in northwestern Ontario.
Ottawa has been looking at the possibility of eliminating certain electoral districts in northwestern Ontario and combining them, including the Kenora district becoming the Kenora – Thunder Bay – Rainy River district.
Ottawa is also looking at the possibility of a Kiiwetinoong – Mushkegowuk riding in the far north, moving to somewhat match Ontario’s Kiiwetinoong riding. It would stretch from the Manitoba border all the way to Quebec.
NDP and Oppositions MPPs Sol Mamakwa, Guy Bourgouin, France Gelinas, Michael Mantha, John Vanthof, Lise Vaugeois and Jamie West have all signed and sent an open letter against the proposal.
“The issues in Northern Ontario are significantly different from the issues facing the urban south,” they wrote. “The proposal to diminish Northern Ontario’s voice in Parliament will have a detrimental effect both on regional development, and the aspirations of Francophones and Indigenous communities.”
The NDP now joins Kenora MP Eric Melillo, the City of Kenora, the City of Dryden and the Kenora District Municipal Association who have all called for Ottawa to rethink the move.
They’ve all said the new riding would be ‘ungovernable’ due to its sheer size – infringing on the rights of constituents across the area. Dryden Councillor Norm Bush called the proposal ‘insane’, noting it could also lead to a lessened funding formula from the federal government as many projects are based on population sizes.
The current federal Kenora riding was created in 2004 from parts of the former Kenora – Rainy River riding and is the largest federal riding by land mass, but the smallest by population size.
The Constitution of Canada requires that federal ridings be reviewed every ten years. But in 2012, the Kenora District was deemed an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ and was left alone, because any changes would lead to the area losing a seat in the House of Commons.