Northern Ontario lose a seat in parliament?
Sep / 13 / 2022
The population of Northern Ontario is growing. Immigration is on the rise. We have a major shortage of workers. But here's the kicker - we are not growing at the explosive rate of urban south Ontario.
Therefore the Electoral Boundary Commission suggests our growing region should lose a seat in Parliament and that seat should be given to Southern Ontario. If we accept this principal then it means that the underrepresented North will be cut again and again to satisfy population growth in the south.
NORTHERN ONTARIO already has ridings with populations larger than many rural and northern regions across Canada. Our ridings are bigger than many European countries. Democracy in Canada is not based strictly on population size but on the rights of regions to be represented. Cutting seats from Northern Ontario is not a just solution to addressing the rising population in urban southern Ontario.
IN NORTHERN ONTARIO MPs often have to rent planes to travel within their ridings. And yet the Electoral Boundary Commission believes Northern Ontario (800,000 square kilometres) is over-represented in Parliament. They propose to cut a riding from Northern Ontario and give it to Brampton (256 square kilometres), which already has FIVE MPs.
If you think this is unfair, please get in touch with the Electoral Boundary Commission and let your voice be heard.
What can you do?
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario is holding public hearings, in person and virtually, to gather comments and feedback on the proposed boundaries and electoral district names.
If you wish to make a representation at a hearing, you must complete a Public Hearing Participation Form. The Commission has set September 25, 2022 as the date by which the Public Participation Hearing Form is to be filed.
The written submissions supplementing oral submissions may be filed with the Commission up to October 29, 2022. In these circumstances and to make the process fair for all, the Commission will accept written submissions from those not participating in a hearing within the same time period.
As a result, all written submissions, whether filed in lieu of participation at an in-person or virtual hearing, or supplemental to oral submissions at hearings, may be filed by up to October 29, 2022.
The Public Hearing Participation Form, or alternatively written submissions (for those who only wish to make a submission in writing), may be filed by email or by mail to:
Ms. Paula Puddy, Commission Secretary
Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario
PO Box 37018 Southdale
London, Ontario N6E 3T3
In the interest of transparency, the Commission will make public all submissions that it receives in response to the proposed redistribution plan. These will be published on the Commission's website and will include the person's name and the date of the submission. The home address of those making submissions will not be shared.
Points for opposing the cut to electoral riding representation in the north
Ontario Needs More Voices
In 2017 the Provincial Boundary Commission of Ontario ruled that Northern Ontario, with 11 seats, was politically underrepresented. They added two new seats to the North to raise the number to 13 representatives. It is not credible for the Federal Boundary Commission to take a contrary position stating that Northern Ontario, with 10 seats, is somehow overrepresented. It is perfectly reasonable for the Commission to increase representation in growing urban ridings but to do so at the expense of the underrepresented North creates a scenario where voices and regions are excluded from the democratic process.
How Northern Ontario Compares to Other Northern/Rural Ridings
The courts have ruled that representation by population in Canada is a key principle for democratic engagement, but it is not the only consideration. The Commissioners must also consider the ability of regions and communities of interest to be adequately represented. If representation by population were the only standard, many ridings would disappear in Nunavut, Western Arctic, Prince Edward Island, Labrador Yukon, plus ridings in rural New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan. Northern Ontario has ridings with larger population averages than many of these regions.
What the Courts Say
The courts have ruled in Canada on the needs of rural and northern regions when issues of electoral redistribution are considered. For example the Saskatchewan Supreme Court ruled:
"Relative parity of voting power is a prime condition of effective representation. Deviations from absolute voter parity, however, may be justified on the grounds of practical impossibility or the provision of more effective representation. Factors like geography, community history, community interests and minority representation may need to be taken into account to ensure that our legislative assemblies effectively represent the diversity of our social mosaic. Beyond this, dilution of one citizen's vote as compared with another's should not be countenanced.
The history or philosophy of Canadian democracy does not suggest that the framers of the Charter in enacting s. 3 had the attainment of voter parity as their ultimate goal. Their goal, rather, was to recognize the right long affirmed in this country to effective representation in a system which gives due weight to voter equity but admits other considerations where necessary. Effective representation and good government in this country compel that factors other than voter parity, such as geography and community interests, be taken into account in setting electoral boundaries. Departures from the Canadian ideal of effective representation, where they exist, will be found to violate s. 3 of the Charter."
Communities of Interest
Northern Ontario represents a community of interest that is fundamentally distinct from southern Ontario in terms of history, identity, minority communities, work, and economics. The region is growing, with centres like Timmins facing a massive influx in immigration plus issues of labour shortages that must be addressed. Since the last census, the population of the North has grown; it just hasn't grown at the explosive rate in the urban south. To remove seats because the region isn't growing fast enough is to punish the North and compound the issues, we deal with in attracting immigration and development.
One of the fundamental differences between urban southern Ontario and the North is the tri-cultural identity of Northern communities - anglophone, francophone, and Indigenous. The franco-Ontarian community is distinct and has faced numerous attempts to undermine its political voice in Ontario (note recent struggles over the francophone hospital and university). To remove Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing from the House of Commons would be to remove an important voice for the distinct rural and northern francophone community in Ontario.
Across Northern Ontario, Indigenous identity and communities play an increasingly important role in development. In whatever riding you look at across the North, Indigenous communities require more engagement, support, and recognition of their rights. We support the principle of creating an Indigenous-based riding in Northern Treaty 9. However, the immense proposed region and the number of isolated fly-in communities will set it up for failure.
We recommend that it be reasonable to create a riding similar to the provincial Kiiwetenoong in the Northwest. The communities of James Bay, however, have a longstanding connection to Cochrane and Timmins. The city of Timmins is the largest Cree-speaking community in the northeast. There are strong connections in health services, education, and familial ties between the Mushkegowuk Cree communities and the Timmins-Cochrane region.
The Boundary Commission is tasked with questions of population and representation. Still, they must consider that MP offices have become the de facto government service outlet in the rural North. Many services that are available in terms of immigration, etc. in the urban centres are handled by the MP offices. As such, we spend much of our time travelling from community to community conducting outreach clinics to help constituents with pension issues, EI problems, and immigration needs. In the proposed new riding of Timmins-Cochrane, it will not be possible to provide the services to Hearst-Kapuskasing, or Temiskaming Shores-Cobalt-Latchford presently provided because the MP budget for Timmins-James Bay is already spent servicing the existing communities. These communities that are being added have MP offices because 10 ridings in the North allow us to stretch services to cover vast areas but adding many more communities will make that work impossible.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Visit our Facebook Events Page to join us on Tuesday October 11, 2022 at 6:30 PM at the Public Participation Hearing taking place at the Senator Hotel & Conference Centre, Timmins, ON. You must register to attend.