Time to talk about Toronto becoming its own province, says Ontario MPP

MPPs Randy Hillier, left, and Bill Murdoch  protest the Liberal government's plan to introduce the HST on Dec. 1, 2009 (Canadian Press)MPPs Randy Hillier, left, and Bill Murdoch protest the Liberal government's plan to introduce the HST on Dec. …

Should Toronto be its own province?

It's a far-out idea that's been floated about before.

Proponents of the plan cite Toronto's mammoth population – relative to the rest of the province – means that residents outside the 'Big Smoke' really don't have a say with regard to government decisions.

Now a veteran Progressive Conservative MPP wants to re-ignite the debate.

Randy Hillier, who represents the riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington in Eastern Ontario, says that the "time is either fast approaching or already here, that Toronto ought to become a province unto its own."

"I'm of the view that government works best when it's close to its constituents," he told Yahoo Canada News.

"I don't think anyone would disagree that there are very distinctive differences in lifestyles and attitudes and demographics...between Toronto and the rest of Ontario."

Hillier referenced a recent op-ed article in the Lambton Shield suggesting that June's provincial election — with the Liberals winning most of their seats in the GTA and not many seats elsewhere — underlines the necessity for the rest of Ontario to go out on its own:

"Has the GTA grown so big and have so many votes that the rest of Ontario votes will never matter again?

"The short answer is it looks that way. But for the millions of people that live in and love the rest of Ontario, we happen to think we still matter. If Toronto doesn’t want us, then maybe it’s time to look at going our own way.

"After all, new provinces are not only a Canadian tradition, but the reasonable thing to do when populations and cultures change."

Hillier cited several examples of government policies — decided by GTA MPPs — that have hurt people who live and rural and northern ridings.

"Take hunting and fishing licences. Here we have the majority of the legislature that have probably never hunted or fished or gone out into the bush with a gun or a fishing rod. But they're making rules and deciding things for people they've never visited and don't understand," he said.

"There's ten members from Northern Ontario out of 107. What chance do they have to protect their livelihoods?"

A rifle owner in rural Ontario west of Ottawa on Wednesday Sept. 15, 2010. (Canadian Press)A rifle owner in rural Ontario west of Ottawa on Wednesday Sept. 15, 2010. (Canadian Press)

He says that, whether it's a matter of Toronto becoming its own province or some sort of reformed legislature, it's time for Ontarians to have this discussion.

[ Related: Will Vancouver Island be Canada’s 11th province? ]

Last year, a group on Canada's west coast embarked upon a campaign to begin a public debate into whether or not Vancouver Island should become its own province.

"I'm not sure that having 14 MLAs out of 85 in B.C. means that the Island is getting the attention it deserves from that kind of level of government," Scott Akenhead, the chief organizer of the campaign, told Yahoo at the time.

A political scientist, however, noted that the 'separatists' face an uphill battle.

"Dividing up provinces is not something that’s really happened; the practical obstacles are enormous," James Lawson, a professor at the University of Victoria, told Metro Vancouver adding that other provinces would be averse to "giving another entity a seat at the federal table."

"Even if you could get the [B.C. government] to agree to it, it would be hard to provide incentives for the other provinces to go along."

But Hillier argues that it's natural, in Canada's history, that "provinces evolve."

"We just created a new territory called Nunuvat a few years ago," he said.

"They viewed the demographics in those two geographical areas as warranting political representation.

He continued:

"At one time Manitoba was just a little place called the Red River settlement and it grew into a province. At one time...Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. was one geographical jurisdiction called Rupert's Land and that became three different provinces," he said.

"These are not difficult things to do when people are looking at things objectively and seeing how best can government represent the people in the community.

"I do believe that Toronto is big enough and mature enough that they can stand on their own two legs by themselves."

What do you think? Is it time Toronto split from Ontario and became its own province?

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