Eganville – If the new proposal by the Federal Electoral Districts Redistribution 2022 commission holds true, there may no longer be a federal riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke and instead most of this area will be known as the riding of Algonquin-Renfrew-Pembroke with the lone exception of Greater Madawaska, which would instead be part of the new Lanark-Frontenac.
Long-serving MP Cheryl Gallant is urging those in the riding, especially those in Greater Madawaska Township, to make their opinions heard to the commission as quickly as possible.
“My position is it should be up to the people who live there,” she said. “I would advise them to comment. There is also the opportunity to present in person.”
The commission’s goal was to make the ridings more even in size, as well as add a new riding to Ontario. Ridings should have no more than 145,747 and no less than 87,443, she noted. However, the existing riding which encompasses the City of Pembroke, County of Renfrew, along with part of the territorial district of Nipissing, has a population of 107,420, which is well within the parameters.
The redistribution would see the new riding have a population of 116,900 and encompass not only the City of Pembroke and all of the County of Renfrew, except Greater Madawaska, but also part of the territorial district of Nipissing, including South Algonquin. As well, there would be the new addition of part of the City of Ottawa which is basically the area towards Carp from Arnprior.
Mrs. Gallant noted while the redistribution is done after each census, it is clear there is also some political influence on how the boundaries were redrawn.
“Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke is within the margin, “she said. “We are just right.”
Mrs. Gallant pointed out the MP for Kanata-Carleton, Liberal Jenna Sudds, won by a narrow margin and the redrawing of the boundaries to include part of that riding with this riding would favour the Liberals.
“They are shaving off the part of Kanata where she barely got any votes,” she said.
With all these changes there are also changes to the adjacent Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston riding of Scott Reid, a fellow Conservative and long-time colleague of Mrs. Gallant. In fact, she noted at one time the part of Ottawa they are planning on adding to this riding used to be in his riding. Perhaps that would make more sense again, she mused, noting municipal boundaries also play a role in how people interact within a riding.
While this is just for the federal riding, there is the possibility the province could also look at revamping the provincial ridings, she noted. Having the new boundaries would be very challenging for anyone running for office in the next election, she said. The riding is already quite large with many spread out areas.
“I spend my summer going to places I don’t normally get to,” she noted.
The new boundary, if implemented, would definitely change the face of the riding, removing a part of the county and including a part of the City of Ottawa into the riding.
“They have different values and interests,” she remarked.
Mrs. Gallant stressed this is the first draft and the public can comment, and the boundaries could be redrawn.
“Historical relationships and communities of interest are usually taken into consideration,” she noted. “However, they still have the Liberals in government.”
Ms. Gallant reached out to the residents of Greater Madawaska, urging them to comment quickly on the proposal.
“The Commission's proposal is only an initial plan. History shows that Commissions are often willing to make significant adjustments in their initial proposals, upon learning more from the public about issues relating to community of interest,” she wrote. “It is important to clearly articulate what these communities of interest are. County boundaries reflect long-standing communities of interest as most of these boundaries have been in place for a century and a half or more.”
In speaking to the Leader, she noted any resident in the riding can comment on the issue.
The next step in the process is the public participation component. Those wishing to make a presentation must complete a Public Hearing Participation Form which can be found at www.redecoupage-redistribution-2022.ca. The form must be filed by September 25.
A submission may be made in writing as an alternative to appearing at an in-person or virtual hearing.
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:
ON@redecoupage-federal-redistribution.ca Ms. Paula Puddy Commission Secretary Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario PO Box 37018 Southdale London, Ontario N6E 3T3
Although there are hearings throughout Ontario, for Eastern Ontario the hearing is virtual. It will be on Wednesday, October 26 and links will be provided to participants. All submissions to the commission will be made public in the interests of transparency, although the home address of those making written submissions will not be shared.
If the new riding is introduced, it would be used for any federal election after April 2024.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader