North of 401 Kingston residents object to proposed electoral districts

Changes being considered by the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission are not sitting well for residents north of the 401 who consider themselves Kingston residents.

Every ten years, an independent commission in each province adjusts the electoral boundaries within that province considering population, community, historical pattern of electoral districts, and geographic size.

The commission looks to ensure electoral districts are as equally populous as possible as a primary concern, but community factors and geography come into play as well.

Changes proposed following the opening of the current redistribution in October 2021 would see two ridings neighbouring Kingston undergoing a considerable change, with new ridings of Gananoque-Brockville-Prescott and Lanark-Frontenac taking the place of Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston.

The redistribution would see residents living north of the 401, many of whom pay taxes and work in Kingston, grouped into the new Gananoque-Brockville-Prescott riding rather than the Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston riding they're currently a part of.

Based on feedback from a number of residents of this area, while being a part of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston made little sense, the new changes would make even less.

Most comments left on the redistribution website ask for the same thing - to be instead made a part of the Kingston and the Islands riding.

"If I go to a government office, I go to Kingston," wrote Barb Lawson in one comment.

"Police and fire services are from Kingston. My property taxes are paid to the city of Kingston. In other words, my life centres around Kingston! I would also suggest that this is the case for most of us living In the city of Kingston but north of the 401."

The overwhelming majority of comments made similar complaints, and many cited the drive to a Gananoque-Brockville-Prescott constituency office as being nearly 90 kilometres as a major concern.

Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen has noted that these residents should be a part of his riding based on their close proximity and vested interests within Kingston.

MP Scott Reid, whose current riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston currently holds the residents in question, said while he doesn't doubt the sincerity of those vying to for this area to be a part of Kingston and the Islands, he would argue there is just as much of a link to the rural Frontenac County to its north.

He said at the end of the day, the population implications of making this area part of the Kingston and the Islands riding at the expense of adjacent rural ridings aren't really justifiable.

"The problem of the rural ridings near Kingston being too small is already an issue," Reid said.

"In short, Kingston and the Islands is already far more populous than any rural neighbour from which it could hope to pick up territory, and adding the population north of Highway 401 makes the problem substantially worse, on both sides of the equation."

The new ridings would see this population included with communities like Brockville, Gananoque, Prescott, North Grenville, and Leeds and the Thousand Islands while MP Reid's district would include Rideau Lakes, Westport, and Merrickville.

Paula Ruddy, Secretary of the Ontario Redistribution Commission, said the Commission's final report will be presented to the Speaker of the House of Commons by February 9, and that any changes are likely to be finalized between spring and summer 2023.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News