Riding reduction for C-K?
If approved by the federal government, proposed boundary changes for the riding of Chatham-Kent–Leamington will significantly alter the political landscape.
The proposed change will dissolve the current riding of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, with all of Chatham-Kent to be housed in one riding. The change means that Chatham-Kent will have only two elected representatives instead of four, with one Member of Parliament in Ottawa and one Member of Provincial Parliament in the Ontario Legislature.
Under the change, long-time Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton and MP Lianne Rood, now in her second term, will no longer represent Wallaceburg and North Kent.
Instead, they will serve constituents in a new riding called Middlesex-London, which will stretch from Newbury to Lucan and take in 37,000 residents in north London.
McNaughton, Ontario's Minister of Labour and Skills Development, has been instrumental in helping rural residents retain services and has played a key role in helping Wallaceburg keep its hospital.
The veteran politician has served the predominantly rural riding of L-K-M since he was first elected in 2011.
In an e-mail statement, McNaughton said he will continue to help Chatham-Kent residents.
"Regardless of boundaries, I'll always serve the people of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex," McNaughton wrote. "We have accomplished so much, together, and there's more work to do."
He said he's excited to get "shovels in the ground" for the new Wallaceburg hospital, as well as supporting farmers, small business and helping more young people get into skilled trades.
Conservative Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MP Lianne Rood, who was born in London and attended college and university there, said she will miss the connections she's developed in Wallaceburg, Dresden and Chatham.
"It's a little disappointing when you are losing some of the people you've represented," Rood said. "I've really enjoyed getting to know the people in the area and have some great relationships."
Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff said the changes, if approved, have both pros and cons.
On the upside, Canniff said the change will eliminate voter confusion, but on the down side it means Chatham-Kent will have fewer voices at the table.
Originally, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario wanted to divide Chatham-Kent into three ridings and Sarnia-Lambton in two. One of the bigger changes would have seen Wallaceburg and North Kent join the riding of Sarnia-Lambton.
Public consultations were held last fall with the municipality officially opposing the three-way split. The mayor is glad to see the government heard Chatham-Kent's concerns.
"I like the fact that they listened," Canniff said. "That's always a good sign."
However, Canniff said, having two elected officials instead of four means "there will be fewer chances the municipality's concerns will be heard."
Plus, he said it's less likely Chatham-Kent would be represented by a cabinet minister.Under the revision, the Chatham-Kent–Leamington riding will include all of Chatham-Kent, the town of Leamington and Pelee Island reaching all the way down to the international border within Lake Erie.
Walpole Island First Nation will move from L-K-M to the newly created Sarnia-Lambton-Bkejwanong riding that includes all of Lambton County.
Chatham-Kent-Leamington MP Dave Epp said he'd like to thank the boundary committee for hearing what constituents had to say.
"The decisions were weighted towards community voices," Epp said, adding most municipalities expressed the desire to stay together, as did Chatham-Kent.
Epp said he worked with other local MPs "across partisan lines" to accommodate the wishes of each riding.
The government's boundary report was tabled in the House of Commons on Feb. 10 and will now be reviewed by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
Tentatively, the change would come into effect in 2024.
Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice