Hajdu weighs in on electoral boundaries commission’s final report

By Kevin Jeffrey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Northwestern Ontario will continue to have the same number of federal ridings, but the number of constituents in Thunder Bay-Superior North is growing.

The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario announced this week they have concluded their process, which has resulted in a proposal to reshape the electoral map across Northern Ontario and change boundary lines, after an earlier plan that proposed combining the Thunder Bay-Rainy River and Kenora ridings.

The commission backed off that proposal, which became public in August 2022.

In their final report, which was made public in February, the boundaries between the existing Kenora and Thunder Bay-Superior North ridings were altered to have all Matawa First Nations communities included in the Thunder Bay-Superior North riding. The final report from the independent commission was submitted and tabled in the House of Commons this week.

“I am very fortunate to have been doing this role as Indigenous Services Minister for the last number of years, which has given me actually some relationships in those communities,” said Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Patty Hajdu. “Should I be lucky to be re-elected [in the next election], [I come into the new role] with those existing relationships in those communities and an understanding of what life might be like in some of those remote communities.”

The redrawn — and renamed — Kenora-Kiiwetinoong riding would include the municipalities of Kenora, Dryden, Sioux Lookout, Red Lake, Ignace, Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, Ear Falls, Pickle Lake, and Machin, which form the Kenora District Municipal Association.

Hajdu added that there remains an ongoing challenge of travel in and out of remote communities without road access. She feels to be an effective representative, one has to visit communities to meet members on the ground.

“We fought vigorously to ensure that we didn’t lose seats in Northern Ontario,” Hajdu added.

“The North requires a specific focus and a specific level of representation. To spread that representation out too thinly would be doing a huge disservice to Northern Ontario. I worked very closely with colleagues from across party lines to provide deputations to the commission to make sure the commission understood the uniqueness of Northern Ontario and the distinct challenges of having these large geographical ridings.”

“Even in current configurations, my riding is slightly smaller than the size of France. I tell my colleagues that all the time, who have the benefit of a very small geographical riding where they can go across the riding in half an hour. For me it’s several road trips to actually cover the entire riding.”

Federal politicians in Northern Ontario across all three major parties opposed the proposed changes, as did several municipal and First Nations leaders.