Hampton opposes proposed electoral boundary changes

Local MPP Howard Hampton said proposals from the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission suggesting electoral boundaries throughout Canada change by 2004 may help the Kenora-Rainy River riding but ultimately would hurt Northern Ontario.
The proposed boundary change for Kenora-Rainy River would see Atikokan and Ignace, which currently are included in the Thunder Bay-Atikokan riding, voting here instead.
“I’ve always felt Atikokan should be included in the Kenora-Rainy River riding,” Hampton said from his office in Toronto yesterday.
“It seemed illogical Atikokan would be thrown in with Thunder Bay when there’s no community of interest between the two,” he added. “They always had much more in common with, say, Dryden or Fort Frances.
“This probably resulted is a significant number of people who decided not to vote at all. So having Atikokan in the riding would be a good thing.”
But Hampton noted he’s going to fight against the boundary changes elsewhere in Northern Ontario.
Citing the proposed expansion of the Thunder Bay-Superior North riding east to Sault Ste. Marie, Hampton said the new riding “would be so large, it would be difficult for an MP or an MPP to handle.”
“It’s a seven-hour drive from one end to the other. These two cities have nothing in common. Some areas would be Sault Ste. Marie-focused, others Thunder Bay-focused.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he argued.
Another example is Timiskiming, which previously was Timiskiming-Cochrane but under the proposed changes would become Timiskiming-Greater Sudbury.
“The traffic from Timiskiming goes up Highway 11. They have nothing to do Sudbury. They have more in common with Timmins or Iroquois Falls,” Hampton stressed.
“When you combine communities, it damages democracy, it promotes cynicism. That’s when you see voter decline,” he added. “You’ll have people saying, ‘Why should I vote when someone 600 km away will determine the outcome?”
Hampton vowed to attend meetings on the proposed boundary changes, which have been scheduled from October to December at various cities in Ontario.
The closest meeting here will be held at the Valhalla Inn in Thunder Bay on Oct. 21.
To attend, you must give notice by Oct. 12. Confirm by fax, phone, or letter (at the numbers/addresses found in the supplement included with Monday’s edition of the Daily Bulletin), or at www.elections.ca
Written submissions of your opinion on the changes also can be sent to the commission.
Local MP Robert Nault, who is attending a Liberal caucus meeting in Saguenay, Que., could not be reached for comment before press time. Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown also was out of town and couldn’t be reached.
While the proposed changes may not affect all provincial electoral boundaries, they would in Ontario. Under the Ontario Representation Act 1996, the number, names, and boundaries of Ontario’s provincial ridings are identical to the federal ones.
Therefore, this proposed re-adjustment would determine the boundaries for the Kenora-Rainy River riding at both levels.
Federal law requires that representation of the provinces in the House of Commons (the number of elected members per province) be re-adjusted after each 10-year census to reflect changes and movement in Canada’s population.
These proposals take into account demographic changes that occurred between 1999 and 2001.
The commission draws electoral district boundaries so that the population in each remains as close as possible to the calculated quota.
The chief electoral officer of Canada provided each provincial commission with population data from the 2001 census and the electoral quota of its province.
For Ontario, the total population of 11,410,046 divided by the number of the seats in the House of Commons allocated to the province (106) gives an electoral quota of 107,642.
Nevertheless, the provincial commission can deviate from the average population figure to respect the historical pattern of an electoral district, to preserve the unity of individuals with a common interest, or to ensure a manageable geographic size.
The commission also may recommend a new electoral district name.
After consideration of all the submissions, each provincial commission will submit a report to the House of Commons, where a House committee will examine it.
MPPs and MPs may file objections with the committee, which then are referred back to the appropriate provincial commission. However, commissions are under no obligation to adopt any of the suggested changes.