Two local governments are standing against a proposed change to the federal Kenora district.
The City of Kenora and the City of Dryden are both preparing to pass resolutions to fight against any changes to the riding’s size, sharing concerns about a loss of representation in the House of Commons, a potential loss of funding and the unique needs of the region.
This comes as the federal government looks at the possibility of eliminating some electoral districts in northwestern Ontario and combining others, including the Kenora district becoming the Kenora – Thunder Bay – Rainy River district.
Ottawa is also looking at the possibility of a Kiiwetinoong – Mushkegowuk riding in the far north, moving to somewhat match Ontario’s Kiiwetinoong riding under MPP Sol Mamakwa of the NDP. It would stretch from the Manitoba border all the way to Quebec.
In a Committee of the Whole meeting on September 13, the City of Kenora shared a joint draft resolution that strongly opposes Ottawa’s proposal, with copies to be sent to Kenora MP Eric Melillo, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario and the Kenora District, Rainy River District and Northwestern Ontario District Municipal Associations.
“The size of the new Kenora-Thunder Bay-Rainy River riding would make it virtually ungovernable, and really infringe on the democratic rights of northerners,” wrote the city, in their prepared statement.
Kenora’s draft resolution was created in partnership with the City of Dryden, who also shared the resolution and councillors’ sentiments during their Committee of the Whole meeting on September 12.
“It’s hard to believe we’re dealing with this level of insanity,” said Councillor Norm Bush. “Anybody that would put together such a proposal obviously doesn’t understand the geographical challenges that are here.”
Bush and Councillor Shayne MacKinnon notes the change could lead to a lessened funding formula from the federal government, as many projects are based on population sizes, which would change as a result of this proposal.
“To even consider something like this is absolutely ludicrous,” adds Councillor Michelle Price.
The Constitution of Canada requires that federal ridings be reviewed every ten years. But Mayor Greg Wilson notes that in 2012, the Kenora District was deemed an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ and the decision was made to leave the district as it was.
“What’s changed? Nothing’s changed. To me, it’s just politics. It’s very frustrating,” said Wilson.
Kenora MP Eric Melillo has previously said he also plans to stand against any changes to the riding’s district, noting that northwestern Ontario would lose a seat and its representative in the House of Commons. That’s also why the riding wasn’t changed in 2012.
The current federal Kenora riding was created in 2004 from parts of the former Kenora – Rainy River riding and is the largest current riding by land mass, but the smallest by population size.
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission of Ontario will be holding two in-person hearings to gather comments and feedback on the proposed changes, with a hearing in Kenora on October 4 at the Douglas Family Arts Centre – The Muse at 6:30 p.m., as well as at the Forest Inn in Sioux Lookout on October 3 at 6:30 p.m.
To attend one of these hearings you must sign up by September 25.