By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton’s political community could feel the effects of possible changes by Ontario’s Electoral Boundary Commission when it re-distributes the province’s riding map, adding another 15 MPs to the House of Commons.
The three-member panel, chaired by Mr. Justice George Valin of North Bay, is currently preparing a proposed plan to increase the number of Ontario ridings from 108 to 121. The commission is tentatively scheduled to begin holding public meetings across the province over a six-week period starting in October. Once the public consultation process is completed, a decision on a final electoral boundary plan will be made by the end of the year, said Election Canada officials.
Once the panel, which also includes Dr. Leslie A Pal, the chancellor of the Universityof Carleton, and Douglas Colbourne, a Torontoland use mediator, completes the proposal it will be publicly available when published in the Canada Gazette and in area newspapers. Election Officials didn’t know when the draft plan will be completed. The public can make their views known now to the commission until April 30 through e-mail at Ontario@rfed-rcf.ca or by mail.
The new electoral map will be used in the next federal election, scheduled for 2015.
Changing Canada’s electoral boundaries is constitutionally mandated every 10 years to take into account population changes and demographic shifts. The federal government approved the boundary realignment under Bill C-20, the Fair Representation Act, last December, boosting the number of ridings from 308 to 338.
In addition toOntario’s 15 ridings, Alberta and British Columbia will receive six seats each, while Quebec gets three.
Ontario’s population since the last census in 2001 has jumped from 11.4 million to 12.8 million. The commission is required to divide the province into districts as close as possible to the average population, while also taking into account the communities’ interests, identity and historical pattern.
In 2004 when the last boundary changes occurred, it set off a Liberal power struggle in the Hamilton East and Stoney Creek ridings, when Liberal MPs Tony Valeri and Sheila Copps fought against each other to represent the new Hamilton East-Stoney Creek riding. Valeri won a heart-stopping nomination meeting, that unleashed political repercussions within the local Liberal party for years.
Valeri at the time objected to the elimination of the Stoney Creek riding, arguing it was losing its identity by being joined to Hamilton.
Former Liberal MP Stan Keyes who represented Hamilton West after it was eliminated when the commission created Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale, and expanded Hamilton Centre, also objected to the changes. He argued that Westdale should some how be included in a revamped Hamilton Centre riding. The commission disagreed, but did extend Hamilton Centre from the Niagara Escarpment to the harbour. In the 2004 federal election Keyes lost to NDP MP David Christopherson to represent Hamilton Centre. Conservative MP David Sweet won the rejigged Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale riding.
The Conservative Party also benefited from the commissioner’s decision to merge parts of Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Aldershot, Hamilton Mountain, Niagara Centre and Stoney Creek to create Niagara West-Glanbrook. Conservative MP Dean Allison narrowly held off Liberal candidate Debbie Zimmerman to win the riding in 2004.
For more information on the commission visit the website at www.federal-redistribution.ca.