By Dianne Cornish, Metroland Media Group
The majority of residents addressing the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario at a Hamilton hearing last Tuesday had one resounding message: stick with the commission’s original proposals for federal riding boundary changes in Hamilton.
Most of the 19 people who made presentations told the three-member commission headed by Justice George Valin they preferred the initial plan, which called for the creation of the new ridings of Ancaster and Waterdown-Glanbrook, leaving the area’s remaining three ridings of Hamilton Centre, Hamilton Mountain and Hamilton East-Stoney Creek basically alone. However, after public hearings in October, the commission proposed five new ridings: Ancaster-Flamborough-Glanbrook, Hamilton West-Dundas, Hamilton East, Hamilton Mountain West and Stoney Creek-Mountain East.
The redrawing of the boundaries for the two mountain ridings drew the sharpest criticism from residents last week.
With about 40 residents on hand to hear the presentations, the commission was told that its latest plan was “radical” and “too drastic” to serve the needs of Hamilton residents.
“The (Mountain) community has been whipsawed right down the middle,” said Robert File, a 20-year Hamilton resident who works as a mediator with the Ministry of Labour. The recently proposed boundaries fail to reflect “regional or historical patterns,” he said, arguing that if Sherman Avenue is used as the eastern boundary of the Hamilton Mountain West riding, as proposed,“it will divide the Concession Street Business Improvement Area (BIA) and Farmer’s Market.” He urged the commission to go back to its original plan.
Former Ward 6 alderman William Scandlan also talked about the sharp Hamilton Mountain division resulting from the boundary change proposals. There wasn’t much public outcry about the original riding boundary changes, he said, while questioning the cause for the new boundaries.
Justice Valin said residents south of Rymal Road told the commission in October they didn’t want to be part of the proposed Waterdown-Glanbrook riding and Ancaster residents said they had “no affinity” to Hamilton Centre or Hamilton Mountain, which were to be included in the new Ancaster riding. Changes were made to satisfy the concerns.
Bryan Adamczyk, who ran for the NDP on Hamilton Mountain in the 2007 Ontario election, echoed other speakers, saying that the second proposal isn’t in the best interests of mountain residents and the committee should reinstate its original plan that would “keep a sense of community.” Justice Valin explained to objectors that the reason for dividing the mountain riding was because of high population in the area and to ensure equal distribution of population in the ridings.
Hamilton Centre MP David Christopherson joined the chorus. Dubbing the commission’s latest boundary change proposals as “radical,” he spoke in favour of retaining the present riding boundaries as much as possible, rather than adding Dundas to the riding that currently holds a large swath of north Hamilton. Hamilton’s downtown has special needs and deserves the attention of one MP, he said, while also noting that downtown Hamilton and downtown Dundas are two very different and distinct areas.
“The first proposal was as good as we can get,” he declared, adding that all of Hamilton five MPs support the initial plan. “Under your second proposal (to create Hamilton West-Dundas), Hamilton Centre is eliminated.”
Mavis Osborne of west Hamilton, Patricia Strung of Ancaster and her daughter, Rebecca, argued against urban Ancaster being included in a riding with rural Flamborough and Glanbrook. “Ancaster is no longer a rural community,” said Patricia Strung, stating her preference for having Ancaster and Dundas in one riding. Osborne agreed, saying the relationship between the two towns is already well established. Rebecca Strung observed, “the first set of proposed boundaries rightly separated urban and rural parts of Ancaster.”
But Ray Rivers, a resident of Mountsberg in north Flamborough, suggested that “rural is not much different than urban in the City of Hamilton” and a riding with a rural and urban mix is desirable. “Don’t isolate rural from urban residents,” he recommended.
Rob Dobrucki, who ran for the NDP in Welland in the 1984 federal election, approved of the new riding proposals and recommended only minor changes, such as including of the south part of the proposed West Mountain riding in the Flamborough-Glanbrook riding,
“as it has traditionally been represented.”
Valin told the presenters that their input will be considered by the commission before it presents its report to the House of Commons. The report is due Dec. 21 but the commission has asked for a 60-day extension, moving the deadline to Feb. 19.
After receiving feedback from the MPs, the country’s 10 electoral boundary commissions will perhaps make additional changes before submitting their final reports to Canada’s chief electoral officer. The new riding boundaries are expected be in place by the late summer or early fall of 2013, well in advance of the next federal election in 2015. The order for the reconfigured ridings must be implemented at least seven months before the next federal election or the old riding boundaries will stand, said the commission chair.