Electoral proposals create concern

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(Photo by Shen Yun)

A second proposal to change federal electoral boundaries in Waterloo Region has raised concerns from local representatives about the potential negative impact it could have on regional constituents. It would see, along with a number of other changes, the riding of Kitchener-Conestoga eliminated as the townships of Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich, which compose the riding would be added to other districts.

The proposal was one of two put forth as part of a country-wide analysis of federal electoral maps. Every ten years, riding allocations must be re-evaluated in the provinces in a process known as electoral redistribution. The plan will see Ontario will gain 15 new electoral districts.

According to Harold Albrecht, the current MP for Kitchener-Conestoga, the problem with the second proposal lies in representation issues.

“We are now dividing our interests between two different counties,” Albrecht began.

“To think that I could give the kind of attention to two separate areas or regions and still give them the kind of attention they’ve received while I’ve been in one jurisdiction, is ridiculous.”

The Wellington-Halton Hills riding would acquire the Township of Woolwich and the townships of Wellesley and Wilmot would go under the jurisdiction of Perth-Wellington.

Albrecht continued, “You cannot represent those two communities adequately.”

Region of Waterloo chair Ken Seiling holds a similar view and had previously presented this during the public consultations.

“There’s no community of interest for the people in those riding,” he said. “Their relationships are here in the region, not with Wellington or Perth County. The MPs would really be determined by the majority population in Perth and Wellington and they really wouldn’t be able to respond as well to the concerns of people in Waterloo Region.”

Seiling found that the reactions from the public were negative overall.

Justice George Valin, who is the chair for the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario, agreed that there was “a lot of opposition to it” in public hearings because “people don’t want to lose another electoral district in the Waterloo Region.”

The first proposal put forth would have seen the region gain another riding called Kitchener South-North Dumfries-Brant.

When asked what the reasoning behind the second proposal was, Valin replied, “We held a hearing in Cambridge back in October and at that hearing we heard a number of submissions that suggested to us that the extra electoral district might be better used elsewhere. So we prepared a revised proposal reducing the number of electoral districts in Waterloo Region to four and increasing it in Halton by one.”

Seiling said he was “quite surprised” by the second proposal, having been in support of the first one. He also acknowledged that “there was very little public consultation for the public to get involved with this.”

“The population is here to have five ridings within the Region of Waterloo and that would be the ideal situation,” Seiling said. “We are growing at 10,000 people a year.”

Albrecht echoed these sentiments, adding “I still feel Waterloo Region with its numbers currently and especially moving forward, has the numbers to deserve five full MPs, five full ridings. But if the commission says that isn’t possible, then at the very least, don’t split three of the ridings across regional boundaries, do one of them, like the first proposal did.”

The Commission must submit its report by Feb. 21, 2013 to be reviewed by a House of Commons committee. Valin anticipated that it could be until next summer before the public is made aware of the final decision.

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