Two new seats eyed for North; one rid­ing largely In­dige­nous

On­tario will have 17 new provin­cial rid­ings in the elec­tion next June

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - ROBERT BENZIE

On­tario will have 17 new provin­cial rid­ings in the elec­tion next June, in­clud­ing one north­ern con­stituency where two-thirds of res­i­dents are In­dige­nous.

The non-par­ti­san Far North Elec­toral Bound­aries Com­mis­sion (FNEBC) con­cluded Tues­day that north­ern­ers de­serve an ad­di­tional two rid­ings to en­sure fair rep­re­sen­ta­tion at Queen’s Park.

That means 13 of the 124 dis­tricts be­ing con­tested in the June 7, 2018 vote will be in north­ern On­tario. To­day, there are 107 rid­ings, 11 of which are in the north.

But in a 62-page re­port to the gov­ern­ment, the in­de­pen­dent five­mem­ber com­mis­sion, headed by Jus­tice Joyce Pel­letier, who hails from the Ojib­way com­mu­nity of Fort Wil­liam First Na­tion, said more re­forms are needed “to in­crease In­dige­nous rep­re­sen­ta­tion and po­lit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion in On­tario.

“The Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly should con­sider fur­ther mea­sures to en­cour­age In­dige­nous can­di­dates to run for provin­cial of­fice and to in­crease voter turnout among In­dige­nous peoples in On­tario,” the com­mis­sion said.

“In this re­spect, the FNEBC en­cour­ages ... more funds be al­lo­cated for out­reach and ed­u­ca­tion to In­dige­nous pop­u­la­tions,” it con­tin­ued, not­ing that dur­ing public hear­ings there was “un­der­stand­able historical ret­i­cence on the part of many In­dige­nous per­sons to par­tic­i­pate in the provin­cial elec­toral process.”

One so­lu­tion could be mod­elled on New Zealand, where seats in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives are re­served for Maori mem­bers.

“Such an ap­proach would be a de­par­ture from the tra­di­tion of con­tigu­ous, ge­o­graph­i­cally based dis­tricts, but new prac­tices are needed to en­sure ef­fec­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion of In­dige­nous peoples.”

There has only been one In­dige­nous MPP in On­tario his­tory, for­mer New Demo­crat and in­de­pen­dent Peter North, although cur­rent Speaker and Brant MPP Dave Levac is of Métis her­itage.

In re­sponse to the com­mis­sion’s con­clu­sions, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Yasir Naqvi said the gov­ern­ment would move for­ward on im­prov­ing the rep­re­sen­ta­tion for res­i­dents in the two vast north­ern rid­ings of Kenora-Rainy River and Tim­mins-James Bay, both of which are held by the NDP.

“Our gov­ern­ment plans to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion this fall to im­ple­ment the com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tion to cre­ate two new rid­ings, called Ki­i­wetinong and Mushkegowuk,” said Naqvi.

Ki­i­wetinong, which is 68 per cent In­dige­nous, in­cludes the north­ern por­tion of the cur­rent bound­aries of Kenora-Rainy River and has a pop­u­la­tion of 32,987.

The south­ern por­tion with a pop­u­la­tion of 53,027, 25 per cent of which is In­dige­nous, will be the new Kenora-Rainy River and in­clude Dry­den and Fort Frances.

Mushkegowuk, which is home to 30,037 peo­ple, 60 per cent of whom are fran­co­phone and 27 per cent are In­dige­nous, is the north­ern por­tion of the cur­rent Tim­mins-James Bay rid­ing.

Tim­mins, which is 36 per cent fran­co­phone and 12 per cent In­dige­nous, will be a rid­ing unto it­self for its 41,788 res­i­dents.

“Adding two ad­di­tional rid­ings in the north will com­ple­ment changes made in 2015 to in­crease the num­ber of rid­ings in heav­ily pop­u­lated ar­eas in south­ern On­tario,” said Naqvi.

Due to rapid growth, both the Greater Toronto Area and Ot­tawa are gain­ing a to­tal of 15 new seats in re­dis­tri­bu­tion.

In the 107-mem­ber Leg­is­la­ture, there are now 57 Lib­er­als, in­clud­ing the speaker, 29 Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives, 20 New Democrats, and one Tril­lium Party mem­ber.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Yasir Naqvi.

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