This northern riding has both the smallest riding population and the
largest land area, with its borders encompassing more than 300,000 square
kilometers. Covering more than one third of the province's land mass,
this riding is larger than Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova
Its border reaches from Fort Severn on the shores of Hudson Bay in
the north, to Fort Frances on the U.S. border in the south. To the west,
the riding ends at the Ontario-Manitoba border.
A decidedly rural riding, the major centres are Kenora, Dryden, Rainy
River, Fort Frances and Sioux Lookout.
It also boasts the largest native population in Ontario (20 per cent)
and includes many reservations. For many of the 50 First Nations communities
to the north, the nearest polling station is an airplane ride away.
Many of the riding's workers in the major communities work at pulp
and paper mills. It is also home to some of the largest gold mines in
the country, located in the Red Lake area.
Following the riding redistribution of 1999, Kenora-Rainy River combined
much of the former Rainy River with a sliver of the old Lake Nipigon
riding and all of the former Kenora riding.
Long before NDP leader Howard Hampton established himself in the old
Rainy River riding, the PC party held sway in neighbouring Kenora, where
Tory MPP Leo Bernier sat from 1963 to 1987. Bernier served in various
cabinet posts including mines, northern affairs and natural resources.
Hampton was first elected in Rainy River in 1987, and won the next
four elections. He was appointed attorney general in 1990 and became
leader of the provincial NDP in 1996. In 1999, he defeated Liberal Frank
Miclash after the two incumbents' ridings were merged.