Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus says newly proposed federal electoral lines 'a kick in the teeth'

The electoral boundary commission has released a new proposal to redraw lines across federal electoral districts. The changes would lead to a decrease in federal ridings in the north — down from ten to nine. 

Proposal would create massive riding called Kiiwetinoong—Mushkegowuk

'It's a huge, huge riding,' says Nipissing University political scientist David Tabachnik of the proposed Kiiwetinoong—Mushkegowuk riding. (Submitted by the Federal Electoral Boundary Commission)

A proposal to redraw Ontario's federal electoral map would amount to a "kick in the teeth" for northern Ontario if no changes are made following public consultation, said Timmins — James Bay MP Charlie Angus.

The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Ontario has proposed a new electoral map that would cut the number of federal election districts in northern Ontario from 10 to nine.

The most significant change would see the two largest ridings in the far north combined – Kenora and Timmins-James Bay – into a massive riding called Kiiwetinoong—Mushkegowuk. It would span Ontario's far north from the Manitoba border to Quebec.

The Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act sets out the non-partisan commission's mandate to redraw electoral lines across the country. In 2022, it must generally aim to meet a population quota of 116,590 in each electoral district.

Even with one less electoral district, each riding in northern Ontario would fall below that quota.

We sure as hell are not gonna let them take another voice away from northern Ontario.—NDP MP Charlie Angus, Timmins-James Bay

But Angus said the more sparsely populated north should not be tied to the same rules as the populous south.

"I think what we're seeing is yet again an attack on representation in northern Ontario on this bizarre principle that we are somehow over represented in the House of Commons," he said.

"The problem is northern Ontario is pegged to the population numbers in the densely populated south. And we are as distinct, economically, politically and socially from the urban south as we are from any other region in the country."

In the proposal the city of Toronto would also lose an electoral district, but other regions, such as central Ontario, the eastern Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and northern GTA would each gain a riding.

Charlie Angus, NDP MP for Timmins-James Bay, says the proposed boundary lines impede northern Ontarians' right to representation. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Before the proposal is submitted to the House of Commons the commission will hold public consultation across the province in the fall to gather feedback that could alter the map some more.

"We sure as hell are not gonna let them take another voice away from northern Ontario," Angus said.

It's Germany plus France or something along those lines.— David Tabachnick, political science professor at Nipissing University

"I've watched these electoral boundary fights a number of times and I've found that if we aren't organized, northern Ontario gets kicked in the teeth."

A previous proposal to change Ontario's electoral boundaries in 2012 never resulted in any change.

David Tabachnick, a political science professor at Nipissing University in North Bay, Ont., said from a numbers standpoint, northern Ontario is over-represented compared to the south.

David Tabachnick, a political science professor at Nipissing University. (CBC)

"It's Germany plus France or something along those lines. It's a huge, huge riding," Tabachnick said.

"So there's a balancing game being played here where you sort of recognize the regional significance of these ridings where the geography itself, the size of the geography is important," he said.

"And so even though every riding in northern Ontario falls below this quota, we still are getting behind in seats in a sense."

Tabachnick said the commission has made exceptions in other parts of Canada. Prince Edward Island, for example, has four electoral districts, but a population of just over 156,000 people in 2019.

He added that the public hearings in the fall could have a big impact on the final proposal.

After the consultation ends, the commission will finalize its redistribution plan and submit it to the House of Commons for consideration.

New boundaries can first be used in an election if at least seven months have passed since they were approved.