Brantford mayor Chris Friel believes that the Six Nations and Mississaugas of the New Credit reserves should form their own federal riding.
Friel recently outlined his proposal during a presentation in Cambridge to the commission tasked with re-organizing the country’s federal electoral riding boundaries before the 2015 election.
According to the commission’s initial draft, the new riding of Brant would end at Brantford’s city limits and Highway 403, with Paris and St. George joining the new riding of Kitchener South-North Dumfries-Brant.
That riding would encompass the existing electoral district of Kitchener-Conestoga, plus the township of North Dumfries and the current riding of Brant north of Highway 403 and the urban boundary.
“Brant’s a weird riding for (the electoral commission),” Friel said. “The population is too much, so they’re cutting Brant up.
“It’s not in our interest to make that happen.”
The mayor’s idea would provide those living on the reserves with direct representation at the federal level and maintain the natural connection between city and county reflected in the current riding of Brant.
“The situation with Brantford as a large municipality dealing with Six Nations issues is unique in Ontario and in Canada,” Friel said during an interview with Brant News.
The commission would like each riding to represent roughly 100,000 voters, be of manageable geographic size and reflect changing demographics and communities of interest.
Since residents of the reserve eschew federal representation and do not include themselves in the national census, Friel thinks it is “totally unrealistic” for their numbers to be taken into consideration.
“(On-reserve natives) make it clear – they’re not interested,” he said. “They don’t recognize (the existing riding). Their voter turnout is very, very low.”
Brantford is unlike Toronto, where multiple ridings are necessary because of a large urban population, Friel said.
“(The commission) didn’t recognize that the county’s not a county, it’s a city,” he said. “They’re cutting a city in half. We don’t have any relationship with Kitchener – we run east-west.”
The current riding of Brant has more than 137,000 voters, which means MP Phil McColeman is busier than many of his colleagues on Parliament Hill. During an interview with Brant News in August, McColeman said he would rather not lose any part of the riding.
The commission will present its final recommendations to Parliament early next year.