Some Brant politicians are likely feeling a sense of relief following the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario on Tuesday releasing the final version of its proposed changes to federal ridings ahead of the next general election.
To accommodate 15 new House of Commons seats for Ontario in the 2015 federal vote – when the total number of seats will grow to 338 from 308 – the commission has been working to revise the province’s electoral boundaries to reflect changing demographics.
An initial proposal put forward by the commission in the summer called for the northern portion of Brant riding – an area north of Highway 403 and Brantford’s city limits – to be transferred into a new riding called Kitchener South-North Dumfries-Brant. That proposal – which would have seen Paris and St. George leave Brant riding – certainly caused a stir. In fact, we can’t remember a time Brant politicians so wholeheartedly agreed with one another on an issue. Many in the political class, along with a strong contingent of local residents, spoke up to defend the status quo in Brant riding.
Brant MP Phil McColeman said he wanted the riding to remain intact in its current form. City of Brantford Mayor Chris Friel said the proposed boundary change was “not in our interest,” noting that there is a natural connection between the City of Brantford and County of Brant reflected in Brant riding. County of Brant Mayor Ron Eddy made it clear that he felt the county’s interests would not be best served under the proposed new riding.
“We don’t want to go to (the new riding) because our voice wouldn’t be heard,” Eddy said. “We would be crowded out.”
After Brant residents and politicians shared their opinions on the matter, the electoral boundaries commission introduced a second proposal in November. That proposal – which the commission stuck with in its final recommendation to Parliament – will move an area located north of Paris Plains Church Road, Scenic Drive and Howell Road into a proposed new riding of Kitchener South-North Dumfries. In addition, an area located east of Madden Road, Langford Church Road and Baptist Church Road will move into to a proposed new riding called Ancaster-Flamborough-Glanbrook. An area west of Middle Townline Road will be added to the existing electoral district of Oxford.
In essence, the commission’s final proposal will shave off relatively small areas in the east, north and west of Brant riding and move them into other jurisdictions. That means, for the most part, Brant riding will remain intact for future federal elections and continue to include the town of Paris and village of St. George. That will surely make Mayor Eddy and his colleagues on Brant council happy, as there was worry that having two members of Parliament responsible for representing large areas of the county could lead to “complicated communications” and “a possible duplication of services,” as the mayor said in November.
Some will be displeased to hear that the village Glen Morris and a portion of Harley will no longer be part of Brant riding once Parliament votes to endorse the commission’s proposal, but the fact is that some change needed to be made. In its new form, the population of Brant riding will drop from about 135,000 to about 124,000. Even with more than 10,000 people being shifted to other jurisdictions, Brant riding will still have a population larger than most other federal jurisdictions in the province.
It seems the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario struck the right balance in its final recommendation to Parliament, leaving Brant riding’s communities of mutual interest intact while making needed changes to reflect our area’s changing demographics.