While a proposed shift in the boundaries of Brant riding for future federal elections might not feel right to many, making the change just might be the right thing to do.
The boundaries of the current Brant riding could be altered by the time the next federal election rolls around, with the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario working to create 15 new seats for the province in the House of Commons to reflect changing demographics.
A currently proposed boundary change – which is still subject to alteration – would see the northern part of the County of Brant become part of a new riding called Kitchener South-North Dumfries-Brant. (Yes, it’s quite a mouthful.) The proposed riding would include the current electoral district of Kitchener-Conestoga, the portion of Brant riding located north of Highway 403 and Brantford’s northern boundary and the township of North Dumfries. The change would move the County of Brant’s two largest communities – Paris and St. George – outside of the current Brant riding.
A proposed altered Brant riding would consist of the City of Brantford, Burford area and Cainsville, as well as the Six Nations and New Credit reserves.
Local politicians have had plenty to say about the proposed change, for the most part lining up to defend keeping Brantford and Brant in the same riding. They say the city and county are communities of mutual interest that should have the same federal Member of Parliament.
In a story published in this week’s Brant News, County of Brant Mayor Ron Eddy says he fears the proposed change would lead to less of a voice in Parliament for Brant residents. Eddy believes that, through their sheer numbers, Kitchener-area residents would drown out the voices of Brant voters in the proposed new riding. Also reason to reject the proposed change, Eddy says, is that the City of Brantford and the County of Brant are working together in many areas, including joint-servicing discussions in relation to infrastructure.
City of Brantford Mayor Chris Friel has said the proposed boundary change is “not in our interest,” noting that there is a natural connection between the city and county reflected in the current riding of Brant. While Friel would like to see Brantford and Brant remain in the same riding, he has pitched an idea for change – that Six Nations and Mississaugas of the New Credit reserves form their own federal riding.
Brant’s current Member of Parliament, Conservative Phil McColeman, has gone on record saying he would rather not lose any part of Brant riding in the current electoral boundary adjustment.
In many ways and concerning many issues, Brantford and Brant are communities of mutual interest (one of the factors the Electoral Boundaries Commission will consider). But in some ways – including a distinct urban-rural divide – they are very different communities. Some county residents, especially those living north of Paris, as well as near St. George and Glen Morris, do have a natural connection with areas to the north of Brant, as opposed to Brantford.
Despite the position of local elected officials, dividing Brant riding seems an idea worthy of consideration. That, for more than any other reason, is due to demographics.
The Electoral Boundaries Commission would like each Ontario riding to represent roughly 100,000 voters. Currently, Brant riding is home to more than 137,000 voters. If things stay the same, Brant’s MP will represent more constituents than many of his colleagues on Parliament Hill. That just doesn’t seem fair.
The bottom line on this issue is that maintaining the status quo would lead to less of a voice for Brant residents in their federal Parliament, even if some fear a loss of voice to voters in the Kitchener area. All Ontarians – no matter what riding they live in – certainly deserve a similar level of representation in Ottawa.
Yes, sometimes change is uncomfortable, even unwelcome. But sometimes going through a difficult change leads to an unexpected, better future.