It could have been planned or it might be accidental. When it happens, it is wrong. It can deny voters the representation they deserve in the provincial legislature or in the House of Commons. It happened in my riding in the 2012 redistribution in Ontario and has been left in the proposed 2022 redistribution.
It was not until I worked on the recount in Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte after the 2015 federal election that I realized the problem could be best defined as an error impacting both rural and urban voters in the electoral district.
As someone who has worked for both political parties and returning officers in federal and provincial elections, I have always appreciated that the distribution most often attempts to collect urban voters separate from rural voters. This commonality of interest helps our political representatives to better reflect the needs and concerns of their voters.
That is why I was concerned in 2012 when the City of Barrie with a population a bit larger than the average electoral district was split in half and linked to parts of the surrounding rural townships. With the continued planned growth in Barrie over the ensuing ten years, the city is now virtually the only city of its size or larger in Ontario that does not have a purely urban electoral district within city boundaries.
This situation is unfair to the rural areas as the larger population in the city areas tends to determine the representation. In the 2015 federal election, for example, the two Barrie representatives elected were former city councillors who were selected by the larger number of voters in the urban parts of the electoral districts.
It seems to me that the situation can be easily corrected by the solution used in Map 3 of the redistribution for the City of Guelph, which has about the same population as Barrie. The Guelph electoral district is surrounded by Wellington-Halton riding. It would be easy to connect Springwater, parts of Oro-Medonte and Essa Townships with Innisfil Township into a largely rural electoral district. This means most of the south end of Barrie can be included in the city electoral district.
I would encourage all readers in the affected areas give this some thought and maybe you have a better suggestion. We can have our say on distribution. It is an important part of the democratic process. So please speak up.
Copyright 2022 © Peter Lowry
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