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Ontario to get 17 new ridings, including a constituency that is largely Indigenous
Ontario will have 17 new provincial ridings in the election next June, including one northern constituency where two-thirds of residents are Indigenous
Aug. 8, 2017

Ontario will have 17 new provincial ridings in the election next June, including one northern constituency where two-thirds of residents are Indigenous.

The non-partisan Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission (FNEBC) concluded Tuesday that northerners deserve an additional two ridings to ensure fair representation at Queen’s Park.

That means 13 of the 124 districts being contested in the June 7 vote will be in northern Ontario. Today, there are 107 ridings, 11 of which are in the north.

But in a 62-page report to the government, the independent five-member commission, headed by Justice Joyce Pelletier, who hails from the Ojibwa community of Fort William First Nation, said more reforms are needed “to increase Indigenous representation and political participation in Ontario.

“The Legislative Assembly should consider further measures to encourage Indigenous candidates to run for provincial office and to increase voter turnout among Indigenous peoples in Ontario,” the commission said.

“In this respect, the FNEBC encourages . . . more funds be allocated for outreach and education to Indigenous populations,” it continued, noting that during public hearings there was “understandable historical reticence on the part of many Indigenous persons to participate in the provincial electoral process.”

One solution could be modelled on New Zealand, where seats in the House of Representatives are reserved for Maori members.

“Such an approach would be a departure from the tradition of contiguous, geographically based districts, but new practices are needed to ensure effective representation of Indigenous peoples.”

In response to the commission’s conclusions, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said the government would move forward on improving the representation for residents in the two vast northern ridings of Kenora-Rainy River and Timmins-James Bay, both of which are held by the NDP.

“Our government plans to introduce legislation this fall to implement the commission’s recommendation to create two new ridings, called Kiiwetinong and Mushkegowuk,” said Naqvi.

Kiiwetinong, which is 68 per cent Indigenous, includes the northern portion of the current boundaries of Kenora-Rainy River and has a population of 32,987.

The southern portion with a population of 53,027, 25 per cent of which is Indigenous, will be the new Kenora-Rainy River and include Dryden and Fort Frances.

Mushkegowuk, which is home to 30,037 people, 60 per cent of whom are francophone and 27 per cent are Indigenous, is the northern portion of the current Timmins-James Bay riding.

Timmins, which is 36 per cent francophone and 12 per cent Indigenous, will be a riding unto itself for its 41,788 residents.

“Adding two additional ridings in the north will complement changes made in 2015 to increase the number of ridings in heavily populated areas in southern Ontario,” said Naqvi.

Due to rapid growth, both the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa are gaining a total of 15 new seats in redistribution.

In the 107-member Legislature, there are now 57 Liberals, including the speaker, 29 Progressive Conservatives, 20 New Democrats, and one Trillium Party member.