New Democrats challenge Conservatives to stand up for Northern Ontario

SAULT STE. MARIE - People in Northern Ontario could be looking at less representation in Parliament and their communities if federal seat redistribution starts moving seats. As it stands seats may be taken from Northern Ontario and added to Toronto’s bedroom communities, according to many area politicians.

The Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario has to decide how to add 15 federal seats for the province following increased population reported in the 2011 census. A non-partisan, “Keep the 10 ridings” campaign led by NDP MPs has rallied more than 50 municipalities but no Conservative MPs yet behind the idea that Northern Ontario should keep its 10 seats.

 "So far the MP from the Sault and his Conservative colleagues remain on the sidelines,” said Nickel Belt MP Claude Gravelle. “Most of our municipalities and northerners support our plan to guarantee full representation for our massive and culturally diverse region.”

Northern New Democrats backed by the municipalities say any loss of seats would undermine effective representation in the north. This would create greater distances and less of a voices for First Nations and Franco-Ontarien communities.

“This is not just a numbers game, it is about the quality of service an MP can offer constituents too,” said Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes.  “If they reduce the north’s influence, constituents will be the ones who get short-changed. Where is the respect in that? “

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus said a strong Northern Ontario voice is needed to prevent what happened in the 1990s when Liberal and Conservative governments cut services and jobs.

“The north hasn’t recovered from that hit of over $75 million annually to the Algoma economy,” Angus said. “We’ll see significant cuts to front line services as a result of the recent government budget. The ability to maintain an effective level of advocacy is crucial to our communities”.

Mr. Gravelle has introduced a bill in the House of Commons to maintain Northern Ontario's representation to 10 seats at a minimum.