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Playing the Barrie riding name game 0

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Boundary changes to the federal electoral riding of Barrie — splitting it in two and encompassing nearby municipalities — may be inevitable.

But what the name of the two new ridings should be, and whether they're even necessary, remains to be seen.

The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario has proposed a new electoral map of the province, to be considered at public hearings this fall, that would see Ontario gain 15 electoral districts as a result of the increase in population.

If approved, the new Barrie North riding (as it is tentatively called) would include areas of the city roughly north of Dunlop Street as well as Springwater and Oro-Medonte townships. The new Barrie South riding would include the area south of Dunlop Street and also include the Town of Innisfil.

The commission held a public hearing at Barrie City Hall on Wednesday to receive comments about the proposed changes and heard opinions from 29 people, including Innisfil Mayor Barb Baguley.

"The proposed boundary change has removed the Town of Innisfil from its historic alignment with other similar semi-urban/rural communities along the shores of Lake Simcoe, and placed our community into a riding with the south portion of the City of Barrie," she told commission members. "Geographically, the Town of Innisfil will represent approximately 80% of the total area of the new riding. Failure to recognize that fact would be a failure to our community and all of our residents: past, current and future."

On behalf of Innisfil council, Baguley suggested during her comments the new riding, if approved, be named South Barrie - Innisfil.

"All residents of Innisfil understand and accept the need and importance to have a process in place to ensure that all Ontarians are represented equally and fairly in both Parliament and in the provincial Legislature," she said. "I, on behalf of all residents of Innisfil, feel that naming the proposed riding South Barrie - Innisfil would play a significant part in achieving that."

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman doesn't personally see any problem with that moniker, although council has not discussed the issue.

"I agree the new south riding should be called south Barrie - Innisfil and the north riding Barrie-Oro-Springwater or the equivalent. The riding names should reflect the communities they represent," he said, adding he thinks it would better to have two MPs serving the city than one.

"But I think the riding split should be further south (not from Dunlop Street) so that the city core and historic neighbourhoods are all in one riding rather than split in half."

He admits including areas to the north and south of the city could bring complications.

"The challenges will be ensuring rural concerns are heard in a largely urban riding," he said.

Oro-Medonte Township Mayor Harry Hughes agrees that the proposed name for the split riding of Barrie doesn't cut it.

"The name change as proposed doesn't do justice to Oro-Medonte. There has to be something in the name change to recognize the three municipalities," he said, adding he understands why the boundary adjustments may be considered necessary.

"It goes back to the fact that Canada has representation by population in the constitution but we need to keep that balanced. What was developed in 1867 has to be looked at. We can't just keep adding seats. There has to be a change to that," Hughes said.

Changes in technology are making it easier for MPs and MPPs to keep in contact with their constituents, he added.

"They can certainly serve people more effectively than they used to be able to do. (With the proposed boundary changes) we're adding substantial parliamentary staff," he said. "We're well served by the people we have now and have been in the past. I can't see a return coming back towards the cost."

Springwater Township Mayor Linda Collins also has issues with the need, and the cost, of changing the boundaries.

"Barrie North gives a connotation that doesn't reflect Springwater," she said.

"We were happy being aligned with Simcoe Grey. We were better aligned with our rural neighbours in a rural landscape," she added. "Our MPP (Jim Wilson) and MP (Dr. Kellie Leitch) have been very supportive. I don't see the need for an increase in the number of jurisdictions that are going to cost Canadians so much more money."

The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario has until the end of the year to make proposals to the speaker of the house and a report is to be filed by Feb. 21. Area residents can forward their comments to ontario@rfed-rcf.ca, or call 1 855-747-7224.

ian.mcinroy@sunmedia.ca

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