Ontario Liberals’ plan for two new ridings could violate the Charter and cost PCs the election – by Josh Dehaas (National Post – August 8, 2017)


Josh Dehaas is a Toronto-based freelance writer.

Ontario’s Liberal government will soon consider a proposal to add two new seats in northern Ontario. If you live in the south of the province, that should worry you. Your vote would count for less and your Charter rights might be violated. If you’re a Progressive Conservative, it could cost your party the election.

The Liberals set up the Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission in May and asked them to fly around the north consulting on whether to add one or two seats to the electoral map in northern Ontario. The stated goal is to create what Attorney General Yasir Naqvi called “predominantly Indigenous” ridings.

The commission came back with their interim report last month and it states—surprise, surprise—that northerners would prefer adding two new ridings, instead of just one. While the public won’t see the final report until Naqvi makes it public, the plan put forward in the interim report is to chop two huge, far north districts into four, creating four new seats.  Two of the seats (Mushkegowuk and Kiiwetinong) would be majority-Indigenous, and one (Timmins) would be about 40 per cent Francophone.

The districts’ populations would be very small. Kenora-Rainy River would have 53,010 people; Timmins, 41,788; Kiiwetinong, 32,784; and Mushkegowuk, only 29,687. Assuming voter turnouts comparable to elsewhere in the province, every vote in Mushkegowuk or Kiiwetinong would count for about four times as much as a vote cast in big southern Ontario districts like Whitby (pop. 122,022), Oshawa (pop. 125,771) or Niagara Falls (pop. 128,357). A vote in Timmins, meanwhile, would count for about three times as much.

The fact that one Ontarian’s vote could count for three or four times as much as another Ontarian’s vote seems undemocratic on the face of it. But the commissioners argue such a huge variation in population is constitutionally acceptable.

For the rest of this opinion column: http://nationalpost.com/opinion/josh-dehaas-ontario-liberals-plan-for-two-new-ridings-could-violate-the-charter-and-cost-pcs-the-election/wcm/b2d31ae6-39e0-4081-a539-8f3bcdc35595