Status: Passed, Royal Assent received on October 25, 2017
Currently, the vast majority of Northern Ontario is served by two electoral districts: Kenora–Rainy River and Timmins–James Bay. Bill 152 would accept the recommendations of the Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission, which adds two new electoral districts within the boundaries of these two districts.
The existing districts are available in the following map:
In 2016, the Ontario legislature created the Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission (FNEBC) through an amendment to The Representation Act. This commission was mandated to explore the possibility of creating one or two (no more or less) new electoral districts in the far north. This commission was established as a non-partisan entity which is arms-length from the government.
The FNEBC consulted with many First Nations, including Grand Council Treaty #3 and Nishnawbe-Aski Nation during their spring assemblies. They also operated an information booth in the Chiefs of Ontario AOCC in Lac Seul First Nation. The commission reported that the vast majority of the feedback received was that the far north needed four electoral districts (doubling the existing number of districts). These new electoral districts would be 1) Kenora – Rainy River, 2) Kiiwetinoong, 3) Mushkegowuk, and 4) Timmins. The proposed new electoral districts would follow the following map:
For First Nations, the new electoral boundaries should improve the representation of Indigenous perspectives in the Ontario legislature. The FNEBC repeatedly heard that Indigenous representation should be of particular importance. The way the electoral map is redrawn will make one new district – Kiwetinoong – with a majority Indigenous population at 68%. A second – Mushkegowuk – will have 87% as either Indigenous or francophone.
The new districts also would differentiate based on constituent needs. For example, the transportation needs of the far north are vastly different from the near north. By having separate representation, the unique needs of fly-in communities should be far more prominent in the parliamentary agenda for their MPP.
The bill includes technical information that would enable these new electoral districts to function. For example, the bill seeks to refine the attendance rules related to political fundraising and to enable nomination contestants to receive contributions to pay outstanding debt creditors after a nominee has been selected.
Finally, the Representation Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017, proposes that the Election Act be amended to provide legislative authority for the Chief Electoral Officer to share information from the permanent register of electors with the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. for electoral purposes.
The FNEBC, significantly, included the following sentence in its conclusion: “The consent of Indigenous peoples for any such plan would be essential for its legitimacy.” The new boundaries should enable First Nation concerns and priorities to more prominently feature in debate in the Ontario legislature.
Full text of the Bill is available Here
Full text of the Far North Electoral Boundary Commission is available Here.