Friday, April 4, 2008

Timmins concerned over size of ridings

A municipal resolution from southern Ontario stirred up some angry feelings among members of Timmins city council this week.
Council was voting on a support resolution from the City of St. Catharines, which is pushing the federal government to have more MPs for Ontario, based on equitable representation by population. One Timmins councillor suggested the North is so big, there should be representation by area as well.
Another suggested he is fed up with leaders ‘down south’ telling Northerners how to act.
While some councillors were ready to endorse the St. Catharine’s resolution, others worried that it could backfire for Northern Ontario, where the population is declining.
In the past 20 years, the number of federal ridings in the North has been reduced from 11 to nine.
“I am not sure which way this will go, and if this is a good move or not,” said city councillor John Curley.
“I think at some point we have to have area representation,” Curley suggested.
He added that if representation by population becomes the only measure of a riding, it would be detrimental for Northern Ontario.
Councillor Denis Saudino said he supported the resolution in principal but he too is worried that federal and provincial ridings are getting too big.
The riding of Timmins-James Bay is 249,000 square kilometres. It sits beside the riding of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, which is more than 100,000 square kilometres.
“There are provinces that are not as big as those ridings,” said Saudino.
“I am more concerned about the ever growing borders of the ridings,” Saudino added. “There has got to be a limit on the size.”
Councillor Gary Scripnick said he too was concerned about riding size because he sees it as a loss of political clout.
“This is an issue that concerns me greatly. You know we have eighty percent of the size of Ontario,” said Scripnick.
“We live in this area. And pretty much we are dictated to by the south about how we do things up here.”
He cited the example of Queens Park imposing a lucrative diamond mining tax to take advantage of the new De Beers project. Scripnick said such actions are harmful to the long term sustainability of the mining industry.
“You know we don’t get a voice,” he said.
“We know what happened with the bear hunt. People from another area told us what we’re gonna do with all the bears up here. We live in nature and how we handle that is a decision we should make,” Scripnick argued. “And we shouldn’t have all these other people making those decisions for us.
“You know I am not speaking for a Northern Ontario separate from the rest, but there’s gotta be a way of making southern Ontario sensitive. We live in big open spaces. We need the mining and the forestry industries,” Scripnick continued.
“I can’t accept for people down there to come up and tell us how we should cut our trees, how we should do the mining, what we should do with our bears.”

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