LANARK COUNTY - Don’t expect to see MP Gordon O’Connor in the Pakenham Santa Claus Parade after 2015.
With the new changes announced to the federal electoral boundaries due to kick in for the anticipated 2015 election, O’Connor’s current Carleton-Mississippi Mills seat will be reconfigured in such a way that he will no longer partially represent the northern tip of Lanark County in the House of Commons.
Now, fellow Conservative MP Scott Reid alone will represent the whole county.
“At the moment, I have 155,000 people in my riding,” said O’Connor during a telephone interview last week, including Kanata, Mississippi Mills, Goulbourn, and West Carleton. “I will lose about 50,000 (voters). About 15,000 to 16,000 are Mississippi Mills and the plan is that those would be attached to the (newly re-named riding of) Lanark-Frontenac, which is Scott Reid’s.”
Meanwhile, 34,000 to 35,000 voters in Stittsville and Goulbourn will be switched to Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre’s newly-named riding of Rideau-Carleton.
After 2015, O’Connor’s newly configured riding, with about 101,000 voters, will be called Kanata-Carleton.
“There is a huge shift for Pierre too,” said O’Connor, with a new riding called simply Nepean being created, taking in Barrhaven and Bells Corners, as part of 15 new ridings being created.
All ridings are not created equal however, and the usual give-and-take of the Canadian federation does make for complicated riding-making.
“It gets complicated,” said O’Connor. “We are locked into certain constitutional positions.”
O’Connor pointed to Prince Edward Island, a province beloved by not only Anne of Green Gables’ fans, but also constitutional and parliamentary policy wonks too.
“The rule is that they have the same number of MPs as senators,” said O’Connor of PEI’s four senators and members of parliament. “They have a population smaller than my riding,” and they have more MPs.
“At some point, there has to be some kind of constitutional balance,” O’Connor said, noting that in five years, his riding has seen a 16 per cent rise in population.
However, he was adamant that losing so many rural voters would not affect his re-election chances in two-and-a-half years, stating that there “are the same potential as the other (ridings),” he said. “We have a good level of support for the Conservative party.”
However, he said he will be sad to see Mississippi Mills go.
“I don’t want to lose any (of my riding),” said O’Connor. “I am happy with the riding as it is now.”
He said that his current riding had a good mix of urban, rural, and suburban but then “mathematics kicks in. (But) from Scott’s perspective, it is good that he has all of Lanark County.”
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario released its report on the changes on Feb. 25, adding 15 new ridings in the province. Interestingly, the report singled out O’Connor’s riding, stating that it was important that Scotiabank Place be included in the riding as it had always been associated with Kanata.
The report also made mention of Mississippi Mills and Reid’s request to keep all of Lanark County under one MP.
“The commission received persuasive submissions that the community of interest of the Town of Mississippi Mills was with communities in Lanark County, and now with an electoral district more closely associated with the City of Ottawa,” the report said.
For many years, Reid represented Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, which he will continue to do until 2015. Thereafter, however, he will lose the far southwestern half of his riding, when Napanee joins a new riding, Belleville-Napanee-Frontenac. Reid’s riding will now be called Lanark-Frontenac-Hastings.