Federal Electoral Commission for Ontario

Mr. Justice George Valin
Chair
Federal Electoral Commission for Ontario

Dear Mr. Justice Valin,

Thank you for welcoming comment to the 2012 Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission regarding the electoral riding boundary realignment process that is now taking place. I am pleased to offer my perspective on the proposed changes.

I should say at the outset that the original recommendation of the Commission, which made no changes to the current electoral boundaries of the electoral district of Burlington, was one that I welcomed. Although Halton Region is a composite of communities, each partner has its own sense of identity and its own clearly defined sense of community. As such, the Commission’s original recommendation made a good deal of sense.

In my opinion, the revised electoral district boundary proposal for Burlington makes considerably less sense, an arbitrary division of community that does not best serve the people of Ontario. Under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, the Commission is obliged to take under consideration the “community of interest or the community of identity” when determining or redefining electoral districts.

This guiding principle is, I would argue, incompatible with a redistribution that would see urban Burlington divided between three separate ridings. It is natural that the Commission would turn its attention to Halton Region, as our population has grown by around a third in the last decade alone – roughly 132,000 residents (more than the average Ontario riding). In light of the fact that this exceeds the average population per Ontario electoral district, there seems to be a reasonable case for re-examining representation in the region.

At the same time, Halton Region’s communities should be respected.

I would argue that the neighbourhoods of Brant Hills and Mountain Gardens form a single “community of identity.” I say this because they share many attributes that make up a complete community. Between them they share a spectrum of schools – French immersion, public and separate elementary schools, and secondary – as well as multi-denominational places of worship. The Brant Hills Library and Community Centre serve the residents of Mountain Gardens more immediately than similar facilities far to the south. Brant Hills’ grocery stores and pharmacies are similarly frequented by Mountain Gardens residents.

The proposed electoral riding boundary realignment not only breaks that community in half, but it does so in a way that potentially creates confusion among the electorate, furthers the existing political disconnect and negatively impacts voter turnout.

Where the current boundaries run along major, high-volume thoroughfares – Highway 5, Guelph Line, Highway 403 – the proposed revision splits along Upper Middle Road, and two-lane residential streets Cavendish Drive and Faversham Avenue, where north-south distinctions are liable to foster considerable confusion. (This is most visibly illustrated by the dogleg around Brant Hills’ Forest Hills enclave.)

My preference will always be for a solution that preserves communities intact. Burlington’s urban portion of Burlington has been historically represented by a single elected representative; in the 1990s, Burlington South was a clear and inclusive riding definition that was just what it promised. Clarity is not quite as apparent under a solution that divides a narrow segment of Burlington between three representatives.

I am reminded of the Commission’s original proposal with regard to this matter: “that the electoral district of BURLINGTON remain unchanged. Although the population has increased, the Commission is of the view that the increase does not warrant a change of boundaries. Any change in boundaries will result in similarly unequal voter representation in adjoining electoral districts.” This advice seems no less sensible today.

I would urge you to either revert to the boundary definition of the current electoral district or adopt a solution that is fully respectful of the residents of north-east Burlington and their community of interest.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Jane McKenna 
Member of Provincial Parliament for Burlington