NORTH DURHAM: The Federal Elections Boundaries Commission appears to have listened to the concerns of North Durham residents in the wake of sweeping changes to proposed federal ridings released on Monday, Feb. 25.
The Commission drew criticism in August when it released draft plans for revised federal electoral districts that saw Uxbridge Township cut in half, while the rest of North Durham, including Scugog Township, was grouped in a riding proposed as 'Haliburton-Uxbridge' that bordered Algonquin Park to the north.
The Commission's original proposal would have also seen Uxbridge Township split, with the portion of the municipality that contains the hamlets of Zephyr, Sandford, Leaskdale and Udora joining the riding of York-Simcoe. That riding was to stretch from Uxbridge Township in the east to Bradford/West Gwillimbury in the west and also contain East Gwillimbury and Georgina Township.
However, when the Commission's updated proposal was made public on Monday, drastic changes were made to several Durham Region ridings.
Uxbridge will now remain intact, with the municipality joining the City of Pickering in the new electoral district of Pickering-Uxbridge.
The new riding will have a population of 109,344 putting it 2.95 per cent above the provincial quota for riding population.
As well, Scugog Township has been removed from its original riding and now is proposed to become part of the riding of Oshawa-Durham.
The move will see Scugog joined with the part of the City of Oshawa lying north of Taunton Rd., as well as the portion of the Municipality of Clarington lying west of Regional Rd. 42, Darlington-Clarke Townline and Darlington-Manvers Townline. The riding, as it currently stands, will have a population of 115,395, putting it 8.64 per cent above the provincial quota.
Brock Township will continue to join its neighbours to the north in making up the riding of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.
The Commission's latest report has the majority of Durham Region contained within five districts with the addition of ridings of Oshawa, Whitby and Ajax, which was a recurring theme of comments made during the public consultation portion of the process of redrawing boundary lines.
Several Uxbridge Council members were vocal opponents to the original plan, with Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy as well as Ward 4's Jacob Mantle making presentations before the Commission at public meetings last fall.
Following the Commission's revised plans, Councillor Molloy was overjoyed that the concerns of the municipality had been both heard and addressed.
"It shows that it does pay to speak up," commented Councillor Molloy. "It's a great lesson that David can approach Goliath and be heard."
It was also noted that the new Pickering-Uxbridge riding is a manageable area, unlike the proposed Haliburton-Uxbridge Riding.
Councillor Mantle gave the Commission's revised plan his support when speaking with The Standard shortly after news broke of the revised riding boundaries. Prior to making his presentation in Oshawa this past November, a Commission member informed those present that Uxbridge would, in fact, be kept intact, setting the stage for Monday's announcement.
"I'm very pleased that they kept their promise that they made to me, along with municipal leaders from across Durham Region, that they were going to keep Uxbridge whole" Councillor Mantle told The Standard. "It's a big victory for Uxbridge and its residents, since having representatives from different ridings could have been very complicated."
However, Councillor Mantle did express some concerns about Uxbridge being paired with a large urban centre like Pickering.
"I do have some concerns that Uxbridge will be the small fish in a big pond, and once again Uxbridge might get left out. But hopefully whoever ends up being elected will give us our just due. In my mind, that was one of the benefits of the former riding because it paired two smaller rural ridings (Uxbridge and Scugog) with a larger centre (Clarington)," said Councillor Mantle.
Scugog Mayor Chuck Mercier was also pleased with the new proposal, noting that Scugog already boasts a strong relationship with both north Oshawa and Clarington from an agricultural perspective.
"I think it's a really good fit Simcoe St. has long been referred to as the Oshawa road, and it'll provide a great link between the communities in the riding. My only issue is that I would've liked to see it called Oshawa-Scugog to maybe give some more recognition to our township in Ottawa," Mayor Mercier told The Standard.
The new ridings are expected to take effect for the federal election scheduled to take place in the fall of 2015.
A full copy of the Commission's latest proposal, along with maps of the proposed ridings can be viewed at www.federal-redistribution.ca.