Guelph’s growing population makes federal riding split inevitable

If approved as presented, the boundary redistribution would move South Guelph into the predominantly rural riding, renamed Wellington-Halton

Some political leaders in Guelph are expressing a bit of shock, but there is also a sense of understanding in reaction to the proposed new federal riding boundaries.

The map, released Friday by the Federal Electoral Districts Redistribution Committee, would shift south Guelph to the larger, mostly rural riding, renamed Wellington-Halton.

It is a review and change that must take place every 10 years under the Constitution of Canada, “to reflect the changes and movements of the Canadian population”.

With a growing population in Guelph – reaching 143,740 according to the latest census data in 2021, up 9.1 per cent from 2016 – Guelph Liberal MP Lloyd Longfield said a new border like this- this was logical.

“I wish they’d taken a few different polls than they took, but that’s okay,” he told GuelphToday.

“I think Guelph has population growth, and right now we have a bigger riding than our neighboring ridings and we’re growing faster.”

If approved as proposed, Guelph would remain virtually untouched.

But residents living south of Arkell Road, along with the Kortright Hills neighborhood in the southwest part of the city, would be part of the renamed Wellington-Halton constituency, along with places like Elora, Fergus, Erin, Morriston and Marsville and Belwood. area to the north.

Georgetown would be relocated to a newly formed constituency of Georgetown-Milton East.

Longfield said south Guelph is “where a lot of the growth is” in the city, so he didn’t seem surprised the committee looked at that area of ​​the city.

Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner said we’ve seen how dangerous gerrymandering can be for “undermining democracy in the United States,” so he didn’t go too deep into his thoughts on the matter.

But he sees the writing on the wall with more people coming to Guelph, and understands the challenge facing the commission.

“We are in a bit of a dilemma,” he said. “Guelph, population-wise, is one of the largest ridings in the country. At some point, in order to maintain relatively equal constituencies based on population, given the growth in Guelph, it’s inevitable that you’ll see some sort of split (in the riding).”

Schreiner said no neighborhood in Guelph would be keen on being removed from the city constituency and encourages any affected community members to speak up in the process.

For Michael Chong, the Conservative MP for Wellington-Halton Hills, he is also in favor of the process.

“Due to changing demographics, Canada has an independent commission – free from partisan interference – that determines new federal electoral district boundaries every decade based on the most recent census data,” he said in a press release sent by e-mail.

“This ensures that each district has approximately the same number of people and that each vote has approximately the same weight, in accordance with the constitutional principle of representation by population. I respect the work of the independent commission and expect looking forward to its final report.”

On the municipal side, Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie didn’t understand at first why they would be toying with what is now standing – the only member for each level of government in the city – but looking at the why, he said that he was getting it from a fair and proportional point of view.

“We are a growing country, not just a country, not just a province, but we are also growing as a city,” he said. “We have already exceeded the normal population figures which would generally be equated with the representation of an MP.

“Looking at the provincially mandated growth targets, where we will be by 2051 per se, over 200,000 people, obviously there has to come a point where the distribution of population in ridings has to be evened out.”

Guthrie said he respects the independence of the mandate, but admits that it would be an adjustment, not only for the relationship between the three levels of government at the local level, but also for the communities of Guelph to be placed in a new constituency, if it matures.

The outgoing south Guelph city councilor, however, is concerned about the displacement of 25,000 people to another larger, mostly rural constituency, where she thinks voices of concern may not be heard.

“The shock was that it was mainly people from Ward 6, it was mainly all the way south of Arkell Road, and that’s a division that’s still very sensitive in this town,” Dominique O’Rourke said.

She said she’s heard it many times, with people referring to that end of town as “not the real Guelph, it’s just commuters anyway, it’s ‘Hamilton North,’ you call him.”

“We’ve just made progress at the city to increase representation from the south end of Guelph, which has been very underrepresented for at least a decade,” O’Rourke said. “We’re just moving forward in orienting the whole south end to the whole city and vice versa to get to a one city approach.

“I think this proposal breaks that.”

That’s not to say she doesn’t believe in rep by population, she says she absolutely believes in it.

But O’Rourke said “community of interest” is also important in all of this.

“Anyone who lives in south Guelph, ask them,” she said. “Do they identify with Wellington County, or do they identify with Guelph and the issues in Guelph. Whether it’s a provincial riding or a federal riding, I think the division where it’s proposed is problematic.

Those who wish to give their opinion can participate in a virtual public hearing on September 28 at 6:30 p.m.

The meeting is one of many taking place across Ontario for various constituencies. The Guelph meeting would also be for residents of Wellington, Halton, Brampton, Caledon, Dufferin and Mississauga.