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Potential 'Penetanguishene-Couchiching' riding in the offing?

'Is John Graves Simcoe a person we’re no longer honouring?' Simcoe North MP asks, noting now's the time to speak up about the long-time federal riding's proposed name, boundary changes

Whether a federal commission is a fan of really long riding names or just likes challenging poor spellers, it’s championing a proposal to change the name of Simcoe North to Penetanguishene-Couchiching.

But the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission’s proposed riding changes don’t end there.

Existing electoral boundaries would also shift all parts of Oro-Medonte currently in Simcoe North to the riding of Barrie Springwater Oro-Medonte. That would affect areas such as Warminster, Hawkestone and Bass Lake.

And for anyone who’s not enthused about these possible changes, now is the time to speak up, according to Simcoe North MP Adam Chambers.

“If you live in Penetanguishene, you might be quite happy with it,” he says. “I’m still trying to figure out if they’ve spoken to anyone locally.”

But Chambers says it’s odd that the commission’s considering the name change given Simcoe North’s status as one of the few ridings existing today that was created as part of 1867's British North America Act.

“It’s unclear if the (Simcoe North) name will stick,” Chambers says. “I was obviously surprised to see that (name change). I was also curious if the commission had spoken to any of the affected communities.

“What’s the purpose of the name change? Is John Graves Simcoe a person we’re no longer honouring?”

Of course, Chambers notes that at the time the riding looked much different than it does nowadays.

Upon its creation in 1867, the riding included the townships of Nottawasaga, Sunnidale, Vespra, Flos, Oro, Medonte, Orillia and Matchedash, Tiny and Tay, Balaklava and Robinson, and the Towns of Barrie and Collingwood.

And if the name change is going to occur, Chambers says it’s wrong not to first consult residents about it, including both Beausoleil and Chippewas of Rama First Nations and the riding’s growing Métis population.

“I’d love to see a continued reference to Simcoe North if the name changes,” says Chambers, pointing out his preference is to keep some vestige of Simcoe North going forward.

“I’m really open to hearing the community’s feedback on the name. Everyone has the opportunity to comment on the boundary changes and the name. I would love to have a broader consultation.”

The commission comes together every 10 years to take a closer look at the country’s ridings to ensure numbers of residents are more or less equal across each province.

“Whenever there’s a census, the electoral commission sets up and what they’re trying to do is balance out the ridings across the province,” Chambers explains.

But that doesn’t mean each riding across the country will have the same number of residents.

As an example, Prince Edward Island has an overall population of about 157,000, yet features four federal ridings compared to Ontario where, Chambers points out, the commission has set a population goal of 116,000 residents per riding. (Simcoe North’s population is currently in the 111,000-resident zone.)

“The net effect is they’re adding one seat (riding) in Ontario, four in Alberta and a couple in B.C.,” Chambers says.

Chambers encourages residents with comments or concerns to write to the commission, which is holding public meetings and accepting submissions on the proposed changes until September 25.

Comments can be emailed to [email protected] or sent by regular mail to the attention of Ms. Paula Puddy, Commission Secretary Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario, P.O. Box 37018 Southdale, London, Ontario N6E 3T3.

Residents can also make a verbal representation to the commission, but must register by September 25 with the meeting taking place virtually the following day.

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Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country’s most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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