The Federal Electoral Boundary Commission is proposing major changes to the electoral map and citizens and community groups have only a few more weeks to register to comment.
The Commission is mandated by law to review the electoral map on a periodic basis taking into account population shifts. This time the task is complicated by the decision of Parliament to increase the number of seats nationally from 305 to 338. Quebec's representation goes from 75 to 78 which has provoked major changes in boundaries many of which will give citizens pause as it often appears that the principles of physical integrity of neighbourhoods and community identity have not been respected.
There will be a public hearing in Montreal. Information on the proposals and the process can be found at http://www.redecoupage-federal-redistribution.ca/content.asp?section=qc&dir=now/hearings&document=index&lang=e
The recommendations for Montreal ridings are major. For example, St. Laurent riding disappears and this cohesive community is cut in three into the new ridings of George Etienne Cartier (mostly comprised of Ahuntsic), Macdonald-Langstaff (largely Cartierville and Pierrefonds) and the bizarrely shaped John Peters Humphrey riding (marrying Dorval, Cote St. Luc, parts of Snowdon, a chunk of St. Laurent, Town of Mount Royal and part of the Borough of Villeray-St. Michel-Parc Extension (!)).
Indeed, the new John Peters Humphrey riding is already under fire as the proposal excises a large part of Snowdon traditionally part of Mount Royal riding to transfer those voters to Outremont while adding new voters from Dorval and Parc Extension. It seems that for this riding the principle of joining neighbourhoods that have at least some affinity with each other has not been respected.
Some of the Commission's proposals however do respond to criticism leveled during the last revision. The Commission now recommends reuniting the entire Notre Dame de Grace neighbourhood as part of the the new riding of Wilder Penfield, is an idea I support.
The division of Notre Dame de Grace along Hingston Avenue into the ridings of Notre Dame de Grace - Lachine and Westmount-Ville Marie in the previous electoral map was one that caused a great deal of discontent in the community given Notre Dame de Grace's strong sense of being a unified neighbourhood.
The new riding which would join Notre Dame de Grace and the City of Westmount with the Town of Montreal West would appear to be far more natural than the previous Notre Dame de Grace - Lachine riding that also included the City of Dorval. I will be supporting this recommendation.
The Commission has changed many riding names to replace them with names of individuals. Lachine, separated from Notre Dame de Grace, will be part of the new Lachine-Lasalle riding but Notre Dame de Grace and Westmount will henceforth be called Wilder Penfield riding. There is no apparent reason why some ridings retain geographic names and others have their identifying neighbourhood names suppressed.
I recognize the inestimable contributions of Dr. Wilder Penfield to the field of medicine and understanding the desire of the Commission to name ridings for those who have made important contributions to Canadian society but feel nonetheless that the name of Notre Dame de Grace - Westmount should be given to this riding. I think to facilitate public comprehension and foster a sense of community that it is better to attribute geographic place names to Federal ridings.
In many cases the proposed boundaries cut communities in half and dilute their voting strength. I believe the Commission will be surprised by the push back it will receive but I urge citizens to make up their own minds and to provide the Commission with their thoughts.
Marvin Rortrand is a city councillor for Snowdon