OTTAWA -- Former NDP MP Jim Maloway says the Conservatives are trying to change the boundaries of Elmwood-Transcona to make the riding easier for them to win again in the next election.
Maloway represented Elmwood-Transcona from 2008 to 2011. He lost the seat to Conservative Lawrence Toet in 2011 by 300 votes. It was the first time since the riding was created in 1987 it did not elect an NDP MP.
Now Maloway says Toet is working to engineer the riding to make it easier for him to hold on to it in the next election.
"It is kind of shocking," said Maloway, who has since been re-elected as the MLA for Elmwood in Manitoba, a seat he gave up to run federally in 2008. "It's as obvious a gerrymandering operation as you can get."
A riding redistribution commission is examining Manitoba's ridings to determine how boundaries should change to account for population shifts and growth. It's a process that takes place every 10 years.
The three-member independent commission proposed only a minor amendment to Elmwood-Transcona that would see the riding enlarged to encompass the neighbourhood of Harbour View South, south of Grassie Boulevard. However last month Toet, Manitoba cabinet minister Vic Toews and Selkirk-Interlake MP James Bezan wrote a letter to the commission asking it to move the community of Elmwood out of Elmwood-Transcona and into Winnipeg Centre. They want the bedroom communities of Oakbank and Dugald moved to Elmwood-Transcona from their current position in Provencher.
They note residents of Dugald and Oakbank "share the same interests" as residents of Transcona and argue residents of Elmwood are more closely aligned with the interests of residents of Winnipeg Centre.
Toet also presented the plan in person during a public hearing Oct. 9 and in a second letter sent Oct. 12 that includes more details and a map.
Toet and Toews did not respond when asked for a comment about Maloway's accusation of gerrymandering.
But Maloway said it's clear that's what they are doing when you look at where the votes lie. Maloway won all but two of the 14 polls in Elmwood in 2011, and earned more than 50 per cent of the vote in 10 of them. At the same time, Toews won nearly 60 per cent of the vote in Dugald and Oakbank, which are currently in his riding.
Maloway said he does not believe residents of Elmwood would like to be moved into a riding across the river nor does he agree they will have more affinity with Point Douglas than with Transcona.
Manitoba Appeal Court Judge Richard Chartier, the commission chairman, warned on Oct. 9 the commission will not entertain partisan suggestions.
"What we will not welcome and what we will resist are any attempts to gerrymander the ridings," he said.
The commission gets final say in what happens, although the House of Commons will review the proposals first.
Toet was not the only one to ask for changes based on the idea communities have more affinity for one riding over another. Former city councillor Jae Eadie asked that the area of St. James between St. James Street and Ferry Road be switched to Charleswood-St.James-Assiniboia for that reason. Sara Kreindler asked the commission to reconsider the decision to move Linden Woods into Winnipeg South Centre from Winnipeg South, and instead add neighbourhoods in Fort Garry along Pembina Highway toward the University of Manitoba. She said residents there have more in common with Winnipeg South Centre in terms of income and lifestyle than residents of Linden Woods.