Mixed reviews for potential expansion of west Winnipeg federal riding
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This article was published 18/07/2022 (257 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — A federal panel’s proposal to widen Winnipeg’s western riding into more rural areas is sparking push-back from locals, with tweaks to other city districts getting far less notice.
“The difficulty here is the need to maintain a population that is roughly equivalent in every riding of the country,” said Conservative MP Marty Morantz, who represents the riding of Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley.
Last month, the non-partisan federal electoral boundaries commission released its first attempt at carving out Manitoba’s 14 ridings. Every province has an independent redistricting commission of mostly judges and political scientists, who try once a decade to give each riding roughly the same population based on census data, without splitting communities that have close ties.
According to last year’s census, the Winnipeg South riding has one-third more residents than Morantz’s western district.
To try balancing that out, the commission has proposed to significantly expand its boundaries, lumping in the city’s Tuxedo neighbourhood and a large rural flank.
From Headingley, the riding would span further west to include St. François Xavier and Cartier, and the eastern part of the Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie, which would be split with its existing Portage—Lisgar riding.
The riding’s current boundaries have produced tight races in recent campaigns. The proposed expansion would bring in areas whose polling stations generally voted Conservative in last fall’s election.
Yet, Morantz said he wouldn’t take any area for granted. “It’s pretty exciting for me to be able to meet more people and be able to learn more about these communities,” he said.
Some locals are less enthused.
“Rural and urban communities have different priorities, and attempting to group them together leaves both groups unsatisfied with their parliamentarian representatives,” wrote J. Donnelly, who was among seven Manitobans who made submissions after the commission published its proposal.
Andrew Sinclair argued expanding the riding into its rural west “would further diminish the influence of its urban voters,” and said the commission should instead expand it eastward into the city.
Philip Charbonneau had a similar concern: “It’s a bit of a disservice to the rural communities to be lumped in with just an overwhelmingly urban riding.”
Charbonneau also asked the commission to reconsider its plans south of the capital city. The commission has proposed moving the francophone communities of St. Malo, St. Pierre-Jolys, St. Elizabeth and Letellier out of the Provencher riding and into Portage—Lisgar, raising concerns it would lessen the electoral clout of rural Franco-Manitobans.
Meanwhile, the proposed map would have the Tuxedo neighbourhood moved into Morantz’s riding, from the current Winnipeg South Centre, which is represented by Liberal MP Jim Carr.
Morantz supported that move. “Communities that are essentially west of Route 90 in Winnipeg are very much connected,” he argued, noting sports teams in Tuxedo, St. James and Headingley compete with each other.
The commission has also suggested renaming the riding “Winnipeg West,” noting it would be difficult to fold in more areas into the existing name of Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley.
In the House of Commons, MPs are addressed by their riding name, and Morantz’s district is a mouthful. The House Speaker and his clerks often botch the riding name, by leaving out one of the four areas or listing them in the wrong order.
Other shifts in the city would include having the Whyte Ridge neighbourhood moved from Liberal MP Terry Duguid’s Winnipeg South riding into Carr’s district.
Part of the North End, northeast of the Arlington Street bridge up to Burrows Avenue, would shift from the Winnipeg North riding held by Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux into the Winnipeg Centre riding, which NDP MP Leah Gazan represents.
NDP MP Daniel Blaikie’s Elmwood—Transcona riding would absorb some sparsely populated areas west of Lagimodiere Boulevard, but lose the Grassie neighbourhood to Kildonan—St. Paul, held by Conservative MP Raquel Dancho.
The commission is still accepting written submissions from the public, and kicks off public hearings Sept. 7.
The chairs will then send a report will to MPs for review by the end of the year, which they should finalize by September 2023. But the new ridings would not actually take effect until the election that follows April 2024, to allow officials and parties time to adapt.
In earlier feedback, 12 of Manitoba’s political players debated whether to lump Winnipeg’s lower-income neighbourhoods together, and which rural zones should be part of city ridings.