Clarington, Ward 4 and Federal Boundary Changes
A few weeks ago, The Orono Times published an article regarding the new federal electoral ridings and the name of the riding Northumberland-Peterborough South. Clarington residents from Ward 4 were understandably upset to learn that the locally familiar ‘Pine Ridge’ was taken out of the new riding name and replaced with Peterborough South. The article has generated a number of questions from residents of Orono, Newcastle & Newtonvillle over the last few weeks, so I thought this blog could provide a little more clarity and some important context that should be considered.
I want residents to understand that I remain the Member of Parliament for all of Clarington until the election of 2015. Most importantly, I want everyone to know that I will remain a champion for all of Clarington – including all of Ward 4 for the remainder of my time in politics, which I hope is long beyond 2015. Changes to lines on a map will not erase the personal and historical connections that I have with the area and certainly my family has with the people and villages in Ward 4. In fact, nothing underscores this history better than the fact that a few weeks before the recent article in the Orono Weekly Times I appeared in the Looking Back segment. This featured a 25 year old photo of me, my friend Tracey and some children from the YWCA Day Camp I used to run in the Orono Park for several summers during high school. I have loved the area since my childhood and have deep friendships with many people throughout Ward 4. This will never change.
The same sentiment holds true for Uxbridge, which I will also be losing after the 2015 election. While I don’t have decades long history with that wonderful area, the people, places and causes I have come to know in the last two years will remain very important to me. I pledge to work closely with both new MPs in these areas to ensure people and issues are well represented.
Since there have been many questions on the history of the riding changes, I would like to raise a few additional points that I think need to be considered in a serious discussion of the riding changes. I also want to provide important context that the Times article did not reference. In fairness, they could not possibly have known the full extent of my efforts to keep the riding together, nor the tremendous respect that Rick Norlock, the Northumberland MP, has for the area and concerns related to riding changes.
First, it is important to note that Prime Minister Harper and our government did not change the boundaries of the riding. Changes were made by an arm’s length Electoral Boundaries Commission that is mandated to examine ridings following a census to reflect population growth. You only need to look at Newcastle to see how much population growth there has been in the area. This Commission was headed by a retired judge and consulted with thousands of people across Ontario, including dozens in our area.
Second, the proposal I made to keep Clarington whole within the riding of Durham from 2015 forward was supported by four neighbouring MPs (including Rick Norlock) and was eventually supported by an all-party Standing Committee of the House of Commons. Sadly, while I was able to convince all political parties and MPs in Ottawa that my proposal was the right way to go, the Boundary Commission did not accept my plan. I remain profoundly disappointed by this.
Third, my colleague and friend Rick Norlock should be commended for his approach to our area. He is an excellent representative for the wider area and has already helped Clarington through his tireless efforts to have the Port Granby clean-up done properly. I joined him in this effort, but Rick was largely responsible for our government’s $1.28 Billion dollar investment in cleaning up the area after half a century of neglect. Rick and I have met with Port Granby residents and municipal leaders in Clarington on the clean-up and long term legacy these lands could bring.
Fourth, people should also know that Rick Norlock put the interests of Clarington ahead of his own as a politician. This is an important fact that only a few people might recognize, but by supporting my proposal last year, the Northumberland riding would have dropped below 100,000 voters and would have had a substantially lower budget as a result of a below average number of constituents. Office budgets are calculated by population and geographic size and he was agreeing to reductions in both for Northumberland because he understood the importance of keeping Clarington whole.
Finally, the riding name only became an issue because the Commission rejected my proposal. All MPs hoped that Clarington would remain in Durham. They also agreed that southern parts of Peterborough county would move into Northumberland, so the appropriate name for that riding would have been Northumberland-Peterborough South. It was only months later, after my proposal was rejected that the better name (Northumberland-Pine Ridge) would have been more appropriate. Rick admitted that months later he should have tried to change this back. He took responsibility for this, but I think it is easy to understand how this was missed and I hope the context shows he put the interests of Clarington first throughout the entire process.
I have a lot of respect for people that run for public office. What makes a politician exceptional in my books is when they will admit fault and demonstrate a willingness to put the public good ahead of all other considerations. Rick Norlock has done both and I am very proud to call him a friend.
For fun, I have attached a copy of the Looking Back from the July 9th edition of the Orono Weekly Times. The photo is a little grainy, but it was taken in Orono. I only wish I had all the hair I had 25 years ago :).