Greater Madawaska may not be part of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke electoral riding

By Bruce McIntyre

Many of the residents and elected officials who represent the Greater Madawaska Township are concerned a new proposal to change the boundaries of the federal electoral riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke could result in eligible voters casting a ballot for a candidate from the Lanark area.

The recommendation stems from Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario, one of several recommendations made by this committee. If the recommendation is accepted, the riding will be known as the riding of Algonquin-Renfrew-Pembroke with the lone exception of Greater Madawaska, which would instead be part of the new Lanark-Frontenac.

Greater Madawaska Mayor Brian Hunt does not want to have his vote changed to the next riding over, and he speaks for many residents in this rural municipality with about 1,000 square miles is very rural and sparsely populated. With a population of about 2,500 permanent residents, it doubles in size during the summer with cottagers.

He had a county wide audience last week when he had the opportunity to address his fellow 16 heads of council who make up Renfrew County council at last week’s monthly meeting.

“When this new motion came forward, Greater Madawaska was very unhappy with it,” he told Renfrew County council last Wednesday. Aug. 31. “The people of Greater Madawaska, and it is a very rural township, we conduct our business, social circles, family gathering, our doctoring, all within Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.”

He introduced a resolution before council that opposes the new boundaries which would leave Greater Madawaska on the outside looking in terms of electoral boundaries. He had a very sympathetic audience as his resolution passed with unanimous consent in a recorded vote.

Mayor Hunt asked for the support and said removing Greater Madawaska from the riding makes no sense.

“We have spent years making inroads with the member of parliament (MP) and member of provincial parliament (MPP) and they know all the challenges of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke and to move us out to Lanark-Frontenac is like starting all over,” he said. “We see it as very challenging for our ratepayers.”

It would be very difficult to drive to visit the MP or MPP of the Lanark riding for residents of his municipality, he stressed.

“If you are travelling from Griffith/Matawatchan, it would probably be two to two and a half hours to visit a constituency office,” he said.

It would also necessitate building new relationships with a new MP and potentially MPP.

“We have to build that relationship and get them to know the challenges we as a township in Renfrew County face.

He pointed out the redrawing, which included taking the boundary of Carleton Place outside Arnprior and a piece of Ottawa they are adding to Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke. 

“We feel they could have drawn the lines to leave more in Ottawa,” he added.

Leaving Greater Madawaska in Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke makes the most sense,” he stressed.

He said he was also afraid down the years it could change the county boundaries as well. He said if the township is voting with Lanark, perhaps there would be a push to move the township to Lanark County as well. He said this would have a very negative impact on Renfrew County.

“Greater Madawaska has a small population, but we are a net contributor to Renfrew County because of our assessment. We have a pretty large assessment base.”

MP Cheryl Gallant weighs in

Long-serving MP Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke), who has served since 2000 as a member of the former Canadian Alliance and has won every election since then, makes her 22 years of uninterrupted service a rarity in modern parliamentary history.

But it also provides a strong ally for Greater Madawaska residents opposed to the new boundaries.

She is urging everyone in the riding, especially those in Greater Madawaska Township, to make their opinions heard to the commission as quickly as possible.

“My position is it should be up to the people who live there,” she said. “I would advise them to comment. There is also the opportunity to present in person.”

The commission’s goal was to make the ridings more even in size, as well as add a new riding to Ontario. Ridings should have no more than 145,747 and no less than 87,443, she noted. However, the existing riding which encompasses the city of Pembroke, County of Renfrew, along with part of the territorial district of Nipissing, has a population of 107,420, which is well within the parameters.

The redistribution would see the new riding have a population of 116,900 and encompass not only the city of Pembroke and all of the County of Renfrew, except Greater Madawaska, but also part of the territorial district of Nipissing, including South Algonquin.

As well, there would be the new addition of part of the city of Ottawa which is basically the area towards Carp from Arnprior.

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