New federal riding redistribution plan restores 6th Scarborough riding after complaints

The federal commission tasked with redrawing Ontario's ridings has come out with a revised plan after residents in Scarborough slammed the initial proposal that would have dropped a riding. As Nick Westoll reports, the new plan is being welcomed.

Nearly four months after an outcry over a proposal to reduce the number of federal ridings based in Scarborough, the federal commission charged with redrawing the boundaries has reversed course.

In a new plan released Friday afternoon, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario published a revised report that shows six ridings in Scarborough. Currently, there are six ridings and the first draft plan would have taken that figure down to five.

“The Commission was tasked with proposing new boundaries that, as best as possible, maintain population equality while taking into consideration social and geographic factors, including respect for communities of interest or identity and historical patterns of previous boundaries,” a brief statement said.

“These criteria, along with the submissions and the public feedback gathered at public hearings held between Sept. 26 and Nov. 8, all factored into the report tabled in the House (of Commons) today.”

The proposed changes are part of a 10-year review of all federal electoral boundaries in Canada based on 2021 Census data. The most controversial part of that first draft plan would see northwestern Scarborough broken up, extending the North York ridings of Don Valley North and Don Valley East past the municipal Scarborough boundary of Victoria Park Avenue and mostly east to Warden Avenue.

After the initial proposed changes were released, it sparked an outcry among Scarborough residents who said it didn’t respect the history of Scarborough and the former town boundary on Victoria Park Avenue. The Commission held two virtual hearings in October that saw an outpouring of complaints.

Under the newly tabled boundaries, the eastern parts of Don Valley North (east of Highway 404) and Don Valley East (east of the Don River) will be incorporated into the riding of Scarborough–Agincourt and a new riding of Scarborough Centre–Don Valley East.

RELATED: Scarborough residents say proposed federal riding boundary changes reduces representation

Across Toronto, the overall number of members of parliament still remains at 24 — down from the current 25. An early review of the data appeared to show the loss of a riding in the eastern part of North York.

Leighanne Woodstock, the owner and operator of Scarborough Tees — a clothing apparel business dedicated to promoting the east end, was among the vocal opponents of the initial draft plan. When CityNews spoke with her again on Friday, she said she welcomed the changes.

“Actually, I’m surprised that they did listen. I mean I’m happy that the community came together as a collective to speak out against it, but I’m a little bit jaded,” she said.

“In previous matters, you always feel like Scarborough wasn’t heard. So this time around they’re actually listening.”

Jean Yip, the Liberal M.P. for Scarborough–Agincourt, helped organize residents to make submissions to the federal commission. While she said it’s good news there are six Scarborough ridings once again, she’s concerned about the loss of a M.P. in a city that’s still growing.

“We want to keep all our ridings, our communities, our representation in Ottawa effective and by losing one riding, you also lose that opportunity, not just as I mentioned for diverse representation, but also for funding opportunities,” Yip told CityNews in an interview Friday afternoon.

As for what comes next, Ontario MPs have until May to file objections over the latest draft riding plan. The Commission will table its final riding boundaries in September. The new ridings could be in place as early as April 2024 and would be used in the first general election to come after parliamentary approval.

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