Friday, January 16, 2015

New ridings offer new challenges for Green Party

2015 brings big changes on the local political front. With 30 new electoral districts (ridings) being added across the country to elect 30 more Members of Parliament, 15 of them in Ontario, boundaries which have not changed for over a decade will be moving.
This is your first chance in 2015 to Vote for a Green
In our area, the changes are significant. The Barrie riding, whose borders were drawn to match those of the City of Barrie, is being split across the middle (Tiffin St and Kempenfelt Bay) with each half being augmented with rural areas from the surrounding ridings. As a result, Springwater Township is being moved from the Simcoe—Grey district, and Oro-Medonte from Simcoe North, to create the new Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte (BSOM) electoral district, which has no incumbent MP. The south half of Barrie is joining with the Town of Innisfil, which has been moved out of the York—Simcoe district, to become Barrie—Innisfil (BI). Conservative MP Patrick Brown is the de facto incumbent for BI, although if he wins the provincial PC leadership race, he’ll have to step down federally, leaving that seat also open. Two open ridings in what has been a swing-riding area would draw much national media attention and will certainly make for some exciting, hard-fought races.
You will have already seen some reportage about nomination contests in the new ridings, although the Green Party was usually omitted from the coverage of which parties have or have not had nominations or formed new riding organizations. Luckily, I can correct that oversight!
For Greens, this boundary change is somewhat traumatic for both the Barrie and Simcoe North riding organizations. The Barrie Greens I helped build over the past 10 years have basically been cleaved in half, and what was an entirely urban riding will now be two ridings, each combining urban and rural communities, with divergent needs and feelings. This means adapting to varying campaign styles and even unmatched sign by-laws, which are quite different between Barrie and Simcoe County.
Rainbows, wind turbines, clear cuts to block -
what's not to like about Miss Green?
But this is also potentially traumatic for Greens in Simcoe North. Although Oro-Medonte represents only about 10% of the area and population of the (former) Simcoe North riding, many of the current or former Green Party riding executives and active volunteers happen to live there. In effect, much of the Simcoe North Green Party organization is finding themselves uprooted and dropped into a new riding, even though their address hasn’t changed. Luckily, we are pulling together to address this challenge and together form an even stronger Green presence in the region’s 5 ridings.
As part of this, Green Party members from across the region are meeting on Sunday, February 8, to nominate candidates for BSOM and BI and new riding executives to support the campaign. Starting at 2 pm at O’Hara’s Public House at 420 Leacock Drive in Barrie, the event is open to members of the public, but voting will be limited to party members who live within the new BSOM or BI boundaries and have enrolled by January 25th. Several individuals have already stepped up to be serve as candidate or on the executive, but the party is always open to new applicants, who should contact or call 705-730-7591 to indicate their interest and get more information.

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

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