Published: November 22, 2017
BY JENNIFER PARSONS
Political hacks, such as me, felt the shivers of pre -election posturing this weekend as one party heavy weight declared his return while a second announced retirement.
Over the weekend the Progressive Conservative party in the north unanimously welcomed back former federal cabinet minister Greg Rickford who is looking to enter the provincial realm. A day later NDP incumbent Sarah Campbell announced she would not be seeking re-election to spend more time with her family. Has the NDP been grooming a replacement or will we see another headliner make a return to counteract the Rickford star power.
In the next six months the race to represent the Kenora-Rainy River riding has the potential to heat up and be one to watch. However, here in Red Lake we will be watching from afar.
Because as of Oct. 24 we are no longer part of the Kenora-Rainy River riding. Our riding in the next election is known as “Kiiwetinoong”, the Ojibwe word for the direction “North”. The new ridings population sits around 32,900 people and includes more than 20 First Nations along with Red Lake, Ear Falls, Sioux Lookout and Pickle Lake.
The Far North Electoral Boundaries Commission in their final report noted that dividing the riding would give the representative of the new Kenora-Rainy River riding less landmass to maneuver. Splitting the north, which is majority Indigenous, gives those communities that share common traits like isolation and winter road dependency a representative voice.
The Commission also made a point of noting that residents of Kiiwetinoong had a desire for Sioux Lookout to be included in the riding as it was their “service centre”. An advocate for the communities must also be an advocate for the service centre that supports them. Nowhere in the report is Red Lake referenced. We are admittedly not the service hub that Sioux Lookout is, however, with all the talk of “the road north” we definitely want to be. Meetings and taskforces are being generated in order to figure out how, when the road north is real, to encourage our northern neighbours to stay and continue to do business and receive services in our district.
So who wants to represent us? From the media and social networking I have been scouring I have yet to see a contender come forward with an interest in tackling what is going to be a unique political beast, at least for the first election while we all get used to the redistribution. We need someone who has a in-depth knowledge of the workings and challenges that face northern, isolated communities. We need someone who recognizes the needs and opportunities that service centres can provide for the north but also for their own citizens and we need someone who can artfully articulate all that in Queen’s Park both in front of and behind the cameras. Who do we have out there that can fulfill this mandate? Us political hacks are anxiously waiting as June 7 is not that far away.