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NEWS: New riding boundaries cause tensions within Conservative party

In December 2011, the House of Commons passed a bill that will expand the chamber by 30 seats. The bill means there will be 338 ridings in play in the next federal election, scheduled for October 2015. The 30 seats will be distributed as follows – 15 to Ontario, 6 each to Alberta and British Columbia, and 3 to Quebec. The Conservatives used their majority to pass the legislation, which was opposed by all of the opposition parties. But now, as riding boundaries are being redrawn by independent electoral commissions, there are emerging tensions within the party.

The Globe and Mail reports:

“Alberta’s commission wrapped up its work last month… (As a result), two incumbents, LaVar Payne and Jim Hillyer, have publicly pledged to square off in one of the new ridings. In Edmonton, MPs James Rajotte, Blaine Calkins and Mike Lake all saw part of their ridings lumped into a single new one, Edmonton-Wetaskiwin. …Another long-time MP, Leon Benoit, has essentially seen his riding swallowed up, leaving him little option but to run elsewhere, challenge a fellow MP or retire.”

“Battles are (also) already brewing, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area, a growing region that is essential to Conservative fortunes. Mississauga MP Eve Adams plans to move to a new riding, Oakville North-Burlington, and run there rather than the redrawn Mississauga riding, which no longer includes her home.”

“The rural bases of MPs in three such ridings near Saskatoon – Kelly Block, Maurice Vellacott and Brad Trost – were essentially rolled into one. The Conservatives opposed the change, commissioning telephone polls that eventually led to a fine.”

There are already media reports that Conservative backbenchers aren’t happy with the control Harper exerts over the caucus. The Canadian Press reported in April, “The prime minister is already facing a rebellion by backbenchers fed up with their inability to speak their minds during the daily 15 minutes allotted for members’ statements.” It will be interesting to see the degree to which the redrawing of the electoral map might exacerbate those tensions. And with the recent Senate scandals (and the resulting loss of two popular fundraisers for the party on an issue that offends core Conservative values), National Post columnist John Ivison has commented, “The Conservatives are suddenly very jittery.” More to come.

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