11/21/2012 07:53 EST | Updated 01/21/2013 05:12 EST

Hamilton MP condemns proposed federal riding changes

Hamilton Centre MP David Christopherson spoke out against proposed changes to the city's federal electoral boundaries at a public hearing on Tuesday.

He told members of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission that the body's current proposal — one that would create a riding that would span from downtown Hamilton to Dundas — would be harmful to residents of both communities.

“The downtown of Dundas is completely different from the downtown of Hamilton.”

“Given the challenges that exist in the downtown of Hamilton, someone gets the short end of the stick,” Christopherson said, citing high levels of poverty in Hamilton's north end.

He also said the federal and provincial ridings that encompass downtown Hamilton should resemble each other as much as possible.

An earlier draft of changes to the electoral boundaries boasted a Hamilton Centre riding, representing an area bounded by the Hamilton mountain in the south, Kenilworth Avenue in the east, the waterfront in the north and the 403 in the west.

Christopherson described this formulation as “ideal,” but said he would to be happy to continue representing parts of the west mountain that currently belong to his riding.

The New Democratic MP was one of about 20 people who spoke at the meeting, which was held at a hotel on Upper James Street near the Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway.

All speakers were critical of the most recent proposals, but not necessarily for the same reasons.

Others, including Patricia Strung, said they oppose grouping Ancaster with rural communities in Flamborough and Glanbrook, as the current draft recommends.

Currently, Ancaster belongs to an electoral riding that includes Flamborough, Dundas and parts of west Hamilton, which is represented by Conservative MP David Sweet.

“I strongly believe that a riding which straddles an urban-rural divide is one in which the citizens will not served well by its members of parliament,” Strung said.

“Ancaster is no longer a rural community,” noted the resident of Ancaster, which has been part of the City of Hamilton since 2001.

“The orientation of people in Ancaster is to Hamilton, not to the rural areas with which Ancaster has been grouped.”

Justice George Valin, who chaired the meeting, said his group will take the speakers' opinions into consideration as it prepares a report for submission to the federal government, due on Dec. 21.

Valin said his group is seeking a 60-day extension, which he expects will be granted.