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MPP, chief hail riding amendment

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The wheels of change in government rarely turn quickly, so it’s not surprising Nickel Belt at MPP France Gelinas was walking on air Monday night.

The New Democrat was celebrating a vote by members of Ontario’s general government committee to pass an amendment she introduced.

She wanted Bill 45, the Election Statute Law Amendment Act, changed to include members of Wahnapitae First Nation in her riding. She took the opportunity to have it included in the bill when it was being discussed at committee.

Gelinas had introduced at least two private member’s bills seeking the addition of the First Nation to her riding, the most recent Nov. 23.

“This is fabulous news for the members of Wahnapitae First Nation,” said Gelinas. “I am thrilled the committee agreed with my amendment to make this important change happen.”

A similar attempt by Gelinas was voted down by the Liberal government last year, she said. In fact, Gelinas and members of the First Nation “have been waiting 10 years for the proivincial government to correct a past mistake in riding boundaries,” she said in a telephone interview from Toronto on Monday night.

Gelinas said she “did the rounds” at Queen’s Park, canvassing the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives to support the amendment because it could only be passed with unanimous consent of all parties.

“And it passed, yeah,” said a jubilant Gelinas.

Wahnapitae First Nation Chief Ted Roque said he was very happy the committee passed Gelinas’ amendment.

He commended Gelinas for the work she has done to bring his community into her riding.

Roque and Gelinas held a news conference at Queen’s Park last month to pressure the Liberal government of Premier Kathleen Wynne to “do the right thing” and include the first nation in Nickel Belt riding.

Under the current riding boundaries, members of Wahnapitae First Nation, about 50 kilometres north of Sudbury, have to travel three hours to see Timiskaming-Cochrane NDP MPP John Vanthof for help with provincial issues.

Like any Ontarian, First Nations members often seek the assistance of their MPP to get a birth certificate, obtain information about the electricity rebate and for help with education and health care matters.

The provision to include Wahnapitae First Nation in the riding of Nickel Belt will go into effect for the 2018 provincial election.