Federal electoral districts redistribution 2022

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Megan Pickersgill

As a native resident to Elgin County and St. Thomas I not only grew up in this region, but have made the decision after living abroad for 10 years to permanently settle down in this beautiful slice of Ontario. I am putting down roots and raising a family. I now work in the field of economic development, which subsequently works with various partners throughout St. Thomas and Elgin.

London may be a community nearby but we rarely work with them. We are NOT a bedroom community to London, but rather, I'd argue we are the main urban centre for the East and West wings of Elgin County. In St. Thomas, not only do we understand the needs of the surrounding county, but we have worked alongside the County for over a century. The farms of Elgin feed us, and Elgin residents use our services. We accommodate the Low-German population of Aylmer for example, and have structures in place for this.

If you look close enough, nearly every service is St. Thomas-Elgin or Elgin-St. Thomas. Even the St. Thomas General Hospital acknowledges this symbolically with barn quilt patterns along its exterior walls tying us to the county at large. We are one and the same.

I grew up in Sparta. Everything I did was in St. Thomas, including High School. We played sports in Port Stanley and St. Thomas. Even today, my parents live in Port Stanley and we in St. Thomas. These 2 communities are forever intertwined with families living between both places, living, working, going to doctor appointments, having children in school, etc.

In the adjustment we'd be divorced from this.

Setting boundaries and looking at a map one could assume we are a bedroom community to London. However, that assumption would be incredibly incorrect. We are more tied to West Elgin and they to us than we are to London. This includes the economy and social lives of residents throughout the County. Our St. Thomas Military Museum works in Port Burwell at an off-shoot site. Both these locations are "farther away" than London, yet culturally we are more tied together. We understand the intricacies of farm life much better than the urban life of London.

I could truly go on and on about how ALL our services are St. Thomas/Elgin, not St. Thomas/London. I could go on more about the cultural, social, and familial ties between the two. I could go on about the economic impact and how our economic development occurs and takes in St. Thomas/Elgin. I could go on, but I don't have time to write a novel, so perhaps check out our local libraries that host a wide variety of historical works espousing the intricate history of connection between St. Thomas/Elgin.

Now, I'm going to switch gears into how identity can be destroyed. How our voice as the largest city in Elgin county would be lost to South London. South London outnumbers St. Thomas' population, and by quite a bit. So not only would our unique rural voice be lost but our collective voice that is St. Thomas-Elgin would be lost. We would be cut off from the East and the West as they are both separated out. The services that we have spent over a century building up would wither. Perhaps in urban centres such as the GTA where we see the loss of municipal voices as they get swamped by the sprawl of the big city this is normal and acceptable, perhaps not. I wouldn't want to assume I know better...

And that is how this boundary adjustment feels, like someone assumes that they know better, or simply did not do their research, and is making decisions from far away and removing the historical, social, and economic context.

On a daily basis I am working with my counterparts in the county, and vice versa. Our office alone has a small business officer stationed in West Elgin. We're servicing the county, as we have done for over 100 years. We have never serviced London and they have never serviced us. Nothing ties us to London the way we are tied to the County.

Having over a century of setting up these services to cater to the St. Thomas and Elgin county residents, I would be concerned if services were to then relocate to South London, where the population in the new proposed boundary is larger. Currently there is no transportation between St. Thomas, Elgin county and London.

Mainly, my concern is the dissolution of our voice. We would cease to exist as a rural City, and thus the work we do with the county would whither. St. Thomas and Elgin belong together, for the reasons mentioned above, and a host of additional reasons I have not covered here, but I'm sure our current MP is working diligently to bring to light.

In closing, I propose either keeping the boundaries the same, or even better, create a St. Thomas/Elgin boundary and remove the little bit of Middlesex county that is strangely included currently. The population would fit the targets this exercise is intended for, and we'd retain our historic, economic, social and cultural ties and work together to ensure that rural voices are not lost.

Thank you for considering my letter.

Megan Pickersgill

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