Commission studying BC electoral boundaries

People seem happy with the status quo when it comes to the Kootenay East riding boundary.

Commissioners Keith Archer

Commissioners Keith Archer

People seem happy with the status quo when it comes to the Kootenay East riding boundary.

The B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission heard only a couple presentations on Tuesday night at St. Eugene, with residents seemingly content with the current size and scope of the riding.

The commission, chaired by Justice Tom Melnick, is currently touring through the province to meet with British Columbians and assess any concerns with riding boundaries.

Once the commission finishes touring 29 communities in B.C., it will submit a preliminary report to the legislature in May.

“So what we’ve heard a number of people say is they’re pleased that the legislation has created protected areas,” said Keith Archer, one of the commissioners. “Some have come and said to us that ‘We don’t want you to reduce the number of electoral districts in this area.’

“So part of the process is to make sure they understand the terms of reference of our group and the fact that the government has already passed legislation ensuring there are going to be four electoral districts in this region.”

Having started in the northern part of the province, the commission has heard feedback regarding challenges of effective representation in large geographic ridings.

“We hear from a lot of people, they sense the huge geography of this province and how difficult it is for MLAs, but on the other side of the coin, people who want to access their MLAs, to get together and discuss concerns,” said Beverley Busson, another commissioner. “We’re alive to that issue as well.”

The Columbia-Kootenay region is mandated to have four electoral areas, which consist of the Kootenay East and West ridings, Columbia River-Revelstoke and Nelson-Creston.

There were four presenters to the commission, each voicing concerns mainly in support of the status quo. Doug Clovechok spoke regarding the Columbia River-Revelstoke boundary, while Sharon Cross, Gary Werk and Jenny Byford added their thoughts to the Kootenay East boundary.

“I would say if there’s one comment that has been the prevalent comment throughout the areas that we’ve visited is that people are pretty satisfied with the configuration of their electoral districts as they exist at the moment,” said Archer. “A lot of our conversations have been tweaking areas rather than wholesale change.”

An example would be Byford’s concern that residents in Bull River are sending kids to school in Cranbrook—under the jurisdiction of Kootenay East—while residents are voting for provincial representation in the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding.

Others, such as Werk, advocated keeping the status quo, while Cross voiced her concerns against any amendments that would take away local rural representation in Victoria.

“The other interesting thing that we’ve heard a number of people say is we understand the boundaries commission can recommend two additional electoral districts,” said Archer. “Many people seem to support that idea and they also support the idea of those electoral districts being in the areas of greatest population growth.”

Kootenay East has grown 2,134 to a population of 39,852 since the last redistricting in 2008. In what shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, most of the provincial growth has occurred in the Lower Mainland, in ridings such as Surrey-Cloverdale with a net increase of 28,487, Surrey-Panorama with 23,402 and Vancouver-False Creek, which grew 17,308.

When designing boundaries, from a population standpoint, the electoral quotient is 54,369. However, geography and travel times factor into the limits of the riding boundaries as well.