Cranbrook judge appointed to electoral boundary review

British Columbia constituency review to take 18 months

Cranbrook’s Supreme Court judge has been named the chair of an important B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission panel.

Justice Thomas Melnick, who has been a Supreme Court justice in Cranbrook since 1990, will lead a committee that will recommend electoral boundaries in B.C. ahead of the 2017 provincial election.

After earning his bachelor of laws in Ontario in 1967 and being called to the bar in B.C. in 1968, Melnick began his legal career in Cranbrook the same year. First working for the firm of Graham and Company, he became a partner of Melnick, Carlgren, Erickson in 1970 and worked there until 1980, when he joined Steidl, Kambeitz, Melnick and Donald as a partner.

In 1985, he briefly moved to Vancouver and joined the firm Shrum, Liddle and Hebenton, and was appointed Queen’s Counsel the same year.

Two years later, he returned to the Kootenays as a county court judge, before he was appointed a Supreme Court justice in 1990.

Melnick has also held various leadership roles in legal organizations, including a role as president of the Kootenay Bar Association, chair of the Professional Standards Committee for the Law Society of B.C., a member of the National Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee, and a guest lecturer for the University of British Columbia law school.

Melnick will be joined on the Electoral Boundaries Commission panel by Beverley Busson, former commissioner of the RCMP, and Dr. Keith Archer, B.C.’s chief electoral officer.

The panel will review amendments to the electoral boundaries commission act that were passed in the legislature. The changes require the commission to keep the same number of electoral districts in three northern and rural regions of B.C., but the panel can recommend the creation of up to 87 electoral districts in the province. There are currently 85 electoral districts.

Cranbrook lies in the Kootenay East riding, represented by B.C. Liberals MLA Bill Bennett. The riding covers Cranbrook, Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford.

Kimberley is in the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding, represented by NDP MLA Norm Macdonald. Invermere, Golden and Revelstoke are also in that riding.

Within the next 12 months, the panel will seek community input on its recommendations, before submitting a report to the Speaker of the House. A final report must be submitted within 18 months.

Members of the Electoral Boundaries Commission must include a judge or retired judge of the B.C. Supreme Court or Court of Appeal, alongside the chief electoral officer, and one other person recommended by the Speaker of the House in consultation with the Premier and the Leader of the Official Opposition.

This review of B.C.’s electoral boundaries comes less than a year after the review of the federal electoral boundaries was completed.

In August 2013, the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission released a report that moved the borders of the Kootenay Columbia riding to include Nelson, Kaslo and Salmo, represented by Conservative MP David Wilks.