Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka is encouraging people to submit their feedback to the Electoral Boundaries Commission. Map courtesy Electoral Boundaries Commission.

MLA Shypitka encourages feedback to proposed riding boundary changes

A Kootenay MLA is encouraging public feedback to proposed changes to the riding boundaries outlined in a recent report from the Electoral Boundaries Commission.

Kootenay-East MLA Tom Shypitka lauded the work from the commission to protect rural representation, but also questioned some of the proposed tweaks to the Kootenay-East and Columbia River – Revelstoke boundary, particularly as it runs around Cranbrook.

In particular, the proposed boundary between the two ridings borders the Aqam community, before running down the western edge of the City of Cranbrook municipal boundary. It then crosses Highway 3, running along the south eastern edge of Cranbrook, including some areas of Hidden Valley Rd and Silver Spring Drive before heading east along the height of the land to include areas of Jimsmith Lake.

Essentially, it resembles a U-shape that would include areas to the south and southwest of Cranbrook, which would become part of Columbia River – Revelstoke as opposed to Kootenay-East.

“Those areas are really close community people to Cranbrook and to sever those social, cultural and economic ties really doesn’t do justice to the representation those constituents deserve,” said Shypitka.

Shypitka noted more granular issues, such as the Colombo Lodge, which is located outside the City of Cranbrook municipal boundary, but has significant ties to community members, would be in Columbia River – Revelstoke. The same challenge would apply to a group like the Rockies Rowing Club, which is trying to get infrastructure set up at Jimsmith Lake — again, another organization with close ties to Cranbrook that would be in Columbia River – Revelstoke.

Shypitka noted other logistical challenges such as voting — do those residents around Cranbrook have to drive up to Kimberley to vote in provincial elections, given that Cranbrook would be in a separate riding?

“I think the biggest thing that when the commission does it’s work, there are three things that they identify with as they try to maintain, and that’s social, economic and cultural values have to be maintained, and I think they essentially fail on all three when they drew the map the way they did,” Shypitka said.

“I don’t think it was on purpose or anything like that, I think maybe they just thought, ‘oh, we’ll grab some people here and all will be well.’”

Shypitka encouraged people to provide their feedback to the commission, which will be holding an in-person forum in Nelson on Oct. 20, followed by a virtual hearing on Oct. 21, where anyone can log into a Zoom meeting at 6 pm MST to have their say.

Beyond the Kootenay-East boundary concerns, Shypitka also praised the commission for walking a balance on maintaining rural representation amid population changes.

“I was pleased at the fact that the electoral boundaries commission identified and recognized the importance of maintaining rural ridings across the province,” said Shypitka. “To judge them based on population alone would’ve been not responsible, I don’t think, because if that was the case, our ridings in the rural areas would have grown two to three times in size, which would have really severed the ties between constituents and their provincial representatives.”

At the provincial level, the commission is recommending the addition of six new ridings — one on Vancouver Island, four in the Lower Mainland, and one in the Interior. That would bump up the current number of ridings from 87 to 93.

The commission is currently engaged in a public feedback process, which it will include in a final report that gets submitted to the legislature next spring.