The addition of two provincial ridings is being recommended as a preliminary report was submitted to the Legislature from the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission on Thursday.
The creation of two new ridings will be in the Lower Mainland, however, a number of proposed tweaks were made to boundaries across the province.
The report, authored by Justice Tom Melnick, Beverley Busson and Dr. Keith Archer, can be viewed online and is open for public feedback. Following a two-month period, the report will to the legislature for review before a final report is written and approved by the province.
The commission, which is guided by the legislation contained within the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act, added two ridings to the Lower Mainland, but maintained the same number of ridings in the electoral areas of North Region, the Cariboo-Thompson Region, and the Columbia-Kootenay Region.
The Electoral Boundaries Commission Act stipulates that the North Region must contain eight ridings, Cariboo-Thompson Region must have five, and Columbia-Kootenay Region must have four.
“This has, of course, influenced in large measure our ability to propose electoral districts that are equal in population,” said the report. “It has also influenced our decision to propose 87 electoral districts, an increase of two from the current number, and the maximum allowable by the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act.
“Further to these two additional electoral districts, we propose changes to 49 of the current 85 districts. Most of the changes are relatively minor. Substantial changes are proposed in the Lower Mainland, particularly in Richmond and Surrey where we added a district to each community.”
One relevant proposed change to the Kootenay East riding is including rural residents on the east side of the Kootenay River between Fort Steele and Wardner.
Currently the Kootenay River serves as the boundary and residents out in Bull River area are a part of the Columbia River Revelstoke riding.
When the commission came to Cranbrook for public feedback, Wardner resident Jenny Byford brought up the concern that students in Bull River are going to school in Cranbrook — which is in the Kootenay East riding — even though they’re living in a different electoral area.
“Students from Wardner on the west bank and Bull River and Fort Steele on the east bank attend the same secondary school in Cranbrook,” reads the report. “However, as Wardner is in Kootenay East and Bull River and Fort Steele are in Columbia River-Revelstoke, young people in this area don’t have a shared political experience and some believed this led them to be less likely to participate in the electoral process.”
The boundary was slightly modified to include parts of the east side of the Kootenay River, including the hamlet of Bull River, as it continues up north to Height of the Rockies Provincial Park.
“By using the East Kootenay Regional District Electoral Area C and the Southeast Kootenay School District boundary in this area, these towns east of Cranbrook will be included in the same electoral district (Kootenay East),” said the report. “Following this boundary also has the effect of moving a small area around the airport west of Cranbrook into Kootenay East from Columbia River-Revelstoke. “While these changes affect only a small number of people, it will provide more effective representation for these communities.”
Those changes to the Kootenay East riding affect the border of the Columbia-River Revelstoke riding, but those are the only changes to the latter district.