Montrose and Rossland are only 15 kilometres apart, but the proposed federal electoral boundary changes could put a mountain between them.
Last Monday night in Montrose’s regular council meeting, Mayor Joe Danchuk said he recently received a concerned call from B.C. Southern Interior member of Parliament Alex Atamanenko about the changes.
The conversation sparked some debate among Montrose councillors.
“I think this is just one of those decisions that comes from Ottawa where they arbitrarily draw a line down the map without looking at our mountainous geography,” councillor Don Berriault offered in jest of the situation.
The riding changes could re-align the political map for voters when they head to the polls, a review process that occurs each decade.
Under the proposed boundaries, the new riding of the South Okanagan-West Kootenay (formerly called the B.C. Southern Interior) will exclude Nelson, Harrop-Proctor, Blewett, Salmo, Ymir, Fruitvale and Montrose from the riding.
Instead the latter group will be added to the Kootenay-Columbia group, which stretches to the Alberta border.
The City of Penticton will be included for the first time in 100 years with parts of the West Kootenay, while the Similkameen Valley is expected to be cut in half at Keremeos.
Hedley and Princeton will join the vast Central Okanagan-Coquihalla riding extending to the southern border of Kamloops.
As a result, Danchuk showed the group an e-mail from Atamanenko and told them that he has agreed to back him by attending a public meeting about the changes on Oct. 3.
Atamanenko’s e-mail to Danchuk stated that “it would send a powerful message to the commission if each town council and regional district (would) come out in strong opposition of what they are proposing.”
Danchuk added that he would be attending the public meeting in early-Oct., and extended an invitation to village council. Councillor Don Duclos and councillor Cindy Cook agreed to attend the Castlegar public meeting as well.
And they aren’t alone.
Rossland council recently voted to write a letter of dissatisfaction with the proposed federal riding boundary changes, asking instead that the current boundaries be kept.
“I’m just concerned that our issues and rural concerns are just going to get lost in the shuffle,” said councillor Kathy Moore about the proposed change to lump Rossland in with the Okanagan City of Penticton.
She proposed a letter to the Electoral Boundaries Commission stating council was not in favour of the riding change and that they should be left the way they are, as well as sending Mayor Greg Granstrom to the public meeting to present their letter to the public commission.
The motion sparked some internal debate in council over joining a larger but Conservative held riding to the West—and a seat in government—against staying with a “have not” riding of the Southern Interior held by the NDP.
“I think our voice isn’t heard,” said councillor Cary Fisher. “(Atamanenko) does a great job, but when you are in the minority . . . you are just a bunch of people screaming into the wind.”
If the area continued to be in the minority, he noted, federal infrastructure projects would continue to pass by the area in favour of others. However, the majority of council supported the letter. Anybody can make a written submission to the B.C. Commission before Oct. 18.