Justice Tom Melnick

Justice Tom Melnick

Electoral boundaries forum draws little interest in Trail

Almost nobody from Trail showed up to Wednesday's B.C. Electoral Boundary Commission's stop at the Best Western Plus Columbia River Hotel.

Almost nobody from Trail showed up to Wednesday’s B.C. Electoral Boundary Commission’s stop at the Best Western Plus Columbia River Hotel.

Trail was one of 29 municipalities the commission is visiting hoping to get some public input on what is or isn’t working in the current electoral boundaries for provincial elections, but it seemed they didn’t get much of a local response.

Keith Archer, chief electoral officer for the commission, says the low turnout in the area could be because of amendments recently made to the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act, maintaining current levels of representation from northern and rural areas of the province.

“I think that is one of the reasons we are not seeing people come out with a passionate defence of protecting their districts because those districts are now, to a certain extent, protected through the legislation,” he said. “There is a sense that there is a balance between the importance of representing population and the importance of representing rural areas with large geography and lesser population.”

Throughout the commission’s tour through the province, the group hasn’t heard much about wanting to change the current boundaries in the more rural areas, like Trail.

“We are finding that there is a feeling of leaving things alone and I think people like the status quo and they don’t need to advocate the status quo,” said Bev Busson, a member of the commission on the tour.

Other members of the commission agree.

“So far, there is one main voice and it is saying that (voters) are fairly satisfied with the way things are,” said Justice Tom Melnick, chair of the electoral boundary commission.

The commission makes the rounds of B.C. within a year of every other election, or every eight years, barring byelections, to see if everything is running smoothly.

“Things can get out of whack because populations can change dramatically in some areas of the province,” said Melnick. “The basic principle is that each person has the right to vote and that is interpreted as each person has the right to be effectively represented in the legislature.”

This time around, the commission has the option of adding up to two seats to the provincial legislature to allow for population growth, but those decisions won’t be coming for at least another year.

“We will be tabling our thought that the ideas that we have about how things can be improved (in May),” said Busson, adding that after their initial report, the province will be holding another round of public meetings before making any final report and decisions in November 2015.

For those that wanted to have their say, but couldn’t make it to Wednesday’s meeting, the commission has set up an online form at www.bc-ebc.ca. Input is being accepted until Nov. 16.