A proposed change to the federal constituency boundaries could separate Beaver Valley and the Greater Trail region from each other, driving a political boundary wedge between two neighbouring communities.
That line has been drawn in the sand by the Electoral Boundaries Commission through the B.C. Southern Interior riding, cutting through the heart of the region in what has traditionally been an NDP stronghold.
It might be politically motivated, splitting up the now New Democrat riding between two Conservative-held ridings, but the Southern Interior’s MP Alex Atamanenko was loathe to frame the proposal in those terms.
Instead, he pointed to a disconnect between the reality of the geography of the area, and how the map makers and number crunchers were trying to beef up one of the smallest ridings in the province in the Kootenay-Columbia (88,028) to the 105,000 mark.
“There’s certainly not a lot of thought that went into what is going onto the ground,” Atamanenko said. “What they have done makes absolutely no sense.”
The arbitrary splitting up of the way people in the Greater Trail region do things doesn’t make any sense, he continued, and there is going to be a really strong case based on historical precedence not to do this.
Before the 2004 election the same commission tried a similar tactic in the B.C. Southern Interior riding, proposing to slice off the Slocan Valley. It was pointed out at the time that it wasn’t the right thing to do, said Atamanenko, and they retracted the proposal.
Under the “Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act,” the population of a district is expected to remain within 25 per cent of the average once consideration is given to communities of interest or identity, and historical and geographic factors.
Atamanenko said those other criteria should be used by the commission, including historical identity and ease of accessibility to the MP.
Under the proposed constituency accessibility for people in the Beaver Valley would be a problem. For instance, people from Fruitvale would have to travel several hours to Cranbrook to the likely spot to get to the constituency office, instead of the 30 minutes they now have to go to Castlegar for the B.C. Southern Interior riding.
Conservative MP David Wilks of Sparwood currently holds the House of Commons seat for Kootenay Columbia. The riding covers the entire Regional District of East Kootenay, including Revelstoke, Golden, Nakusp and Creston, plus four areas of the Regional District of Central Kootenay and two from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.
Overall B.C is gaining six electoral districts as a result of the increase in its population—increasing to 42—taking into account a population increase from 3,907,738 in 2001 to 4,400,057 in the 2011 census. Five of the new ridings will be in the Lower Mainland, with another on Vancouver Island.
Boundary re-alignment occurs at 10-year intervals based on the latest census population numbers. Commissions in each province consider and assess demographic changes that have occurred since the previous redistribution process.
Based on the assessment, the commissions make recommendations for alterations in existing boundaries “in order to achieve better representation of persons and communities in Parliament,” said Justice John E. Hall, chair of the B.C. commission.
Atamanenko said he is going to be drafting up submissions to the commission to help stop the constituency proposal.
“My hope is that we can do this, but it will take people to make submissions, to appear before the commission, to make written submissions,” he said.
The Electoral Boundaries Commission is independent of government and reports to Elections Canada.
Hearings are planned in the region for public input on the proposed boundary changes, but there is no meeting planned for Trail.
Instead, people from Trail and the Beaver Valley will have to travel to Castlegar on Monday, Oct. 3 (7 p.m.) at the Fireside Inn Hotel and Conference Centre to have their say on the matter. Another meeting is set aside one day earlier on Oct. 2 in Nelson at the Best Western Baker Street Inn (7 p.m.).
People wishing to make a presentation at a hearing are requested to send the commission notice no later than Aug. 30.
Notices of presentation should include:
• the person’s name, address and contact information
• the organization represented (if any)
• the date of the public hearing he/she wishes to attend
• a short overview of the issue(s) intended to address
• the official language of preference
• any accommodation needs the person may have
Written notice can be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to the address below.
Alternatively, the Public Hearings Notice Form can be filled out online at www.federal-redistribution.ca under British Columbia > Public Hearings.
To obtain a copy of the commission’s proposal or to learn more about the redistribution of federal electoral districts, visit www.federal-redistribution.ca.
Kootenay-Columbia proposed boundaries
• the Regional District of East Kootenay;
• the Regional District of Central Kootenay areas A, B, C, G and K
• part of RDCK’s areas D, E, F and H;
• the villages of Nakusp, Salmo Fruitvale and Montrose;
• the towns of Creston and Golden;
• the cities of Nelson and Revelstoke;
• part of the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District areas A and B;
• part of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s area A
South Okanagan-West Kootenay proposed boundaries
• the cities of Grand Forks, Greenwood, Rossland, Castlegar, Penticton and Trail;
• the towns of Oliver and Osoyoos;
• the villages of Midway, Warfield, Kaslo, New Denver, Silverton, Slocan and Keremeos;
• regional districts B, C, D and E of the RDKB, and I and J from the RDCK;
• part of RDCK area D, F, H and area E lying north of the Kootenay River;
• part of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, including areas A, B, C and E;
• part of RDOS area D, F and G.