Voting in a member of Parliament to represent Greater Trail will now also be up to those living in the City of Penticton, the largest city included in a newly-created riding.
Canada’s electoral boundaries have been reviewed and redrawn to account for movement and growth in population and as a result the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for British Columbia has introduced six new districts.
Despite a push back from the West Kootenay constituents, the commission configured a new electoral district called South Okanagan-West Kootenay which includes communities within the Kootenay Boundary Regional District and Castlegar in its eastern region. But Nelson and Salmo are separated from its neighbouring communities to join the Kootenay Columbia riding.
“The challenges are that first of all now we have in our riding a huge population centre in Penticton included so we’ve got Penticton on the one end and we go right up to Nakusp on this end,” explained MP Alex Atamanenko.
“I’m disappointed because when we had the public hearing process an overwhelming majority of people basically said they don’t want our communities to split up.”
A commission tour was held last October and was a chance for residents to provide feedback. Though the message was clear, the numbers spoke louder.
With a goal of keeping all electoral districts around the nearly 105,000 population quota, the South Okanagan-West Kootenay was introduced and will now sit at approximately 113,000 people from under the 100,000 it previously held under the Southern Interior title.
The Kootenay Columbia district, which will now include Nelson and Salmo, will also lift up to about 108,000 people.
Salmo and Nelson residents will no longer have the convenience of driving over to Castlegar to stop into their MP’s office in Castlegar, where Atamanenko has held an office (with a satellite office in Oliver) in the past.
And now Atamanenko questions where he’ll be situated if he finds himself in office again.
Under the former boundary lines, Trail, Castlegar and Nelson was a home base for Atamanenko but that may now shift with the addition of Penticton, where over 32,000 people resided in 2011, according to the 2011 census.
Penticton is the largest city by area and population in the Okanagan- Similkameen Regional District and has carried different political paths than the Southern Interior.
“I think that it will be a challenge for us over in the Okanagan that’s for sure but we have won before, we have had an MP who won in Penticton a number of years ago, and our party is gaining strength in that area,” he said, noting that Penticton residents have historically voted Conservative.
Atamanenko says business is as usual right now but noted the next step will be formulating a plan to hold an annual general meeting to create a new association to represent the new riding.
He’s not happy with the outcome, one that he has avoided for some time.
“They tried this 10 years ago and the current MP at that time Jim Gouk was able to push back but he had support of the neighbouring MPs . . . so they collectively were able to say ‘No you can’t throw Penticton here’ and B.C. Southern Interior was a result of Jim’s push,” said Atamaneko. “This time around I didn’t have support to retain the current riding from the neighbouring MPs so I think that’s what made the difference.”