Geography trumps population numbers

Open letter to the Provincial Commission of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.

To the Editor:

Open letter to the Provincial Commission of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.

This letter is a request to the provincial commission to re-examine the mandates of readjustment considerations before redrawing the electoral boundaries once again.

I maintain climate change should be our number one consideration. According to the 2007 Government of Canada report on climate change From Impacts to Adaptation, Canada in a Changing Climate 2007: “It needs to be understood that there will be no return to the previous normal. Instead, we face an ongoing process of change that will continue for decades to centuries. This is not uncertainty regarding whether climate will change, but rather about the speed and magnitude of climate change over time.”

British Columbia’s Provincial Emergency Program (BC-PEP) reports that from 2003 to 2005, the frequency, severity and costs of extreme weather events causing personal and economic losses due to infrastructure damage rose dramatically as a result of wildfires, storm surges, heavy rains causing flooding and landslides, and drought.

Warmer winter weather, resulting in ice jams, freezing rain and rain-on-snow events, also resulted in economic losses. These events cost B.C. taxpayers an average of $86 million per year in payouts of disaster financial assistance, compared to an average of $10 million per year from 1999 to 2002. This increase is consistent with increasing weather-related hazards, as documented in the Canadian Disaster Database 2003; Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, 2006b.

The super saturation slide at Johnsons Landing illustrated how poorly prepared the Kootenay region is to cope with what is forecast to become a regular occurrence in the region by the federal report. Climate change could cause an increase in super saturation slides that would interrupt Columbia Basin river flows and electrical supplies to the province of B.C. and downstream U.S.A. It is completely within the realm of possibility that such a slide could cause an inland tsunami that overwhelms an upriver dam, causing a catastrophic domino effect down river.

Given the many serious consequences of climate change, of which the above is only one, I propose that geography and historical patterning trumps population numbers in regards to mandate considerations for responsible climate change adaptation and mitigation .

Presently, the Columbia Basin river system is split between separate riding boundaries, cutting the river system into north and south sections. Our federal representative should have direct contact with the Columbia Basin dam manager, and have a complete overview of the river systems—identifying potential problem areas and have an emergency team response in place. It would be much more efficient to have all the electrical generation and reservoir dams in one riding.

I  point out that our elected representatives will be working much harder for us all in response to climate change. “To cope effectively with climate change there must be a strong understanding of the issue. This requires knowledge of potential impacts and vulnerabilities, of projected changes in climate and of adaptation processes and decision-making. As in other public policy areas, serious consequences can flow from failures of integration and cooperation,” (Gov’t of Canada 2007).

Climate change asks us to be practical above all else, and for us to look more closely at our physical surroundings so we are aware of the safety issues pertaining to local climate change. Federally, provincially and locally, climate change adaptation preparations and discussions appear to be almost nonexistent. All public servants should be familiar with the consequences of climate change.

Clearly our federal and provincial electoral districts should be designed to prioritize efficiency in cooperation between geographically inter-related communities. We would be able designate local technicians to geo-hazard map the entire region, likewise appoint technicians and emergency response systems  to deal with over-full dams, washed out bridges, slides, fires, devastating winds, stranded communities, medical emergencies and interrupted communication networks. Federally, provincially and locally, we residents must custom design the best adaptive climate change plan for our region.

Electoral boundaries determine the area of response that our federal elected representative will have to deal with. That is why I feel so strongly that we must keep our electoral region within  specific geographically- related areas. I personally feel that from north of Revelstoke Lake, east to Creston, south by Trail and Rossland to the U.S.A. border and west to Castlegar and Edgewood contains our geographical area within reachable winter access boundaries (avalanche occurrences) and within the Columbia and Kootenay river drainages.

Canada must take climate change seriously, if it is to adapt successfully, with an environment and economy intact. The success of the adaptation will be in the hands of our elected representatives and their ability to maneuver within their realistically manageable ridings. How do the population numbers add up for the electoral mandate considerations? Presently the population numbers are well within the +/- 25 per cent, begging the issue of electoral readjustment at this time. If boundaries are to be readjusted, they should be done so first and foremost to accommodate the serious threat of climate change.

Susan Eyre, Yahk

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