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LETTER: Area residents need to stop Ottawa/Elections Canada from further diluting our collective voice

Open Letter to West Kootenay Residents:

It seems like the people who make decisions far away in Ottawa don't quite understand BC nor do they understand the importance of physical geography in such a mountainous place.

They look at maps with demographics and populations and what they have is an impression of where we live, but not how we live or what our communities really look like. It's disappointing that Elections Canada would break apart our West Kootenay Community and place the entire area surrounding Nelson into the East Kootenay Region just to shuffle numbers.

Rather, to gain those numbers for the East Kootenay-Comumbia riding they ought to have looked toward a northward expansion, taking in more communities in the Rockies (their geographic neighbours).

Our riding of the Southern-Interior already is too broken by geography and to loose a major West Kootenay town will diminish the voice of West Kootenay residents in their own ridings.

The breaking apart of our voices will shift focus to areas not our concern. Larger population centres in Cranbrook will dominate discussion for Nelson and the South Okanagan will weigh too heavily, drowning out the needs of Trail, Castlegar, or the Boundary area.

It's sad to see that Ottawa's officials wouldn't even consider our community as a whole. The people of the West Kootenay deserve to be represented in ONE riding without splitting our cohesive voice.

We share concerns for regional health care, regional transportation needs (like our struggling airports which will not get any attention from people in Cranbrook or Penticton), and we have common desires which would be split by larger centres elsewhere unless we stand together.

Our voice will be lost in Ottawa because of this split.

Our region deserves better. If we were all to be represented as one entire East and West Kootenay community (leaving out other areas like the Shuswap or the South Okanagan) that might make sense, or if we were to be represented as is, by a riding which spans all of the Southern Central BC at least we can affect the way our MP speaks for us, but when we're broken, our region is not going to be heard.

It's extremely frustrating to know that bureaucrats in a far off place would not even study the issue enough to know that our three major towns comprise one diverse but spread out city. Our population as a whole is like that of Vernon or other moderately sized cities.

Our two regional districts show the extent to which our area should be held as one unit. The history of co-operation between our communities to hold festivals, to build regional infrastructure, etc. is what should be looked at before splitting our vote between two other areas who have no direct concern for our well being here.

I argue that if we were to be best represented in Ottawa, we need ONE voice together, and most likely combined all together with the Southern Central Interior. Our transportation corridor has more to do with our riding than "as the crow flies" concepts based on maps that don't show how long it takes to get from A to B.

The Highway 1 route bypasses us, and Highway 3 links us, so our riding ought to reflect that. It's really quite simple. So simple in fact that I hope we all stand up and reject any proposition to divide our community.

Make your statement at the community meetings in Nelson at the Best western Baker Street Inn on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m., and in Castlegar at the Fireside Inn on Oct. 3 at 7pm.

You have to register to attend and speak, so send letters to be received by Aug. 30 to:

Commission Secretary

Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for British Columbia

1095 West Pender Street, Suite 301

Vancouver, BC

V6E 2M6

You can also access an online registration form on their website:

www.redecoupage-federal-redistribution.ca

Please come out en-masse to the meetings. We need to voice our desire to remain ONE West Kootenay community!

Jason Peil

West Kootenay resident