COMMENT: My thoughts on the proposed Electoral Boundaries report and why action is needed
First, let me acknowledge that this is a very challenging and demanding task and I believe the Electoral Boundary Commission has overall worked hard to try to come up with something manageable in an environment where there will always be disagreement and inevitable disappointment. \
I will also go on record in suggesting my personal view that the proposed changes for the Southern interior (and by Southern Interior I am referring to the overall geographical area and not specifically the BC Southern Interior Riding) are potentially more politically advantageous to my party than to the other parties. However the intent of my post today is not to be political but rather to ask if these proposed boundaries better serve the people we represent and from that perspective I submit they do not. Allow me to clarify some of the reasons why.
While population is certainly a critical factor in creating riding boundaries we must also consider accessibility. That is the right of citizens to meet with their elected Member of Parliament and this is where my concern arises. Looking at the proposals for South Okanagan-Kootenay I see some potentially serious challenges. For citizens who live in more remote rural areas such as New Denver and Silverton in the Slocan Valley– Nelson is a relatively short drive and certainly the hub for Government services for these citizens.
Yet, in spite of this reality the Electoral Boundaries Commissions suggests that these citizens must instead drive many, many hours away on some of BC’s more challenging roads because the MP for this region is most likely to be located in Penticton. This absolutely makes no sense on any level.
Likewise for citizens in Cawston and Keremeos– does it really make sense to drive through Penticton, roughly a 25 minute drive away, and then drive an additional hour up Hwy 97 in order to see the MP in West Kelowna? I submit this again is unrealistic and lacking in common sense. These are just two small examples but collectively there is a larger concern.
There is no question that there has been population growth in the Southern Interior/ Central Okanagan region– the Electoral Boundaries Commission has responded by manipulating the boundaries as a result. Here is a point worth taking note of:
Existing riding (followed by proposed new name) Current pop. Proposed pop.
Kelowna- Lake Country (Kelowna Lake Country) 122,214 110,051
Okanagan-Coquihalla (Central OK.-Similkameen- Nicola) 107,316 104,398
BC Southern Interior (South Okanagan– West Kootenay) 95,477 112,508
Kootenay-Columbia (Kootenay Columbia) 86,811 107,589
I have illustrated the proposed changes to highlight what I view as a serious and significant error that must be corrected. The larger, most urban parts of this region of British Columbia, specifically Kelowna, West Kelowna and Penticton all become smaller ridings under these proposals. Meanwhile, the rural and already significantly geographically large ridings become even larger and by all accounts less manageable for citizens and for Members of Parliament to have more effective representation.
Although I am a relatively new MP, I have a fairly diverse riding with larger municipal centers such as West Kelowna and Penticton however I also have resource communities like Merritt and rural resource communities such as Okanagan Falls and Logan Lake. I love my riding. However rural and resource communities cannot in my view end up with less representation. From my perspective as an MP it is easier to represent larger urban ridings on account of less lost time spent travelling to our important rural communities.
If anything, urban ridings should be larger in terms of population and rural ridings smaller. Ironically this is largely what exists under our existing boundaries but will in effect be reversed under the proposed new boundaries. In my view, this is unacceptable. I would be interested in hearing your views on this important subject. This is a somewhat time sensitive issue and your comments on this issue are both needed and necessary. I welcome your comments. Please email me at email@example.com
Dan Albas is the MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla.