Elected officials in the Spud Valley aren’t impressed that Pemberton and Area C remain within an expanded federal riding of Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon in the proposed boundary realignment.
However, the head of the board looking after the province-wide adjustments said that could still change.
With B.C. due to receive six new seats in the House of Commons, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission (FEBC) for B.C. has released its proposal for representation within the province, which sees alterations to existing ridings and accommodations made for the incoming ones.
While West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country no longer includes Powell River as per the proposal, Pemberton, Mount Currie and Area C aren’t going anywhere. Rather, the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon district drops part of the City of Chilliwack and expands north to include 100 Mile House.
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, who has been outspoken in the past about the village being disconnected from the rest of the riding, said the new proposal does nothing to address the village’s concerns.
“I’m none too pleased. I think it’s ridiculous,” said Sturdy. “We’ll certainly be expressing our disappointment.
“We’re a part of West Vancouver-Sea to Sky in all respects. Our orientation is not to 100 Mile House, it’s towards the Lower Mainland. That’s just the reality of things. To attach this community to ones with which it has nothing in common, I just don’t see the logic.”
Sturdy said Pemberton council will draft a resolution stating its concerns to send to the FEBC at Tuesday’s (July 17) meeting.
Justice John Hall, chair of the FEBC, said the proposal aims for a balance of population within each riding across B.C. rather than geographical or political divisions. That being said, Hall thinks “there’s a case“ for the Pemberton Valley to be included with the Sea to Sky corridor federally and said it’s feedback like Sturdy’s that the commission is hoping to hear before the boundaries are finalized.
“I’ve been thinking myself, although I didn’t put it in the proposed boundaries, that maybe Pemberton-Mount Currie would make sense to go into West Van and we’d like to get feedback on that. It makes sense geography-wise… but the problem, of course, is keeping Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon from getting too small (by population),” said Hall. “I don’t know how far up we’d go – to D’Arcy, maybe – but that area tails into West Vancouver more logically in a way.
“Certainly, I’m very open to that idea.”
Area C director Susie Gimse said she’s pleased to hear that the FEBC is soliciting feedback on the boundaries as the proposal “doesn’t make sense” for her constituents. She said moving into Whistler’s riding would have minimal population impact and noted that local leaders already have a good relationship with Sea to Sky MP John Weston.
“Although we’re not part of John’s riding, he has always included us in sessions he hosts,” said Gimse. “And really, we’re only talking about 5,000 people.”
According to a report on www.elections.ca by the federal commission performing the last realignment in 2004, Pemberton was moved into the then-brand new Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding in “an effort to respond to widespread appeals (from rural areas) for protecting rural representation.”
But it’s also given Conservative MP Mark Strahl a far-flung riding to oversee. While Sturdy and Gimse both said they’ve been happy with their federal representation, Strahl needs to travel extensively to get to all communities in his district. He’ll be facing even more of a challenge in that regard under the current proposal.
“Unfortunately, with the proposal for Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, there is even greater disparity between the communities being included in the riding than there are now,” Strahl said Monday (July 9) from Calgary, noting that he plans to submit his own feedback to the FEBC. “I’m hopeful that people from around the region… will make their views known and we can come to some common sense solutions.”
A series of public hearings have been scheduled for across the province in September and October, with the closest being held in Squamish on Sept. 11 at the Executive Suites Garibaldi Springs Resort at 7 p.m. Those wishing to speak at the hearing must apply in advance. Find more information via www.federal-redistribution.ca