A parliamentary committee report about adjustments to federal riding boundaries in BC contains a detailed proposal that would keep Powell River and the Sunshine Coast in the existing riding.
Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan submitted the proposal to the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, which was studying the report from the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission of BC. In January, the commission issued the report that adjusted boundaries in the province, which is set to receive six new ridings before the next federal election. The goal of the adjustment is to keep ridings as equal as possible in terms of population.
The commission proposed moving Powell River to Vancouver Island North, separating it from the Lower Sunshine Coast, and splitting the Comox Valley in half.
“This proposal is contrary to the obvious communities of interest within the Comox Valley and the Sunshine Coast,” said Duncan. “I understand that the commission’s task was a difficult one, but in the end they were solving a Lower Mainland problem at the expense of Vancouver Island. I felt that the best way to address the problem was to collaborate with the affected MPs on Vancouver Island and the Mainland.”
MPs John Weston, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, Mark Strahl, Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon and James Lunney, Nanaimo-Alberni, supported Duncan’s proposal. It readjusts the boundaries for the proposed ridings of Vancouver Island North, Courtenay-Alberni, Nanaimo-Ladysmith, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country and Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon.
Duncan’s proposal keeps Powell River in the existing riding, but puts Whistler, Pemberton and Electoral Area C of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District in a newly created riding named Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon. That riding would also include communities such as Lillooet, Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Harrison Hot Springs, Mission and a part of Abbotsford.
“It was extremely helpful that all affected MPs and the mayors of Courtenay and Powell River agreed with my proposal to retain all of Courtenay in Vancouver Island North and to retain Powell River in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast riding, which gave the committee confidence that there was no unintended domino effect or major objections to my proposal,” Duncan said.
However, some local government politicians in Whistler and the Pemberton Valley found Duncan’s proposal “insulting” and “shocking” and intend to make their opposition known to the commission.
The parliamentary committee report stated that both Weston and Strahl noted that Powell River and the Sunshine Coast formed a community of interest and identity and that both communities had expressed a strong interest in staying together in the same riding. “Weston further submitted that it would be a strong preference of his to see Powell River returned to the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding,” the report states.
The report also stated that Weston indicated that a community of interest also existed between Whistler and Sea to Sky. “Weston stated that his preference would be for both Whistler and Powell River to be included together in one riding, but acknowledged the difficulty of such an arrangement given that the population of such a riding would likely exceed the deviation from the provincial electoral quota permitted by the law.”
Weston indicated that the re-inclusion of Powell River into the existing riding and the coupling of Pemberton and Whistler with Lillooet were in the best interests of the communities.
The commission will now consider the House committee report and finalize the boundaries in a final report.
Click here to read the committee’s full report.
-with files from the Whistler Question