by Lee Ann Johnson As a citizen and resident of Gibsons, BC, I am requesting the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for British Columbia consider the following issues regarding the redistribution in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky riding.
Although I am writing as an individual, I have spent 20 years in this community as an active volunteer in the areas of affordable and special needs housing, improving public transportation and participating in community planning. I was previously a resident of urban areas in Victoria and Vancouver. I am serving my third term as an elected councillor in the Town of Gibsons. This experience is reflected in my comments.
My first concern is that the proposed boundary separates the two halves of the Sunshine Coast area. It is important to recognize that the communities in the Sunshine Coast Regional District share extensive economic, social and geographical concerns with Powell River Regional District. We are rural resource-dependent communities with most of our economic base linked to tourism, forestry and fishing. We are dependent on water links to move people and goods to our communities. Both regional districts are working co-operatively to improve our abilities to support each other in larger issues such as services provided by BC Ferries. We share a provincial forestry district with offices in Powell River. The Sunshine Coast Tourism organization, www.sunshinecoastcanada.com, serves both areas. The Sechelt (shíshálh) First Nation has traditional lands in both regional districts. Our provincial MLA represents both regional districts. We need to maintain and enhance these shared interests at the federal level. Dividing this area into two federal ridings will diminish our abilities to receive appropriate federal representation. Both regional districts should be in the same riding.
My second concern is the problem created by geographic settlement patterns. Urban and rural areas have very different concerns when dealing with federal jurisdictions. For example, the policies and programs at the federal level around use of oceans, whether environmental or economic, are of great importance to communities around the Strait of Georgia but are of only minor concern compared to other pressing issues for citizens of urban West Vancouver. The bulk of the population in your proposed new riding will reside in an urban area. Including various small rural communities in the same riding creates a fundamental difficulty for the MP to give fair and due attention to the different needs of the minority rural areas. The policies and ministries handling rural and urban concerns tend to be different. Please give more consideration to providing ridings with shared economic, social and geographic concerns so that rural areas are able to have their concerns better represented.
My third concern is that the demographics of the Sunshine Coast reflect an exceptional distortion as we have emerged as a retirement area. With a median age nearly 10 years older than the province, we recognize that the loss of young families brings serious difficulties in the provision of services to both groups—elders and young families. This is another topic where we share much more with other coastal communities than we do with urban areas.
Lee Ann Johnson is a Town of Gibsons councillor. She has been an active resident of Gibsons since 1992.