Electoral Boundaries Commission delivers final report

Minor changes to Kootenay East, Columbia River Revelstoke

The British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission has completed their final report, and while some ridings are getting a new look, others like Columbia River Revelstoke and Kootenay East are just receiving a tweak.

The three-person commission was comprised Mr. Justice Thomas Melnick, former Commissioner of the RCMP Beverley Busson, and Keith Archer, Chief Electoral Officer for B.C.

The commission presented a draft report to the Legislature this past spring, and then heard recommendations over the summer. They have now presented their final report on B.C.’s 85 electoral districts. The final report reflects changes to 48 of the 85 ridings, and proposed two new districts in Surrey and Richmond. That will bring the number of electoral districts to 87, the maximum allowed under legislation.

The commission wrestled with such questions as whether Hope was the gateway to the Interior, which would place it in the Fraser-Nicola district, or the gateway to the Fraser Valley, which would put it in a riding with Chilliwack. The commission has recommended that Hope be in the Fraser-Nicola district.

The entire goal is to ensure that all electoral districts are as close in constituent numbers as possible.

That there will be variance in numbers is unavoidable. Columbia River Revelstoke is one of the ridings with the smallest population, 31,907 versus Kootenay East to the south with a population of 40,466. While many believe that Kimberley and Cranbrook should be in the same riding given their close relationship, it can’t happen if you want to keep constituent numbers fairly consistent.

As for the tweaks to this riding, they are small.

The commission heard that students from Wardner on the west bank of the Kootenay River and Bull River and Fort Steele on the east bank attend the same secondary school in Cranbrook. However, as Wardner is in Kootenay East and Bull River and Fort Steele are in Columbia River-Revelstoke, young people in this area don’t have a shared political experience and some believed this led them to be less likely to participate in the electoral process.

By using the East Kootenay Regional District Electoral Area C and the Southeast Kootenay School District boundary in this area, these towns east of Cranbrook will be included in the same electoral district (Kootenay East). Following this boundary also has the effect of moving a small area around the airport west of Cranbrook into Kootenay East from Columbia River-Revelstoke. While these changes affect only a small number of people, it will provide more effective representation for these communities, the report says.