Two elected officials from Powell River have told the Electoral Boundaries Commission of B.C. that they want the Lower and Upper Sunshine Coast to stay together in any reconfiguration of ridings.
City of Powell River Mayor Dave Formosa and Powell River - Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons travelled to Courtenay on Monday, Oct. 15, to make presentations to the commission at a public hearing.
Boundaries are being redrawn to create six new federal ridings in B.C., due to population increases. The commission’s proposal has the Lower Sunshine Coast staying in West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country riding, but it has put the Powell River Regional District, except for Lasqueti Island, in with Vancouver Island North.
Formosa said Powell River was in the middle of the whole issue at the public hearing.
“We were the flavour of the day, the fruit of the meeting, the football being kicked around,” he said. “I would say there was a 50-50 split for the Island wanting us and not wanting us.”
The issue for Comox Valley residents is that the commission, in an effort to make all the numbers work, split Courtenay down the middle, Formosa said.
“We know that’s a mess and our heart goes out to them,” he said. “That would be horrible, to have two MPs in the same city.”
Formosa said he told the commission Powell River wants to stay where it is. He added the community is receiving good representation from MP John Weston.
“We like the relationship we have with our MP. He seems to be able to service us well,” he said.
However, his message to the commission was, if the commission has to move the community, “don’t split up the Sunshine Coast,” Formosa said. “If we do have to go to the Island, bring the Sunshine Coast with us. Historically, we have never been split. History is part of their criteria. Something I heard and learned was that they give a lot of weight to historical matters.”
Simons said the essence of his presentation was that the Sunshine Coast is a geographical unit and should not be split up.
“I said the Upper and Lower Coast were like fraternal twins, distinct in appearance, but so similar in many ways,” Simons said. “I described the demographics, the history and the links we have.
“West Vancouver was like our cousin, and the North Island was like another sibling. I described our ‘communities of interest’ as being more similar to the Island than to West Van, pointing to mining, power projects, our rural and/or isolation, our aggregate mining, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture, tourism, etc.,” Simons said.
The commission held 22 public hearings across B.C. and is expected to make final decisions about where the electoral boundaries will be located in December.