Powell River is being severed from the federal electoral riding of West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country.
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission released its final report on Aug. 21, upholding the proposed redistribution that will see Powell River and a portion of North Vancouver removed from the federal seat.
Including Powell River with northern Vancouver Island “was significantly driven by numerical considerations,” as the existing West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country riding is “well above the electoral quota,” the commission said in its report.
“The commission was and is cognizant of the historical links between Powell River and the Sunshine Coast area as well as the circumstance that the Powell River area has often fallen within the territory comprising the West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country electoral district. We are keenly aware that alteration of an established district will always occasion some disruption,” the report said.
Ferry access was identified as an important factor, with the report suggesting that the single crossing from Powell River to Little River (Comox) might be more convenient than the two sailings to West Vancouver and could “actually enhance” access between MP and constituents.
“That consideration, plus the very real problem of the high population number in the existing West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country district, leads us to conclude that we cannot accede to the objections concerning Vancouver Island North - Comox - Powell River,” said the report, adding that the inclusion of Powell River in the new riding was “appropriate and should be maintained.”
West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country member of Parliament John Weston, who, with other MPs, had submitted a counter-proposal to keep Powell River in the riding, said the commission was ultimately guided by the numbers.
“Regrettably the boundary commission had to reduce the population of ridings throughout British Columbia — that was part of adding six new seats — so it’s good for British Columbia and our representation in Ottawa,” Weston said. “It’s also good in that I now have only 112,000 people to represent rather then 130,000, so that means I have less territory to cover than I did before.”
Weston noted that the number of constituency offices he maintains is among the highest across Canada, with four offices to serve the “sprawling riding” with its “very distinct communities.”
On losing Powell River, Weston said: “I love Powell River and have become very closely integrated with the community in many, many ways. I will be serving the people of Powell River right up to the last moment, you can be sure of that.”
For the Lower Sunshine Coast, Weston said an important part of the commission’s decision was keeping the area tied to the North Shore, “which follows many of the business and health care and education patterns of the people who live on the Sunshine Coast and commute to the North Shore.”
The redistribution of seats in the House of Commons takes effect for the next federal election in 2015.