Boundaries commission keeps to original proposal

Laura Walz/Powell River Peak / Staff writer
February 3, 2013 01:00 AM

If approved, Powell River will no longer be a part of the federal riding of West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country. Powell River would be in a new riding called Vancouver Island North - Comox - Powell River.

A commission struck to redraw B.C.'s federal electoral boundaries has included Powell River in a reconfigured riding on Vancouver Island.

The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for B.C. released its report on Monday, Jan. 28. It has included Powell River Regional District, except for Lasqueti Island, in a riding called Vancouver Island North - Comox - Powell River.

The new riding would have a population of 103,458, 1.25 per cent less than the electoral quota of 104,763.

Powell River has been a part of West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country since 1996, when the riding was created and called West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast. It was renamed in 2003.

The Lower Sunshine Coast is staying in the existing riding, which, even without Powell River, has a population of 112,875, 7.74 per cent over the quota.

Member of Parliament John Weston said he thought the report "accurately and comprehensively" reflected the differing views about the riding.

"It had to juggle the attempts to maintain communities of interest, while trying to reduce the numbers for ridings like ours that were much larger than the intended national average and creating six new seats for British Columbia," he said. "On a personal note, I'm sad that, if things go according to the apparent plan, I would not be representing Powell River after 2015."

Weston said it would be "very much an uphill battle at this 11th hour to change the mind of the commission, in that they have, as they put it, changed 36 into 42 jigsaw puzzles, and to start making further changes has a domino effect. They would be hard pressed to make further changes at this point."

The commission's report stated that the electoral districts comprising the North Shore and Sunshine Coast areas have populations considerably above the electoral quota.

"After reviewing the population distribution for both these areas and the northern part of Vancouver Island, the commission decided in its proposal that it would be appropriate to include Powell River in the reconfigured electoral district of Vancouver Island North," the report states. "Having made that decision, the commission focused its attention on the configuration of other electoral districts on Vancouver Island."

In its initial proposal, the commission had divided the City of Courtenay between the existing Vancouver Island North and Nanaimo - Alberni electoral districts.

"The commission later received a number of submissions questioning the inclusion of Powell River and the division of Courtenay," the report states. "It is worth noting that the two areas had, on occasion, been previously joined, once as Comox - Powell River and once as North Island - Powell River. In both instances, the electoral district had included the entire Sunshine Coast. The commission observes that reasonable access between the North Island area and Powell River is available via B.C. Ferries."

From presentations at public hearings and in written submissions, a number of presenters stressed the strong ties between the Upper and Lower Sunshine Coast, the report continues. "Given that the 2011 census population of the Lower Sunshine Coast was 28,619, the commission viewed its inclusion with Powell River as unfeasible," the report states. "Other presenters argued that the Lower Sunshine Coast is more directly linked to the Greater Vancouver area. In short, there were conflicting views presented about this area."

After consideration, the commission decided to change the southern boundary of Vancouver Island North to exclude any part of the City of Courtenay.

"Comox remains in this district, which is renamed Vancouver Island North - Comox - Powell River. The entire City of Courtenay is now contained in an electoral district named Courtenay - Alberni."

B.C. is gaining six electoral districts as a result of the increase in its population, five in the Lower Mainland and one on Vancouver Island.

The commission's report was tabled in the House of Commons on Monday. The commission may make further changes to the boundaries, at its discretion, after they have been reviewed by a parliamentary committee.

© Coast Reporter

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