Part II Amendments to the Initial Report (June 17, 2013) – British Columbia – Electoral Boundary Objections

Electoral Boundary Objections

Vancouver Island North—Comox—Powell River, Courtenay—Alberni and Nanaimo—Ladysmith

Four members of Parliament (MPs) filed, as the Committee noted, separate but complementary objections. These were the Honourable John Duncan (Vancouver Island North), Mr. James Lunney (Nanaimo—Alberni), Mr. John Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country) and Mr. Mark Strahl (Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon). The Committee noted that these four objections operate in concert and should be considered as constituting a package.

Mr. Duncan and Mr. Lunney urged the Commission not to separate Comox and Courtenay because of shared community interests and identities. They urged a configuration that would see the North Island riding have a southern boundary near the southerly edge of Courtenay. Both MPs, joined by Mr. Weston and Mr. Strahl, suggested Powell River was better suited to remain in West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. Mr. Lunney proposed a division of Nanaimo into northerly and southerly areas. Maps were provided to give details of the proposals. Mr. Lunney noted that an MP's office has been situated in the northerly section of Nanaimo for many years.

Mr. Strahl suggested that the communities of Whistler, Pemberton, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) Area C and Lillooet could properly be grouped together and placed into the reconfigured district of Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon. We will specifically address this matter in our discussion about Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon below.

The Committee observed as follows about the effect of these proposed changes:

According to the analysis provided by Elections Canada, the net result of this proposal would have the following effect on the electoral quotients of the ridings involved: Vancouver Island North—Comox—Powell River (-1.25% to 3.44%), Courtenay—Alberni (5.37% to 2.45%), Nanaimo—Ladysmith (9.77% to -10.59%), West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country (7.74% to 11.35%), and Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon (-13.26% to 1.73%). These deviations from the province's electoral quota remain comfortably within the limits provided for by section 15 of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.

As we observed in our Report, we could not entirely divorce our consideration of Vancouver Island electoral districts from the situation in the Lower Mainland, particularly in the two North Shore districts. Furthermore, we were advised at the Squamish public hearing that Whistler, Pemberton and SLRD Area C had a more natural linkage to West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country than to a Fraser Valley–centred riding. Both existing North Shore ridings are substantially above the electoral quota.

While we recognize the many common interests between Comox and Courtenay, we were urged at the public hearing not to divide part of Courtenay from the Comox Valley. Reflecting these comments, the proposal in our Report kept Courtenay together and with the Comox Valley, while Comox continued to be in the North Island riding. For population reasons, the two cities cannot be united in one electoral district and still kept whole. We consider that municipal boundaries should render the division intelligible to constituents.

The underlying rationale for including Powell River in Vancouver Island North—Comox—Powell River was significantly driven by numerical considerations. The existing West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country electoral district is well above the electoral quota. We were required to reduce the area of the district by shifting its boundaries, one on the North Vancouver side and the other on the Powell River side. We should note that the alteration on the North Vancouver side also influenced our changes to the existing electoral districts of North Vancouver (likewise well above the electoral quota) and Burnaby—Douglas.

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.

Access is an important consideration. Whether Powell River is included in West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country or in Vancouver Island North—Comox—Powell River, ferry travel is involved. In a way, the Powell River to Little River (Comox) connection may be more convenient: one crossing only is involved, as opposed to the two required if Powell River is attached to West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. The decision to include Powell River in Vancouver Island North—Comox—Powell River should in no way diminish access between MP and constituents, but may in the event actually enhance accessibility.

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. The disposition of Powell River in Vancouver Island North—Comox—Powell River is appropriate and should be maintained.

In his objection, Mr. Lunney suggested a division of Nanaimo that would see part of its northwest transferred from Nanaimo—Ladysmith to Courtenay—Alberni. We would first note the already large geographical extent of the reconfigured Courtney—Alberni electoral district. As well, we received submissions at a number of public hearings in support of keeping cities and municipalities intact where feasible. The proposal in our Report sees Nanaimo contained entirely in the reconfigured Nanaimo—Ladysmith district. Lantzville seems to us to have a natural linkage to Nanaimo. Finally, as observed above, we did not accede to the suggestion to place Powell River back into West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. All these circumstances militate against altering the boundaries of Nanaimo—Ladysmith as suggested by Mr. Lunney, and we consider that Nanaimo—Ladysmith should remain configured as set out in our Report.

Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon

Mr. Strahl, joined by Mr. Weston, suggested that Whistler, Pemberton and SLRD Area C should be brought together as a community of interest and placed in the newly configured Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon electoral district. Under existing boundaries, Whistler is in the West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country electoral district and Pemberton and SLRD Area C are in the Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon electoral district. Our Report brought all three areas into the reconfigured West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country electoral district.

We had received strong representations during the public hearing process to unite the three areas in West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. On examination, we concluded that constituent and MP access in Pemberton and SLRD Area C would be enhanced by the recommended dispositions. We were advised at the public hearing in Squamish, and we agreed, that the current access between MP and constituents in Pemberton and SLRD Area C can be somewhat cumbersome because of distance.

We do agree with Mr. Weston and Mr. Strahl that these three municipal areas should be grouped together in a single electoral district. We note their joint comments on this issue, but consider it more natural to link Whistler, Pemberton and SLRD Area C within West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country. While Pemberton and SLRD Area C bring the population number of that electoral district somewhat above the electoral quota, we have no doubt that existing transportation links strongly militate in favour of our disposition. We therefore cannot accede to the alteration suggested by Mr. Strahl and Mr. Weston. The reconfigurations of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country and Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon in our Report will be maintained.

Burnaby North—Seymour and the areas of New Westminster, Burnaby, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam

Mr. Kennedy Stewart (MP for Burnaby—Douglas), Mr. Peter Julian (MP for Burnaby—New Westminster) and Mr. Fin Donnelly (MP for New Westminster—Coquitlam) objected to the reconfiguration of electoral districts in these areas. These MPs, supported by Ms. Libby Davies (MP for Vancouver East), presented a proposal for significant changes from Burnaby—Douglas through to the proposed Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam electoral district.

The distinct lack of public support for the amalgamation of part of Burnaby—Douglas and the easterly portion of North Vancouver was pointed out. Mr. Julian and Mr. Donnelly suggested that a reconfigured Burnaby—New Westminster district would preserve a community of interest between South Burnaby and a western portion of New Westminster. The Honourable James Moore (MP for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam) appeared to favour the Commission's proposals over the configurations suggested by Mr. Stewart, Mr. Julian and Mr. Donnelly. While the Committee could not endorse all of the proposals put forward by the MPs, the Committee did urge the Commission to revisit the reconfigured district of Burnaby North—Seymour to see if a better solution could be achieved.

The Commission has had to consider the Burnaby, New Westminster and Coquitlam areas in tandem with neighbouring North Shore districts and districts south of the Pitt River. After formulating our initial proposals and receiving submissions during the public hearing process, we extensively reconsidered the demarcation of districts in these areas.

For instance, in our initial proposal, we had divided Port Coquitlam between three reconfigured districts. Several participants in the public hearing process expressed significant concern with this segmentation, and the reformulation in our Report avoids it. The reconfiguration of districts in our Report left Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge below the electoral quota, but we were able to avoid having a district cross the Pitt River, as had been the case in our initial proposal. As well, following the public hearings, we acceded to the eloquent requests to place the Queensborough area back with New Westminster in the reconfigured New Westminster—Burnaby district. Finally, under our reconfiguration, the City of New Westminster was no longer divided between electoral districts.

The Commission is not insensible to the dissatisfaction of a number of MPs and constituents with portions of the North Vancouver and Burnaby—Douglas districts being joined in a newly configured district. We also take note of the Committee's comment that there are compelling reasons for not having a riding span the Burrard Inlet. However, it is the task of the Commission to take a broad view of this particular area in the context of several adjacent areas. We cannot overlook the circumstance that population numbers in the existing electoral districts of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country and North Vancouver are far above the electoral quota.

Moreover, there is a measure of common interest between the two components of the reconfigured Burnaby North—Seymour district because they front on Burrard Inlet, a working harbour. While the two components span a body of water, access is not as serious an issue as it is in several Interior electoral districts, especially in the northern and central areas of the province.

In the end, all we can say concerning this reconfigured electoral district is that the commissioners have spent much time and thought on what to do in this area, having regard to our mandate of doing the best we can province-wide. We have listened with sympathy and appreciation to the cogently expressed objections to this reconfiguration from several sources, but we are ultimately unable to arrive at any disposition that we consider to be a better one. The configuration of this electoral district has certainly posed one of our most difficult challenges. On reflection, we are unable to accede to the objections advanced and concerns expressed by the Committee, and the configuration will remain as proposed in our Report.

Steveston—Richmond East and Richmond West

The Honourable Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay (MP for Delta—Richmond East) objected to the demarcation of the boundaries between the reconfigured electoral districts of Steveston—Richmond East and Richmond West. The Honourable Alice Wong (MP for Richmond) supported the southern boundary demarcation between the districts. We note that, in response to comments received during the public hearing process, the Commission had altered this boundary from Francis Road to Steveston Highway. We have considered Ms. Findlay's objection and believe that the modest changes we made in reconfiguring this area are preferable to the configuration she proposes. We consider that the proposed boundaries in our Report adequately recognize the urban and non-urban areas of this geographic unit. Our reconfiguration should also minimize voter confusion about the respective district boundaries. We shall later address certain objections concerning the name of the reconfigured Richmond West district.

Cloverdale—Langley and Fort Langley—Aldergrove

Mr. Mark Warawa (MP for Langley) objected to the separation of the Township of Langley and the City of Langley. In the event that the Commission did not accede to the first objection, he alternately objected to the inclusion of a portion of the Willoughby area in the reconfigured Cloverdale—Langley district. The Commission placed the City of Langley into the reconfigured Cloverdale—Langley district, which includes the areas of Cloverdale and Clayton in Surrey. We are aware that, in our proposal for Cloverdale—Langley, we have gone beyond the boundaries of Surrey to include the City of Langley and portions of the Township of Langley northerly of the city and west of 208th Street. We do not see the union of the city and township in one electoral district as feasible, having regard to electoral quota considerations and the proper configuration of surrounding districts. However, we have reconsidered the boundary drawn in our Report between the reconfigured districts of Cloverdale—Langley and Fort Langley—Aldergrove. As some alteration of this boundary would result in better population balance between the new districts, we have decided to move the boundary in this area to 200th Street. Movement as far west as Surrey's municipal boundary at 196th Street is not feasible because of electoral quota considerations. Still, more of the Township of Langley will now be included in the Fort Langley—Aldergrove district. We shall later address certain objections about names in this area.

Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola

Mr. Dan Albas (MP for Okanagan—Coquihalla) objected to the boundaries of the proposed electoral districts of Kelowna—Lake Country, Central Okanagan— Similkameen—Nicola, South Okanagan—West Kootenay and Kootenay—Columbia. The essence of his objection is that, in fashioning boundaries in these areas, the Commission has created urban ridings with lower populations than the more geographically extensive rural ridings.

The Commission is alive to this issue, and we agree with the Committee that there is force in this comment. However, the Commission was faced with several difficult situations in the areas bounded by the Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo electoral district, the American border and the Alberta border. Population numbers here did not permit creation of a new electoral district, but did demand revision upwards or downwards in certain electoral districts (Kelowna—Lake Country and Kootenay—Columbia being prime examples at their respective ends of the spectrum).

The Commission has endeavoured to strike an appropriate balance between the goals of keeping together communities of interest and heeding the electoral quota. We observe that, over time, urban areas appear to have demonstrated much greater growth than rural areas, and that trend is likely to continue. Our dispositions have required us to consider this broad area of the Interior of the province as a whole, and we consider that our demarcation of boundaries is a workable one. Often in Canada it has seemed that rural ridings with modest population numbers are afforded an influence above those numbers. Perhaps our dispositions will have attenuated this supposed discrepancy.

South Okanagan—West Kootenay and Kootenay—Columbia

Mr. Alex Atamanenko (MP for British Columbia Southern Interior) objected to the proposed configuration of the South Okanagan—West Kootenay district. He suggests preserving the existing boundaries of the British Columbia Southern Interior district. He submits that the Nelson, Trail and Castlegar areas should be included in the same electoral district, as at present, and suggests the same for Penticton and Summerland. For his part, Mr. David Wilks (MP for Kootenay—Columbia) submits that the areas around Nakusp and New Denver should be removed from the reconfigured South Okanagan—West Kootenay district and added to the reconfigured Kootenay—Columbia district. He also suggests a boundary shift to include Fauquier and Needles in Kootenay—Columbia. Such changes, he argues, would enhance constituent and MP access. For example, an MP for Kootenay—Columbia could conveniently reach Nakusp and New Denver while driving from Revelstoke to Kaslo along Highway 23.

As the Committee noted in its report, a commission redrawing boundaries in British Columbia has to deal with some difficult geography. This particular area of the Southern Interior, comprising the existing British Columbia Southern Interior and Kootenay—Columbia districts, raises substantial challenges for arriving at an appropriate reconfiguration. Substantial growth in the Okanagan area impacts on the task.

The Commission knows the travel challenges of the Kootenay Pass and other mountain roads in this geographic area, particularly in the winter season. We spent much time reflecting on submissions we received in the public hearing process and personally examined much of the terrain of this area. Population numbers well above the electoral quota in the existing Okanagan districts were a factor not to be overlooked. At the same time, we note that the existing Kootenay—Columbia district has a population number considerably below the electoral quota. We are not insensible to community of interest issues in the reconfigured South Okanagan—West Kootenay and Kootenay—Columbia districts. Yet a salient factor in designing new electoral districts in this area was due regard for an appropriate population balance there, and generally in the Southern Interior. Boundary alterations in this area can have a domino effect on several districts.

As such, the only boundary alteration we consider feasible for reconfigured districts in this area is to remove the Edgewood area from South Okanagan—West Kootenay and attach it to North Okanagan—Shuswap; there should be more convenient access to this particular area via the City of Vernon. We find that we can accede no further to the objections and suggestions about the reconfiguration of South Okanagan—West Kootenay and Kootenay—Columbia.

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