Kelowna mayor wants to trade south Mission for downtown, Glenmore

Walter Gray has told the federal electoral boundaries commission it should put the south Mission area in a new riding west of the lake.

Federal electoral boundary commissioner Stewart Ladyman (right) talks with Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray (centre) and city clerk Stephen Fleming prior to Wednesday's commission hearing in Kelowna.

Kelowna has an alternative for the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission, which wants to carve the city’s downtown and old Glenmore areas out of the Kelowna-Lake Country riding— take the south Mission instead.

Mayor Walter Gray presented the proposal to the commission looking to reset federal electoral boundaries in B.C. Wednesday night when it held a public hearing here on its recommendations for the southern Interior.

Gray said instead of putting the downtown and old Glenmore areas into the sprawling new Central Okanagan-Coquihalla riding—along with such scattered communities as Peachland, Summerland, Merrit, Logan Lake, Princeton, Ashcroft and even tiny Falkland inthe north Okanagan, all the area in Kelowna south of Mission Creek should go into that riding instead.

“We feel you are literally cutting out the heart of Kelowna (by taking downtown and the Old Glenmore),” said Gray.

If it is done, it would follow a similar move made by the last provincial electoral boundary commission, which moved downtown Kelowna into new Westside-Kelowna riding prior to the last B.C. election.

The federal commission—which unlike its provincial cousin will make the final decision—has said it is grappling with population concerns in the southern Interior, noting overall the population is about 50,000 people under the number needed to add one of six new B.C. ridings here.

The new ridings will go instead to the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. The addition will bring the total number of B.C. ridings to 42.

Gray said in terms of population, exchanging downtown and old Glenmore for the south Mission would be a saw-off in numbers—about 23,000 in each area.

Questioned by commissioner Peter Meekison, Gray said he was not concerned that the south Mission area would be totally cut off from the rest of the Central Okanagan-Coquihalla riding if it were added instead of downtown

But it was not just the inclusion of parts of Kelowna in the new riding that had people at the hearing concerned.

Several representatives from Falkland spoke, complaining about the inclusion of their community in Central Okanagan-Coquihalainstead of keeping it with nearby Vernon.

Several speakers said Vernon is only a 20-minute drive away and that is where most Falkland residents send their children to school, shop, seek medical services and conduct a host of other activities.

Lumping it in with downtown Kelowna, a 90-minute drive away would not make sense.

“We do not have anything in common with that area, said Kelly Rose, a community activist from Falkland who made the trip here to read  letter from concerned citizens in the town of 1,500 people.

The new riding would stretch from just south of Kamloops to the Canada-U.S. border. In the Okanagan, the only part that would be west of Okanagan Lake would be Kelowna’s downtown and old Glenmore area.

The area in question is boarded by Royal and Rose Avenues and Gusachan and Springfield Roads in the south, Spall Road and Glenmore Drive in the east, High Road, Mountain Avenue and Trench Place in the north and the lake in the west.

Federal electoral boundaries are redrawn every 10 years to account for population changes and this time the commission is trying to keep B.C. riding populations to around 104,638 each.

The three member commission— made up of former Penticton schools superintendent Stewart Ladyman, B.C. Apeals Court judge John Hall and retired university professor Peter Meekison are touring th province gathering feedback about their proposed changes.