The B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission’s final report continues to ruffle feathers throughout the Regional District of North Okanagan.
The City of Vernon and District of Coldstream, backed by the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, has expressed its collective extreme disappointment with the report’s call to move Coldstream from Vernon-Monashee to Kelowna-Lake Country.
RDNO Area E Cherryville director Jim Johnson is upset with the plan to move Cherryville from Vernon-Monashee to the Kootenay-Monashee electoral district. Johnson says the decision “greatly impacts our residents’ ability to communicate with and seek assistance from their MLA.”
“Electoral boundary reviews aim to improve elector representation by considering population changes and determining if the community is still appropriately represented at the provincial legislature,” said Johnson. “Population is not the only factor considered, however, as the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act requires the commission “to propose electoral district boundaries based on geographic considerations (including accessibility, size and physical configuration of parts of British Columbia), demographic considerations (including communities of interest, sparsity, density and rate of population growth), and means of communication and transportation.
The report, said Johnson, says that availability and cost of transportation as well as the time it takes, are important when considering the need for constituents and their MLA to have in-person meetings. Weather, acts of nature such as floods and wildfires, and inadequate infrastructure are significant barriers to transportation in some parts of the province, he said.
“In its previous electoral district, Cherryville’s MLA was based out of Vernon; however, now that our community is within the Kootenay-Monashee boundary, our MLA is based out of Castlegar,” said Johnson. “Vernon is a straightforward 45-minute drive while reaching Castlegar requires driving through two mountain passes and taking a ferry. On a clear, fair-weather day, that trip can take nearly five hours, and in the winter can take upwards of seven.”
The commission also considers the population of each electoral district when making recommendations. The act says the commission should propose electoral districts that have populations within +/- 25 per cent of the electoral quotient.
The commission can make proposals for electoral districts whose populations fall outside of the usual deviation range if that is “necessary to provide for effective representation.”
“Our population of 1,092 does not significantly affect the principle of representation by population for either the Kootenay-Monashee or the newly established Vernon-Lumby electoral district,” said Johnson, who is requesting Victoria include Cherryville in Vernon-Lumby, not Kootenay-Monashee.