Proposed electoral boundary changes that would split the City of Vernon into two electoral districts aren’t gaining much support.
The British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission is recommending revisions to the Vernon-Monashee electoral district. Changes would include moving Predator Ridge, Beachcomber Bay, Okanagan Landing and Bella Vista Highlands out of the Vernon-Monashee riding and into the Kelowna-Lake Country riding.
A preliminary report by the Electoral Boundaries Commission states the changes would reduce the population of Vernon-Monashee, bringing it in line with that of Kelowna-Lake Country.
The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is against the proposed changes, as it expressed in an open letter dated Oct. 31. In the letter, the chamber said the boundary changes would separate a large portion of Vernon’s population from the rest of the community at the provincial level — areas that draw municipal services from the City of Vernon including economic development, planning and infrastructure.
The chamber adds that those neighbourhoods are comprised of about 9,000 residents whose interests are more aligned with Vernon, Coldstream and the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) than with Lake Country and Kelowna.
The chamber further states that the RDNO controls access to domestic water, trails and cultural services and that any transportation access to Beachcomber Bay, Okanagan Landing and the Bella Vista Highlands is done through the City of Vernon.
“Vernon is a single economic and social unit, with businesses supporting consumers in all neighbourhoods, and creating employment for residents throughout the community. Neighbourhoods such as Predator Ridge and Okanagan Landing play a significant role in the local economy,” said chamber president Robin Cardew.
“Organizations such as the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, as well as vital social service agencies, serve all residents and businesses of Vernon.”
Cardew says the chamber appreciates that the commission is trying to address population growth by redistributing electoral boundaries, but believes it makes more sense for Vernon to have a single representative at the provincial level. At that level, it will simplify the process for local government to pursue senior government support for joint projects and local services. It will also allow for a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the representative and allow organizations to direct limited resources to a single representative.
Cardew also says a single member of the Legislative Assembly will be able to provide effective representation for Vernon.
In its preliminary report, the commission says that a strong economic and social connection between Lumby, Cherryville, Vernon and Coldstream indicates that they should be kept in the same electoral district. The chamber says that the same logic should be applied to the Predator Ridge, Okanagan Landing and Bella Vista neighbourhoods.
“If Predator Ridge, Okanagan Landing and Bella Vista are placed in Kelowna-Lake Country, we are concerned that approximately 9,000 residents of Vernon will effectively have their electoral voice muted by the larger population of Kelowna that will dominate the focus of the MLA,” said Cardew.
Cardew requested that Vernon, Coldstream and RDNO Areas B and C remain in the same electoral boundary.
“The City of Vernon should not be divided into two separate electoral districts.”
Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu said she is in the process of reviewing how the proposed changes would affect local residents.
“Regardless of the proposal, the public does still have a chance to engage with the suggestions and provide feedback, and I encourage everyone to take an active role in this process,” Sandhu said.
The commission is accepting feedback from the public on the proposed boundary changes until Nov. 22. To make a submission, head to bcebc.ca/your-voice/.