Depending on your level of political interest, you may or may not be aware that federally, much like provincially, our various regions are divided up into what are called ridings.
A provincial riding, is represented by an MLA and a federal riding is represented by an MP. But it is the boundaries of the ridings that determine which communities and geographical areas exist within a particular riding.
As growth can occur in some regions faster or more slowly than in others, from time to time the boundaries are reviewed and reconfigured to reflect population changes.
In Canada we use a “representation by population” model when establishing riding boundaries.
An independent, non-partisan Federal electoral boundary commission has the responsibility to determine riding boundaries that adhere, as strictly as possible, to the principle of representation by population.
This is a very challenging task.
In adhering to these guidelines, often regional and geographical concerns may become secondary to keeping the population within each of the ridings approximately equal.
From the federal perspective, the riding boundaries are reviewed once every 10 years and, I believe, eight years at the provincial level.
Those of you who follow federal politics closely will be aware that the current electoral boundaries have been under review for the past year.
The first draft of proposed new boundaries released in 2012 generated a significant amount of local opposition, both in the riding of Okanagan-Coquihalla and more so in the riding of B.C. Southern Interior.
Last week, the final report on our new electoral boundaries for the next federal election was released and while some minor changes have been made from the preliminary proposed boundaries, I expect those changes will not be to the extent that many were looking for.
Although a full summary is available online at the federal redistribution website, I will summarize some of the more significant changes.
The current B.C. Southern Interior riding, represented by NDP MP Alex Atamanenko, is by far the most impacted by the new boundaries.
The communities of Rossland, Trail and Castlegar would no longer be in the riding with nearby Nelson.
Instead, they will be in a new riding identified as South Okanagan-West Kootenay. Also in this new riding would be the communities of Oliver, Osoyoos, and most notably Penticton. But it doesnot include Summerland, Keremeos or Princeton.
For my riding of Okanagan-Coquihalla, the commission has largely left the riding intact, with West Kelowna, Merritt, Logan Lake, Summerland and Peachland still part of the riding that will be renamed Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
Obviously the largest change is that Penticton will be removed from this riding and Keremeos, Princeton and a portion of Kelowna will be added.
Although some communities will be supportive of these changes, from what I heard when I attended the public input session, and from speaking with various local government leaders and residents, I am expecting that the majority will be opposed.
From a political perspective, given the change in boundaries, another question that may arise is in which riding will an incumbent MP run assuming they stand for re-election?
In my case I have already had this question from a number of local reporters and while I believe this issue is of little significance at this point, given the next election is still a long way away, I also believe residents deserve candid and timely answers from elected officials.
From my perspective, Okanagan-Coquihalla is a large and very diverse riding and I have spent the past few years becoming familiar with many important community issues, as well as building relationships with community leaders.
The vast majority of those leaders will remain within the new riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
Given the importance of knowing local challenges and the need to build strong community relationships to help resolve them, representing a familiar riding and working with community leaders you know, is, in my view, the way an MP can be most effective.
In my case that would be Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
Having said that, it is also important to recognize that these new boundaries do not come into effect until the next federal election and at the moment there are many projects and priorities in Okanagan-Coquihalla that we must collectively continue to pursue.
I welcome your comments on this or any topic and can be reached toll-free at 1-800-665-8711or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org