The Commission looking into proposed changes to federal ridings — which would include adding a new one to the Southern Interior — has made further changes to that proposed new riding, which would include Ashcroft, Cache Creek, and Clinton, and would split the City of Kamloops between two separate ridings.
A report released on Feb. 8 by the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission outlines the recommended changes to B.C.’s federal ridings, which include increasing the number from 42 to 43. The three B.C. commissioners — Madam Justice Mary Saunders (chair), Dr. R. Kenneth Carty, and Mr. Stewart Ladyman — spent several months holding public hearings throughout B.C., in-person and virtually, which were attended by nearly 500 people and contained more than 200 presentations from interested parties. They also received and read nearly 1,000 written submissions.
At the public hearing in Kamloops on June 16, 2022, Saunders noted that boundary reviews are carried out across the country every 10 years, in order to ensure that population distribution is as equitable as possible. She added that based on the 2021 Census of Canada results, an additional riding was being added to B.C., and that after reviewing the numbers, the decision was made to add it to the Southern Interior.
The proposed new riding was to be called Kamloops-Thompson-Lytton, and included Lytton, Lillooet, Ashcroft, and Cache Creek (currently part of the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding); Clinton, Barriere, and Clearwater (currently in Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo); Logan Lake (currently in Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt); and the western portion of the City of Kamloops.
That new riding has now been changed to include Merritt (currently in Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt), and has been renamed Kamloops-Thompson-Nicola. The northeastern boundary stops short of 100 Mile House, which will now be part of the Cariboo-Prince George riding; it is currently part of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo.
More significantly, while the City of Kamloops is still to be split between two ridings — Kamloops-Thompson-Nicola and Kamloops-Shuswap-Central Rockies — the boundary now runs through the heart of downtown Kamloops, rather than skirting the eastern edge. The new division means that areas to the west of 6th Avenue, the Tk’emlups Reserve, and North Kamloops will be in Kamloops-Thompson-Nicola, while most areas of Kamloops to the east of 6th Avenue will be in Kamloops-Shuswap-Central Rockies, which extends to the B.C./Alberta border.
“The most challenging area for reconfiguration in the Southern Interior is the City of Kamloops and its large trading and service area,” says the report. “The population in that circle significantly exceeds the province’s electoral quota, but falls short of the population that would support two electoral districts.
“The Commission concluded that this divergence from quota needs to be addressed and that the population of the City must be spread into two electoral districts, with each part joining an extended community of smaller populations… Submissions resisted this division and strongly advocated to keep Kamloops whole.
“The Commission carefully re-examined the data and maps, conscious of these submissions, seeking to identify a better viable alternative. The Commission ultimately concluded that dividing Kamloops across two electoral districts is the most appropriate response to the large deviation from quota of the present electoral district.” Just as dividing Prince George allows for an appropriate degree of representation for the North, the current census population in the Kamloops area requires a design that will allocate the City of Kamloops to two electoral districts represented by two Members of Parliament.
“The river network and need for contiguity within an electoral district require that one of the electoral districts extend north and west along the North Thompson and Thompson Rivers to Lytton and along the Fraser River to Lillooet. The second electoral district, then, naturally must extend eastward. In response to submissions questioning the previously proposed boundary within Kamloops, the Commission has instead opted for a boundary along 6th Avenue.”
The Commission report issued on Feb. 8 states that one of the two issues that figured most prominently in public commissions was whether a municipality as a whole should be situated within an electoral district. The report also notes that “maintaining historical patterns of association” within an electoral riding was one of the driving factors behind changes made to the ridings between last year’s public hearings and the new boundaries.
Other factors driving the changes included minimizing the division of municipalities and neighbourhoods and promoting greater access within an electoral district.
“The Commission believes that the result described in this Report is an electoral map for British Columbia that provides for effective representation for each of the 43 electoral districts,” states the report.
“The lively public input that [the Commission] received has been of great value to its work. The public collaboration at public hearings increased the Commission’s understanding of local considerations far beyond the text of the submissions. The Commission is appreciative of the participants who devoted their thought and energy to this process of Canadian democracy, and expresses its gratitude for their engagement.”
The report has now been submitted to Members of Parliament for their feedback and objections, which must be provided by May 2023; the Commission will consider these submissions in May and June. The new federal electoral districts will then be described in a Representation Order, which is expected to be proclaimed in September 2023.
The new boundaries will come into force on the day parliament is dissolved for the first general election taking place at least seven months after the new representation is proclaimed; that election is currently scheduled to take place in October 2025. The new boundaries will take the number of federal ridings in Canada to 342, up from the current 338.
To read the report and see all the changes to B.C.’s federal ridings, go to http://bit.ly/3YJQ8fB.