A new proposal to redraw Vancouver Island’s federal ridings landed in the House of Commons Monday, giving Islanders an almost-final view of where they will vote in the next federal election.
The changes try to address concerns raised by the public last year, while at the same time altering the borders of existing electoral districts to make room for a new Island riding in the next election, said John Hall, chairman of the three-member electoral commission responsible for the report.
With the revisions, Vancouver Island has seven ridings, up from six.
“There were about 100,000 additional people living on the Island, when you looked at the numbers from 10 years ago, so that equates to one [new] seat and you had to figure out what you do about that,” Hall said.
MPs can now submit concerns to the electoral boundaries commission, with a final report expected in June. The changes are then expected to become law.
Major changes include:
• Moving Powell River into a new Vancouver Island North-Comox-Powell River riding. Powell River currently sits in the riding of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.
• Splitting up the Comox Valley to group Comox with the North Island, while linking Courtenay to a redesigned Courtenay-Alberni riding.
• Keeping the City of Nanaimo (currently split into two federal ridings) as a single Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding, including Lantzville.
• Pulling Langford and the Highlands into a Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding.
• Reconfiguring Colwood, Sooke, Esquimalt, View Royal and Metchosin into a Saanich-Juan de Fuca riding, which includes the area of Saanich municipal hall.
• Abandoning a move to split Vic West from Victoria, which was opposed by Victoria’s mayor. Victoria remains mostly unchanged.
• Only making slight changes to the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.
The latest revision comes after public consultation on a draft last year.
The commission tried to act on concerns such as opposition to a proposal to join Lake Cowichan to Nanaimo’s district, confusion in the West Shore over splitting Langford in half, a desire from Nanaimo residents to have a unified riding and bewilderment at linking Metchosin and Cowichan, Hall said.
Saanich, which had lobbied for a single MP, remains split. The area isn’t divided quite as much, and the Saanich-Juan de Fuca name is better for voters, said Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff.
“The good thing is the commission did listen to people who had some concerns,” said Jean Crowder, NDP MP for the existing riding of Nanaimo-Cowichan.
Some people in Nanaimo would prefer the city was served by two MPs, said Conservative Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney.
“I’m not sure the Courtenay people are happy with it,” he added. “We’ll have to take a good look at the implications.”
Elizabeth May, who opposed the idea of adding new seats to Parliament because of population growth, said there are only small changes to her Saanich-Gulf Islands riding.
“In a number of difficult choices, I think they’ve made a fair one,” said the MP and Green Party leader. There are no signs of political gerrymandering, she said.
Greater Vancouver gains five new federal seats under the changes, as the House of Commons grows by 30 seats overall, to a total of 338 ridings.
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