In February, I reported proposed changes to federal electoral riding boundaries would impact many local electoral districts, including Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
At that time, I pointed out portions of the existing riding could end up in five different British Columbia ridings.
Princeton, Keremeos, Cawston and Hedley would join the proposed riding of Similkameen-West Kootenay, including the city of Penticton and the Penticton Indian Band.
Summerland, Peachland, West Kelowna, Westbank First Nation and parts of Kelowna would become part of a proposed new riding called Okanagan Lake West-South Kelowna.
Merritt and Logan Lake would become part of a new riding called Kamloops-Thompson-Nicola.
Other changes would affect riding boundaries in the rest of the Okanagan Valley and beyond.
After the initial proposal was drafted, there was an opportunity for Members of Parliament to submit feedback and recommendations about the proposed changes to the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission.
From past experience, input from MPs does not often result in significant changes, given it is not uncommon for this input to include political considerations.
Also, it must be recognized, the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission faces a challenge in balancing population growth combined with a long list of other community and geographical considerations.
This time, the revised report from the commission did include some revisions based upon input from Members of Parliament.
While the changes would potentially be enacted at different ridings around Canada, my column today will focus on the proposed revised changes for our region.
In Similkameen–South Okanagan–West Kootenay (the proposed new name for this riding), some communities northeast of Castlegar in the Slocan Valley would be re-attached from Columbia–Kootenay–Southern Rockies, while Trail and the communities near it would be exchanged, meaning this riding will gain more of Castlegar but will not have Trail within the riding boundary.
Trail, instead, will be located in the proposed riding of Columbia–Kootenay–Southern Rockies, along with some other smaller nearby communities. However, it would not include Revelstoke.
It should also be noted that parliament must still ratify these final proposed changes. If a snap election is called this fall, before the changes are adopted, the current (existing) riding boundaries will be used.
My thoughts on these changes?
There is seldom a proposed solution to riding boundary changes that pleases everyone. Aside from regional considerations that are very important in rural areas, accommodating every point of view is not always possible.
I have also observed elected officials often suggest removing specific communities—or include others—that often align with their political objectives. For this reason, I refrain from commenting on proposed changes and ensure that the voices of affected residents are heard. The information I hear back from local citizens is then shared with the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission in a non-partisan manner.
My question to you this week:
Do you think elected officials should have a more decisive say on proposed electoral riding changes, or do you favour the current, largely independent process? Why or why not?
I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.
Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.