Boundary change may be unnecessary, says Kelowna-Lake Country's Letnick

Boundary change needless?

The MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country says a boundary extension that would include a large chunk of Vernon may not be necessary.

In a submission to the BC Boundary Commission, Norm Letnick notes that population growth in the Central Okanagan may preclude the commission's recommendation that Kelowna-Lake Country's northern boundary be extended.

The commission has recommended the creation of a fourth Central Okanagan riding, and in so doing would add parts of Vernon to Kelowna-Lake Country to balance riding populations.

That has not gone over well with civic and business leaders in Vernon.

The plan would see the Beachcomber Bay, Okanagan Landing and East Bella Vista Highlands areas added to the riding to the south.

The City of Vernon and Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce have opposed the recommendation, urging the province to keep Vernon, Coldstream and regional district areas B and C in the same riding due to their business and governance ties.

On Wednesday, Letnick thanked the commission "for recognizing the need for a fourth Central Okanagan MLA and the creation of a Kelowna Central riding."

However, he noted Census Canada reports a five-year 14% increase in the population of the Greater Kelowna area and 11% increase in Greater Vernon.

"The Kelowna Lake Country area ... is growing at approximately double the Greater Kelowna rate due to increased opportunities for land development," said Letnick.

"At even the Census Canada rates projected over the next five years ... the projected population in five years for Kelowna-Lake Country will be 67,630 and for Vernon-Monashee 66,400.

"Therefore maintaining KLC's current north boundary with the VM riding might still be possible without serious consequence to representation," Letnick told the commission.

Vernon's message to the commission was "don't split us up."

The commission will consider amendments in light of public input, with a final report to be released by April 3.

Letnick added that residents of Big White also voiced their disappointment at again being included in the Boundary Similkameen riding.

"Due to proximity and history, the approximately 200 voters at Big White and their families are linked to Kelowna. From economic, to education, road infrastructure and maintenance, health care and political representation Big White has consistently relied on the three Kelowna MLAs to represent them," said Letnick.

He said it was the three Kelowna MLAs who advocated against ambulance service cuts to Big White.

"It's impossible for Kelowna MLAs to ignore the needs of residents of and visitors to Big White, and yet the residents have no say at election time who they want to represent them in practice since they are included in a riding distant from them," he said.

He said the MLAs support moving Big White into either the Kelowna-Lake Country or Kelowna Mission ridings.

More Vernon News