The electoral boundary commission tabled its report in the House of Commons on Monday (Jan. 28) and despite local opposition, the electoral map of B.C. could see changes such as Nelson joining Cranbrook and Penticton joining with Castlegar and Trail.
Canada’s soon-to-be 338 federal ridings are drawn so that the population is about the same in each. The map is studied once a decade by commissions in each province and adjustments are made due to accommodate population growth.
Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko, who spoke against the changes at several local forums held last fall including Castlegar, is not pleased.
“I’ll have a chance to present my case to get that changed because that’s not what we want,” he told the Castlegar News on Thursday. “There’s a whole procedure now that’s going to happen. I’ll be working on that in the next week or so to present a case. What the commission recommended is contrary to what everyone spoke to when they were here. We have to see if we can reverse that decision.”
Atamanenko and about a dozen others spoke at the forum on Oct. 1 at the Fireside Inn in Castlegar to the federal election boundarys commission. There was a similar forum held in Nelson as well.
The new map for B.C. added six new ridings and dramatically recasts the Southern Interior.
Castlegar and Trail would join with Penticton to form the new South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding which would stretch north to include Nakusp. Nelson, Kaslo, Salmo, Creston and RDCK areas A through G, would join with Cranbrook as well as Revelstoke and Golden in the Kootenay-Columbia riding which would extend to the Alberta border.
“It’s ludicrous,” said Atamanenko. “The main point that everyone made here is that we need to keep Castlegar, Trail and Nelson and our area together. It doesn’t make any sense to split us up, and then also throw in Penticton. I think it’s not a very workable solution. So we’ve got to put together a case to change that.”
Atamanenko says the reasoning behind the change is mostly due to population numbers.
“There aren’t enough people in the East Kootenay so they have to add it from somewhere and this is the only place to do it from,” he said. “So we have to make the argument that that riding is geographically large and should probably just be allowed to stay as it is as Kootenay-Columbia. That it wouldn’t make any sense to enlarge it and make it even large. So we have to look at it and see what options we have. I think the reason is strictly numbers.”
An area stretching from Castlegar and Trail to Nakusp over to Penticton would be difficult for an MP to cover and give a fair shake to all constituents.
“Say I got re-elected and kept my office in Castlegar, so what happens to Penticton?” he said. “We don’t have additional funding. We don’t have it to open a full office there. So that means people there would suffer. If an MP was elected from Penticton, that person would probably have an office in Penticton and a small satellite office here. Same thing. We might have one in Castlegar and Nelson, if the MP was in Cranbrook. Logistically it doesn’t make sense. We have an area that has over 30,000 people that needs an office people can go to to see their Member of Parliament. That’s one of my main concerns.”