BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko is disappointed that the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission’s report does not reflect the majority of submissions at last fall’s public hearings in BC’s rural ridings.
The final Commission report divides the current riding of BC Southern Interior between a newly created riding, South Okanagan – West Kootenay, and the eastern riding of Kootenay-Columbia. The communities of Nelson, Kaslo and Salmo will become part of Kootenay-Columbia. Castlegar, Trail, Grand Forks, Nakusp and the Slocan Valley join Osoyoos and Penticton in South Okanagan-West Kootenay. The communities of Keremeos and Princeton have been added to a third Okanagan riding.
“This report goes against the submissions of an overwhelming majority of people who provided feedback at the Commission’s public hearings”, said Atamanenko. “We heard the message loud and clear that Nelson, Salmo and Kaslo did not want to be separated from Castlegar and Trail, but that is exactly what the Commission has done.”
In a recently released op-ed piece Dan Albas, Conservative MP for Okanagan- Coquihalla, also criticizes the Commission’s report. According to Albas, the Commission based the redistribution solely on numbers and did not consider geographic accessibility or equity of representation when redefining rural riding boundaries. For constituents living in the Slocan Valley an MP’s office in Penticton (5 hours away) is never easily accessible. Winter driving conditions on mountain passes will curtail MP visits to the West Kootenay area.
A similar accessibility problem exists in the Kootenay-Columbia. “I agree with Dan”, added Atamanenko. “What may work on paper does not translate to the reality on the ground.” The Commission has added significantly more mountainous area to the already challenging size of Kootenay-Columbia. Equitable access to the MP will be impossible in this large territory.
Atamanenko and other MPs have 30 days in which to register their objection and signify their intention to appear before the parliamentary procedures committee. The Member for BC Southern Interior is slated to appear before the Committee in early March.
“I will be pleading my case against the changes to the riding boundaries and encourage everyone who is concerned to provide me with a letter of support. Letters from constituents will add weight to our case”, concluded the NDP MP.