About a dozen people had the chance to talk about the proposed federal electoral map changes to three federal commissioners at a forum in Castlegar Wednesday night.
The forum took place at the Fireside Inn and was attended by around 40 area residents.
“Each province has had commissioners appointed,” said Southern Interior Member of Parliament Alex Atamanenko, who spoke against the changes. “We have three here in B.C. They’ve outlined proposed changes to the boundaries. Now, they’re taking these ideas out to get feedback. When the changes came out, people were notified. Those of us who presented, had to submit our intent by Aug. 30. Anyone can make written submissions to the commission by Oct. 18.”
The proposed changes would see Princeton and Hedley join Central Okanagan-Coquihalla and Penticton join with Castlegar and Trail in the South Okanagan-West Kootenay Boundary. In addition, Nelson, Montrose, Fruitvale and Salmo would join with Cranbrook and Fernie in the Kootenay-Columbia Boundary.
“The commissioners will look over all the feedback received throughout the province regarding the revised proposal and, I think, they targeted next spring,” said Atamenenko.
“At some point, this will go to parliament and they’ll either approve it or make recommendations.”
The new boundaries are expected to be in place before the next federal election.
The majority of speakers at the forum spoke against the proposed changes for a variety of reasons.
“An overwhelming majority of people there did not agree with the changes,” said Atamenenko. “I should emphasize they’re not really political reasons. It’s the fact that it’s ludicrous to take Nelson and separate it from Trail and Castlegar. The fact is that currently people in all those communities have reasonable access to this office (Atamanenko’s office in Castlegar). Now Nelson, which is a half hour from Castlegar, if someone had a problem, and they weren’t in this riding, the office would probably be in Cranbrook and they would have to go there.”
In Nelson, RDCK director Andy Shadrack proposed Nakusp and some communities north of Kaslo be added to the current Southern Interior riding.
“That proposal makes sense,” said Atamanenko. “The bottom line is what I’ve been saying is that we should keep (the boundaries) intact. If Penticton is added, that adds a whole new dimension of rural vs. urban. Because, for our purposes Penticton is an urban centre with different needs.”
Atamanenko pointed out that the regional district of Okanagan-Similkameen voted against the proposal.
“They don’t want Penticton to be in this riding,” he said. “Penticton itself, I think, would prefer to be with Summerland and the other communities where there’s more commonality. I’m hoping that the commissioners listen to what people say.”