The current boundaries of the Nelson-Creston riding. Map: Elections BC

The current boundaries of the Nelson-Creston riding. Map: Elections BC

Nelson-Creston riding boundary could change following provincial review

Independent commission will analyse population distribution

The boundaries of the Nelson-Creston riding could change as a result of a series of meetings coming up this month.

The BC Electoral Boundaries Commission is holding public meetings across southern B.C. The Nelson meeting was held on April 4.

There will also be a virtual public meeting for residents of all southern interior B.C. ridings on April 11, accessible at https://bit.ly/3LFoYQp. Online written submissions can be made at https://bit.ly/3KcqEjZ before 4:30 p.m. on May 31.

After every second election cycle, the provincial government looks at election boundaries to make sure they have kept up with population changes. It appoints an independent, non-partisan commission to analyze all ridings and to recommend changes to the legislature.

The commission will analyze population changes, but, according to its website, it will also take into consideration “geography, demographics, means of communication and transportation, the protection of communities of interest.”

In 2021 the province passed legislation that removed protections ensuring small, low-population rural ridings could not be reduced in size. Now those ridings could be incorporated into neighbouring ridings, and larger urban ones could be split in two.

Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson told the Nelson Star that the protection for small ridings was a political decision by the BC Liberal government.

“It favoured certain constituencies over others,” she said, adding that boundary decisions will now be non-political because they will be in the hands of a non-partisan commission.

Currently there are 87 electoral districts in B.C. The legislation allows for up to six new electoral districts to be added as part of this review for a total of 93.

The population of the Nelson-Creston riding is 38,744, the ninth smallest in the province. The average riding population province-wide is 57,481.

Nelson-Creston’s three neighbouring ridings have low populations as well: Kootenay East at 44,403; Columbia River-Revelstoke, 37,614; and Kootenay West, 43,723. The latter is represented by the NDP and the two others by the B.C. Liberals.

Some ridings in the province have populations more than double these Kootenay ridings. Those with the largest populations are Surrey South at 83,167 and Surrey Panorama, 77,899.

The Electoral Boundaries Commission Act states that the population of a riding should not deviate more than 25 per cent above or below an established norm known as the electoral quotient.

Nelson-Creston’s deviation is minus 33 per cent, and it is surrounded by three ridings that also have high negative (low population) deviations, ranging between minus 23 per cent to minus 34 per cent.

“I don’t want to see the boundaries (for Nelson-Creston) change,” Anderson said. “But of course we’re going to leave it up to the independent panel to be able to do their work. I think it’s important also in rural areas that MLAs are able to be accessible … so I don’t want to see ridings become too large where it’s not possible for an MLA to adequately represent their constituents.”

The B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission consists of three members: Justice Nitya Iyer of the Supreme Court of British Columbia (chair); Anton Boegman, B.C.’s chief electoral officer; and Linda Tynan, local government management consultant and former chief financial officer at the City of Nelson.

This is not the same commission that periodically makes changes to federal ridings.



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

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