The BC Electoral Boundaries Commission published its Preliminary Report on Oct. 3, 2022. The report includes a number of recommendations for changing B.C’s provincial electoral districts for the next two provincial general elections.
One such change would impact the North Thompson communities north of McLure, including Barriere, Little Fort and Clearwater, who have been recommended to become a new electoral district called Cariboo – North Thompson, which will extend all the way to Anahim Lake.
The commission says they will be making key recommendations to the Legislative Assembly which includes the creation of six additional electoral districts, bringing the total number of seats to 93 from the current 87. The commission proposes adding these electoral districts in areas of rapid population growth, specifically Langford, Burnaby, Langley, Surrey, Vancouver and Kelowna.
“British Columbia is a growing province,” said Justice Nitya Iyer, Chair of the Commission. “The population has increased by more than 300,000 people over the last five years. Our recommendation to increase the number of electoral districts in B.C. reflects that growth.”
The commission also recommends adjustments to the boundaries of 71 electoral districts based on the geographic, demographic, communication and transportation considerations set out the in Electoral Boundaries Commission Act.
“Before we began our deliberations, we travelled throughout the province, meeting as many people as we could, seeking input on electoral boundaries. We held 50 public meetings in 43 communities and received over 1,300 submissions,” said Justice Iyer. “Our recommendations are the result of the considerations in the Act, the data we collected and the diverse perspectives of British Columbians.”
Their website states, “The Interior area presently consists of 10 electoral districts in south-central B.C., including the Okanagan, Nicola, Shuswap, Thompson and Boundary regions.The population of this area is unevenly distributed. It includes the growing urban centres of Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton, but also contains sparsely populated areas with little projected growth, particularly in the Boundary-Similkameen and Fraser-Nicola ridings.The three current Kelowna ridings (Kelowna-Mission, Kelowna West and Kelowna-Lake Country) are growing at nearly twice the provincial average. In addition, the populations of Kelowna West and Kelowna-Lake County are above the usual deviation range. We address this by proposing a new electoral district for this area.
“Kamloops is also growing quickly. We reflect its urbanization by adjusting existing boundaries to divide the city centre and adjacent neighbourhoods from more sparsely populated neighbourhoods and rural areas. We propose moving some of the rural communities north and west of Kamloops into the electoral districts of Fraser Nicola and Cariboo-North Thompson. This brings the populations of these ridings within the usual deviation range while accommodating projected population growth in Kamloops.
“The Prince George and the Cariboo area is made up of four electoral districts situated in the centre of the province. Prince George is the most populous city in this area with 76,708 residents. Other communities include Quesnel, Williams Lake and 100 Mile House. This part of the province is mostly rural, with many people living in remote locations. The population is relatively sparse and it is growing slower than the provincial average. The two current Cariboo ridings, Cariboo-Chilcotin and Cariboo North, fall significantly below the usual deviation range at -40.9% and -49.6% respectively. The population of the two existing Prince George ridings are within the usual deviation range.
“We considered combining the two Cariboo electoral districts into one riding; however, we concluded that the better alternative for effective representation is to keep four ridings and propose boundary adjustments that bring the population of each electoral district within the usual deviation range.
“We also considered adding the Bella Coola valley to Cariboo-North Thompson but decided against that because it would have further reduced the small population of the North Coast electoral district. Residents in this area consistently emphasized the challenge of ensuring effective representation for people living in rural and remote areas. They highlighted the inadequacy of existing transportation and connectivity infrastructure. Many told us that we should maintain the existing electoral district boundaries. Some said that ensuring adequate representation in growing urban areas should not come at the expense of the residents of this area.Transportation is a particular challenge here. The arterial Highways 16, 97 and 20 connect the communities throughout the Cariboo and Chilcotin. They run over a high plateau that is subject to harsh weather conditions year round. Many remote communities depend on these roads and have no alternative routes.
“This area has among the worst connectivity in the province. Although improving, cellular and internet access remains poor outside of major communities. Combining the Cariboo ridings would exacerbate these transportation and connectivity problems.Our proposal distributes the population concentrated in Prince George over three ridings, bringing all of this area’s ridings within the usual deviation range. We have kept downtown Prince George in one riding and have not disrupted existing connections between communities in the Robson Valley, the Chilcotin Plateau and the South Cariboo.
“We propose two electoral district name changes to reflect the communities within these ridings. Cariboo-North Thompson: This electoral district consists of the southern part of the Cariboo and the Chilcotin Plateau, as well as part of the North Thompson. We propose including Williams Lake, Lac la Hache, 100 Mile House, Clearwater, Barriere and Anahim Lake into this riding.
“The southern neighbourhoods of Prince George and the communities of the northern Cariboo and Chilcotin regions make up this electoral district. It includes Prince George south from the College Heights neighbourhood and the communities of Quesnel, Likely, Stoner, Hixon and Wells.”
The commission has advised they will consider amending its recommendations in light of the input it receives. Its final report must be released by April 3, 2023. The Legislative Assembly will then decide whether to accept all, some or none of the commission’s recommendations.
Public hearings will begin this month in communities throughout the province. British Columbians can also provide input to the commission by completing the website survey or by writing to the commission directly by email or post.
All public input must be received by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 22, 2022.
To read the preliminary report, view the schedule of upcoming public hearings, or provide input on the commission’s recommendations, visit their website at: https://bcebc.ca/preliminary-report/