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UPDATED: Electoral Boundaries Commission seeks feedback

The BC Electoral Boundaries Commission will hold public meetings in Nelson, Trail, and Kelowna next week, but will skip the Boundary.

There will also be a virtual public meeting for these regions on Monday, April 11.

“We are eager to hear from residents,” Justice Nitya Iyer, the commission chair, said in a news release. “Input from local community members is essential to the Commission process. We encourage you to share your thoughts with us on this important topic.”

The commission is an independent and non-partisan three-person panel with a mandate to review the area, names and boundaries of provincial electoral districts, and submit proposals to the Legislative Assembly.

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The commission considers not only population but also geography, demographics, means of communication and transportation, the protection of communities of interest and special circumstances in developing its proposals.

To provide input to the commission, you can attend an in-person or virtual public meeting, complete the survey on the commission website, or contact the Commission directly.

The deadline for public input is May 31.

Boundary-Similkameen MLA Roly Russell says while he is open to suggested changes, he thinks the existing riding “works pretty well.”

“It’s a really large riding, which is a challenge to represent fairly,” he says. “That said, I think it helps to have a riding where there isn’t a defined or clear population centre. There isn’t a municipality in the middle that gets all the attention. That works well for the riding. It’s genuinely rural. All the communities are 5,000 or less.”

Russell’s riding takes in three distinct areas: the Boundary, Similkameen, and the South Okanagan, which share the attribute of all being rural.

“I think that fact is really wonderful. As much as I like their coffee, I’m proud of the fact I don’t have a Starbucks in the riding. It means more equitable representation.”

Russell says it’s not clear to him that any of those regions would necessarily benefit from being moved to a different riding. The South Okanagan could be attached to a Penticton riding, he says, “but that doesn’t mean there would be better representation for those small communities.”

Russell says Manning Park and the Paulson pass make for logical west/east boundaries for his riding, and while there could be other ways of splitting the riding north/south, it’s not obvious to him what they would be.

“In rural BC, it’s a challenge to represent because of geography,” he says.” Population is a factor but it’s certainly not the only factor.”

Boundary-Similkameen was created in 2009. Prior to that, the Boundary was included in West Kootenay-Boundary from 2001-09, in Okanagan-Boundary from from 1991-2001, and from 1966 to 1991 in a previous riding known as Boundary-Similkameen with a similar but not identical footprint.

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