South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings says he’s not convinced splitting Penticton between two ridings is a good idea.
A proposal released this week by BC’s federal electoral boundaries commission would see the city represented by two MPs, one from the existing riding and another from a neighbouring riding to be known as Coquihalla.
But Cannings says while he appreciates the difficult task the commission had and that multiple MPs are common in larger centres, he’s not sure it makes sense in Penticton.
“It happens in big cities,” the New Democrat says. “Kelowna has had some boundaries down the middle of it. But when you divide a small city like Penticton in half, you’ve got to wonder if there’s a better way.
“There’s going to be confusion among the residents as to who their MP is. When the city wants to get something done, they have to go to both MPs. It is perhaps an unnecessary complication.”
Cannings says he would prefer to stick to existing municipal and regional boundaries as much as possible when drawing up the electoral map to keep things simple.
In arriving at the revised boundaries, which also include adding Keremeos to South Okanagan-West Kootenay, the commission began by determining where to put an additional riding in BC.
They opted for the North Okanagan, recognizing the growth of the region. In turn, they shrunk the remaining interior ridings to make the population of each closer to the provincial average of 116,000.
“I appreciate the difficult task they have, but we’ll be crunching some numbers to see if there’s some way we can do all that without dividing Penticton in two,” Cannings says.
If the changes were adopted as presented, Cannings says there is no doubt he would still seek re-election in South Okanagan-West Kootenay, as opposed to Coquihalla. However, other candidates may have a more difficult choice.
“I consider this my riding. I’ve grown to know and love it. That would be my logical choice when running again, but if you’re from Penticton, you would have decide which side of the boundary to run on.”
However, Cannings adds he doesn’t think it would be an issue if Penticton elected two MPs from different parties. He notes that he already works with MPs of other stripes, including Conservative Dan Albas from neighbouring Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola.
He also considers the commission’s suggestion to leave the Kootenay-Boundary portion of his riding unaltered “good news.”