New lines drawn for federal electoral boundaries

Kootenay-Columbia welcomes Nelson, and all its voters.

New lines have been drawn in the federal electoral districts of B.C., Saskatchewan and Quebec, and there are a number of big changes in the Kootenay-Columbia district, as well as the neighbouring B.C. Southern Interior district.

Those changes include Nelson, Kaslo and Salmo becoming a part of Kootenay-Columbia and Penticton joining the South Okanagan-West Kootenay, as it is to be renamed (currently named B.C. Southern Interior).

Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks said the result of Kaslo, Salmo and Nelson coming to the district was something he expected.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Wilks said. “I was hoping that the commission was going to consider my suggestion that I take Nakusp and New Denver, because I have to drive through them anyways from Revelstoke to Kaslo. But they opted not to accept that recommendation.”

He noted that it does change the political atmosphere of the district fromt he perspective of an election.

“The West Kootenay has in the last couple of elections leaned towards the NDP, and the East Kootenay obviously leans toward the Conservatives,” he said. “We’ll see what the people say in 2015 and I look forward to serving the people of the West Kootenays and I believe it will be a great fit.”

The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission released its report on the redrawn federal electoral map of the province this week. The independent commission was assemble in February 2012 to redraw the boundaries to contain roughly equal numbers of people in each, with separate commissions of three people in each province. The report will be used by the Chief Electoral Officer to draft the representation order.

Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko was not happy about the changes.

“When the commission held their hearings, the overwhelming number of people that appeared before the commission did not agree with their initial proposal,” Atamanenko said. “In this area, 99 per cent of the people wanted Nelson to stay with Castlegar and Trail, because of the idea that we all work together as communities of interest. So that’s a disappointment that Nelson, Salmo, Kaslo and that area will no longer be a part of this riding.”

Atamanenko said he supposes it changes the dynamics of his riding as they have removed Princeton and Keremeos and added Penticton.

“The dynamics are changed, we’ve got what I would call a major city (Penticton) by our standards in this riding now that will have to be serviced by the MP in the next election,” he said. “It makes it difficult. A lot more difficult I would say.”

Atamanenko said the commission was focused on the numbers and decided to even out them out at around 100,000 without taking into account other factors.

“My point has always been, if you’re going to increase the numbers riding wise, increase them in urban areas where it’s only another city block or two,” he said. “We always seem to get hammered in rural B.C. with these things.”

He said he’d talked to MP Wilks during the consultation phase and tried to get him onboard to keep the status quo in the two districts, as Kootenay-Columbia stood to become even more expansive. Atamanenko said that Wilks was not with him on the matter.

“Basically his position was: ‘well, what will be will be,’” he said. “As far as that riding, it adds more territory. Already the MP has a huge territory to look at and now they have more.”

Back in Kootenay-Columbia, Wilks said that the changes don’t make it more difficult to get around the riding.

“I had to go through Nelson and Kaslo sometimes to get to Nakusp,” he said. “Now when you drive through Nelson and Kaslo and Salmo you’re in your area. To me it makes it more fluid and I believe more workable. Now I can say, ‘I’m just driving through and this is my area, so I’ll stop and see what the needs of the people are.’”

Wilks said he does feel sorry for Nakusp and New Denver because it will be a challenge for whoever the MP will be to travel between Penticton, Nakusp and the areas in between. Penticton to Nakusp can take six hours by car through Grand Forks and Castlegar, four hours if the route through Kelowna is taken according to Google Maps.

“But that’s what the commission decided,” he said. “We had made a submission and obviously they chose not to go with that submission.”

He added: “I’m quite happy and look forward to serving the people in Nelson, Salmo and Kaslo.”

Atamanenko agreed on the difficult geographical situation of the Interior.

“It makes it difficult for people in Nelson, where now they’re half an hour away from my office in Castlegar,” he said. “What does that mean for the next election? If I’m still here and have an office in Castlegar, do I turn people away that come from Nelson? And say you have to go see your MP in Cranbrook? It makes it more difficult, and I’m not sure if the commission really understood that.”

Diane Benson, media spokesperson for Elections Canada, said that now that the boundaries are tabled with the speaker of the House of Commons, the information has been made public. The next stage is official proclamation.

“That is to take place on the third week in September,” Benson said. “Once they are proclaimed, they would be in place for the next general election.”

The fixed election date for the next federal election is October 2015.

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