The orange lines outline the proposed new boundary of the Kootenay-Columbia riding

Update: Proposed Federal election boundary changes could change political map

Proposed new boundary for Revelstoke's Kootenay-Columbia riding would see it expanded to include Nelson and Salmo.

Proposed new changes to federal election ridings could have a significant impact on upcoming elections and create a more competitive race for election in the riding of Kootenay-Columbia

The changes would see Revelstoke’s riding of Kootenay-Columbia expanded to include the NPD stronghold of Nelson, which is currently in the riding of B.C. Southern Interior.

That could make for a closer federal election for Conservative MP David Wilks, who won by close to 10,000 votes in the 2011 election. Other factors would likely have to come into play for an NDP candidate to make up the vote difference, even with the addition of Nelson.

The changes are being made as part of a once-a-decade review of riding boundaries by the Federal Election Boundaries Commission for British Columbia. The number of ridings in the province will be increased to 42 from 36 but five of the new ridings will be in the Lower Mainland and the other on Vancouver Island.

The changes to Kootenay-Columbia would see it go from one of the least populated ridings in the province to one of the most populated, with 109,058 people, up from the current population of 88,028.

Conservative MP David Wilks holds the House of Commons seat for Kootenay Columbia. “I’m quite happy the commission has been able to find a way to increase the population,” Wilks said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what the local submissions will be and also that of Members of Parliament if they are able to make their submission as well.”

John Chisamore, the president of the Kootenay-Columbia NDP Riding Association, said he did not think the changes will go through as proposed. “From a political point of view I think it could be helpful for us in Kootenay-Columbia because Nelson is traditionally NDP.”.

Alex Atamanenko, the NDP MP for B.C. Southern Interior, said the proposed shuffle “doesn’t make any sense,” because it separates Nelson from Trail and Castlegar.

“It’s crazy,” said Atamanenko, who was first elected in 2006 and prefers the current configuration, which is “a workable riding.”

The proposed boundaries are now in the public review phase. John Hall, a B.C. Court of Appeal justice who headed the three-member commission here, encouraged people to tell him what they think.

“A lot of the Interior stuff is certainly not set in stone, because those are big ridings, territorially, and it will be interesting to hear what people have to say,” Hall said.

The commission kicks off a province-wide series of public hearings in September. The closest hearings to Revelstoke will be in Cranbrook on Oct. 1, Nelson on Oct. 2, Kelowna on Oct. 10 and Kamloops on Oct. 11. All hearings are at 7 p.m. Anyone wishing to speak at the hearing must register by Aug. 30. Registration can be done online or by mail. For more information visit bc-cb@rfed-rcf.ca or phone 1-855-747-7236.

With files from Joe Fries/Penticton Western News and Sally Macdonald/Cranbrook Daily Townsman

What do you think of the proposed changes? Should the Kootenay-Columbia riding be further expanded from its already large size?

 

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