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Courtenay opposed to being split into two federal ridings

Courtenay council does not want the city split into two federal ridings — and it will make that clear to the 2012 Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission of BC later this month.

Coun. Bill Anglin brought forward a resolution on the matter Monday, which was passed unanimously by council. Courtenay will present its position to the commission at Crown Isle on Oct. 15.

Anglin noted he grew up in a community with more than one federal riding, and he said that's OK in larger cities.

"It's a different issue, I think, in a community the size of ours," said Anglin. "If you look at it, it splits us both geographically and pretty much equally by population.

"A larger cohesive body tends to have a stronger voice when they speak for one particular issue, and I think to just give up that right without at least presenting in front of the commission probably does our citizens a huge disservice.

"I think it's in our best interest to present a position to the commission that sees us stay unified whether it be in the North Island or in the Alberni (Nanaimo-Alberni districts)."

The proposed changes would essentially split Courtenay along the Courtenay-Puntledge River, with the northeast side of the city, roughly following Highway 19A north from Lewis Park, remaining in the Vancouver Island North riding. The southeast portion of the city on the other side of the river would transfer to Nanaimo-Alberni.

Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard proposed an amendment to Anglin's resolution to change the City of Courtenay to the Comox Valley, noting she would like to keep the Comox Valley cohesive.

"It just strikes me that that would better serve the interest of Courtenay as a whole if we were saying that it was the Comox Valley," she said.

Anglin and Couns. Jon Ambler and Starr Winchester all said they agreed with her sentiment, but Ambler and Winchester didn't feel comfortable speaking on behalf of other governing bodies in the Valley.

Anglin added he sees a danger in asking the commission to keep the entire Comox Valley as one federal riding.

"They do look at the population averages as being the biggest determinant factor that they (the commission) use and trying to maintain that average. I looked at the map in terms of where that split comes down, that's why I focused predominantly on the City of Courtenay, because the numbers seem to be a manageable enough variation that it's within their mandate," said Anglin.

He later noted that keeping the Comox Valley as one riding "has the potential to significantly move that number well above the 25 per cent threshhold, which is what they generally have their mandate to do."

Coun. Doug Hillian noted "good points on all sides" from council, but agreed with Leonard.

"In my view, the community is already fragmented enough by different levels of government and we already hear concerns from different business and others about the number of different bodies of government that they need to go to, to get fairly simple approvals," he said, adding he would like to see both words in the resolution.

Leonard noted the commission could adjust elsewhere if the population in one riding became too high by keeping the entire Valley together.

The amendment was defeated with Leonard and Hillian in favour.

Coun. Manno Theos said he would vote in favour of the original resolution but noted having two MPs could mean better representation, and possibly, more federal funding.

Anglin's resolution was passed unanimously.

Ambler then made a motion to send the resolution "with all due haste" to the Village of Cumberland, the Town of Comox and the Comox Valley Regional District for their information if they decide to make a submission.

The deadline to make a presentation to the commission has passed, but written submissions will be accepted until Oct. 18.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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