Cumberland council concerned about proposal to split village into two federal ridings

A proposal for federal electoral boundary changes in the Comox Valley did not receive a warm welcome from Cumberland council.

Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan’s alternative proposal for federal electoral boundary changes in the Comox Valley did not receive a warm welcome from Cumberland council.

Mayor Leslie Baird said she spoke with Duncan on Friday about her concerns, after hearing the MP’s recommendation would geographically cut the municipality of Cumberland in half.

“My comment to him was that I really don’t want to see Cumberland separated,” Baird said during Monday’s council meeting. “If they want to move us into the (Nanaimo-Alberni riding), so be it, but that I was really concerned about being divided, and he said write him a letter stating that and he will move forward on it and see what he can do.”

Duncan opposes the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission’s (BCEBC) proposed redistribution, which would see the City of Courtenay split roughly in half along the Courtenay and Puntledge rivers with the east side staying in Vancouver Island North and the west portion moving into the Nanaimo-Alberni riding. Powell River would also move into Vancouver Island North.

Duncan announced last week a report — which was tabled by the House of Commons committee studying the subject and summarizes objections to the Commission’s proposed redistribution by affected MPs — has been submitted to the BCEBC.

The report recommends keeping Courtenay intact and leaving Powell River in the riding of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast. But, Cumberland would be split in half geographically, though the populated part of the municipality would fall into the riding of Nanaimo-Alberni.

According to Cumberland CAO Sundance Topham’s report to council, Topham spoke to Duncan’s office regarding the recommendation.

“It was noted that this new proposal has been under consideration for some time, and had previously been posted on Mr. Duncan’s website, and sent out in a flyer to Comox Valley residents; however, the Corporation of the Village of Cumberland was never contacted directly in regards to this new proposal by Mr. Duncan’s office,” wrote Topham.

Topham also told council the time for public and municipal feedback is long over as the public hearing was held in Courtenay in October and the only other avenue for input is through the MPs’ objections.

Coun. Gwyn Sproule questioned why Cumberland would be split in two when the Village has a population of only about 3,000.

Coun. Kate Greening said she is not surprised by Duncan’s recommendation.

“I was a little disappointed — not surprised — but disappointed that Cumberland wasn’t really considered in any of the discussions, and that was rather evident when he was interviewed on CBC radio this morning,” she said Monday. “He talked, saying what he discussed it with, was with the major mayors of the Comox Valley, so it’s not a surprising that that is what came out of it.”

Baird previously told the Record that while the northern part of the municipality is not developed now, the Village is planning for future growth.

Council voted to write a letter to Duncan “strongly objecting” to the division of Cumberland, and to send copies of the letter to Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney and local governments.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com