Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan explains the reasoning for his proposed federal electoral boundary in the Comox Valley — which would split the municipality of Cumberland in two.
“The proposal that I put forward followed some polling stations,” Duncan said Tuesday, noting the populated community of Cumberland (southern half) was moved into the Nanaimo-Alberni riding in his proposal, while the northern, less populated portion would stay in his riding.
He added, now that he’s heard from Mayor Leslie Baird about Cumberland’s plans for future growth in the north half of the municipality, he has no problem moving the whole municipality into the Nanaimo-Alberni riding.
“So on that basis, I said I would be happy to endorse moving the line north,” he continued, pointing out his main aim was to keep Courtenay intact. “And, if the Electoral Boundaries Commission accepts my proposal…there would be no issue with moving the line (north of Cumberland) because they’re (Cumberland) simply worried about community of interest…there’s no issue in terms of population.
“There’s no way I can retain all of the Comox Valley, just based on populations, but what we wanted to do was keep at least Courtenay intact, and keep it intact with Comox because those communities are so seamless.”
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for B.C. originally recommended splitting Courtenay in half and moving the west side, plus Cumberland and other southern Comox Valley communities into the Nanaimo-Alberni riding, while keeping Comox in the Vancouver Island North riding, plus moving Powell River into it.
Following a public hearing in October, the commission adjusted the boundary in its report to the House Committee so that all of Courtenay and Cumberland were moved into the new Nanaimo-Alberni riding, but Comox stayed in the Vancouver Island North riding along with Powell River.
Duncan said moving Powell River into his riding makes “no sense,” and his proposal, submitted to the commission and tabled at the House Committee, keeps Courtenay and Comox together but splits Cumberland geographically between the two ridings.
Baird noted Cumberland council submitted a letter to the commission during the fall asking that the three Comox Valley municipalities not be divided, but the Village did not send a copy of that letter to Duncan.
“We also chose not to speak at the public meeting (in the fall); at that time Cumberland was not being divided,” she added, noting that even though the time for feedback from municipalities is long over now, the Village sent another letter to the commission, this time asking that Cumberland be kept completely intact.
Duncan also noted that the time for MP submissions is over, but he planned to send the commission an e-mail supporting Cumberland’s request Tuesday afternoon.
According to Cumberland CAO Sundance Topham’s report to council last week, the Village was “never contacted directly in regards to this new proposal by Mr. Duncan’s office.”
Duncan said he does not have regrets about the process he went through to create his alternate submission.
“My main concern was dealing with the broad issues and we made people aware through the normal mechanisms — every community found out basically the same way, they read the newspaper and they read my householder (newsletter),” he said.
“I ended up having a phone conversation with the Mayor of Powell River, the Mayor of Courtenay, because those were the two — and obviously my Conservative colleagues, who are in adjacent ridings — because that was a key ingredient.
“We were very obviously acting on this, and facing a deadline, and it was well publicized.”
Baird noted some responsibility rested on Cumberland, and Duncan has said he will support Cumberland’s request to remain intact.
“The process is what it is,” she added. “We have written our letter to the commission and will wait to see the results.”
The final report should be concluded in September.