Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan has appealed to Elections Canada to readjust a proposed federal boundary change that would split Courtenay, thereby having two MPs serving residents.
The redistribution proposed by the BC Electoral Boundaries Commission leaves part of the city east of the Courtenay and Puntledge rivers, along with Comox and electoral areas B and C in Vancouver Island North. The other part of Courtenay, Cumberland and Area A would transfer to Nanaimo-Alberni.
Duncan has submitted a detailed proposal that readjusts the boundaries.
According to Duncan and Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney, “The division of Courtenay and Comox, as twin cities with a high level of integration and shared community interests and identities, would be unnatural and contrary to principles of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act,” as stated in a Parliament of Canada report.
Ronna-Rae Leonard was the lone member of Courtenay council opposed to a letter supporting Duncan’s idea. Couns. Jon Ambler and Doug Hillian were absent from Monday’s proceedings.
“My understanding is that the proposal from the independent commission has Cumberland with Courtenay and points south. Mr. Duncan, his proposal segregates out Cumberland and points south,” Leonard said in an interview. “It’s just a question of how you split it. The Valley is still going to be split.”
Noting population is the “stimulus for this exercise,” Leonard suggested Monday that council is “way outside of our depth here.”
Mayor Larry Jangula disagreed.
“This is democracy,” Jangula said, noting widespread opposition to the original proposal at a public hearing hosted by the commission last year at Crown Isle. “We’re getting another member of Parliament. I think it’s a good compromise. I think it’s the best fit we can have.”
Leonard, however, said the MP would represent more people than the electoral quotient, which is about 111,000 people.
“We’re a growing community,” she said. “Within 10 years, we will again be way overloaded in terms of population, and not getting the fair representation.”
She notes measures and compensations are in place for MPs in terms of a riding’s distance from Ottawa, its geographical size and remoteness, and its population.
“We were over on all three things,” Leonard said. “The smaller it is the better, and certainly the less population the better. The less people you have to serve in a remote population, the easier it is.”
The report is available at www.parl.gc.ca/Content/HOC/Committee/411/PROC/Reports/RP6190719/411_proc_Rpt58_PDF/411_proc_Rpt58-e.pdf.