The reaction is mixed from Comox Valley politicians on the binding decision by the Federal Boundaries Commission for B.C. to split the area for the next federal election.
The commission released its final report last week, dividing Comox from Courtenay, Cumberland and Denman and Hornby islands, while merging them into a new riding named Courtenay-Alberni.
Comox remains in the newly broadened Vancouver Island North-Comox-Powell River riding. The renamed riding incorporates Area C (Puntledge-Black Creek) and Area B (Lazo North) of the Comox Valley Regional District, along with the Pentledge Indian Reserve No. 2 and Comox Indian Reserve No.1, and runs north to Port Hardy.
The Courtenay-Alberni riding incorporates Area A (Baynes Sound, Denman and Hornby islands) along with Port Alberni, Qualicum Beach, Parksville, Tofino and Ucluelet.
“I’m very disappointed to say the least,” said Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan, who along with three other MPs, filed separate but complementary objections to the commission. “Even though we offered a sensible solution (to the commission), they chose this option.
“We are revisiting where we were 20 years ago when Powell River was in the riding in the early ’90s.”
Duncan added prior to the next federal election, he has options to consider.
“I’ve got to make a decision to run again and if so, where to run again,” he noted.
He confirmed his Comox Valley office will remain in Courtenay until the next election.
Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula said, while he is “a little bit surprised” by the commission’s decision, he is satisfied the city was not divided in half, as per the original proposal.
“In theory, there are some positives in the Comox Valley — we will have two MPs, two voices speaking on our behalf,” he noted.
“There were no easy solutions that were obvious. It’s better than the first proposal, and it’s easy to sit on the sidelines and throw rocks really well.”
Jangula added he feels badly for the mayor of Powell River whom he said really didn’t want to be part of an extended Comox Valley riding.
Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird said she is “really pleased to have Cumberland all as one” in the new Courtenay-Alberni riding, and also cited history, as Cumberland was once in the same riding as Port Alberni.
“It may make a difference (this time) with Courtenay in the riding,” she added.
In its report, the commission did note the many common interests between Comox and Courtenay, and were urged at a public hearing not to divide part of Courtenay from the Comox Valley.
“Reflecting these comments, the proposal in our report kept Courtenay together and with the Comox Valley, while Comox continued to be in the North Island riding. For population reasons the two cities cannot be united in one electoral district and still kept whole.”
They explained removing Powell River from its former West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding and adding it to the Vancouver Island North-Comox-Powell River riding was significantly driven by numerical considerations.
“We were required to reduce the area of the (West Vancouver riding) by shifting its boundaries, one on the North Vancouver side and the other on the Powell River side.”
They also noted access was a consideration, and added the Powell River to Little River (Comox) connection may be more convenient, as only one crossing is involved, thereby possibly enhancing accessibility between the MP and constituents.
The next federal election is scheduled for October 2015.
To read the full report online, visit www.redecoupage-federal-redistribution.ca/bc/now/reports/bc-report_e.pdf.