Recommendations about controversial changes proposed for the Vancouver Island North federal riding have been submitted to the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission (BCEBC), MP John Duncan revealed Wednesday.
The report, which was tabled by the House of Commons committee studying the subject, summarizes the objections of MPs to the commission's most recent proposal, Duncan noted. The commission's task is complicated by the addition of six new seats in B.C. due to population growth.
“The latest recommendation by the commission, which split the Comox Valley in half and removed Powell River from the Sunshine Coast and added it to Vancouver Island North, met with considerable opposition in the impacted communities,” Duncan said in a press release. “This proposal is contrary to the obvious communities of interest within the Comox Valley and the Sunshine Coast.
"I understand that the commission’s task was a difficult one, but in the end they were solving a Lower Mainland problem at the expense of Vancouver Island. I felt that the best way to address the problem was to collaborate with the affected MPs on Vancouver Island and the Mainland.”
The redistribution proposed by the BCEBC leaves the part of Courtenay east of the Courtenay and Puntledge rivers, and Comox, Comox Valley Regional District Areas B and C in Vancouver Island North. The other part of Courtenay, Cumberland and Area A would transfer to the Nanaimo-Alberni riding.
The report notes that, "Mr. Duncan submitted to the committee a detailed proposal which readjusts the boundaries for the proposed ridings of Vancouver Island North, Courtenay–Alberni, Nanaimo–Ladysmith, West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast and Mission–Matsqui–Fraser Canyon. This proposal included precise boundary descriptions and maps."
In Duncan's proposal, the parts of Cumberland and Area A north of the Comox Valley Parkway would remain in Vancouver Island North, while the sections south of the Parkway would move to Courtenay-Alberni.
"I think it's responding to what people have asked," said Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula, noting the initial proposal was to cut Courtenay in half and have two MPs. "No matter how you do it, you're not going to make everybody happy. This is probably in the long-run better."
"It was bound to happen to one of the communities," Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird said. "I'm not sure how it would be for Cumberland to be in such a large area with so many communities."
She is concerned about a proposed boundary line that bisects the village.
"I know there's not much development out there now, but that's our future growth. And this is supposed to be for 20 years.
"I'm trying to find out what this means for Cumberland. Do we get two MPs?," Baird added.
The issue was to be a late item for discussion Monday at Cumberland council.
“It was extremely helpful that all affected MPs and the mayors of Courtenay and Powell River agreed with my proposal to retain all of Courtenay in Vancouver Island North and to retain Powell River in the West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast riding, which gave the committee confidence that there was no unintended domino effect or major objections to my proposal,” Duncan said.
"We wanted to get to a point where, because of our population growth, we need another riding on the Island," Jangula said. "I think it's kept our riding together as much as possible."
Duncan said the commission will consider the committee report and then finalize the electoral boundaries which will be in place for the 2015 federal election. The final report should be concluded in September.
"I remain optimistic that the commission will adopt our recommendations,” Duncan said.
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.