Proposed electoral boundary changes could divide Ladysmith

The British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission is redrawing the boundary lines to better serve the population of Vancouver Island.

You might not be a constituent of Nanaimo-Cowichan anymore.

The British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission is redrawing the boundary lines to better serve the population of Vancouver Island. So you might want to double check whose name is on the ballot in the next federal election because it might not be Jean Crowder.

“A new seat was added, and when you add a new seat, it has an effect on all the other boundaries,” explained Dr. Peter Meekison, a member of the British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission. “The boundary has to be changed in part because the population of Vancouver Island has grown and we have to be looking at where the population grows.”

The federal government has given the Island another seat in Parliament in order to better represent the growing population. But the proposed boundary change cuts off a section of Ladysmith.

“We have what we call the electoral quotient … each constituency should be about 104,000,” said Meekison. “You try, where possible, to keep existing boundaries and then you say ‘well fine, we have to modify them to adjust them to meet the new seat.’ What kinds of things you might look at for example is the Trans-Canada Highway being the divider or a height of land or a river or something like that.”

However, the new changes have some people worried that it will divide the close-knit community of Ladysmith.

“People have been pretty consistently concerned about the division of communities … in smaller communities, it is much more problematic and I think it’s important to pay attention to those natural boundaries,” said Jean Crowder, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan since 2004.

Crowder says this change is a welcome one, even if the commission has some more work to do.

“I think it is a necessary change because my riding is bigger than many of the ridings around B.C. My riding did need some redistribution, but I just don’t think they [the Boundaries Commission] got it quite right,” she said.

Crowder won’t say which riding she’ll run in for the next election.

“I’m going to wait until [I see] what the final boundary changes look like because it could change substantially,” she explained. “Until the dust settles, I’ll just wait. They should have that information by September 2013.”

The current boundary change is just a proposal, and it has not been finalized. Before the final boundaries are drawn, the public and parliamentarians will weigh in and provide feedback.

“If people can’t come to the hearings, they should send letters to the commission. We want to hear from the public because in the final analysis, they are the ones that are affected,” said Meekinson. “When we are finished with the proposal, we then submit a report to the Speaker of the House of Commons, and then parliamentarians can comment on this and make suggestions for further changes.”

A public hearing will take place Oct. 16 in Nanaimo at the Coast Bastion Inn. If you want to make a presentation about your concerns, you are asked to submit your name and contact information to the Boundary Commission by Aug. 30.

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