‘Funky’ changes to new and existing provincial ridings on Vancouver Island

More than 113 kilometers of mountains separate Port Renfrew on the west side of Vancouver Island from Mill Bay on the east.

The first community is a quiet, remote community of just over 100 people, connected to Greater Victoria by a little over an hour’s drive along a winding coastal road. The second, mostly bedroom community, is home to over 3,000 people along the Malahat Highway, 30 minutes from the capital in the opposite direction.

However, the two distinct communities will find themselves in a new constituency called Juan de Fuca-Malahat, one of six new constituencies, bringing the total to 93, according to the final recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Commission.

Other changes on Vancouver Island could also be a headache.

Three riding areas currently include the area from Ladysmith to Nanaimo and Parksville north to Qualicum Beach. The committee noted that Nanaimo was too large for a constituency. As such, it proposes dividing the city into two regions: Nanaimo-Gabriola, which includes the northern downtown core, north to Departure Bay and Gabriola Island; and Nanaimo-Landsville, which includes the growing northern half of the city and the tightly knit Landsville community.

However, this change means that communities north and south of the two Nanaimo wards may soon find themselves in the new Ladysmith-Oceanside ward, whose future MLAs will have to drive through the two Nanaimo wards to reach the southernmost and Northern regions for cycling.

Sustainable Economy Parliamentary Secretary Adam Walker, who represents the NDP Parksville-Quillicum, said the committee listened to a lot of people, adding that it was important for Nanaimo to get representation from the two MLAs. “The Boundary Commission did its best to make it work,” he said.

Walker added that Qualicum Beach is not far from Ladysmith, and if elected, the NDP would ensure services are provided for Ladysmith residents.

Other changes on Vancouver Island will be less radical. As far as North Saanich and the Islands are concerned, the council initially proposed separating the Central Saanich neighborhood of Brentwood Bay from the rest of the city, but that will not happen.

Liberal House leader Todd Stone generally praised the work of the boundary commission.

While there will always be complaints no matter where the line is, British Columbians can have confidence in the committee’s nonpartisan work, Stone said. It must balance the population according to the principles of population representation and the principles of effective representation, including manageable ride sizes and communities of interest.

“It’s not an easy job,” he said. “Secondly, our caucus is very thankful that no constituency has been knocked out in the interior or north.”

Stone added that the committee has actually added a seat in the Okanagan. Greater Vancouver (Vancouver, Burnaby) will also get two seats, as will the Fraser Valley (Langley, Surrey).

However, Stone tempers this general praise with some specific criticisms of Vancouver Island.

“There’s a lot of trendy changes going on at the borders in different parts of the province, but nothing as trendy as what they’re doing on Vancouver Island,” he said.

“I think what happened in the case of Vancouver Island, the interests of the community were harmed more than maybe in the past to make sure that the people on the island were more balanced in the population,” he added.

Vancouver Island isn’t the only part of the province seeing some notable changes. Kamloops will keep both rides, but they will have different names and shapes.

The urban core of Kamloops is located in Kamloops Center, which roughly resembles a postage stamp. It includes all of the Kamloops-South Thompson constituency represented by BC Liberal House Leader Todd Stone and the Kamloops-North Thompson district represented by BC Liberal MP Peter Milobar, with a total population of approximately 60,000.

As for the much larger Kamloops-North Thompson electorate, it combines all of the suburban and rural parts of Stone with those of Milobar and currently includes communities north of Kamloops such as Clearwater.

“It’s like a half-doughnut with a core wrapped around it,” Stone said.

Stone said both he and Milobar will be running again, adding that they will reveal more about where they will run in the coming days and weeks.

Stone and Milobar’s calculations reflect a large process. “All of our members, indeed all members of the legislature, will need to make some very personal decisions over the next few weeks,” he said. The first question is whether to run again. “From what I know or what I’ve been told, I know some members of our caucus may not be running again,” Stone said. He declined to give their names and phone numbers when asked.

The next question, he added, is where to run based on boundary changes.

“Expect a lot of announcements in the coming weeks,” Stone said.

House Speaker Raj Chouhan formally tabled the report on Monday (April 3), and a motion to adopt it could be tabled as early as this week. Legislation to create new constituencies will be introduced once the MLAs have voted on the motion, likely after the Easter break.

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