Bill re-drawing B.C.’s electoral map receives first reading

The maps for the next provincial election are nearing final approval and there will be no shortage of changes.

Attorney-General Niki Sharma on Monday tabled amendments to the Constituencies Act that would create 93 constituencies – six more than the current number – and redraw 72 constituencies. Another 41 riding horses will have their names changed.

The proposed changes, which received first reading on Monday and will take effect before the next election, reflect the final recommendations of the independent British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission, which first received the legislature in early April.

The changes are dramatic. The last adjustment was in 2015 to add two constituencies for the 2017 election. Ahead of the 2013 general election, the number of constituencies increased by six to 85. The number has remained at 79 since the 2001 general election.

Greater Vancouver (Vancouver, Burnaby) and Fraser Valley (Surrey, Langley) get two each, while Vancouver Island (Langford area) and Okanagan (Kelowna) get one seats.

With the province’s population growing by half a million since 2015, with much of that growth in urban areas, the changes will help ensure every vote is equally worthwhile, Sharma said.

The population of each riding should be within 25 percent of what’s known as an “electoral quotient,” which is the population of B.C. divided by the number of ridings. Six new ridings bring B.C.’s vote quotient to 53,773. The usual range of deviations is between 40,330 and 67,216 people per region.

“As our province continues to grow, it is critical that our provincial constituencies fairly represent the people of British Columbia,” Sharma said. “These changes will ensure British Columbians can continue to trust their voices to be heard in the British Columbia Legislature.”

While not without criticism, the response to the proposed constituency has been generally positive. But some changes may take some getting used to, even if they don’t cause some trouble.

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 districts: 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 Close-knit Landsville community.

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

In the meantime, Kamloops will keep the two rides, but they will have a different name and shape.

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 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.

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