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Voters share input on changes to riding boundaries

After nearly six weeks of consultation in communities across the province, including Nanaimo, the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission is preparing its final report on the redistribution of federal election boundaries to present to Parliament by Dec. 21.

The proposed boundary changes call for a new riding, South Cowichan-Juan de Fuca, and would alter the current Nanaimo-Cowichan riding to extend to the intersection of Nanaimo Parkway and Island Highway on the north end, and reach as far as Ladysmith and Lake Cowichan to the south. It would lose Duncan, Cobble Hill, Mill Bay and Chemainus to the new riding.

Proposed boundaries for Nanaimo-Alberni riding would include the Regional District of Alberni-Clayoquot, part of Courtenay, the Village of Cumberland, and a very small piece of Nanaimo that would include the neighbourhood around Brannen Lake west of the Nanaimo Parkway.

During a public hearing in Nanaimo, held Oct. 16, some residents voiced concerns over the placement of Lake Cowichan in the Nanaimo-Cowichan riding, while others proposed the idea of including the entirety of Nanaimo under the same riding.

“They didn’t want to remove Lake Cowichan from having a connection to the Duncan area, so that’s something we’ve been actively looking at and may well change,” said Justice John E. Hall, chairman of  the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission.

Those in favour of a Nanaimo riding that would encompass the entire city suggested that Ladysmith and Lantzville should also be included in the riding.

“We’re certainly looking at that, and it may be that Nanaimo will fit within – I don’t know that it’s possible for it to be all its own – I don’t know that the numbers are quite there but it’s getting close,” he said. “There wasn’t unanimity as to how to approach it, some people said you had to pay attention to municipal boundaries.”

Approximately 23 people attended the hearing.

“The reason we have these public hearings is we like to have some input from the people who live in the areas, and speaking for myself and my commissioners I think we’ve found them helpful, most of them,” Hall said. “It gives you something to work with.”

The proposed electoral boundaries will add six new ridings for BC, with modest to major changes across the board.

“Most of the ridings are going to have some changes, although the ones in the north part of the province probably have less than most,” Hall said. “You try to get yourself within some shouting distance of the population number, which is about 105,000 per riding, and then you look at what fits together from the point of view of access, convenience dealing with the member of parliament.”

Once the report is presented to Parliament, MPs will study it and add their input by spring 2013. The commission then reviews the suggestions, which they can accept or reject, and finalize the new federal map by fall 2013, to be in place for the next federal election.

To learn more about the federal distribution, visit www.federal-redistribution.ca.

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