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Federal electoral boundaries shift

The B.C. Federal Electoral Boundaries commission had its report on the electoral map tabled in the House of Commons this week with two key changes for Nanaimo – a riding almost entirely to itself, and the omission of Lake Cowichan from that riding.

For the past several months, the commission has been finalizing its report redrawing the federal electoral map in B.C., using public input gathered in September and October. Now that it has been tabled, Canadian MPs will have 30 days to file any objections.

The report creates six new ridings in the province, which includes one on Vancouver Island due to population increases in the south and mid-Island areas.

The Nanaimo-Cowichan riding, which currently begins on the north end around Townsite Road and Northfield Road and reaches south to the Malahat, has been broken up into two ridings – the new Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding and the reconfigured Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith would encompass all of Nanaimo, starting in the north with Lantzville and the Nanoose reserve, and ending in the south just past the town of Ladysmith. Cowichan-Malahat-Langford would extend from there south to the City of Langford. Lake Cowichan, which had previously been assigned to the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding, has since been added to the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding.

“We heard people saying in the hearings that they thought Nanaimo should be its own riding, and in the end we were able to do that,” said John Hall, commission chair. “Nanaimo-Ladysmith is a new riding in the sense that Nanaimo used to be split in two and now it’s all together.”

At just under 115,000 constituents, the proposed Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding is about a 10 per cent variance from the electoral quota of 104,763.

“As I went through this process, I got more involved with where communities were rather than the raw numbers,” Hall said. “To keep those communities together makes sense, and that’s what we tried to do.”

The Nanaimo-Alberni riding has been reconfigured further north and extends to include the city of Courtenay from where Nanaimo-Ladysmith boundary ends in Nanoose.

It still includes the Alberni-Clayoquot region as before, and is being renamed Courtenay-Alberni.

James Lunney, MP for Nanaimo-Alberni, said he is currently considering options for presenting a case for changes to the proposal.

“Under this configuration it means a 50,000 voter and constituent shift, and my office wouldn’t be in the riding,” he said. “It’s going to be a big shift if it stays that way.”

Lunney, who has served the greater part of Nanaimo and beyond for the past 12 years, said he recognizes the challenge the commission faced trying to squeeze another riding into Vancouver Island, but would like to see his riding retain some of its Nanaimo coverage.

“I’ve got lots of good relationships in Nanaimo,” he said. “If we can get a few common interests there, there might be an opportunity to shift this so we retain Lantzville and some of the north end of Nanaimo and legitimately call it Nanaimo-Alberni still,” he said.

Lunney may also choose to run in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding in the next federal election, although his home is just outside the Parksville area.

“They’ve thought their plan through reasonably well and answered the concerns, in a way, it’s just a difficult puzzle to solve to make everybody happy, and I think what they’ve proposed is a fairly stable solution,” Lunney said. “Nanaimo is the hub city, and what’s good for Nanaimo is good for the region economically.”

Jean Crowder, MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan, said she also faces a choice of running in the new Cowichan-Malahat-Langford or Nanaimo-Ladysmith ridings.

“Until the absolute final decision is made on the riding boundaries, I will wait,” she said.

She said while it is good to see that the commission recognized some of the community concerns, other concerns have not been addressed, specifically the issue of separating ridings on both sides of the Malahat.

“That hasn’t entirely been met, but it’s closer than it was,” she said.

Hall said the boundaries commission tried to be as sensitive as they could to the public input, and found the hearings to be a useful process.

“Many times we heard from people and we’d look at it again and say, ‘yeah, I see what they’re talking about’ and we’d make changes,” he said.

“You always have two or three places where people are not terribly happy because you’re not doing everything everyone wants you to do … you have to look at the whole picture and try to get greater good of all of them.”

To read the full report, please visit http://www.redecoupage-federal-redistribution.ca/ and click on the B.C. tab.

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