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Nanaimo-Gabriola riding applauded, but some tweaks to proposed electoral boundaries requested

B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission holds public hearing in Nanaimo
Detail of a map showing proposed provincial riding boundaries for Nanaimo-Oceanside, Nanaimo-Ladysmith and Nanaimo-Gabriola Island. (B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission image)

The B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission received mostly positive feedback, but also a few criticisms about proposed adjustments to provincial ridings on the mid Island.

The commission stopped by Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre on Tuesday, Nov. 1, for a public hearing following a preliminary report released earlier this fall.

The commission is proposing six new electoral districts in B.C., plus adjustments and name changes affecting existing ridings. Of note locally, Gabriola Island would be moved into a riding with most of Nanaimo, to be called Nanaimo-Gabriola Island. Nanaimo-North Cowichan would be re-named Nanaimo-Ladysmith and Parksville-Qualicum would be renamed Nanaimo-Oceanside.

“We did put a lot of effort into thinking through how to take on this task and yes, sometimes you make decisions that don’t make a lot of sense at first glance and then you dive a little deeper and you find that there actually are reasons for doing what we do,” said Justice Nitya Iyer of the B.C. Supreme Court, chairperson of the commission.

Half a dozen people spoke at the hearing, with half of them Gabriola Island residents speaking in favour of the proposed changes. Susan Yates, a newly elected Islands Trust trustee for Gabriola, said she was “so pleased” with the proposed new Nanaimo-Gabriola riding and the prospect that Gabriolans could be moved into the riding where they access services such as transportation, education and health care.

“Electoral boundaries may seem like a relatively small part of how we participate in civil democracy, but they are very important for connecting citizens to each other and to their political representatives,” Yates said.

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog, a former MLA, said he was in favour of Gabriola joining the Nanaimo riding, but he wasn’t so sure about one corner of the proposed Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding incorporating the Stephenson Point-Hammond Bay neighbourhoods. He said it would create a challenge in locating constituency offices, though he did note “that may be a problem that is more for the legislative assembly and the budgets that are allotted there.”

The other politician to speak at the hearing was Leanne Salter, Regional District of Nanaimo director for Area F (Coombs-Errington). Her concerns were related to the proposed Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding that would include not only Tofino, Ucluelet and Port Alberni, but also Cumberland and Union Bay. Speaking from her experience as a political representative, she said the riding’s geography would be “huge for one person … they cannot practically manage those areas alone.”

The commission will hold a virtual public hearing Tuesday, Nov. 8, at 5 p.m. and the deadline for public submissions is Nov. 22. The commission’s deadline for its final report is April 3.

“After that, our job is finished and it’s up to the legislature to decide whether to accept some, all or none of our recommendations,” Iyer said.

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READ ALSO: Most electoral boundary changes in Nanaimo just name changes, but Gabriola set to switch ridings

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