Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Representation by Population, with a geographical relation

With population rates in northern areas failing to keep up with the rapid growth of the southern urban sprawl, there could soon see a reduction in northern voices at the B. C. Legislature.

The three Northwest ridings are once again under the microscope as the Electoral Boundaries Commission begins its province wide trek to examine just what constitutes a proper level of population for representation.

Already given a special dispensation for eight years, the issue at hand is whether to let the northern ridings exist as they are or streamline them and expand elsewhere in those areas that the population is increasing.

The Commission will be in Prince Rupert in mid-October for public consultation, so those that are concerned for their riding have some time to prepare their presentation. Local residents can also make submission by mail or by using the Electoral Commission website.

The Daily News looked into the issue in its Tuesday edition.

Northern Ridings again under threat for comprising too few residents.
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Pages One and Three

Eight years after the provincial North Coast, Skeena and Bulkley Valley-Stikine ridings were granted special permission to exist despite their small population numbers, those ridings will once again be under review. And the result could be a smaller voice at the provincial level because of declining populations in the North and expanding populations elsewhere.

British Columbia’s three member Electoral Boundaries Commission is embarking on a province-wide consultation to seek public input on the number, boundaries and names of B. C.’s provincial electoral districts as well as the number of members that should be in the Legislative Assembly.

And their tour includes a stop in Prince Rupert in mid-October.

“Under B. C. law, an electoral boundaries commission must be established after every second provincial election – approximately once every eight years,” said Justice Bruce Cohen, commission chair. “Electoral district boundaries are reviewed to ensure each MLA in Victoria represents approximately the same number of people. “

There are currently 79 MLA’s elected from 79 electoral districts.

The last electoral boundaries commission decided there should be 79 ridings, each with an electoral quota of 47,146 plus or minus 25 per cent.

But the commissioners were concerned that several seats in northern B. C. and the Kootenays would disappear if the quota was rigidly enforced.

They therefore exempted five ridings in the North – Bulkley Valley-Stikine, Skeena, North Coast, Peace River North and Peace River South, as well as Rossland Trail from the electoral quota, allowing each to have a population of less than 35,359.

The result was that some larger ridings in B. C. have almost twice the population of those in the north.

And populations in the Northwest have dropped even further since the last review, given the downturn in the forest industry.

Meanwhile, populations in the Lower Mainland and Okanagan have grown.

The North Coast riding had a population of about 32,000 now it’s closer to 27,000.

“The geography of B. C and the location of our towns and cities can make setting electoral boundaries and determining representation quite difficult, “Justice Cohen said.

“In urban areas, citizens may have easier access to their MLA than residents of rural areas, where larger distances between communities can make seeing an MLA more difficult.

“The commission wants to hear from citizens and understand the challenges of equal representation in different areas of the province. We encourage the public to give us their thoughts through the consultation sessions, written submissions or via the commission web site.”

The B. C. Electoral Boundaries Commission includes Commission Chair Cohen, Harry Neufeld, B. C.’s chief electoral officer and Stewart Ladyman, a retired school district administrator. The commissioners will conduct consultations in 26 B. C. Communities from September through early November.

For more information on the commission, its mandate, community consultation sessions and how to make a submission to the commission, visit

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