Saturday, August 25, 2007

NDP vow to fight for rural areas in redistribution plans

While the North Coast riding may be safe from the redistribution pen, a few other riding's in the North are at the risk of disappearing. North Coast MLA Gary Coons says that the NDP will join in on the debate and "fight" for northern representation at all of the upcoming consultation sessions planned for across BC.

The Daily News provided details of the issue and what the NDP plans to do to make sure that the North is heard.

Democracy deserting northerners says angry Gary Coons
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, August 24, 2007
Page one

The New Democratic Party will be fighting for northern representation at upcoming public consultations on the preliminary report from the Electoral Boundaries Commission.

Public consultations are scheduled to be held across the province beginning next month, yet many MLAs are concerned the voices of some British Columbians will not be heard.

"I'm disappointed that there wasn't a greater recognition of the unique identities of British Columbia's isolated and rural regions," said North Coast MLA Gary Coons.

"This report fails to protect the interests of all British Columbians."

Other MLAs with rural and northern constituencies are concerned with the proposed changes that would make their already vast regions even larger, which they believe would make adequate representation more difficult than ever.

"From a representation perspective, these ridings are hard enough to give full representation to constituents and the communities, and to just add a whole bunch more is tough," said Bob Simpson, MLA for Cariboo North. "It's going to make it very hard for MLAs to represent those ridings, they're becoming geographically almost unrepresentable."

The series of hearings scheduled are designed to collect public feedback on the proposed provincial electoral boundary changes, giving people the chance to voice concerns with issues and proposed solutions outlined in the commission's 454 page report.

"The preliminary report is significant to all British Columbians, but clearly to us, as the effect upon rural representation is very, very significant, and we encourage all British Columbians to familiarize themselves with the report and make the commission aware of those concerns," said Cariboo South MLA Charlie Wyse.

Clearly it is already a difficult enough task to represent the rural lifestyle given the large boundaries."

"There are two consultations being held in Surrey and Vancouver, as well as one in Burnaby, one in Port Coquitlam and one in North Vancouver," noted Coons.

"But none being held anywhere in the North Coast constituency, or in the proposed Northlands constituency for that matter."

One concern of the NDP is the substantial difficulty for many northern and rural residents to attend their closest electoral boundary consultation.

"It goes without saying that it would be much easier and cheaper for someone in Burnaby to hop on a bus or skytrain and take a half-hour ride to one of these consultations, than it would be for someone on Haida Gwaii to get to Terrace," said Coons. "It would cost hundreds of dollars and several days off work for someone from Haida Gwaii to get their concerns heard."

In the wake of the recommendation to eliminate rural representation, New Democrat Skeena MLA Robin Austin was recently appointed lead critic for rural communities.

"This appointment signals the NDP's commitment to British Columbia for everyone," said Coons. "The NDP understands that British Columbia cannot be divided without harming everyone. Both urban and rural communities play important roles in the economy of B.C.; when one region struggles, the whole province suffers."

"We don't want to be in a situation in British Columbia where the rural vote is seen as less than an urban vote," said Simpson. "The representation by population has to be balanced by adequate and sufficient representation of the communities and constituents needs, so geography has to be taken into consideration somehow."

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