Wednesday, August 15, 2007

North coast riding saved from extinction?

The BC electoral commission has released its preliminary report on boundary redistribution. From the panels deliberations over the last year they have decided that three areas of the province will lose a seat, while the actual seats in the legislature will increase by two to 81.

The numbers will be recalibrated so as to give more representation to the lower portion and more heavily populated portion of the province

Apparently saved from the redistribution file has been the North Coast riding, which will remain as is for the most part, with only slight changes.
There had been some early discussion about possibly merging the North Coast with Skeena, but citing as an “exceptional circumstance”, the commission seems to have decided that the future bodes well and the riding should remain as a stand alone electoral district.

The Commission recommended that Stewart and the Nass be moved into the newly created Skeena-Stikine riding, while the southern boundary of the North Coast riding would take in all of the Central Coast Regional district.

The commission believes the enormous and sparsely populated North Coast is an exceedingly difficult geographical area to represent. Many communities are only accessible by water, expensive seaplane service or time-consuming ferries. The commission is satisfied that very special circumstances exist in this area.

While the proposed North Coast electoral district remains largely the same, there are two significant changes from the existing electoral district:

· in the north, the District Municipality of Stewart and the Nisga’a Nation communities in the Nass Valley will become part of the proposed new electoral district of Skeena-Stikine; and,
· the southern boundaries are extended further south to incorporate all of the Central Coast Regional District.

Currently there are eight ridings in the North: Bulkley Valley-Stikine, North Coast, Peace River North, Peace River South, Prince George-Omineca, Prince George North, Prince George-Mt. Robson and Skeena

Should the commission’s recommendations be accepted after public debate, that total will be reduced to seven and will include; North Coast, Skeena-Stikine, Bulkley-Nechako, Prince George, Fraser-Fort George, Northland and Peace River.

The North Coast riding will be the smallest of the ridings by population in the North, with a population of 23,135 spread over 149,977 square kilometers.

The retention of a riding for the North coast would have to be considered a success for local politicians and residents who lobbied for that outcome, a discussion based on the potential for the riding to grow with an expected upswing in the local economy.

The Commission’s preliminary findings provided electoral revisions for both the current voting system known as the single member plurality as well as proposed thoughts on the Single Transferable Vote option that has been considered of late.
In that configuration the North Coast and Skeena-Stikine would be grouped together as a two member riding in order to provide coverage for such a large swath of the province.

The commission proposes that the two SMP electoral districts of North Coast and Skeena-Stikine be grouped together to form one two-member BC-STV electoral district. The North Coast is a challenging geographical area for an MLA to represent, with many constituents living on Haida Gwaii or in small coastal communities accessible only by water or air. Skeena-Stikine, extending north nearly to the Yukon border, also poses significant representation challenges. The commission is satisfied that very special circumstances exist.

The commission has scheduled 27 hearings in 24 communities. Two of these hearings are designated for presentations from MLAs only; one has been set aside for political parties only.

The first one of note for the North will be held on September 5th in Prince George while Terrace will host one on October 4th. The last of the hearings will take place in Victoria on November 14th. A final report is due to be released on February 15th, 2008.

A complete list of the public hearings can be found here.

Below are some of the media reports on the Commission’s report.

CBC- Commission recommends increasing B.C.'s MLAs to 81
Globe and Mail- Panel recommends boosting number of B.C. MLAs by two
Terrace Standard- Skeena riding to change
Terrace Standard- North to lose seats

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