Sunday, August 19, 2007

North Coast stays on the Electoral Map

The Daily News caught up to Podunk on Thursday as they provided some coverage of the Electoral Boundaries Commission decision to keep the North Coast riding intact despite it’s low voter totals.

By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Thursday August 16, 2007
Pages one and three

The North Coast electoral district would be given a special exemption and continue to exist despite having a half the population of other districts in B. C., if proposals from a new provincial report are approved by the legislature next year.

But people in the North will still end up losing the voice of one MLA.

The British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission (BCEBC) released its 300-plus page preliminary report yesterday afternoon, which makes proposals for changes to the province’s electoral districts under the current voting system, as well as boundaries for the proposed electoral districts for the B. C. Single Transferable Vote System.

On the North Coast, the proposed riding would remain largely in tact. While many people were concerned the riding would be expanded or lumped in with Terrace and Kitimat, the commission accepted the many submissions about the difficulties of representing sparse populations spread over geographically difficult terrain.

“We designated two electoral districts in the North as very special circumstance districts,” said Justice Bruce Cohen, one of the three members of the BCEBC.

“The Northland (covering the top northeastern corner of B. C.), with a very vast area, is the size of many European countries put together. On the North Coast, many transportation issues (exist) there, many communities isolated from transportation, or at least convenient transportation. Those are two districts that are still well outside the 25 per cent rule, but in those two cases we felt very special circumstances were applicable.”

The Commission was supposed to ensure each MLA represents roughly the same population, or 50,784 people per district, plus or minus 25 per cent.

Due to a declining population and large geographic area, this was not possible in the North. Under the proposal, British Columbia’s North would lose one of its eight electoral districts.

However, the three ridings in the northwest, which have some of the smallest population per representative in the province, would continue to exist.

“The net effect of the proposed changes is an overall increase of two electoral districts, bring the proposed number of MLA’s in this province to 81 from the present 79,” said Cohen.

Under the proposed changes, the Nass Valley communities and Stewart, a population of 2,440 people, will be moved into the same riding as Terrace. The southern boundary of the North Coast riding would be extended further south to the top of Mount Waddington Regional District and east to the western boundary of the Caribou Regional District.

“You’ll see that for the North, for example if we had simply applied a straight population factor, I believe in our report we set out that the number of people in the North would support about five electoral districts,” said Cohen.

The Skeena district would be called the Skeena-Stikine District and would extend as far north as Telegraph Creek and Dease Lake.

The Bulkley Valley-Stikine district would become Bulkley-Nechako and encompass part of the former riding along with part of the former riding along with part of the Prince George-Omineca riding – including communities from Smithers along Highway 16 east to Vanderhoof..

Overall, in the North, the number of districts would change from eight to seven - the lost districts would be Prince George Omenica and Prince George North. The later would be divided geographically among the new districts Bulkley Valley-Nechako, Fraser- Fort George and the new Northland. The Commission also recommends creating a new city district for Prince George proper. (see story below)

Cohen ensured the public that their process is very transparent, and anyone with time to read the report will see it well set out within the document.

“Our mandate is very clear. We are to achieve representation by population, giving consideration to many factors,” said Cohen.

“We went to every single electoral district in the province and we studied very carefully what the circumstances were in those districts.

The Commissioners were very bound and determined to ensure independence transparency and accountability.”

These proposals will be used to provide the basis for discussion and input at public hearings that will take place with the first discussion in Prince George on Sept.. 5, and finishing by Nov. 14.

Public discussions will take place in regions across the province during this two month period, before the BCEBC’s final report is submitted Feb. 15, 2008.

The nearest meeting to Prince Rupert takes place in Terrace, Oct. 4 from 6:30 to 9:30 p. m. at the Coast Inn.

The full report, as well as summaries by region with maps can be viewed by visiting the BCEBC website at

See Friday’s edition of The Daily News for responses from local MLA Gary Coons and others.

Prince George Citizen
Thursday, August 16, 2007

Prince George will be represented by only two ridings, if suggestions in a report released Wednesday the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission are implemented.

"The Central North currently has five electoral districts," the commission says in a summary from the report. "Three originate in Prince George, splitting the city among them and stretching far to the north, northwest and southwest.

"The commission has concluded that Prince George should be divided between only two electoral districts."

The proposed changes will be discussed at a public hearing Sept. 5 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the Coast Inn of the North.

Prince George currently is split among the Prince George North, Prince George-Omineca and Prince George-Mount Robson ridings. Each includes a portion of the city, but also a large area of the surrounding region.

In its report, the commission calls for a Prince George urban riding that includes most of the city and a Fraser-Fort George riding that includes a portion of the city's outskirts.

The riding of Prince George-Omineca would disappear, and most of its territory would be included in a new Bulkley-Nechako electoral district, which would follow the boundaries of the Bulkley-Nechako regional district.

"As B.C.'s largest city north of Kamloops, Prince George has many urban economic, social and cultural issues that would benefit from an MLA being able to focus on these community interests," the commission said. "The commission is proposing a new urban electoral district be created completely within the City of Prince George.

"The proposed electoral district of Prince George comprises the downtown area of the City of Prince George. The Fraser and Nechako rivers form its eastern and northern boundaries, respectively. UNBC and Highway 16 form part of the western boundary."

The commission has also proposed that the new Fraser-Fort George electoral district include the remainder of Prince George. "Its outer boundaries will correspond exactly to the Fraser-Fort George Regional district," the commission said.

People wanting to participate in the hearing Sept. 5 may download a PDF version of application and mail it to the commission's office at Suite 601, 700 West Georgia St., Vancouver, BC V7Y 1B6 or faxing it to (604) 660-1207 (toll free 1-877-660-1207). You may also phone the commission's office at (604) 660-1203.

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