Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Boundary Commission back on the road, but the road doesn’t head Northwest

“We will complete our mandate under the existing legislation”
Justice Bruce Cohen

The B. C. Electoral Boundary Commission, which had appeared to have been cut off at the knees by the government earlier this year, is back to work today.

Making plans to listen to British Columbians and their concerns over riding re-distribution, however with the deadline for submissions scheduled for January 23rd and Christmas soon to arrive, there seemingly won’t be much time for BC voters to express their concerns.

Even more disappointing for the Northwest (potentially one of the more at risk of ridings) there will be few opportunities here to present the case for representation.

The Daily News provided some background on the Boundary commission plans in the Monday edition.

Northwest sidelined as election riding talks start again
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Monday, December 10, 2007

Pages one and three

The B.C. Electoral Boundary Commission is back on track to dramatically increase the size of the three ridings in the Northwest.

But they won't be stopping here to talk about it.

On Friday, the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission said it plans to complete its mandate under the original legislation, which was to increase the number of MLAs by two, from 79 to 81 and will move forward with hearings on the preliminary report, which includes the idea of eliminating three rural ridings.

However, the hearing schedule does not include any stops in the Northwest to gather local input.
"I'm disappointed and shocked that the timeline does not include any visit to the North Coast or skeena area," said North Coast MLA Gary Coons.

"We must remember that this situation is a result of Gordon Campbell's ongoing mismanagement of the whole electoral boundary issue. The premier's political interference caused the commission to cancel its fall hearings, and now there is very little time for consultations resulting in a hurried consultation process."

The commission had planned a stop in Terrace in October, but cancelled the hearing after the premier announced the province planned to introduce legislation to amend the commission's mandate and protect rural ridings.

Because the legislation failed to pass before the end of the legislature's sitting, the commission has planned public hearings during January 2008 in the Lower Mainland, Cariboo-Thompson, Okanagan, Columbia-Kootenay and Vancouver Island regions.

There will be no stops in the Northwest. The commission will also hear from MLAs as required by the legislation.

"We will complete our mandate under the existing legislation," said Justice Bruce Cohen.
The preliminary report suggested vastly expanding the geographic regions of the North Coast, Skeena and Bulkley Valley-Stikine ridings, while eliminating a riding in Prince George.

This outraged the North Central Municipal Association, which protested the proposal outside the hearing in Prince George this September.

"Once we have submitted any amendments to the speaker, it will be up to the legislature to decide on our proposals," said Cohen.

In addition to attending public hearings, people are also invited to comment on the Preliminary Report by e-mail, written submission or telephone.

The public can visit the commission’s website for contact information a www.bc-ebc.ca and to view the public hearing schedule.

Members of the public are encouraged to register if they plan to make a presentation at one of the hearings. The commission has also established a voice recorder at 1-877-660-1236 for those who wish to make an oral submission.

The commission will continue to receive submissions until Jan. 23.

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