Penticton council to give boundary commission an earful

Proposed electoral boundary shuffle meets with some criticism, but Coun. John Vassilaki suggests being a swing riding could be a good thing

When the federal riding boundary commission arrives in Penticton this October for a public hearing, they will be hearing from the Penticton council as well as individual community members.

Coun. Gary Litke suggested Monday night that council needed to reserve a place on the commission’s agenda before the deadline closed at the end of August. The rest of council agreed, but there is likely to be some discussion about what the content of council’s presentation will be.

The redrawing of the boundaries for the riding containing Penticton would see Summerland moved to a separate riding, and Penticton joined with Oliver, Osoyoos and a portion of the West Kootenay over to Castlegar.

“I have heard a number of concerns around the community about the new boundaries,” said Litke.

The new boundaries, he said, would form a constituency that would be the largest in B.C. “It would be 114,000 people and many of the Lower Mainland constituencies are less than 100,000.”

Litke cited a number of common relationships with Summerland, including a school, hospital and regional district that operate in both cities.

“We all seem to be part of the same community; to have a line drawn down the middle of us seems disruptive to our trading patterns, to our culture, to the way we communicate with each other,” said Litke. “I would like to express some of those concerns to the boundary commission and ask them to have another look at it, if there is another way they can reallocate the population.”

“What does Grand Forks have in common with the South Okanagan?” asked Ashton.

“Our commonality traits extend much more with Summerland than what they would with Grand Forks.”

Coun. Vassilaki, however, suggested a different point of view.

“Perhaps we could become a swing riding and get a bigger benefit because of that. The Kootenays are left and the South Okanagan is right. If they think they are trying to go along with one or the other, we will get more funds coming our direction by being a swing riding,” said Vassilaki.

“There are a whole bunch of ways of looking at it, where is it going to benefit us most? Being on the side that they put us, or being with Summerland and getting rid of the lefties on the other side?”

Coun. Helen Konanz also agreed with Litke, but questioned the concept of trying to keep ridings in the 100,000-person range, citing changes in technology that have improved communications.

“It’s not horse and buggy anymore. I would like to discuss more about the area that encompasses this riding as opposed to the population,” said Konanz.