Proposed electoral boundary changes don’t sit well with South Okanagan residents

Penticton and Summerland residents concerned over changes that would place the communities in separate ridings

Sitting in front of a map displaying proposed riding changes

Sitting in front of a map displaying proposed riding changes

Residents of both the Okanagan-Coquihalla and Boundary Similkameen federal ridings made it clear Tuesday that they have some serious concerns over a proposed realignment of the riding boundaries.

The major issue for many speakers was splitting Summerland and Penticton into separate ridings, and possibly cleaving the social and economic ties that join the two communities together.

“Summerland and Penticton have never been divided into two federal ridings since B.C. entered Confederation,” said Jason Cox, who joined with Connie Denesiuk from Summerland to present a combined view of the chambers of commerce in both communities.

“There is an almost continuous residential link between these two communities,” said Denesiuk. “The proposed changes take away from our ability to advocate as a unit and diminish the sense of community these neighbouring towns enjoy as we approach national issues together.”

They were speaking to the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for British Columbia, which was in Penticton to gather opinions on the proposed boundary changes, which would see Summerland as part of a riding stretching from Merritt to West Kelowna, while Penticton would join with Oliver, Osoyoos and a portion of the West Kootenay over to Castlegar.

Losing the ability to act as a unit federally was a concern also expressed by Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton, who was also speaking as chair of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen. His concern is that splitting the two communities into separate ridings will interfere with their ability to work jointly to get federal grants.

“By working together and working very cohesively together, we have been very successful in insuring those dollars do come,” said Ashton.

“There is a definite link between Penticton and surrounding municipalities, including the District of Summerland and those communities in the Similkameen that are slated for adjustment.”

Former Summerland councillor Carla Ohmenzetter expressed similar concerns, pointing out that the change might affect relations with the Penticton Indian Band, which has lands bordering both communities.

“The new borders would eliminate that opportunity to speak with them in a venue that is formally recognized by the federal government,” said Ohmenzetter.

“We have a long history of working together as the two communities. I think we have benefited extremely well, we work very hard together and because of that, we are seeing some great progress.”

Ohmenzetter and others listed a long range of services and other factors shared by the two communities, including courts, shopping and even a common school district.

The number of people expressing concerns about the division of Penticton and Summerland provoked a comment from Oliver resident Allan Mathieson.

“Listening to the people here talking about Penticton and Summerland, I felt you people had a romance going,” said Mathieson.

However, he had concerns about stretching a new riding to include the West Kootenay, pointing to the strong north-south bias of the valley.

“I live in Oliver and I golf in Osoyoos and my wife and I always have our operations done in Penticton,” Mathieson joked. He feels there was little connection to the eastern side of the proposed new riding.

“I can’t remember the names of those places, because I have never gone to them,” he said. “You have to go over three mountain ranges to get to Castlegar.”

Arlene Arlow, of Keremeos, approved of the inclusion of Penticton into a new South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding. Including a major government and trading centre, she said, would help avoid the problem of the western side of the riding being overlooked, as she felt happened in the current Boundary Similkameen riding, with the major population centres on the Kootenay side.

However, cutting the Similkameen Valley in half, along Highway 3, did not make sense.

“It is logical to maintain the trade and commerce relationships that exist along Highway 3,” she said, also noting that the new boundary would split apart lands of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band. “The communities of the LSIB — west and east of Keremeos — are served by their band office in Keremeos.”

Alex Atamanenko, the NDP MP for Boundary Similkameen, expressed concerns that an MP would have even more trouble serving such a varied riding, which if implemented, would be the largest in B.C. with a population of over 114,000. There is a large difference, he said, in the needs of a collection of smaller communities and an area with a metropolitan community like Penticton.

“Sometimes, decisions made on the future of rural B.C. are made in Victoria or other large areas and they often don’t make any sense. We need to tailor, somehow, these areas to rural B.C,” said Atamanenko.

If Penticton were to be included, it would pose some problems, with large populations on either side of the riding not having direct access to their members of Parliament.

“This current riding, although not perfect, is workable,” said Atamanenko.

Okanagan Coquihalla MP Dan Albas chose not to make a presentation, preferring to leave it to the residents and officials of the various communities.

“I am really here to listen. I think that it is important that as an independent panel, that they hear from those that would be affected by it,” said Albas. “For me, I don’t think it’s appropriate to make comments that might bring partisan politics into an apolitical process.”

The three members of the Boundary Commission included retired educator Stewart Ladyman, political scientist Peter Meekison and retired judge John Hall, the chair of the commission. He hopes to return their report to the parliamentary committee by the end of November, and they, in turn, are expected to release revisions sometime in spring 2013.

 

Just Posted

James Miller, the managing editor at the Penticton Herald, has been voted in for Jake Kimberley’s vacated council seat. (Submitted)
James Miller elected as Penticton city councillor

Penticton also voted yes to allowing up to 25 years for a Skaha Marina contract

The Eyes of the Tigers on the 2021 Beer Rune on June 19. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Beer Runners take trip around local beaches and brews

Over 160 people signed up to come back after the 2020 run was cancelled

There was high voter turnout for the first of three advance voting days for the Penticton city by-election.
Penticton city by-election general voting day is today, June 19

737 voters on June 9 in comparison to 2018 general election, which had 1,001 on first day

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 Penticton-area men charged with Kamloops brothers’ double homicide

Brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May in Naramata

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control in Electoral Area D starting next year

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read