Proposed riding shift ignores regional ties

Electoral boundary commission proposal ignores the relationships of communities that go beyond the lines drawn on a map

The political battle lines in the Okanagan could undergo a major shift before the next federal election. But it won’t be happening without a fight if a meeting Tuesday night in Penticton is any indication.

The B.C. Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission met near-unanimous opposition from those on hand for Tuesday’s hearing in Penticton. The commission is looking at changes to provincial ridings after it was determined that B.C. should receive six new seats. While those additional ridings will be primarily situated in the Lower Mainland, with one on Vancouver Island, the commission is also recommending redrawing some federal boundaries.

The plan put forward would shave Penticton off of the Okanagan-Coquihalla and tack it onto a new riding called South Okanagan-West Kootenay. That riding would be similar to the current Southern Interior riding, with Penticton added and Nelson shuffled to an adjacent riding.

And it’s here where the proposed changes seem to lose grasp of the geographic realities. The move would separate the closely linked communities of Penticton and Summerland, and cut off Keremeos from its western neighbours. The proposed riding shift would also break up the Kootenays’ Tri-Cities, splitting Nelson from Castlegar and Trail.

The inconsistencies in the proposed riding changes leads one to believe the map was drawn up in Vancouver or Ottawa, without any thought given to the shared relationship between communities that help make up the fabric of a region. Or, cast in a more cynical light, it could appear the Conservative stronghold of Penticton is being used to tilt the scales in a riding that has swung for the NDP in recent years.

We can only hope that the commission will give careful thought to the input it received Tuesday night, and take a closer look at the shared relationship of a region’s communities that go beyond the lines drawn on a map.