Changes are coming to riding boundaries in British Columbia as the NDP government has indicated it plans to remove protection for existing rural seats in the B.C. legislature and add more to areas with growing population.
There could potentially be six new seats added to the current 87, but protections that prevent reducing the number of northern and rural seats are being removed.
It is thought that the changes, if they go through, could mean the loss of one or two seats in the north and one in the Kootenays.
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok is not a fan of the loss of protection, and urges mayors and citizens of his riding to make sure they make their feelings known when the electoral boundary commission begins public hearings.
He says he understands that urban areas are growing but argues that rural areas are increasing in population as well.
He says that losing a seat in the Kootenays not only means that one MLA will have to step down — and a majority of rural and northern seats are BC Liberal — but that making his riding bigger will create an area so large that one person cannot possibly serve it well.
“Columbia River Revelstoke is the size of Switzerland,” he said. “It has four distinct communities, seven mayors, and two regional districts. There’s one of the most treacherous mountain passes in B.C. (Rogers Pass) to get over in the winter and it takes five hours in good weather to travel from one side to the other. I can’t handle a riding much bigger.”
Clovechok points to the size of the federal Kootenay Columbia riding, and says the MP, through no fault of their own, is simply not able to effectively spend enough time in any community in it.
“To me it’s an affront to remove the clause that protects rural ridings. I urge rural elected officials to speak to the commission and plead the case that we have to leave ridings where they are.”
He argues that you can’t just balance by population in a country as vast in size as Canada.
“I know what the issues are in my communities and I will fight like crazy to keep the boundaries where they are. This job is about representing people. My ability to represent effectively diminishes as these ridings grow.
“If the population in Surrey is growing, maybe they need more representatives. But there is a distinct difference between rural and urban.”
Clovechok said the bill proposing the changes has not been debated yet and he plans to have plenty to say in the Legislature when it is. Ultimately the decision will be made by the electoral boundary commission.
“Rural communities need to be respected as uniquely different,” he said.