The proposal for federal electoral boundary changes tabled in the House of Commons on Feb. 8 suggests splitting the West Kootenay into three different electoral districts.
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for B.C. submitted its next-to-final draft of proposed changes to the British Columbia electoral map for review by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
The current version is drastically different from an earlier version that was presented in the spring of 2022 and significantly affects the West Kootenay.
B.C. was granted one extra riding in the federal redistribution of seats. That riding will be centred around Vernon.
RDCK Area I including the rural Castlegar communities of Pass Creek, Thrums, Brilliant, Tarrys, Shoreacres and Glade move to the East Kootenay riding while Castlegar itself would go to the newly named and expanded Similkameen-West Kootenay riding, which stretches all the way to Princeton and includes Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos.
RDCK Area J, which includes Ootischenia, Robson and Deer Park, would also go to the Similkameen-West Kootenay riding.
RDCK Areas H and K including Arrow Lakes, South Slocan, Playmor Junction and the Slocan Valley move into the new Vernon riding.
Kootenay Boundary Area A including Beaver Valley, Montrose and Fruitvale will also move to the East Kootenay riding while Trail, Warfied and Rossland would be part of the Similkameen-West Kootenay riding.
Nelson and Creston, as well as RDCK areas A, B, C, D, E, F and G stay in the East Kootenay riding.
So Kalesnikoff’s South Slocan Mass Timber facility would be in the Vernon riding, and its main mill in Tarrys would be in the East Kootenay Riding.
“It’s extremely concerning that a second draft of the federal boundary review has only just been released and is such a radical departure from what was initially presented at the one [Kootenay] public hearing held in Cranbrook,” says Ali Grieve, RDKB director for Area A.
The 2022 draft included changing the riding of South Okanagan-West Kootenay by splitting Penticton in two with the west half moving to a riding that included West Kelowna and the east half remaining with the South Okanagan.
Penticton residents voiced their opposition to the proposal and the commission listened, but those concessions have come at the cost of keeping most of the West Kootenay together.
South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings is concerned about the proposed changes and the fact that there is no real opportunity for direct public input at this stage.
Since the eastern part of South Okanagan-West Kootenay remained untouched in the original draft, there were essentially no comments or other inputs from the West Kootenay during the consultation period.
“I’m hearing a lot of concern about some of the changes in the West Kootenay,” said Cannings. “For instance, Montrose and Fruitvale are essentially part of Trail, but the proposal separates them from that community and moves them into the East Kootenay. Castlegar neighbourhoods just outside the official city limits are cut off from their community in a similar manner.”
The only official avenue for input that remains is through Canning’s ability as an MP to present concerns to the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which can pass them on with recommendations to the commission. He is asking concerned residents to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The electoral boundary report can be found at redecoupage-redistribution-2022.ca.