The map of the proposed new federal ridings that would move Nelson to the Kootenay-Columbia.

The map of the proposed new federal ridings that would move Nelson to the Kootenay-Columbia.

Nelson in the political hinterland

If the federal riding boundary realignment is all about perception then it doesn’t look good for Nelson.

If the federal riding boundary realignment is all about perception — how we perceive ourselves and how we perceive others — then it doesn’t look good for Nelson.

The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for British Columbia has proposed that in the next federal election, Nelson voters help elect the Member of Parliament for the Kootenay-Columbia riding. It would land this community on the farthest western reaches of a new riding and align us with folks in the East Kootenay.

We all know the East Kootenay is the land of pick-up trucks, gun racks, country music and rednecks. That’s a world away from this patch of the province which is chock full of smart cars, bike racks, electronic music and hippies.

Of course the perception of both is far from the reality, but it’s safe to say that on the surface Nelson does not quite fit.

Beyond the snap judgement of perception, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the proposed re-drawing of the electoral map.

One of the main drawbacks of Nelson being shuttled east is that it removes us from our primary regional partners. In recent years the tri-city communities of Nelson, Castlegar and Trail have worked hard to foster better partnerships. The mayors and leaders in all three realize that as a collective we are much stronger when it comes to matching our rural economy with the rest of British Columbia and Canada. Though all three communities are each very unique, the challenges of our geography and isolation bind us together.

If the new electoral configuration goes ahead, both Trail and Castlegar will be represented in Ottawa by the MP from the new riding of South Okanagan-West Kootenay.

Ottawa is the most distant government when it comes to everyday life in Nelson. Placing this community on the farthest edge of a new riding in order to bolster the population numbers for the East Kootenay seems arbitrary. If the new map is drawn, our political isolation in Ottawa will increase significantly. Surely this can’t be the goal of the commission.