Local MP Alex Atamanenko is disappointed with the outcome of the federal electoral district redistribution and he should be. The NDP caucus member should also be concerned about his political future.
It couldn’t have gone any worse for the three-time representative of the Southern Interior riding. For a left-leaning candidate, losing Nelson and gaining Penticton is not a fair trade.
When it comes to federal politics, this speck of southern British Columbia is a bit of an NDP island surrounded by Tory blue. When Atamanenko looks to the left and the right on the electoral map, he can easily see recent history not being kind to the NDP in the Okanagan-Coquihalla riding to the west and the Kootenay-Columbia to the east.
These are Conservative strongholds. Penticton is the city where former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day famously rode up to shore on a jet ski to a pack of media for a press conference. In recent elections Conservative candidates David Wilks and Jim Abbott before him, easily cruised to victories.
Atamanenko has his work cut out for him in 2015 and he knows it. His charm and hard work won over the Southern Interior in the 2004 federal election when he narrowly lost out to a powerful Jim Gouk. In 2006, his persistence was rewarded with a landslide victory for the left. It will take that and more to secure a victory on the new map.
But Atamanenko’s fight against the reconfigured ridings was not an effort to save his political hide. His fight was supported by many political and business leaders in the Nelson-Trail-Castlegar area. Slicing off Nelson from the other two communities makes little sense and the fight was a multi-pronged effort.
We have a West Kootenay identity and though we may spar with our closest neighbours from time to time, we are family. Now that Nelson has been fostered out to the east, at least a part of that bond has been broken.
Alex Atamanenko may have the most to lose, but this new electoral map hurts all of us in a small way. It’s a shame those making the decisions didn’t listen.