B.C.’s Electoral Boundaries Commission is recommending significant changes to the boundaries of the Cowichan Valley riding, including shifting Shawnigan Lake, Mill Bay and Cobble Hill to another electoral district. Shown if the riding's current boundaries. (Electoral Boundaries Commission map)

Major changes proposed for Cowichan Valley’s electoral boundaries

Recommendations a response to growing population on Island

Big changes may be in the works again for the Cowichan Valley riding in the provincial legislature, as well as some surrounding electoral districts.

B.C.’s Electoral Boundaries Commission is recommending that Shawnigan Lake, Mill Bay and Cobble Hill, which are currently in the Cowichan Valley electoral district, become part of a reconfigured Juan de Fuca-Malahat riding.

“Our proposal for the [Juan de Fuca-Malahat] riding unites the communities along the Strait of Juan de Fuca — Metchosin, Sooke and Port Renfrew — with those north of the Malahat Pass; Shawnigan Lake, Mill Bay and Cobble Hill,” the commission said in its preliminary report.

“We believe combining several smaller communities and rural areas in one electoral district is preferable to the alternative of moving part of the Juan de Fuca region into the Cowichan Valley riding.”

As for other changes to the Cowichan Valley riding, the commission is proposing boundary adjustments for the electoral district to include Chemainus in the north and Cherry Point in the south.

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“These changes better balance the population of this riding with its neighbours,” the commission said in its report.

Overall, the commission is calling for the creation of six new electoral districts in the province, including in the Langford area on Vancouver Island which would be called Langford-Highlands, to address the rapid population growth in Greater Victoria.

If accepted by the province, the recommendations would bring the total number of seats in the legislature to 93.

The commission is also recommending adjustments to the boundaries of 71 electoral districts — including Cowichan Valley and Nanaimo-North Cowichan — based on geographic, demographic and other considerations.

The recommendations are a response to the fact that B.C.’s population has grown by more than 300,000 people over the last five years.

Since the population of British Columbia is not static, it has been deemed necessary to periodically review the number and boundaries of B.C.’s electoral districts in an effort to continue to ensure that B.C. residents have effective representation by population.

The Electoral Boundaries Commission Act requires that an electoral boundaries commission be appointed after every second provincial general election to propose changes to the area, boundaries and names of electoral districts in the province.

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At a Cowichan Valley Regional District board meeting in October, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone took issue with some of the recommended changes to the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding, which would see some boundary changes and renamed Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

“Generally, I think the work that has been done [by the commission] is good, but if you look at the Vancouver Island ridings, there are some real oddities with the way they have divided up certain regions,” Stone said.

“Our region [Nanaimo-North Cowichan] which now reaches from Chemainus to South Nanaimo would become Nanaimo-Ladysmith and would be largely rural.”

But Stone said the proposed Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding would have a narrow connection to the Departure Bay and Hammond Bay communities in central Nanaimo, and the residents of those parts of the city likely wouldn’t have the same issues as other, more rural, parts of the electoral area.

“I encourage people to provide feedback [on this issue] that they may feel is valuable,” he said.

The commission is currently in its final round of public consultations which are scheduled to end by Nov. 22, and a final report is expected to be completed by April.

The Legislative Assembly will then decide whether to accept all, some or none of the commission’s recommendations.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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