Local politicians plan to deliver a loud and clear message to the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission at the hearings set to take place on Oct. 16, in Nanaimo, and Oct. 17, in Victoria.
And that message is: the proposed changes to the electoral boundaries for the Cowichan Valley do not work.
Mayor Ross Forrest, Area F Director Ian Morrison, and Jean Crowder, MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan are all unhappy with the proposed boundaries that would see the current riding of Nanaimo-Cowichan split into two ridings: Nanaimo Cowichan and South Cowichan Juan de Fuca. The new riding of Nanaimo Cowichan would include all of Nanaimo, Gabriola Island, the majority of Ladysmith, Youbou, Lake Cowichan and Honeymoon Bay.
“My major concern is that I think that it would give us a disconnect from the rest of the Cowichan Valley,” said Forrest.
Morrison shares this point of view.
“The lumping in of the Cowichan Lake area to a Nanaimo centred riding will leave us almost disconnected from where the main constituency activities will be carried on,” said Morrison. “Just the thought that a resident of the Cowichan Lake Area would have to drive over an hour to a constituency office—and most of that driving would be through another riding—gives people the sense that their disconnected. We are an afterthought, or it appears that way.”
With the proposal, Vancouver Island would gain at least one more seat, and according to Crowder’s website “the Commission’s mandate is to set electoral boundaries so that each electoral district has a population as close as reasonably possible to the provincial electoral quotient [approximately 105,000], taking into account communities of interest or identity, historical patterns and a manageable geographic size of electoral districts.”
Morrison believes that by this criteria, the Cowichan Valley should be a riding unto itself as the area has a population of approximately 115,000.
“I believe we’re close to where we should have got an extra seat beyond what they are proposing for Vancouver Island,” said Morrison. “One for Vancouver Island is appropriate, but maybe a second would be more appropriate.”
He says this is because he believes that then ridings could be divided in a more balanced manner without certain ridings growing at a faster rate than others.
Crowder has similar concerns.
“One of the critical points that we are going to make is what were they thinking by putting Lake Cowichan and the electoral areas from around Lake Cowichan up with the proposed Nanaimo-Ladysmith part of the riding? It just doesn’t make any sense.”
She will be using the Cowichan Lake area as an example of communities of interest which she says need to be kept together.
“Lake Cowichan has more affiliation with the Cowichan Valley than it does with Nanaimo, including it’s in the same school district, it’s in the same Cowichan Valley Regional District; all of those arguments,” said Crowder.
Members of the public are welcome to attend these hearings which will take place at the Nanaimo Coast Bastion Inn at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16, and at the Victoria Conference Centre at 7 p.m. on Oct. 17.