The proposed creation of a new federal electoral district could end up dividing the Cowichan Valley.
“This is only a proposal,” says NDP MP Jean Crowder, “that is important to stress.”
Due to population increases counted in the 2011 federal census, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for British Columbia is proposing the new riding of South Cowichan-Juan de Fuca.
This would mean that the new riding would split Nanaimo-Cowichan, currently held by Crowder, and push the riding northward to encompass virtually all of Nanaimo, as well as part of Ladysmith and Lake Cowichan.
Duncan, Cobble Hill, Mill Bay, and Chemainus will become part of the new riding.
“In reality the Cowichan riding already encompasses 4,000 square kilometres,” says Crowder. “So it’s already a very large riding. I try to make sure to spend time in all parts of the riding.”
However, she says that the new riding, if approved, would mean some challenges for Lake Cowichan residents.
“Lake Cowichan residents still have to drive into Duncan if they want to talk to their MP, but this would mean additional mileage to get to Nanaimo.”
She states that lake area residents visit her for various reasons, including pensions and veterans affairs.
With the proposed riding, Lake Cowichan would be part of the riding, but not attached to it, and Crowder says this doesn’t make any sense.
“It seems unrealistic to me. The new riding makes you drive through another riding to get to the Cowichan riding.”
Crowder says that she already has to be very mindful of the different kinds of issues that arise in the different municipalities in the Cowichan Valley, but this new riding would mean that she would have to be even more so.
Crowder recognizes that Lake Cowichan is a municipality in transition, and that issues concerning the lake itself are different than those around the Nanaimo watershed.
With a divided riding, Crowder says that she would have to be focussed on three things during an election: taking time for all parts of the riding, having a plan, and staying on top of the sometimes diverse issues.
“This is already a complex riding, and that doesn’t change with different electoral boundaries.”
Crowder says she is not sure what the solution is, but she has been talking with others about the proposal and she wants to hear from the public.
“Keeping the regional district together would make sense,” she says and adds that the Malahat, for instance, is a natural boundary.
The proposed change would be implemented in the spring of 2013 if approved.
The idea behind the proposal is to maintain 105,000 to 110,000 voters per riding. With high population growth in Cowichan’s south end and Victoria’s north end, the new riding is necessary to maintain that balance, according to the commission.
Overall, B.C. would gain six electoral districts, increasing representation in the House of Commons from 42 to 48 seats.
Constituents can attend a scheduled public hearing on the matter on October 16 at 7 p.m. at Nanaimo’s Coast Bastion Inn. Presenters may register by August 30 by email at email@example.com or by visiting federal-redistribution.ca.
With notes from the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial.