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New Burnaby North-Seymour riding gets commission approval
The North Shore’s political map is poised for a dramatic redraw as the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission of B.C. approved six new ridings in the province Monday.
The commission’s report is now pending Parliamentary approval before it comes back to the three-member panel for their final say this spring. If approved, the new electoral map will add a second MP for North Vancouver by 2015, while removing Powell River and Texada Island from the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding and tacking them onto Vancouver Island North.
The move stems from the need to bring the province’s riding count up from 36 to 42 to better reflect B.C.’s population growth in the capital.
The changes would bring the two large North Shore ridings in line with what the commission considers the ideal riding population of 104,000. Currently, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country has 133,910 constituents, while North Vancouver has 127,330.
But the commission’s plan to split North Vancouver in two and marry the eastern half with most of the Burnaby-Douglas riding has drawn fire from communities on both sides of Burrard Inlet.
Last fall, the commission held public hearings in both communities and resistance to the plan was considerable. One of the most vocal opponents to the proposed Burnaby North-Seymour riding remains Burnaby-Douglas MP Kennedy Stewart.
“I’m shocked, really,” Stewart told The Outlook Monday. “Opposition on both sides of the Burrard Inlet was fierce and near unanimous. The commission just didn’t seem to listen.”
Last September, Stewart hired a company to do a phone survey of every District of North Vancouver household east of Lynn Creek that would be part of the new riding. Of the approximately 11,000 homes called, 7,000 picked up the phone and only 1,000 answered the question of whether or not they supported the new Burnaby North-Seymour riding. Most — 79 per cent — said no, while 21 per cent said yes.
A similar survey of Burnaby-Douglas yielded identical results, Stewart said.
North Vancouver MP Andrew Saxton also showed preference last year for keeping the existing boundaries, but said “the status quo is not an option” in light of the area’s population growth.
His office did not respond to The Outlook’s request for comment before press time this week.
District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton, Coun. Roger Bassam and City of North Vancouver Coun. Don Bell all opposed uniting Burnaby and North Van when it was first proposed. They did so on the stated grounds that the two communities share little in common politically and geographically.
Concerns were also raised at the time that the new riding would sever the Squamish Nation’s Seymour Creek reserve in the east from its Capilano and Mission reserves to the west, diluting the band’s federal representation over two ridings.
Still, the commission went ahead with its recommendations Monday for six new B.C. ridings, all but one of them in the Lower Mainland.
Commission chair Justice John E. Hall defended the commission’s report, saying “it is not possible to satisfy everyone,” in a press release Monday.
“I anticipate there will be some [resistance],” Hall told The Outlook in a phone interview. “I expect we’ll have some of the districts where people might want to tell us things where they think we might do better and, as I said, we will receive those comments, think about them and respond as we think fit.”
That process is expected to be completed by the beginning of June, Hall said, at which time the commission’s decision will be finalized before Parliament and will take effect the following year.
A Burnaby North-Seymour riding isn’t without precedent. The riding existed briefly in the late 1960s and early ’70s and was almost resurrected in 2002 but was met, then as now, with opposition from both communities.