Valemount looks at joining Kootenays in federal riding

Kootenay-Columbia federal election riding Valemount
The Kootenay-Columbia is shown in grey south of Valemount, which is denoted by the red balloon. Valemount is currently part of the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding, represented by Conservative MP Cathy McLeod. Valemount may be shuffled to Conservative MP Bob Zimmer’s riding Prince-George Peace River.

The Electoral Boundary Commission for British Columbia has proposed that new federal electoral boundaries be determined where Valemount would be moved to Prince George-Peace River constituency with Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, instead of Conservative MP Cathy McLeod – but Valemount Mayor Andru McCracken has a different idea.

At their June 24th council meeting, he said Council should look at the possibility of becoming part of the Kootenay-Columbia federal constituency instead. The commission has upcoming hearings where cases can be made for changes to the proposed boundaries.

McCracken says there are many reasons why the Kootenay-Columbia riding would be beneficial. He says the Prince George-Peace River constituency has an economy based primarily on resource extraction, whereas many municipalities in the Kootenay-Columbia riding rely on the tourism industry, similar to Valemount. The riding is comprised of communities such as Golden, Revelstoke, Cranbrook, Kimberley, Fernie and Creston.

McCracken says Cathy McLeod has done fantastic work for Valemount, but it’s likely not an option to stay in that riding.

“If we don’t have an opportunity to stay with that riding, where is a good fit for Valemount? We’re a mountain town that has a lot of tourism, less resource extraction than the territories and the Peace (River riding).”

Another advantage would be that most municipalities in the riding are smaller cities and town – more evenly populated than ridings with big cities like Prince George and Kamloops.

Council noted one disadvantage would be the separation of Valemount from the rest of the district and once again being in a different riding from our close neighbour McBride.

McCracken says electronic media could be used to overcome the distance to some extent, using technologies like teleconferencing, for instance.

The Kootenay Columbia riding would also group many communities that are in the Columbia Basin, meaning the MP would have a good familiarity with the Columbia River Treaty.

Former mayor Jeannette Townsend said about 15 years ago, the founder of Columbia Basin Trust suggested to her that Golden, Revelstoke and Valemount form a regional district.

“I said it was an excellent idea – Revelstoke and Golden were in favour – as soon as Nakusp heard they wanted to be a part as well.”

But Townsend said she pulled out due to the increased travel she would have had as a board member.

“Perhaps if the federal electoral districts are being redrawn, it might be a good time to bring that up.”

Councillor Dallas Bullock said she would like to get more information about the idea.

“I think it’s a really neat idea to join forces with the Columbia Kootenays. It’s true they’re in the same position we’re in. Research needs to go into talking to these other communities to see if we can get their support as well.”

The commission tries to keep the population within each boundary at 104,000.

Even with the changes, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo would be about 110,000.

Kootenay-Columbia Electoral District had a population of 88,026 in 2011. Prince-George Peace River had 105,782.

The Commission will conduct public hearings this fall.

The boundary change proposal takes into account British Columbia’s increase in population from 3,907,738 in 2001 to 4,400,057, as captured in the 2011 census. British Columbia is gaining six electoral districts as a result of the increase in its population.

Federal electoral boundaries are reviewed every 10 years, based on census information.

Residents of British Columbia are invited to share their views on the proposed federal electoral map at public hearings: in Prince George, at the Coast Inn of the North, 770 Brunswick Street, Monday, September 17, 2012 at 2 p.m. In Kamloops at the Kamloops Convention Centre, 1250 Rogers Way, Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 7 p.m. Everyone is invited. For more information visit www.federal-redistribution.ca.

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