Penticton residents can breathe a little easier and no longer worry about voting for different candidates than their neighbours after plans to split the city into two federal ridings was scrapped.
Instead, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission’s final report, which was tabled before the House of Commons on Feb. 8, would see the riding currently represented by MP Richard Cannings expand further westward.
The report would see the current Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola riding partitioned out into five ridings, including the Similkameen- West Kootenay riding.
The Similkameen -West Kootenay riding, as it is called in the report, would stretch from Castlegar and Trail in the east, across the South Okanagan, and through the Similkameen Valley to Princeton.
The report is the result of the commission taking into account feedback from residents and elected officials following its initial proposal to adjust the boundaries to fit an additional district in the province thanks to its growing population.
“The report by the Federal BC Electoral Boundaries Commission clearly demonstrates the power of public engagement as yesterday’s report involved many substantive changes based on public feedback,” said MP Dan Albas, Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.
“Ultimately, as I have always maintained, these changes are about our communities and the people who live in them.
“I am looking forward to hearing feedback on these proposed changes.”
The initial proposal would have split the Similkameen Valley, with the Village of Keremeos and the community of Cawston added to Cannings’ riding, while Princeton and Hedley, along with the Penticton Indian Band and half of the city of Penticton being added to Albas’ riding.
That report has been met with mixed reactions from elected officials.
“I like the fact that they’ve got the Similkameen all in one riding. You know, that makes cultural, economic and community sense because it’s part of the same regional district, and all the things they need to do with health care and all,” said Cannings.
While Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne also expressed his support for the idea of the Similkameen being united into a single riding, he still had some concerns about how that unity will be done.
“I am concerned about the size of the riding and that we are now with the Kootenay region,” said Coyne.
“The riding is so large we have little involvement with the far end of the new riding when dealing with federal issues.”
Cannings also expressed concerns about the make-up of the eastern edge of his proposed riding. Under the final report, the edge of the boundary comes close to the communities of Castlegar and Trail.
“There’s Beaver Valley and Montrose Fruitvale, which are essentially suburbs with Trail, and now they’re put in with the East Kootenay and I don’t know if that’s necessary,” said Cannings.
He also pointed to the rural suburbs of Castlegar being split between three ridings as another potential area where improvements could be made.
MPs will now have one last opportunity to provide feedback and present amendments to the proposal before it is finalized and submitted for voting and approval.
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