The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for British Columbia recently released a proposal to dramatically change the federal electoral boundary lines for the upcoming 2015 election, and while local members of Parliament are keeping the public process at arms length, some city councillors are speaking out against the changes that could affect where Tri-Cities residents case their ballots.
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for British Columbia is responsible for the redistribution of geographic areas every 10 years, and decides where residents cast their votes to elect members of Parliament.
Currently, there are two ridings in the Tri-Cities: New Westminster-Coquitlam and Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam. Under the proposed boundary line changes, the new ridings would become Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam and Port Moody-Coquitlam with New Westminster joining another riding with Burnaby East.
The Port Moody-Coquitlam riding will include Coquitlam residents to the south of the Barnet and Lougheed highways, while Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam will become one riding and will include the villages of Anmore and Belcarra, Westwood Plateau, Burke and Heritage mountains, and the northern half of PoCo.
According to MP James Moore (Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam), the dramatic shift in boundaries comes in response to Prime Minster Stephen Harper's promise to create six more seats in Parliament.
"British Columbia is going from 36 seats to 42 seats in the House of Commons - so there are more people fighting for the interests of B.C. in the future," he said in an interview with The NOW. "In essence you have two pure Tri-City ridings."
The first draft of the new report was released a week ago but could see none or numerous changes, depending on the input the commission receives during public hearings.
"It's a preliminary drawing and there is lots of work still to be done and that's certainly what I'm looking forward to is what the public has to say about the initial redraft boundaries," said Fin Donnelly, MP for the New Westminster-Coquitlam riding, noting he would like to keep the current riding intact.
Port Coquitlam could see the most changes. The entire city is currently included in the Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam riding. However, as part of the redistribution, it will be dissected into three distinct parts, sharing voting districts with Coquitlam, Port Moody, and Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.
"I was quite shocked," said Port Coquitlam Coun. Brad West. "My initial thought was that these boundaries were drawn by people who have never actually stepped foot in Port Coquitlam - It looks like someone just sat down with a map, drawing lines based on what they thought looked good."
While PoCo is the second-smallest of the Tri-Cities, he wants to see the city intact as a single riding combined with either Coquitlam or Port Moody.
West believes the separation of PoCo will cause too much confusion among residents, adding that one property on Shaughnessy Street could be choosing among three different candidates, while a property just on the other side of the street could be voting for completely separate people.
However, Moore disagreed, saying there has been no evidence that points to lower voter turnout due to changing boundary lines.
Moore, Donnelly and West encouraged residents to attend one of the 22 public hearings across the province between Sept. 10 and Oct. 18 to speak in favour or against the changes.
"It will come down to members of our community speaking up - that's what will make the difference. Council will make our position known, if it's being echoed by residents that will bolster our cause," said West.
The final boundary draft will be released in early 2014.
Residents can attend the only public hearing in the Tri-Cities in Coquitlam, at the Executive Plaza Hotel on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 2 p.m.