Proposed boundary changes raise ire in Falkland, Sorrento
The fight over Falkland’s political future is heating up.
Rene Talbot, Falkland’s electoral area director, will speak to the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission Wednesday about the possible removal of the community from the Okanagan-Shuswap riding.
“People are very upset. They want to stay in the riding we’re in,” he said.
The commission is proposing Falkland be put into a new riding with downtown Kelowna, Summerland, Merritt, Logan Lake and Princeton.
“We have no ties to Kelowna, Merritt or Summerland. It makes absolutely no sense,” said Talbot.
Falkland is linked to Salmon Arm through the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District and its secondary students go to school in Armstrong.
Talbot also points out that most people in the community also work and shop in Vernon.
There is a concern that residents would not have easy access to their federal representative if the riding changes.
“They want people to drive to Kelowna to meet their MP,” said Talbot.
Other proposed changes to Okanagan-Shuswap would include moving the area between Blind Bay and Chase into Central Okanagan-Coquihalla, and Chase into Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo. Sorrento would be divided by two federal boundaries.
Talbot doesn’t hold much hope that the commission can be convinced to leave the riding as is.
“It’s Ottawa and they don’t listen much. Our MP doesn’t even really want to get involved,” said Talbot.
Colin Mayes, Okanagan-Shuswap MP, has not written the boundaries commission and he will not appear at the hearing in Kelowna Wednesday.
“It’s a public process, not a political process,” he said.
Instead, a presentation will be made by the Conservatives’ Okanagan-Shuswap Riding Association.
Mayes admits, though, that he has concerns about the changes proposed.
“I feel strongly about it. Lines can be drawn a little differently.”
He describes dividing representation for Sorrento as “not a good idea.”
Canada’s electoral districts are reviewed every 10 years by independent commissions to account for shifts and growth in the population.
“It’s a challenge when you come to the rural areas of B.C.,” said Stewart Ladyman, with the Electoral Boundaries Commission, in a recent interview.
“There’s decreasing population in rural areas and increasing population in urban areas.”
Other factors considered when amending boundaries are communities of interest, history and geography.
If the changes occur, Okanagan-Shuswap — which could become known as North Okanagan-Shuswap — would see its population go from 121,062 to 112,399. The average sought for each riding is 104,763.
The public input session will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Kelowna Ramada Hotel.