B.C. VIEWS: Rural voters maintain edge

Rural B.C. isn't just the source of most of the province's resources

VICTORIA – There aren’t too many benefits to living in B.C.’s vast hinterlands, compared to the southwest where three quarters of B.C. residents reside.

A few advantages of rural life spring to mind: it’s quieter, traffic jams are fewer and shorter, and real estate prices are more reasonable.

Another advantage is little noticed, but significant just the same. Rural voters have more clout than their urban counterparts. There can be as many as three times the number of voters in a Metro Vancouver constituency as in one of the remote northern seats, but each gets one MLA.

That advantage was reinforced during the 2008 electoral boundary redistribution, when the B.C. Liberal government decided not to eliminate rural seats – a move recommended by an independent commission to equalize representation in the B.C. legislature. Instead, both the B.C. Liberals and the NDP supported adding six extra seats, in the Fraser Valley, Lower Mainland, Okanagan and Southern Vancouver Island. That narrowed the gap, but the other regions remain over-represented in Victoria.

The B.C. Liberal Party has now moved to match this rural clout in its own leadership vote, set for Feb. 26. At a weekend convention, party delegates voted almost unanimously to get rid of the one member-one vote system that put Vancouverite Gordon Campbell into the leadership 17 years ago.

The new weighted voting system ensures that constituencies with small memberships have the same influence in the leadership contest as those who have signed up thousands of new members in urban areas. A rural member’s vote might be up to 10 times as powerful as one in Surrey, where many new members have been signed up.

As one delegate pointed out, this isn’t strictly a rural-urban thing. In NDP strongholds such as East Vancouver or Nanaimo, there are large populations but only a hardy little band of B.C. Liberal stalwarts maintaining membership in a constituency the party has little chance of winning.

There wasn’t much grumbling about this decision. Most B.C. Liberals agreed with the candidates that sticking with a one member-one vote system would mean only urban candidates have a chance of leading the party.

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett was one of those advocating the change to weighted voting, before his noisy expulsion from the B.C. Liberal cabinet and caucus last fall. Still a faithful party member, Bennett urged delegates to adopt the new system, partly because it gives the party “a huge advantage” over the NDP.

The NDP is selecting its next leader in April, using the one member-one vote system for the first time. NDP leadership candidates have also signed up thousands of new members, most of them from urban constituencies.

The NDP now risks becoming the party of the urban poor, and that’s not a recipe for success.

Some rural voters will remember that Glen Clark made his first visit to Prince George only after he became premier. He spoke about how pleased he was to finally visit the north, apparently unaware that he had only reached the middle of the province, with the north still to come.

Carole James worked hard for seven years as leader to make the NDP reach out beyond its traditional power base. She was rewarded in 2005 with seats regained in the North Coast, Kootenays and Cariboo as well as traditional areas of strength.

It won’t be easy for an urban-dominated NDP to retain these far-flung constituencies, much less add to their current seats and form a majority government.

The B.C. Liberals have gone a long way to holding their rural-urban coalition together.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com. tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Just Posted

Workshops, networking events designed for Shuswap women entrepreneurs on the way

Tsuts’weye project holds successful roundtables where valuable information gathered

‘She was awesome’: Malakwa baker leaves U.S. holiday show

‘There are Christmas miracles, look at me’

Salmon Arm ranked 7th best place to work in B.C. for 2020

Categories reflecting quality of life influence ranking

School District #83 board approves pay increase for trustees

Decision reflects policy, changes in BC Consumer Price Index

South Shuswap health clinic welcomes first doctor

Dr. Jack Beech to do Saturday walk-in clinic at Copper Island Health and Wellness Centre.

VIDEO: Federal Liberals’ throne speech welcomes opposition’s ideas

Trudeau will need NDP or Bloc support to pass legislation and survive confidence votes

Weak link in Sagmoen trial, defence says

Counsel questions whether search warrant police executed was obtained on reasonable grounds

Salmon Arm Work BC office hosts grand reopening

Services available at the office will remain similar to past offerings

VIDEO: John Lennon’s iconic Rolls Royce rolls into Vancouver Island college for checkup

Royal BC Museum, Camosun College and Coachwerks Restorations come together to care for car

North Okanagan MP says throne speech lacked specifics

‘Trudeau government presented a vague agenda,’: MP Mel Arnold

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

Independent Investigations Office seeks witnesses following arrest in Penticton

The male resisted arrest at approximately 8:40 a.m. and sustained a head injury

Most Read