The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary is crying foul over proposed changes to federal riding boundaries that would see the Beaver Valley added to an East Kootenay constituency.
“It was quite a surprise,” said Area A director Ali Grieve. “We had no idea that change was coming.”
Grieve noted that the original proposal released last year by the electoral boundaries commission didn’t call for any changes affecting the Kootenays. While that draft was subject to public feedback, the latest revision is not.
“We were pretty appalled,” Grieve said. “There is no opportunity to respond to the latest changes, which is pretty shocking.”
Grieve said they believe it amounts to a flaw in the process, and they are encouraging residents who feel as they do to contact South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings by March 6 so he can register an objection in the House of Commons.
Grieve said her concern lies in being separated from the rest of Greater Trail.
“This is about community of interest. Our interest lies with the Lower Columbia, not the East Kootenay or the Rocky Mountains. Our industry, our health care, our work, lies in Trail, Warfield, Rossland, Area A and Area B. We are part of the Lower Columbia and we don’t want to be divided from it.”
Grieve said she is worried that being in separate ridings would dilute the region’s common voice. As an example, she said that unity was important in the 1990s when Cominco was struggling, and the community rallied to help.
“I believe all levels of government came together because there was one strong united voice in a community of interest,” she said.
While the electoral boundaries commission is charged with evening out the population of ridings, Grieve said communities of interest are also part of their mandate.
She added that she is less worried about accessing an MP who is based in the East Kootenay, although that is a concern as well.
“With the technology we have today, it’s easy to talk to anybody from anywhere, but certainly face-to-face appointments with your MP are preferred. Of course the mountain passes are a challenge, especially in the winter. If that was the case, we would sure hope that MP in East Kootenay would open an office in Nelson or Salmo for us.”
Grieve said the RDKB will also follow up with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities about the constitutional legality of imposing boundary changes without public input.
Nelson, Salmo, and Kaslo were previously moved to the East Kootenay riding in 2015, which is presently known as Kootenay-Columbia and represented by Conservative Rob Morrison. The latest report suggests renaming it Columbia-Kootenay-Southern Rockies.
Area E (West Boundary-Big White) would also be affected by the proposed changes, as most of the Highway 33 corridor from Kelowna to south of Beaverdell would become part of a riding to be known as Okanagan Lake West–South Kelowna. That doesn’t sit well with director Sharen Gibbs.
“Historically, the whole of the RDKB has been in the same federal electoral district and our collective advocacy has been a strong and effective one when we’ve had to lobby our MP on issues of regional concern,” she said in a news release.