VICTORIA, B.C. – Of the four members of the Electoral Boundaries Commission tasked with redrawing the provincial electoral boundaries, only one has lived outside of the Lower Mainland or Victoria.
With the possibility of this group taking away seats from the north and redistributing them to the Lower Mainland, it may become even harder for MLAs to connect with their constituents.
Peace River North MLA Dan Davies says people in the north have much more to lose than those in urban centres.
“We have all to lose compared to our urban partners. We were given the opportunity to put names forward, and unfortunately, none of those names were picked,” said Davies, who added that the NDP had the final say on the matter.
The riding of Peace River North is the second-largest in the province at over 175,000 square kilometres, bringing with it a wide range of issues and concerns that residents need to be able to speak to their elected representative. Meanwhile, the riding of Surrey-Newton covers just 21 square kilometres.
“You look at my riding, it takes three days already to drive across it. The multitude of issues, whether we’re talking provincial highways, infrastructure, bridges, hunting and fishing, land use management issues, not to downplay what my colleagues in the urban centres have, but it’s a very different role that our more rural MLAs play.”
Davies added that there was protection in place to make sure each riding had a voice in the B.C. Legislature, but that has now been removed. The Electoral Boundaries Commission is looking to take away six MLAs from the interior and the north, replacing them with MLAs in the Lower Mainland.
“Not only that, but the legislation has also allowed for an additional six MLAs for the larger centres. So not only are they gaining six seats that they’re taking from us, they’re actually gaining 12, more than likely. We’re going to have a handful of MLAs that represent all of the interior. And when I say interior, I mean north of Hope. Outside of the Lower Mainland and Victoria, you’re going to have a handful of MLAs.”
Davies says residents in the north need a voice in the legislature.
“Not every NDP, and especially those sitting in government, understand the issues that we deal with. Whether it be agriculture issues, oil and gas issues, forestry, you name the resource. We’ve been having to fight tooth and nail right now to get the resources recognized by this government. If we start losing more of that voice, it’s just going to get more challenging.”
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