The BC Electoral Boundaries Commission is holding public meetings in Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson to gain feedback from Northeast B.C. residents next month.

The newly formed commission was appointed last October to begin a review of the electoral boundaries that is conducted every two general elections. They will evaluate the boundaries and the number of constituents in each riding, making boundary changes to try and evenly distribute residents among MLAs.

The commission is currently seeking feedback from residents while they begin their review and will be stopping in Dawson Creek on May 10th at 8:30 a.m. at the George Dawson Inn.

On the same day, a meeting will be taking place in Fort Nelson at 12:30 p.m. at the Woodlands Inn & Suites.

Virtual meetings will also be taking place for B.C’s north and interior on May 3rd, and all regions on May 13th.

A public survey is also available until May 31st.

The commission also has an interactive mapping application that can be utilized to propose changes to an electoral district boundary. According to the application, “all proposals are taken into consideration by the commissioners before the preliminary report in 2022.”

MLAs in Northeast B.C. are worried this may lead to northern seats being redistributed to the Lower Mainland, making it harder for MLAs to connect with their constituents.

Through amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act passed last year, the commission can create six new electoral districts, resulting in a potential decrease in the number of northern seats in the Legislative Assembly.

Currently, the Cariboo-Thompson, Columbia-Kootenay, and North regions are guaranteed 17 seats out of the total 87 seats in the legislature. The B.C. Liberals created the guarantee in 2014 to ensure fair access and representation for rural communities.

Attorney General David Eby said the bill “improves commission independence, responds to B.C. population growth and restores flexibility to the commission.” He also said that the bill would eliminate three regions in the act that are collectively guaranteed a minimum of 17 seats.

“What the NDP is talking about doing is possibly amalgamating all the rural ridings together into mega ridings. You could have the whole northwest part of B.C. could be one riding instead of three,” said South Peace MLA Mike Bernier.

North Peace MLA Dan Davies said people in the north have much more to lose than those in urban centres.

“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 legislature, but that is now being removed.

“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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Tre Lopushinsky is the News Director at Energeticcity.ca, and a NAIT broadcasting graduate. His love for local journalism started in Lloydminster, where he realized the importance of covering issues/topics for smaller municipalities. He is also the co-host of Before The Peace, highlighting Indigenous voices in the North Peace. In his off time, Tre is yelling at his tv while watching pro wrestling, MMA, and basketball.