The people spoke and the federal government didn’t listen.
An overwhelming majority of people in the West Kootenay region asked to not be divided politically when the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission toured through last October and proposed changes to the political boundaries.
Through a series of town hall meetings, West Kootenay people asked the commission to respect geographical challenges—keeping together communities nestled in the same mountain valleys—and not separate neighbouring places like Castlegar and Nelson, grouping them with far off, larger centres of Penticton and Cranbrook, respectively.
But the commission did not heed the request and elected to group Rossland and the communities of Trail, Castlegar and Grand Forks, and most of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, in with Penticton and parts of the Okanagan.
The Golden City will become part of the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding, with the total population of Rossland and its far flung and fellow Koootenay and Boundary places not even equal to the population of Penticton alone at over 32,000 (2006 Census).
What’s more confusing is the nearby West Kootenay communities of Nelson, Salmo, Kaslo and Creston will be looking east to Cranbrook as they now join the Kootenay Columbia riding.
B.C. Southern Interior member of Parliament—that used to represent the entire West Kootenay and Boundary region—Alex Atamanenko, was saddened by the severing of ties, and the lack of compassion by the commission for geographical ties.
“I’m disappointed because when we had the public hearing process an overwhelming majority of people basically said they don’t want our communities to split up,” he told the Trail Times.
The commission reviewed electoral boundaries across Canada and has redrawn them to account for movement and growth in population. As a result, the commission for British Columbia has introduced six new districts.
The intent of the commission was to redraw boundaries to keep all electoral districts around the 105,000 population quota.
The South Okanagan-West Kootenay will have approximately 113,000 people, more than the under 100,000 it contained as the Southern Interior. The Kootenay Columbia district will increase to about 108,000 people.
South Okanagan-West Kootenay
The riding will consist of:
• Regional District of Kootenay Boundary;
• the villages of New Denver, Silverton, Slocan and Nakusp;
• Regional District of Central Kootenay subdivisions H, I and J and part of K;
• parts of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen comprised of:
• Oliver and Osoyoos;
• Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen subdivisions A, C, D and E and parts of F;
• Penticton Indian Reserve No. 1 and Osoyoos Indian Reserve No. 1.