Previous Public Input Received
The following input and submissions were gathered by the commission through public hearings held in 29 communities throughout B.C. from September to November 2014. The public also provided input through the online submission form, by email and by mail to be reviewed and considered as the commission develops a Preliminary Report for further public input.
< All input received

    Aman Janjua, Richmond

    I am writing with regard to the Commission’s consideration of low population constituencies.

    The modern-day electoral boundaries in BC stem from a legal challenge to the Atlin constituency in the 1980s. Since then, Commissions have attempted to keep constituencies in a range of plus or minus 25% from the mean constituency population. In recent years, exceptions have been granted to go further than minus 25% where geography and community interest is compelling.

    The lowest populated constituencies are Stikine (minus 62%) followed by North Coast (minus 58%). These deviations are mitigated slightly by expanding the Legislature to 87 seats.

    In both cases, population figures on the Commission website show that North Coast and Stikine are two of only four constituencies among BC’s 85 constituencies that actually lost population between 2008 and 2014. In the context of fast growing areas in other parts of the Province, the Commission needs to consider:

    - Are current deviations reasonable when geography and community interest are considered?

    - Is the Commission comfortable that the deviation will be reasonable eight years from now?

    Current legislation commands the Commission to maintain eight seats in the North, which is a social objective that most British Columbians probably support. Clearly, the mean population of Northern seats is much lower than the rest of BC.

    However, should the boundaries of a constituency with 20,616 people (Stikine) be perpetuated when the Commission has information available that shows that it most likely will continue to lose pace. Since the average population of a BC constituency will be about 53,000 at 87 seats, and a reasonable assumption that some constituencies will be as high or even higher than 60,000 after new boundaries are developed, is it reasonable to have a three to one proportion in voter strength. Certainly, one must expect a 2:1 or even higher in drawing remote and rural constituencies, but I contend that the Commission should take steps to address and mitigate these large gaps at the extremes.

    There have been many submission to the Commission about protecting the boundaries of Stikine and the community of interest of communities along Highway 37. There is no reason why the Commission should separate communities along this corridor. The existing Stikine constituency can be kept entirely intact. However, that does not mean it cannot have additional territory added.

    The previous Commission decided to remove the communities of Houston and Burns Lake from the Stikine constituency. This move compounded the low population of this constituency and aggravated the gap that exists between the lowest populated seat and the highest.

    Therefore, the Commission should restore the alignment of the previous Bulkley Valley-Stikine constituency, which existed in 1991, 1996, 2001, and 2005 elections in order to make the population gap less unreasonable, and demonstrate to the Courts, if there is a legal challenge, that representation by population is an important principle to adhere too, even if it is mitigated by other factors such as geography.

    That leaves the North Coast constituency. It also had a larger area in the past, including the Nass Valley and Stewart. The Commision may wish to leave Stewart in Stikine, in support of the keeping the Stikine region intact within one constituency. The Nass Valley could support the North Coast population though at the expense of Skeena, which is also underpopulated, but not to same extent.

    In the case of Skeena and North Coast, there is evidence of growth with regard to a sharp upturn in real estate prices and increase in industrial activity. One can make a reasonable assumption that growth in these areas could surpass trends over the past 10-15 years and bring their populations closer to other remote and rural constituencies. In any event, there are not as many options for North Coast and Skeena to acquire population through boundary change, whereas Stikine can be easily addressed by returning to its previous alignment.

    Finally, there is no questions that representing these constituencies would be a challenge both in terms of travel within the constituency but also travel to Victoria. However, put in perspective, these constituencies are much smaller geographically than federal constituencies. The Skeena federal constituency encompasses three provincial constituencies, and the Member of Parliament must travel to Ottawa. Thus, relative to other BC provincial constituencies, they are harder to represent but much easier than their federal counterpart. It would not be unreasonable to restore Bulkley Valley-Stikine with this in mind.

    The Commission has before it reasonable steps it can take to work within provincial legislation while also demonstrating considerations of population issues that could protect the new map from a Charter of Rights challenge.

    < All input received