I would like to take this opportunity to offer my comments and suggestions for change related to the proposed electoral boundary changes for the Comox Valley. I attended the public hearing in Courtenay on May 25 and was very disappointed that there wasn't a better solution being offered than the one proposed, which would sever some of the strong bonds that have existed for over 100 years of community, history and geographical interests.
In the Preliminary Report you state the "despite many submissions requesting no change to the Comox Valley, we concluded that the relative disparity now and in the near future is too great to ignore".
You further state that the new changes would ensure strong community of interest.
Nothing could be further from the reality for Cumberland and the other communities involved. You will have been made aware through the many submissions you received of the strong geographical, historical and social bonds of interest that Cumberland shares with Courtenay and Comox. Google Comox Valley and you will find that it consists of Courtenay, Comox AND Cumberland.
You will also have been made aware from other submissions, two of which I witnessed yesterday, remnants of historic rivalry between the communities. Cumberland was looked down on for decades by many residents of Courtenay and Comox (it was often referred to as "Scumberland"). This is mostly in the past, but even this rivalry speaks of historic, geographical and community bonds.
Cumberland is once again re-creating itself (it has been through boom and bust economies and is once again a thriving and healthy community in all ways). It has recently become a popular weekend destination for residents of Courtenay and Comox who come to enjoy a variety of restaurants, music venues and the many mountain biking and hiking trails. I beseech you to help us maintain this healthy relationship by not banishing us (electorally speaking) to the other side of the island. We need to continue to nurture the strong bonds that continue to grow.
I would like to suggest rather than splitting off Cumberland and Area A of the Regional District, that you consider extending the boundaries of the North Island Electoral District south to include all or part of Area C (Puntledge/ Black Creek).
Currently there are 64,900 residents in the Comox Valley riding which is 22% over the provincial average. There are 55,635 in the North Island which is a 2.3 % deviation. Moving the North Island boundary south to include 4,633 residents of Area C would result in equal populations in the Comox Valley and North Island ridings of approximately 60,266. This would represent (using the new 2014 proposed quotient of 53,119) a 13.5% deviation from the provincial average for both ridings.
For the Comox Valley this would mean a significant reduction down from 22% and for the North Island a significant increase from 2.3%. However the North Island had a growth rate between 2008 and 2014 of only 3.7% compared to the Comox Valley's 9.1%. Because the North Island's growth rate is so much lower, they could probably absorb even more than my proposed 4,633 resident without causing concern in the near future.
I would suggest that these proposals are much more logical in terms of honouring community, historical and geographical interests. The residents of Black Creek and Saratoga are closer geographically to Campbell River and it would be reasonable to assume that their new MLA would continue to be in Campbell River making for easy access. Even though they are part of the Regional District, I would say that they are not generally considered part of the Comox Valley. On the other hand, Cumberland is an integral part of the Comox Valley and, along with the Area A communities, is nowhere near Port Alberni or the West Coast, making access very difficult and expensive. I notice in the Preliminary Report a statement that the commission "should propose changes to these boundaries only when LOGICAL AND NECESSARY." I would say that it's neither logical nor necessary AT THIS TIME.
I realize this does nothing for your problem with the deviation in the Port Alberni riding. I made a suggestion to you yesterday to consider absorbing Port Renfrew into the new Mid Island Riding. However, I have since found out it has a very small population that is getting smaller.... so that's not going to work. But I remain optimistic that you will be able to find a solution that works... even if that means just leaving things the way they are for the time being.
Please excuse any math mistakes- however, using your numbers, I think my estimates are pretty close.
Thank you for the work that you are doing and thank you for reading and considering my (rather lengthy) submission.
All the best,