By removing Cumberland from the current boundary the voters of Cumberland’s effective representation could be affected. I would like to discuss four key points to address this.
1. Historical Legacy
Cumberland is the founding community of the Comox Valley. It is our rich coal mining history that drove economic development in the valley, attracting a diversity of workers and families which in turn, were the basis for increased farming and services in the area. The people of Cumberland strongly identify themselves with this history as founders and leaders in the Valley.
2. Geographic Reality
Comox, Courtenay and Cumberland share long-standing political, economic and social relationships. Some important examples of this include membership in the Comox Valley Regional District, the regional hospital, emergency and recreation services, as well as School District No. 71. Our successes and failures are intertwined, particularly when addressing issues like employment, housing availability and access to services.
3. Community of Interest
Carving out Cumberland from the same electoral boundary as Courtenay and Comox could unfairly divide the interests of local individuals and groups. For the people of Cumberland, the Comox Valley is where we live, work and play and, according to research, electors who identify with a community of interest within their riding are more likely to vote.
4. Deterrent to Voters
The proposed boundary change could be a deterrent to would-be and current voters. Access to an MLA in Port Alberni presents travel challenges of long distance, unfamiliarity with route, and unpredictable, often inclement, weather. The extreme distance between voters and the MLA creates an unfair burden on both these parties.
On page 21 of the Preliminary Report, the Commission found that “using regional district, electoral area, and school district boundaries helps to eliminate voter confusion as these are boundaries with which many people are familiar”. By disrupting these boundaries, it is likely that it would increase barriers to access the MLA and it could cause voter confusion and possibly voter apathy.
In relation to this, I would like to note a perception that has been expressed by many of my constituents. Upon hearing about the proposed boundary changes many people feel that the changes could be driven by the political views of the two proposed districts. Cumberland has a younger demographic than that of the surrounding municipalities. In our first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, it is believed that removing Cumberland voters would give a distinct advantage to a single political party and reduce the political diversity of the current district.
In closing, I would like to point out the many submissions that have already been received by the Commission that are opposed to the proposed boundary changes. These submissions, from the group of communities that together make up the Comox Valley are united in their support for remaining, provincially, a natural economic, social, cultural and geographic region.
Thank you for your consideration.