New West residents say ridings should be about community need, not numbers
People voiced worries at a hearing about possible changes to federal riding
It's a proposal that could see Queensborough separated from mainland New Westminster, federally.
Wednesday night, about a dozen people attended a hearing at the Inn at the Quay in Quayside to voice their concerns about the suggested redistribution of some federal electoral districts. While one person noted they were from Sapperton and another said they lived in Connaught Heights, most speakers were from Queensborough.
"Queensborough has always felt like a forgotten child...and that's not anyone's fault," Queensborough resident Jag Saul told the three members representing the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission. (FEBC)
Kane Tse, a member of the Queensborough Residents' Association, says it's common for people to take the Q2Q ferry from his neighbourhood to visit MP Peter Julian's office. The change would mean people having to rely on transit, and that could mean multiple transfers.
Tse also believes people in Queensborough will find it too complicated to keep up with the process, thereby becoming disengaged.
"That lack of transparency means people often feel powerless. And so they'll think, 'well, that decision didn't take my concern to account. I'm not sure I can affect change if my riding's in Richmond and I live in New Westminster,'" says Tse.
If the FEBC's suggestions go ahead, two ridings would serve New West: New Westminster-Bridgeview would pick up about 17,700 voters from around and south of the Pattullo Bridge; those folks are currently part of Surrey Centre. A relative sliver of Burnaby—mainly within the perimeter of 10th Avenue, Griffiths Drive, Edmonds Street, the Trans-Canada Highway and Canada Way—would also become part of the new riding.
The second riding, Richmond-East, would not only serve portions of Richmond and Delta, but also Queensborough. Saul, who has lived in Queensborough since 1998, said to lump his neighbourhood in with parts of Richmond and Delta would mean a mismatch for the communities.
"The cohesiveness is not there with Richmond and Delta, just to be honest. And [with] Burnaby and New West, it's there. In so many ways. Whether it's sports, even schooling for that matter, there's a major cohesive connection there," Saul added.
Those sentiments were shared by New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian, who called the New Westminster-Bridgeview suggestion unworkable.
"I believe we have a riding currently with communities of interest...the historic configuration with New Westminster and Burnaby, forming generally over the course of recent times...should be continued. Even if it adds a few thousand votes from the quotient that you're looking at, that actually assures us more effective representation," MP Julian told the panel.
The quotient in question, according to commission chair Justice Mary Saunders, involves the change in the population over the last 10 years, and is based off the numbers from the 2021 Census. The average number of voters during the last look at stats in 2012 gave each riding an electoral quota of about 104,000 people. Fast forward to 2022, and that electoral quota now needs to be at about 116,000 people.
Right now the New Westminster-Burnaby riding has about 125,000 people. The New Westminster-Bridgeview riding would be closer to the quota, at about 118,000.
"When a riding has a significantly greater population than the average, an area is effectively underrepresented because it means that the people and the place with the higher population per person don't have as much punch in the ballot," explained Saunders, who added the growth in some of these populations was "uneven."
During the presentations, Dr. Ken Carty added that it wasn't about splitting up community relationships, but that the group had been instructed to make each voter's choice in an election count as much as possible.
"How reasonable is it to be unequal? And that's our struggle. I think we want to say that because our problem is that Delta and Richmond have an affinity, but there's not enough people in Delta and Richmond to solve that problem," he told Julian after his presentation.
The city of New West isn't a fan, either
In June, New West city council discussed the changes, voting to write a letter to the FEBC, with Coun. Jaimie McEvoy adding that a federal vote from folks in the city under the new boundaries could essentially see their say erased.
"It's entirely possible, when you look at the potential make-up," he said during a June 27 council meeting, adding there could be impacts to federal funding for a variety of projects, like infrastructure. "New Westminster, as a city, has had a different kind of vision for everything from the Pattullo Bridge and transportation, to what priorities are for infrastructure funding." McEvoy added Julian has been instrumental in advocating for the city's vision on such issues.
Cllr. Puchmayr: it would be difficult for an MP to be able to do their job; to be spread so thin. We have significant issues. Going to events in New West, Surrey, Delta...three cities in one riding wouldn't work in this context.
— Ria Renouf (@riarenouf)
Jun 28, 2022
"The Richmond [East] riding, I look and I think, 'It includes North Delta. Are they going to canoe across?' It's a serious issue, it matters what kind of representation we have, and it needs to be noted that we are a city, we are actually considered a large city in British Columbia. We deserve to have federal representation that recognizes that in the structure of the seats [in the House of Commons]," added McEvoy, who noted that, once the city told the commission what it didn't want, it would probably have to prepare to argue for what it prefers.
As for whether the changes will go ahead, the FEBC still has plenty of work to do. It's been travelling BC since June to hold public consultations; these should wrap up by the end of this month. The latest a report on the various changes suggested for BC's federal ridings would be published is by the end of this year.