Queensborough could be leaving New Westminster - at least for federal elections.
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for British Columbia has proposed new electoral maps for Canadians' consideration at public hearings that are taking place in the fall. Ten independent electoral boundaries commissions - one in each province - will determine the new federal electoral boundaries.
Under the proposed boundaries, Queensborough or "that part of the City of New Westminster on Lulu Island" would become part of the Richmond East riding.
"It's a major change," said New Westminster-Coquitlam MP Fin Donnelly. "It's one of those odd groups like putting part of North Burnaby in with part of North Vancouver. I am trying to maintain that the commission is being an objective, fair body but it sure has a few heads being scratched."
Moving Queensborough to the Richmond-East riding isn't the only change proposed for New Westminster; instead of splitting the city into the existing Burnaby-New Westminster and the New Westminster-Coquitlam ridings, the city (with the exception of Queensborough) would be represented in the proposed New Westminster-Burnaby East riding.
Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian said some significant changes are proposed for New Westminster and Burnaby. In addition to proposing that Queensborough become part of a Richmond-East riding, the electoral commission is also proposing that North Burnaby join with part of North Vancouver.
"The electoral commission has a tough job," Julian said. "They are going to do the best job they can in putting the first drafts out."
Julian recalls that first drafts of boundaries presented back in 2002 recommend-ed that a federal riding join parts of New Westminster and Surrey. Another recommended that parts of North Vancouver and North Burnaby form another riding.
"There was a substantial public reaction to both of those proposals," he said.
Julian credits the boundaries commission for considering the public feedback in 2002 and coming back with new boundaries, which exist today.
Julian said he's already heard concerns about the proposed boundaries from Queensborough residents.
"They don't see Queensborough as being a community of interest with downtown Richmond," he said. "It is an issue of concern to folks."
Julian has also heard from local constituents who like that New Westminster has two members of Parliament to speak on their behalf.
"That doubles our punching weight in the House of Commons," he said about having two MPs. "I have had a number of people say they like it that New Westminster has two MPs."
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission will be holding a public hearing in New Westminster on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Inn at the Quay.
"It's really the residents that make the difference," Julian said.
Donnelly said he will definitely be commenting on the proposed boundaries, noting that the changes would "pull apart" the existing New Westminster Coquitlam-Port Moody riding that he represents.
"These are preliminary drawings. I am not getting concerned at the moment," he said. "I believe they are preliminary. I want to hear what the community has to say. There is going to be public input in the fall. I hope that will be instructive to the commission. I do have faith the commission will be objective and listen. Some of the changes are very strange."
According to Elections Canada, the Constitution of Canada requires that federal electoral districts be reviewed after each 10-year census to reflect changes and movements in Canada's population. Launched in February, the federal redistribution process is proposing changes to many federal ridings in Canada so the changes and movement to Canada's population is reflected in House of Commons representation.
The new electoral boundaries are expected to be in effect for the next federal election, which is slated for Oct. 19, 2015. For more information about hearings in B.C. and maps of proposed boundaries, visit www.federal-redistribution.ca.
For more maps go to www.federalredistribution.ca