The Electoral Boundaries Commission is recommending that all of New Westminster be merged into one federal riding that includes Queensborough.
Last summer, the commissioner released new electoral maps for Canadians consideration at public hearings. The proposed boundaries included moving Queensborough into the Richmond East riding, a move that was blasted by residents and city politicians.
Following a series of public hearings across the province, the commission has released its recommendations.
"The commission has reunited all parts of the City of New Westminster in the renamed electoral district of New Westminster-Burnaby, and has included in it a southern portion of the City of Burnaby contiguous to the Burnaby South electoral district," stated the report. "In the proposal, the Queensborough area of New Westminster had been included in the Richmond East electoral district. The commission received a large number of submissions opposing this inclusion."
Although this geographic area is physically a part of Lulu Island, the commission said the historical patterns of representation and community of interest have favoured the transfer of Queensborough back with New Westminster in the New Westminster-Burnaby electoral district.
According to the commission's report, input presented at public hearings included: the maintenance of existing boundaries where possible; the division of neighbourhoods and neighbouring communities; the difficult of crossing waterways; the importance of municipal and regional district boundaries; the accessibility of public transit; socio-economic differences between electoral districts; and recognizing of communities of interest.
Because of the current riding boundaries, New Westminster is currently represented by two Members of Parliament. New Westminster-Coquitlam is represented by NDP MP Fin Donnelly and Burnaby-New Westminster is represented by NDP MP Peter Julian.
Donnelly said he is a "pretty disappointed" that the commission didn't listen to the public.
"There were quite a few presentations - the vast majority said what currently exists is working," he said. "There was a lot of support for that Fraser River (New Westminster-Coquitlam) riding."
Donnelly questions the point of public hearings if the commission isn't going to listen to the public's comments. He said the draft report will now go to a parliamentary committee.
"There is a possibility of change," he said. "My personal feeling is it is quite difficult."
Donnelly is awaiting the outcome of the process to make a decision about his political future.
"The first step is to wait until the ridings are finalized," he said. "Then it will become a question of which riding I am going to run in. That remains to be seen."
Julian said he's pleased that the commission listened to the public input regarding Queensborough but was disappointed that it didn't address other concerns raised at public hearing in the region. The proposed alignments would see North Burnaby and North Vancouver sharing a riding.
"The commission didn't really seem to want to change, in a substantial way, their initial proposals," he said. "They did a little bit of tinkering."
Julian said it was a different process a decade ago, when the electoral boundaries commission responded to public input and created the ridings that exist today.
"They didn't do that this time," he said. "They tinkered a bit. I am glad they brought Queensborough back."
Julian said his experience had been that once the commission puts forward its recommendations, it's more difficult to have changes made to the proposals.
"My riding, Burnaby-New Westminster, has been split into two ridings, one-half in Burnaby South and one-half in New Westminster-Burnaby," he said.
Julian said he won't be pondering what that means for him until farther down the road, as his focus will continue to be on representing the people of Burnaby-New Westminster.
"The election is a couple years away. We have to still focus on the people who elected us," he said. "That is where I am going to focus."
Julian expects that sometime in 2014 people will "start to get their heads around what this means for the election campaign" and make decisions on that front.
Coun. Chuck Puchmayr was one of the people who made a presentation to the commission during its public hearing in New Westminster. While he hadn't had an opportunity to fully review the commission's draft report, he isn't pleased that the city is being consolidated into one riding.
"The configuration before I thought was quite workable," he said.
Puchmayr said he plans to review the proposed ridings to see if they're being distributed fairly. He's concerned when changes are made in the guise of fairness but take away from full democracy.
"Redistribution is sometimes done in a way where the boundaries are designed in a way that it has a certain effect," he said. "I know provincially it takes more votes to elect the NDP than the Liberals."
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