Two dozen people attended a Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission public meeting in Kamloops last Thursday, June 16, to hear about proposed changes to the boundaries of federal ridings in the area.
The focus was on the proposed new riding of Kamloops-Thompson-Lytton, which would include most of the City of Kamloops and extend north of Clearwater, west to Lillooet, and south to Lytton. The municipalities of Cache Creek, Ashcroft, Clinton, Logan Lake, Barriere, and Sun Peaks, as well as unincorporated areas such as 70 Mile, Loon Lake, 16 Mile, Walhachin, Savona, Tobiano, and Spences Bridge, would also be rolled in.
The area of Kamloops east of the Yellowhead Bridge (at highways 1 and 5) and south of the South Thompson River, which includes the 16,000 residents of Valleyview, Rose Hill, Juniper Ridge, Dallas, Barnhartvale, and Campbell Creek, would become part of the North Okanagan-Shuswap riding. It would also include Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Revelstoke, Armstrong, and Enderby.
Kamloops is currently part of the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding, which includes Clinton, while Lytton, Ashcroft, and Cache Creek are currently part of Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon.
Both Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Frank Caputo and Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon MP Brad Vis were at the meeting, along with mayors Ken Christian (Kamloops), Al Raine (Sun Peaks), and Barbara Roden (Ashcroft), and TNRD Area “I” director Steve Rice.
B.C. Court of Appeal justice Mary Saunders, chair of the three-person commission, began the meeting by explaining that boundary reviews are carried out across the country every 10 years, in order to ensure that population distribution is as equitable as possible. Based on the 2021 Census of Canada results, an additional riding is being added to B.C., and Saunders said that after reviewing the numbers, the decision was made to add it to the Southern Interior, which will increase the number of ridings in the province to 43.
Saunders — joined by commissioners Stewart Ladyman and R. Kenneth Carty — said that B.C. has the most difficult geography of all the provinces in Canada. It makes their job — ensuring that each riding makes sense geographically while coming as close as possible to the electoral quota of 116,300 — a challenging one, which is why the commission is travelling around the province to get feedback.
After Saunders’ presentation, 11 people present spoke, with all of them urging the commission to keep Kamloops whole in any new riding configuration, and presenting various options to adjust the population to account for the addition of the east Kamloops residents.
Bill Sundhu, president of the federal NDP ridings association, suggested that Logan Lake, Lytton, Spences Bridge, and Ashcroft could be added to the proposed Coquihalla riding to the east (which includes Merritt and extends south to the Canada-U.S. border and east to include West Kelowna, Peachland, and Summerland), while Cache Creek, Clinton, and Lillooet could be added to the proposed Cariboo-Prince George riding to the north.
Randy Sunderman, past president of the Kamloops Voters Society, also suggested that several of the communities along Highway 1, including Ashcroft, Cache Creek and Lytton, could join the proposed Coquihalla riding.
However, Roden argued against any attempt to move them to Coquihalla, noting the strong historic and geographic ties between the towns along the former Cariboo Waggon Road and their reliance on Kamloops as a trading centre.
“Ashcroft and all the communities along the Fraser River up to Clinton should be with Kamloops because that’s our natural trading centre,” she said. “That’s where we all go for services.
“[Moving to Coquihalla] would be splitting up communities naturally aligned, and experience tells me if Ashcroft, Lytton, and Spences Bridge go to an Okanagan riding, we’re going to be completely ignored.”
Rice also rejected the idea of moving these communities to a Coquihalla riding, noting that construction of the Coquihalla Highway in 1986 had a disastrous impact on the towns and residents along the Fraser Canyon highway, and the name leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many people.
Christian said that if Kamloops must be divided, it should be split in half, following a line more or less paralleling the North Thompson River to create two Kamloops-based ridings, rather than one based in Kamloops and one likely based in the Shuswap. He added that the east Kamloops neighbourhoods currently slated to be moved to North Okanagan-Shuswap have little in common with the rest of that proposed new riding.
The commission will be taking a break over the summer and resuming public hearings in September. More information about the proposed boundary changes and how to express concerns in written or spoken form can be found at www.redistribution2022.ca.