Sagebrush vs. subdivisions

Abbotsford News' columnist Mark Rushton questions the wisdom of combining Abbotsford and Cache Creek in the same federal riding.

The folks in Cache Creek are currently linked to Chilliwack but in the latest iteration from the federal riding boundaries commission, they are due in 2015 to become part of the new Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding.

A couple of weeks ago Fraser Valley newspapers carried stories about the proposed boundary changes, complete with map. Unfortunately, the maps showed a previous suggested riding that included only Mission and a good portion of Abbotsford. The stories in a garbled, inaccurate way detailed the southern boundaries of the riding and included Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs, parts of Hope and, incredibly, the attachment of Lytton, Lillooet, Ashcroft and Cache Creek, along with various communities and cabins in between.

None of it made sense, but after railing the editor and a call to the federal riding commission, it appears that yes, Abbotsford will be linked to Cariboo communities.

Apparently, the commission believes the Mission Bridge is an important connector to the integrity of the riding. It is also apparent that the Fraser Canyon and Thompson Canyon roads, in winter, are similarly considered “acceptable” connectors.

What couldn’t have been considered are the differences in climatic and economic zones. What is important to Abbotsford and Mission residents, where the electoral power lies, likely is either irrelevant or impractical in the southern Cariboo.

If I was Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta, I’d be having a big one – a rant that is – over that.

For example, the Auguston subdivision just down the street from where I live probably has more residents than Cache Creek, and perhaps Lytton combined.

And if you are wondering what this has to do with where you live in Abbotsford, roughly speaking the boundary runs from the Vedder Canal along the base of Sumas Mountain, across the mountain to Clayburn Village, then along Maclure Road to the freeway west to Bradner Road and then north, all the way to Lillooet.

Big territory, very mixed lot of unconnected voters, and no matter how I look at it, it does not make sense.

And, since “public input” is no longer available, that’s the way it will be . . . unless, says the commission, a current MP objects. Do you think Mark Strahl in Chilliwack wants to object? He’s probably looking forward to not having to drive hundreds of miles and dozens of hours to visit his constituents after the 2015 federal election. Ed Fast, who is the current Abbotsford MP? Why would he want to get involved? He’ll still have all of southern Abbotsford in one contiguous piece.

Where I live, less than five miles from the border, and where Ranta and other mayors of various villages live almost 200 miles by road north, will be a new riding. No MP, no one to bitch about it.

And electoral success will be decided in the Fraser Valley. Perhaps Abbotsford city councillor Henry Braun, should his aspirations on the mayor’s chair go awry next election, might consider running. After all, he has a place to hang his hat, both literally and figuratively, in the Cariboo – a large ranch on upper Hat Creek.

Maybe I should run. I’ve been to all those “northern” communities more times over the years than I can count, and I can ride a horse.

Then again, other than a few visits at election time, does the boundary commission really believe any politician who lives essentially on the U.S. border is going to spend a lot of time worrying about the issues and concerns of distant regions completely disconnected to the electoral power of Lower Mainland voters?

Mark Rushton writes for the Abbotsford News

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