By Daniel Betts
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission (FEBC) for British Columbia has proposed a significant change that would see Valemount, B.C. become part of the Prince George-Peace River riding. Cathy McLeod, MP for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo and current federal representative for Valemount, B.C. talked to The Valley Sentinel about the proposed change. She explained the commission is completely independent from members of parliament and they have drafted a proposed plan that will incorporate six additional seats in parliament and also adjust current boundaries according to changes in population. “Certainly the boundary commission has big challenges in terms of trying to get those numbers to make sense throughout the province,” said McLeod. “Now is the time for communities to look at these [proposals] and ask ‘does it make sense for us?’ and to respond back to the commission.” She said the general population has an opportunity to make comments.
McLeod said every community in her riding is unique. “I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to work with all of them,” said McLeod. “I enjoy working with Valemount. I would miss working with Valemount if the boundaries change.” She does feel residents should take the time to consider what makes sense for Valemount and area.
When asked about projects currently under her care and what would happen should the riding be changed she reminded us that it is the job of any member of parliament to do the work that needs to be done in every community. She acknowledged one of the most important projects happening right now is the work that is being done jointly with the province in terms of the Barriere to McBride Economic Development Plan. “I think that is an absolutely critical piece that needs to continue,” said McLeod. She anticipated this project and any other specific project involving the federal government, such as the geothermal hydro project or proposed ski mountain project, would certainly be picked up in a different riding.
The FEBC responded to a query from The Valley Sentinel by stating, “The purpose of the public hearings and direct submissions to the Commission is to elicit input from the public. The proposal is open for discussion and the Commission is willing to listen to all suggestions before submitting its final plan.”
During the July 24 Village of Valemount Council Meeting, Andru McCracken, Mayor of Valemount, said he has been reviewing the proposed changes and has an alternative proposal for residents of Valemount to consider. Rather than Prince George-Peace River, Mayor McCracken believes Kootenay-Columbia may be a better match for Valemount. According to the “Mayor’s report on Federal Election Boundary changes” which was discussed during the Committee of the Whole portion of council, Mayor McCracken stated, “I think we should consider Kootenay-Columbia as an appropriate federal riding for Valemount.” Mayor McCracken cites similarities with mountain tourism concerns and a “diversified economy” being more akin to communities in the Kootenay-Columbia.
In a conversation with The Valley Sentinel, Mayor McCracken stated, “We’ve been really well served by Cathy McLeod, but this isn’t about now, this is about the future.” Mayor McCracken feels what make sense for the community is what is most important. “Cathy McLeod has done remarkable things for this valley. She has been involved in our economic development in a way MPs have not been involved before.” Mayor McCracken was clear his opinion of the proposal to change electoral boundaries was non-partisan. “As the Mayor, we really need to think about how we are served federally.”
Mayor McCracken invites residents to share their opinion. “I’m really interested in hearing what people think,” said Mayor McCracken. “I think as a community we need to find a way of addressing this.” Interested residents can also express their opinion directly to the FEBC via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mayor McCracken feels a petition would be useful in this circumstance in order to gauge the opinion of village residents. “I think that would be a powerful way of assessing whether this has any legs.”
A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, September 17, in Prince George, B.C. at 2 p.m. to gather opinions on the proposed boundaries and electoral district names. The deadline to sign up for a hearing is August 30, 2012. Mayor McCracken expects the Village of Valemount will send representation to this event.