Chilliwack 'split up' in proposed electoral map change: MP Strahl

Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl doesn't think a city the size of Chilliwack should be split up as proposed by the federal electoral boundaries commission.

Greendale, Yarrow, Cultus Lake and about half of Sardis would move to the Abbotsford-Sumas federal riding, and a sparsely populated area around 100-Mile House would be added to Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, if B.C.'s electoral map is redrawn as proposed.

"It's a major change," Strahl said Wednesday, making the riding one of the largest in B.C.

Every 10 years the map is redrawn based on a formula that divides the province's population by an "electoral quotient" to determine the number of seats allocated in the House of Commons.

B.C. will get an additional six seats as a result of the redistribution.

But in Chilliwack, Strahl thinks the commission needs to focus less on meeting that population criteria, and more on holding communities of interest together.

"I think ideally where a city the size of Chilliwack is under that (population) mark, if it's possible, I think it should stay together. You shouldn't be dividing a city of this size," he said.

The average riding population in B.C. is 104,763.

But Strahl pointed out that he proposed boundary changes are "not set in stone."

"I don't think what you see today will be the final result," he said.

According to the commission's website, its main goal is to divide the province into electoral districts within 25 per cent of the average population, but it can exceed that guideline "to deal with extraordinary circumstances."

Strahl said he will be talking to the commission about his concern over the proposed removal of a part of Sardis and other communities whose history is closely linked with Chilliwack's.

He said it appears Chilliwack was "squeezed" as the commissioners worked toward the middle of the province from the "hard boundaries" of the Pacific Ocean and the Alberta border.

Public hearings will be held this fall before the proposed boundary changes go back to the commission and to federal politicians for comment before a final report is made in the spring of 2013.

No public hearing is scheduled for Chilliwack, but an Abbotsford hearing is scheduled for Sept. 19 at the Ramada Plaza & Conference Centre starting at 7 p.m.

When the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding was created in 2003 it added a significant area to the former Fraser Valley East riding represented by MP Chuck Strahl, the current MP's father.

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