Chilliwack residents may want to mark Sept. 19 on the calendar now.
That’s when the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for B.C. will be in town to discuss their proposal to change the riding of Chilliwack-Hope to add part of Abbotsford and remove part of Hope.
The proposed changes were announced on May 2, along with maps that show new ridings the commission is considering. Currently, all of Hope is within the federal riding of Chilliwack-Hope – a seat held by Conservative MP Mark Strahl.
“The new riding boundaries that the commission have proposed are merely a starting point for further consultations with British Columbians that will be carried out in the coming months,” Strahl said. “It is important that the commission’s final report accurately reflects the best interests of our communities.”
Under the proposed redrawing of the electoral maps, Chilliwack riding would stretch from Silver Creek in Hope through Chilliwack and into Abbotsford. It would run all the way to Gladwin Road south of Highway 1, and encompass key Abbotsford locations such as the University of the Fraser Valley campus, the Sumas border crossing, and Sumas Flats.
As for Hope, the main part of the municipality, including downtown, would be included in a new riding called Coquihalla. That riding includes a huge swath of southern B.C. that includes West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Princeton, Merritt and areas of the Thompson-Nicola.
“Our task is to create an additional riding and to adjust the boundaries of existing ridings to maintain effective federal representation for all British Columbians,” said Justice Mary Saunders, chair of the three-member commission along with R. Kenneth Carty and Stewart Ladyman.
“We are proposing quite a few boundary changes. The changes are mainly in response to the significant but uneven growth of our population. That growth pattern creates a domino effect if we are to be fair and have relative equality between voters in different electoral districts. Our proposal necessarily gives attention to what is possible and practical given our varied and rugged geography and our distinct communities. We look forward to receiving public input on it.”
Changes to the electoral boundaries will not come into effect until April 1, 2024, at the earliest.
Under the proposal, Abbotsford would gain back its northern communities that are currently part of the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding, a riding that would be eliminated with this proposed plan.
Abbotsford MP Ed Fast said that the public should know that these are just preliminary proposals in a long and necessary process.
“This is just a preliminary plan,” he said. “We have to be careful about jumping to conclusions about where this will end up.”
He said he and other members of Parliament will be engaged in the consultation process, along with other elected officials from all levels of government. He has been through riding changes before, having been an MP for six terms now.
“We will have a chance to respond, at a local level,” he said.
Starting in June, the commission will be travelling around the province and meeting with the public in 27 different locations. They will make their way to Chilliwack and Hope on Sept. 19. A public meeting will be at the Hope and District Recreation Centre at 1 p.m., and at the Coast Hotel in Chilliwack at 7 p.m.
A full list of all the changes, including an interactive map, is available at redecoupage-redistribution-2022.ca.
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