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Redistricting bill lost in leadership change

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A federal bill to add seven new seats to the House of Commons, including two new seats in British Columbia, has been delayed by the change of leadership in the Liberal Party.

On Thursday, former finance minister Paul Martin assumed the Liberal Party leadership by a large majority. Jean Chretien is now expected to step down from the role of Prime Minister in December or January, and called an end to the most recent parliamentary session this week. Senators and MPs won’t return to work until the next session gets underway on Jan. 12.

Adjourning government early left two important bills to die on the table; a bill to create the position of an independent ethics commissioner to guard against conflicts of interests, and the redistricting bill.

Redistricting bills are always introduced followed a census, which takes place every 10 years.

The most recent census of 2001 resulted in the loss of one seat in northern B.C., and the addition of the three seats to the Lower Mainland and Interior – a net gain of two seats for British Columbia in the House of Commons.

Paul Martin can resurrect the redistricting Bill once he takes over leadership of the party. However, the bill may not come into effect early enough for the next federal election, which Martin is expected to call in the spring of 2004.

The redistricting bill wasn’t intended to be formalized until August of 2004, but with an election on the horizon it was pushed through the House and Senate for final approval by April.

Elections Canada still needs time to draw up electoral district boundaries and sort out logistics once the bill is approved, which won’t happen until January. That means that it’s possible that none of the new districts created by Elections Canada will be included in the next federal election.

The redistricting plan was controversial for the region, separating Pemberton from Whistler and Squamish in the West Vancouver / Sunshine Coast riding and joining it to a Fraser Valley riding.

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