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Federal riding likely to be redrawn

No changes expected for Canada's largest riding until 2014



By Andrew Mitchell

A new Bill proposed by the Conservative government that would see 22 seats added to the House of Commons to reflect the country’s growing population will likely mean a dramatic change for the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding.

Not only is it the most populated riding in Canada, with a population of 129,241 people, it is also one of the fastest growing. As a result, Liberal MP Blair Wilson, who represents the riding, believes it will be among those to see its boundaries changed by the new legislation.

“When you look at the population, Pemberton’s still got one of the fastest growth rates in the province, and when you add in the growth rate of Squamish and the Sunshine Coast it’s enormous,” he said. “I fully support the expansion of seats for Western Canada, I’m a big believer in representation by population, and it’s unfair that we’re under-represented here compared to other areas of Canada.”

Wilson has not been consulted at this point regarding the boundaries, which would likely be redrawn following the next census in 2014. However, he’s adamant that Pemberton should once again be connected to the Sea to Sky corridor after being moved into the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding prior to the last election.

“This riding will be easily split in half or up to three ridings based on the continuation of growth, but some care has to be taken to make sure the divisions make sense,” said Wilson. “It didn’t make sense when they added seats the last time to remove Pemberton from the Sea to Sky corridor. For the people who live in the corridor there is a common bond, people who work in Whistler live in Squamish and Pemberton, the councils are already involved in the regional district, the relationships are there. I would advocate that all the Sea to Sky communities be in the same riding.

“Whatever happens, we can’t arbitrarily redraw riding boundaries. You have to look at where people work, where they place, so the sense of community can be represented to its fullest.”

Wilson said he the proposed legislation, which would expand the number of House of Commons seats to 330 from its current 308, was released in May to get public feedback.

The final review won’t be made until after the 2011 census, using the most up-to-date population statistics, and would come into effect in 2014 for the next regular election scheduled in 2017.

There is an existing formula to add new seats and redraw boundaries using census numbers, but in recent years Canada’s larger provinces have seen the addition of fewer seats than their populations would warrant. Currently, MPs in larger provinces, such as Ontario and Quebec, have up to 22,000 more constituents than their counterparts from Canada’s smaller provinces. If the existing formula is applied, that gap could be over 30,000 by 2011.

“Obviously this is something that is important and deals with the issue of electoral reform at the same time,” said Wilson. “Sooner is better than later from my standpoint, and I think that would echo the concerns of people in the riding and B.C.”